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Welcome to the Ultimate Wedding Photography Guide! 

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Hello there! If you haven't met me already, my name is Lindsey and I am the King behind the Things here at King's Things Photography. You can read my full bio here, but the big picture of who I am and what I do is this: I have been a photographer for over 10 years, and over that decade I have developed a bullet-proof system for helping couples get the most amazing wedding photos they can possibly get. We're talking hang up in a museum, going viral on Pinterest-worthy photos, here people. I have yet to get a single complaint about a clients' photos and I truly believe it is because of this system. 

Why do you need a system for wedding photos, you may ask? Because amazing wedding photography doesn't just happen out of the blue. I can't just show up to your wedding and POOF every photo is perfect and looks exactly the way you hoped and dreamed. Instead, it takes a lot of careful planning and designing and brainstorming between me and the couples I work with so that I know, 100% I am going to get the shots you want and that they look amazing no matter the circumstances. That takes careful planning and communication. 

So I created a system for me and my clients to follow, one that lets me peek into their world and know exactly what kind of photos they'll love and how to perfectly capture their story within the frame of their specific wedding day. Because every couple is different, we have to work together to define what that will look like and how we'll approach the day, step-by-step.

Over the next 10 modules, you'll follow that exact process and by the end of it, no matter who you hire to be your wedding photographer,  you will have a wedding album you're gonna go crazy for. 

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HOW IT WORKS

In each module, I will walk you through a step in the process, letting you know why it is important and how you can get the most of out if when planning your wedding photography. Then, I tell you how to use that information to fill out the pages of your planner. Easy peasy. 

Some of the stuff I walk you though may be a little different than how your photographer wants to do things. That is fine! Just be sure to communicate with them and see what they prefer. I tried to keep this thing as universally applicable as possible, so hopefully, you won't have too much trouble. 

Some steps may be a little daunting (like the one where we talk about picking your photographer), but if you take it just a little bit at a time I promise you can push through and make this thing work. Becuase, of all the investments you will make for your wedding, the photography is the only thing that will outlast the actual day and I want, more than anything, for that to be the investment you are the happiest with in the end. 

So! Without further ado, I am going to let you hop on into this thing. If you have any questions, please feel free to shoot me a message at lindsey@kingsthingsphotography.com. I will also check in on you from time to time via email to make sure things are still going smoothy and see if you need any help along the way. 

Have fun!

Linds

Module 1: Visual Preference

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You guys. I am obsessed with Pinterest. I’ve been a member since it was in Beta and OMG I am Obsessed. Obsessed obsessed obsessed. Did I mention I was obsessed? Because I am obsessed. (I’ve got a bottomless cup of coffee from Coffee Zone in my hand, y’all…apologies…). And if I am correct in my assumptions, you probably are a little obsessed too. If not, I am guessing you or your fiancé have probably started a wedding pin board so you are at least a little bit familiar with the basis of my obsession (last time I use that word, promise). Pinterest is seriously one of the best ways to get your wits about you when it comes to wedding planning and it can be so so helpful when it comes time to plan for your wedding photos.

But here’s the thing: you must be careful with the great and powerful tool that is a Pinterest wedding photo board. Like a wizard with a very powerful wand, much evil can be done if is used improperly. With one wrong click, you can become the Voldemort of your own wedding photos and you don’t want to be Voldemort do you? No one wants to be Voldemort.

(Seriously…this coffee…it’s legit.)

Let me explain myself and my poorly articulated/highly caffeinated Harry Potter references so you can follow me here.

The original purpose for Pinterest was to create boards that inspire you, yes? And when it comes to food and crafts and quotes and books and house decor, I believe it is doing just that. But with wedding planning? With wedding planning Pinterest is being used as a step-by-step guide for executing each aspect of the day. You pin it? You’re probably going to do it (or at least do your favorites). This is totally cool when it comes to picking the decorations and the favors and bridesmaids hair styles etc. because you can recreate it exactly. There are tutorials. You get exactly what you see.

With wedding photography, however, approaching the board this way can cause a bit of a problem. Why? Because 1) you can’t recreate the photos exactly and you’ll probably be unhappy with the results if you try and 2) those photos were taken of a different couple by a different photographer in a different venue. If you go to a photographer and ask them to copy your wedding pin board shot for shot, something is not going to feel right because it wasn’t inspired by you and your story. Something will feel....off. You won’t love them. Big problem, right?

BUT WAIT! Don’t go and delete your pin board just yet! I still need you to make one! You just need to approach them a little differently and…you guys…this one little switch in your thinking will completely transform how you see your wedding photos and you'll love love love them in the end. Like love them the way Dobby loved Harry Potter kind of love them. I’m serious.

So what do you do?

First thing's first: we gotta riddle out what your visual tastes are like. All wedding photographers have different artistic styles and, while most of their portfolios are truly awe-inspiring, we want to nail down what kind of styles and looks you prefer so you can hire one that fits your preference.  This step is super important because if you hire a photographer who has a style that doesn't mesh with your tastes, your photos may be beautiful but you may not like them as much as you could.

STEP 1:

Start a brand spanking new Pinterest board. I know you probably already have one started for planning the wedding, but start a new one that can stand alone as your go-to inspiration board for wedding photography.

