Weddings & Life Podcast with Taylor Nicole, a podcast by Denver Wedding Photographer, Taylor Nicole Photography
Trusting your photographer is the MOST important key to receiving gorgeous, creative and intentional wedding imagery. And as I will go on to explain in this episode micro managing your photographer will not leave them room to be creative and do what they do best. In this episode I will break down what it looks like to trust and give your photographer creative freedom while capturing your wedding day, and alternatives to the long itemized shot lists or random wedding Pinterest boards. From my own experience as a wedding photographer the trust of my clients is what allows me to create my very best work on wedding days. I will actually dare to say that trust from clients is even more important than the skill or talent level of the photographer themself.
I had a hard time deciding what the first episode of season two should focus on. I have easily 25 episodes to record and publish this year but I wanted to makes sure I started out strong. I had some easy to write topics about engagement sessions and how to prepare for different parts of your wedding day almost ready to go but this topic of trusting your photographer kept coming back to mind.
What does it mean to trust your photographer?
I have photographed almost 250 weddings now, 241 to be exact. I have photographed so many different styles and in different settings. The weddings I look back on knowing confidently I was able to give my best and most creative work while photographing were the couples that trusted me completely on the day. What does that mean? In a nutshell it means telling me as their photographer – “I love your work, your style and I am so excited for you to capture my day. Do whatever you want we’re down for anything.”
Trust does NOT look like this…
And it does NOT look like this- ‘here is my Pinterest board of 378 images that are vaguely wedding related and not cohesive to your style at all, as inspiration’… or the intensive list of every single image you would like to have taken from getting ready through the reception… This sort of list is about 3 typed pages long and includes things like ‘the first kiss’ during the ceremony, or ‘photo of bride with groom’ and many more quote unquote obvious images to take.
Now here is the thing. I am a type A personality and business owner. I love lists. I love making lists about lists I want to make in the future. I have a separate notebook for daily lists that I focus on during the work week. I am by no means anti-list and I completely see where clients are coming from thinking hmm I bet it’s a great idea to give our photographer a shot list.
Also a note about these lists- often times when couples find a list its sort of clickbait from Pinterest. Like an article or pin titled ‘100 must have wedding photos’, or ‘the ultimate wedding photography list’ or even worse a pin that says ‘don’t let your wedding photographer miss these photos’ or something along those lines. Then the couple ends up clicking through, copy and pasting the list to a document. Probably skimming over the list and thinking that looks good and sending it over to the photographer who then on the other side of that email will have a mini heart attack when receiving the list. Okay that might be a bit dramatic but still not completely made up.
But after being at over 240 weddings I have a pretty dang good idea that I should get a picture of the first kiss. In fact I would be very nervous if I did miss it, which has never happened by the way. So why it might not seem like a ‘bad idea’ to give your photographer a HUGE list it can actually be a sign of distrust and a distraction.
Shot lists show distrust and are a distraction
Let’s break those down-
- A sign of distrust- even if you don’t mean it that way handing over a list of 107 key shots means that you might not think we are capable of capturing the key moments of your day. It shows a need to step into our specialty and roll and try to take a small portion of control. Or a large portion. And trust me when I say I know this is rarely how the list was meant to come across. Sometimes certain wedding planners will force a list on the couple and make them customize it and share with the photographer.
- A shot list is a distraction- I’m not sure how easy it is to imagine being a wedding photographer for a day but let me try to describe it to you. From the moment we arrive and set up our gear we usually have people coming to us asking ‘when are these photos’ or ‘what do you need?’ Or ‘Will you get a shot of this moment’ and at the same time we are also preparing and then single handedly running your wedding day photo timeline. Yes we know exactly when we need to take the bridesmaid and bride in robe picture and when the bride should start getting dressed and when we should set up the father of the bride for a father daughter first look and so on for the rest of the day. So balancing all of our normal tasks and mental timing along with an intensive and foreign physical list is next to impossible.
Alternatives to the list…
So what is the alternative? Instead of trying to micromanage a photographer what does it take to build and live our that trust on your wedding day. Things like communicating your vision while you’re planning and then creating or talking about a few key must have shots. I can’t say what this looks like for every photographer but here is my process-
My process of building trust with my clients
Throughout the planning process whether that is a year or just 6 months I encourage my couples to email me with any questions that I might be able to answer. I also send out guides and helpful pieces of information and create a custom timeline idea with them. Then about 2 months before the wedding day I ask my clients to set up a final check in phone call with me. This usually lasts about 30 – 45minutes where we break down the entire wedding day and talk it over. I ask questions like ‘who do you want in the room while you’re putting on your wedding dress’ so I can kindly create that quiet moment for the bride while she is getting ready. Or things like when will your flowers arrive or what time will your family be there. I give tips like what to do if rain or snow are possibilities in the forecast.
