Should I hire a second photographer?
This is a long post, with some really useful information in it, I hope you find it valuable in the planning/budgeting process.
My short answer? If you can, it’s always a win…
I go into detail in this post of course, but ultimately, you can’t be in two places at once.
When I’m taking pictures like this:
It’s awesome knowing you have a quality second photographer backing you up, getting shots like this:
The Groom/Bride Prep
First and foremost, you can’t physically be in two places at once. The wedding is about both partners and therefore both should have equal attention and equal weight in the story of the day. It’s amazing to look back at the photographs of the other partner in the morning as it’s the one part of the day that you will have no exposure to whatsoever.
Everyone experiences the build up to the ceremony differently and is often full of amazingly intimate moments between close friends and family removed from the gaze of all of the wedding guests. Groom prep, like bridal prep, often happens in a familiar space, such as the family home. Being a familiar environment makes people relax and are arguably more susceptible to physically being in tune with the emotion of the day.
Again, the physical location. If you’re getting married in a church, it’s not uncommon for the authority running the service to ask us photographers not to move. This means you’re severely limited in terms of shooting different angles. With a second photographer, this is no longer an issue.
When the bride enters the church, one photographer can shoot up the aisle looking at the bride, the other can shoot down the aisle, capturing the back of the bride as she enters and also the grooms reaction to seeing her. The next big win is during the vows and ring exchange.
If I am in the choir stalls and can’t move, then I can only see one persons face and then the back of the other. The second photographer will have a clear view looking down the aisle of these events and can either come in close, or zoom in from afar to capture both expressions, because it’s a partnership, and no one is more important than the other.
Having a wedding with 120+ plus guests? I would always recommend having a second photographer. Why? Shooting documentary style images takes skill and patience, running around a wedding trying to capture everyone won’t yield good photographs.
With this in mind, it also means that you can’t one hundred percent guarantee that you will take a photograph of every single guest. Some people hide, i’m not kidding, some guests have actively kept an eye on me to avoid being in any images. This is the nature of documentary wedding photography, you can’t be everywhere at once, and you can’t guarantee that all kids will be involved in a ‘moment’.
Having a second wedding photographer doubles your chances. Typically the second photographer is also tasked with photographing the guests and details as a hire priority. Acknowledging that they are there in a support role, to capture things that the primary photographer can’t. It’s a team game, working together to produce the best product and service it the idea.
Guest reactions. This is what second photographers were born to capture! It makes sense that the couple and their nearest and dearest are most likely to have the greatest reaction to the speeches. Having one photographer trained in on those key interactions, looking for the killer shot whilst the other photographs the guests is a perfect combo. It again gives us access to different angles and compositions and tells a more compelling story.
Is your second photographer a pro, or a new starter?
I saw this post on a wedding forum which compelled me to write this post.
It’s really easy to forget that certain details are not obvious to clients, and details like this are potentially significant.
Here’s what the user wrote:
“A second shooter is NOT a second professional. If they were, they would have their own business and not be working a 10 hr day for measly pay. We do not hire “seasoned” professional photographers to shoot with us. They are newbies, people who want to get their feet wet, and people who want to learn how to shoot weddings without mistakes looming over their head. You should not count on the second shooter providing more than 10% of your images, and while there are of course instances where this is not the case, the overwhelming majority of the time the pro will only pull maybe one shot per sequence of events to complete the “story”.”
“I think it’s rather sad how so many people are so focused on there being two shooters they don’t realise it’s not two pro’s they are hiring. When you book your photographer make sure to ask things like how many images they usually turn over. If you are booking a second shooter, ask how long they’ve been working, a sample of their work, and ask how many of the seconds’ shots you usually receive.”
When the writer states ‘we do not hire seasoned professionals’, it’s unclear if they are referring to their own business practices, or a collective ‘we’ in the wedding photography industry.
Either way, the point they make is worth addressing.
In my own business, Liam Smith Photography, I only hire seasoned professionals to work with me.
If I’ve shot your wedding and you’ve seen moustachio’d JD, my wonderfully colourful Romanian chum big M, or the magnificently bearded Lee, then these lads are all veterans of the wedding photography game, which is why I hire them.
I have to pay them more of course, but my intention is to provide the client with the best service and the best photographs. There is exactly zero point in sending a newbie to photograph the groom prep whilst I am with the bride. I want images that sit seamlessly alongside mine so when you see the final product and view it as a complete narrative, there shouldn’t be a difference in quality. Maybe slight variations in style, but that’s it.
