What I Wish I Knew About Shooting Weddings: Part 2
Oct 8, 2011 | By: Blair Phillips
Shooting weddings can be extremely stressful, especially if unexpected things start popping up all around you. After 6 years of photographing full time, I've had some of those experiences to say the least. Nearly every "disaster" situation I've encountered at a wedding has taught me things I should do as well as things that I definitely shouldn't do. If I had a Flux Capacitor, you better believe I would go back in time and write my wrongs but that's life and you have to live with your choices as well as learn from them. Luckily, you can learn from my mistakes!
In Part 1, I covered the first seven things I wish I knew about including backing up cards, collecting money up front, and even letting a bride walk. Those seven things, along with the following seven, have been rules to live by at our studio. To wrap it all up and hopefully helping you avoid some icky situations, here is the remaining seven things that I wish I knew about shooting weddings:
1. Uncles with digital camera are everywhere. They're not my direct competition by a long shot but they can be very annoying at a wedding and keep my from performing my job in a timely fashion. I photograph a wedding very quickly and the last thing I want to hear between poses is "Can you hold that? I want to get a shot!" First, this slows me down. Secondly, Uncle Fester gets the shot and shows it to my bridal couple before they ever have a chance to see our work. So, the way I handle family with cameras is simple. First, I tell him, politely of course, to stand behind me and shoot all he wants. Typically I am in his way and move so fast, he never really gets the shot he wants. If that doesn't work, we go to "Phase Two." I say loudly, "OK everyone, Uncle Fester wants to get his shot now." Typically it embarrasses him enough to where he leaves us alone. If the first two options doesn't work, I will go to the bride and groom and let them know that it has started to slow us down and because of that, they won't be able to get as many shots as we typically could. Yep, that puts the brakes on Uncle Fester real fast.
2. I always bring a change of clothes during the summer. I'm sure you want to know this, but during the summer I sweat crazy bad, especially in areas that call attention to my back side! After shoot photos before the ceremony, I'll change real quick, giving me a nice, fresh swag.
3. Speaking of clothes, the importance of a good pair of shoes is always necessary. I remember shooting some of my earlier weddings and not being able to walk the next day. We ditched the dress shoes and started rocking some comfortable shoes. Black shoes tend to conceal that they are comfy or even that they're tennis shoes. My wedding shoes of choice are the classic black and white Chuck Taylors.
4. This is a biggie for our studio; show what you want to sell! I don't want to be the wedding photographer hired to just take pictures. I want to be the wedding photographer that is hired to create artwork. My brides want me because of my style and personality. You'll never find us advertising shots at the alter or in front of a white gazebo because those images don't represent our brand well. When you start showing what you want to sell, you'll find yourself happier in the long run because your clients will hire you for you, not because your "just" a photographer.
5. Brand yourself! I was fortunate enough to find our brand soon in our business and I can't stress enough how important it is to brand what you want to sell and the image that you want to portray. Several weeks back, I had a post concerning branding. Check it out here.
6. This one took a while to accomplish and it took a lot of confidence but always remember that you are in control. The way I get my brides to pose, go into crazy locations and not run all over me is to simply let them know that I'm in control of the situation and everything will be perfect. They hire me as the photographer to run the day and to get the images they want, right? I've seen photographers get ran over when dealing with brides demanding certain poses, failing to listen to the photographer. The moment I loose control, I'll fall out of my creative groove and the bride, in the end, won't be happy with the finished product. You must be confident in your work! Control comes with confidence.
7. This is a long one so please bear with me. If you don't do anything else, do this; have employees and assistants sign a non-compete agreement! This is one thing I am very passionate about when it comes to educating other photographers. Unfortunately, this passion comes straight out of pure frustration. I had an employee (my first employee to add salt to the wound) stay with us for six months. She was a photographer as well and wanted to photograph for the studio but I needed her more for graphic design. She wanted to learn my lighting system and I was hesitant on sharing because it was a new found glory for me and why should she know when she wasn't going to be photographing session or shoot lead at a wedding, right? A few months went by and one day it was said to me, "I feel like I am just as good as you are Blair. I don't understand why I can't learn how you light a session!"
What?! Are you serious? That was just said to me from someone was fresh out of college and I had been signing their check for six months. She thought that her name deserved to be on the door also after I have been hard at it for 7 years learning and developing my trade and style. After spending thousands of hours in the studio to learn lighting, I thought it was extremely frustrating that that employee felt so much entitlement.
After this conversation, a few days passed with silence in the office. Can you say awkward? This employee came in two days later, dressed to the nines and we immediately thought something was going on because she had never dressed this way before for work. "This really isn't working out and I need to be on my own" was the first words out of her mouth. This was a huge shocker for us but nothing compared to what followed. While we were cleaning off her computer we found where she had looked through all my lighting setup, Googled the brand names and researched pricing, all while Suzy and I had been gone for lunch the days leading up to this. We also found out that she had took it upon herself to "borrow" our Photoshop actions, textures and album design pieces.
A few months passed by and I was on location with one of my brides photographing her bridal portraits. I looked up and there was my former employee with my EXACT lighting setup, photographing a former client of ours. She saw me and looked as if she had seen a ghost. I felt completely ripped off and really hurt by the matter. Recently, I have heard that they were looking to hire someone in their company but they were afraid to hire anyone for fear they would get ripped off. That is what I'd like to call Karama!
When you hire someone, please, please, please make sure you have them sign a non-compete agreement regardless of how good a person they may be or how well you know them. Sometimes you just never know what will happen and it's in your best interest to protect your business the best you can.
The wedding business is a crazy, fast paced business and sometimes you do things right and other times you don't. Hopefully this list of 14 things I wish I had known when I first started shooting weddings will help you avoid some of the pitfalls that have hindered my studio from being as profitable as it could have been. Also, if you've had an experience that you've learned from before, leave a comment below and let everyone else know! What have you learned form shooting weddings?