As a wedding photographer, you are so much more than someone who takes the photos on the big day. From bustling dresses to grabbing snacks for your couple, being there as a friend and helper is perhaps the most important part of your client relationship. When you have a solid flow on a wedding day it allows you to slow down and really be present, and know that you have the time and energy to do a stellar creative job too. Here are my tips for creating an airtight workflow for weddings, so you can be successful in fully capturing your couples’ story!
Step 1: Timeline Planning
When couples book me, they receive a guide to help them with the full planning process of their wedding. The goal of this guide isn’t wedding planning, that’s what coordinators and the internet are for. This guide is a tool to get my couples to think about how much time they need in each part of their day to ensure they have a great photography experience with me. I include things like timelines, formal portrait examples, how a first look will impact the day, and ways to be fully present and in the moment at their wedding.
Sending example timelines to your couples can help them visualize their day, and think about things they may have missed. Obvious things like travel and lots of family portrait combos can throw off a timeline, but other moments – figuring out boutonnieres and bowties, hair and makeup, buttoning dresses, or cocktail hour snack deliveries – can feel out of your control and cause unnecessary stress.
Create a generic timeline template of your ideal client timeline. Include time for everything you want in a wedding day. For me, I generally only need an hour of dancing coverage, so my sample coverage ends one hour into dancing. I love first looks (because they mean the couple gets more photo time) so the template I send is based on a day with one. Send your timeline as a PDF or webpage with every inquiry or booking you get, depending on the outlook you have. I send a sample timeline with every inquiry whether they book me or not, because I think it’s helpful for the wedding industry as a whole for couples to plan the day for THEM. You’ll find that your clients may opt for more time on their wedding day to account for everything, and they’ll be so thankful to have such a great visual aid to help them with planning. Since implementing this little PDF into my business, I’ve seen more first looks (yay!) and experienced a much smoother flow of events at weddings. Communication is everything with your clients, and this will help.
Step 2: Scouting
Want to be less stressed at weddings? Show up an hour before your coverage is set to start. I typically arrive early to weddings to scout out the location, acquaint myself with the venue and staff, and prepare my photo locations so I can be well-prepared for the unpredictable (as always) wedding day ahead.
There are so many people you’re meeting for the first time on a wedding day, and when you allow yourself enough time to stop and say hi to each of them, they’ll be more comfortable around you, which means more candid photos. Venue staff and other vendors that will be working with you that day will have time to ask you questions and discuss plans, so if you have suggestions or changes for the sake of photos, you now have the time to make them.
Examples of this are:
- Talking with the DJ about not using colored lights during the first dance
- Having the planner set a table for you to photograph early so you can be present at cocktail hour and not photographing details
- Getting flat lay florals from the florist so your invitation suite images look even prettier
If it’s your first time at a new venue, early arrival is essential. Find the good light and the good, evenly lit backdrops for family portraits and formals, and pick out a few cool nooks that your couples will love. When the time for portraits comes, you’ll be prepared and know exactly what you want from your couple, and they’ll be relaxed and comfortable in photos.
Step 3: Setting Expectations
Do not be afraid to speak up at a wedding. Your couple is trusting you to be the expert, so if you want something moved or changed in the interest of photography, tell them! If I arrive at a wedding day and the room is messy or the bride is sitting in the wrong light for hair and makeup, I’ll ask for a change. For the ceremony, I encourage the couple to stand close together and in the middle of the arch, and to kiss on the way back down the aisle and don’t forget to look up when they’re walking. I have everyone clear out during formals, so there are no distractions and everyone is looking at me, not behind me. Creating a successful wedding photography workflow is about so much more than just taking photographs. Set yourself up for success by planning ahead and being proactive. Your couple will thank you for it.
My Ideal Wedding Day Timeline + Workflow:
- 11:00 | Arrive To Scout + Say Hi!
- 12:00 | Photograph Details (Outfits, Invites, Venue Space)
- 1:30 | Couple’s Getting Ready Photos
- 2:00 | First Look + Portraits
- 2:30 | Wedding Party
- 3:00 | Family Portraits
- 3:30 | Photograph Reception + Ceremony Space
- 4:00 | Ceremony Begins
- 4:30 | Ceremony Ends
- 4:40 | Couples Portraits/Extra Family Photo Time If Needed
- 5:15 | Couple Joins the Cocktail Hour
- 5:30 | Entrance To Reception + First Dance
- 5:45 | Dinner (Toasts During Dinner)
- 6:30 | Special Dances (Parents)
- 6:45 | Cake Cutting
- SUNSET PHOTOS
- 7:00 | Dancing!
- 8:00 | Coverage Ends
*I always make sure to say “bye” to both newlyweds, the DJ or band, planner, and venue owner if possible. Referrals often come from venues and fellow vendors, so a good impression is key!*
You may have seen Honeybook listed in my “Favorite Business Tools” blog post, but here I am plugging it again because it’s that amazing. The timeline above, the email about putting their details in one spot, and the link to their planning guide can all be set up to send automatically through Honeybook. It’s the ultimate workflow hack and I encourage you to sign up for the free trial and give it a try! Use THIS LINK for 50% off your first year of Honeybook.
I hope this blog post gives you some confidence and inspiration to go into a wedding day well-prepared and ready to get creative.