Friday, September 24, 2010

Wedding Photography Tip For Brides and Photographers - Going Beyond the Traditional Wedding Photo List -

This blog post is written for the benefit of a bride and a photographer, as most of my wedding photography tips posts on this blog will be. I have decided to start my first wedding photography tip post on one of the most important things that I hand my bride and groom when I first meet them and that is a wedding photo list. I am going to go a bit beyond the traditional wedding photo list. If you are looking for general list of photo's to follow any list will work to start off with and depending on the type of wedding (outdoors or a church wedding for example) can be modified.  Basic wedding photo lists are all over the Internet, and they are all relatively the same.

I'm a wedding photographer that takes EVERY moment of the wedding as one to be captured, so I personally do not work off of a list that way. If it is happening it is my job to capture it. If you are a new photographer, my advice is you should start off referring to a traditional wedding photo list until the flow of a wedding and it's events come second nature to you. If you are an experienced photographer a traditional list is helpful to have the bride fill out so it can be referred to the evening before a wedding while you are preparing or when you arrive and be used in addition to an itinerary, so you know the particular flow of each wedding, as all are different. (A future post will be made on how to create a itinerary from an experienced wedding photographer perspective.)

The most important part of my wedding photo list is actually the first page which, I have added to the traditional wedding photo list I originally started with about 10 years go. It has nothing to do with the actual list of photo's, but is the key to the whole success of the day. This is what my focus will be on in this post. The only part of a wedding day that does not NATURALLY flow are the traditional family photo's. You can be the most artistic wedding photographer in the world, but you still need to do these and you really have to do them right! (A future post will be about how to make your traditional family photo's more creative but natural.)

With the traditional family changing the way it looks at every wedding, a wedding photo list is a guaranteed way for as a bride to get all the pictures you want of your family and as a photographer, get your photographs taken without forgetting anyone and without offending anyone while taken them. My list starts off like this:

Brides Side:
Mother of the Bride: (make sure you leave room for names to be entered)
Step Father:
Father of the Bride:
Step Mother:
Maternal Grandmother:
Maternal Grandfather:
Paternal Grandmother:
Paternal Grandfather:

Matron of Honour:
Maid of Honor:
Junior Attendants:
Flower Girl:

Then the list of the grooms side is the same, replacing bride with groom.

Second, at the bottom I leave room and I ask for any VIP people to be listed here, readers, speakers, candle lighters, guest book attendants, special aunts or friends. These people are very important for your photographer to know who they are. If they are NOT a part of the bridal party or the immediate family, they may not be present for the traditional family photo's where your photographer is getting to know your family members and dynamics. If you don't tell your photographer about these people, they will not know about them. While every guest is important, if you want this person to be photographed as much as your mother, they need to be on the list or they will not likely get photographed as often as you would like.

 In this picture, the beautiful one to the left in the mirror, (yes...yes...yes..she is actually my very own daughter)...I use as an example. She wasn't a part of the wedding party, but she is a niece of the bride and  I knew she should be included in some of these getting ready pictures as well as the flower girls, who were also nieces. So I knowing this ahead of time planned for her to be there getting ready with the girls so she would be apart of this special time. Now granted I knew this, her being my child, and knowing the family well, but the only way another photographer would have known this is for the bride to think ahead about these VIP people not apart of the wedding party, but still important. It is the photographers job to just know...this is why these lists are key! You aren't psychic, but it is your job to find out these things!                   

The next important thing on my wedding photo list for brides is any information on your family that is possible. For instance, are your parents divorced? If yes, will they be photographed together? Are they remarried? Will the step parent be in the formals as one of your parents? Or just in a separate picture? If your parents are divorced and do not get along, but are going along with being photographed together, it is a good idea for your photographer to be aware of their uncomfortableness.

TO PHOTOGRAPHER: It is your job to know how to photograph a divorced family at a wedding.  Be very sensitive to remarried spouses. Be both respectful to the MOB and the step MOB. Both may possibly feel uncomfortable about sharing this role, this may be one of the only days they have spent time together. I try to refer to the mother of the bride as "Mom of Bride" and if remarried call I the step father "Husband of Mom" rather then step father. For one, I am not very good at names, so this helps me bunches to keep all these new people from being offended that I can't remember 20 new names all at one time, but more over, the "Husband of Mom" (Step Father) may have raised this child since the age of 3 and had an active father role, more so then the "real" father OR this "Husband of  Mom" may have met the mother 2 years ago and in no way has been a father to the bride. So even if you know some of this background information, who was there for the child or not, by taking this approach, you have avoided ALL the family drama and made EVERYONE comfortable with who they are in their roles.

