The timeline for the day was ideal. All of your recommendations – beginning hair and make up an hour earlier, including an intimate first look allowing you to photograph portraits before the ceremony, having an extended cocktail hour to account for additional time to photograph bridal portraits – your wonderful clients took your advice on ALL of it. YES. Taylor Swift is on real loud as you fist pump en route to what is going to be a perfect day.
And then it happens. Getting ready ran way too late and unexpected traffic caused a major delay to the first look which meant zero time to photograph portraits before the ceremony. You hold it together – you tell yourself “It’s all good – I’ll make up for lost time after the ceremony”. And as you wait for the string quartet to get a move on with the processional jams, you suddenly realize the officiant hasn’t arrived. WHY is the officiant not here? Where is he? He can’t be running late. Sweet mother of pearl he IS running late.
Cue total panic.
Each and every second that passes feels like a lifetime. You realize that your post-ceremony portrait time is quickly evaporating. The ceremony concludes and suddenly you’re faced with barely 30 minutes to photograph the family, bridal party, and bride and groom. How do you tackle this?
Here’s a few tips that will allow you to maximize the small amount of time you have left to photograph your clients.
Guide to location // The ceremony has ended, guests are cheering and the bride and groom are excitedly walking out hand in hand as newlyweds. You snap a joyful photo of their exit and as they begin to walk past, you point them in the right direction, simply guiding them to the area where photos will be taken. You repeat this process for each of the family and bridal party members included in the recessional. This simple action minimizes the possibility that your subjects will get distracted by other guests and further delay portraits.
Find your voice // There’s not a whole lot you as the photographer can control on the wedding day. You strive to remain unseen most of the time, floating through the event as unobtrusively as possible, documenting the moments that fill the day. Your roll does, however, change during portraits. It is your job to give direction, so do not feel afraid of embracing that responsibility. I’m not saying you go wild yelling at everyone – please do not do that – but it is important that you step up to the plate and respectfully direct the crowd. Your bride and groom will appreciate your ability to keep things moving along, and their family and friends will love the opportunity to promptly finish photos so they can get to the party.
Family and bridal party first // More people around means more distractions. By beginning with the family and bridal party portraits, you’re able to send those guests to enjoy cocktail hour so you can give the bride and groom time alone, a time when you can focus on only them. No interruptions.
Who’s up next // Be one step ahead. As you ask family members to line up, also recognize who is next and let them know so that they are ready. The very last thing you need is for someone to disappear for a restroom break and leave you frantically searching for them.
Teamwork, teamwork // In times like this, when the bride, groom, and guests are most likely aware that things are behind schedule, they will absolutely look to you. It doesn’t help to point out the obvious. Instead be polite, stay focused and fall back onto positive direction that will bring the whole gang together with phrases like “Alright everyone my job is to get these photos done so you can go have some fun!”, “I know you all want to go enjoy that cocktail hour so let’s focus and get these photos out of the way”, etc.
Work your way back // In previous posts, I’ve talked about scouting the venue before the actual wedding day. I not only do this because of the type-A in me, I do it in preparation for unexpected time crunches like this. By knowing the lay of the land beforehand, I’m able to execute a game plan and really make the most of my time with my subjects. I also normally begin further away from the rest of the party and then work our way back. This keeps me organized and allows for a smoother flow between the spots I’ve chosen.
Camera ready, always // At this point, you’re photographing the bride and groom with only minutes available to you. Every second count. The last thing you want to do is put your camera down while you’re walking from one location to another. You’ll miss those cute in-between moments with the couple. You should remain light on your feet with your camera up, moving to grab different angles and possibly sneaking in some fun direction to prompt emotion between your clients en route to the next spot.
That sunset though // When walking my clients back to their guests, I always give them a little heads up that I’ll be tapping their shoulder later in the evening, inviting to enjoy the most romantic lighting of the day. Borrowing your bride and groom from their party at sunset gives you back a little bit of time for additional portraits. They are usually onboard, especially when I mention that we’ll make it quick and no guests will even notice they escaped for a few minutes. Before sunset arrives, I scan through my camera and refresh my memory on the emotions and poses we’ve already tackled, so that we’re not repeating. I want to make the most of our final time together.
[WHAT’S IN MY BAG? Here are some items that help me photograph portraits under pressure… My favorite Timex watch helps me sneakily check time in front of guests without being rude and grabbing my phone // When lighting is not ideal and there’s no time to relocate, my collapsible disc reflector saves the day! // Black jumpsuits like this one from Modcloth are everything to me during wedding season. I’m able to move around much quicker and more comfortably!]