Wedding Photojournalism

This style of photography has a strong focus on candid photography and creating more narrative type images as opposed to posed photographs. We try to be as least obstructive as possible.

Ideally, wedding photojournalism should tell a story from the start of your day until the then end of your day. Some of our first photos are the facility itself. The Church or Hotel, the Signage.

After we have recorded the location and the items that you may want to remember about the location, we move into the Brides room phase. This usually starts about an hour prior to the ceremony. hint: Try and be about 95% ready 1 hour before your ceremony. First, you’ll want to look nice in your photos and many little things can crop up at the last minute. Being ahead on time can be a big advantage to you in case something goes wrong, like you break a zipper on your dress. Another thing, many well wishers will be coming through to congratulate you pre-wedding. If it’s 15 minutes before you are to walk down the aisle and your hair is still in rollers, you don’t want to be rude to Grandma. Better to be ahead of time than behind on time in this phase.

When photographing in the brides rooms we concentrate on a few types of photos and you will see many examples in the photo essays. First, are candids of the bride and her bridesmaids, the well wishers as they come through, bride putting on makeup, dressing etc. We also try and capture some traditional type shots like Dad putting on Garter, Mom adjusting veil. This is also when we have the opportunity to photograph the flowers, rings, shoes, the dress. After about 30 minutes doing those shots the bride will want to put on her dress. As we are usually asked to leave the room at that time, we have a chance to visit the groom. (the groom and groomsmen are always ready ahead of the bride.) After a few minutes, the bride usually asks us back in and we finish up with her. We can also do some informal photos of friends and family as well at this time , if we are not short on time.

Finally, the time is coming close to the ceremony. We usually leave the bride and move into the ceremony location about 15 minutes prior to the ceremony itself. We need to change camera lenses, setup tripods, double check our system and get ready to photograph the processional and the ceremony. Once everything is ready to go we can photograph your gallery awaiting you. This is when we try and capture the excitement before your wedding. People being seated by ushers, and those in your wedding party who have not been pinned with boutonnieres and corsages. We try to concentrate on groups as they gather. We photograph the musicians and any Unity candle, etc then finish shooting anything in the church itself that changed in the few minutes we spent with you in the brides room. Of course, we only do this after we make sure we are ready when the music starts and you walk down the aisle. It’s all about you when it’s not about your guests.

We have already determined the best location to photograph the processional. We try and select the best angle without distracting backgrounds if possible. If we have a choice of shooting on a side with an exit sign on one side and stained glass windows on the other, we will pick the stained glass side every time. We will of course photograph everyone coming down the aisle ahead of you. .

Many of the facilities have rules around photography at a wedding. Sometimes the photographer has somewhat free reign, sometimes they are mandated to shoot only at certain locations during the ceremony and including the processional. Please understand, we MUST abide by those rules if we are restricted. Most will allow for some form of processional shooting but often the angle depends on those restrictions. Your photographer should abide by those rules or the photographer will be out and your wedding will be halted. We will abide by all rules.

The long awaited moment has arrived. The music starts and you walk down the aisle. Of course we will be ahead of you and photograph those last few single moments. Usually accompanied by your Dad although sometimes 2 fathers and sometimes Mothers. We try not to blind you with flash bulbs as we wouldn’t want you to loose your way to the alter but we will get this shot. You probably won’t see us, most brides are just looking straight ahead. The gallery is standing, it’s your time to shine.

Traditional ceremonies last anywhere from 2 hours to less than 5 minutes. Yes, I did a 5 minute ceremony one time. (it was 104 degrees in the shade that day). But typically they run about 30 minutes. During that 30 minutes most American weddings follow a certain path. The father gives the bride away at the alter, the pastor says a few opening words, the couple holds hands and recites their vows. Often there are prayers, and some singing, perhaps some speeches, perhaps a Unity candle and the ring ceremony and the grooms favorite part the kiss.

Before we go one to the next section let’s take one step back. If the facility has rules around where the photographer can stand, this will determine what shot he can take. If for example the rules are that the photographer cannot use flash and MUST be in the balcony and it’s 50 yards away, this is going to determine what your images will look like. While we come VERY well prepared to shoot at very long distances without flash, we simply cannot guarantee real close ups. We’re not making excuses here and every other photographer will have the same issue because it’s a facility limitation not the photographers ability that determines distances. In any event, we will take the shots of you and hubby at the alter as your actual wedding ceremony commences and to the end.