STEP 2:

Search "wedding photography," and pin about 20-30 photos that catch your eye. PLEASE NOTE! I did not say pin every photo you want to try to create at your wedding. I said photos that catch your eye. We're not creating a shot list with this pin board, we are trying to get an idea of what kind of photos you find aesthetically pleasing.

STEP 3:

Now, go through this board and narrow your choices down to about 15 images. Keep the ones that you love the most and ditch the ones that you liked but you didn't necessarily love. Remember, our goal with this planner is to get you wedding photos you absolutely love, right?

STEP 4:

Go through your final 15 images and change their descriptions, noting exactly what it was you loved about the photos. Was it the lighting? The location? Something about how the couple was posed (and if so, what about the pose did you like?)? Really dig deep on this step, my friend, and get as specific as you can..  (To edit your pin, click on it and then click the pencil icon in the top left-hand corner).

STEP 5:

Now, take a good look at the board as a whole. Do you see any major patterns about the style of the photos you chose?

FILLING OUT YOUR PLANNER

In your planner, work out some of these patterns and identify what kind of styles you want to look for when selecting your wedding photographer.

Module 2: Picking Your Photographer

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Choosing a wedding photographer isn’t easy. In the mid-Missouri area alone, a simple google search will give you over 85,000 results to weed through. Even if you looked at each and every one of those websites, you are still going to have at least a handful that you may want to work with, so how do you choose? I would love, love, love to tell you “hire me!” because basically I’d love to work with everyone who crosses my path, but the truth is there is a chance I may not be the one for you. And though it would pain me greatly to see you go, I know we’re not ALL a perfect match. So! To help you sift through your plethora of options, I’ve broken down the process of picking a perfect photographer (because who doesn’t love a good alliteration, eh?) to give you a good starting point for narrowing it down.

To start, you will want to do a full-blown search of all the options in your area. There are a few ways to start this process:

  1. Ask your friends for recommendations
  2. Look at TheKnot.com or Wedding Wire
  3. Use Google

A few notes about these methods:

  • The Knot and Wedding Wire won't have all of the photographers in your area, so be sure this is not your only destination when finding your potential photographers.

  • When using Google, get pretty specific with your search terms. Go beyond the standard "wedding photographer in (insert city name here)." Use words that describe the kind of wedding you plan on having, such as "church wedding photography" or "outdoor wedding photographer." This will narrow down the search a bit and help you find photographers that have experience with your kind of wedding.

Now, this process will likely turn up thousands of search results for you to dig through. This can be a little overwhelming. So we have come up with a system for helping you narrow down your options. We call it the Three P's of Picking a Wedding Photographer. We have written a full-blown blog post about this process over at the King's Things Photography Blog if you want some detailed instructions for this part, but in general, you want to use this three-filter process to narrow down your options:

Portfolio

Your photographer’s portfolio should first and foremost speak directly to your heart. Take a good long look at the photos on their website. Do they match the style you found in your pin board? Are you drooling over them? Love the style and the lighting and the personality that shines through? Could you imagine yourself in the photos with your fiancé? Do you find yourself waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night shouting “I gotta have that photographer!!!” A bit extreme, I know, but you get my point: If you don’t love what you see, you won’t love what you get and if you are putting all of this time and money into planning your wedding you deserve to love the photos you get when it’s all said and done, right?

So as you sift through the thousands of options available to you, before you ever look at a pricing page or their “about me” or any other part of their site, look at their portfolio and ask yourself “do I love these?” 

Using your checklists from the first section of this planner, look carefully at the photographer's portfolio. Do their photos match the style you like? Do they have experience with the kind of wedding you are planning? Do you love their work? Narrow your list down to the top 5 portfolios based on your preferences and move on to the second filter.

Personality

I cannot stress to you enough how important this one is, guys. No matter how skilled the photographer or how beautiful their portfolio, if you don’t jive with them personally you are going to have some trouble on your wedding day. Setting up an initial meeting with your photographer should mostly be about learning who they are, how they work and if you guys will get along. Yes, ask them about how many cameras they have and what their style is and if they have a assistants etc., but don’t just listen to *what* their answer is - listen to *how* they answer them as well. Are they communicating properly? Are they upbeat and positive? Are they *too* upbeat and positive? Can you imagine this person being right by your side and interacting with your friends and family the entire wedding day? In general, do you feel they are trustworthy and responsible? The answers to these questions are just as (if not more) important as knowing if they have a journalistic style and if they will bring 4 assistants to your wedding. If you don’t like or trust them personally, that discomfort will shine through in your photos and more than likely you’ll be unhappy in the end.

Schedule a meeting with the photographers to get a sense of their personality.Use these meetings to narrow your list down to your top 3 choices.

Questions to ask during your meetings:

This is a sample list of questions you can ask your photographer during the first meeting. Remember, your goal is not only to listen to *what* they say when they respond, but also to pay attention to *how* they say it so that you can get an idea of their personality.

