No joke. Photographing a wedding is stressful. But there are ways you can reduce this stress!
Break it down. What makes it stressful? Pinpoint your stress points. There can be a ton of them! And they’re going to be different for different photographers. But if you can define them, then you can start taking steps to lessen their effects.
For me just starting out, a major stress point was not knowing exactly what the main photographer was supposed to shoot. The thought, “What am I supposed to be shooting right now?” was constantly on my mind. “What’s happening next?” “Is there something happening right now that I should be shooting?!” It wore me out!
After a couple weddings, though, I came to realize that most weddings follow a fairly similar flow. As such, a wedding is basically a series of mini-shoots, back to back, that continues for the entire day. This really helped me.
And it’s based on the fact that the main photographer can only be at one place at the same time. If beforehand, in the course of putting together a schedule for the day, there happens to be a situation where two important things will be happening at the exact same time, then that’s when I know I need to bring in a second photographer, or simply request that things be scheduled differently. I can only be at one place at the same time! Knowing what the series of mini-shoots is going to be in a day greatly reduces the stress. It helps me stay focused in each mini-shoot, enjoy each mini-shoot, and take the most epic photos possible in that mini-shoot.
So, what are the basic mini-shoots on a wedding day? Every wedding is going to be different, but I’ve found that each wedding generally flows through 9 basic stages.
Photographing the little details at a wedding is so important! This includes the rings, the wedding dress, and the many special touches that make this wedding unique from all others. I try to photograph as many of these things as possible on the previous day if I am going to be there for the rehearsal. When that doesn’t happen, I try to arrive as early as possible on the day of the wedding to get as many of the details done before folks start getting ready.
The guys and girls are generally getting ready at the same time. But the girls take much longer. So there’s generally enough time to do both. This is where I’ll always use a second photographer, though, if I have one.
3. Groom and Groomsmen
While the girls are getting ready is generally when I can do the groom and groomsmen.
4. Bride and Bridesmaids
I’ll usually appoint a messenger to alert me when the girls are ready so I can continue photographing the guys during any extra time that the girls may take in getting ready.
The ceremony is it’s own mini-event. There are so many things happening in such quick succession that it’s really handy to have a second photographer covering your back. I try to map out exactly what pictures I want to get and where I’ll be, when, and with what equipment during the rehearsal the day before.
6. Family Groupings
I have to be completely focused for the family groupings. With large amounts of people in a group, there are many more details to keep track of! I always try to have the sequence of family groupings worked out ahead of time, printed out, and given to the wedding coordinator so they can be assembling each next group while I am keeping my focus on arranging and perfecting the group that’s currently on the stage.
7. Bridal Party
If possible, I like to do the bridal party (all the bridesmaids and groomsmen with the bride and groom) at a different location than the family groupings. If the couple is doing a first look after the bride/bridesmaids photos, then I can do the bridal party after the first look at the same location. But this depends on the bride’s scheduling preference, and sometimes there’s just not enough time to do it anywhere else.
Lots of things happen at the reception, but again, it generally has a structured flow. Usually purely documentary. Sometimes there’s actually a bit of time to sit down and eat a bite or two! Don’t forget the getaway car decorators, though. They’re usually hidden off someplace else.
Knowing that the couple mini-shoot is coming up, I’ve paced myself through the day. Now I can expend the last reservoirs of my energy! The couple shots are the most difficult for me, and yet are the most rewarding part of the entire day.
And those are the 9 basic stages of a typical wedding day! I hope the concept of approaching a big event as a series of mini-events helps reduce your stress when shooting a wedding. I enjoy shooting weddings so much more now, and can focus on what I’m shooting and not be worried so much about what I’m not shooting. And it’s worth it! Approaching wedding photography in a professional, God-honoring way honors marriage and encourages generations to come to more deeply cherish and enjoy the memory of that special day.