Anyone who’s ever attended a wedding knows how stressful they can be. Big families are involved, people show up late, rings get lost or forgotten. For wedding photographers, that stress is magnified tenfold. But a wedding photographer’s job can be made much easier with a good working relationship with the wedding planner.
While wedding planners and wedding photographers have very different jobs and responsibilities for the big day, it’s absolutely essential that the two teams work together to make sure the wedding goes by without any problems. That’s why we’ve broken down a few key rules to remember if you’re a wedding photographer working with a wedding planner.
1. Set up a meeting. When you’re hired to shoot a wedding, find out as soon as possible if the couple hired a wedding planner, get that person’s contact information and invite them for coffee. Wedding planners have a million things on their plate, so it’s important to show that you respect their time and the work they’re doing.
Since your needs as a photographer on the day of the wedding are very dependent on the time, establishing a relationship with the planner early on is key. Meeting even for a short period of time before the big day will also give you an idea of what they’re like and how they work. Plus, the more face to face time you have, the more collaboration and effective teamwork will be possible.
2. Talk about the schedule – early. One of the biggest topics of communication between the photographer and planner has to be the schedule. Other than the rings themselves, the schedule is the single most precious item for any wedding. Without a set and organized schedule, the entire day could unravel before a bride’s tearful eyes.
You don’t want to give the wedding party any more stress than they already have, so make sure the schedule is clear in advance. If you know you’re going to need more than an hour to do family portraits or you want to do the couple shots later in the day for better light – you need to communicate that to the planner and the bride and groom early on in the planning process. The earlier you express your needs as the photographer, the easier it will be for the planner to schedule all of the time you need.
Make sure you have your own copy of the schedule so that you’re not constantly checking in with the wedding planner to find out what’s happening when. Ask for a copy during your first meeting, if there is one at that point, and make sure the copy you have is totally up to date the day of the wedding.
3. Stay open to change. Although a detailed schedule is key for a successful wedding, so is flexibility. Weddings are notorious for having unexpected complications, so you should be ready for any last minute changes in plan. Check the weather continuously during the week that leads up to the wedding, and don’t stop checking it until the wedding is over. Keep the planner in the loop about any unforeseen bad weather coming in, and how that might affect your shooting plans. Make sure you have a backup, indoor shooting location in case it does start to rain, and share your backup plans with the wedding party and the planner before the big day.
4. No stealing! If you want to avoid a feud with the planner, don’t steal the couple away for spur of the moment portraits. This is especially important if bad weather or other complications caused a change in the schedule. Keep the planner in the loop if you and the couple decide to leave the party for any period of time. Make sure you have the planner’s contact information and can send them a text so no one ends up in a panic over a missing bride and groom.
5. Don’t go hungry. This might seem like a no brainer, but figure out a time to eat. When you’re shooting an all-day event like a wedding, it can be easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle and forget to keep yourself fed. During your initial meeting with the planner, make sure you talk about the eating schedule. As the photographer, you’ll generally get to eat after the rest of the guests are served, so make sure you have enough time to sit down and take a breather before the next photo opp occurs.
If toasts or the first dance is set to take place as soon as people get their food and you don’t have time to eat with everyone else, talk to the planner about setting aside a plate of food for you. That way, you’ll be able to get all of the necessary shots and will still be able to enjoy your meal whenever you get a few minutes of down time. If it doesn’t look like there’s going to be enough time in the schedule for you to sit down for more than five minutes, bring extra sustenance with you to snack on throughout the day to keep your energy high.
The most important thing to remember when working with a wedding planner is to be patient and understanding, but also firm. Wedding planners have not only the photographer to think about, but also the venue, florist, caterer, and endless other responsibilities. Respect that person’s time, and they will respect yours. Make your needs heard, clearly and early on. And be friendly – you guys are in this together.