Ask The Expert: How to Better Work With Your Wedding Photographer

by Ryan Conner | January 30, 2013

dallas weddings, dallas brides, bridal dallas, weddings in dallasThanks to Jessica D’Onofrio from Jessica D’Onofrio Photography for answering this week’s reader question.

What information do I need to provide to my photographer before the wedding? How can we better work together?

As photographers, we want to help facilitate making your day run as smoothly and enjoyably as possible. Our job is one part photographer, and one part ally and friend. Being as informed as possible before the big day allows us to work together as a team to create a plan designed to make certain you never miss out on that “dream shot.” I always send my brides a detailed questionnaire that hits a few key points that I think are crucial for wedding day success.

1)    Your timeline.
It is your day, not ours. As much as possible, we want to work around the timeline you and your coordinator have so meticulously planned because that is YOUR vision of your perfect day. However, it is also our job to be honest with you and make certain you do not miss out on any of your most desired shots because of lack of time within the schedule. Being able to review the timelines allows me to give my couples an honest assessment of where they might make slight alterations to gain a realistic amount of time for specific shots without feeling rushed. Do you have 20 minutes set aside for family formals when you really need 30? Did you really want natural light portraits, but you have your portraits set for after sunset? These are little things that can easily be tweaked without having to disrupt the flow of your day, and by being able to do so ahead of time, we spare you the stress of having to deal with it while you should be celebrating. Additionally, your timeline allows us to know exactly where we need to be and when we need to be there, so no key shots are ever missed.

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2)    Alternate points of contact.
I always make certain I have contact numbers for various members of the wedding party, as well as any of your event coordinators. It’s a wedding, and you never know when the unexpected might arise. It is far better for your vendors and bridal party to troubleshoot any minor hiccups amongst ourselves, than to ever worry you needlessly.

3)    Desired list of formal portraits with names.
Every couple is different. Some want to stick with basics and limit family portraits to immediate family only. Others want to go all out and include extended family, and prefer a wider variety of groupings and pairings. Knowing the shots you desire ahead of time helps us in a few ways. First, it allows us to give you a better estimate of exactly how long we need within your timeline. Second, it allows us to create the most efficient order in which to shoot, so that we can make the portraits go as quickly and smoothly as possible. Lastly, it ensures that no shots that are important to you are lost in the hustle and bustle. I find that it helps tremendously if you include names, especially if you have a large family. While I am shooting one group for formals, my assistant is usually organizing the next shot, and calling those needed up by name. People tend to respond more quickly to their name specifically, rather than generically calling up “all aunts.”  It helps to keep everything flowing, and the sooner we can get through formals, the sooner your guests can go on to enjoy your beautiful reception!

4)    List of any possible tensions or issues for formal portraits.

Have your parents been divorced for ten years, and can’t stand to be near one another? Are there tensions between any specific family members that may be helpful to be aware of? Though it may be uncomfortable to share, when we are aware of these things, we can spare any unintentionally uncomfortable moments by making notes not to place specific individuals together in the same shot (or at least not close to each other). Families come in all different shapes and sizes, and if we can help avoid any uncomfortable moments so that your day is fully enjoyable, perfect!

5)    Your order of priority.
Weddings do not always go as planned. We always wish the most beautiful and amazing of wedding days for you, but we also want to be ready with a plan B if the unforeseen arises. One of my closest friends planned for an outdoor wedding, and instead got a hurricane, which caused the entire wedding to run far behind schedule. As a member of the bridal party, I know it had to be tough for her photographers, but they stepped into action right way. Quick thinking and knowing what shots are your top priority ensure that even when the unexpected happens, we know how to proceed. In my questionnaire, I list several key elements of the wedding day photography and ask my couples to prioritize those in order of which are most important to them. Give your photographer a prioritized list so they know what it most important to you if you find yourself in a wedding day crunch.

6)    Any planned surprises or events.
Will you be presenting your parents with a special gift during dinner? Are you going to have your college mascot show up for a surprise performance during the reception? A mini fireworks display at your send off? Though your photographers will be present for your entire day and will be able to capture candid moments, it is nice to know of anything special or unique that you may not have made public on your timeline. We will sometimes want to plan a special lighting setup or organize ourselves at specific vantage points (like a balcony) to best capture that unique moment.

The more information we receive, the more we can plan ahead to make the most efficient use of our time. And the more organized we’re able to be, the better variety of shots we can give you. Knowing all of the information needed up front, saves us from wasting precious time running back and forth on the day of the wedding, when we could be capturing unique and beautiful images for you! It also keeps us calm and collected, so we can help keep YOU calm and collected. And a stress free couple, is a happy couple… and nothing makes for more beautiful wedding pictures than faces filled with joy. So, keep your photographer in the loop, and they will be able to do that much better of a job for you because of it.