And during this final check in call the couple will tell me about any key moments during portions of the day and we even talk through the family photo list, which I will get into later, that is the one list I actually beg for! To help navigate tricky family situations. I also think this call is a big reason I don’t receive many full day photo lists anymore because I basically set myself up as the wedding timeline expert and they trust me to help them navigate the day and they can be hands off and fully present in the moment.
Try Your Top Three
So I think instead of a full day don’t miss these moments list- try a very short list of maybe 3 images you’d love to have from your photographer. Like if you could ONLY have three pictures to represent your wedding day what would they be? Obviously you will end up with much more than just three, but this helps focus or center on your values and photo priorities. Here are a few examples of some must have image ideas-
- The exit from the ceremony. Tell your photographer that you’re planning to dip and kiss half way down the aisle to get a fun photo op with all of your guests around you.
- A classic editorial posed portrait of the two of you together. A lot of my clients would like a posed classic image of the two of them together. A little drama meets wedding day classic.
- A wide angle photo of the two of you in your environment or venue. Something that could be a canvas picture that the two of you appear small in that captures your day with the environment.
- A recreation photograph from your parents or grandparents wedding- this is a good one to have a specific photo example because having one photo to re-create is not bad! Maybe cutting the cake or entering the reception ect. It means so much to us to re-create a moment that has significance your family history.
- An under the veil picture, a pick up and twirl, a classic dip kiss ect. We don’t need to know every pose you’d like but if there were a select few that you’re dying to try then maybe fit time into a top three sort of post!
- A picture with a certain family member. Note that you’re probably going to make a family portrait list, but if a photo of just you and your grandpa was really important then it could make the top three too
You don’t need to include normal wedding pictures in this list. Your photographer probably knows to get a photo of your first kiss, or a photo of the whole bridal party together. Those are very general and most photographers won’t need to be reminded to get those.
I hope those examples help a bit. I’d really think about a top three must have list if you’re wanting to guarantee a few images from your photographer. I also feel like a top three list is memorizable for the photographer and not overwhelming or micromanaging.
Things to remember when communicating…
It also never hurts to reassure your photographer if this top three list is coming out of no where, like a new email weeks or months before your wedding day. Just adding something like ‘we love your work and cannot wait for you to do what you do best in capturing our wedding day. Here are three photos we are most excited about and would love to have if possible from our wedding day’
I did want to note that engagement sessions are definitely a great way to build trust and confidence in your photographer. I would say another great way to get a top three list is to reference specific images from your engagement session with them that you love. If you had your engagement portraits taken by a different photographer you could still attach a few for reference but it’s not as easy as if they were taken by the same photographer.
I mentioned a few other things earlier that I wanted to touch on, just so you can see the heart behind not micro managing and building that trust with your photographer.
- A pinterest board- once again a Pinterest board is pretty similar to a categorized list- I don’t know about your Pinterest board but mine tend to get filled with random photos that sometimes hardly relate to the topic. Unless you’re extremely organized with your Pinterest boards I would not recommend sharing those. We also never really know what you like about each pin. The editing, coloring, location, pose, mood and so on. If you do feel the need to send specific examples I would recommend clarifying what you like about certain pins.
An alternative to Pinterest board sharing would be a mood board. Sometimes you work with your wedding planner to create these. I have considered working on these with my clients and just haven’t figured out how to put that into my workflow just yet. A mood board would be a collaged group of images that reflect your wedding day feel.
Please keep in mind that your photographer’s style- as in how they typically pose and edit- is something you hired them for. I don’t know any photographers who change their style for their clients. So if you hired a light and airy photographer but are pinning dark and moody images there might be a disconnect there.
Basically as artists we want to make sure you are happy with the work that we provide and do our best in for you. Our whole heart goes into our editing and delivery of images for you.
An alternative to a mood board would be having vision words- these are a bit more vague I suppose but knowing that you want intimate and ethereal imagery or light hearted and candid imagery are different. First of all both are just tones and mood of the posing so not specifically one style or another. For intimate and ethereal I would focus on a bit more posed, still, close images with an occasionally serious editorial flare vs light hearted and candid will involve more movement and giggles.
Here are some vision words that might help you describe the mood or style of imagery you’re looking for
- emotion filled
- light hearted
- elegant and classy
Those are just what came from the top of my head I am sure there are documents out there that really explore the mood of photography and imagery you like. If you can look into these styles and choose some before you hire the photographer that could be helpful as you inquire and interview photographers for their style.