Because of this, I often end up entirely jealous of some of the images the people I work with take. I edit their pictures too to keep the final product consistent, whilst scrolling through I always find myself admiring their work and saying to myself ‘I wish I’d taken that’.
The whole point of having two photographers is so the second can capture moments whilst the primary is physically in a different place documenting another moment. It’s a team game. I work with these people because I trust them to deliver, and they always do. This often results in me delivering around 1500 images and the percentage split being around 70/30.
As the paying client, it is worth considering what the above poster has said.
How would you feel if you knew that the second photographer you had paid for was a new starter?
If you’ve hired a husband and wife team, or a company who actively advertises themselves as a pair, then you’re golden, consistency across their website and social media platforms should illustrate the level of quality to expect from both wedding photographers.
For me, in all endeavours, everything hinges on trust. If you trust who you’ve hired, then you trust their judgement in who they will hire to shoot with them on the day.
As the client, you should know these key facts about second photographers.
Top level photographers will very often be booked to shoot their own weddings on key dates and therefore won’t be available to second shoot.
In this case, there is no choice but to hire those who are maybe slightly earlier on in their careers. This is true across the industry, in my business however, I wouldn’t work with anyone I couldn’t trust to deliver quality wedding photographs.
When you book your wedding photography package and are hiring a second wedding photographer, it’s worth asking if the second photographer is a regular.
Because we (by ‘we’ collectively in the industry) want to work with the best photographers available, it’s not uncommon to wait until the wedding date is drawing near before confirming who the second photographer will be. As mentioned, top photographers will hold out for their own clients before committing to a second role.
When you meet your wedding photographer, don’t be surprised if they can’t confirm at that exact time who the other photographer on the day will be. It is worth enquiring however, if you can see a wedding which two photographers have shot, this will give you an indication of what to expect from whoever is hired in to help, as of course, it won’t be the primary photographer shooting everything.
Can I get away with only one photographer?
Let’s not kid ourselves, weddings are expensive. You want to know that every penny is going to be a worthwhile investment.
I love photography, I love it when people tell me they laughed and cried looking at the pictures. I’m in it to deliver quality, I have no interest in selling you something you don’t need.
With that in mind, I’ve written this follow up which addresses a question I’ve had more than once.
I love it when this happens as it means I can directly speak to the questions you may have and means I can provide you with real value in my blog posts.
Here’s the question:
“I know you have a blog post discussing having a second photographer… but I wonder whether we could get away with just having you on the day.
Do some people choose not to have a 2nd photographer?”
Here’s the exact reply I sent:
Re two photographers, it’s best judged case by case. I shoot two thirds of my weddings on my own, so it is less common to have two photographers, here’s a comparison.
In the military wedding I sent over before: https://liamsmithphotography.com/military-wedding-photography/
95% of those images were taken by me so it is still largely representative of what I would deliver, only the images on the bus were taken solely by the second photographer as I was in the car with the couple.
If your budget will allow it, then I would always say go for it. I only hire other photographers to work with me who I consider to be on my level, not new starters, so often the number of images delivered are around double as their work is really good.
If you’re having say, 125+ guests, then having two photographers increases the number of candid shots you will receive and more of your guests will be captured.
Where the second photographer is really useful is during the ceremony and the speeches. Often during the wedding ceremony itself we photographers aren’t allowed to move, so it can be really handy to have two angles covered (this is evident in the church, images from the front are mine, from the back are the 2nds – again i choose people whose style matches mine so the result is near enough seemless)
To offer the other side of the discussion, here’s a wedding that is just me: https://liamsmithphotography.com/stowe-school-wedding-temple-of-concord-and-victory/
There’s 86 images in that blog post, the final number delivered to the client was 1,168 (for clarity this does include colour and black and white images, so unique number of images is more like 800).
This wedding didn’t have bridal prep, which is usually a hundred or so pictures on it’s own, but it did have lots of garden games (and an open bar) which created many great candid moments. During the ceremony you can see that I’m not allowed to move (a direct request from the registrar), the pictures I think are still beautiful, I chose the spot I thought would be best, but a 2nd photographer does give you variety.
Hope this helps, I remember how tough planning my own wedding was so all questions are positively encouraged. Do let me know if there’s anything else you need answering, it’s really no problem.
I’m secretly really proud of that last section, mostly because it’s absolutely true and not something that I’m used to seeing in the service industry.
PLEASE, ASK ALL THE QUESTIONS YOU WANT.
Chances are, you’ve never been married before and all of this is brand new to you. So how else would you know?
