Right now you’re probably reading this because you have a wedding coming up, or maybe you would like to take on your first wedding and you’re feeling excited but nervous. You probably want to make sure you get ALL of the information you need beforehand and huge kudos to you for doing your homework! I still remember when I did my first wedding, how nervous I was, and just really appreciated all of the really good free information out there to help me through.
Have a pre-wedding workflow. Because a lot of times wedding photographers who are just getting started, don’t realize that once you get that booking, the next step isn’t to just show up for that day, right? So there is something in between that you should be doing to add to that customer experience.
Why do we want to add to that customer experience? It’s mainly because we want to always walk away with the happiest clients that we could possibly ever have. So then they can then refer us to everybody else. Now you’re going to do that by sending them questionnaires to get to know them better. You’re going to get on the phone with them and talk to them about their day coming up and things that you can do to make sure that you’re getting all of the photographs you need.
You’re going to do that by sending little text messages, just to let them know, “Hey, thinking of you, let me know if you have any questions along the way”
It’s all about that customer experience, but also having a questionnaire set in place is going to make it so that you know exactly what photographs they want, you know exactly how to show up on the day and you have all the information you need to really kill it.
Introduce yourself to the vendor team. So that would be any planner that’s involved. If there isn’t a planner, there’s usually a venue coordinator for the venue that they booked. Introduce yourself to any other vendors, like the florist, the videographer, and the MUA artists.
Really, any vendor that’s involved because these are people that you could potentially form relationships with in the future which is really crucial. The wedding photography industry is big on relationships and networking, but another really great point too that is you’re not just creating an experience for your clients, there is also the experience you give to the vendors you work alongside.
The way that you do that is you just send over a quick introduction email, and you can simply just say “Hi! I’m X, Y, Z. I’ll be photographing Bobby and Christina’s wedding & I’m thrilled to work with you guys. Please let me know if there are any shots that you want me to take for your brand. Happy to get those for you now.”
Everything about what I teach is exceeding expectations. No one actually expects you to do this. But the idea is that:
Imagine that you have one photographer that you’re working with, who doesn’t bother to send you an email. It doesn’t bother to introduce yourself and like barely talks to you the day of, and then you have another photographer who not only emails you beforehand but also asks you “Can I get any marketing images for you? Can I take any pictures for you?” They come over and quickly introduce themself.
On the day of the wedding, they’re really hard working and then they send you everything after the wedding that you can use in your own business…who would you be more likely to recommend?
It’s vital to make a photography timeline for yourself and the couple. There’s one main timeline for the day and that’s going to be the coordinator/planner timeline, but there’s a photography timeline as well because the coordinator’s timeline doesn’t typically start until around ceremony time. This will vary depending on whether you’re working with a coordinator or a full-service planner, but if this is your first wedding, you’re likely working with a coordinator.
Take some time to draft up a timeline for the couple to include when you will arrive, that’s usually going to be around when they’re getting ready. Your timeline is going to include the getting ready portion, it’s going to include any first look, if they decide to do a first look. All of the things to make sure that there’s a plan and time for these things to happen. You never just want to show up and just take pictures, that is going to go wrong really quickly.
#4. FAMILY PORTRAIT LIST
You need to have a list planned out beforehand for family portraits. So that way, it’s not super unorganized because what happens with the family portraits is, if you don’t have it organized, uncle Bob’s gonna be getting drinks and Martha’s gonna be like off hanging out with her girlfriend & nobody’s going to be where you want them to be.
What should only take 15 to 20 minutes max is going to turn into close to 45 minutes. That actually eats into the time when you should be taking pictures of the bride and groom and those beautiful just married photos are so important.
I ask my couples to have a grouping list of up to 10. So 10 groupings max. A grouping, for example, would be:
Bride & Groom – Groom’s Mom & Dad
Bride & Groom – Bride’s Mom & Dad
Have 10 of those pre-written and ready to go so you can stay organized and make sure you have plenty of time to get other important photos as well.
#5. UTILIZE PINTEREST
There’s no shame in putting together a Pinterest board before the wedding day. Add in the poses and shots you want to take. When you’re going to your first wedding, you’re super nervous, you’re probably still figuring out your posing…you’re not sure about a lot of things.
