“Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.” My grandfather and father, both military men I love and respect dearly, raised me with this mantra, and it couldn’t be more true for wedding photography.
A wedding day is exciting, magical… and hectic as all get out. Without a pre-planned timeline (with flexibility for adjustment, because what wedding day goes 100% according to plan?), your day is destined for chaos before you even get there. While we can’t prevent the natural entropy of this world (which is augmented in a wedding day situation), we can do everything we can to ensure that a wedding day runs smoothly. And, this entails making a wedding day photography timeline.
Here are my tips for making a kick-booty wedding photography timeline:
Coordinate with the wedding planner.
Reach out to the wedding planner well before the wedding to get the wedding timeline. Work with both her/him and the bride to make a common, master schedule with time for photography worked in. When everyone’s all on the same page, synergy happens.
If there is no wedding planner, have the bride, maid of honor, or whoever is in charge of the day’s schedule send you a schedule. If they don’t have one, have them make one. Having a timeline is crucial to having a stress-free wedding day.
Meet with the bride well in advance.
Discuss desires, expectations, and special requests and considerations. All of these can be worked into the timeline much easier ahead of time than on the big day. Ask any and all questions you have now. You’d much rather work everything out now than closer to or on the wedding day. Tensions and stress rise as it gets closer to the big day.
If the groom and groomsmen aren’t even dressed when you show up to do their photos, make it work. Get photos of them playing ping pong together in their boxers. Or, go do detail shots while they get dressed and come back later. Remember: wedding photography requires flexibility.
Schedule in buffer time.
Allot more time than you think you need for each photo session. Know you’ll need 30 minutes for bridal party portraits? Allow 45 min to an hour. Corralling a bridal party takes longer than you think, and you don’t want to be stressing out about butting up against the ceremony in order to get photos.
Customize the schedule to each couple.
Maybe they don’t want to do a first look. Maybe they have a huge family and want to do double the normal amount of family formals. Every timeline is going to look different, and they should! This doesn’t mean you can’t have a general template you like to follow, but again, be flexible. The more you can roll with the day the smoother it will go.
Schedule in breaks!
You can easily work 12 hours on a wedding day without stopping. Make sure you talk to the couple ahead of time to figure out when you will eat, and when you can have 5-10 minutes of down time periodically to use the restroom, drink water and breathe.
Share your timeline.
Send your finalized timeline to the bride, groom, wedding planner, maid of honor, and anyone else who has any authority over the day. The more people are aware of the schedule, the better you can stick to it.
Be assertive, but kind.
If you’re running behind, don’t be afraid to kindly remind the bridal party of the agreed-upon schedule. Because of #8, this won’t come as a surprise, and you’ll be seen as a welcomed reminder rather than a bossy/ pushy photographer. Because of all the excitement, most brides won’t be watching the clock. Being a timekeeper isn’t your job, per se, but it really is an important part.
Good luck! Schedule on,