We wedding suppliers want to work with you, but we also want to make sure we are a good fit. It’s an incredibly important day and it really helps if we can establish a friendship and trust. The more questions you ask, the more value we can provide and ultimately means you will be armed with all the information you need to make an informed choice.
Getting married in a church? Read this.
Wedding photography. The clue is in the name – wedding.
You would assume then that every wedding that I photograph includes pictures of the actual wedding part, the bit where you get married.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case…
Vicars, priests, celebrants, registrars. The wedding ceremony is their show and they can dictate the rules.
The vast majority are lovely, there are however some who like to make sure the photographer knows their place.
I have been told to stand at the back of the church and hide, I’ve also been told that if anyone hears my camera go off during the ceremony or if I move, then the wedding will be stopped and I’ll be asked to leave.
These rules are fine and I have no problem obeying them. Before I delve deeper, perhaps you should read another one of my insightful articles here: How I Got The Shot – Emotional Father of the Bride Speech.
The problem is, no one ever tells the couple what the rules are and how they could ultimately effect the photographs.
It’s not uncommon for me to tell clients this when we meet (not forgetting at this stage they have booked the venue/church) and they then have to go back to the officiant and find out whether or not pictures are allowed to be taken during the ceremony.
When booking a wedding venue, you can’t assume that the answer will be yes. If the ceremony pictures is a deal breaker for you, then you have to know that sometimes wedding photographers are banned from taking pictures during the wedding ceremony.
There is a secondary issue here and that is where the rules conflict with my style of working.
Many officials will specify “you can take pictures during the giving of the rings and the kiss, that’s it” – the best moments never happen during these orchestrated moments. I’ve had to let amazing photographs go for fear of being ejected form the premises.
Ultimately, you as the couple are the ones who lose out. It breaks my heart to see a moment go by that I can’t capture, but they’re your memories that I’m not allowed to capture.
Check before booking what the rules are of the establishment, get written confirmation if you have to.
Now then, officials also have my sympathy.
Before digital photography there were film cameras. Typically, these things sounded like a barn door closing every time you would take a picture. Film technology got nowhere near digital in terms of the ability to shoot in low light, therefore you needed flash.
Imagine an entire generation of photographers clinking, clunking and flashing during the wedding ceremony and you can see why they might start to get pissed off at us as a collective for creating distractions.
Digital technology hasn’t done much to improve relations.
Whilst we can now shoot silently in near darkness, the problem now is the technology has created potential. Where once shots were impossible in the darkest churches, now they’re no problem. You can move and shoot, get high, get low etc.
This creates a problem, because once you can do something, it then encourages people to try it. This is where I would imagine the conflict occurs. If you’ve been to a wedding this year as a guest, you may have seen this part in action.
I’ve been a guest at three weddings this season and have seen photographers try and get in the pulpit to take pictures, put the camera underneath the hands as rings are exchanged (consider for a second how close you would have to be to do that) and walk across the presbytery/chancel area with no regard for the area in which they are stood.
Wedding photographers travel all over the UK and Europe, the chances of you working at the same church in the same year is much slimmer than it would have been previously. This makes it easier to rationalise bad behaviour, and by that i mean taking pictures when you’re not allowed to.
Rationalising it with ‘I’ll never see this vicar again, so what’s the problem?’ – the problem arises when the next photographer arrives the following Saturday. By that time the officiant is so pissed that they clamp down and completely ban pictures during the ceremony.
Ultimately everyone loses. The ceremony is one of the most emotionally charged parts of the day, emotions reach never before experienced heights, the pictures can be amazing.
Couples – check that pictures can be taken and also ask where the photographer is allowed to stand.
Photographers – don’t be an arse, think of the next person.
Having photographed well over 100 weddings I’ve pretty much seen it all. Biblical storms, bad-ass dance moves, the vicar getting the sermon oh so horribly wrong. With this experience comes a great deal of opportunity for learning to make your wedding day as efficient as possible.
I’m a big believer that your day is exactly that, your day – not for me or anyone to interfere with. It is however incredibly useful when you’ve never planned a wedding or big event before to gather as much info as you can from suppliers in the know.
There is exactly zero chance that you will be able to think of all possible scenarios, which is why it’s a great idea to tap into the collective knowledge of all of your suppliers. Each will have extensive knowledge of weddings and can each offer tips on how to make your day as smooth as possible.
Here’s what I’ve seen over the years that can really help make the whole day a breeze, so hopefully it will help you out.
