How to Make the Most out of your Wedding Photography | Part One

Have you ever tried to do a search for “How to get the Most out of your Wedding Photography?”  If you have, I’m sure you’ve realized that it’s an absolute waste of time.  When you do a search for a topic like that you end up with articles that preach that “you have to spend lots of money on a good photographer or you’ll never like your photos”.  I don’t know about you, but that’s not my idea of what “getting the most out of your wedding photography” means.  Having recently tied the knot myself, I understand how outrageously expensive having a wedding can be and I sympathize for brides who have to cut back on the guest list or choose a less-expensive venue/caterer just to try and have their ‘dream wedding’ while still being able to pay rent.  Aside from offering budget-friendly services, I also like to make sure my clients know how they can make the most out of their wedding photography so that not a moment is wasted!

Making the most out of your wedding day photography is such a large topic that it can’t be covered in just one post – but we have to start somewhere, so we may as well start with one of the biggest components to having a successful and productive day: scheduling!

Okay, I can hear the sighs now… I know you’re all thinking “Oh great, here comes the speech about wedding planners.”  No.  It’s not – I swear!  Yes, wedding planners can be fantastic and I have worked with some who are truly amazing, but you don’t necessarily need a wedding planner to help schedule your day if you’re willing to do a little of the hard work yourself.  Whether you have a planner or not, you first need to realize that there are two types of situations that can cause your wedding day to run late.

  • Situations that are out of your control. Although incredibly rare, things like a snowstorm/traffic accident that closes major highways or the limo getting a flat tire can really throw off the schedule of your day.  Unfortunately, these types of events are just so rare that you can’t plan for them – the best you can do is deal with it calmly and rationally if they do arise.
  • Situations that you do have control over, if you so choose. There are so many aspects of a wedding day that the bride has control over but doesn’t necessarily realize it.  As the bride begins to pencil in a schedule for her day, she needs to remember that she has control of how many family pictures/combinations are taken, she has control of how much time is devoted to the receiving line and she has control over how she schedules her other vendors (ie: makeup, hair, etc.).  Having control of the situation is the first step towards creating a productive day.


Vendors.  In my experience, other vendors are frequently the cause for late starts to the wedding morning.  Hair stylists and makeup artists have a very important job on your wedding day and they should not be rushed; however, a reliable and professional stylist or makeup artist will know exactly how long it will take to do their job and should not go over their estimated time (at least not by more than a few minutes).  Never ask your stylist or makeup artist to squeeze more work into a timeframe than they are comfortable doing.  If your stylist says they can do 3 updo’s in 3 hours, do not beg them to squeeze in a 4th without adding the extra time for it.  If you don’t like the amount of work they say they can do in a timeframe, then shop around.  If you find that multiple vendors are giving you the same answer, then perhaps it’s your expectations that are a little too high.

Early mornings with the Bridal Party.  I’m not going to beat around the bush with this one.  I need to take a deep breath and just say it…..  if you’re a bride, you need to remember that no one will think this day is as important as you think it is! The “getting ready” process can start very early in the morning depending on the time of the ceremony.  Even though the bride may be more than willing to wake up in the middle of the night to start getting ready, her bridal party may not feel the same way.  I can’t count the amount of times I have seen a bridesmaid show up late to the salon or dissapear for 20 minutes while they are supposed to be getting their makeup done.  They don’t intend on messing up the schedule of the day, they just don’t realize how much of an impact on the day their actions have.  How to fix this?  Write out your wedding day schedule and make sure everyone involved in your day has a copy of it so that they know where they need to be and when.  Sure, you might have a few jokes made at your expense about the ‘obsessively timed itinerary’, but it’s worth it in order to start your day off on schedule, right?

So how can things like vendors and early mornings with the bridal party affect your wedding photography?  Many shots are taken in the morning – especially the bridal portraits.  If the “getting ready” process starts late, the photography will have to be cut short because you can’t delay your ceremony.  That means fewer shots, less use of your location and more stress for all involved.  How are you supposed to get beautiful shots of the bride when she’s angry and flustered?  Not to mention, candid shots are never flattering in a room full of rushed and stressed bridesmaids!

Be pessimistic about your schedule. That’s right, folks!  Always assume things will take longer than you think, especially your ceremony!  Most couples want to do the formal bride and groom pictures in between the ceremony and the reception, but when the ceremony starts/runs late, your caterer will not be pushing back dinner to help accomodate, it’ll be the photography session that will suffer and be cut short.  In regards to the formal family photos, your photographer will be able to give you a good idea of how much time it will take to go through the amount of groupings you’ve requested.  Remember to be a little “pessimistic” and assume things might take a little bit longer, especially if there will be lots of friends/family there who haven’t seen each other in a while (they’ll want to socialize!)  Since the bride and groom formals generally happen after the family photos, “squeezing a few extra” family photos in means that you’re sacrificing time for your bride and grooms pictures!  Remember: family photos are important, but don’t get carried away with them!  The focus of a wedding day is the bride and groom and they shouldn’t have to sacrifice the amount of photos they have of just the two of them in order to accomodate unplanned family requests for more group shots.

