Ten Minute Photo Shoots

Today’s blog is about something that we get asked about pretty often. Here is our question from Walter in New Jersey:

Hi Zach & Jody,

My wife and I have been following you two for a while. I was glad when you started with PhotoVision. I love “being” with a photographer on wedding day. Which leads me to my question, how do you convince a bride that if she wants all of the pictures on her list, she needs to leave us some time to get them? Example, last week we shot a wedding of a great couple. Good looking, naturals in front of the camera, great venue, great place across the street for portraits (but unfortunately) we had less then 10 minutes with the couple. For some reason we keep booking these couples that jamb the time line so tight we have less than 30 minutes to get everything done (bride & groom, family, and bridal party). I watched your segment on PhotoVision and everyone seems relaxed and moving at a normal pace. I’d appreciate any advice you can give!

This is a GREAT question and a problem that many wedding photographers run into.

As wedding photographers who have done this a few times, we know the time needed to get all the images that we love to shoot during the portrait session of the wedding day. The problem is, for most brides, this is the first time they are getting married and they have no idea what to expect and plan for.

As modern photographers who not only shoot with a photojournalistic flair, we, here at Gray Photography, shoot a good amount of portraits (is there a cooler word to use than “portraits?”) during the wedding day which is a huge part of our style and what our clients ultimately want from us at the end of the day. As mentioned, the problem is, they usually have no idea how much time photos like that take. When the bride plans out her day she is usually thinking about getting ready, walking down the isle and so on. Once the wedding day has been planned and the wedding is getting close, if at that point we connect with the bride, only to find out that we get 13 seconds to shoot bridal party images, bride and groom images and all the family shots, panic sets in! And that right there is the problem. It is not the bride’s fault that she had no idea how much time the photographer needs to get those images. It is our fault for not letting her know 4 months ago when she planned out her day.

We have a system that fixes this problem. As soon as a bride books us for her wedding day, we tell her “as soon as you start planning out the day, call us so that we can guide you through it and help plan the timeline so we are sure to get the pictures that YOU want us to get.” Then, a few weeks later, we send them an email letting them know what to expect from us over the next months and again mention that they should contact us as soon as they are ready to plan out the day. Then, they always contact us and we talk through the day and work through the timeline to ensure there is enough time to get the photos that they hired us for.

Our timelines usually include one hour for girl photos (photos of the bride, then photos of her and her bridesmaids) and one hour for guy photos (photos of just the groom, then photos of him with his guys). Then, if the bride and groom see each other before the wedding, ideally we want 45min -1 hour scheduled with them.

Now do we need all that time to actually shoot them? Nope, not at all. We can and have knocked out all of those photos in minutes (this is where being super skilled with your camera and gear – maybe even lights – is super beneficial so you’re eliminating all the guesswork which takes up valuable time). However, how many times have you been to a wedding that has actually run on time? Yeah, that’s what we thought :) We can count on about two fingers (yes, that would be only two times :) how many weddings have actually run on time. Wedding photography should be a great and enjoyable experience for all who are being shot – not stressed and rushed – and when people are calm and having a good time, not only does their experience with you become a blast, but they relax and let their guard down and we then are able to capture more candid moments, which ultimately are the ones everyone really loves and cherishes.

All that to say, we build in extra time into the portraits for mishaps that may hold up the wedding day and ultimately prevent them from getting the photos and EXPERIENCE they are paying for.

Now say you plan ahead to have all this time for shooting but things are running not just a little behind, but WAY behind? A big part of the day flowing smoothly is to always re-assure the bride that the day is going great no matter what the circumstances. It is our job to take stress off of the bride so that she can enjoy her day (and ultimately her experience with you). She does not need to feel worried that something is running late, or we have a camera problem, or the light is not good. If you are calm and cool then she will be.

We got the below email from one of our brides after her wedding, and if any day was stressful and running way way way behind- it was this one. We kept our cool, and reassured her she was still going to have awesome images and the day was going to be great, and we all survived! We love and appreciate this note we received from her.

Thanks for doing such a great job at our wedding. It got unbelievably chaotic right before the wedding. We can’t thank you enough for all your help and putting up with the craziness of it all. It all turned out beautifully and the weather was awesome and everyone had fun.

Your attitude can really shape the experience of the day. Take for example this story:
A friend of ours was shooting a gig and even though the images turned out great, he did not give a lot of feedback to the client during the shoot letting them know that everything rocked. So he ended up having to re-shoot some of the images on a later date. That would not have happened if he would have been talking about how awesome the shots were and letting the client know that as well. I took that lesson I learned from him and now am always sure to let the client know how great I feel about the shots. They always feel great about them too (and more confident during the shoot) because we are putting such a positive vibe our there!

So what if you try and do all of this timeline prep on the front end only to find out that the bride does not want to spend the time you need to shoot? If this is the case, then your business itself could be the problem. Every brides is different when it comes to how much she values photography, and how much a part of her day she wants it to be. So if you want to stop shooting those weddings where photography is such a small part of the day, you need to start changing the way you market to your clients so that you can stop shooting weddings where photography is not important, and start shooting the weddings that you, the photographer, ultimately love shooting. You got into this business because you wanted to do what you love, so make sure that you are doing that almost all of the time and finding those brides who are a perfect fit for you and you are a perfect fit for them.

We specifically market ourselves to brides who think that their wedding photos are one of the most important parts of their day and are top priority. For those who just want some photos snapped here and there, we’re not the best fit for them and direct them to another photographer. We don’t shoot every wedding that comes our way because we only want to work with brides who want us and what we do, and who are a good fit for us and see the value of what we do. Many of our brides want to shoot longer then we even need to. We have spent hours with bridal parties shooting, have had an hour or more to shoot the bride and groom because they want to get all of these fun and cool portraits done since the biggest part of their day is their images.

So, if you are working with a bride who has photography way down the list of what is important, then she will most likely not give you much time to shoot. But, if that is what she wants, roll with it because it is her day. Just make sure it is communicated she is not going to get what you normally deliver to all of your clients, just so there are no surprises on the backend for her.

In closing, be sure to plan ahead (waaay ahead) and everything will turn out awesome…. Or will be as close to awesome as possible :) But, if after doing all of that, you still get stuck with ten minutes to shoot (which does happen to us on occasion), just roll with it and shoot your heart out in those ten minutes. The wedding day is ultimately a day about two people getting married, not about a fashion shoot. If you shoot the wedding day, the stuff that you can never redo, then your bride will be super happy. You can always re-shoot some portraits of the bride and groom if worse comes to worse, but you can never re-shoot the vows and the other moments of the wedding day that will never happen again.

Hope you enjoyed the read :)