The preparation for photographing a wedding could be a stressful and hectic process if not approached in a well planned and organized manner. Missing an important piece of equipment or having to scramble to be on time for the wedding ceremony or wedding reception could be costly. Once the photographer starts stressing about not being late, his creativity is seriously impacted and can get the whole wedding started on the wrong foot.
Over the years, after photographing many weddings, I have discovered that there are few simple things that every wedding or event photographer can do to be on time and keep the relationship with its clients sound. Imagine how the client feels when it doesn’t see the photographer before the beginning of the wedding, even worst: seeing him or her walking in after the start of the wedding ceremony missing and possibly interrupting the normal flow of events. Not good as you might have guessed.
Although this checklist is not comprehensive, it will give you a good start for things to plan before the wedding. I intend to add more over time, so make sure to come back and check for updates. The steps are not in a particular order but you are free to order them and add mental notes to each one if you wish.
1. Charge Your Batteries:
No one ever regretted having extra charged batteries. But many wished they had one when all other batteries ran out of power. So a day before the wedding, start charging your camera and flashes batteries. This way you can be sure they will be completely charged by the time you need to leave your home for the wedding. And I mean, all your batteries you might need: digital camera batteries, flashes batteries, remote trigger batters. Charge all batteries if you are not sure they are already fully charged. Cameras and flashes use batteries so if you plan to use live view or HSS (High Speed Sync) on your flashes, take this into consideration to ensure you have adequate power available.
2. Format Your Memory Cards:
Formatting all memory cards (plus spares) before the wedding serves two purposes.
First ensures that you will have adequate storage to store all the images without having to swap cards in the most important moment of the day. If you think you have 32GB memory card only to find out that only 4GB left because there are files from a previous wedding on the card already, you will need to swap cards during the start of the wedding which is usually the ceremony. Time wasted, which otherwise could have been used to capture moments for your clients.
Second, it protects you from corrupting your images as formatting the memory card initializes the metadata on the card and zeros out any previous metadata.
3. Pack all Camera Bodies and Lenses:
Packing all camera bodies and lenses you would think you need for the day is time saver. Having to run around the house or to your storage to pick lens on the way out, makes it very easy to forget this 100mm macro lens you need for the detail shots. It’s very easy to grab your back or camera case, put it in your car and leave knowing that all you need is already inside.
4. Check Your Clothing:
Many photographers use formal or black clothing during the weddings they photograph. Looking presentable projects image and you need to have clean and pressed clothing ready. Showing up on a wedding in jeans and t-shirt speaks of the photographer’s image, although if that’s the dress code the couple requested, you will be fine.
5. Load Batteries in Camera and Flashes:
Now that you have charged all your batteries the night before, it’s time to load them into your camera and flashes. Doing this on the location takes time, you would look unprepared and believe me you better use that time to meet the couple, walk the location, take test shots and get ready mentally rather than load batteries.
6. Check Your Filters (CTO, Green):
Many indoor venue have tungsten and fluorescent lights and without proper white balancing, you will not achieve natural skin colors in post-processing later. Pack at least three CTO (1/4, 1/4 and 1 stop) and Green filters to white balance your flashes. Your pictures would look much better by simply attaching the appropriate filter on your flashes.
7. Review Your Wedding Day Schedule:
It’s simple: Plan is nothing but Planning is everything. Knowing the address, directions and timing you need to be at each location is your game plan for the day. The plan most likely will change but you being prepared by knowing the details makes it very easy to adjust the plan and move forward.
You might not be able to look at your wedding questionnaire during the day to check what’s next and by what time you need to finish the bride & groom portrait and get ready for the cocktail hour. Go over the wedding schedule, memorize the important locations, timing, wedding clients names and their family members names.
Being able to refer them by name makes huge difference and projects confidence of you being prepared and having the situation under control.
Related: How To Photograph Wedding Formals
8. Check Destinations and Travel Times:
Now that you know the location and time you are supposed to be there, it’s time to build your itinerary. Go to Google Maps and check how much would it take you to drive from one location to another.
Think about possible traffic peak times and is there anything which can add to the commute time: football game in the area, city festival, holiday travel, etc. being stuck in traffic and late for your client’s wedding, is a recipe for disaster.
9. Have Client’s Contact Information Handy:
Get your client’s or wedding coordinator contact information handy. Piece of paper, notes in your smart phone, printout of your wedding questionnaire? Whatever works for you. Make it available and don’t forget to pack it in your backpack. If you need to reach out and talk to them, you would appreciate to have it handy.
10. Charge Your Smartphone:
Let’s admit it. We all need our smartphones nowadays and we are so dependent on them. Making phone calls, answering text messages from out clients, using navigation or maps service, taking a selfie at the wedding. All phones use batteries so in order to use them, charge the batteries the night before.
11. Fill Up Your Car’s Gas Tank:
This sounds obvious but believe me it takes time being in an unknown area, looking for a gas station to refill your tank, while on the risk of getting late. You can save yourself the trouble and fill the tank of your car the night before. This can easily save you 10-15 minutes later.
12. Carry The Charged Battery and Memory Cards With You:
Ok. You charged your extra batteries and memory cards, packed them in your bag and left them in the car while in the last part of the wedding day, the reception, you need to change your battery or memory card before the couple’s first dance and guess what: your car is 200 feet away.
Of course, you are brave heart photographer deciding to make mad dash to your car with all of your cameras (cannot leave them on the table where all kids on the wedding would give them a try, right?). On the way back however you hear the DJ introducing the couple and the music for the first dance playing. By the time you are back the first dance is half over and the couple is looking at you puzzled or may be angry.
You can save yourself the stress and embarrassment. So, put these extra battery and memory cards in your pockets or pouch so they are handy.
To make this guide concise and easy to read, I have not included every single thing you need to consider and plan for. Instead, I tried to give you some of the basics which I have been following and have helped me over the years. Photographing a wedding doesn’t have to be stressful and by following these simple steps you can have a much more pleasant and productive day.
If you find this article useful, please share it with your fellow photographers and friends so they can benefit from it as well. Agree, disagree, have comments or feedback? Would love to hear it, so drop me a line.
About the Author:
Trifon Anguelov is the business owner and primary photographer at Trifon Anguelov Photography, a premiere wedding and events photographer in Mountain View, CA 94040 . You can review Trifon’s Wedding Portfolio and follow him on social media by using the links on his website.