Monday, 13 October 2014

Wedding Planning: How to get the timings right for the photography you want

Every wedding I photograph is different - and the timelines run according to the way the couple plan their day.  That said, I'd like to offer some thoughts on how to get the best out of your day for your wedding photography.  Needless to say events can often run beyond the control of the best laid plans but hopefully the information below will help you plan your day so you get the photos you want without it taking over your day.

1.  Getting Ready (1-1.5 hours)

I like turn up just as you are finishing your hair and make-up.  How long this takes will depend on how many of you are getting hair and make-up done but there is no need to photograph it all.  Most brides prefer a few shots of their make-up being applied and the finishing touches to their hair.  Factoring in also the dress, shoes and flower shots then 1-1.5 hours will usually cover all this.  Check timings with your hair/MUA  - and then add on at least 15 mins so you aren't rushing to get into your dress on time.

2.  Putting on your Gown (20-30 mins)

Brides rarely leave enough time for getting into their dress. Ideally everyone else should be dressed at this point so all the help is focused on you, the bride. It also looks better in your photos if bridesmaids are dressed when they are assisting you. If you have an uncomplicated outfit then it may only take 15 mins, however, if you need to be laced up or have a lot of buttons this can easy extend to 30 mins.  Remember, your friends or family are not used getting you in and out of your wedding dress and it takes a lot longer than when you are putting your dress on at a bridal shop with experienced staff to help you.

3.  Bridal Party Portraits (30 mins)

A few photographs before the ceremony shots of the bride alone and with her family and any bridesmaids or flower girls really help the story-telling of your day. If you are wanting these portraits this is a good time to do them as it also saves time later after the ceremony for any other group shots you may want. If you are running late these are often the shots that get missed as there just simply isn't enough time.

4.  Leaving for the Ceremony/Shots of the Groom (45 mins)

You will need to work out how much time it will take to get to your ceremony based on the distance travelled and time of day.  I will aim to leave ahead of you to arrive at the ceremony in good time to capture some shots of the Groom and his best man/groomsmen so you need to factor this in. It also gives me time to capture some detail shots of rings, order of service and the church or ceremony room as well as the arrival of your guests.  Its also good to chat with the official in charge of your ceremony to check on any rules for photographing the ceremony even if this has been done in advance (which I recommend so there shouldn't be any unwelcome surprises on the day).  If you are having a civil ceremony you will need allow least 15 mins prior to the ceremony to meet with the registrar.

5. Unplugged Ceremony? 

You may want to consider having an unplugged ceremony - that is asking your family and friends to put away their cameras for the duration of the ceremony.  If you have hired a professional photographer for your wedding you can be confident they will get the best shots for you.  Churches and even some civil ceremony rooms can be dark with difficult lighting.  The professional photographer will not be using flash and be posted at a discreet distance to get images of you entering, leaving and during the ceremony (if permitted).  Unfortunately sometimes the photos can show everyone behind their camera or iPad (usually getting blurry out of focus shots!) or worse, guests stepping in front of the photographer blocking their shot. An unplugged ceremony creates an atmosphere where everyone is engaged in the ceremony and in the moment with you.  There will be plenty of opportunities later in the day for everyone to get a good picture of the two of you.

6. Exiting the Ceremony (10-15 mins)

You may decide to go straight into a confetti shot before greeting any guests - this does work well in terms of getting this done quickly.  If you opt to greet guests first don't be surprised if every guest wants to come and congratulate you and it can be hard to tear yourselves away. In this instance factor in a little more time to get the confetti shot done.

7.  Group Shots (30 mins)

Most people like a few group shots.  If we do them immediately after the confetti shot before your guests have had time to drink lots of champagne and wander off then these can usually be done relatively quickly.  Depending on the size of each group, I allow 3-5 mins for each group photograph so 5-7 group shots will likely take up to 30 mins. I like to keep these relaxed and it helps if you have a planned list beforehand and nominate a guest (usually an usher) to assist with finding the next set of folks while I shoot one group.  It can get a bit stressful if we have to wait around trying to find people and your day will disappear very quickly.  It can be fun to do a big group shot with all your guests although it does need a bit of organising. Talk with your photographer about the possibilities of something special which won't take too long to organise.

