This past weekend I had the pleasure of photographing Brandi and Tiffany Henry's Central Park wedding. The sun was shining and the sky was that deep blue I can't get enough of. It was a beautiful day to get married.
It was my first time shooting a wedding, so nerves were to be expected. Since Brandi lives in Maryland, the majority of our conversations took place over email. I looked up as many wedding photographers as I could. Read how tos, viewed online tutorials, interviewed wedding photographers and even rented a few extra items to be overly prepared.
Here was the schedule for the day.
3PM, meet Brandi at the Dream Hotel on west 55th street to "shadow the bride" (getting ready pics)
4:15, ceremony at Central Park
6:30 arrive at pier for cruise
7PM cruise departs
10PM cruise docks, reception over
Here is what actually happened...
I arrived at the hotel at 2:10PM, photographed the rings and couples' gifts.
Since the maid of honor could not make it due to a family emergency, I stepped in to help Tiffany get Brandi into her gorgeous dress.
4:45 We arrive at central park for the ceremony, I step in as the 2nd witness.
We only have 15 minutes for after ceremony shots, Brandi was almost attacked by a swarm of bees when she unknowingly blocked the colony entrance with her dress.
5:30 we arrive back at the hotel for Brandi to change and await other guests to join us.
6:45 while stuck in downtown traffic on a Friday evening, no where near our destination we realize we would not make it to the boat scheduled to leave at 7PM. The newlyweds decide to have a casual dinner at a restaurant with the other guests instead.
I'm glad this was my first wedding photography experience. It was a small intimate wedding, which I felt honored to be a part of. It would have been much more overwhelming to shoot a 100 guest wedding on my first try. But my interest in wedding photography has only peaked higher since then.
I look forward to shooting more weddings, small, large, gay or straight. It's a privilege to capture the love between two individuals becoming one on the most important day of their lives.
So here's what I learned from my experience...
TIP #2: BE PREPARED. look up the must shoot lists photographers create. Which includes the bouquet, rings, first dance, lacing up of the dress, first kiss, the guests and your surroundings. Wedding photography is stepping into photo journalism, you are telling a story, an unscripted one full of spontaneity and unforeseen circumstances. It is better to be over prepared than under. You don't want to look unprofessional scrambling for a wire you never packed, or having dead batteries with no back up. Make sure you have all of your equipment.
Tip #4: ARRIVE EARLY The first thing I learned about weddings is that NOTHING ever goes as planned. I'll never forget my sisters wedding when the photographer arrived 30 minutes late. EVERYTHING was held up. The priest threatened to leave, the guests were ancy, everyone complained to the bride about the hold up. This chain of events could have been avoided, had the photographer arrived EARLY.
Tip #5: STAY OUT OF THE WAY: You don't want to block poor granny's view of her only grand daughters nuptuals the entire time. Getting too close to guests might cause discomfort and make for unflattering images. Don't take photos while the bride or groom is in a moment of panic. Once again unflattering photos and getting in someone's face when they're angry could cause them to lash out. You're here to make things better, not cause more stress on their special day.
Tip #6 NOTHING EVER GOES AS PLANNED: Prepare for the unexpected. No wedding has ever gone off with at least one small setback. It happens. Reassure yourself and those around you that as long as the couple makes it down the aisle that's all that matters. Be a helping hand, comfort the bride if you're alone, offer to help when you're not taking photos. Remember that your client is not just paying for images but for an experience. It is always more important that the wedding actually happens than getting the right amount of images. If you have to put your camera down to help, don't hesitate. It could be the difference between a wedding not happening, or having a repeat and referring client.