Don’t forget about travel time! So many couples forget to schedule travel time + parking time in to their wedding day.  Online programs like Google Maps or Mapquest give you a really good estimate of how long your traveltime will be, but don’t forget to add extra time for parking of the cars, walking to the venue, etc.  Many couples, once they factor in travel time, realize that they do not have nearly as much time as they thought!  Forgetting to factor travel time into your day means that your whole day will be rushed and you’ll have less time for photos.  The less time you have for photos, the fewer photos you will have of your wedding day!

These formal photos were shot at the Kleinburg Railway Station. Kleinburg is a bit out of the way from the rest of the GTA so factoring our travel time to and from the location was an essential part of the wedding day schedule

Schedule catch-up time! As you schedule your wedding day, take a look at the points in the day where you might benefit by a little catch-up time.  For example, many couples get stopped by guests/family members for a “quick hug” as they are leaving the church and heading out to do photos.  You don’t want to be rude and push away friends and family and run off to photos, but you also don’t want to end up socializing for 20 minutes when you should be having your photos taken.  The solution?  Anticipating points in the day when you might get side tracked and add some “catch-up time” in your schedule around then.  You’ll be so happy you did!

Stick to your schedule. Nothing adds stress to your wedding day like last minute schedule changes.  Unfortunately, many brides get talked into last minute changes by friends/family members.  A while back, I had the pleasure of photographing a wedding for a lovely couple who were planning on keeping things simple and streamlined.  They were planning on doing just a few combinations/groupings of family photos at a particular park and then the bride and groom and I would were going to leave and do their formals at a different location.  Unfortunately, just a few days before the wedding, the bride got talked into adding almost a dozen more combinations of family photos by her mom!  The ol’ line of “these are people you don’t get to see often, you should have a photo taken with them” was used and the bride gave in.  Even worse, the bride got talked into changing locations of the photos to make parking easier for the 20 extra people that were going to be IN these extra photos!  When I got the email (less than a day before the wedding) about the changes, I was very worried that the bride and groom would lose out on a huge portion of their individual formal pictures in order to accomodate this huge change in the gameplan.  Long story short, the day was very rushed, the bride was stressed and anxious throughout the family photo session and by the time the bride and groom formals happened, the bride was so upset at the hassel she had to go through with the family photos that she had a hard time relaxing and posing.  What’s the lesson learned from this story?  As tough as it may be to deal with family when they make “last minute requests”, you need to stick with your original schedule or you risk having a wedding day that turns into a circus.  Want to add in extra family photos?  Why not make them “semi-formal” photos and do them in the lounge at the reception?  Sure it’s not the same background as the other formals, but it’s a great comprimise!

Be creative & prioritize! I think the biggest problem that brides and grooms face is that they feel like they are stuck with a standard wedding day schedule.  Get ready, then ceremony, then pictures (while your guests eagerly wait), and then reception.  But why do you have to keep it in that order?  So many couples get incredibly stressed when faced with the problem of “what should our guests do while we take photos?”.   Many brides and grooms believe that it is rude and disrespectful to have their guests wait for over an hour while the photos are being taken and I understand where they are coming from because I was faced with the same problem at my wedding.  Solution?  Be creative with your scheduling!  Why not do all your photos before the ceremony!  Then you can take as much time as you want because you can start as early as you want.  Not sure if you like the idea of seeing your bride/groom before the ceremony? Well… then you have to prioritize.  What’s more important to you – having an awesome, stress free photoshoot with as much time as you want or squeezing in all your photos in a short period of time and limiting the amount of photos taken?  Only you can decide that.

Be realistic about your schedule. Although it may seem obvious to some, there are many people out there who have an unrealistic schedule for their wedding day.  I’ve seen way too many brides want to cram hours worth of photography requests into 45 minutes!  As happy as I am to accomodate to the best of my ability, I cannot magically create more time then you’ve given me.  When you’re realistic about your wedding day/schedule you won’t be dissapointed!  If; however, you have outrageously unrealistic expectations of the amount of work that can be done in such a short period of time, then yes, you will be dissapointed with the results.  How can you make the most out of your wedding photography if you’ve set yourself for dissapointment before the day even begins?

As you can see, scheduling has a major effect on how efficient your wedding day is in terms of maximizing photographic opportunities.  As a photographer, I frequently meet with couples who haven’t thought about the impact their schedule has on their photography and it continues to baffle me as to how couples can invest one, two, three (or more) thousand dollars into photography and not expect to do their part (in terms of scheduling) in order to help their vision come alive.  You don’t necessarily need a wedding planner in order to create a wedding day schedule that works you just need to know what you want (in terms of photography) and talk to your photographer about it before setting any part of your schedule in stone.  There are many factors that can influence your wedding day photography and scheduling is a very important one!  Getting the most out of your wedding photography involves hard work from both a dedicated photographer and dedicated clients!

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