  • What is your favorite part of photographing a wedding? (to get a sense of their passion)
  • How would you describe your style? (to learn more about their style and approach)
  • How many weddings do you photograph on a weekend? (to get an idea of their workload)
  • What kind of gear do you use? (to get an idea of their level of professionalism)
  • Do you use second photographers? (to get an idea of how much coverage you'll get on the wedding day)
  • How do you handle bad weather or lighting conditions (to see how organized and prepared they are)
  • How long have you been photographing weddings? (to get an idea of their skill level)

KEEP IN MIND: There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. You are just trying to get a feel for how they run their business and what it will be like to work with them. The answers are important, but just because a photographer doesn't have a $10,000 camera or have only been photographing weddings for a few years does not necessarily mean they are not fit for the job.

Price

I have saved price for very last for a very good reason. I know a budget is a very big part of how you plan a wedding and your first instinct is going to be to look at the photographer’s pricing sheets and pick the least expensive one you can to save money. Trust me, I get that. But also trust me when I tell you that skimping on your wedding photos is a big, big, big mistake and price should be the very last thing to disqualify a photographer. And yes, I may be a little biased here because I *am* a wedding photographer but hear me out on this one.

I will be the first to admit that photographers are expensive. But the old adage rings so very true (and so very loudly) when it comes to hiring one for your wedding: you are going to get what you pay for, I promise. Being a professional photographer requires a lot of investment before we ever show up to your wedding venue. Purchasing great gear to capture the best possible photographs; making time for consultations and creating shot lists and going on pre-wedding site visits; being responsible and squared away with insurance to cover our clients and ourselves; paying assistants and second shooters etc. All of the elements that go into providing the best possible wedding photos creates costs that need to be covered, be it in time time or money, and you should be weary if your photographer is asking for too little. Not always, but a lot of times it means they don’t have what it takes and won’t be able to capture the wedding as beautifully as you deserve. There is a quote I read somewhere that I think sums this up perfectly: "If you think hiring a professional is expensive, try hiring an amateur."

That being said, a budget is a budget is a budget. As a small business owner, I totally understand how important it is to carefully choose how you spend the money you’ve got. So! Once you have found a list of photographers who have portfolios that you love and who have personalities that click with yours, carefully consider the investment you are willing to make that fits within your budget and narrow it down from there. You may still have to scratch a few of the expensive dream photographers off of your list, but at least you know you've done so because you’ve considered the value of all your options and are not just going the cheapest route possible.

FILLING OUT YOUR PLANNER:

Step 1: Make a list of all of the photographers that caught your eye during your initial searches.

Step 2: Based on their portfolios and your visual preference notes, narrow this list down to your top 5 choices. Circle them on this list. 

Step 3: Use the Photographer Notes pages to help you schedule and conduct meetings with these photographers and narrow your list down to your top three.

Step 4: Figure out what you can afford to spend on your photographer.

Step 5: Using your notes, your budget and your gut instinct, pick the photographer you'd like to hire! Contact them about booking, signing a contract etc. 

Step 6: Once all of the paperwork is taken care of, jot down all of the payment information in your planner for future reference. Copy info into your calendar as well. 

Module 3: The Engagement Session

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Engagement sessions are super important. They basically set the foundation for getting great photos on your wedding day and give you chance to get to know your photographer and establish a great working relationship throughout your wedding planning process. You can get a lot out of these sessions and we want to make sure you've got all the info you need to make them as successful as possible. 

STEP 1: PICKING AN AESTHETIC

We went through this process in the first module. I recommend going through it again, but this time focusing on engagement photos. Engagement photos are a little bit different than those you see for wedding photos, so I think it would be well worth your time to repeat the process and find your "engagement look." 

Other things you will want to consider for your engagement shoot are the season and the time of day:

Season

Different seasons have different aesthetics. If you have some wiggle room with your schedule, give some thought to which seasonal "look" will best suit your photos. You can decide to do them in the same season as your wedding so they have the same look/vibe as your wedding pictures or you could choose to do them in a different one to have a little contrast in your photos.

  • Winter: Not the greatest time for "outdoors in the woods" types of shots, but sunset colors tend to be super vibrant this time of year and who doesn't love a great "snuggling in my winter gear" shot? You can also try to time a nice snowy winter shot if your area kicks butt at the Winter Wonderland game.
  • Spring: This season has great temperatures and could make for some great outdoor shots if you catch the flowers in bloom. It also tends to be super rainy and wet, so talk to your photographer about their policy on backup dates and rescheduling just in case.
  • Summer:  Could make for great warm-weather shots and, as long as it isn't raining, outdoor shots will always look nice this time of year. But high temperatures and humidity may make you look a bit sweaty and hot. Nothing a good makeup kit can't solve, though!
  • Fall: A great time to catch the fall colors and the temperatures can be nice this time of year. But, like spring, the weather can be a bit finicky and you never know when the fall colors will change. Again, check to see if your photographer is willing to be flexible about these issues before getting your heart set on this season.

Time of day

  • Golden Hour: Defined as the first few hours after sunrise and the last few hours before sunset, this time of day has a beautiful warm glow and nice even lighting that makes photos look gorgeous. This is the most popular time to take photos.
  • Mid-day: At this time of day, the sun's rays tend to be a little harsh and can be difficult to make super flattering photos with. That doesn't mean it is impossible - the harsh effects of mid-day sun can be overcome with artificial lighting, but it has a very distinct look.
  • Night: This is probably the least popular time to take photos, but it is not a time that should be ignored. Photos taken at night will definitely have a distinct look and mean opportunities for some fantastic looking shots. 

