What I Wish I Knew About Shooting Weddings: Part 1
Sep 20, 2011 | By: Blair Phillips
Have you ever just really screwed up? After 6 years of photographing full time, I’ve made some mistakes and learned from them as anyone would. Looking back, I wish I knew then what I know today. Man, would I have done some things differently but hindsight is always 20/20 right?
In order to hopefully help other photographers avoid my mistakes, I’ve developed a list of 14 things that I would have killed to know back 6 years ago. If I had known these things back then, there would have been a lot less problems and a lot more profit for sure. So, without further ado, here is my list of things that I wish I knew when I first started photographing weddings.
1. First and foremost, if it doesn’t feel right, let the bride walk. If you feel in the consultation that the couple may be over-demanding or potentially problematic, don’t take the wedding. There have been a handful of instances where my wife Suzanne and I didn’t feel comfortable with a bride but we took the job for the income. Those weddings have always come back to kick us in the rear! Some extra cash here and there sometimes isn’t worth the headache.
2. Get money up front! We now require each wedding to be paid in full 3 weeks before the wedding day. There’s nothing worse than going out, working all day and then never getting paid. You’d think that people would want their photos but we’ve had instances where we never heard back from a bride after the wedding. I guess Uncle Bob’s photos were good enough?
3. Always write up a wedding contract with the collection details and legal terms in order to protect you. This contract would include anything that you discussed including changing or swapping out in the collection, when the balance is due and any other legal stuff. No matter how well you know your client, always have a contract just in case.
4. Back up your cards! I am fortunate enough that my camera, a Nikon D3, has dual card slots so that I can choose to back up the main media card slot while I’m shooting. If you’re camera doesn’t have dual slots, shoot on smaller sized media cards. I never like to shoot with cards larger than 2GB because I’d rather not put all the eggs in one basket. If a card does fail, try out Tallyn’s Professional Photographic. They have successfully recovered all of my lost data when my cards decided to kick the bucket. Imagine being at a destination wedding and loosing all the images half way through the wedding! Yep, that’s been me. Two of the worst things you can do for a CF card is shoot on a low battery and fill the card completely up. Avoid doing these two things and you should be fine.
5. Always leave super, extra early for weddings. I’ve been the guy who has left in plenty of time, hopped on the interstate and then get stuck in construction. Thirty minutes later, I’m suppose to be shooting already. Needless to say, weddings don’t stop because of road construction so leave mega early. If you arrive early, you’ll have plenty of time to scope out the place and find the best spots for photos.
6. We offer a service called “Instant Gratification” where we edit a handful of images after the wedding and then display them at the reception. Our bridal couple and their guests go crazy over this. Once we start displaying the images, people crowd around the screen until the reception is over. It’s crazy what a couple of photos from the wedding day will do to a crowd. Plus, they’ll all be talking about your work!
7. I wish I would have developed the LR-02 earlier. ( Please don’t take this 7th step as a product plug.) The LR-02 has allowed us to completely change our lighting at weddings. I got so tired of using speed lights at weddings because it didn’t really allow for our brand to shine through the images. If you who haven’t seen the LR-02 yet, it basically acts like an extremely mobile light stand and caddy for your gear and mono-light. I’m able to easily get dramatic, studio quality lighting anywhere without the help of an additional assistant. If I would have had a system like this 6 years ago, the images from those weddings would be much more in tune with our current brand. Once again, this isn’t a product plug but rather encouragement to go after your brand in every situation.
In the 6 years we’ve been shooting full time, we’ve photographed over 500 weddings and if I knew then what I do today, those would have been a lot more seamless, profitable and enjoyable. Hopefully these 7 steps will help you in your photographic journey. This is only Part 1 so stay tuned to to catch the next 7 things I wish I knew.