I often get questions from clients regarding the etiquette behind feeding vendors and specifically photographers on a wedding day. I understand where these clients are coming from - if they didn't hire a planner, the only guidance they will typically get regarding this issue comes from the catering manager at their venue. In this post, I am going to share my thoughts and a few tips regarding feeding your photographers.
1. # of photographers? Each photography team varies, so it's good to ask your photographer how many people will be on the team for your wedding. I always have a team of 3 people at each wedding - me, a 2nd photographer and a non-shooting assistant.
2. Coverage time/ Which meals? It's important to factor in the amount of time the photography team will be shooting and determine which meals this time will span. For a typical wedding, we start before or around lunch time and shoot for 9 hours until well after dinner. If your photographer doesn't state in the contract their expectations regarding meals, it is a good idea to just ask in advance. We always provide lunch ourselves - usually we pick up Subway on the way to the wedding or I will send my assistant out to grab our team lunch while the second shooter and I continue shooting. We do ask the client to provide our team of three with dinner during the reception however.
3. Guest or vendor meal The client generally has a choice between providing hot meals identical to what the guests are eating or providing us with vendor meals. Vendor meals are a less expensive option and can range from a boxed meal consisting of a lunchmeat sandwich, apple and chips to something warm but more basic than what the guests are being served. This choice is up to the client. One thing to keep in mind when deciding what to feed your photographers is that your photography team has typically been working for 6 hours straight without eating when the reception rolls around. We are thankful for ANY food at this point, but a hot meal really hits the spot. Sometimes I wish I didn't have to eat on a wedding day - that way I could just focus and stay in the zone - but unfortunately, I'm human. Food will help your photography team get a much needed boost in energy so they can finish the night strong.
4. Special diets When you ask your photographer how many people will be working with them at your wedding, another great question to throw in is if any of them have any food allergies or sensitivities. I happen to be lactose intolerant. Usually it's not an issue - there is typically something dairy-free on the plate that I can eat - but there have been a few weddings where the food is extremely dairy-centric. It's not a life-or-death issue. But it's something that's easy to ask and make note of for your caterers.
5. When & where? Near the beginning of the reception, my assistant typically checks in with the catering manager regarding when and where our team will be eating. The answer we usually get is "after the guests are served & in a room down the way." While this answer makes sense at first glance, it is problematic logistically. The catering manager has things set up this way because the guests are more important than the photographers. And I completely agree. The issue is, if we start eating after the guests are done being served, we don't have time to eat. We need to be up and shooting the continuing events of the reception. The other issue is, if we eat down the hall in another room, we will likely miss events that we need to be shooting. We need to be in the same vicinity as the reception while we're eating in case we need to jump up and shoot a toast or a dance. In my experience, catering and venue managers just don't understand this. It's frustrating. We do our best to work with their rules, but logistically these rules make it difficult to do our job AND eat food. Given the choice between one or the other, I do my job. So there have been times where I ended up shooting entire receptions without eating. I survive. But I'm not able to perform at the height of my ability.
One thing you could do to ensure that your photographers won't miss any events at your reception, is to ask the catering or venue manager to serve them at the beginning of the meal in a location in or right outside the doors of the ballroom. I know it sounds weird, but one of my favorite places to be is in a corner of the ballroom on the floor. We're definitely out of the way, but we are able to jump up at a moments notice when the DJ or emcee announces the next event.
Those are all my tips on feeding your photographers! Definitely let me know if you have anything to add in the comments!
I recently photographed a local wedding for a couple who planned the entirety of their wedding from another country. They found me on weddingwire.com, which isn't a source that I typically get a lot of referrals from, but I was thrilled when they booked me because the bride seemed so great over email. She didn't ask for referrals for other vendors, so I was pleasantly surprised when I ended up working with some of the top vendors in each category in the Phoenix area for her wedding -- most all of them my friends who I have worked with many times before. I was so impressed that she was able to plan her wedding from afar and amass such a stellar team of vendors, that I decided to pick her brain, as well as the brains of other past brides to find out how they found the vendors they ended up loving to work with.
I've never planned a wedding myself, but it's got to be incredibly challenging on a multitude of levels. I can imagine being completely unfamiliar with the wedding industry and knowing that there are thirty options for florists, twenty options for wedding planners, fifty options for DJs, and hundreds of options in 10 other categories that I need to fill, and being completely overwhelmed. Top that off with my desire to pick the PERFECT choice in every category, and I would be a soon-to-be bride that you would find in a puddle on the floor, unable to function. When you are doing research to hire a service provider you have never hired before for something as important as your wedding, how do you know who you can trust?
Here are some tips from some of my past brides who have been there:
-Obviously make sure you are drawn to their website and portfolio online. But don't just stop there. If you have the opportunity to meet with vendors, do so. It is so important to find out if you "click." If you can't meet in person, chat over Skype or at the very least on the phone. You can learn so much more from a conversation with a vendor than you can online.
-Ask everyone you know for good referrals. If you know someone whose word you can trust who has worked with them before, that goes a long way in building your confidence in them. But don't assume that just because your friend worked with a certain vendor that they had a good experience. Make sure to talk with them to find out what their experience was like.