Preparation is going to be the way that you can go into a wedding and really just be as confident as humanly possible. Now, a way to prepare in terms of the artistic side is to go through Pinterest, spend some time, and make a board specifically for that wedding of poses that you like, of detail shots that you like, of any shots that you want to make sure you get.
This is a huge opportunity to not just serve the couple and deliver them really beautiful photos, but also to be intentional about your images and have plenty of images worthy of sharing in your portfolio of work.
Go through Pinterest for an hour, find poses you love, and study them. Save them for future use, but also make a shot list from them. So when the wedding comes, you can simply look over your shot list and make sure you get everything you want.
BONUS TIP? Save your Pinterest board on your phone so that during photographing you can quickly glance at some poses you might otherwise have forgotten to do.
#6. PREPARATION IS EVERYTHING
You simply have to get there early or even, a day before the wedding begins. You guys are going to see a theme here, it’s all about preparation, right? If you can go to the wedding party when they are rehearsing, do that.
You want to walk around and see what the venue looks like in person, and you want to plan out where you’re going to be doing your portrait photos, find where there’s shade, and where you can do family portraits, etc.
You never want to go into the wedding, & just start taking pictures and figuring everything out as you go. We definitely don’t do that. We book luxury weddings now, and a big part of every single job, even if I’ve been there before, is going either the day before or going at least an hour early the day of, preparing the locations, and making sure that the sun is where it’s supposed to be and making sure that every shot location is planned out.
#7. START WITH THE DETAILS
Detail shots are those beautiful shots you see of flat lays, invitation suites, and the dress hanging somewhere.
I always tell our Brides, “When we arrive, I’m going to grab your shoes, I’m going to grab your invitation suit and I’ll style everything so that it’s the beginning of the story of your wedding day.
It’s a great way to give more context to each couple’s story but it’s also a great way for you to start shooting and getting those nerves out and just getting into the zone and the environment that you’re in. With this being your first wedding, you most likely are going to have some nerves really going on and so I really like to have that warm-up period where I can get creative & get my juices flowing.
#8. GO ON YOUTUBE
Go on Youtube and search for wedding photographers who are showing how they do an entire wedding day because that’s just going to show you how a wedding day typically flows. That doesn’t mean that yours is gonna go exactly the same. and it probably shouldn’t, but it’s just going to give you an idea of what to expect because you’ve never done a wedding before.
When you know what to expect, you’re a lot more confident going into the wedding day and confidence truly is everything.
#9. STAY IN CONTROL
You have got to stay in control of the day. And here’s what I mean. You can’t be scared to ask for things or to tell people they are running out of time to get the shots they want. This wedding is not the time to be quiet and introverted.
You have to make sure people are staying on time, you have to be confident in asking people to move out of the shot, or talk louder to get family members to hear you. Your client paid you not just for beautiful photos, but also to run the photograph time smoothly for them so they can enjoy their wedding.
Preparing with all of the tips I mentioned above will help tremendously, just remember to bring that confidence on the day of.
#10. GET A SECOND SHOOTER
I get it, this is your first wedding and I’m sure you aren’t charging that much so it feels painful to pay for a good second shooter. For my first wedding, I only charged $500 and I actually lost money because of how much money I spent on education and lenses and paying for a really good second shooter.
Here’s why you’ll need one. You’re likely going into your first wedding thinking, you’re so nervous, you don’t want to mess up their day and you don’t want to miss anything. When you hire a second shooter and get one that’s good it gives you more confidence because you know you’re not going to miss any of the photos.
You’ll have way more confidence and you can be sure that the couple who hired you is going to love everything that comes their way.
So there you have it! We’ve just gone over 10 amazing tips to help you kill it on your first wedding. If you’re looking for extra guidance in this area or just don’t know where to start, I’ve created a free masterclass The 4 Step Method to Booked Out to learn how to build a profitable and sustainable photography business that allows you to hit $10k months with ease. It’s totally FREE and only requires 90 minutes of your time.