Preparing for a wedding day
Do any of you out there NOT get nervous before a wedding? I've been shooting weddings for over 14 years now -- 200+ weddings and counting -- and I STILL get nervous. Every. Single. Time.

After all ...

There's only one chance to get this right.

My clients are paying me a lot of money and putting all their eggs in my basket.

And personally, more than anything, I want this to be THE BEST WEDDING I'VE EVER PHOTOGRAPHED.

No pressure, right? :)

Today I'm going to share 7 steps I take to prepare to knock it out of the park for my clients. This is my pre-game routine. How I get in the zone to be as creative and connected to my clients on their wedding day as I can possibly be.

1 -- Gear Prep
This is the most obvious and boring step. But it's got to be done. I have a gear-prep list on my Workflow Checklist and my office manager completes it 1-2 days before the wedding. She cleans lenses, charges batteries, formats cards, makes sure everything is accounted for and in it's rightful place. So on the morning of the wedding, I just check everything over and make sure I have some of the creative tools I've recently started using to help me create even more beautiful images for my clients: A step stool, mrs. boxes, styling boards, and plenty of film. I pre-load my 5 film inserts and make sure I have a few snacks packed as well. If rain is in the forecast, I grab my clear umbrellas and camera rain jacket as well. If you'd like to see a full list of my gear, click here!

2 -- Review Timeline & notes
I use my Wedding Info Sheet to review all of the most pertinent info I need for the wedding day, including the basic photography timeline. I also carry the more detailed timeline provided by the planner with me for reference. It's key for me to review these, as well as any notes I have from the planner or clients, so that the game plan for the day is fresh in my mind. This also allows me to think through my strategy for where I might want my 2nd shooter to be at different times throughout the day in order to ensure that everything is well covered.

3 -- Get Inspired
Looking at beautiful and emotional imagery inspires me to get out there and create! I personally LOVE the dreamy look of medium format film photography, so when I want to get inspired and in a creative mindset, I like to look at a few Pinterest boards I have created, as well as the #contax645 hashtag on Instagram. I set aside about 30 minutes the morning of a wedding to do this. I've learned the hard way not to get into this creative space the night before, or I end up not getting a good night sleep because I'm so excited. Turns out the timing of getting inspired: super-key.

4 -- Set one goal
Getting inspired is great, but I've found that if I'm not focused, I end up being overwhelmed with ideas. This step of setting one goal for the day was especially relevant for me when I was first starting out. There are SO MANY things that we need to master as photographers on a wedding day: our camera settings, our focus, lighting, putting our clients at ease, composition, posing, and the list goes on (with multiple facets to each area). So as I seek to grow as an artist and photographer, I like to pick ONE THING to work on mastering per shoot. Typically I'm inspired by the results of my last shoot when selecting an opportunity for growth. (Translation: I'm mad at myself for something I could have done better, and determined to improve.) Keeping this one thing in the forefront of my mind during my next shoot and repeating this process over time has helped me to methodically improve my craft throughout my career. So for instance -- whereas at first, a newer photographer might need to focus on their camera settings in order to nail their exposure in camera, once they have mastered this technique, it becomes second nature and they can use that mental energy to focus on mastering another skill like looking for great light. We can TRY to do everything well all at once, and that is the ultimate goal, but I've found that if I pick one thing and focus on that one thing, I can master it much more quickly and see true growth over time.

5 -- Create a short personal shot list
I don't love to work from a long shot list. But I understand the purpose of one. I like to know what unique details and traditions are important to my clients going into the day. Having notes on these things is VERY helpful, and I use my Final Details Questionnaire to gather them from my clients. But I also like to make my own personal shot list. As I'm thinking through the day, the venue, and the couple, and looking at images for inspiration, I like to make a list of 2-3 poses that aren't ones I often use, and make a note to try them. Sometimes if I know there will be a fun detail available, I think through how I might want to style it. I try to keep this list short, but it is helpful in that it allows me to visualize ahead of time a few images that will push me creatively. I try to be very fluid and creative as I shoot, but having a few poses or ideas in mind to try that are out of the norm for me, helps me to change things up and keep my work fresh.

6 -- Team Pow-wow
On the wedding day, I like to meet up with my team (my 2nd photographer and non-shooting assistant) for lunch. My treat. Making sure to fuel our bodies before the long day ahead is key, but we also use this time to communicate and strategize. During lunch I review the timeline with my team and let them know as much as I can about the wedding day, the vendors we are working with, and our couple. I like to read through the couples' Getting To Know You Questionnaire so we can all collectively get into the space of understanding our clients and what is important to them about their day. Leaving this lunch with a clear and defined plan of action for the day ahead is SO helpful!

7 -- Scout
After lunch we head to the venue and arrive at least 30 minutes early. Even if I've shot at the venue in the past, I like to take a pass over the property to look for new locations, see what the light looks like that day, and take a roll of scene-setting photos that will really show off the location that the couple has chosen. During this time I like to use my Sun Seeker app to predict where the sun will be in the sky during the time of the first look and family portraits and then select a location that will work well for each. I know many photographers do this in advance, but I like to do it the day-of, because the light is the most important consideration in this choice, and it can vary by season, time of day, and based on weather. So it's impossible to predict in advance and I've found the best time to make these types of choices is on the wedding day itself.

This pre-game routine has become so key for me in doing my absolute best for each client on their wedding day. I hope you've found something here that you can implement for your next wedding!

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For photographers - 7 things I do to get ready to shoot a wedding
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