-If you are planning from afar, it's great if you can have someone on the ground locally to screen your top choices from your online research through in-person meetings. If you don't have a relative or friend available to do this, hire a planner to help. It is especially important to do this in the case of picking a wedding location. Photos can be deceiving. On a venue's website, you won't see what's next door, what the parking situation is, if there is a cow farm down the road that smells, etc.
-If you hire one vendor who is well-established in the area and you trust them, ask for their recommendations. A good wedding planner is especially well-suited to help you find a stellar vendor team because they will spend time getting to know you, your budget and your wishes and can match you with vendors who have a proven track record working with her. Plus if you use recommendations from planners or a vendor, it's more likely that your team will work well together and everything will go much smoother.
-If you keep hearing the same name over and over from various vendors, your venue's preferred vendor list, on wedding blogs, in magazines and online, that is also a great sign.
-Shy away from vendors who are uneasy talking about money. Every single one of them has to charge for their professional services and skills. It's a business. If they are uncomfortable talking about money and contracts, it's likely they are not very experienced or are hiding something.
-Look at websites like weddingwire.com and yelp.com to find online reviews. Look at the vendors who not only have the highest reviews, but the ones who have the most reviews. Although you don't know the people who are leaving the reviews, it's easy to trust the work of someone who has received 70+ 5-star reviews. That's a proven track-record.
Wow -- this is great insight! I want to thank my amazing clients who helped me out with this! You girls are the best!
If you are planning your wedding in Arizona and are looking for some amazing vendors, check out my preferred vendor list here. I've worked with all of these vendors many times and can vouch for their professionalism, team-approach and quality work!
If you're a bride who values photography, the task of picking a wedding photographer can be daunting and somewhat terrifying. After all, there are no re-dos. You're going to get married once, and you only have one shot to pick a photographer. You're spending a lot of money, and you're putting all your eggs in one basket... without being able to see the final product in advance. Yikes! Scary!!
I try to put myself in my clients' shoes when I am meeting them to talk about their photography needs. Even though I've never hired a wedding photographer myself, I think I can imagine the fear and trepidation they must feel. In addition to this, I've heard FAR TOO MANY horror stories involving wedding photographers not delivering, and newlyweds being left disappointed or heartbroken.
So, from a photographer's point of view, I thought I'd share a few tips on making this huge decision. I know it may seem that I'm a little bias (pick me! pick me!) but I honestly don't think every bride out there is right for me or me right for them. So how do you find the best wedding photographer for you?
Three simple pieces of advice:
1 - Make sure that when you view their photos, you FEEL something. You are hiring an artist with a specific eye and heart. You want to resonate with how they see and capture the world around them -- specifically relationships.
2 - Ask to view an entire wedding worth of photos -- the proofs. Any photographer can show you a slideshow of their best 50 photos they've ever shot and you will be impressed. But that won't give you a good sense for what your wedding photos will look like. You want to make sure they have good quality photos throughout the course of one entire wedding.
3 - Make sure you like them as a person. Whoever you pick to be your photographer is going to be around you and your family for many hours on the best day of your life. So you want to feel comfortable with them and most of all, be able to TRUST them.
If you make your choice for a photographer based on the above three criteria MORESO than based on price, you GREATLY increase your chances of being thrilled with the result of this once-in-a-lifetime decision.
To this date I've photographed over 150 weddings. I'm not an expert on planning a wedding day timeline by any means, but I thought it might be helpful to share, from a photographer's viewpoint, what I've experienced to be an ideal wedding day timeline. This timeline is typical for the weddings I shoot and I've experienced that it runs very smoothly and that the bride and groom seem to enjoy their day and be most stress-free when their timeline is closest to it.
First and foremost, I would HIGHLY recommend hiring a planner to help with your timeline. They ARE the true, time-tested experts. The further you get into the planning process, the more complex it becomes and you quickly realize what a beast planning a wedding can be. If you need further convincing on this matter, definitely read my top 10 reasons to hire a wedding planner. You will be so happy you did.
This is intended to be a general starting point. There are SO many factors that make each wedding unique so more than likely, any bride looking at this will have to make some tweaks. Other considerations you will have to make when nailing down your timeline include: sunset time, location/weather, the amount of time your photographer requires for portraits, transportation time (this model assumes one location), the type of reception you want and any cultural traditions or elements that will make your wedding day unique. Each of these elements will cause you to need to tweak the timeline I'm suggesting here. That's why I'm only proposing this as a starting point.
With all this said, here is what I would consider an ideal wedding day timeline (based on a sunset time of 6pm):
3:00 - bride & groom's first look/ portraits
3:30 - bridal party portraits
4:00 - family portraits
4:30 - completely done with portraits - bridal party freshens up while guests arrive
5:00 - ceremony (perfect light for an outdoor ceremony is one hour before sunset)
5:30 - cocktail hour (if you do your portraits before the ceremony you can enjoy your cocktail hour with your guests or take a few more portraits - up to you!)