At Liam Smith Photography, I document moments, I photograph what is happening in front of me, it’s bottling the magic of pure chance. That being said, if I can apply my prior experience and my knowledge of photography in order to create a potentially better moment due to planning rather than interfering, that would be advantageous.
I could argue against myself and say that any instruction I give would be a technical interference and go against the purist mantra, but we can take it too far can’t we.
This article is intended to give you practical tips to ultimately give you a superior product and a bloody awesome wedding day.
If you came to the end of your wedding and found out that an element of it could have been improved but no-one told you, you’d have some choice words for those individuals. It is my job, therefore, to aid you on your journey to fantastic photographs.
Here’s my top tips for getting the most out of your wedding photographs, streamlining your wedding and saving time on the day.
Top Tip One – speech photographs
Consider the height of your flowers and clear the tables
This is a zinger and there’s a good reason it’s my opener. This can aid the atmosphere in the room and will definitely improve the pictures and experience of the speeches.
Consider the height of your flowers.
If you sit down in front of them, what can you see, or more importantly what can’t you see? If your tables are round and you have a huge centre piece, you won’t be able to see and therefore interact with at least two of the people on the opposite side of the table. When the speeches start, will they be able to see past the flowers or are they blocking their view?
This is incredibly important across the top table, if your flowers are at an awkward height they will block your face. One, the guests can’t see you and two, the photographer (me :) ) can’t see you either.
Clear the tables of wine bottles.
This again is about height, wine bottles are at the perfect height to intersect the line of a persons face. Speeches are a great opportunity to capture fantastic pictures of multiple people at once. Everyone is sat in a line, shooting down that line allows me to use the speaker as a foreground reference and then focus on the reactions from the guests.
Here’s a real world example so you can see that I’m not being ridiculous.
I felt compelled to write this blog post based upon the experience at this wedding. I asked the head of the catering team to move the wine bottles to one side for the speeches and they said no. That’s up to them, I still think it’s poor form when we’re all on ‘team wedding’, but whaddayagonnado?
We can clearly see that the flowers and wine bottle are blocking parts of the face.
“Hey Liam, why don’t you just move?”
I do shoot multiple angles, but for this shot in particular to work, I need to be close. I also need to be low down so I’m not blocking the guests view.
Tricks of the trade
Shooting with a longer lens at larger aperture will compress perspective and lessen the intrusion of the flowers etc.
Does it make my point redundant because a skilled practitioner can find a way to solve the problem? No, it doesn’t, because why wouldn’t you make recommendations that can make everyone’s life easier? My job is to get the best possible pictures for my clients, if I can put my knowledge to use to facilitate that then everybody wins.
As a comparison, here’s an image of speeches with low table flowers.
Top Tip Two – Ceremony
Are pictures allowed in the ceremony? – where to stand – why you should care.
I’ve met all kinds of wedding officiants. All faiths, creeds and methods. It’s been fascinating.
It is however entirely up to the person conducting the ceremony how it’s going to go down. I think the first look down the aisle pictures are some of the best. Take this young man for example.
Emotions are charged, it’s electric.
To be told on the wedding day that you can’t take pictures during the ceremony is a real bust, missing the emotions and facial expressions of the ceremony is such a shame, but we as bystanders have no comeback and have to do as we are told.
I make this point because I have had officiants change their mind on the day. They simply decide – Non!
I think that’s cruel because they are denying the couple memories. I appreciate that twenty years ago wedding photographers cameras sounded like a barn door and you needed the floodlights from a football ground to light the room, but things are very, very different.
Modern cameras are near enough silent, the brand new series of mirrorless cameras have no moving parts so are in fact absolutely silent. No distractions, no annoying clicking, just happiness all round.
Dear wedding officiants, our cameras are silent and can shoot in the dark, please let us take pictures during the ceremony…
I don’t see why this can’t be resolved so everyone wins. What is important to remember is that (in the UK at least) getting married is not free. If you wish to marry, you have to pay for the paperwork, admin and legal proceedings. This might only be a few hundred quid, but it is still a fee for a service and this makes you clients.
Technically being a paying client means that it’s not one way traffic. If silence is needed to preserve the sanctity of the moment, that’s a different choice and one that everyone should absolutely respect.
I raise this point because officiants rarely cite this as being the reason, they do not say ‘please respect the sanctity of the moment’ they say ‘I don’t want you to be a distraction’. If you want pictures of the ceremony, I don’t see why you couldn’t then enter into a conversation as civilised adults as to how to create in a scenario which pleases both parties.
I don’t want to push an agenda, I simply hate the idea of missing out on quality photographs and treasured memories because of an outdated idea of how photographers work.
