While we all have different approaches to wedding photography, most of us share the goal of telling the story of the day. Storytelling with a camera can be very difficult to do when trying to keep up with the latest industry trends or top the last epic wedding you shot. To truly tell a story, we as photographers need to enter the day with zero expectations. Zero expectations of getting the iconic portrait or of capturing the crying dad when he first sees his daughter. What true storytellers need to do is be prepared to document the events unfolding in front of them with as much emotional and visual impact as possible. How do we accomplish this? It all starts with the connection with the client which will drive us to want to tell their story.
First things first, we always meet our clients face-to-face for consultations before they hire us. This is not a difficult thing to make happen these days as almost everyone has used FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc. This may sound elementary, but the number of photographers who meet their clients on the day of the wedding is staggering! During our face-to-face, we discuss wedding planning and such, but more importantly, we always make sure to speak about things unrelated to the wedding. We ask a few fun questions to get them to open up to us as individuals, not as a couple. We get to know people really well by just a few minutes of conversation and genuine interest for them as people.
The second and most important thing we do to further our relationship is that we do not limit the hours of coverage on our couples’ wedding day. We start when they start, and we end when they end. Why do we do this? Why “give away” our time for free? Even our prospective clients ask us this question and most think we are nuts until we explain. Arriving early in the morning allows us time to get to know the wedding party and immediate family. This is the time we can candidly shoot and chat a bit, get to know each other, and begin to break down walls. Also, let’s be honest, the story of their day starts when they do, not when the photographer does. Early mornings are also when the most important people of the wedding day get comfortable with us being around. They get to experience how we work, which is up close and personal. Being close is difficult to pull off with someone you haven’t said two words to, but it is imperative to our ability to tell the story of the day. By the time the ceremony rolls around, we are almost invisible to the couple, their friends and their family. We have been with them for probably 5 to 6 hours by this point and we have been shooting the entire time. As far as staying until the end is concerned, we happen to love the end of the party. Alcohol produces some of the most unbridled excitement of the entire day and everyone’s guard is down during those last moments of the night!
This leads us to how it affects our storytelling. Between our consultations, planning calls, and early morning shooting, our clients trust us 1000% and want us around. Not only are they comfortable with us being there, but their family & friends are also as well. This is what allows us to be in the action with our clients without being noticed or influencing what is happening. We could be three feet from an emotional moment and it is indeed a real moment. We could also be shooting from out of sight and they trust that we know what we are doing. We have access to parts of the day we might not have if we did not have that trust. Your clients will not only be able to see their day and be reminded of what it looked like, but they will also be able to recollect exactly how they felt. We get emotionally invested in our clients during the early portion of the day which helps us focus on the story at hand and not what we might be expecting to happen. This is how we tell the real story and not the one we want to see.
As wedding photographers, we must remember that although the day is about the bride and groom, it is also about the people who mean most to them in the world. We have the responsibility to document the day from multiple points of view. Without building trust with our clients and their families this is almost impossible to do effectively. Anyone will be able to tell the difference between someone who is shooting from a spectator’s point of view versus someone who was shooting from an insider’s point of view. If you want to be an amazing storyteller, you must walk on that fine line of being close to the action, but not a part of it.
We love getting close to the moments with our cameras, but first, you must get close to your clients and build a great relationship.