Here are some examples of how differht times can make different looking shots:

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STEP 2: LOCATIONS

This next part is one of my favorites because this is when you get to make sure your personality really shines through in the photos. We recommend picking locations that have a special meaning for you so that, on top of having beautiful picture of you and your honey, you've got pictures that also tell parts of your unique and beautiful story. For instance, if we took pictures at the place the two of you first met, the photo will trigger the memory of that first day and you'll be able to not only tell your kids and family the story, you can show them as well. See how powerful that can be? How much more you get out of the photo if it tells the story? That's why we work to find meaningful AND beautiful locations for your engagement photos. 

Here are another few ideas of places that could have meaning that would work great as photo locations:

  1. Where the proposal happened
  2. The wedding venue
  3. Where you had your first date
  4. Your favorite hangout spot on beautiful days
  5. Any parks or trails you love to go to/walk on together
  6. Your house/yard
  7. Your favorite sports team's court/field/arena
  8. The campus of the college you both attended 
  9. Your favorite bar/restaurant 
  10. Any place that sparks a great memory

Now, it's also good to have a few ideas of pretty landscapes etc. so that on top of the "good story" photos, you have a mix of beautiful locations as well. But we think the ones you will walk away liking the most are the ones that remind you of how this wedding came to be. Start jotting down some ideas and we can talk through them and decide which would 1) be the best to highlight and 2) best fit the aesthetic style we defined in Step 1. 

Note: You will want to come up with a Plan B in case of bad weather. You can either have backup locations picked out OR schedule a backup date with your photographer (if they allow this) shortly after your original date that would also work in case you want to scrap the first day all together. 

STEP 3: WARDROBE

Picking wardrobe for an engagement session will heavily depend on the locations you pick, the time of year and the aesthetic you decided on in Step 1, but there are a few rules of thumb that will apply across the board:

Rule #1: Dress for your location.

You want to make sure you have clothes and shoes that will look right in the location you choose. That doesn't necessarily mean if you pick a location out in the woods that you will need to be in full-on hiking attire. You will, however, want to pick clothes with colors that compliment the colors we find in the woods: more natural and soft tones (see photo above). Bold and bright colors might clash with the surrounding landscape and the photo won't be as pleasing to the eye.  We will help you make color pallet choices once we've picked all of the locations and know what we are working with, so you won't have to make this decision on your own. But! Start sifting through your wardrobe so you have an idea of what we are working with once the time comes to choose. 

Rule #2: Dress like you!

Make sure the outfits you pick look like something you would wear. Does that mean you can't get really gussied up if you don't always get gussied up? Not at all. Just make sure the super nice outfit you choose reflects that kind of gussied up you would normally choose. You'll be more comfortable and look more like you. Which in the end will guarantee that you like the photo. 

Rule #3: Be sure not to clash

When you and your boo are picking out your outfits, make sure the colors and styles don't clash. When there is overall harmony in the photo, your eye is going to like the final image a lot more than it would if there were colors or styles that don't agree. That being said, you also don't want you to have perfectly matching outfits, just focus on picking outfits that compliment each other and work well together. Your photographer can help you with the decisions if you want some guidance. 

Rule #4: Be comfortable

Make sure whatever you wear is comfortable! If you are uncomfortable, that discomfort will shine through in the photos and you won't like them as much. 

Second Note: We encourage picking out backup outfits juuuust in case a wardrobe malfunction occurs during the shoot and you need to change. Perhaps not a backup for *every* outfit, just ones where we are in locations that might cause trouble (aka: a restaurant with messy food or an outdoor location with water/mud/bird poop etc). 

The night before...

Make sure that the night before your session you:

  1. Layout all of the clothes and accessories (including backups!) we have picked out for your session. We also recommend bringing an extra pair of comfortable shoes to put on between locations just in case your feet start to hurt!
  2. Make sure all clothes are wrinkle-free. Iron stuff if you need to!
  3. Pack some snacks in case you get peckish during the session. Nobody wants to look hangry in their photos! :) 
  4. Put the first location in your GPS to make sure you know how to get there the next day (and how long it will take!). Also, make sure you have plenty of gas in the car so you're not scrambling tomorrow. 
  5. Pack an emergency hair and makeup bag for touchups during the session. Bobby pins, combs, lint rollers, hairspray and lipstick are all good things to have in case something needs adjusting before we are done. 
  6. Put the photographer's number in your phone just in case you need to call!
  7. Drink lots of water! It will help with bags under eyes and will make your skin look *fabulous.*
  8. Get plenty of sleep! No amount of makeup or photoshop will help get rid of that tired look in your eyes. 

DO NOT:

  1. Make any major changes to your hair or face treatment. If you want to try something new or drastic (such as a haircut or a facial scrub/peel) make sure you've tried it well in advance of the shoot and know how your skin and hair will look for the shoot. 
  2. Eat lots of greasy or fatty foods. You won't feel good the next day and your skin will look greasy and oily. No bueno!
  3. Stay up all night worrying about the shoot. You got this! I promise! You have made all of the right choices for location, style and outfits and tomorrow the photographer will show you exactly how to pose so that you look amazing. It's going to be awesome. I swear. 

The Day of...

