Wedding photography can come with a unique set of challenges and stress points, which will cause many photographers to never venture into the genre, many opting for a less stressful route. That said, there are ways we can relieve some of this stress. Perfect planning and preparation prevents poor performance. A mantra that we can all follow a little more of in our lives.
Another widely used catchphrase related to the planning process says that to fail to prepare is to fail to prepare. Again, I’m inclined to agree. When the photos we take are more than just personal images, our work affects our clients’ memories of their wedding day and mistakes due to poor preparation will not be forgiven. Even if you don’t shoot weddings, some of the points below will be helpful to any client’s work.
I must point out that these are my preparations for the wedding I filmed in the UK. As a documentary wedding photographer, I avoid everything set up for the day and do not shoot pre-wedding or engagement photos. My workflow and equipment are relatively simple. You may have more things to add, which I’d love to hear in the comments.
In the months before the wedding
Our pre-wedding preparations don’t begin the morning of our wedding day or even a week before. After the wedding was booked (with a signed contract), a series of emails were automatically sent out by my business management software, Pixifi.
Table of questions
One of the most important of these automated emails is the wedding questionnaire, which is used as a form for gathering information related to the wedding. It is emailed five months before the wedding, and the client can complete this in their own time.
In this form, I include:
- The couple’s contact details, if they have changed phone numbers, or moved.
- Location, with postcode/zip.
- A rough timeline of the day.
- I asked for the phone number of someone who would be traveling on the same day as the bride. It’s usually the bridesmaids, someone I can call if I need to contact the party.
- Estimated number of guests, whether they have confetti or not, how my meal arrangements will be.
- List of family group photos. My style is documentary; Sometimes, there are no group photos, but I allow them to add a small amount.
- A list of providers and an option to give me any more information they feel I will need.
With this, I can usually avoid spending a lot of time consulting with clients and just need to update periodically.
Other points before the wedding week
Pixifi will send the couple a final payment request six weeks before the wedding ceremony.
I would also book any hotel around this time. If the couple had requested, my second photographer would have been hired.
A week before the wedding
A week before the big day, an email is automatically sent to the customer. This email will involve several points.
The first is to make sure the customer has completed the questionnaire and paid their balance. Next, I had a polite notice asking the couple to warn their team in advance about my candid and natural style of photography. This point can be paramount in deterring a parent or sibling from trying to control and help manage expectations for the day.
I also asked the bride to make sure that every detail captured would be the same, with the dress ready to go if they wanted to.
Finally, I would suggest a Zoom call if they want any last-minute clarification.
My check, one week in advance
A copy of this email was sent to me to remind me to manually check that the detailed questionnaire was completed and their payment was completed. I will also take the time to endorse my second photographer.
One day before the wedding
This section could be the reason you opened the article. These are the things I will do the day before the wedding. I never like to do these things in the morning before leaving the house. I like to grab my bag and go. Of course, this isn’t possible on retrograde dates, but I still try to keep it as neat as possible.
I will make sure all my batteries are charged early in the day: batteries for the camera, flash, LED lights, pocket fans, triggers, etc. The charger has a dedicated shelf in my office and I can keep my eyes peeled if anything doesn’t charge.
Remember the questionnaire we asked our customers to complete? Now it’s time to print this. Any notes I need to make regarding my upcoming wedding will now be on this sheet of paper.
You need to plan the route to the wedding ceremony. I usually go to weddings at 9 a.m. after a two-hour drive (longer than this, and I stay in a hotel). Therefore, I need to know what time I need to leave, arrive, and go to Mass at what time.
I usually plan a meal stop on the way to a wedding, as close to the venue as possible. This breakpoint also acts as a buffer. If I got stuck in traffic on the route, the first thing I would suffer would be my breakfast, not the time spent on the wedding.
Prepare your clothes
There’s nothing worse than realizing your favorite wedding dress is still in the wash when you need to get out of the house in 10 minutes. Okay, there are some worse, but you know what I mean!
Prepare the camera
I brought three cameras to the wedding. The third is a rarely used backup. You may take less or more, but this step is necessary, regardless.
Sit down with each camera. Treat each camera as if you will only use it, and make sure it is ready before moving on to the next.
I took the fully charged battery and two memory cards and powered on the camera. Format each memory card. Check the battery is full. Check all the basic settings. I have a small list of camera settings that I want to make sure are correct, I will dig into these more in depth. this paragraph.
Finally, take a picture with the camera. Taking a picture will allow you to check the camera is working and recording to the card.
After I’m done with this, the camera goes into my pocket and I move on to the next section.
I have a similar ritual with the rest of my essential gear. I make sure it’s up and running, it goes into the bag, and I move on to the next item. I will clean the lens, install the battery in the lamp and check if I have the necessary things.
Pack a spare battery, SD card, flash, and a lens cloth.
I think I mentioned my pre-wedding ceremony here. I left out the food, as I am usually well taken care of on the day of the wedding. I also make sure I drink plenty of ice from the bar. Finally, go to bed early and don’t stay up until 3am reading Fstoppers.
A lot of the points mentioned would be useful to any photographer, but personally I can only talk about weddings. A portrait or commercial photographer might have a completely different way of preparing.
I will leave a checklist below for your reference.
Five months before the wedding
- Customer questionnaire sent.
Six weeks before the wedding
- Submit a final payment request.
- Book a hotel or travel.
- Book a second photographer.
A week before the wedding
- Talk to the couple.
- Payment confirmation is done.
- Confirm your second photographer.
The day before the wedding
- Put all the batteries in the charger in the morning.
- Print details and timeline.
- Plan your travel to the wedding.
- Prepare your clothes.
- Prepare your camera separately with battery, memory card, and basic settings.
- Clean and prepare lenses and other equipment.
- Make sure your spare parts are packed.
- Eat a hearty breakfast and have fun.