All-Day Weddings in Six Hours with Blair Phillips
There are generally two types of photographers: those who shoot weddings and those who no longer shoot weddings. Those who no longer shoot weddings rarely have nice things to say about them. This is generally due to poor planning on the photographer’s part. Weddings can be an all-day affair. While there are photographic opportunities throughout the day, that does not mean I need to be there all day long. It is really easy to get burned out when you find yourself photographing weddings for 10 to 12 hours each. I have been a higher-volume wedding photographer for several years, and shoot 40 to 50 a year.
Finding true enjoyment photographing weddings is easier when there is a plan in place. Enjoyment comes when both parties are happy and the photographer is done with the wedding in six hours. Many argue that a wedding cannot be covered properly in six hours.
I begin my weddings two and a half hours prior to the ceremony. During that time, I photograph everyone getting ready, the bride, her with bridesmaids, her with family, the groom, he and his groomsmen, he and his family, and any details I can put together. Immediately after the ceremony, we photograph all of the family obligations and wedding party, and end with the bride and groom. From there, we are off to the reception. My couples know that we need to cut the cake as soon as dinner is over. Once the cake is cut, we keep the ball rolling throughout the rest of the events. This time frame and shooting system have allowed me to efficiently photograph over 1,000 weddings in my career.
This timeline is not something you can spring on a bride and groom on their wedding day. We explain to them at the first consultation that we offer six hours of coverage. Once we explain it and show them albums of our work, they understand. When we get the occasional person who wants 10 hours, we both know that we are not the right fit for one another. Wedding planners needs to be made known of your timeline before they begin planning the whole day. The wedding day needs to be planned around the photographer’s schedule. It is so much nicer to show up to weddings where people actually respect your time and the job you have to do.
There are several variables that can mount up to a very stressful day. Battling the elements, keeping up with family, staying on schedule and uncooperative people all make it really hard to focus on creativity. To combat this issue, I have found it best to create and follow a template. I spent a ton of time creating my most favorite poses for every situation. I named them so I could remember and easily reproduce them each week. Using a name association for the poses allows me to easily establish a base. Depending on the subject matter, the poses will change slightly. Remembering my poses allows me to rid myself of tons of stress trying to create something brand-new every week. It has helped me maintain consistency throughout my wedding brand. I encourage any wedding shooter who struggles with posing to implement this.
The weather doesn’t always cooperate for outdoor weddings. We are often faced with blazing sun and no shade. For this reason, you have to know your equipment inside and out. I take my equipment out in the most extreme and terrible conditions I can find on an occasional practice day.
Putting yourself in terrible conditions and areas and forcing yourself to create a great image is a must. I heavily rely on additive lighting for all of my weddings. I use a studio strobe light and modifier when shooting outdoor weddings. I put my subject’s back to the sun when shooting in bright sunlight. I set my exposure to slightly underexpose my subject. This darkens down the background a bit, making it more pleasing to the eye. I then use my studio strobe to add the proper amount of lighting back to my subject.
Fumbling with settings and exposures on the wedding day is a recipe for disaster. It takes your mind off of being creative and spins you into a state of anger. This struggle is very obvious to all of those around you. This can hurt your credibility, put doubt in people’s minds and make weddings wildly unenjoyable.
If you have a family and photograph weddings, one of them will eventually suffer. I realized that early on, and did not want either of them to suffer. My family is obviously the most important thing in my life. I knew that once my children came into this world, I was going to create a six-hour time frame for my weddings.
Money is important, but spending down time with your family has a price as well. If you are not always working to maintain a balance between the two, you will not find success. I know people in the wedding industry who missed nearly everything on the weekends while their children were growing up. If you photograph weddings, you should take a day off during the week to give back to your family. True success comes when you are not burning the candle at both ends.
Wedding directors can make or break you. The moment I receive a lead on a wedding, I let them know we will need to all meet with the wedding director before any planning gets underway. During this time, I let my bride know how important it is that we stick to my shooting schedule. This conversation needs to be had with the bride and director present. Tell her that the photography will suffer if the schedule is not respected.
These conversations do not have a negative tone or vibe. I am very courteous and respectful. The main purpose is to mark my territory and ensure everyone knows what it takes to create what I do. Photographers are usually running short on time because people don’t understand that it takes time to create variety and a beautiful album. Getting all parties together early and educating them on your process is key. This sets the tone.
The wedding industry is forever changing. Continue to believe in what you do and what you create. Never fall victim to price shoppers. If you lower your pricing just to beat someone else, you will never be very excited about that job. Since you have laid the groundwork, you will be able to ask the couple if there is anything else they need, thank them and let them know that you will be at the reception for 30 more minutes, and then you are headed home.
The six-hour wedding is liberating. No more standing around the dance floor for countless hours photographing the same thing all night. Ask the parents before leaving if there is anything they can think of that they may want from you. This gives them the opportunity to speak now or forever hold their peace.
Weddings can be a lot of fun. But you need to have a schedule, keep it short and work smart.