9 Tips to help you realize your dream wedding album!
This is not your typical ‘This is what I want or else…’ article from a photographer’s viewpoint. Therefore I’d like you to set our mindset appropriately before going any further. Fact is that twenty or thirty or forty years from now your wedding photos will be all that you have to remind you of one of the most important days of your life. At that stage your soul mate might have passed on and your wedding photos are your most significant reference to this person who had an immense impact in your life – perhaps even to who you have become through the years.
It’s quite logical then that your wedding album is one of the most important ‘creations’ resulting from your wedding day. So this blog approaches the creation of a winner’s wedding album from the bridal couple’s viewpoint – insisting on having the best photos possible and doing everything possible to achieve that.
I believe that the first step towards a stunning wedding album is to set such album as one of your main priorities for and on your wedding day. So, make a calculated decision that your wedding photographer will be your ‘comrade’, a paid associate whom you ‘appoint’ (or rather instruct!) to provide you with the best wedding album possible. So the fact that your wedding photographer will push to get the best shots possible is besides the point – you will do anything possible from your side to realize that objective. So, how should you go about this?
In order not to be overwhelmed, I have divided this article into two parts – the first up to (and excluding) the Reception and the second from the Reception further on.
- Book your photographer well in advance.
Booking your photographer months (up to 6 months or even a year) in advance gives him/her ample time to plan and perform a couple shoot at the ceremony and/or reception venue(s). If you wait too long then you might not be able to book either of these venues at a suitable date and time as they are already booked out. This brings us to the next point.
- Opt for a multiple photographer wedding shoot package
Remember that your package finally selected is your decision and not that of your photographer. Accept it and make the most of it. If you select a package with only one photographer, accept the fact that you undoubtedly will sacrifice some shots. You most likely will not have a shot where you as bride enters the church as well as one of the groom when he sees you at that particular moment. Or of the groom and best man when they wait expectantly just before you come down the aisle. Your photographer can only be at one place at a time! If these shots are really important to you, rather pay a little more for a multiple photographer package.
- Insist on a couple / engagement shoot at the same venue where your wedding shoot will occur on your wedding day
This is the perfect opportunity for you to get to know your photographer and should be used as guide to decide whether you would like to sign them up to shoot your wedding. Rather opt out at this early stage and shop around for a more suitable photographer to shoot your wedding, than push through with someone you’re not comfortable with or even dislike. Remember, your relationship with your photographer will shine through in your wedding shots. To really look happy and relaxed in your wedding album will require a photographer whom you connect with and you are at ease with.
Do your couple shoot at more or less the same time as when your photos will be taken on the day of your wedding. Since these two shoots might happen in different seasons, the number of hours before sunset must be used as a guideline if you’re getting married in the afternoon. In other words if your wedding shoot will take place 3 hours before sunset, arrange for the couple shoot at 3 hours before sunset. You and your photographer will have the opportunity to identify certain spots for specific shots, consider contingency plans (rain, wind, difficult lighting conditions) and perhaps experiment with a range of shots to see what is going to work best. It will also let you relax just a bit more during the final shoot as everything will not feel ‘foreign’ to you. Discuss various poses and settings during the couple shoot. If you want to imitate a specific pose which you’ve seen in a wedding magazine or album then now is the time to speak up!
- Insist on a contract and study it carefully
Never accept a wedding shoot without a contract as it ensures that you know exactly what to expect of your photographer and vice versa. Study it. If there are things not in the contract and you’d like them to be there: insist on having them included, perhaps per addendum. If you want something scrapped, make sure it happens before you sign it. Once the contract is finalized, accept it as is and do not deviate from it. Never let it create stress between you and the photographer – simply use it to insist on services specified.
A few important points to cover in your contract: –
- when how much money should be paid (deposit and final amount);
- the image delivery time. Allow the photographer that full period before starting to make inquiries;
- the minimum number of professionally edited photos;
- who is liable for damaged / stolen photography equipment (if possible, insist that the photographer should be responsible for his/her own insurance cover).
- when may the first photos be made available on social media by either party;
- Make your wedding photographer your best friend!
- Be prompt with your payment(s). One hears horror stories about photographers still waiting on their final payments (or even down payments!) on the wedding day in spite of the wedding contract stating that these have to be paid days or even weeks earlier! This might jeopardize not only your relationship with the person assigned to deliver your dream wedding album, but also his/her commitment to do so! The worst case scenario is that your photographer (rightfully!) cancels your shoot a few hours before your wedding! This is not only unfair to your wedding partner but also to your photographer who rather could have photographed another (paid) wedding on that particular day. Do not wait for a reminder or query from your him/her – set one on your mobile phone and/or email system and make the payment(s) in time to be available in your his/her account on the agreed date(s).
- Provide you wedding photography team with a meal. See this as an investment – absolutely worth it! In fact, insist that they share a table and meal at the ceremony as your guests! Extra food close to the ceremony is not always available so do not let your wedding photography team worry about this – their only worry should be your wedding photos!
- Seat your photography team within clear view of the action at the main table during the ceremony. Most action happens around the main table – sometimes without warning or planning. Allow your photography team to be on high alert at all times by being close to – and within clear view – of the main table and the spot where speeches will be delivered.
- Help with the shot selection
Your wedding photographer might have lots of ideas about poses and photo content but will always welcome suggestions and special requests. If you see an outstanding shot somewhere in a magazine, take a snapshot with your mobile phone and send it to him/her. If it’s on the web, send him/her the link. In most cases he/she’d be more than willing to include it on the wedding shot list!
Plan your group shots to the finest detail. List the names of all the participants in each shot. That makes it easy to gather the exact participants for each shot. It ensures more time for your and your partner’s private photo session and it will give your photographer an idea whether the allocated time for the shoot is sufficient (plan for a minimum of 5 minutes per group shot and take note of how much time is left for your private shoot.
Make a list of all the non-obvious small items to be photographed. Some of these can be easily over looked in the rush to prepare for the reception. Ear rings, necklace, bracelets, shoes, rings, a special tattoo, button belly jewelry, hair decorations. You’ll be amazed how much detail you forget about through the years, just to be reminded by your photos as you browse through them. Don’t make it the photographer’s sole responsibility to remember about these – take co-responsibility for it. Have all items (like your dress) to be photographed prior to the pre-dress clean and ready.
- Arrange for a make-up artist
Your photographer has a lot of things to focus on during your wedding shoot and if a make-up artist is not included in your selected package, try to arrange for one on your own. It will release your photographer from worrying about your looks and give you peace of mind about your appearance, resulting in a relaxed look and feel in your photos.
- Insist on having a photographer present at the dressing stages
- Don’t let uncle Bob spoil your wedding shoot
Appoint someone to keep ‘pesky’ family & friends away from you and your partner’s wedding shoot. This could be the best man as he is (should be!) always near to the camera action. Remember: you have only one chance to make this work!
Your wedding photos may not be one of your main concerns right now so it seems to be the logical place to save money and effort. 20 years from now however you’ll either regret or appreciate the money and effort spent on them as you page through your wedding album – or as you wish you had a wedding album. That decision to use ‘my best friend’ who is not really into photography might be the most expensive one you’ll ever make. Think carefully. You only have one chance to get it right. Once you’ve made your decision, do everything possible in a partnership with your chosen photographer to realize your best wedding album possible.
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Tobie Schalkwyk is a full-time Java web developer who hopes to move into full time wedding, portrait and event photography when he retires at the end of 2017. All comments on this blog are most welcome. What are your concerns re. your wedding photographs / photographer? Share your thoughts below! Any questions about your coming shoot? Let them come!