When I first got started in this fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants world of wedding photography, nobody ever gave me an instruction manual on how to do it “properly”. I never assisted any of the real seasoned professionals, and Google was really the only teacher I ever had. So when one of our very first clients asked if we could guarantee a delivery of 2000 images for 8 hours of coverage, I didn’t even flinch. Despite my lack of professional due diligence and proper research, I was convinced that her request was totally within reason. Should’ve been a piece of cake, right?
Now fast forward to the wedding day. Due to a confluence of unfortunate events (inclement weather, a very late bride, etc, etc….), our “actual” coverage time was now condensed to roughly 6 hours. As I looked at my image counter towards the end of the evening, I was shocked to find myself at only 750(ish) total images. Breathe. Don’t panic. Karis wasn’t doing much better with only 500(ish) images. Okay…panic mode. If we didn’t know any better, we could’ve sworn our cameras were eating our images!
We started gathering all the guests as quickly as we could and setting them up randomly for casual group shots…in triplicate fashion. We moved the table centerpieces into at least 20 gazillion different configurations for at least 40 gazillion different compositions. We even started taking pictures of the chandeliers from all the crazy angles we could possibly think of. We chased the kids, the elderly and pretty much anything that moved. In short, we were just spraying and praying everything in sight, hoping that we would eventually end up with the magic number that we had promised to our clients.
So the great news was that we miraculously ended up with 2500 images that night. The bad news? 2000 of it was just complete and utter crap.
I made all kinds of excuses for my underwhelming performance that night: poor lighting, Uncle Bobs getting in our way, and even our use of non-professional gear. But in the end, I absolutely understood (and accepted) that the true reason for my failures was my undeniable lack of experience. I had set unrealistic goals for myself and my clients, and I hadn’t manage my clients’ expectations properly. The only regret I have till this day was delivering all the other terrible images in order to meet my self-imposed quota, quite possibly diluting the perceived quality of all our other well-composed, thoughtful compostions of their wedding day.
Fast forward to the present day, we now wield an impressive arsenal of professional gear and I feel like we have a pretty good handle on most Uncle Bobs we may encounter :). But even more importantly, we’ve become pretty adept at predicting our yields just based on the wedding day itinerary alone. While our final yield isn’t exactly what some of our couples may like to hear (which I believe is somewhere in the ballpark of 5000 images), we tell them that we’ll yield anywhere between 400-700 images on a typical wedding day (with the vast majority of our clients receiving somewhere in the ballpark of 500-800).
While a photographer’s rationale of “quality over quantity” is absolutely valid (and we whole-heartedly stand by that assessment as well), there are some minor tweaks that couples can do to squeeze a few more images out of their wedding day:
1. Schedule the photographer to arrive during prep.
Some of the most raw and emotional moments of a wedding day happen before the bride puts on her dress or when the groom re-adjusts his tie for the umpteenth time. Depending on the photographer, these images will also be the most unique part of the day for the couple, compared to the gazillion of wedding images out there in the universe.
2. Schedule some downtime into the itinerary throughout the day.
Because solo portraits rock, and flustered brides generally don’t enjoy having their pictures taken :).
3. Consider doing a first-look.
We realize it’s not for everyone. But look at it this way, taking all the requisite photos beforehand will allow the newlyweds to enjoy all the delicious food at cocktail hour (instead of chasing down Aunt Mary and Uncle Joe for family formals). Generally speaking, this will also give us more time for portraits in addition to those heart-warming first-look photos.
4. Invite the photographer into the limo.
This is the time when the party starts winding up, and great moments and opportunities are just waiting to be captured.
5. Set aside at least 60-90 minutes for portraits.
This is one of the few moments during a wedding day where time can play a huge role in the final yield. This is simply due to the photographer’s opportunity to pose the subjects in a gazillion ways. More time = more poses = higher yield. If a videographer/cinematographer is hired, they may also need some additional time to get footage for their deliveries as well.
6. If there’s a sizable shot list for family formals, skip the receiving line if possible.
This is especially true if time is limited and the portraits are strongly requested by the couple. For a moderate guest count of 150, it could very well take 30-45 minutes for the last guest to exit the ceremony area, cutting into the time scheduled for portraits. It’s also important to consider that the guests may not be in the mood to blow bubbles if they have to wait 30-45 minutes for the newlyweds to come out.
7. Hire an experienced DJ/band/entertainment.
Photographers can capture guests dancing and laughing all night long. Candids of guests talking at their seats? Not so much :).
We realize that every wedding is different, and every couple will have a unique vision for how they’d like their special day to unfold. Some will incorporate more extravagance and elements than others, while some will be more simple and casual affairs. At the end of the day, we are simply there to capture all of that awesomeness in the time that clients give us. So the most important question here isn’t necessarily the quantity of the final delivery, but whether or not the wedding photographer missed anything at all.
We sincerely hope (for everyone’s sake!) that the answer is a resounding “No” :).
We hope many of you are enjoying this 3-day weekend. By the time you read this, we’ll be on a plane to Aruba for our second wedding of 2013! Got more questions? Drop us a line below or email us at ben[at]benlauphotography.com.
See you guys on the flip side,
Ben & Karis