Over the years of being a wedding photographer, I have been a part of a lot of wedding and photography groups on social media and beyond. Within these groups, I often see couples state some things they wish they'd done differently in terms of photography. The TV, internet and social media constantly pump newly engaged couples full of "inspiration" and "how they should plan their day"; yet most of these sources provide....lackluster information. In fact I recently saw a trending article circulate on Facebook about why you should hire an amateur to photograph your wedding. And because of misleading and unrealistic articles like this, the number one regret among brides and grooms is related to the photographer they hired. So, without further adieu, I present the top 7 wedding photography regrets (and my solutions to them). Enjoy!
1. Not Doing A First Look
Arguably one of the biggest regrets that brides have is opting out of a first look. I am a huge proponent of the first look, and I’ll tell you why. For one, it offers you a moment of peace with your soon to be spouse; let’s face it, nerves and emotions are running high that day, and naturally, you want to run to the one you love the most. Consider foregoing the traditional idea that the groom shouldn’t see the bride before the ceremony – times, they are changing! Secondly, a first look allows you to see each other, cry, laugh, maybe share a flask or even a tender hug before the wedding craziness begins. Spending just a few moments with your spouse leading up to the ceremony can relieve a lot of nerves and make you feel much more relaxed. Third, the first look gives the 3 of us a few moments before the ceremony begins to grab some beautiful images. Not only shots of you seeing each other for the first time, but also some of your formal bride and groom portraits. This means that later on during the formal portrait session, we can really take our time and not feel rushed.
2. Not Booking Enough Hours
This is very common – brides will approach me wanting full coverage in a 6-hour time frame. I cannot accurately stress to you that 6 hours is not enough time to capture the day in its entirety. Whether it’s the getting ready portion, or the dancing towards the end of the reception, something will get cut off the list in order to accommodate the 6-hour time frame. For most standard weddings, in order to cover everything from getting ready to the final dances, an 8 or 10 hour package will be required. And by “standard wedding” I mean a wedding where the bride and groom get ready at different locations, the ceremony and reception are at different locations, there is a break or cocktail hour in between for photos, cake cutting, bouquet and garter toss, toasts and first dances. All of this adds up quickly time-wise, and I want you to receive your gallery knowing it has everything you wanted - please keep that in mind when determining the appropriate package for your event.
3. Not Hiring An Experienced Professional
Now, let’s be clear….I am not at all insinuating that photography newcomers shouldn’t be allowed to shoot weddings, but when they do shoot weddings, it should be under the supervision of a professional until they learn. I see this a lot in the wedding photo industry – bride and grooms book “their friend who has a really nice camera” or “their uncle who shot a couple weddings back in the day”. Your wedding is irreplaceable, and so are those moments….please, do yourself a favor and hire somebody who is experienced. There are a couple elements of a professional that separate us from the hobbyists, such as professional liability insurance, backup cameras and gear, lighting knowledge, and coordination & communication skills. The reality is, as a wedding photographer I do a lot more than just take pretty pictures – I create and coordinate the entire timeline, I keep in constant contact with you, my bride and groom, to ensure everything is still rolling smoothly, I will carry the dress train, primp hair and makeup, engage in crowd control, wipe away tears, and oh so many other things. Did I mention that wedding photography requires cameras that can handle the dynamic components of such an event? From low-light conditions, multiple FPS shooting, sparkler exits and more, the camera is incredibly important - and the likelihood of your friend or family member having one of this caliber is very unlikely. Something else to consider is lighting knowledge. Lighting is arguably the most important component of composing a great image. Professionals often set up flashes on stands to light the reception, because the interior is too dark to take a perfect image. Sometimes, we use flash creatively to take unique images to add to the gallery. Be sure that whoever you hire is capable and ready to respond to any type of lighting scenario.
Here are some examples of what can be done with flash:
4. Not Adding A Second Photographer
So, what exactly does it mean to have a second photographer? Contrary to popular belief, it does not mean hiring a completely different company to work alongside the main shooter – it actually means just adding a photographer to your package. The primary photographer you book usually has a list of other industry professionals who they often work alongside with at weddings, and the cost is usually pretty low - typically amounting to a small percentage of the original package. Keep in mind everyone’s prices will vary, but second shooters are quite affordable when considering the benefits. You’re probably wondering “well, why should I do that”? There are a few reasons:
Covering more candid moments. This is extremely important, because as much as I’d like to be, I cannot be in every place at once. A second shooter is able to go around and capture those candid moments I may otherwise miss while working with the bride and groom, or attending to traditions that absolutely require my undivided attention. Often times, this means the second shooter is walking around and catching people mid-laugh, or family members dancing together or even sharing a drink. The opportunity for candid imagery at a wedding is nearly limitless.
You get more photos! This is the obvious benefit; having a second shooter means you are delivered more images in your gallery. You can’t go wrong with that! While the second shooter will not double your final amount of images, it will certainly add to it. Remember, a second shooter is meant to supplement the main, not mimic.
Getting ready coverage. Often times I find that brides and grooms get ready in two different locations, and in order to accurately cover both getting ready, a second photographer is absolutely necessary. This allows me to send someone else (of my skill level, of course) to the location with the groomsmen and ensure they are photographed, while I hang around with the bride and bridesmaids. It provides relief knowing that the guys have their own photographer, and I can really focus on those sweet moments with the bride and her bridesmaids.
