What it’s really like to be a wedding photographer.
This year, been 2018, I celebrate my tenth year as professional photographer. I started covering weddings way back in 2008 when I was very much naive and a newby to the world of professional photography.
Although I have had a camera since I was old enough to press the shutter, who would have thought the dream I had as a little child of owning my own photography studio would actually come true, ten years later here I am.
My wedding photography has developed in leaps and bounds over the past ten years, it is very much coming into its own and I have just completed 7 weddings in three weeks – and man can I feel it!.
So, what is it actually like “living the dream” so to speak, well here goes.
First of all, as a wedding photographer even before I put finger to shutter, I have to make sure all the paperwork is all in order and preparations for the day are still on track. There’s nothing worse than those last-minute changes I don’t know about and I see it as my responsibility to contact each couple before the day to check the everything is going to plan. That way I have no unexpected surprises on the day. I need to make sure that the list of specific photos has been completed and the start time and location have been confirmed. This is the start of my pre-wedding nerves. Am I going to turn up at the right time and to the right location?
A good example of this happened just the other week, for a wedding due to be covered in a month or so, during the pre-wedding meeting, I found that the clients have recently moved house and the address I had on the contract didn’t match as it was their old address. Imagine me turning up at some random persons house looking to cover a wedding, not only would it be my embarrassment, but precious memories would be lost with the time spent looking for the bride!
Not forgetting making sure the pre-wedding shoot has been arranged, something I look to let the couple sort the date of, as they will be exceptionally busy with other preparations they don’t want the extra pressure with me stressing about a pre-wedding shoot. But if I don’t hear anything I do tend to drop them a line, I see the pre-wedding shoot as a major part of the wedding prep. It enables me to enhance the connection between the couple and myself as the photographer, which only helps the photography on the day to be more relaxed.
Have the clients ordered a guest frame? Then there are frames, mounts and prints to order and put together before the big day and an added pressure NOT to forget it one the way out of the studio!
So to the day itself. It’s usually an early start for me there’s batteries to charge ( something I don’t like doing the night before as temperature and other factors can affect the batteries which could result in them not charging or loosing charge before the day), cameras and equipment to clean and service, spare camera equipment to sort – it’s always a good thing to have a back-up system, memory cards to format, paperwork to gather, the little details like step ladders, sweets, drinks, guest frames, mobiles to charge, babysitters to organise, dog sitters in my case too, the prep work seems endless some days.
So with prep work complete, I turn up at the wedding venue, hopefully the right one at the right time with all my kit and guest frame in hand. After introducing myself to the wedding coordinator (it’s always helpful to have a rapport with them already, but the ones I don’t know it’s about forging new relationships and making a good impression) I need to find a nice quiet corner to drop my bags and make my “base camp”. Somewhere I can leave my kit away from everyone and still gain access when needed, somewhere the guests (especially the kids) can’t see me scoffing sweets to keep my energy levels up.
Its wedding time! Introductions over its time to start shooting – I hear the phase ” your only a photographer, you only take pictures” so many times, but how many people actually know what a photographer does when they attend a wedding? Well from the onset you’re constantly checking your cameras setting for example the ISO, shutter speed, lighting, white balance, aperture making sure things are right for the creative shot you have in your mind and trying to be one step ahead of the day, making sure you have the correct lens for the occasion your about to capture. Checking memory cards and batteries have plenty of life and do you have spare either handy in the bag or in your pocket ready to swap.
Mentally, been a documentary wedding photographer, I never stop looking for that shot, even when the guest and clients are eating (something I never take as I see it as been disrespectful) there is still movement and chat back and forth to the bar, so you can’t switch off for one minute. From the onset of capturing the bride in her room or home getting ready, I’m looking for details such as flowers, presents, cards, shoes, dresses etc as well as the emotion of parents and excitement of the children. At the venue it’s just the same, ideally you need to be everywhere all at once capturing everything that going on, pretty hard work.