Top Tip Three – Confetti – exit the building – then hide!
The most efficient plan for confetti ever.
When you exit the church/venue the wedding party will typically be right behind you. You turn around upon exiting the building and then everyone will hug, kiss and congratulate. Beautiful.
Next there is a decision to be made.
If you stay in the same position, every guest will then congratulate you as they exit and it can turn into a sort of receiving line. Not a problem, just something to be aware of.
The single most efficient way to allow everyone to exit the building and to get everyone in two lines ready for confetti is if you hide. When you are out of sight, everyone pays attention. If they can see you, they will gravitate towards you.
Efficiency is key in wedding planning. If you are happy for everyone to come out and say hi straight away, that’s totally cool. It’s worth bearing in mind that a wedding of 150 guests can take twenty minutes for everyone to come out and congratulate you. Whilst one doesn’t wish to impact upon the natural expressions of happiness that guests want to display, there is a timeline to stick to.
Once you’re hidden, guests can be given confetti and manoeuvred into position free from distraction. You can then re-appear at the top of the line, ready to walk down it with a blast of colour. Bosh!
Confetti tip two – leave all the confetti by the door.
Having all of the confetti right by the exit means that as soon as the bridal party walk back up the aisle, they can grab is and be ready to hand it out as everyone else exits the church. Simple and effective.
Confetti tip three – hand out drinks after the confetti is done.
I’ve seen people throw champagne by mistake. Not like hurling the glass at the couple, but like a dramatic movie scene where someone throws water in the other persons face. It’s incredibly rare, but why risk it?
Top Tip Four Bridesmaids flowers – considerations
Do they make up part of the decorations?
Are they needed for photographs?
It’s not uncommon for the bridesmaids flowers to be used as either centre pieces, decorations along the top table or to be placed around the cake for added decoration.
What does sometimes happen is the bridesmaids will put them down and then forget about them. If you would like them in the group photographs then remind them to keep hold of them.
This is really useful for when the group photographs start. You would be amazed how often group pictures are held up because flowers have been left in a locked room, in the toilet or simply at the wedding breakfast table.
Top Tip Five – Group photographs – make a list, go big to small and assign an usher
Group photographs will run away from you time wise if you don’t have a plan. There’s no reason why you can’t shoot the entire list in twenty minutes. Granted this is also dictated by the number you have to get through (which is why I suggest no more than ten).
The easiest way to manage group photographs is to start with the biggest groups and reduce the numbers. By shooting the largest group first you have everyone’s ear and they will be paying attention. Thus, we can take the picture then immediate address the crowd and tell them who is needed next but also for the rest of the guests not to wonder too far in case they are needed.
Assign an usher – this can save buckets of time. If you have an usher or similar who knows both sides of the family and friends then they can round up the next photograph whilst the photographer is taking the current one. Ushers are told they are ushers, and are of course honoured to be a part of the bridal party, but beyond that they rarely seem to know what they jobs are. Tell the before they are in charge of rounding up.
A top tip for the gents – don’t have anything in your pockets – they can warp the shape of your suit so it doesn’t sit properly and can also look weird in your trousers.
Group pictures are easiest when no one else is around. With smaller groups of people comes less chatting, fewer distractions and increased efficiency! If group photographs are to be taken at the church it’s easiest to send all the guests on to the reception and keep those needed behind.
A question you will absolutely be asked is do you want drinks in the photos? Decide before the day, tell me and I’ll make sure everyone knows.
Top Tip Six – cutting of cake – middle of dance floor (if possible) ((if you want to do it of course…))
The DJ has a microphone – brilliant. He/She (2018) can address the entire room and tell everyone that the cutting of the cake is imminent. If the cake is in the middle of the dance floor, then everyone will be in the exact right place for the first dance. They can also gather around the couple to make it feel more intimate, and ultimately get better wedding photographs
This comment has to be tempered by the reality that the cake will have to be moved. It often sits in the corner of the room and when it’s cut, only a small number of people can get a good view. In the middle of the dance floor means everyone can see the event. Make sure the caterers are happy to move it, you don’t want groomsmen after a few beers having a crack at it. Get the pros in.
Weddings are a collaboration…
Weddings rely on a lot of people, each with their own unique experience of events.
Tap into the knowledge of every supplier you hire – use their experience and go through different scenarios of what they’ve seen play out to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Investing the time before the day can pay dividends and allow you to sail through, enjoying every moment.
I’m not particularly fond of awards. I like to think I’m on the fringes. A bit like the Stewart Lee of wedding photography. I take pictures that I find interesting or funny and then hope that it resonates with people.