Yay! The day is here! There shouldn't be much for you to worry about since you've prepped everything already. But here is a quick checklist to make sure everything goes smoothly:

  1. Pack everything in the car. Make sure all clothes are hanging so that they don't get wrinkled! 
  2. Leave at least 15 minutes before you think you need to just in case of traffic or bad GPS directions. A lot of times your photographer has planned your session around the perfect lighting or certain events and if you get started late, you may miss the perfect window of opportunity. 
  3. If you are running late, call the photographer immediately so they can plan around the time difference. 
  4. Get ready to have some fun! 

The Session

This part will go different for every couple but the key thing to remember is to stay relaxed and have a good time. If you are uncomfortable, it will show in your photos. We have seen folks bring bottles of wine to their session to help them relax a little bit; if that is something you can safely do, go for it! 

After the session

There are a few things you can do after the session that will help you enjoy your photos so much more (and for much longer!)

  1. Take some time to think about what you want to do with the photos once they are delivered. If your package comes with printed photos, think about where you can hang them or who you might gift them too. If you get digital files, make a list of what you may want to print and where they may go in your house. Don't just let the photos sit on a USB or in a frame that never gets hung. You will love them so much more if they are hanging! Printed albums are also great ways to enjoy them afterward. 
  2. Think about which photos from the shoot you may want to use for a Save the Date.
  3. If you get digital copies of the images, make sure you back the files up several times afterward so that they don't get lost. Computers and hard drives crash, USBs can be lost or damaged. If they haven't been backed up, there is a chance you could lose them forever. We recommend making several physical copies that you give to family and friends for safekeeping AND backing up somewhere online (Dropbox of Amazon photos are good ways to do this!). 
  4. Look at all of the photos really closely and jot some notes down about waht you love and what you would have tweaked about your images and chat with your photographer about these. Knowing what to focus on and what to adjust will help them know exactly how to photograph your wedding in a way that you will love. A note here, be careful not to go too far in what you ask your photographer to adjust. You hired them for the artistic taste and style, so don't ask them to change everything about how they style and photograph things. Focus more on poses that you think make you look unnatural or expressions that you didn't like etc. 

FILLING OUT YOUR PLANNER:

Step 1: Go through the visual style steps from Module 1 using engagement photos instead of wedding images. 

Step 2: Considering the different seasons, time of day and your schedule, work with your photographer to schedule your session. 

Step 3: Brainstorm a list of locations that will have meaning for you and your fiance and work your photographer to see which will work best for engagement photos. 

Step 4: Pick out outfits for you and your fiance that fit the season and location you have chosen AND that match your style and preferred comfort levels. Jot those down in the planner.

Step 5: The night before the session, go through the checklist in the planner to make sure you are 100% ready for the session the next day. 

Step 6: Enjoy the session! Have fun!

Step 7: Figure out where you want to hang photos and how whether or not you want to gift them. Also, jot down all of the places you have backed up digital files if you were given them. 

Step 8: Looking at the photos, jot down any feedback you may have for your photographer. Tell them what you love and what maybe you'd like for them to tweak (within reason) so that they know exactly what you like and can recreate that for your wedding photos. 

 

Module 4: Wedding Prep - Location

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Now it is time to move on to getting ready for the actual wedding! Woo hoo! One of the first things you will want to do is get familiar with the locations you will be photographing in and be realistic about what to expect in terms of the kind of photos you'll get in each space. 

This step is an important foundational step that will help you and your photographer get the most out of any space, not matter how grand or how simple your venue is. In this part of the planner, you will go through each space and look for specific things - the lighting, the background, the colors, the amount of space etc. - and get a feel for the opportunities and restrictions you find there. Your photographer will have a big say in how you approach photos in each space, but you want to understand it as well so you can plan your timelines and shot lists accordingly. 

In the following sections, I am going to go through each of the questions you see in this section of the planner and let you know what to look for and explain why this is important in the grand scheme of things. So grab those sheets and let's get started! 

Indoor or outdoor?

This is important for obvious reasons - indoor photography is a lot different than outdoor photography and, in order to get the visual style you defined in step one, some extra steps may need to be taken depending on how the venue is set up. For example, if you have a lot of bright and airy outdoor photos and your entire wedding is going to take place indoors, you will want to plan time to go outside for your photos so you can get that look OR you want to work with your photographer to see if there is a way to recreate the look indoors. 

If indoors...

Is there natural light available? And if not, what is the primary source of light? If you are getting ready in a really dark space with no windows, it will be very difficult to recreate the look of natural sunlight. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it just means those particular photos will require some artificial lighting and may look a little different than your mood board depending on the style you like. It may also mean that you'll need more time for photos in that location because your photographer will need to set up and test lighting before photos can begin. 

If outdoors...

What time of day will you be photographing in this location? If it is in the middle of the day, the sun will be directly over your head, which means harsh light and dark shadows. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it just means tweaks may need to be made to make the light look more flattering. If it will be the middle of the day, you may want to look for locations nearby that have shade. This will help soften the light and give you a more flattering look. 

Again, your photographer should have a solution for all of this, but you should be aware of the challenges so you can account for them in your plans. 

