7 Tips to Sharpen Your Wedding Photo Interpersonal Skills
Weddings are all about people and, for the photographer, success often depends on how you interact with the multitude of personalities you will find at a wedding venue. We spoke to a good cross-section of professional wedding photographers to assemble some tips for both beginner and veteran wedding shooters.
1. Know Your Client
“Know your client—their likes, dislikes, preferences, what they’re comfortable with, and what makes them uncomfortable,” says San Diego’s Alex Oat. “You want to photograph them in their comfort zone,” says Tom Baldassare, a New York wedding photographer.
Ontario, Canada’s Lori Waltenbury takes this one step further and recommends that shooters “strive to remember names and create personal connections with guests, but especially the wedding party! I’ve gotten countless referrals and bookings from the wedding party because I made a personal connection with them.”
Remember, the wedding isn’t your show. You are part of a supporting cast. However, there are definitely times when the photographer needs to take control of a situation. Oat says that photographers should “know when to speak up, during family portraits, weddings party shots, when someone’s collar is flipped up.” Waltenbury echoes that sentiment by adding, “Learn how to read various situations and act accordingly. Focus on being a calm and collected facilitator and not to add stress or chaos to their already crazy day. Focus on being a friend, a confidant, and not so much a vendor.”
3. Key Players
I mentioned above that you are part of an ensemble of the wedding’s support structure; one player in a cast of many that, hopefully, work together to make the wedding perfect for your clients. Jesse Rinka, based in Westchester, New York, says, “When you arrive at the church or location where the ceremony is to be held, always make it a point to find the one who is running the ceremony and introduce yourself. Explain your intentions and find out if there are any ground rules that they wish you to follow, places you should not be, or moments during the ceremony that they prefer you not interfere with.”
She adds, “At the reception, locate the maitre d’ or the one in charge of the reception and introduce yourself. Find out from them the expected timeline of events, when each course is expected to be served, the timing of special dedications or speeches, first dances, parent dances, cake cutting, etc. Connecting with these people will make your life easier and ensure that while you are finally using the bathroom, for the first time all day, that the bride or groom is not dancing with their grandparent. Instead, they will look for you and hopefully hold off until you return.”
4. Crowd Control
Successfully photographing a wedding means that you need to, at times, be in charge of a large group of people. This requires a bit of assertiveness and a willingness to exert leadership over strangers. With more advice for wedding shooters, Rinka shares, “When it comes to bridal party and family photos, you must be able to control large crowds. You can’t be afraid to speak up in order to keep things moving along. Be bold and firm while also respectful. Ensure friends and family members that you wish to get them back to partying and having a great time as soon as possible so the more cooperative they are, the quicker you will be able to make that happen. Everyone loves to eat and drink, so use that as motivation to keep things moving quickly.”
5. Guest Relations
Brighton, Massachusetts shooter Zac Wolf reminds wedding photographers of the following: “Don’t forget to shoot the guests. Yes, the bride and groom are the center of the day, and yes, the details are beautiful—but the guests are also the most important people in your couple’s lives and they will want to remember them more than the place settings. Whether they are on the dance floor or enjoying a casual conversation, your couples will love having their presence documented.”
Interacting with the guests is another tool for the pro wedding shooter. Andre Reichmann, based in New York City, says, “Make the kids laugh. Everyone loves little kids. Win over a crowd by tickling a little kid and the reactions you'll capture are amazing.”
While talking to wedding shooters, the word “timeline” came up several times in the conversation. Weddings are carefully choreographed events that have intricate timelines. For a guest, there is usually only one or two times printed on the invitation—the ceremony and the reception. For the wedding couple, and the supporting cast, the timeline is much more involved and action-packed.
The wedding photographer needs to work within this timeline, and alter it, prior to the wedding, when needed. Jesse Rinka says, “The importance of establishing a timeline with the bride and groom ahead of the wedding day and doing your best to stick to it (within reason) ensure a smooth flow to the day. This will help you maximize the amount of time you get to spend creating beautiful images for your clients and less time wasted wondering what you need to do next.”
Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s Eric McCallister says that wedding photographers should “plan ahead. Know the day-of timeline, how much time you'll have for the various segments of the day, etc. If you need to travel, know how that's happening. Don't assume anything. Your couple is going to turn to you many times during the day with a 'what now' look, and the more you are prepared, the more confidently you can navigate the day and questions. Also, have a backup plan. Everything runs an hour late and you can't make it to the scenic park you had planned, or it rains, or the venue doesn't have a killer indoor location for family portraits. Your clients will be looking to you to have an answer to these challenges. Be sure you have one!”
Weddings are known for their feasts, but almost every wedding photographer that we spoke to for this series of articles said, “Bring snacks!”