We also shoot candids during the ceremony. These are people watching you at the alter. It depends on the angles and our being able to move around the facility but we think you would like to see what your guest are thinking. These images can range from tears of joy, to people falling asleep, sometimes touching, sometimes funny or cute but we’ll be looking for and getting those shots.

Let us make some suggestions here. First, a short history lesson. Formal receiving lines were once all the rage. We are seeing far fewer today than ever before. Here are some reasons. First, receiving lines take a very long time. If you think about it, bride and groom line up, family lines up and everyone that attended the wedding singularly meets, greets and congratulates each person in the line. This takes about 1-3 minute per person. If you have 150 people and each take 1 minute, the reception will be 1/2 over before you even arrive to the reception.

Second reason: Most brides today are doing a formal congratulatory phase these days. This is typically done at the end of the reception. Bride and groom go around to each table and thank the guests for coming. If you have a formal receiving line and this segment it seems rather redundant.

Third reason: You want your formal photos taken next. By the time that 100 minute receiving line is complete your makeup will need freshening and may want to get off your feet for a second. Further, many of those guests that you may want in your formals are no where to be found as it’s been an hour since since your ceremony is over. If time is of the essence, we suggest not doing a formal receiving line.

How many times have you been to a wedding and waited what seemed like hours for the Bride and Groom to show at the reception? Well, that won’t be the case at your wedding. Excellent formal photos in a short amount of time is simply a matter of planning and execution. (We’ll talk about time lines a little later) but the basics are that we go in with a plan and stick to that plan. Here’s how this works.

First, you and your fiance sit down prior to the wedding and decide who you want in your formals. Write them down and use names. We actually furnish a formals list in our agreement for this very purpose. This part alone really narrows down those photos at the alter. This list does several things to help you. First, you can budget 3-5 minutes per formal shot taken. Let’s say you have 10 formals you want. Figure about 30-45 minutes and you are complete with your formals and on to the party. It’s fast and efficient. You don’t keep 100% of your people waiting and yet you get all the photos you and your husband want. But that’s just the first part to getting to the reception on time.

The second part revolves around someone we call a Photo Marshal. Here is how this very important part works. Your photo marshal needs to be some who is somewhat familiar with both sides of the family. The photo marshal is responsible for getting the people you want in your formals to the alter. Here is the flow: Bride and groom walk down the aisle and go into a holding area. AWAY from guests. Photo Marshal is standing near the door as guest start to leave. The photo marshal keeps those people who you want in your formals in the ceremony area until you and your husband make a re-entrance to the alter. This usually takes about 15 minutes to clear your guests out.

The idea of the photo Marshal is simple. They have your formal list and they gather people up and see to it that you get them in front of our lens. This way, you and your husband agree prior to the wedding, you know about how much time it’s going to take for photos and you have someone else who acts on your behalf. Fact is, people scatter after a wedding, you need a Marshal to go (nicely) arrest them and bring them to the alter rather than chase them down all over the church or outside while your guests are waiting at the reception.

We have a little different policy than other companies when it comes to formals. We allow your family, guests and friends to take photos that we set up at the alter. We do ask that they PLEASE take the shots immediately after we take ours and PLEASE do not ask to add someone or take someone away from YOUR setups. This is for your benefit not ours. Let’s say Grandma wants a shot of Little Johnny in one of your formals and little Johnny is outside. Somebody has to go get Little Johnny and we have to start the process all over again. You have budgeted a certain amount of time to take photos and be at the reception. Little Johnny is keeping 90% of your guest waiting. Again the Photo Marshal should step in. You don’t want Grandma mad at you or your photographer on that day. The Photo Marshal is in charge.

Informals are friends and family members taken at the reception. We suggest keeping your formal list to those in the wedding party and your immediate family. Then we can do informals at the party. It’s not about leaving anyone out that you want a somewhat posed photo, it’s about getting to the reception in a reasonable amount of time.

