If we choose to believe everything we see on TV about weddings, then we’d quickly become convinced that all girls cry when trying on their wedding dress, most brides become crazy people in the midst of planning, and something is always bound to go wrong. In actuality, it might not be that dramatic, but there’s certainly a range of good, bad, and ugly when it comes to wedding planning.
I chatted with a wedding photographer about his experience with being behind the camera at dozens of weddings. Read on for some advice on what you can do to ensure your wedding is a smooth one (and what you should not do, if you want to avoid being a bridezilla).
1. In your opinion, what makes a wedding “good” on camera?
It’s all about stress levels. If the clients are stressed, they’re going to act stressed, and that’s going to be reflected in the images. What makes a wedding successful is a bride’s expectations vs reality, and how she approaches the day. The more laid-back, flexible, and trusting a bride is, the better she photographs. And it doesn’t matter where the wedding is -– it can be a 300-person country club wedding or a backyard reception; it’s all about a bride being honest with herself and managing her expectations.
2. Okay, so avoid stress. Check. What are some other qualities of bad weddings?
Lack of structure, for sure. If you’re not making it clear to your guests what’s happening and when, then you’re going to have a rough day. People will often look to me as their wedding planner or the authority on the schedule of the day, but unfortunately, that’s not my responsibility. I’m there to document the love story! I need to be aware of the schedule, of course, but I certainly don’t dictate when and where things happen…that’s what hiring an event planner is for!
3. What’s the most frustrating thing about being a wedding photographer?
One of the most frustrating and challenging parts of photographing a wedding day is dealing with guests or family members who have brought their own camera and feel the need to capture every moment right by my side. That includes smartphones. It’s frustrating for a lot of different reasons. For the clients who are already self-conscious, having multiple cameras on them at once makes them feel even more awkward (and makes them harder to photograph). Secondly, if there’s multiple cameras pointed at the bride and groom during a posed photo, they don’t know where to look. Their eyes are skewed one way or another when they should be pointed at me. I’ve had to photoshop several couples’ eyes to be focused in the right direction because they were looking at other cameras in the room!
Having a caravan of iPhones flocking around me slows down the posed photo process, too. If I’m doing formals, and there are cameras behind me, my couple feels the need to pose twice as long, to let everyone get the shot. Then they complain about formals taking too long! It’s like…of course they’re taking too long, you’re posing for ten different cameras! The wedding ceremony itself might be the worst, in terms of “camera competition.” A lot of people think they’re the next Ansel Adams, and they’ll either block my shot or affect my composition by stepping into frame to snap their own photo. If I can’t do my job, then that’s a problem.
4. Can you describe characteristics of your favorite couples that you’ve shot?
The couple that’s comfortable in front of the camera and unafraid to be expressive: that’s my favorite type of couple to shoot. I love shooting couples that are just clearly in love. That emotion can come through and make a photograph beautiful, regardless of other factors. I also appreciate it when a client trusts me. I’m there because they hired me, and they hired me because of my skill set, so I appreciate it when the couple actually lets me be involved in the day, to do my work, and trusts that I’ll get the beautiful images they’re hoping for.
5. Tell me about a wedding that reeked of bad planning.
I’ve seen couples choose an inaccessible location for a ceremony -– like a place that is hard to drive to, or that doesn’t have any parking. I’ve also seen couples choose venues without enough seats for guests (just not enough space!). There have also been brides that just didn’t give any thought to the logistical travel-planning. I had to drive the mother of a bride to the ceremony, once!
6. What’s your favorite style of wedding to shoot?
Right now I really like the rustic look; it’s my favorite. It’s definitely very trendy right now, but it’s also pretty laid-back (in terms of achieving the look). It’s artistic, and it’s romantic. Which means…it’s very photogenic!
7. Tell me about a wedding that was a total disaster!
I shot a wedding where the bride left an extremely inadequate amount of time for hair and makeup. They were rushing around in the afternoon before the ceremony because they just didn’t have enough time. The bride and her bridesmaids were a full hour and a half late for the ceremony. It threw off the schedule of the entire day, and they didn’t want to pay me for the overtime I worked to compensate for their lateness.
8. Can you tell — from the consultation stage — if a wedding is going to be good or bad?
Yeah, I can usually tell after a discussion with a potential client. I can usually get a sense of how much planning they’ve done (see Number Five, above!), and how much energy they’re going to put into following through on their vision to make sure it goes smoothly. I get a sense of their expectations and the value that they place on photography. Like, am I there simply as a point-and-click record-taker, or am I there to tell their story? I can tell right away if we’re going to be a good fit — aka, their expectations and goals align with my own style of work and professional promises. And that’s usually an indicator of how they’re going to respond to my work. Because if there’s not a match in style or personality, then no high quality of photo is going to be good enough.
9. Based on what you’ve seen, what’s your biggest piece of advice for brides?
Brides just need to relax. They’ve been planning this day for the better part of a year. And when it gets down to the wire, to the hour before the ceremony, everything is pretty much out of their control. And that’s okay. I would advise brides to be in the moment as much as possible and focus on the beautiful importance of the day. If you do, your photos will be filled with more moments of love and laughter, I promise!
A bit about the photographer we spoke with: Connor is a freelance photographer and award-winning photojournalist living and working just outside of Boston. Holding degrees from Boston University and Ithaca College, Connor has worked for several newspapers and has extensive experience in the fields of higher-education, studio portraiture, and wedding photography. He is on Twitter, Instagram, and has a professional website.
De is a New Yorker turned Bostonian and a lover of all things theatrical. In addition to writing, she is an actress/singer/dancer/teacher and owner of the fluffiest cat imaginable. She is on Twitter.
Image via Pexels