For REALLY complicated families I sometimes make a family tree..seriously. A wedding I photographed last week, both parents were divorced, remarried, there were step siblings and half siblings, remember, it is your job as the photographer to know which siblings belong with whom. Therefore it is your job to give your bride the best way to inform you by creating a wedding photo list that works best for each scenario. And sometimes a tree just helps make things less complicated. You do not want to have to guess who gave birth to which siblings, you will already have their names and can just call them out from your photo list.

Here is an example of an original family unit with mom, dad, bride and sister... I was reminded by a bride from the past, make sure when getting the divorced parents in a picture together to include the siblings, this wedding maybe the only time when the original family unit will EVER take a photo together again..very important to brides...TO BRIDES: Try to think ahead of what my be important to you later

Here is an example of paying close attention to the family dynamics, and including all family members in the not every family will decide to do both sets of remarried parents together...this again is why knowing this from your list is key. You wouldn't have wanted to suggest this picture if it wasn't something the bride had requested. More often they will choose NOT do these types of photo's together.


This is a picture of all parents and all children of the bride and groom...

Something else to consider is a sibling of the bride or groom NOT married but they have a girlfriend/boyfriend present in attendance. How do you include a girlfriend or boyfriend in these pictures, so they don't feel left out, but also not have them be in every family picture without formally being a part of this family? I advise for them to be in a picture and then not in the next one. (You will need to decide how to approach a non-married girlfriend/boyfriend that has had a child with a sibling also.)

TO PHOTOGRAPHER: This is how I personally deal with this. I have an add and subtract way of photographing that makes photographing family formals go very fluently already. SO here is how I would call out this example...(Bride, MOB, FOB are already in place)

 SO I call out, "Can any siblings of the bride please join this picture "

After this shot is taken I call out "Can any married spouses join this picture" after this shot, I call "I'd like to add any nieces and nephews to this picture" Don't forget this first!!! These little ones need to be put in before the girlfriends/boyfriends.

Then lastly I call out "Are their any girlfriends or boyfriends of these siblings? Could you please join this picture?"

And if you are doing all pictures prior to the ceremony and are going to add the groom to this picture, or grandparents, then just start subtracting who you just added in working backwards.

TO THE BRIDE: You will need to make a decision later how you want these pictures displayed later in an album. This is up to you in the end, but there is no reason to offend anyone on your wedding day. It is your day and you can run it as you want BUT less always the way to go in the most DRAMATIC day of your life!

Last advice on this beyond the traditional wedding photo list, TO THE BRIDE: Make sure that ALL of your family and VIPs are present during the family formal picture time and that they know where to be and what time. Make sure they know they are not to leave. If they is hard to put them back into this flow of pictures if someone leaves for ANY reason. PLEASE make sure your family knows how important them being in your pictures is to you AND how important it is to get this formal part done so the party can begin. You don't want them forgotten because they went missing.

FOR THE PHOTOGRAPHER: When you have everybody together for family formals right after the ceremony, the parents of the bride and groom are going to be very anxious to get to entertaining their invited guests. The easiest way to do your job and get them off to theirs is to start of by letting them know that your goal is to get the parents off and the fastest and efficient way to do this is to start with them and not let anyone leave until you are finished. I basically say " I will go through these family pictures as quick as I can, but that means keeping your family all together right here until I excuse you." Writing it sounds funny and a little condescending...but I assure you it is not. It is being confident in what your job is and your job is to tell them what to do for those 15 or so minutes, and I have never felt that this was taken the wrong way. People respect a photographer who is confident and knows what they are doing.

If anyone isn't present who is suppose to be, it is the photographers job to make a decision on how to proceed. You cannot take time away by waiting for a family member who is missing. You just have to skip that part of the family and maybe move to the other side. That's just the way it goes. Your bride and groom will appreciate this decision. Your goal during this time is to do an awesome job of these family formals and get them off to the reception!!! It is difficult to try to go back at a later time after pictures are over and the reception is underway to remember to add these "missing" family members. But difficult or not, it is still your job as photographer to remember all of this.

TO BRIDE: AGAIN PLEASE make sure your family knows how important them being in your pictures AND how important it is to get this formal part done so the party can begin. You don't want them forgotten because they went missing.

I have learned in 10 years of wedding photography how to not only put together this wedding photo list but to be respectful of all family dynamics...and as you will see in this post and in future posts I use the phrase quite often.."it is your job". No longer are the days of arrogant photographers being the boss of everyone (ha ha)... these days, you need to show you know your job and be confident but to also connect with your families and their guests. Your bride and groom hired you and will be able to take you as a whole. Your pictures, the album, your personality. But the family and guests may not get to look at you that closely and see the "Well Rounded Photographer"that you show them that in any interactions you have with them. And from a business perspective, who you were hired by comes first, but also be aware that your next client will be watching you. They will either be impressed by you...or not! It's all up to you how you portray yourself and I believe this wedding photo list information will make you most equipped to do that!

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