Congratulations on choosing a media professional for your wedding! Whether that professional is me or another talented producer, finalizing your media coverage is both big step and a heavy weight off your shoulders.
In preparing for the wedding, you and your photographer should be on the same page regarding times, locations, and expectations. While there are literally hundreds of factors to consider, I'm going to keep it simple here by listing what I feel are the most important understandings and why.
The Photographer-Client Checklist
☐ The Contract
☐ Schedule of the Day
☐ Shot List
☐ Planner-Contact Information
For big days such as yours, contracts are an absolute must. Contracts outline critical points such as the parties involved, payment, liability, and expectations regarding deliverables. More thorough contracts can cover discussions regarding resolutions, food, travel costs, and what happens if someone backs out last minute.
It is normally up to your photographer to discuss the terms of service, but if your media provider is just starting out, encourage them to consult a legal expert or research an already existing template and carefully build one from there.
The topic of contracts deserve an article on its own but in the spirit of keeping this article brief, I'll reiterate the starting point—you and your photographer need a contract!
At its core, wedding days are grand stage productions with cues, lines, and responsibilities. The schedules are like scripts—they ensure that you and your photographer are on the same page and at the same times.
Schedules can take many forms and can be as simple or as complex as needed.
In its most basic form, your schedule should note essential events like the dress prep, ceremony and the reception.
More thorough schedules factor in dedicated photo sessions such as first looks, family photos, and the lovely couple in a quiet moment together. This is especially helpful if the wedding day encompasses many different festivities.
With the beauty of today's technology, I find that creating an active Google Sheet/Excel document between photographer, couple, and, if applicable planner, can help all parties establish a clear vision for the day. Laying out times can also help your photographer optimize his/her coverage or point out conflicting time blocks.
When drafting, make sure the schedules outline both times and specific locations. If your locations are spaced far from each other, please allot appropriate times for all parties to commute. If your photographer is shooting alone (i.e. without assistance), take into consideration optimal ways he/she can cover both sides of the bridal party and when precisely to do so.
Like schedules, shot lists inform your photographer on what moments he/she needs to capture throughout the day.
Shot lists can be tailored according to your artistic tastes. In my experience, shorter shot lists are generally preferred. Avoid complex, 100+ item shot lists—they will make most photographers' heads implode and convey to your photographer that you do not trust him/her to do their job well.
Seasoned photographers will have an intuitive sense of what to capture and should be entrusted as such to do so—for better or worse.
The most imperative shot lists will detail familys hots—from your parents to extended families, to travelling aunties, long lost uncles, and cousins you have forgotten existed. Additionally, a more detailed shot list should include wild moments like flash dances, surprise family cameos, and very specific, culturally unique traditions of which your photographer may not be informed.
If you have specific poses you'd like or Pinterest samples you'd like to emulate, feel free to share them with your photographer! Some artists are more controlling in their vision but if your photographer is open to collaboration (I'm cool with it!) the sky is the limit.
I highly recommend ALL couples enlist a planner for their wedding. A wedding planner is your wedding's alarm clock—you may not like the constant buzzing but, holy cow, will they keep you on track. A good planner will be your informal wedding therapist, cell phone holder, and will sneak you food when you two have forgotten to eat through the wedding festivities.
If you have any inclination to plan your own wedding independently—I would highly advise against it. I've seen far too many brides and grooms burn themselves out trying to sort out every little detail. As a photographer, it's upsetting to see a couple not enjoy their own big day because they're too stressed out delegating.
If you understandably cannot afford a planner for the day, consider enlisting a friend or someone in the bridal party with an A-type personality to keep the schedule moving smoothly. Regardless of what you choose, ensure that your photographer has the contact information of you, your partner, and the planner-in-name so that they may get in touch with you immediately if a certain plan goes awry.
Getting Ready for the Big Day
After squaring the above details, you and your photographer should on your way to the big day! Keep in touch with your photographer via your preferred contact methods and ensure they've acquired any last minute scheduling changes. Calling the week or day before can also help the both of you rehearse the schedule one last time remotely.
The night before, make sure to get plenty of sleep (this may be difficult) and drink lots of water (much easier) to keep your skin hydrated and smooth for the photos.
Lastly: have faith in your photographer! Most photographers are self-sufficient creatures and can thrive in the wilderness that is a hectic wedding schedule. Trust your photographer to get the motions right.
With thorough planning, everyone will be on track to craft beautiful memories together.