When you are a new photographer it is natural to feel nervous before a shoot. You might be worried about posing the couple, understanding your camera settings, or even just connecting with your clients.
Here are ten basic tips that you can do today that can make your sessions exceptional for your clients. The first five tips are applicable before the shoot even takes place, while the last five are for during the shoot.
Couples have so much to think about when their wedding is coming up. They are often working with dozens of different vendors and constantly trying to schedule different meetings, tours, fittings, etc. It can go a long way for you to reach out first to coordinate and schedule their shoots. By you reaching out first, you are telling your clients that you are here for them and are on top of their package.
Not only should you be the first to communicate planning the shoot, you should be the first to confirm it. This means that 3-5 days before the shoot you confirm with the couple that the day, time, and place will still work for them. Don't wait until the night before the shoot to confirm that your plans are still on. By being early in communicating first, you are once again showing your clients that you care about their session and are excited.
This doesn't mean that you need to choose the outfits they wear (honestly most of us probably won't know the styles and fits they like best anyway) it just means you give them some direction. I always tell my couples to:
Bring one casual outfit and one formal outfit.
Wear neutral colors that aren't too bright or bold (i.e. don't wear neon or hot pink)
Tell them to choose colors that best match your editing style (for me that's blacks, whites, blues, and greens).
Dress according to the season. Don't wear a short spaghetti-strap dress in the snow.
Giving them this little bit of direction can help tremendously. Most couples have never done nice photos and either they won't be prepared enough or will way over-prepare.
Sending your clients to other vendors not only helps them but helps you. You build better connections with vendors in the wedding industry (which can definitely come in handy if you ever want to do styled shoots). Consider sending them recommendations for local:
Makeup Artists (If they also do hair, this is known as a "HMUA")
As a wedding photographer your clients will likely need all of the above vendors. Many of these vendors can also help prepare clients for shoots other than the wedding day itself. The more vendors your client uses, the more confident and excited they typically are for the shoot. More confident clients = better photos. Every time.
A lot of times your couples won't actually know where they want to do their photoshoot, but will generally know the kind of "look" they want. I always ask for what kind of background they want and will say, "Desert, mountains, lake, or forest?" Depending on their answer, I will send them 2-3 locations for each. This means you need to have multiple locations in mind to offer. Also remember to let them know if there are entrance fees involved with the locations you recommend.
Most of your couples are going to be anxious and excited for your shoot together, and this means they will typically arrive early. I always make it a goal to arrive 10 minutes early. Arriving early communicates that you are excited and ready to shoot with them and take them seriously. You never want to start a shoot on an awkward note because you arrived late and start with frustrated clients.
Starting with simple poses helps you and the couple ease into the shoot. I always start with easy "smiling" poses that are very natural for any couple. After that, I have five easy poses I have memorized to help me start any shoot. This always helps me get into the flow of the shoot and helps the couple feel comfortable and relaxed because the poses are all common and easy (i.e. holding hands, walking, piggy back rides, etc.).
This is by far the most important tip I can give you to help during the shoot. Having some nice music playing in the background can really relax your couple and fill in any "silent" moments. I bring a small bluetooth speaker with me that clips to my backpack that I highly recommend. Here is a link to that speaker:
I find it most effective when I ask the couple what kind of music they like best and just put on a Pandora channel for their preferred genre. If they also don't have a favorite kind of music, I have a go-to playlist already saved in my phone for photoshoots full of fun, upbeat love songs.
Talking about them not only fills in the silent moments, it also helps them feel more in love and makes posing couples more natural. Asking about their favorite date, their proposal story, their love story, their first kiss, etc. will often trigger emotions of love and happiness. So much of the shoot depends on the couple feeling happy so getting them to speak about happy memories is key. I highly recommend asking the groom more questions specifically (grooms tend to be a little less excited for shoots, not always, but usually). On top of this, it is great to get to know your clients. Getting to know your clients will help you know how to better pose them and bring out their best traits.
Whenever I host a workshop I notice that most of the photographers present are quiet while shooting. Most couples will interpret this as they are doing something wrong. Couples need constant validation to feel confident. Never stop complimenting. Every single time you pose should be followed by some compliment. This is important to do for both of them, but make sure to never leave the groom out. It's easy to compliment the bride because they are usually the one more "dolled up," but the groom is normally going to be more hesitant so complimenting him can bring out more of his fun side. Try and make it genuine but get used to compliments so they come more natural for you. Here are some easy compliments:
Wow you guys are a natural with this pose!
Okay this looks AMAZING!
Oh my gosh I am so excited about this one
You are doing such a great job!
Wow, most of my grooms struggle with this one but you are KILLING it!
SO CUTE (I use the word cute 1 million times each shoot, just ask my couples)
I am gushing over here.
I can not even wait for you to see these photos!
I'm already getting so excited to go through these later.
Perfect job with this pose!
Finally I recommend showing them a quick "camera roll". This means that you show them the back of your camera with some of your favorite photos you've taken of them, but scroll through them quickly. This gives them a quick idea of how the pictures are looking without being able to see them too much to criticize your raw files. This can add a lot of excitement throughout the shoot and help them feel even more confident. Make sure to only do this when you really think you have a great set to show them.
Now let's go out and keep helping other photographers! Share this post and you will get a 10 percent discount on a mentoring session with me!