These can be done anytime but usually in between the breaks in the scheduled activities. They might look a little posed or be just for fun. The idea though is to get some shots that you did not have time to get at the alter. These are setup but a little more relaxed. You could make your photo marshal a list of informals as well, then they could work with your photographer to make sure you get the shots you want but do it at the reception.

Your formals have been completed in this last stage. Now, as your photographer we need to do something without you. We suggest you and husband take a break. Don’t go immediately to the reception. If driving, take the LONG way to the reception, drink a glass of champagne and let your photographer get ahead of you. Here’s why.

If your reception is in another location, we will need time to move our equipment. As we come prepared for almost anything we need to reload the car, drive to the reception, unloaded, change lenses, batteries, meet coordinator and DJ. We want to be ready when you arrive. We only need about 15-30 minutes AHEAD of you but we need some time to get ready for the reception phase.

Once setup though then we would like time to do other photos before you arrive. We would like to photograph the reception site just like we did the ceremony site. Outside and inside. Any signs or announcements. Then we will start on your reception room. We photograph the cakes, tables, champagne, the flowers. We’re trying to get ahead of you on some of this so we can stay close in close quarters with you for the reception. If you will give us little time then we can get ahead of the game and be ready when you do arrive. You’re still not there yet but soon.

We suggest if at all possible you NOT open the buffet before you arrive. The reason for this is simple. We want to take photographs of the food. Food will look much better in the photos if it’s undipped and not drizzled all over the table cloths. The forks are all setup nicely napkins folded. The best time to do food shots is before the guests have been sent to the buffet.

The second reason you might not want to open up the buffet is table shots. We like to try and start at least a few table shots before the buffet is open. Table shots are photographs of your guests sitting at their tables. The idea around this is that if people are not eating they are more likely to smile. Also the tables are nice and clean and everyone is still excited. Like all things in this method of photography there are certain times to photograph certain items to make the best images.

One of the sweetest times of your day are your cake shots. We actually do a series of cakes shots. Before, during the cake cutting and sometimes after although cakes look best before they are cut. Just a suggestion here, you will probably find that the chocolate groom cakes gets more attention from your guests than the white cake.

We always try to work closely with the DJ or MC at the reception and make sure everyone is on the same page. Let’s stop here for a second and talk about something that is more important than you might think. It’s the communication between the vendors. As you have read, we as your photographers are on task. We have certain photographs we try to target. It’s critical there is communication between the DJ and photographer.

Couples first dance and Father daughter dance are of course standard events in a traditional American wedding. Let us make a suggestion. On the time line we will follow a basic suggestion. Try to do all your events within the first 2.5 hours. This means couples first dance, food, cake, speeches and toasts, garter, bouquet toss etc. The reason you want to try and schedule this way is threefold.

First, your guests will start to leave shortly after cake. The more people you have there the more interaction you can have with them. Second, it keeps things moving. If you make a tentative schedule in about 30 minute increments more people are likely to stay. Thirdly, if you have several activities during the night and have them behind you can visit with the guests, dance and have fun. Finally, if you have everything done, then should you want to leave, you can. We’ll talk more about this later.

We suggest when the couple makes their entrance they do couples first dance then father daughters dance. The reason we suggest that is that it takes one activity off your list and second it serves as an ice breaker. An ice breaker in the sense that when a couple walks into a room and everyone stands they often feel a little uncomfortable.

There are a couple of ways bride and grooms can eat. Probably the easiest way is to ask the facility to make you plates. This way you don’t have to go to the buffet. Of course if you want to go to the buffet, we will be there. Yes, we even photograph your first meal. Next we will photograph some of your guests helping themselves. We usually position ourselves near one end of the buffet and take a few shots. If the dinner is plated of course we wouldn’t do that, a few simple shots of the plates filled is usually enough.

Speaking of food and drink. This is the time we take a break. We either go through the buffet line or ask the facility to fix us a plate. People don’t like to be photographed while they are eating and by this time it’s time to refuel ourselves. If it’s a plated dinner then please set us a place somewhere. We NEVER drink alcohol. Soft drinks and water are our beverages of choice when we are working.

