Photographers aren't like wedding planners. They see things at a wedding through a completely different prism. And that's the whole point of hiring a professional, seasoned wedding photographer -- because brides and grooms want the best possible pictures of the biggest day they've celebrated yet. Right? Of course they do.
However, at the same time, my clients really want amazing pictures, they have to make sure that the photographer they've hired will present himself or herself with the level of professionalism that should be conveyed to their wedding guests.
While the photographer is behind his or her own camera lens and won't appear in formal wedding pictures, he or she will be very visible in the background of all the pictures that friends, family and wedding planners take on the big day. And let's face it, we see more of those than we do the real pictures that get posted weeks later.
The following five tips are dedicated to all those photographers out there who may be committing some of the cardinal sins I've identified while planning almost 500 weddings in seven years -- take these tips to heart because professional wedding planners like me are advising your potential clients to watch out for these bugaboos. If we see them happen at one of our weddings, we'll probably advise them not to hire you.
1) Dress appropriately. Seriously. Where in God's name did any wedding photographer or videographer get the idea it was okay to wear shorts to take pictures at a wedding? It's not okay. You don't have to wear a dress or a suit (that's impractical for your job and you'll die in the tropical heat if you're shooting someplace warm), but you should be dressed in a manner that doesn't stand out to the wedding guests. We recently had a really talented guest photographer (that means the clients chose her and she'd never worked a wedding with our company before) who wore bright orange shorts and a sleeveless white top to shoot the wedding. I'd like to forget it because it looked so bad, but I can't because those shorts stand out in the background of every picture she didn't personally take. Tacky tacky tacky. Vendors should blend in with the background or the guests.
2) Find out where to stow your gear, change your batteries, download your pics, and take a break before the event begins -- there is a staff room somewhere. It is NEVER appropriate to park yourself in the middle of the venue at a coffee table (or worse, I saw it happen on the floor outside the main restroom once) to do the technical things that the clients should never see.
3) NEVER share the wedding photos (on an iPad, tablet, or other electronic device) during the wedding reception. I've now seen it happen twice in a year -- guest photographers who downloaded the ceremony pics to an iPad and then started circulating it at the dinner table at the wedding reception. In one case, nobody was listening to the toasts because they were all looking at pictures. This is a totally gratuitous move by a novice photographer who is desperate for affirmation that her pictures look good. For God's sake, these guests just saw the wedding live and in person, they do not need to see your pictures during the event. It's distracting and inappropriate. If they like your work when the bride and groom share it, they'll get in touch with you. But gratuitous self-promotion at a wedding is vulgar and frankly, you should be giving the bride a discount if you're using her wedding to advertise.
4) Do not set out your business cards anywhere at the wedding or reception. If we see it, we toss them in the garbage without even asking you. God forbid a guest sees it. That's as bad as having at tip jar on the bar, or worse! Again, if anybody wants to hire you, they will ask the bride for your contact information. A wedding is not an opportunity to advertise -- go spend the money for a booth at a bridal show if you need more business. Your clients paid you to take pictures, not build your business. Do that with the beautiful pictures you've taken AFTER the wedding is over.
5) Work with the wedding planner before you even arrive at the wedding. You should have received a schedule in advance and if you haven't, you have an obligation to get in touch and ask for one. Don't arrive expecting anybody to have time to tell you what's going on at the 11th hour. Planners appreciate communication and are happy to share all the details with you ahead of time. Take advantage of that. Also remember that if you've never worked with a specific wedding planning company or in this destination before, you are walking in on a team of folks who work together every wedding. We have the ability to make your life as easy -- or as difficult -- as we like. If you're not nice, we'll simply be professional, but not helpful. Nine out of 10 wedding couples forget to make arrangements to feed dinner to their out-of-town vendors like photographers and videographers. You know who takes care of that? The wedding planning team. I totally guarantee you that if you treat the "regulars" with respect, they'll make sure you're taken care of and have a warning before every new event that's about to take place. That can mean the difference between getting a chance to pee in between things you must photograph and getting a tap on the shoulder 20 seconds before the bride and groom make their entrance.
Okay brides and grooms, now you know what to watch out for. And the photographers have been made aware that you're looking. Pay attention to these details at other weddings you attend if you think you're getting married soon. Ask to see candids taken by guests at the wedding too so you can see if the photographer appears to be an asset or a liability in the background. You can find most of this by creeping Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, but if you're really doing your homework, you should be checking references of any photographer who didn't come with your wedding planner's endorsement.
Let me make something perfectly clear to all of you who are outraged and ready to flame me -- here at Weddings in Vieques, we LOVE to meet and work with new photographers and videographers. If you look good, you make us look good because nobody knows if we referred you or the bride found you randomly online. Many photographers and videographers end up on our recommended vendors list after a successful event. But woe to he (or she) who shows up at one of my weddings dressed for a picnic or planning to advertise their services to the guests. I may not be able to change your clothes, but I can make damned sure you never ever work for another one of my brides in the future.
Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!