The Background

In each space, especially the indoor locations, what does the background look like? If you are getting ready in a room that has a lot of clutter or busy-ness, that stuff will likely appear in the photos making them look cluttered and busy. For more polished looking photos, you will want to see if that clutter can be hidden or moved so the space looks neater. If it is not possible to tidy or move them, are their places near by where the background is cleared out and can be used as the background instead? 

If you are outdoors, look for parking lots, buildings and other structures that may appear in the background of the photos and try to find a way to keep them out of view. This is particularly important when deciding how to set up your ceremony if it is going to be outside at a park. Can you turn the set up another direction so that the playground isn't in the background of your photos?

Colors

What are the colors in the space? Do they clash with your wedding colors or visual style? Bright colors aren't always a bad thing (they can actually be really fun in certain situations), but you want to give a little thought to this. If there are colors you really don't want in your photos, maybe consider moving that particular shoot to another location. Sometimes the color cannot be avoided, so if you are concerned talked with your photographer about options for working around it. 

Travel Time

If you plan on doing photos anywhere that requires you travel away from the venue, make sure you note how far away that location is so you can plan for that time in your schedule. 

Amount of Space

Different sized spaces will produce different looking images.  Photographers can use different kinds of equipment to capture different space sizes (zoom lenses etc) and you may end up with photos that have a certain look and feel to them because of that. For instance, if you are in a really close and intimate space, a lot of the photos may feel really up close and intimate because in reality everyone was really close together. Bigger spaces may have a more grand feel to them and may allow for bigger more creative shots. As I have said a few times before, this is neither a good or a bad thing, but understanding this will help your photographer plan and will help you get an idea of what the photos are going to look like when all is said and done. 

Favorite Spots

Take a look around and see if there are any spots in the location that you'd really love to get a shot at. Is there a piece of architecture or a beautiful background you'd like to use in your photos? Make a note so you can let your photographer know and they can work it into the overall plan for the day. 

Restricted Areas/Shots

You will want to talk with your venue owner to make sure there aren't any rules or restrictions that you have to follow when planning your photos. For instance, some churches don't allow flash photography. Other venues (like golf courses) don't want you walking over certain pieces of land or going into certain areas of a building. You and your photographer both will want to know this so you can adequately plan your locations for the day. 

Any Other Notes

If there is anything that pops out at you while you are exploring your venue that your photographer might want to know, make sure to note it for them. 

Filling out your planner:

Take your planner with you to each location you plan on taking photos and give them a good once-over with these questions in mind. Get as detailed as you can so you can discuss any potential opportunities or challenges with your photographer so they can formulate some game plans for you. It might even be fun to go with them to the venue and riddle things out with them there. 

Module 5: Wedding Prep - Timeline

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As a wedding photographer, the #1 thing I see that stresses my clients out the most is nailing a perfect timeline. There is a lot to juggle, so much to get *just* right so the day doesn't devolve into chaos, and tracking it all can be a little....chaotic...to say the least. Often times there just aren't enough hours in the day to give everything it's proper attention, especially if you run into hiccups along the way. Eventually, stuff starts to get cut or reduced so that there is time for it all. And guys? You know the first thing that usually gets the ax? Time for photography. And you know what axed photography time means? A cut in photo quality and/or quantity. Good photography takes time...time to set up, time to pose, time to execute. If that time starts to get cut, your photographer won't have the space she needs to get all of the perfect shots you want. No bueno. But! Never fear! If you create your wedding timeline knowing everything you need to schedule and how to schedule it, including ample time for great photography, you'll be able to get everything set easily. 

To make it as smooth of a process as possible, I have created a little system to help you map out all of the important milestones so you make sure nothing is missed! If you follow this process, you will go into the day knowing you have exactly enough time to get all of the photos you want for your wedding AND get everything else scheduled without ever having to rush a single moment or sacrifice a single photo. 

Step 1: 4 Columns

Take a piece of paper and divide it into 4 columns. Title these columns Wedding Party (two columns for this heading for each side of the wedding party), Family, Vendors. Then, on the side list out the hours of the day in hour sections. We created the structure for this in the planner for you. You just need to fill in the times on the side. Like this:

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Step 2: Block out the big milestones

Mark out the ceremony, the cocktail hour (if you have one) and the time of the reception, blocking out all four columns in the process (since you’re pretty sure everyone will need to be present for all of these) so you can see all of the "off-limits" time for the day. These are the things that probably that won’t change over the course of your planning process. It gives you a visual bone structure for the beast that is your wedding schedule and will be the foundation for the rest of the day. It might also be helpful to add in the times you are allowed in the venue and sunset, as these may also affect when photos are taken and aren't adjustable. 

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Step 3: Vendor Schedules

This step is mostly helpful if you will be personally handling any of the vendor relations on the day of the wedding, but can also serve as a good visual reference for you in general. As you schedule drop-offs and arrival times of all your vendors, you can mark them here so you know what is going on and if you need to be anywhere at a specific time. If nothing else, make sure you mark down when the photographer is scheduled to arrive and scheduled to leave. 

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Step 4: Important Photography Times!

Take a post-it note and cut it into little strips, making enough of them to list out all of the major areas of photography that you want for the day. These typically are couple photos (with or without a first look), wedding party portraits, and family formals. Take these little strips and use them to block out the times that you think you’ll want or need these taken. I suggest using post-it notes so you can move them around trying out different timing combinations.

