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Preparing for the worst, expecting the best.
by Meghan Campbell

 

As wedding photographers we are asked to draw upon our skills and experiences to deliver excellence in the most challenging of situations. We are asked to document one of the most important days in couples' lives in a variety of locations, with people that we do not know well, not to mention under what can sometimes be extremely difficult shooting situations.....no pressure right? Creative and consistent images are not delivered from chance, but are born from thoughtful preparation and practice. We like to think of our time leading up to the day as practice for "Game Day". I can only relate the excited energy that I feel the morning of a wedding as the feeling you get before riding a new rollercoaster at Six Flags---complete excitement! It's not a nervous energy because I know that my husband and I are ready for whatever comes our way during a wedding and we've taken the time to prepare for the worst, but expect the best.

Listed below are solutions that serve us well in facing challenges that are part of every wedding day.

Preparing for the wedding
Once again, creative and consistent images generate from thoughtful preparation and practice. The greatest return on time investment during the preparation stage is the time dedicated to the bride in planning her day, working months in advance of the wedding. Many brides you work with have been thinking about their wedding all their lives so it's important to take the time to listen to their opinions! I am in communication with a bride at least once per month, therefore increasing the opportunities I have of understanding what is important to her. The more chances I have to communicate with the bride, the groom and their parents, the better chance I have of exceeding their client expectations and nailing the images that are most important. Three to four months before the wedding I send an online form via
www.wufoo.com that includes a questionnaire for the bride to complete prior to her wedding. Once the form (SEE OURS HERE) is in our hands, we utilize it to create the wedding day's photography schedule, including the family formals. Keep in mind that while we are setting a photo plan for the day, we do not take the place of a wedding planner. If a bride has a planner, we simply email our schedule and he/she adds the photo plan to the master schedule.

During the entire photographer/client relationship, it is very important to record any details about the wedding day. The more details we compile about our clients' preferences beforehand, the better the odds of getting "it" right. If a couple ever mentions an important shot during our exchanges, I record it, produce it and wow them!

Organizing family formals
One big stress for many photographers is the organization of family formals. No family member or photographer really enjoys stalling the energy of the day to wrangle and assemble all the different personalities, so we try to make them as short and painless as possible. The most effective way for everyone to achieve Zen during this process is by having a family point person, preferably someone that can be bossy without being the villain. We call this person the Family Ambassador and he/she is appointed ahead of time by the bride. Really, who knows what uncle Joe from Toledo looks like? Aha! This is where the Ambassador is priceless! Being familiar with both families is important so sometimes it's necessary to have two Ambassadors. It's also necessary for them to be able to "unplug" for about 10-15 minutes and pay attention to nothing else but gathering the family members for the photos. We have several copies of our prepared shot list, including one for the Ambassadors, to help keep the clan in one place and get them to us for staging and production. About 9-12 family groupings/combinations and 10-15 minutes later we are done with no one injured in the process! Then it's time to move on to the rest of the evening.

Producing beautiful images no matter what the weather
That silly saying that it's good luck if it rains on your wedding day is ridiculous and, in my opinion, patronizing! No one wants it to rain on a day that they have professional pictures taken, let alone on their wedding day. However, it's bound to happen. The best thing to do is prepare for it. If it looks like rain, we suggest that the bridal party pick up some umbrellas, and if they don't have time, we offer to provide them. They not only will allow for protection against the elements, but they can also end up being a nice photo prop, too.

Respect the heat! No heat strokes on the big day.
If you are a wedding photographer in the south you know what hot means. Shooting in black clothing with 10+ pounds of camera equipment hanging from your body---all the while moving up, down and all around to get the shot, zapping your energy for the day. One of us actually wears a CamelPak Mule filled with ice water to constantly drink from throughout the day. We wear a combination of poly cotton and wool dress shirts as well as an Under Armour shell. Wool might sound warm but a thin layer actually doesn't allow the material to hold moisture on your body. All in all, we look professional while remaining moderately cool and comfortable.

We do the following things to make sure the couple, bridal party and family are comfortable when shooting:
Explain to summer brides that in extreme heat we need extra time between photos to allow time to cool down. No one wants to look red and sweaty in their photos.
Instant cool first aid cool packs for cooling, placed next the brachial arteries (under the armpits) can be a real life saver for a groom standing in July sun in full formal dress during the ceremony.
We hand out white, cloth handkerchiefs to all the walking sprinkler heads, better known as groomsmen (we find these in packs of 8 at Walmart).
In extreme heat (95 degrees and above), stage as many shots close to the door of an air-conditioned room as possible for rest-time in the AC.

Incorporating even just a few of the above-mentioned tips will elicit some of the most wonderful response from clients. People greatly appreciate thoughtful service and in turn are happy, comfortable subjects for beautiful images.

Stewards of a special day.
It is our gift and responsibility to be the stewards of our clients' wedding day memories. With each client, day and location as being different fingerprints, taking the time to understand and manage the details of each job ensures a great performance. Happy shooting!


Meghan Campbell is a professional wedding and portrait photographer in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She and her husband Eric launched their company, Soli Photography, full-time in 2008. The decision to begin Soli Photography studio grew from their wish to channel their passions for art, photography and preserving life's memories.

Meghan and Eric define their wedding imagery style as classic with a modern edge and they take a very personal and thoughtful approach to each couple and each wedding. Their clients have come to expect only the best as Soli Photography is committed to providing an exceptional photographic experience every single time.

For the latest work be sure to visit the Soli Blog at www.soliphotography.com/blog or "Like" us on Facebook: Soli Photography.

 
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Arlington Camera, Inc.    544 W. Randol Mill Road    Arlington, Texas 76011
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www.arlingtoncamera.com