Wedding photography is not for perfectionists. As a means of expression it is fraught with compromise, in fact to be successful in this field it is vital that a photographer accepts that there are immense stresses and strains at work in every wedding day and you have to strike a balance between them and your own needs.
I think of it like a seesaw. On one side there are the things I need to do my very best work. These include time, light, opportunity, co-operation, and setting. On the other there are all the challenges the day throws at you that undermine your efforts. Examples include; a gloomy church with a vicar who won’t let you use flash, a bride running half an hour late, pouring rain, a drunk groom, ‘Uncle Bob‘, and the wedding car breaking down. Sadly, on this side of the seesaw the list of things that tip the balance away from you is virtually endless.
So what can you do to help strike an even keel between these competing pressures and give yourself greater scope to make the very best of the day for the bride and groom?
First and foremost you have to educate the bride and groom by understanding their requirements and managing their expectations. Make sure you have run through your game plan for the day with them and clearly outlined what you will need and when. Make clear your requirements of time, space, and light well in advance. After all, they want you to be able to do your best work so they are highly likely to accommodate any reasonable requests.
The next thing you can do is to be confident in your skills and equipment. There is a reason that pro cameras cost as much as they do, it is because they are engineered to excel in even the worst conditions so by investing in the gear and making sure you know how to use it you give yourself tremendous flexibility.
It is also really helpful to have a clear understanding of the where the wedding will be taking place. I visit all venues before I shoot there and this helps me develop a solid backup plan for terrible weather, spot the areas of open shade and talk to the staff about where they would recommend to take the couple. Never be afraid to talk to the staff, they are always happy to help point out the sweet spot for photographs!
Finally it doesn’t hurt to keep a few props in the car. As I mentioned here voile is outrageously useful as an impromptu high key backdrop or diffuser for a speed light so you can create some beautifully lit scenes with it. Also having a few Edwardian style parasols can make for some very dramatic images with the wet weather.
So, to return to the earlier (and now slightly tortured) analogy some weddings are going to tip your way, some very much against you. Once you have accepted this and start to plan for every eventuality you can rig things in your favour. Of course there are no guarantees but one thing is for sure, the better prepared you are the luckier you will be.