6:30 - dinner reception
And here is a good starting point for a reception timeline:
6:45 - grand entrance/ first dance/ blessing
7:00 - dinner (allow guests to eat without interruption for 45 minutes)
7:45 - toasts/ special dances
8:00 - open dancing
8:30/9 - cake cutting/ more open dancing
All of my packages include 9 hours of coverage on the wedding day. So for the above timeline, I would suggest that the bride and groom have me shooting either from:
12:00 - 9:00
12:30 - 9:30
1:00 - 10:00
...depending on whether they want more getting ready photos or reception photos. When planning your getting ready schedule, brides, count backwards from when you will see the groom and start portraits (3pm in the above model) to find out when you should start getting ready. Make sure to plan in time for hair, make-up, eating lunch, transportation, getting into your dress (at least a half hour - brides perpetually underestimate this) and hang-out time. It's better to plan in more time than not enough. Oftentimes each element takes longer than you expect and you also need to leave room for the unexpected. So make sure you start early!
The key to enjoying your day is having a great plan ahead of time. That way the day will run smoothly, and the only thing you will need to focus on is being the bride and taking in every precious moment.
You are thrilled to be engaged. You interview photographers to capture your big day, looking through their portfolios to see if they have captured other wedding days in the way you envision your own being documented. You hire a talented photographer who you completely trust and are comfortable having around on the most important day of your life. The wedding day comes and goes and is all you hoped it would be. You are blissfully married.
What happens now?
It's difficult for most couples who are planning their wedding to think beyond the wedding day itself. Planning a wedding is such a HUGE endeavor that you naturally have tunnel vision, focusing only on how to make that day all that you hope it will be. But from observing my own clients, I can tell you what inevitably happens after the wedding.
You wait in eager anticipation to see the photos.
They are the one thing that allows you to hold onto that day; to savor the sweet memories and emotions that you experienced. If they are all that you hope they will be, they are the bottle that stores the love you felt for your spouse, the way he looked at you, the emotion on your dad's face as he gave you away.
Chances are, you have no idea how important seeing the photos FAST will be to you until you wake up the morning after your wedding. It's not something that many couples think about when hiring their wedding photographer. But it should be. Because at that moment in time, it's all you'll be able to think about.
Conversely, photographers who are reading this, it's of utmost importance that we strive to deliver photos in a timely manner as well as to manage our clients' expectation, so they know what to expect from us after the wedding.
I've heard too many horror stories from couples about how long they had to wait to see their photos. I've even heard stories about clients never hearing from their photographer or seeing a single photo after the wedding! These kinds of stories make me sick to my stomach, and also make me want to shout from the rooftops to encourage couples who are interviewing photographers to investigate and ask each photographer about their post-production workflow.
I recently got an email from a bride who lives across the country and has followed my work for some time. She wrote to ask my advice. She had been married this summer and a full four months after the wedding, the photographer emailed to let her know that she had just started working on the photos, and found that some of them had been destroyed by a virus on her computer and were unrecoverable. Needless to say, I was heartbroken for her. We emailed back and forth a few times and thankfully, they were able to come to a peaceable resolution with their photographer. But I asked if I could share her story and she agreed. Obviously, this is one of the worst things you can imagine happening as either a bride or a photographer. But there are some clear lessons to be learned from it.
First of all, for photographers reading this -- you have no business being entrusted with someone's wedding day if you are disorganized and unable to deliver photos in a timely fashion. This photographer had excuses about sickness, which may have been legitimate. But more than likely, she just didn't have her business in order. I know photographers are human and experience difficult life circumstances, just like everyone else. But even so, I can't see any justification for a bride and groom, in this day and age, having to wait 4 months to see their photos. And worst case scenario, if a life tragedy does strike, outsource your post-production. Pay someone else to do it so that your clients aren't left hanging. Second lesson -- back-up your files. The computer virus that destroyed the files did so 2-3 months after the wedding. So if the photographer had processed the images in a timely fashion, those images wouldn't have been lost. They also wouldn't have been lost if the photographer had backed them up. Do it the night of the wedding before you go to sleep.
For brides, the lesson is to consider each photographer's post-produciton timeline when interviewing them. It won't seem that important to you at the time, but it will be of utmost importance to you after the wedding, and may be worth paying a little extra for. We live in an age of instant gratification. I know how important it is to my clients to see the photos right away after the wedding, so I've made it a priority to streamline my post-production. This is what my clients can expect from me:
At the wedding reception: A slideshow of 30-50 of my favorites
2 days after the wedding: A blog post of some of my favorites
4 days after the wedding: An initial album design
One week after the wedding: All proofs online and available for viewing and ordering
Two weeks after the wedding: Thumb drive of high res. images (if ordered) in mail
This is super-fast turn-around by industry standards. Not every photographer will be able to deliver images this fast. But I don't see any reason why a photographer (except possibly one who shoots film) should take more than one month, at the most, to deliver online proofs. Do your research, so you don't end up as one of the horror stories.
Photographers, manage your clients' expectations and be responsible business owners. Brides, prioritize good service when interviewing photographers and find out what you can expect from them after your wedding. In doing so, we will put an end to the horror stories and hopefully, live happily ever after :).
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