A different perspective. Ah, my favorite benefit of the second shooters! Logically speaking, it makes no sense for both of us to stand in the exact same place taking images from the exact same angle. So, we “divide and conquer”. What does this mean? Well, simply put, we stand in two totally different areas to not only ensure that everything is covered (for example, I photograph the bride’s reaction as the bride walks down the aisle, while the second shooter photographs the groom’s reaction to seeing his bride), but also to provide a healthy assortment of different types of images, adding creative diversity and additional content to your final gallery.
5. Not Incorporating Family Heirlooms
As a storyteller and an artist, I find this to be one of the most important regrets. I was very lucky to have my grandmother present at my wedding in 2015, but sadly, she passed less than a year later. It’s a time nobody is prepared for. I do wish I had thought of photographing her wedding ring, or her hand on my hand, but I didn’t – and I will always regret that. In reality, weddings are a wonderful way to commemorate family members who may no longer be with us. Some examples of incorporating those heirlooms include:
Don’t buy new jewelry for your wedding. Wear something your family has passed down or that has deep symbolic meaning to you. Let’s be honest, do you value those brand new Swarovski earrings as much as your grandmother’s 100-year old pearl earrings? Of course not! And if you do, I’m not judging. ;) I wore my mother’s tennis bracelet and my grandmother’s pearl bracelet at my wedding and I loved every minute of it. Until of course, I had to give them back!
Add a photo of a loved one to the bouquet, inside a locket, or even in your pocket (rhyming was not intentional!). It could be even more minimalist than that, too – simply using one of your mother’s hairpins or cuff links from your father are great ways to discreetly incorporate family touches – it doesn’t have to be just to honor those who have passed. Just knowing they are there via these items can do a lot for calming wedding day anxiety and nerves, but it also provides a sense of peace and love, while sweetly commemorating their life and legacy.
Placing a photo frame on a chair in the front row is a great idea to make them a part of the entire wedding experience; while here physically or spiritually, reserving them a chair right up front is a great idea.
Even recycling a portion of your parent’s or grandparent’s vows can be a touching way to honor your sweet family.
6. Too Much Stress, Not Enough Fun!
Every bride wants her wedding day to go according to her plan, her vision, and her lifelong dream. Because of this, wedding day stress is something many brides aren’t even prepared to deal with. You sit down in the salon chair and the makeup artist is putting your smoky look together and all of a sudden, it becomes very real. You think to yourself “oh my goodness. I’m getting married today! I am so overwhelmed!” First, this is common. There is so much happening in one day that it is okay to feel stressed! This is very, very normal. However, brides often tend to stress about things beyond their control (vendors showing up on time, the new families getting along, etc.) which can often translate into your images. When having your portraits taken, feeling relaxed and comfortable is paramount. If you feel like you’ll be the type of bride who will be overwhelmed, schedule 5-10 minutes in your day to step outside, take a breather and regroup. If we’re being honest, I did this several times during my wedding. I simply took a moment to walk outside and calm myself. It can make a world of difference, and for people who are very similar to me, you already know what I mean. Sometimes, a couple seconds to yourself is all you need to relax, unwind and feel calm. It doesn’t have to be by yourself – bring your best friend with you or the obvious choice; your brand new spouse! A couple moments together away from the main event can be exactly what you need to reach a better state of calmness. What I suggest you don’t do, is head straight to the bar for a stiff shot, especially if you haven’t had your portraits taken yet. There is plenty of time for that later and you don’t want the side effects of the alcohol to negate the outcome of your final images.
7. Not Having an Unplugged Ceremony
So let's face it, we are in the throws of a heightened technological age, where everybody everywhere wants to post Snapchat stories and Instagram posts about your wedding. However, this is not and never will be appropriate (in my professional opinion). Cell phones are a major hindrance during the wedding ceremony these days, and more often than not, I am photographing a bride and groom through a sea of cell phones and iPads. Is that how you want to remember your wedding day? I think not. So - how do you combat this prevalent issue? Simple. Ban cell phones during the ceremony. Yes, that's right. Ban them. Allowing the hired professional to take the images, distraction-free, is the greatest outcome you can have. Your guests can take as many cellphone shots they want later on, but not during the ceremony. They should be focusing on you, because after all, that is why they came to your wedding.
Just Some Final Thoughts..
I have one final piece of advice for all brides and grooms, and it relates to the wedding day as a whole. Whatever you do, be sure to make your wedding what you want. There is often stress or pressure added by family members to do things in a traditional manner. The truth is, weddings have changed. Wedding photography has changed. Everything about the wedding industry has done a complete 180 since our parents and grandparents were married. So whatever you do, be sure to make choices that align with your vision and your desires. My sweet grandmother, whom I mentioned earlier, called me 2 months before my wedding to ask how things were going. The 1st thing she asked me was, “are you happy with what you have planned”? My grandmother was a renegade in her own right; wearing a powder blue suit to her wedding which is pretty taboo for that time period. If anybody was going to support my decision to be “unique”, it was her. And I will never ever forget that phone call….just please remember - your wedding is about you. Be sure it reflects that.