Fortunately my love of capturing real moments instead of staging seems to have struck a chord and I am incredibly fortunate to work with the most amazing couples who share in my vision. On a personal level, awards don’t really mean a great deal to me. The joy in the job is creating images that allow my couples to relive their day. Images that spark an emotional reaction. I’m also grateful that I never got fancy with my camera gear.
They probably mean very little to me because I am my harshest critic, too harsh in the opinion of those closest to me. I believe holding myself to the highest standards across all domains will not only improve my work, but also improve me as a person.
Awards are funny things. People who I’ve never met, judging images of people they’ve never met. When my work is so heavily predicated on the emotional connection the viewer has with the image, then surely the client can be the only real judge of an image? When you see ‘award winning’ on a wedding photographers website, it’s never followed up with the criteria of why the award was given, does that matter? I don’t know. This blog post feels like a stream of thoughts rather than a cohesive critique of a subject. I just start writing and see what happens. Now that I’ve written that, I guess at least you know that I’m not self censoring, and what I write is actually what I think.
I think what I’m trying to say is that my work has to resonate with you. You have to be able to see something in my images that sparks an emotion, triggers a positive reaction. Awards and client testimonials can re-enforce those feelings, but awards on their own can’t tell you that I’m good. I’m a big believer in that you, the viewer, knows what’s good already, only sometimes you have to see it before you know what you’re looking for.
This is a very long winded way of announcing that I won an award. Three awards in fact.
I like to think on things, assess, and then really try to think about how I feel about it. Writing helps me think. Writing for me is thinking.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the world of seeking recognition, becoming hell bent on winning certain awards as a mark of prestige. What I don’t like about it is how black and white it is, you either win an award, or you don’t. It’s not a dialogue or a critique from someone you admire. It’s a catalogue of images that the judges either like or they don’t. I only enter awards where the judging is conducted by peers who I admire, it’s very easy to forget that no one really cares about my ‘artistic vision’ if the product isn’t of high quality. I could in theory win every wedding photography award but have endless client complaints because I’d only chased an image that would win me an award, rather than documenting the day properly.
In this instance, this award feels jolly lovely as I’ve managed to deliver on both quality of narrative, super happy clients and also images with artistic merit which the wider wedding photography community has acknowledged…which is nice.
Below are the images that won. What makes these awards doubly funny is that I don’t think it’s my best work, so I immediately find myself in a stupid position where I’ve won an award, but the excitement is immediately tempered by the fact that they didn’t choose my favourite picture, so who is the arbiter of quality?
I can only re-state what I’ve mentioned hundreds of times before. It comes down to you, the client. You’re the people that count. When you choose to work with me and come away with a selection of pictures that you love, then that’s all that matters.
Like my work and my philosophy?
Feel free to send me an email and ask any question you like, I’m a real person at the end of the email and more than happy to help!
Not a poorly considered, generic, waste of your time list, here’s info that is actually useful. For fellow photographers, also, check this article out: Don’t get fancy with your photography gear!
Does the venue have a sound limiter?
I doubt you will find this information freely given to you when you visit a venue as a potential client. Wedding venues are businesses and they want your custom. The big problem I have is that you only get one crack at a wedding and they cost alot of money. That being the case, it is vital that ALL information is freely available, good and bad, so you, as the customer, can make an informed choice.
Sound limiters always catch people out.
What is it? It’s an installed device that monitors the sound levels in the venue, if it goes above the set limit, all the sound system shuts off and you are left in silence until it’s restarted.
This disrupts the party momentum and often guests and the client are left stood looking at the band and saying ‘wow this band are rubbish, they blew up the speakers’, which of course, isn’t true.
Before you book, ask if there is a sound limiter. If there is and its not an issue for you, great. If it is an issue because you want to rave, then you may need to find another venue. Better to find out before than mid way through a real headbanger.
Can pictures be taken during the church service?
This is important for obvious reasons and i have written about it previously, but the more coverage it gets, the more likely it is someone will see it!
Not all vicars/priests/minsters/celebrants etc. let us wedding photographers take pictures during the ceremony.
When its in their domain, its their rules.
If you would be devastated by this, find out before booking. This is vitally important as there is genuinely nothing we can do about it. I have had experiences where even on the day the celebrant has changed their mind, which creates a whole new set of issues, but if you have it in writing from the venue/church then at least we have that to fall back on. The ceremony is often the most emotional part of the day, to watch those moments play out in front of me without being able to capture them is heartbreaking.
