Ask The Expert- Photographer Jeff Haden: Avoiding Wedding-Day Pitfalls

Posted by Azure on September 1st, 2009
About Jeff Haden of Blackbird Images

The Q:We are planning our wedding and worried about helping the photographers do their jobs well so we get the best pictures we can. What mistakes do you see couples make and what could they have done differently when planning their weddings so their photos turn out better? Maria L. The A:

I have to admit this is a loaded question, since we take pride in making sure couples don’t make mistakes that affect their wedding photographs– and if the unexpected happens we do everything possible to overcome it.

The keys to avoiding photography issues– and in fact any other wedding day issues – are planning and time. If your schedule falls apart it’s tough to find time to get the photos you want.

Here are some of the more common pitfalls: • Your hair and makeup runneth over. At the risk of upsetting hair stylists and makeup artists, this is the most common cause of pre-service delays. Do a dry run ahead of time – you can ensure you’ll get what you want and you can also get a sense of just how long doing the process will take. Then make sure everyone knows the schedule, and ask one of your bridesmaids to be the “time check” person: Every 15 minutes or so have her say, “Okay, ladies, 45 minutes until we all have to be completely ready….” That way everyone – especially service providers – will stay on track. Time lost before the service usually comes out of the time you budgeted for semi-formal pre-ceremony photos with family, bridesmaids, etc. • The post-ceremony “black hole.” Ceremony complete, you and your wedding party walk down the aisle, exchange lots of hugs, and move back in to do formal photos once the church clears. But if you don’t have a strategy for avoiding most of your guests… you’ll get sucked into a post-ceremony black hole almost impossible to escape that can ruin your schedule. Slip into a side room, exit the church and head around to the back… create a plan to keep the wedding party and key family members away from the gravitational pull of guests. It’s okay; you’ll get a chance to greet and accept congratulations from everyone at the reception. • No help at the church. Someone has to remove your flowers and decorations... not to mention your clothing, makeup, leftover snacks, etc. Line up a group - hopefully made up of people who won't be in your post-ceremony formal photos – to take care of clearing the church and “get ready” rooms immediately after the service. By the time you're done with formals they'll be done with the church... and off to the reception you all go, right on schedule. If you have to pitch in something will give… and that something is usually photo time. • Ignoring light and location. Granted this one isn’t time or schedule related but it has a major effect on your photos. Say you want photos of you with your bridesmaids before the service. But you don’t want any guests to see you (not just your fiancée – any guests) so the only option is to use a narrow, dark hallway in the church basement. (Why are church basements always so gloomy?) No matter what we do the photos won’t look great. A good wedding photographer deals well with light and location challenges, but if we only have five minutes to squeeze everyone in and take ten different photo combinations without supplemental light… neither of us will be delighted with the results.

To avoid this we scout locations ahead of time and make recommendations. Our favorite move is to slip you outside to a relatively private but pretty spot for five or ten minutes; if we do your “side” first, only the early-bird guests will see you (and if they do, who cares? They’ll just tell you how beautiful you look.) Then you have space, better backgrounds, and a lot better light – and you get better photos as a result. • Forgetting about you. Say your schedule slips and you only have five minutes for your photos before you’re supposed to leave for the reception. Invariably our couples sacrifice “their” time so they won’t make guests wait. That’s an admirable attitude… and invariably those same couples later wish they’d taken a few extra minutes to get more photos of themselves. And even if the schedule doesn’t slip, many couples fail to plan ten, fifteen, or twenty minutes into the schedule for posed photos of themselves after all the other formals are done. Years from now what will you regret more: Having “forced” guests to drink, eat great appetizers, and mingle for ten extra minutes (wow, what a hardship), or not having lots of great posed and candid photos of you and your husband together on your wedding day? Hey, Savvy Scoopers!- continue to send your best wedding photography questions to, and please put “Ask the Expert- Photography” in the subject line. Jeff has got those expert answers to save the day!

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