If you’re embarking on your first wedding or event photography assignment, the prospect of being responsible for documenting such an important day is likely causing you a lot of stress. Even if you have a few weddings and events under your belt, the butterflies probably still rumble in your stomach when the day arrives. It makes sense to be nervous, given the importance of your role in recording the day’s events for posterity.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to ensure that you’re on point all day long. Like so much else in life, being a successful wedding and event photographer starts with making detailed plans to ensure your success. With that in mind, let’s review a few essential planning tips for your next wedding or event.
Step 1: Get the Information You Need
To be maximally successful, you will need to conduct a lot of research in the days and weeks before the gig. On the one hand, exploring resources like this article to get a better feel for what you need to do is a great place to start. On the other hand, getting specific information about things like your clients, the style of photographs they want, the purposes for which the photos you take will be used, details about the venue, and details about the event itself, like the time of day it will be held, will all prove to be valuable details around which you can plan.
For example, if the event will be held at night, you’ll know to pack fast lenses with good low-light performance. If you’re scheduled to take photos of the wedding party in the middle of the day, you’ll know you need to find a location at the venue with plenty of shade to avoid high contrast shots and blown out highlights. If the event is held outside, you’ll know to check the weather and plan accordingly should inclement weather be in the forecast.
Step 2: Formulate a Plan
Based on the background details you get from step one of the process, you can set about formulating your plan of attack. Work with your clients - whether that’s a bride-to-be, a mom planning a birthday party, or kids surprising their parents with an anniversary party - to determine a schedule for more formal portraits. For example, if you’re shooting a corporate event, work with the event planner to schedule portraits for a time and place that gives you good natural lighting (if possible) and which has a pleasing background that won’t detract from the shot.
Part of the planning process should also include developing a shot list with the client, hiring a second shooter (if needed) and coordinating with them, determining the best times for you to get detail-oriented shots, like those of the empty venue before guests arrive, and creating a checklist of gear you will need based on your research of the event and the venue. Don’t forget to figure out travel time, hotel arrangements, car rentals, equipment rentals, and the like as well.
Step 3: Exchange Numbers
No doubt, your best asset on the day of the event will be the person in charge. If you’re shooting a wedding, get the phone number of the best man, the maid of honor, the mother of the bride, and anyone else that has information when you need it and the power to make people do what you need, when you need it. If you’re working a corporate event, exchange phone numbers with the event planner so you’re sure to have a go-to resource if you need assistance. For smaller events, like family reunions or birthday parties, having the number of the person that hired you is likely all you’ll need, so long as you have someone to call in case you need them to wrangle up missing guests or answer a question for you.
Step 4: Help Yourself
Wedding and event photography is very hard work. You’ll be on your feet for hours at a time, working under constant time constraints, and trying to photograph people that may not be interested in having their photo taken. To overcome these obstacles, it’s important that you take steps to help yourself be more productive and efficient with your time.
Obviously, by working on the pre-planning process, you’ve already begun helping yourself. But there’s much more that you can do to maximize your time on the day of the event. One of the biggest issues that wedding and event photographers face is simply having enough time and enough cameras to capture all the moments that need to be captured. In many situations, this is handled by hiring a second shooter, or at the very least, having an assistant that can help you make quick camera or lens changes.
Another option is to purchase a photobooth that requires little setup, can work independently, and allows guests at the event to essentially handle picture-taking themselves. The EZPhotobooths T12 does just that. The photobooth takes just minutes to set up - add a tablet, a DSLR, and a ringflash to the booth and guests can then take portraits all on their own. The ringflash provides excellent lighting for portraits, and the tablet gives guests an easy way to control the photos that are taken. The images are recorded on your DSLR, ready and waiting for you to inspect them later on. It’s like having a second shooter without having to pay for one.
Step 5: Be Prepared for Hiccups
No wedding or event ever goes off without a hitch, so simply preparing yourself for potential hiccups is an essential part of the planning process. Bring extra batteries and SD cards. Scout various locations for photos at the venue in case your first choice isn’t available on the day of the event. Be flexible in terms of what your client wants, like being able to tackle a few last-minute shot requests as well.
Essentially, just do all you can to plan and prepare, and then enter the day with the attitude that you can be flexible and adapt to the needs of your client. The more willing you are to accept that problems may very well arise, the better you will be able to address those problems without being grumpy or stressed out. You’ll be the better for it, and your clients will surely appreciate it too!