Now for Cake: We suggest cutting cake no later than 30 minutes after you sit down to eat. Chances are, the bride and groom will eat very little. ( too excited). The other side of the 30 minute rule is that the facility will need to cut the rest of the cake and serve it to your guests. By the time the guests are ready for cake, the cake will be ready for them. BTW, more people eat the chocolate grooms cake than the white wedding cake. We are right there with you on the cake cutting. We will show you where to stand and even how to cut the cake if you want. Typically the bride and groom share a piece of white cake then move over to the groom cake. If the groom cake has strawberries on it, the groom is fed part of a strawberry by the bride and then she finishes it off. Don’t worry, we don’t see to many people get their face crammed with cake. Sometimes a little icing on the nose.

Candids and Candids: We haven’t talked much about candids up until now. We shoot somewhere between 300-2000 images on a typical wedding. The largest majority of those are candids. Capturing candids are somewhat limited to the individual being photographed but we do employ some methods to have a better chance. First thing we do is suggest that people not look directly at us unless we request it. This technique is used in the brides room and places where we are in close quarters. The images have a more photojournalist look to them this way.

Another way we shoot candids is something called action and reaction. This is somewhat like the way movies and television is shot. An easy example of this is the best man’s toast. The best man holds up his glass to toast the bride and groom. We’ll photograph the best man of course but then turn and photograph the galley and then bride and groom. This way you are seeing both actions and re-actions to the actions. We do this often and throughout the event. The third way is anticipatory. This is a little harder. We may think someone is going to have a reaction and we will concentrate on the possible reaction. The fourth way is just stealth. We often take photo’s of people who have no idea we took the photo. The use of long lenses and no flash can capture some interesting expressions. Tricky huh? Well, that’s what we do. We shoot 100’s of candid shots at each wedding.

Typically the garter/bouquet tosses are done back to back. Single men and women are positioned in an area where you can give it a good toss. Again, we are there with you to help you choose the right location. It seems like a simple thing but you should be tossing it in an area where it’s not likely to get caught in the chandelier. That’s part of our job. We’ll show you exactly where to stand and even how to toss it. Hint on tossing: if you will loft it we have a better chance of catching it in the air. It’s a straight arm loft rather than a quick throw over the shoulder. Wait until we give you the nod and loft away!

Bouquet / Garter Toss: Garter goes on right leg in case you didn’t know. Often you have two or more garters. One you toss and one you keep. Usually, we have photographed both in the brides room so toss away. This is very similar to the bouquet toss in that we are out there with you. Groom usually like to shoot the garter off his finger. That’s fine but we suggest he shoots the garter high in the air rather than straight over the shoulder. Again, it’s a loft. We’ve seen some interesting variations on the garter toss and if the groom has some surprises for you, just go with it. it’s all in good fun. For the record, whoever catches the garter or the bouquet after the toss then gets their photo taken with the bride or groom.

Speeches and Toasts: Most weddings and rehearsal dinners have some speeches. Sometimes it’s Fathers, mothers; brothers, sister, best man, matron of honor, friends. Of course we’ll be shooting actions and reactions. Not much left to say about these. You’ll have them.

Kick up those heels! We take a lot of dancing photos. Couples, groups, entire rooms of people having fun. Sometimes we are right out there with you and your guests, camera in hand of course and firing away. This is another reason to have your list of activities behind you, now you can just let go! We also try to photograph special couples. Brother sister dancing, Mom and Dads. The dancing is an important part of the story and we take many many dancing shots. Oh, and of course many of the bride and groom.

Relationship Photography: Up until now the majority of what we have done has been event driven. Event driven means not posed or choreographed. Relationship photography is choreographed. Think of it like couple photography on your wedding day. We will take the bride and groom off for a few minutes. It will be just the three of us. The goal of relationship photography is to capture the mental and spiritual connection of couple. We’re looking for the reason the couple got married. The photo’s are about the couples interaction with each other, as opposed to the couples interaction with the photographer.

Think of it as couple candids. We usually do these at the reception if the couple wants to do them. We certainly don’t want to take you away from the party but if you want to go, we can surely do some of these too.

