Wedding photographers get a behind-the-scenes look at every wedding that most guests and vendors don't see. It's one of the reasons I love shooting the beginning part of the wedding day so much. Aside from all of the cute details I get to photograph, the anticipation is palatable and it can be photojournalism at its best.
Wedding photographers vary in their style of shooting in the morning. I've found success with these three tips, not just in the photo outcome, but also in the relationship building which is so important on a wedding day.
1. Enter With Ease
Most people are not used to being photographed, so the last thing you want to do is go barging in, camera and lights in hand, and start shooting like crazy. Often when I arrive in the morning, my assistant is carrying my bag so that I can come in and have hands free for hugs, hellos, and handshakes.
When I do start shooting, I almost always start with the details. It helps me get focused for the day, but also gives the bride and bridesmaids a bit more time to get used to the photographer being there. Once I start photographing people, I put on a long lens, usually my Canon 135mm f/2, and photograph people from farther away. My goal is to ease into photographing everyone so I can get natural expressions and activities without making anyone uncomfortable.
2. Be Pleasant
This may sound silly, but I've often heard makeup artists and other brides (not mine) complain that the photographer arrived the day of and it felt like a black cloud entered the room. Whether it was because you could feel their nervousness, or they came in and began barking orders or audibly complaining about the tardiness of the party, none of it helps the day or the photographer's reputation.
My goal is to always smile, even through the stress. I want to be the calm in the storm of even the craziest wedding days. Even when everything is going awry, as it sometimes does, I made sure that my brides can count on me to keep my head on straight and work with whatever is thrown my way. It's one of the number one compliments I get on my online reviews and I'm pretty proud of it.
Depending on your style of photography, you may not agree with this one. If you're a pure photojournalist, then you don't direct a single thing. I like to think I'm a hybrid, photographing moments as they are when I can, but directing when I need to.
Don't be afraid to suggest where events like getting dressed or gift giving should happen. Your client hired your for your experience, so give it. If the makeup artist is set up in bad lighting, I usually do a couple of mock-makeup shots by a window later. This helps the bride only be photographed with a full face of makeup as well. Something both the bride and the makeup artist appreciate.
Don't forget to watch the video to take a behind-the-scenes look at a recent N.Y.C. wedding I photographed.