Written by Martin Neeves
Have you ever wondered what a wedding photographer gets up to behind the scenes before, during and after your wedding? Your experience of the wedding photographer is probably limited to 2 or 3 face-to-face meetings with the photographer:
- At a wedding fair
- The booking meeting
- At the wedding
At the wedding you see the photographer looking like a swan (some may say more like an ugly duckling!) swimming serenely around your wedding – but how do they manage this without looking like they are swimming frantically below the surface. Most wedding photographers have a well-tried process or system to ensure that they are well prepared and unlikely to be caught unawares on the important wedding day. I certainly have mine, so I thought that I would tell you about it.
For me it begins at the meeting with you, where I make sure that I fully understand what you are expecting and how we are going to achieve this. This is very important for me because, the original booking may be made between 6 months to 2 years ahead of the event (although I have just had some enquiries for 3 years ahead!). Once this is agreed, then my process kicks in:
About a month before. We will have a telephone conversation (which typically lasts around an hour) to discuss the itinerary for your big day, as I will need to know exactly what is happening at what time and where. It is also a good time to discuss any special requests for posed group shots that you may have. While the majority of photos I take at weddings are candid (as I specialise in reportage wedding photography), I am happy to take a small number of group shots. Lastly, we can discuss any logistical issues such as car parking or any restrictions placed on me by the vicar or registrar.
There is usually no need for a site visit before your wedding for venues that I have not been to before, as the majority of my shots will be reportage, so I will be following the action rather than having you and your guests following me for a day-long photo shoot. I can easily find a suitable spot on the day for the small number of posed photos that you may request.
The day before. I prepare my equipment very carefully as I don't want it to let me down. This will include making sure that all my batteries are fully charged. As I use DSLR cameras, I need to ensure that I have more than enough memory cards. I always make sure that I have more spare cameras, lenses, memory cards and batteries – I work on the principle that something could fail and I do not want to be embarrassed. For me the day before is like an inventory check – what do I need – have I got it – does it work?
I also check all the cameras and equipment to ensure they are working correctly. I will check the sensors and lenses for dust spots and then I synchronise the clocks on all my cameras to ensure that all the photos end up in the correct order when I download them.
I also make sure that my car is filled up with fuel, the last thing you or I want to do is run out of fuel on the way to the wedding. Finally, I make sure my shoes are clean and a shirt is ironed as (unlike many wedding photographers these days), I always wear a suit to weddings as i believe it is polite to look smart - plus it enables me to blend in with the guests more, which helps when taking candid photos of them.
On the day. I arrive at the venue where the bride is getting ready at least 40 minutes before the time I am booked to arrive. This allows for any traffic delays and it also gives me a chance to eat some sandwiches in my car before I start work as the bridal preparations often take place over lunchtime and if I don't eat then, it is likely to be a long time before I can eat again. If the bride is getting ready at the wedding venue, I usually take some general views of the the building and grounds before going to find the bride as it helps to set the scene for the day.
For me the day is broken down into several elements or phases:
- Any photographs of the bride and groom preparing for the day. This can make my life interesting as they are likely to be in 2 different locations, and possibly not near the wedding venue. I normally spend around 45 minutes taking photos of the bride getting ready. I obviously slip out of the room for 5 minutes when she needs some privacy to get into her dress before being called back in to take some shots of the dress being buttoned or laced up. If the groom is getting ready at the same venue I can take a few shots of him then too, but there is usually a lot less to photograph of the his preparations than of the bride and her bridesmaids! Often I just catch up with the groom at the wedding venue 30 minutes before the start of the ceremony to get some shots of the groom and his groomsmen as well as of the guests arriving. It also give me a chance to introduce myself to the vicar, priest or registrar.
- The ceremony. This may be a church, a registry office, in someone’s garden or a venue where everything is going to happen. This may be indoors, outdoors, or a combination of both. I am normally allowed to take photographs very discretely from the front (without flash) throughout the ceremony, however some vicars and registrars place some pretty heavy restrictions on photography during the wedding ceremony (ranging from only being allowed to take photos at certain parts of the ceremony such as during the hymns, to not being allowed to take any photos at all), so it's always best to check well in advance to avoid disappointment on the day.
- The Reception. This typically starts with a drinks reception and it is a good time for you to chat with your guests. It is also the time when I would take any posed shots you request, but I always advise to keep these to a minimum to stop your guests getting bored and to allow you more time to enjoy the company of your guests. Then it's time for some food. This may be called a wedding breakfast, lunch, supper, feast or party. But this is likely to have a meal, dancing and partying. These events are all different, but they are all great photo opportunities, but they require me to be on the ball to capture that one-off happening that may only last for a few seconds. My years of working as a press photographer have equipped me with the fast reactions necessary to all those special but oh-so-fleeting moments. I usually eat my meal at the same time as the guests eat theirs as there is no point in my taking photos of them with mouthfulls of food, however I carry on working between courses as there are some great photos to be taken then.
- The speeches. These are often at the end of the meal, although some couples have them at the start of the meal or even between each course, although this can can cause timing issues for the caterers. The speeches can make for some great photos - especially the groom's reactions during his best man's speech! The speeches are often followed by the cutting of the cake.
- The First Dance. I often set up extra lighting to get some really atmospheric shots of the first dance. My coverage usually ends after the first dance, although some couples ask me to stay a little longer, which is not a problem. I am happy to stay as long as required.
After the event. On the day I always try to get back to my base to secure the cameras and memory cards. Ideally, I like to upload the contents of the memory cards to my computer so I have effectively got an immediate back up. In reality I take several back-up copies on external hard drives as an insurance policy.
As it will have been a very long working day, I will then go to bed.
After the event I then start processing the images. Firstly, I edit the photos to choose the very best shots of each different subject. I take all images in Raw format. Raw format is unprocessed and captures the maximum amount of image data from the camera sensors. Unlike JPEG which compresses data and loses some. I want to have all the data so I can give you the best final image. This is called optimising the images, so I can give you the best images possible. This post-production work takes around 3 whole days (often more) to complete in order to produce photographs of professional standard. CLICK HERE to see the difference that optimisation will make to your wedding photos. Before completing the optimisation of all the photos, I usually optimise a small selection of photos to put up on Facebook to give the couple a sneak peek of their wedding photos. The resulting photos then have to be archived, uploaded to my password-protected web-gallery, written to either DVD or a USB stick and a slideshow has to be made.
The Wedding Album. If you have ordered an album, you will then choose which photos you would like in your album and send me the list of reference numbers. It takes me around a day to design your wedding album before sending you a PDF preview for your approval, after which the order can be placed with the album manufacturer.
In conclusion. I hope this gives you some idea of the amount of work that goes into recording your special day. I believe that all the planning is what you deserve. I have heard so many tales of woe where photographers failed to provide adequate photographs or turned up at the wrong venue. I like to minimise the risk of something going wrong.
If you want to have your day recorded in an empathetic and artistic way with reportage photography, then contact me at Martin Neeves Photography or call me on 01455 271 849 or on 07973 638 591.