I once set my GPS tracker going and for the first three hours of a wedding and I had walked just over four miles and that was just in one venue, bear in mind I still had another 7 hours to go! So, it’s a good test of your endurance. Recently I have also opted for memory insoles for my shoes, because every little bit of comfort helps.
I always find hydration an issue, I never seem to drink enough on weddings, you’re that busy snapping and running from location to location its hard to grab a drink, when the guests are all at the bar I’m capturing them having a good time, I tend to grab a quick glug from the Luczoade sport I have tucked next to my sweets, with it been isotonic and not fizzy it hydrates me much quicker.
The ceremony covered it’s now time for me to step in and control a hoard of guests, This is the time the guest shots get done, every clients wants to capture different family combinations, but for me it’s one of the worst times, guests nipping to the toilet or to the bar and I even had a bridesmaid disappear to check in to her room – she was the only bridesmaid! If I don’t get these shots done it means the venue will run late with the meal. I sympathise with the bride, who usually gets stressed a little at this point, this is one of the reasons I like to get through it as quickly and smoothly as possible. No bride should be stressed on their wedding day.
After the Guest shots have been done, it’s time for me to head off just me and the newly weds to get a little time to ourselves and snap those loving shots. The Bride and Groom usually love this bit, it’s almost like a bit of down time for them. I like to give a little variation, so this usually means walking between various locations onsite to get different backdrops.
The next is the speeches capturing the emotion and laughter, before I step back for a while to allow the guests to eat in peace, but still have my finger on the trigger, you never know when something might happen.
After everyone’s finished eating there is usually a few hours till the evening guests arrive and I’m just snapping people enjoying themselves and chatting to the guests.
Soon comes time for the first dance and cake cut, trying to push the camera to capture in low light and hold as still as you can working with a slow shutter speeds and disco lights. At this point working on the GPS figures from earlier I will have walked around 10 mile (bear in mind this was a small venue nothing like Gisborough Hall or Grinkle Hall). Finally, the wedding has been captured and I’ve had the time of my life chatting to guests and capturing some precious moments and memories. I’ve said my goodbyes and wished the bride and groom well for the evening.
Its back to the studio now, usually around 8 or 9 o’clock at night and the PC is woken up to carry out the back up of the wedding images, I’ve been known to be at the studio til midnight doing this, I have to copy all the images from each of my memory cards to relevant file on my master drive, writing on the paperwork how many images are on each card as I go, hoping the total I have written down matches the total in the file on the PC. Once all the cards have been backed up, I then copy the whole file across to a master drive ghost, that’s the second copy of the wedding files, once this has been completed its time to plug in the third and final drive, a portable master drive and copy all the files across to this. This comes off site with me every single day and night.
Now I can finally lock all the camera equipment away and lock the studio up before travelling to my parent’s house to collect my beloved dogs and head home for a well-deserved shower and usually straight to bed.
So that’s it right? I’ve captured those precious memories, and everything is backed up what more needs doing? Well when it come to that weddings turn to have it’s post production, bear in mind I do family, pet portraits and commercial work too, I will look at each individual image using Adobe Lightroom. I must make an informed choice to whether the image makes the grade and can be worked with or simply needs deleting. Take the last wedding I did, 1084 images to look at. Throw that into three more portrait shoots and another 6 weddings that’s a lot of images to look over.
But that’s still not the end……. Once I have processed them using Lightroom it’s Photoshop time. We have all said or heard the famous line ” you’ll photoshop that” well I try not to, but there will be
those annoying items that will need tweaking or removing that child out of the background picking his nose. Now it’s time to contact the clients and get them to the studio for a cuppa, it’s their turn to look over the images and make any final changes their want. After all the images are of their wedding. The final adjustments will be made before I individually design the USB box and send it off to be manufactured and the wedding images finally presented to the client.
Phew!, That my learned friends is one whole wedding start to finish. Now put that into two weddings a weekend???
You might understand why I get a little defensive when people say, ” you’re only a photographer” and hopefully you can see how unbelievably passionate, dedicated to and in love with my job I am. I really wouldn’t swap it for any other profession for any things in the world. well expect my kids of course.
I look forward to capturing your memories