8. Bride & Groom Portraits (2x 30 mins)

This is the time I have alone with you to get the best shots of the day.  I like to grab you for 20-30 mins after the group shots and allow you time with each other  - believe me you'll need this space together, and I get some wonderful intimate shots of the two of you.  I take you out again after dinner or later in the evening if its summer to make best use of the evening light (the "golden hour") which is so flattering.  The two sessions are very different and really give you some gorgeous imagery. I also bring in a little creative lighting if possible during the later session for something different.  Obviously I'd like to have the most time possible with you to get the best shots - the longer you can spare the more we can do in making the most of your venue and getting some really special photographs.

9.  Drinks on the Lawn (1.5 hours min)

Given your photography will take around 1.5 hours (confetti, formals, B&G, candids)  you need your reception drinks to last at least this long plus any added time you want with your guests.

10.  Sitting down for dinner (15-30mins)

Allow 15 minutes for guests to be seated for an average sized wedding.  If you are doing a receiving line allow longer.  I will always ensure all photography is finished in time for your wedding breakfast so your caterers are not kept waiting.  If you think you might need flexibility on timings or if you don't want to cut short photos if you're running late then talk with your caterers and they will advise if this is an option.  Dinner will normally be 1-1.5 hours but again your caterers will advise you.  No photographs are taken during the dinner (no one looks good eating!) and after shooting solidly for up to 6 hours, I will be in need of a break and refreshment before the speeches.

11.  Speeches (30-45 mins)

You may opt to have speeches before the meal  - a good option if your speakers are very nervous about speaking and want to get it over with so they can enjoy their meal - or after your guests have eaten.  Get your speakers to practice beforehand so they know how long it will take - speeches can run late, especially if the best man has had a lot to drink…..

12.  Turning the room around for your party (30-45 mins)

Allow 30-45 mins for any changes to the room to prepare for your evening do.  Guests will usually have coffee or drinks in another room while this is done and is a good opportunity to do the evening B&G portraits (20-30 mins). If your venue grounds are quite extensive or you want to go off-site for these shots (e.g. nearby cornfield)  then allow plenty of time before the cake cutting.

13. Cutting the Cake  (10 mins)

The cake is most often cut once the evening guests have arrived and it usually swiftly followed by the first dance.  Request your venue to put the cake in a suitable place - away from unsightly fire extinguishers and poor lighting.  I like to shoot with guests in the background if possible. The actual photography only takes a few minutes but it can take awhile to get guests organised ready to cut the cake.

14. First Dance  (10 mins)

The first dance follows soon after - try to give your photographer 5-10 mins after cutting the cake to adjust camera settings as the lights are usually turned down at this point. Any off-camera lighting will have been set up prior to the cake cutting.  Again I like to shoot with your guests behind you and if you plan to invite others to join you on the dance floor its worth waiting a good 2-3 minutes to give yourselves time to relax and capture a great first dance shot. If the dance floor stays full I will usually stay and get a few shots of guests dancing too.

15.  And finally …. relax!

Your wedding should be an amazing day that you will remember for the rest of your lives - don't worry about the little things that may go wrong. This is a day about the two of you celebrating with the people that mean most to you.  Hopefully this information will help in planning your day and getting the shots you want. Remember to discuss with your photographer any special or unusual photography requests you may have so they are prepared on the day.  And two people in love on their wedding day always makes a good photo come rain or shine!

Judi x

Judi is a wedding and lifestyle photographer based near Oxford working mainly in Oxfordshire,  Wiltshire, Berkshire, Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds but will consider commissions throughout the UK.  Working on location using natural light and countryside landscapes, Judi focuses on capturing beautiful relaxed images of you and your family using a mix of reportage and fine art style photography. Using an artistic eye Judi will not just capture your memories but create a work of art which can be presented in luxury fine art albums or as framed art or canvases to hang in your homes. 

Judi also provides services for commercial businesses including headshots, nursery and pre-school portraits as well as special events such as birthdays and christenings etc. She is a member of both The Society for Wedding & Portrait Photographers and The Guild of Professional Photographers.

More information is available on the website or contact Judi via email

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