If you’ve never photographed a wedding, but are about to do so, here’s something I think you’ll want to see. In this post, I detail 18 things to keep in mind.

1 – Have a great contract. Don’t ever shoot a wedding without both of you signing a contract. Get one from a well established photographer as a starting point. Yours will be different, but you can use another photographer’s in your area as a starting point to know what kinds of things to include.

2 – You must have a back-up camera. Never shoot a wedding without a backup camera. If you don’t have one, either borrow one from a friend, or rent one. This is very important. It’s likely nothing will go wrong with your primary camera, but that’s a chance you do not want to take. This is the second most important item you’ll take to the wedding. Right after your main camera, of course. And obviously, have a second battery for each camera.

3 – Go over the time-line with the bride (and planner if there is one) a few days before the wedding. Be very clear about what’s going to happen throughout the day. Don’t leave anything to chance if you don’t have to. Ask if there are any special traditions that will be taking place during the wedding ceremony. If there is, you’ll want to know about it, of course, and for sure you’ll want to photograph it.

4 – Have the bride fill out a questionnaire a week or two before the wedding where she lists ALL the group/formal pictures that she wants. Make a copy of that list and bring it with you to the wedding. That way, if there are any wacky request that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own, now you’ll be sure to get it. On the questionnaire I send, I also ask the parents names. Learn as many people’s names as you can, and call everyone by name This is an impressive skill and will go a long way. And here’s a little secret. If you remember 10 people’s names (some of the siblings, the brides maids, and the parents) and throughout the night you continue to call them by name, people will be amazed and will think you know EVERYONE’S name. (An easy way to make these is with Google Forms).

4 -. Questionnaire continued – You also will want to ask their preference about the ratio of color images to black and white. I’ve had some say all color, some say mostly black and white, but most prefer an even mix. But that’s something you’re going to want to know before-hand.

4 -. Most conflicts arise from miscommunication. The questionnaire is a way for you both to be on the same page. What are some things you’d like to know about the couple and the wedding before-hand, that will help you on the wedding day? Here are some important ones I ask, that may help you think of some of your own.
-Are they any deaths or divorces in the family we should know about, as to not embarrass anyone?
-What drew you to Justin Hackworth Photography. (This is very helpful information. If they answer “price” that’s a totally different client than the one that answers “We loved his candid, photojournalist style”.
-When we deliver your images, do you prefer mostly color, mostly black and white, or an even mix of both?

5. Wear comfortable shoes. You’re going to be on your feet all day. You’ll do a far better job if you’re comfortable from start to finish. And you owe it to your clients to give your very best.

6 – Put your phone away for the whole day. Don’t be seen looking at your phone, texting, or making calls. That’s just common sense. If you have a second shooter or an assistant, make certain they follow the same guideline.

7 – Look smashing. So many photographers show up looking like they’re going to a tennis match. I hate that. It’s a damn wedding, for crying out loud. Look great. You should NOT be the worst dressed (most casually dressed) person there.

8 – Get paid up front. You want to have already collected a few days before the wedding so you aren’t thinking about money on the day of the wedding, and so that’s one less detail the bride has to concern herself with. I have clients pay 50% of the entire amount to hold the day, then the remaining amount is due a week before the wedding.

9 – Have some snacks with you. Weddings are all day affairs, and you don’t want to get hungry or have anything distract you from making beautiful images.

10 – Be friendly, and relax. You do not want to be the one that adds additional stress to the bride’s day. You want to be the one that’s taking it away. Make the group shots a fun time, not a stressful one. If you remain calm and relaxed, everyone EVERYONE will see that and it will make a huge difference in the mood of the day. Be fun and friendly. But remember, you are not a guest to the wedding. You are a well paid observer. Remain on the outside (emotionally, not physically), so you can continue to be that objective observer. When making group/formal pictures, you are in charge. Be kind but firm. You may need to repeat yourself several times as you ask the guest to gather for any particular shot. Do not get rattled by this. Remain calm, firm, and in control.

11 – Details matter. If they’ve taken time to get the details right (flowers, decor…) it matters to them and they’ll want to make certain it’s documented.

12 – Be prepared for any kind of weather. have a plastic bag available that can be put over your camera in case of rain. Alternatively, there are very inexpensive bags made specifically for this purpose. They look better than a bag, and don’t cost much.

13 – Be prepared for any kind of lighting condition. If you don’t already have one, buy a speed light (flash). You don’t necessarily need the top of the line. There’s a handful of well-made, off-brand versions that will work just great. Practice, practice, practice using a flash in low-light situations. You don’t need to be at a wedding to practice. Once the sun goes down, practice shooting anyone with the flash to get a sense of how it works. Your best bet is to be able to shoot it off-camera and in manual mode. It’s not as scary as it sounds, but will give you the confidence and the skill necessary to shoot in any lighting condition.

14 – Get the names and email addresses of all the other vendors (DJ, cake baker, florist, dress maker, officiant, wedding planner) and make certain to send all the vendors images from the wedding that they can use on their website or Instagram. Do not charge them for this or make it an issue if they use the images. Send them as quickly after the wedding as possible. All photographers say they’ll share the images, few get around to keeping their word on that. You’ll stand out with other vendors if you’re one of the few that delivers them images, and such an act will cause them to refer you to their clients, if their client asks for recommendations.

15 – Charge all your batteries and back your bag the night before. You want to make sure you’re all ready to go, long before it’s time to go.

16 – The way you greet the bride and groom when you see them for the first time on the wedding day sets the tone for the rest of the day. Energy, excitement, positivity are a great starting point, within the frame of your own personality. Always be genuine.

17 – Always pay attention to how much space you have on your media cards at all times (or how many frames you have left on the roll, if you’re shooting film) as well as your battery level. What you don’t want is for the bride and groom to be walking down the isle at the end of their ceremony, and you can’t shoot because you need to change media cards or your battery suddenly goes dead.

18 – Deliver the images as quickly as possible. Some photographers take months. Ug. What a disappointment to the client. Surprise and delight and deliver them quickly and before you said you would.


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