Top 5 wedding photography tips - Lucy Spartalis

27 January 2015

Shooting a wedding is like running a marathon… if marathons included huge bewildering obstacles, heckling marshals, constantly changing surface conditions, ‘Uncle Bob’ runners incessantly questioning you about your running gear, and the pressure of knowing that the result of your run will directly impact the lives of others for decades to come.

Yet in spite of all the crazy unpredictability, I’m completely in love with this job; to have the opportunity to use my creativity and passion while capturing such an emotional day in my clients’ lives is a remarkable honour (and I get a total thrill out of the chaos).

After shooting 150+ weddings I have carefully honed my approach and style, and learned many fantastic tips for managing the shoots along the way; I’ll share a few with you now:

Top 5 wedding photography tips - Lucy SpartalisTop 5 wedding photography tips - Lucy Spartalis

Top 5 wedding photography tips - Lucy SpartalisTop 5 wedding photography tips - Lucy Spartalis

1. Request a thorough running sheet.
Make sure you have a document with you containing everything you need: all of the important times, addresses, names and contact numbers, family portrait lists, parking instructions, and any other tips for how the day will run.

I take 2 x hard copies with me (one for my bag and one for my pocket). Whilst we live in a digital age, you don’t want to be caught with a dead iPhone battery if your phone contains all the useful information you need throughout the day.

2. Bring someone with you.
I work with an assistant 100% of the time. I have several people I can call on – each with experience working in photography (a must) – who make my job a million times easier. Stabilizing ladders, holding umbrellas, changing cards and lenses, making sure I’m hydrated and fed, looking ahead on running sheets, carrying gear up hillsides and down staircases… my assistants are absolute life-savers, and ensure I can devote all of my energy to just one thing: capturing beautiful photos.

I don’t work with second shooters, but I know many photographers who do, and who receive the same amazing support from their extra team members.

3. Request a detailed family portrait list, and suggest a limit.
Family portraits. *Sigh*.

Whilst crucial, this is no-one’s favourite part of the day. It’s the portion that is most likely to stress your clients and their guests out, and - if handled badly – it can end up dragging on for far too long, eating into your creative bridal portrait time.

To make things run much more smoothly, request a list of each family group shot your clients would like taken, with each name itemized in each group. This way, you or your assistant can be calling out names and marking off the list as you go, ensuring that the process is efficient and that no family member is forgotten. (This also covers your butt in the case that someone who wasn’t included on the list is left out).

Top 5 wedding photography tips - Lucy SpartalisTop 5 wedding photography tips - Lucy Spartalis

It’s also worth advising your clients to try to keep the groups to a minimum; nothing kills the mood like 25 different group shots with hungry, confused relatives. I always suggest a maximum of 8-10 groups to my clients.

Top 5 wedding photography tips - Lucy SpartalisTop 5 wedding photography tips - Lucy Spartalis

4. Be realistic with your clients about time.
It’s likely that your clients have never planned a wedding before, so by comparison, you are a wedding guru. Pass your wisdom on to them.

1.5 hours may sound like a long time for formal portraits if there’s no travel required, but explain to them that it’s important to not be rushed – for their own sake. They will have just gotten married, and the last thing they want is to be frantically hustled through family group shots, bridal party and couple portraits, without the opportunity to take stock in the incredible commitment they’ve just made.

Advise them that this is the one portion of the day where they’ll have a moment of quiet; a brief opportunity to be (almost) alone together to share in their exhilaration. Not only will the extra time make your job easier, but it will allow your clients to look more relaxed, natural and happy in front of the camera.

Food is fuel for your body and your brain, and if you’re anything like me, your focus can slip dramatically if the hunger sets in. Unfortunately it’s no secret in our industry – some venue/catering managers don’t seem to think you need to eat. Regardless of the fact that you may have already worked manically for 8 hours, it may be assumed that you’re happy to skip bread rolls, canapés and entrees, and that a small dry steak (with no sides) will be sufficient nourishment… even if you’re a vegetarian. When you are eventually fed, your food may arrive at the exact moments the bridal waltz/best man’s speech/cake cutting occurs, so you may have no choice to abandon your long-awaited plate.

It took me dozens of ‘hangry’ Saturday afternoons spent salivating at the sight of wedding guests’ meals to realise that it’s best to not rely on being catered for (regardless of what my contract states), so I now bring along a stash of muesli bars, fruit and chocolate for light-headed emergencies.

If you like Lucy's work, check out her portfolio and galleries here...

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