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Nothing beats preparation. Sometime during the week leading up to the wedding, call the bride and groom and take a few minutes with them to go over the details of the day. You want them to give you two things: a list of all the people who will be part of the family photos and an itinerary of the day’s activities, including timing, locations, and contact information for each of them and their other vendors. Make sure you get that list of all the photos they want during the day, including the names of all the major people involved as soon as possible.

Better to be able to say “Aunt Jane” rather than “the sister of the mother of the bride.” That is one small detail that will endear you to your client.  If there are any divorces in either family, find out if the separated couples are still talking to each other! You’ll avoid falling into a lot of social black holes if you know that mom hasn’t spoken to her ex in years. Also, if there are re-marriages, make sure you know who can stand next to whom in those family photos and let the bride decide at the time how to arrange them.

Photo Courtesy of James Schuck

Put in the Time

Things change at the last minute and you want to know everything you can. In fact, you should know more about your client’s wedding day than they do. Visiting the ceremony and the reception sites and meeting with the caterer or florist or any of the other vendors is a very useful way to spend your time. Call ahead and see if you can visit each of your sites the week before, especially while another wedding is going on to get a feel for the places. It will give you a chance to scout out locations for portraits and you won’t be walking into a situation cold on the big day. Look for little things like outlets to plug in battery chargers, closets where you can stash any additional equipment during the day and can easily get to them if need be. In addition:

  • Have a map with directions to everything.
  • If you can, drive the routes you’re going to take beforehand.
  • Know how long it’s going to take to get from one place to another.
  • Have your bride and groom’s cell phone number.
  • Have the number of every vendor you’ll be working with.

Photo Courtesy of James Schuck

People will be looking at your pictures exactly like this!

That first wedding at a new place is always going to drive your anxiety level a little higher, so advance preparation is key to minimizing the chance of anything going wrong. Once you’ve worked a wedding at any given site, you won’t need to do some of these things a second time, but the first time around a visit will be invaluable and it will show your clients and vendors that you are a true pro. All of these people talk to one another and paying attention to these small details will turn them into sales agents for your business.

Don’t Overlook Small Tasks

This may seem obvious, but spend a day or so charging all your batteries, formatting all your flash cards and getting all your equipment in tested order so that you find out what you need to do to be bullet proof before the wedding day.

  • Do all your packing the day before the wedding. Be as organized as you possibly can. 
  • Make sure you have at least two of every piece of equipment you can afford. 
  • You can never have too many batteries at a time like this and extra flash cards are a must. 
  • A backup camera is an absolute requirement as are extra flash tubes, a spare flash, and an extra lens or two if you can afford it. If you don’t have an extra camera, borrow one! Don’t get caught without backup on the most vital things you need to be successful!
  • Be like Santa Claus: make a list of everything you need and check it twice.

The point is this: on a wedding day everything that can go wrong will go wrong at one time or another and you have to be prepared for the worst. This is one of those days where you don’t get a mulligan and being prepared will see you through most, if not all of your difficulties. And make sure to have fun! Enjoy yourself while you make pictures. It will make your life a lot easier if you’re part of the party.

James Schuck

James Schuck is a writer and photographer working in Southern California. He is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York City and has photographed everything from Architecture to Auto Parts to Cookies to Portraits and Weddings.

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