January 30, 2011

~ A day in the life of a wedding photographer ~

I get lots of e-mails and lots of phone calls from my "little chickens" (a.k.a. - new, eager to learn photographers) asking questions about the operation of wedding photography. Some of the questions even seem a little silly but since I get them repeatedly people obviously want to know. I thought I would compile a post and a resource to refer people to so here we go... FYI if you are not interested in wedding photography your eyes are about to glaze over from boredom

Let's talk wedding attire. First of all, I shoot weddings everywhere from the K.C. Hall to the Ritz Carlton and it's safe to say I would dress different for each of those. The goal of a wedding photographer is to blend in with the guests and not attract alot of attention. For your typical wedding I usually go with some combo of gray and black.

As far as gear, this is what I carry all day. A shootsac, a camera slinger, and 2 Canon 5 D's (one wearing a 50mm lens and one wearing an 85mm lens.) In my shoot sac I usually carry a wide lens like the 20mm and a close up lens like the 135mm.
The "One Sheeter" - This is something I made up years ago, when I do my final phone call with the bride about a month before her wedding date I compile all of the information I need to know on one sheet. (I also carry the full contract with me but it stays in the car)

It includes the name and address of the ceremony and reception as well as directions to both (incase my GPS ever craps out on me) It also includes my second shooter, their information, the timeline for the day and basic family information (whose parents are still married or divorced etc...)

Literally everything I need to know about this day is at my fingertips in a glance, no fumbling through contracts or pages of notes to find information. This sheet is also important because God forbid I ever have a family emergency and have to miss a wedding my second shooter has everything she needs to know spelled out for her.

It's also important to note I always double my drive time. If it takes 20 minutes to get to the ceremony I leave 40 minutes early. If I am scheduled to shoot a wedding from 1pm-10pm I do not 'arrive' at 1pm, I am there, set up, scouted the grounds and lighting, greeted the bride and groom, have my camera in hand ready to take the first photo at 1pm.

Let's talk memory cards people. The price of Memory cards have gone down significantly in the past few years. I remember splurging on a 1 Gig card at Sams for $70 in the early days :)

I never ever clear a memory card until the wedding is fully edited, burned and delivered to the client. Anyone who shoots professionally should do the same.

All of your cards need to be numbered. My cards are numbered 1-10, I shoot them in that order and I download them in that order. If you have a bunch of memory cards that all look the same and are not numbered you are asking for a disaster in your future. You will also note my information on the back, again...very important.More on gear, I always have a flash on one of my cameras. Always. I get it, we all try to be natural light ninjas and in any given situation I will use natural light over a flash but if you know how to use your flash correctly it really can be your friend and help you out in a few spots throughout your day.
When it comes to family photos you gotta run the show. I have heard many brides complain that their photographer just stood there like a deer in the headlights swimming in a sea of family members who all want their photos with the bride and groom. You gotta be bossy and friendly at the same time, it's almost like an art form.

You can't roll your eyes and "Aunt Betty" who keeps getting in your way, running up and tugging and the bottom of the brides dress until it's perfect...this is her niece, who she's watched grow up and she is just excited to be there. You have to be respectful of everyone there but also "in charge" and keeping things moving.
For the record I do not carry a "Shot list" with me for family photos, it's ingrained in my
brain :) Here is my list:
Bride with mom
Bride with Dad
Bride with mom and dad
Bride with mom and dad and her siblings
Bride and Groom with mom, dad, her siblings and their spouses
Bride and Groom with just Brides parents
Bride and Groom with each set of Grandparents

Then I repeat that exact list for the groom. The entire process takes no more than 30 minutes.
I get sad hearing photographers complain about formals, it's part of the job they are very important photos . I get it, they are boring and won't be improving your portfolio, but keep in mind this day is not about you or your portfolio it's about her and her family so do them and do them well with a big smile on your face :)

Okay see that lens below I am shooting with? It's the 50mm 1.2 and it is my baby, my go to lens for everything. If you can't swing the money for the 1.2 check out the 1.4 - and that stool I'm standing on, well, unless you're "Snookie- Sized" like me you probably don't need one, but for me it's a necessity or I'd be shooting up everyones noses all day.
Oh and the food! I am the crabbiest person on the planet when I am hungry. So I always bring snacks, as you can see very healthy ones :) And yes I eat at the reception. Always. Usually by dinnertime I have been on my feet for at least 8 hours straight and if you want happy go-lucky Kelly you better feed me.

Besides, there is nothing else to do during dinner, everyone else is eating and no one wants their photo taken while they are eating. I grab a few spots at a back table and set up camp. The etiquette I follow is once the head table and all the reserved tables have gone through the line (immediate family) I jump in there because I gotta scarf it down at the same time as the bride and groom so I can be up shooting them as the mingle with their guests.
And finally backing up. Before I even leave the reception every photo I have taken is downloaded onto my laptop. I quickly browse through everything and make sure all the photos are properly imported and look the way I thought they did.
When I get home I plug my laptop into an external hard drive and copy them into it. So before I go to bed that night my images are in 3 places 1. My cards 2. My laptop, and 3. My hard-drive and they will stay all 3 of those places until the wedding is edited and delivered.

Backing up is your single most important step of the day. No matter how tired I am, or how bad I want to watch SNL with my hubby, or which baby is still up crying I walk in the door and go straight to my office and finish my job.

My job is not done when I leave a wedding. My job is done when my images are safely backed up. And remember...if your images don't exist in at least 2 different places they don't exist at all.

Finally, don't plan anything for the next day because you'll have something called the "wedding flu" where every muscle and joint in your body pains like you've been hit by a truck or just had the flu. The wedding business is only for tough cookies, the only time you get to sit down is when you are driving and the amount and weight in gear we carry is no joke so take care of yourself and give yourself a day to recover.

And there you have it. More Questions? Hit up my e-mail and I will try and get to them in my next FAQ


4 comments :

Lyra May said...

I am shooting my first wedding in June...and I am scared..but your very detailed description helps a lot!!!! Thanks Kelly!

Kristal said...

Great info! I think this whole post was 'bossy while friendly' and you pulled it off perfectly. :)

Caitlin said...

Hi Kelly!
I love this post! I pretty much do everything like you do, so glad there are photographers out there who care about their clients like I do. I have one question for you though - I do number my cards but don't have my name and phone number on a label on them - that is so genius. What type of label paper are you using? Just basic buy at the office store label paper or something thinner or what? Thanks!

Robin Richmond said...

Great post!