Prepping for a Wedding
Wedding season is upon us, and being prepared is everything when it comes to pulling the event off without a glitch. When it comes to Calgary weddings, there are so many places to choose from and compelling scenery almost everywhere if you're prepared to invest a little time in preparation.
Calgary weddings, and this wedding season in particular (with my most bookings to date), I seem to be specializing or focused on second weddings, and with that comes much more relaxed,easy going brides and grooms. Been there, done that, and know what they want this time around! For most, it's all about keeping it simple, eliminating some of what they perceive to be the more tacky or cliche traditions, and making it instead about the authenticity of the couple themselves. Not to say that first weddings aren't equally fun and challenging, and I've been so lucky to connect to the greatest, chill brides Calgary and area has to offer. In my experience I've found that more and more brides these days are wanting to invest in having beautiful photos from their day, and coordinating some heirloom family portraits as part of their photographic session. And of course, I'm more than happy to oblige!
Information and Itinerary Worksheets
I send these about 1 month in advance of the wedding, and it's a 4 page document that covers everything from essential shots, to contact details for wedding party, to the itinerary of the day. Once the bride has filled it in and answered everything in detail, I then forward that on to my second shooter (a MUST for me for all weddings!) with my notes about her role, positions, special instructions, etc. I've fallen into a great rhythm this summer with my second shooter Monika- we review this on our own and then chat on the phone to strategize, discuss who's bringing what lighting and gear, and timing for arrival, etc. Consider very strongly in having a second shooter, even if it's for only the crucial few hours and at your own expense. (Ideally, build this into your costs!). I don't know if I would want to do a wedding alone now that I've had such great second shooter experiences.
Preliminary planning- Venues
Scoping the venue(s) with the bride is essential for me in preparing for the wedding day. So.Many.Questions. I want to know what door or section the bride is coming from?What way is the seating going to be set up? What is the lighting like inside? Any guests or bridal party members with physical challenges? Is the first look happening as she comes down the aisle? Does the inside of the church have an upper balcony where I can station my second shooter for part of the ceremony? What kind of access do we get to the altar area? In a few cases, the officiants or priests have been quite strict about allowing the photographer to rove and move about to position for their shots. (It ended up restricting the types of photos I was able to capture (mostly the viewpoint) and at least allowed me to inform the couple about the impact of that on their photos of the ceremony itself. ) Are there more than one exits to the bridal room? (This tripped me up one wedding, I was stationed just outside the door waiting for her to come out and start the ceremony, only to discover she'd left out another door and it was already underway!! #secondshooterbuttsaving) Where will we be taking the photos? What kinds of vantage points are around there? Where will the sun be positioned at that time? What are my potential sunset bridal shot options? Where can I stash my gear?
By arranging a walk through of the venue, it also gives you the opportunity to chat in a relaxed way with your brides and grooms, and ask questions that also occur to you spontaneously but still provide equally valuable insight into how the day will potentially unfold. This is a must for me.
Pinterest is a great source of inspiration, and one of the first things I do once I know where the wedding photos will be taken is to research that area, and past weddings that have taken place. There are likely many Calgary weddings that have been shot in the same place, so pre-research is essential. This is not to rip other photographer's ideas, but rather to help me to recognize great spots I may have overlooked, vantage points, and positioning ideas. It gives me a greater sense of readiness knowing I've seen the venue in person, and researched other weddings held there. I keep a small notebook in my bag where I've jotted down some of my more artistic shot ideas. In many cases, I don't even refer to this list in the moment because I tend to embrace my spontaneous ideas and those of my second shooters. But if I were to falter or pause, I at least have a list of pre-planned ideas I can draw from. Be open on the day of the wedding to your own ideas and creativity- some of the most compelling images I've produced were completely random and spontaneous. I was in a fancy hotel in Banff (Rimrock) grabbing some gear from my hotel room as the wedding party relaxed in the open lounge below. A balcony at the elevator banks looked right onto the wedding party. They were all sitting perfectly posed by sheer luck, and with a little instruction i took a cool overhead photo that ended up being their absolute favorite image of the day. I used to stress myself out the night before I shot a wedding, wondering how I'd come up with all the ideas I needed to. Now I know to just relax, read my surroundings and go with the flow! Things will come to you if you remain open to the creative process.
Finding those pretty viewpoints for your couple are so helpful!
Some final preparation I do the night before- I inspect both my Nikon D750 and D810, ensure it's set to record RAW images and confirm all my other settings, set a few presets if possible, and format all the cards in-camera. I charge all my batteries, and find for my flashes that Enerloop Pro batteries are fantastic for weddings- (they maintain 70% of their charge when not in use for up to 10 years, and can be recharged at any state.) They last the entire day most times and take the worry out of flashes malfunctioning. I get my props ready and take them out to my vehicle the night before (Champagne bottles, chalkboards, LED lights, etc). I ensure I have a few KIND bars to fortify me throughout the day (and offer to my second shooter or bride!) and plenty of bottled cold water on hand. I set up one body for my 24-70mm and the other is usually rolling with either my 85mm or 90mm macro for the close details. I test my flash triggers and put the stands and umbrellas/lighting in the car too. I send the bride any final confirmation and a quick note of encouragement for tomorrow, and touch base with my second shooter one more time to coordinate timing and locations.
Most importantly, I've learned to relax and have fun with my couples. The more relaxed and easy going I am, the better the photos are going to be with everyone feeding off the good energy.
Have a great wedding tip I should include here? Please leave a comment below, I'd love your feedback!
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