Time to go: We’ve taken 100’s and 100’s of photos during the special day. We have a few more to take and that’s the send off. It depends on the facility of course if you have a send off in bubbles, petals or birdseed. Whatever you are pelted with as you make your dash to the get away vehicle, we’ll be ahead of you and with you. Maybe the groomsmen have decorated your getaway vehicle or maybe you have a limo. Whatever your send off method, we’ll be there. We’ve been known to climb in the limo with you just for some closing Limo shots.

A few final thoughts: As you have seen, we shoot a methodology. We attempt to photograph certain parts at certain times. We find that following this methodology makes for the best photos. This does not mean they have to be taken in this order if the bride and groom wish it so. The methodology can be altered at any time and for any reason. Suffice it to say that we have a plan and we will work off that plan until we are notified otherwise.

We feel wedding photography is a craft. The implementation of the craft is a trade. We have attempted to show you the steps we take and some samples for each phase. There are many small details to take into consideration when shooting a wedding. We would need another 25 pages to even begin to discuss them. That’s our job, so just relax and enjoy your special day and we’ll take care of the rest. You’re in good hands, let the professionals handle it.

As promised, the next section is about time line. We designed it to follow this methodology and hopefully it will give you some ideas and a better understanding of your typical day.

Typical Time Line

This is a fairly typical time line that we suggest you consider. Feel free to use it and if you will notice it follows the flow of the photography we have outlined in this section. While we’ll start this mock up at 5:00 P.M. you certainly can adjust this to your own times.

Most receptions are scheduled for about 4 hours long. Many times they don’t last that long. If the vast majority of you’re guests start to leave, you might want to consider leaving as well. The petal toss and leaving needs some participants for the send off.

5:00 photographer shows at at brides dressing location. Photographs exterior, interior then moves into the brides room for well wishers, makeup, dress, rings and the interaction with brides maids. Dad putting on Garter, mom adjusting veil, informals, fun shots.

5:45 Photographer moves to processional area. We shoot the gallery being seated, musician, flowers and decorations.

6:00 Photographer shoots unity candle ceremony, processional and ceremony, B&G at alter, pastor, speeches, prayers, ring ceremony, kiss and B&G coming down the aisle as husband and wife.

6:30 Ceremony is complete. B&G go into holding area. Guest proceed to Reception site. Photo marshal has list of formals and makes sure those people in the formals do not leave the ceremony site.

6:45 Husband and wife return to ceremony area for formals.

6:45-7:15 Formals, Photo marshal has ALL the people in the area.

7:15 Guest are invited to enter the reception area to receive the B&G

7:15 Photographer enters the reception, shoots cakes, reception decorations, table decorations, gift table, food, servers and facility. Photographer should also start his table shots at this time, when people are not eating. Guests will smile if they don’t have creamed spinach in between their teeth. Also, tables are still nice and clean, napkins folded, etc.

7:30 B&G enter and do couple first dance, father daughters dance. The reason you do this now is two fold. First it does not take much time and it gets one of the nightly activities off the list and second, it gives the couple something to do other than just sit down when they make their entrance. Just sitting down is rather anti climactic after all the applause they receive upon their entrance.

7:40 Dinner is served, photography shuts down, nobody likes to be photographed while they are eating. This is when the photographer takes his break. Re-hydrate and re-fuel.

8:15 Cake is cut. The reason you wait only 30 minutes is so that the facility can have time to cut the cake and serve to your guests, there not much of a lull in between eating. Also, B&G doesn’ usually eat much. They can cut cake instead of eat.

9:00 Speeches, Toasts

9:15 Bouquet/Garter toss

Schedule anything else within 15 minute increments.

Finally, the B&G now have time to relax, dance, visit and have fun and even leave early if they choose. Ideally you should have everything done that is important within the first 2.5 hours. The reason for this is that your guests will start to leave. The earlier you start with the activities at the reception the more likely people will be there and coherent to enjoy it. Here’s another tip. As soon as one event is complete, I.E. cake cutting or any other reception type activity. We suggest having the MC announce when the next event is going to happen. This keeps your guests in the loop so they know something is coming and when, that is should they want to break from the reception for a few minutes.

Just because you have a time line does not mean you have to stick with it exactly. 7:20 rather than 7:15 is fine, but you at least have a smarter baseline to work off of and one that is respective of your guests while maintaining all the important elements of the event.