As a professional wedding photographer, I regularly interact with all parties involved in taking a wedding from start to finish: wedding planner, maid of honor, best man, catering staff, hotel special events coordinator, family, friends and of course, the bride and groom themselves. It’s necessary for all the moving parts of a wedding to work together in a smooth and cohesive manner in order for me to capture the perfect shots and tell the full story of the couple’s special day.
A few months ago, a nervous bride and her mother sat down with me for the imperative final meeting just a few days before the wedding. Well prepared with itineraries, schedules, and invoices, the bride opened a three ring binder labeled “Wedding Day” and handed me a photography checklist. Bridal magazines and wedding planning guide books love these neat little photo inventory lists. Photographers don’t always share the same sentiment.
The bride had meticulously checked off shots necessary for me to take on their wedding day. I scanned down the small font list, my eyes momentarily halting on items such as Bride with Mother, Bride with Groom, and — my favorite — Bride Walking Down the Aisle.
I’m a firm believer in the axiom “redundancy is better than error.” However, how could any wedding photographer overlook the shot of the Bride Walking Down the Aisle?
Wedding photographers share a unique relationship with their client. We are a potpourri of hired gun, artist, and psychologist. The details required by photographers to get the very best shot are far beyond just a few checked boxes on a list. These details that cannot be written down on a list because they are so personal and second nature that you don’t realize their significance — these details must come out in a client-photographer conversation.
The idiosyncrasies of every family can be complex, colorful, sometimes dysfunctional and always entertaining. Therefore, it is imperative that the photographer and couple have a frank conversation prior to the wedding about family and friends. This conversation is so important that it should be in the Wedding Day binder right after “buy wedding cake.”
This conversation is the couple’s opportunity to fill in the missing details between those little checked boxes. It is their only chance, before the wedding, to give the photographer all the needed details to get the perfect shot.
For instance, the bride’s family may be getting together for the first time in 5 years. Or perhaps the groom’s sister just found out she will be having a baby boy. The details of interpersonal relationships are endless, and photographically priceless. Such detailed conversations prior to the wedding helps both the photographer and the client put the family and friends into perspective.
These little morsels of family lore will help the photographer produce their own checklist that reflects each family’s unique characteristics.
So, after I looked over the bride’s generic list of shots to take, we talked for almost an hour. She spoke openly about her family, friends, and future husband.
Through this conversation, I discovered the following:
- One of their friends has a signature dance move
- She has known her best friend since they were 3
- Her mom will cry at the drop of a hat
- Her great grandmother just turned 104
Knowing this information, I was able to capture four priceless shots:
The friend’s awesome high kick dance move
Her friend snorts when she laughs
The moisture welling up in her mother’s eyes when the bride’s last bit of makeup is applied
The bride tenderly embracing her great grandmother’s weathered and brittle hands