A few rules of thumb when setting these times:

  1. Good photos take time! If you want amazing photos, you need to give these areas of photography enough time so that they aren’t rushed and can be executed correctly. To be on the safe side, I like to suggest giving each section an hour. This may be more than enough, but having that extra time allows for some padding in case any problems arise (late family members, wardrobe malfunctions, scheduling errors etc.).
  2. It’s always good to schedule family photos for either right before or right after the ceremony. This way you know you’ll have an easier time wrangling all of them in one place since they’ll be in or near the location at the time anyway. Family groups can take about 3-5 minutes per photo, so make sure an hour is enough time to get all of the family shots you want for the day. Add more time if it’s not!
  3. Give yourself at least a half an hour before the ceremony starts to finish up photos and recover, especially if you are planning on doing a first look. This will give you time to cool off, touch up any makeup and re-build the anticipation of seeing your fiancé again as you or they walk down the aisle.
  4. If you are planning on doing photos away from the venue location, give each photography section more than an hour to account for travel time.
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Step 5: Add all of the other stuff!

Make a few more post-it note tabs to represent getting ready times.

  1. Ladies will need a much bigger time chunk than gentlemen, so make a bigger post-it tab to cover their hair and makeup time. This process ALWAYS takes longer than anyone plans for, so pad this chunk of time *really* well so things don’t start running late from the start. Gentlemen don't need nearly as much time, so you can schedule their "getting ready time" for later if need be. 
  2. Once you have all of these solidly set, make tabs or scribble in all of the other big moments, like first dances and bouquet tosses or anything else you need to have planned. I suggest tabs if you have space so you can keep moving things around if anything changes over time.
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That’s it! It can be a little crazy getting this setup, but in the end, you will have a flexible, visual schedule that lets you account for everything, especially the photos, on the day of your wedding. Not only will this keep you organized, it will also help you make final decisions about how long your photographers need to be at your wedding. This is especially important if they charge overtime fees when you have them longer than planned. You’ll know way beforehand and may be able to save some dough if you buy exactly the amount of time you need upfront.

Module 6: Wedding Prep - Photo Lists

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I am sure part of you is like "what do you mean, we have to make photo lists? I thought you said not to give your photographer a shot list to work from?!?!" This is true, but there are a couple of places where I think an exception should be made: Family formal photos and a small list of "must have" shots. 

Let's kick this shindig off with the family formals. 

FAMILY FORMALS

This is a super important list for you to make for a couple of different reasons. 

  1. Not all family dynamics are the same, so you don't necessarily want your photographer working from a standard set of shots for these. 
  2. If the photographer has a specific list of names and groupings to work from, this part of your day will go much smoother. The photographer will just go down the list taking the photos while their assistant gathers the next group, making an efficient process out of what could have been an experience closely akin to herding cats. 

So, what we recommend doing is taking some time well before the wedding to create a list of every family grouping you want during this time. And when I said every family grouping, I mean every single one. If you want a picture of you and you parents AND a picture of you, your honey and your parents, list those out separately. Not only will this ensure you get every single photo you want, but it also means you will get an accurate idea of how much time you need to schedule for these photos when you are making your timeline for the day. 

BIG NOTE: Make sure you are working on this list way before the actual wedding day. If you try to make it last-minute, there will be people you forget and then we'll have trouble when the time actually comes. Also consult with parents and future in-laws to make sure you get everything one they want captured. If we don't consider this, parents will start requesting specific shots at the end of the formal photo time which could cause us to quickly get behind schedule. 

In your planner, go through and start making this list in the space provided. When you have your finished list, count up how many photo and multiply it by 3 min each to get the total amount of time you need to schedule for family photos. If this time is over an hour long, you may want to consider condensing some shots or finding time to get photos with certain family members in the photo booth or at the reception. 

MUST HAVE SHOTS

This section of your planner is to jot down any photos you want to take that fall outside of the standard realm of wedding photo (rings, bouquet, kiss, details, getting ready, BMs and GMs etc). This may include a photo at a certain location or with a certain item that is super important to you. It's anything you think your photographer may not already know to capture or that you need specifically created to commemorate someone or something. These should be unique shots that are specific to you and your wedding. 

You want to keep this list to a bare minimum because, as we have said before, if your photographer gets stuck working from a long, specific list of shots you want, they won't be able to see the wedding as it is happening and other things will be missed and your whole wedding album will feel disjointed. 

If these shots require something super special on your photographers part, let them know as soon as possible so they can plan and account for it. They are working on a very detailed timeline on their end so they know they can capture everything you want. Throwing in something at last minute may mean sacrificing another important shot OR not being able to adequately capture what you are asking because they weren't prepared for it. 

Module 7: Wedding Prep - VIP List

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Weddings are big events. They can be downright huge! Even some of the smallest weddings usually have over 100 people in attendance and it can sometimes be difficult to sufficiently photograph everyone over the course of the day. If the photographer doesn't know who the really important people are at the wedding, we can sometimes miss capturing those nearest and dearest to you when photographing the reception. We understand that not getting photos of those who matter most can in many cases be devastating for the couple. That is why over here at King's Things we are big fans of the Wedding Guest VIP List. What is this magical list we speak of, you ask? Let me tell you!

