The most powerful photographs we have taken have been the result of working collaboratively with our clients.
While it is certainly possible to take good photos of people in many circumstances, the greatest photos result from more than just a good composition and ideal exposure settings.
The key fundamentally lies in our approach to photography – specifically photography of couples (whether it be in an engagement session or on a wedding day). There is something very enticing about this niche of photography, because the images created have the real potential to convey a story about something very real, and larger than the sum of its parts. Within this story lies many little moments that help provide it with unique character and charm, that helps to differentiate one wedding day from another, and one set of people in love from another.
Here are some of our key tips to help you prepare and connect with your clients so you can capture those truly authentic wedding photos.
Respect the wedding planning process
Experiencing this first-hand, as we went through a long engagement and wedding planning process ourselves, it is critical to keep in mind just how much effort goes into putting together a wedding. Many couples begin with some basic ideas, and begin to paint their perfect wedding day on a blank canvas. The image starts to become clearer and more refined as key elements are chosen, such as the venue, photographer(s), DJ/band, makeup and hair stylists, food vendors, etc. Even more personalization can be added into the mix, as a rise in DIY wedding decor, hand selected music tracks, and other unique elements are incorporated. Each of these decisions has a reason for existing, and has the potential to add value to the story of the wedding day.
With thoughtful consideration given to each couple’s effort that goes into a great wedding day – the endless planning, balancing work/life, and so on – it becomes easier to capture images that are valuable to your client when you perceive the day from their perspective.
Build trust with your client before photography even begins
For us, it is easy to have some understanding of what it is like to be in our clients’ shoes during the wedding day because we have experienced planning a wedding ourselves – both the stressors and highs that come along with it. Of course, recalling our wedding experience isn’t all that plays into this.
Prior to shooting a wedding day, we strive to have a better understanding of who the people are coming to us for photography services. This typically involves a good deal of communication – back-and-forth via email, phone calls, and even in person meetings. We strive to reduce stress, and keep things light and fun the day of. We do this by preemptively discussing important elements of the day, and getting to know what is actually most important to our clients. The culmination of this process, about a month in advance of the wedding day, involves us sending out a questionnaire we have produced with common questions we like to have answered so as to help make the day run smoother, and we develop a timeline and family formal shot list. While not every client is going to strive for high levels of organization, most clients will value attention to detail and being able to see their wedding day laid out in a structured way. Knowing what to expect before the wedding will help make it run smoother.
Building on this idea of developing trust is the importance we place on having engagement sessions. In our standard wedding packages, engagement sessions are always included as they provide us with an opportunity to get to know each other, and allows the client to get comfortable being in front of our cameras before their wedding day rolls in. It allows us to show them our process, and how even if photography is something they dread, it can actually turn out to be a good and fun time!
Related: Example Engagement Session
Photography in-the-moment vs. what is expected
In many ways, photographing a wedding day comes with a lot of little surprises, and to a seasoned photographer – a lot of things that are generally expected at most weddings.
There are certain elements of wedding day photography that are essentially timeless, while not necessarily the most exciting or fun to photograph. The biggest example of this is photographing family formals, in which family members tend to cycle in-and-out with the newly married bride & groom in a sometimes stressful, often tiring, endeavor to get the shots for the sake of remembering the day. Photographs like this, while not likely to be award winning, are what is expected from any wedding photography service. And for good reason!
While formal and posed, photos like this with family are not often captured during a person’s lifetime – very rarely outside of a wedding will so many family members be in the same spot and be able to be professionally photographed.
The beautiful photos that surpass what is expected, then, come when you least expect. It is moments like these that often convey strong emotion, and come paired with good technical control of the camera (dialing in the right exposure) and a good artistic sense (finding the perfect composition in an often uncontrolled working space).
Some examples of these moments in-the-moment might include a groom crying at the sight of his bride walking down the aisle, or a passionate hug between father and daughter during their first dance.
As a photographer, you take to task being on the lookout for these important, candid, in-the-moment moments that will provide beautiful, staple images for your client to remember for a lifetime. While no doubt they will cherish those expected photos, it is the unexpected ones that will be capable of blowing them away and helping to solidify the storytelling of their wedding day as done through photography.
A more hands-on approach to client prep
Every couple is different in what they require, expect, and want out of their wedding day photography.
Some couples are more reserved and quiet, and like to have space, and when given direction – given straightforward and easy-to-understand direction. Other couples may be extremely laid back, only really looking for candid, documentary styled photos of their wedding day. And of course, some just want to have fun and love having their pictures taken, so are all up for any idea you might have – even ones requiring a lot of posing.
An important element of our approach to wedding day photography is deciphering who our couples are, how they like to be interacted with, and what they expect from our service. Some of this can be gathered by frankly asking about their expectations, wants, and desires. Other things may only be picked up on in the moment.
Once you have a sense of how you will work with your client, the next step is identifying the elements of the day that will require a hands-on approach – no matter what.
This will include little elements that can impact a photograph by creating a distraction to the viewer. Some simple examples of this would be making sure the groomsmen have their boutonnieres on correctly – a common struggle we see a lot – and making sure the bride’s hair is not in her face in every photo. While we always aim to not be intrusive, in instances like this it is essential to speak up and help correct things that are out of place or going to negatively impact a photo.
Of course, there are other ways to be hands-on that may or may not be wanted by your couple – again, depending on their personalities and expectations. Going along with the earlier idea around building trust with your client, wedding day photograph prep doesn’t all have to start the day of the wedding. By prepping your client in advance for certain things that may come up or frequently impede wedding photography, it can make a world of difference. For ourselves, we put together a detailed wedding guide that we send to all of our new clients, which provides tips for navigating the world of weddings and photography.
Put together a wedding guide
We just mentioned our H&A Wedding Guide, and we’ll talk about it more in detail now to help you better understand why putting together your own wedding guide could be a valuable tool when it comes to prepping your clients to take beautiful wedding photos.
Our ~75 page wedding guide is designed to give an overview of what a couple can expect when it comes to their wedding day photography service, and how to get the best service possible. We showcase a sample timeline, talk about weddings in different seasons, how we work with inclement weather, make suggestions for scheduling, talk about First Look photos, and discuss engagement session and “Day After” sessions…These are just some of the things included that we feel are valuable to know about. After all, most couples have not gone through the process of planning a wedding before – and having a little guidance from some people who have been there before (both personally and professionally) can make a world of difference.
What should I do to prep my clients for their wedding photography?
At the end of the day, it is important to understand your personal clients needs and expectations when it comes to working with you as their wedding photographer. Sometimes, in the search for providing better service, it is possible you might come up short – and that is okay. Especially for new wedding photographers, it is a learning experience.
To be as simple as possible, at its core you should aim to provide an open ear and input if your client has any questions about any aspect of their wedding day (as all aspects of the wedding day impacts wedding photography), speak up when you feel something needs to be corrected or have your input, and do your best to continually add value in all that you do.