How much is the booze? Because half a bottle of wine each is never enough
Such a question could be revealing about my personality type eh? I’m not an alcoholic, i only drink when i work…and i’m a workaholic :)
Seriously though, it’s worth finding out. Guests will drink the champagne at the toasts, they will also drink the half bottle of wine each, which sounds alot when booking, but the wedding breakfast is normally 2.5hrs, it’s quite easy to drink that much wine in that time.
If a bottle of beer is £6 and cocktails are a fortune, then people will wince each time they go to the bar, that’s not conducive to having a relaxed mega fun time with friends.
What happens if it rains?
This has little impact on how I work, i document, so you have to roll with whatever comes. For you and your guests though, this is important to know.
If the venue is spectacular in summer with the most fabulous gardens, just make sure you ask what happens if it’s lashing it down, only for peace of mind that you don’t end up in a cupboard.
How far are the nearest hotels and how much are cabs?
Not all wedding venues can house everyone who wants to stay there, so again, as far as being considerate to your guests, have a look at how far away he venue is from hotels. Guests will want taxis, if it costs £50 to go 2 miles, might be worth looking at arranging carriages to ferry people rather than one off hire.
How much time do we have to setup?
Love to have lots of home made details? Thinking of a bit more of a DIY affair? Make sure you’ve got plenty of time to setup. I’ve been in the situation before setting up weddings for friends where we’ve had a team of people and two days to setup…and only just made it.
We lined the ceiling with lanterns (an engineering masterpiece it has to be said), made all the bouquets, decorated the tables etc. Something is always forgotten and it always takes longer than you think. Make sure if you are going DIY then the venue allows you access well in advance of the big day, otherwise you’ll be majorly stressed out and that’s not fun.
What time do we have to leave the day after the wedding?
Weddings are celebrations, I don’t think it should be about money and therefore find it disappointing when the venue throws you out at 10am after having a skinful because there’s a wedding the next day.
I get it, its a business. If i ran a venue, its not how I would choose to operate, one wedding a weekend i say, but hey, maybe that’s just being daft and unrealistic.
Orrr maybe not? That’s how I shoot weddings, one a weekend, go hard on one, knowing you’re at your best. Anyway I digress. I know from my own wedding that you have to exit the premises at a certain time the next day at certain venues. If you and your friends are hungover, this is an inconvenience so def worth thinking about.
I’ll tell you what happened at my wedding.
The next morning, breakfast seemed like a civilised idea at the time, except everyone was still in bed. Eeking out the minutes of sleep up to 10am to get maximum shut eye. In the end we all went to the pub and had a few more beers with lunch. In conclusion, breakfast for all guests was a waste of money.
One thing whilst i think of it…
If your venue isn’t a hotel, you’ll have a night porter and that’s it. No room service etc. If you find yourself needing something in the middle of the night, you won’t be able to call someone to get it. We had a guest who was really sick and sorting help for her was difficult as there was only one person on duty…just a thought.
Not at all….!
There are a few considerations on this point, here’s some useful info.
Firstly, all about how I work.
Before we delve into why this isn’t cool, I also just published this article you may find useful: Don’t Get Fancy With Gear.
In order to get the photographs you see on my website and various social media channels, I have to be in fairly close proximity to you. Not right up in your face, but you’ll know I’m there. Sometimes you may not be able to see me because I’ll be off photographing something else, other times I’ll be stood right next to you.
One of the reasons my wedding photographs are so immersive is because they are taken from the perspective of a person stood in the group, watching the moment unfold.
I get in close and I shoot wide angle, so then when you look back at the image it’s easier to relive the moment, the perspective allows you to insert yourself back into that memory. My pictures are taken from the point of view of someone who is stood next to you, you can’t fake that look, you have to physically be in the right place, as in, sometimes I will be stood right next to you. This is why I bang on about meeting me before you book, so by the time we get to your wedding we’ve had so much contact that you know all about me and it’s much more like a friend photographing you wedding, someone you trust.
Enter the videographer
Now, the style of wedding video you like might change whether or not the videographer and I are a good fit.
I can get on with anyone, so that part is never an issue, it’s more about having incompatible styles.
Staged videos – I don’t stage anything.
Some videographers stage a lot, so this can be an issue.
If I’m trying to capture candid moments and the videographer wants you to pose, then we may have a problem, typically because video takes longer to set up and longer to shoot. Therefore, you’ll be away from your guests for longer periods of time. The net result is fewer opportunities for me to take candid pictures of you and your guests together. I will be letting a moment breath and for things to happen organically, the videographer may be talking to you directly and asking you to perform certain actions – walk here, hold hands, kiss now etc. I don’t do that as I think it interrupts the flow of the day, but that’s why it’s really important to give you all the info upfront so you’re not disappointed after the wedding.
