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Friday, August 14, 2009

Wedding Photography for Non-Professionals, Part 3

Time to finish up this quick little series.

Setting up a plan for the wedding day will require you to meet with the couple, and possibly with the family members and/or bridal party, if that's what the couple wants. Be prepared to meet more than once.

Things you need to discuss with the couple are their own expectations for the wedding photography, and what you will provide at what cost, and whether or not you will be providing the engagement photo (pre-wedding, usually as part of the announcement in the newspaper, and also sometimes used framed as a "signature" board for guests to sign).

wedding day checklist with black pen, copyright J. Gracey Stinson, all rights reserved
You will also need to know the locations of their planned shoots, and whether or not you are expected to shoot the wedding day preparations (dressing family photos on wedding day, copyright J. Gracey Stinson, all rights reservedlocations for bride and groom, hair and makeup shoots for bride, wedding day breakfast or lunch for groomsmen), how and when each side of the wedding party (bride/groom) will be arriving at the church, whether the formal portraits will be shot before or after the ceremoney, whether you will be shooting at the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner/party, what is allowed within the confines of the church during the ceremony, if the ceremony venue is not a church, then your questions need to involve the setting there, lists of "must have photos" from the bride and groom, how much of the reception you will be photographing, if any, and what "must have photos" they expect from the reception. And of course, timing for all of that.

As you can see, there are many considerations for shooting a wedding, and you will definitely need your notepad!

Before you meet, start by making lists of information you require - keep it in list format so it's easy for them to get through. Make copies for the couple and have them fill in the answers. A sample list might be something like this:

Wedding Day Photography

- bride's preparations photographed? Y/N
if so, time required & location (address)
- groom's preparations photographed? Y/N
if so, time required & location (address)
- groom's breakfast/lunch photographed? Y/N
if so, time and location
- pre-wedding photography with bride & her parents? Y/N
if so, time & location
- pre-wedding photography with bride & bridal party Y/N

etc. (see end of article for sample checklist)

brides hand with engagement ring, copyright J. Gracey Stinson, all rights reservedContinue the list until you have listed all the aspects of the day that you are prepared to photograph. You can make your list "universal" including absolutely everything, if you like. This allows you to use the same lists for each wedding, simply striking through the things NOT required, and having the bride and groom initial them. Include the "styles" of photography wanted in your list, like "standard/traditional bridal party portraits; traditional family portraits; casual bridal party; photo-journalistic; creative art portraits, etc. And be sure the bride and groom select the type of portraits they want, so there's no confusion about what style they want for what portraits.

Preparing the lists assists you with preparing your schedule for the day, and lets everyone know ahead of time what to expect.

Other things you should discuss with the bride & groom are whether or not you will be able to gain access to the church and/or minister prior to the wedding, and also to the photography venue, and the reception venue. Seeing these before the wedding day can help you decide where the best shooting locations may be, and in particular, with the church and minister it's a good idea to introduce yourself and to ask the minister the preferences for photography within the church. Many don't allow flash during the ceremony, so you need to plan accordingly, and if necessary, practice some low-light photography before the day. Seeing locations can also help you decide what equipment you need for the day. In general, being able to view all the locations in advance will make photography on the day a little more comfortable for you, and give the bride and groom confidence in your ability.

All this might seem like a little much just to photograph your friend's wedding, or your cousin's wedding, but it will expose you somewhat to the actual business of wedding photography and give you a professional presence at the wedding. It's good practice for anyone who thinks they might want to take this sort of work to the professional level.

The other thing you require is a contract - yes, even for friends and family. Be sure to explain that it's for their benefit, as well as yours, and helps you be prepared for your future plans. There are many samples of wedding photography contracts on the internet. Do yobride and groom with ball a chain, heart and key, cake topper, copyright J. Gracey Stinson, all rights reservedur own search and download a number of free samples that are different. It's a good idea to tailor your contract to your own work, so make sure to write your own unique contract. Be sure to check the legal stuff against other contracts; remember to include the payment structure and payment schedule. Include a copy of the signed/initialed lists with the contract, so everyone is reminded what exactly was contracted for. Don't forget to include an expected delivery date for the proofs and the prints following their selections.

If arrangements are made for advance payments (ie: deposit or downpayment, be prepared with a receipt book and give them a receipt that clearly the states the deposit amount, what it's for, the date and the balance owing on the contract.

Lastly, dress and act like the professional on the wedding day. Be prepared to answer questions. Be prepared to respond to requests from guests for "special" photos - make a price list ahead of time. Be flexible - even the best laid plans can go awry.

Most of all, try not to be too nervous.

Download the sample Wedding Checklist in pdf format HERE.
Note that this is a SAMPLE list - meant for additions and subtractions - not necessarily to be used "as is" - it should get your started on your own list though.
NOTE: password for pdf is notheft

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