One of the beautiful aspects of modern digital photography is that so many photographers willingly share advice with each other. And this is no less true of wedding photographers. Some suggestions and ideas for the next wedding that you shoot include:
► Get to know the couple before the wedding. Every minute you spend getting to know the couple in advance of the wedding pays off in wedding images that reflect their unique personalities and their hopes and dreams for the life they're beginning together. By the wedding day, the couple should know you well enough to think of you as a new or old friend.
► Clearly set the expectations for shooting duration before the ceremony. If your fee covers 6 hours of shooting, the wedding planner needs to know that so that key events can be scheduled during the shooting time. Also, clearly state your charges for time spent over the contracted shooting time.
► Give the bride and groom breaks so they can relax for a few minutes. This is also a good time to get more candid images of them kicking back and reflecting on the events of the day. No one likes to be on all the time, and your sensitivity to this will be much appreciated.
► In addition to a gear bag, consider including a second bag packed with anything that the wedding party members may forget. Handy gadget-bag items include hairspray, stick-on Velcro strips, makeup brushes, tissues (for tears or stuffing), mascara, florist wire, a Swiss Army knife, a nail file, a brush, a sewing kit, plastic tarps, bug spray, aspirin, flat and Phillips screwdrivers, a corkscrew, and superglue. Having a small lighter or a pack of matches saves time if candles are in the shot and you want them lit. Many candles are just for show, so always ask first if it's OK to light them.
► Know your audience. Before the wedding, ask the couple about any touchy relationships, such as family feuds, divorced parents, and children, and have the couple decide how you should arrange the portraits with regard to these relationships. The last thing you want to do is put a divorced mother-of-the-bride with her ex-husband and his new wife for the family shot or feuding family members next to each other.
► Be happy — no one likes a grouchy photographer. So often, it's true in business and in life that you get back what you put in. If you want happy-people faces in your stills and video, that's what you have to display. Be magnanimous, agreeable, and flexible — even if it kills you — and keep smiling and shooting. The evening won't last forever, but everyone will remember the photographer with the sour mood. And don't hang around the buffet table or the bar — you're the photographer, not one of the guests. Be professional.
► Don't hold pictures hostage. Even if you opt not to have an on-site slideshow, get a selection of pictures to the couple as quickly as possible. And most photographers agree that showing the final proofs is better done in person with a digital projector than just posting a gallery on the Web or mailing them a disk or CD.
► Be everywhere and nowhere. This is a tall order to be sure — and one that comes only with experience. Even though it appears to be a paradox, the photojournalistic approach of quiet observation and anticipating the peak action produces images of huge appeal like no other. My all-time favorite compliment — one that I feel said it all — was: "Wow! How did you even get that shot? I didn't even know you were there!"
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As a wedding photographer, you spend a lot of your time focusing on the business side of it. You want to provide your clients with the most beautiful pictures and you want to turn a profit for yourself. Beyond that, though, you should think about some other things. For example, as a photographer, you should know why someone should hire you over having his or her Uncle Vinny take charge of the photographs themselves.