Wouldn’t you just take pics of the guests whilst we are away?
Yes, of course, and that has happened before. But what is really important to acknowledge is that if the couple are absent for long periods, the atmosphere in the room changes. Everyone has travelled from far and wide to see you, so whilst the hi-jinks may last for half an hour, eventually it will start to wane as they long for your company.
Will I be a problem for them?
As I mentioned above, I get in close, I’m near you, sometimes stood right next to you. If you are hiring a videographer who shoots lots of wide angles or full length shots then I might be a problem for them.
It’s really easy for me to Photoshop videographers out of my pictures, I have to do it a lot, but it’s not an issue. On the flip side, It’s near enough impossible (or impractical) to edit me out of the wedding film, so if i’m in the way, there’s not much they can do to edit me out.
What questions should we be asking then? How do we know if you’re compatible?
Typically the wedding videographer is hired after the wedding photographer, best bet is to send me the link to their website and I’ll have a look. I’ll be able to tell based upon how they shot the video what to expect. 99% of the time it’snot an issue, but, better safe than sorry. I’m not an arse so I’d never say ‘on no, don’t book them’, if you love their stuff then of course we’d make it work between us. What I would do however is speak from experience and let you know what to expect, how the day will flow and how that may effect my working process, then you can make an informed choice, and that’s a win for everyone.
This question will no doubt evolve as the years go on and tech changes. As of 2019, here’s my take on it.
Have an unplugged ceremony only, the rest is a free for all.
Weddings are emotionally charged (check out When Should I Book My Wedding Photographer? here). Its making a lifelong commitment to an individual whilst in the presence of the people you love most. In all of the billions of people in the world, you two have made a connection that makes sense, and you want to celebrate that. Fantastic.
In order for those emotions to be felt, you need to be able to feel them. Sounds daft to say, but here me out.
By the way, you may find this a very fun and interesting read: We Hate Having Our Picture Taken!
What gets in the way of interacting with the world in front of you? Technology.
The research is clear, phones are addictive. They are designed to be. Did you know silicone valley parents send their kids to tech free schools? They design it, they know how damaging it can be.
When you feel your phone vibrate, you become distracted. Research has found that the brain can be distracted for up to three minutes after your phone has beeped, lit up or vibrated. Its why everyone is now saying to never take your devices into the bedroom or have them on in the car. They affect your concentration, so much so that you cant sleep and that you’re more likely to crash your car.
The correlation is there. Technology is a distraction.
In the context of a wedding, if you’re distracted by a phone, you wont be in the moment, you wont be paying attention. This inhibits emotional reactions and means you’ll miss an opportunity to feel something real, this would be sad.
Reason number two. The pictures are crap.
You’ve hired me to take photographs, so it makes sense that i have the best view. I’m stood at the front, my pictures are going to be ace.
Cousin Dave’s picture from row Z is going to be crap, period. It will exist in the vaults of a devices storage to be erased when he changes phones.
This is feeling a bit ranty…
All i’m trying to say is this. Don’t miss an opportunity to experience something real. Be present in the moment and allow yourself the space to be emotionally vulnerable. Its a beautiful place to be.
Now i know as well as anyone the joys of taking pictures, so denying that from someone feels like an odd recommendation. But it is only for the ceremony
From the point of view of the bride.
You want guests to be paying attention to the moment. Smiling at you, part of your team, celebrating the moment, part of your fan club. If you’re walking down the aisle and you cant see someones face because its obstructed by a phone or even worse an ipad, that’s really impersonal. And you know aunt Mavis hasn’t turned the flash off, so bam!, point blank flash in your eyes – welcome to migraine town.
What would you rather see? Rows of the smiling faces of the people you invited to share in this moment? Or a collection of their phone cases.
From the point of view of the groom.
The people at the back of the room see the bride first, so they get their phone out ti take a picture. The people in the next row cant see, so they lean out a little bit to get a clear shot themselves. Multiply by twenty rows and you cant see the bride walking towards you. One of the most wonderful moments in your life, obstructed by mobile phone screens. What if you couldn’t see each others faces? How frustrating would that be.
How to stop this from happening?
Ask the registrar, vicar, priest, rabbi etc. to announce to the congregation to put their phones away, no pics during the service and please be present with the couple in the moment. Easy solve.