A Wedding Guest VIP List is a document the bride and groom create that let's us photographers know (and see!) the most important people at the wedding. This usually includes the bridal party, immediate family, and very close friends. The list should be fairly concise, around 15-20 people tops, so that it is easy for us to keep track them throughout the day.

To make a Wedding Guest VIP List

  1. Start by listing out their names in your planner (or a word document of some kind)
  2. Next to their names, put who they are or their roll for the day so your photographer knows where they fit into your story.
  3. Next, if there are any special notes the photographer needs to know about these folks when interacting with them be sure to put those with the name so we know.
  4. After all of that is listed out, run over to their Facebook page, snag their most recent profile picture and insert it next to their names. This way we can see their faces when we pull this document up on their phone or iPad at the wedding and can identify them without having to bug anyone on the day.
  5. When all is done, save the document as a PDF and send it to your photographer so they can make sure that we don't miss a single one of these very important people at your wedding.

Here is an example of it filled out:

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Note: the note about her not being married to the FOB anymore is important because it is possible the photographer will not know this and will try to get photos of the FOB and MOB together, which would be awkward. Little notes like this can go a long way to keeping the peace on what can be a stressful day for friends and family as well as the couple. 

Module 8: Wedding Prep - Final Checklists

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Alrighty! We are now in the home stretch and it is time to get all of your ducks in a row. So! Head on over to your planner and pull out your final checklist. We're going to go through it point by point. 

In the year before:

The first section is just making sure you have gone through the first seven modules of this course and have done everything in that. Ideally, all of this will be done between the time you book your photographer and the month before the wedding. If you try to do any of that stuff in the last month before, the process may be rushed and you may forget things or not do them too well. 

The last thing in this section is to sit down with your photographer at least once during this time to go over your preferences etc. This may just mean sending them an email with the info or giving them a phone call to go over all of it. Just make sure you are touching base with them and giving them as much info as you can to help them prepare for your day. 

The week before the wedding:

One of the most important steps during this time is to make sure everyone who will be involved with photos gets a copy of your timeline. Wedding party, family, vendors - all of them should get a copy so that they know where you will be and when photos are happening. This will help them make sure they know where to be when AND will help them not get in the way of photos staying on track. 

This is also the time to wrap up loose ends - make sure you've paid your photographer their final payment, make sure the timeline is still accurate and there are no questions, and make sure you have a day-of contact that the photographer can reach if they need to get in touch with you. You will be super busy getting ready for the wedding and may not be able to get to your phone if they call. 

The night before the wedding:

Hopefully by this point, everything is set up and ready to go and all you have to do is relax and get ready to enjoy your day. One proactive thing you can do is go over the timeline again for yourself and make sure your honey has a copy as well. You may not be able to see or speak to them before the first look or the ceremony, so making sure you both are on the same page in regards to the schedule will be really important. 

Beyond that, just make sure you are plenty hydrated and get a full night's sleep so you can look and feel your best tomorrow. It's going to be a long, fun, amazing day. 

The day of the wedding:

At this point, you shouldn't have to worry about anything concerning the wedding photos. Your photographer has everything they need to successfully get you through all of that, including backup plans if the weather is crappy. Relax and let them take the reigns. 

One thing you will want to know is that wedding timelines almost never stay on track. This will be okay! You built time buffers into your schedule and your photographer should know where your priorities are. They will be able to help you navigate any schedule mishaps and make sure in the end you will get what you want. Your job during this time is to be flexible and work with the photographer to keep things moving when at all possible. 

Other than that, just sit back and enjoy the day. And be sure to take time to look around and see the day as it happens. It will go by in a flash, try to experience as much of it as you can! 

Module 9: After the Wedding

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Before we dive in, take a second to take a HUGE breath. You did it! You got through one of the most stressful and amazing things you will put together in your life. All of the fist-pumps and bell kicks! Proud. of. you!

Now, there are a few things you will want to take care of now that everything is done so that you can fully experience and appreciate your photos. 

First of all, check with your photographer to see when you should expect your photos to be finished and delivered. Every photographer has different process for this, so be sure to make a note of when yours expects to be finished. 

While you wait, start planning places in your house that you will want to hang the photos and make a list of all the people you want to gift photos to when they arrive. Also be thinking about whether or not you want to use the images for a thank you card or for future gifts to friends and family (check out our blog post about using wedding photos as gifts for the holidays here).

Once photos are delivered, take some time to go through them one-by-one and relive the day. Chances are there are a lot of things you didn't see or have forgotten about. This can be a very special way to relive the day and help you and your honey remember it forever. 

Then, do anything you need to do to preserve them for the long haul. If you got digital files, make sure they are backed up several times (see instructions laid out in the Engagement Shoot module) and organize/store any physical prints you have so that they will last as long as possible. 

Lastly, if you truly enjoyed your photos and the experience with your photographer, be sure to send them a review in an email or on their website/Facebook page. Also consider sharing your experience with your friends and family so they know your photographer was awesome. Your photographer may even offer a referral rewards program that can get you discounted prints or future sessions if someone you know books them, so check with them on that!

One quick thing to note: as you share your images online and with other folks, be sure to give credit to your photographer while you do so. Some photographers require this with their contracts but not all of us do. It is just a nice courtesy to give them a little shoutout when posting so folks know where your amazing images come from.