by Terry Hewlett Published 01/04/2010
So let's assume you have been asked to photograph a friend's or family wedding because the couple cannot afford the professional photographer (who seemingly wants to charge what amounts to a second mortgage for just five hours' shooting; not counting the hours of post production work).
The couple who have asked you have divorced parents, both parents have remarried. There are also step-brothers and step-sisters. The maternal mother and father will not talk to each other, let alone stand in the same group as each other, and yet the bride wants photographs of all her parents and step-parents together with their respective partners. If that's not enough she has also given you a list with about 50 groups she wants, but given you 45 minutes in which to complete them - and you will still need time with the couple to shoot those signature shots.
It is the responsibility of the photographer to ensure that all the timings work and that he can achieve the objective of providing all the shots the couple want. As the professional you will have precious little time for anything other than just getting the shots. Believe it or not, on one occasion recently, whilst working as the official photographer, I was asked if I could give the bride away as the original person (it was not going to be her father) had not turned up and no one else wanted to do it. On another occasion the bride was over eight months three weeks pregnant and thought she was having contractions during the ceremony.
It is critically important that the photographer does not to cause any distractions during the ceremony; they should in fact be virtually invisible and this invisibility should not only relate to the way you dress for the day, but also relate to your demeanour and how or where you position yourself and your camera equipment (health and safety issues aside). You will need to work quietly, walk softly, and strive to be ultra-discrete when changing lenses, lighting or cards, and be ready when the action happens. Do not do, as I once did in very close proximity of the priest when a problem developed with my camera, while shooting the signing of the register, blank page and all that. I muttered to myself a mild expletive 'Oh bugger', whilst close to the reverend, who just happens to me mic'd up, and in so doing transmitted the expletive to the whole congregation!
The first step to being an effective wedding photographer is to be informed - to be perfectly clear on when and where you can and cannot photograph. Secondly you must be a superb negotiator, undaunted by the photo-weary or photophobic. It is up to the photographer to find the common ground with razor-sharp negotiating skills, easing tensions and capturing brilliant images. Very often vicars and priests, who have restrictions, will modify them if asked politely, or you may be able to negotiate some concessions.
I have often said that the skills a wedding photographer need to extend way beyond that of just being a good photographer, they will also need to:
Have marketing and salesperson skills.
Be able to plan and organise.
Be an IT technician, or at least have a good working knowledge of
computing, especially when it all goes wrong.
Have good people skills and be able to control crowds
sympathetically and in good humour.
Be an accountant, if not, at least a book-keeper or credit-controller.
Predict the weather.
Have good time-management skills.
Be an artistic director
Above all, be an optimist.
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