Preparing for Your Bristol* Wedding – Getting the Most From Your Photographer:
Ideas and Tips – Part 1.
*As well as Bristol, I also photograph weddings throughout the UK. This guide applies to those too!
Choosing Your Wedding Photographer…
Your photographer will be the person who will be around you most during your day. From the preparations through until the first dance and beyond, they will be there to capture all those special moments that you may or may not have been aware were happening.
For this reason, it is most important that you feel comfortable and relaxed to have your chosen wedding photographer around. There are several points to consider when choosing him or her…
- Photographic Style: Do you require natural shots of the day as it unfolds or a more traditional approach with an emphasis on posed shots? Black & white, colour or a mixture? Bright colours or muted tones? Dreamy soft focus or a more high contrast, gritty look? Personally, I don’t go in for soft focus… But if you like it, there are plenty of photographers that do it and do it well…For me, I specialise in taking documentary shots of the wedding day. I don’t interfere or ask for unnatural poses. Couples that book me tend to prefer natural, reportage photographs that tell their pictorial story through observation. I hear many stories of photographers taking over the day – that is not my style at all…
- Investment: Budgeting is key when planning a wedding. But what happens if you find your perfect photographer but discover they’re quite a lot over the fee that you’ve set aside for photography? You don’t have to choose the best wedding photographer but good photography isn’t cheap. The photographs are the one thing from your day that you’ll take with you to look back on. They’re an investment in memories and should be well worth the extra money that in the future you won’t even remember spending.
Research, Research, Research!: So you’ll be likely to spend a fair whack on the photography for your wedding – be sure to get it right. Use the WWW and search keywords that reflect the style that you’re looking for. The work that you see on photography websites should be similar to what you’ll end up with to look back on for years to come. Shortlist a few that resonate well with you and arrange to meet them. Personality and photographic flair are equally important so ultimately choose who you both like the work of and feel you can work with. If meeting isn’t possible then ask about arranging a SKYPE chat or phone call. I don’t live very far from Bristol, so meeting up somewhere mutually convenient in the Bristol area shouldn’t be a problem.
- Use Your Photographer: Once you’ve chosen them, use them. They’ll be experienced in many aspects of the wedding day so ask questions, listen to their suggestions and value their opinion. Remember they are the professional.
- Know What You are Getting: Will you get the edited image files? High-res or low-res? Will you own them? How many (roughly) will be provided? Write down any questions and ask them when you meet your potential wedding photographer.
- Communicate: Know what you want and ensure that your photographer is on the same page. Make sure they know where to be and when. Provide them with an itinerary and list of required shots. I give my clients a questionnaire to fill in to make things easier. If there is anything else you believe they need to know, tell them. Don’t leave anything to chance…
The Bridal Preparations…
Many brides (and sometimes grooms) wish to have their preparations documented. This can be a very nerve wracking time for the bride as she anticipates any last minute problems and the special day at last becomes real to her. I photographed one wedding in Bristol where the bride was so nervous that she only let me take one picture of her having her make-up done – and that was in the kitchen with pots and pans behind her. Thankfully she relaxed as the day went on.
Until the morning of her wedding, no bride will actually know how she will feel and it is important for the photographer to be adaptable to any changes and respect last minute bridal requirements. This is a very important time, as any photographs taken here set the tone for the day ahead. If I am designing a photo story book as part of the couple’s wedding photography package, I devote a whole section just to the preparations.
There is always something going on at the preparations: The bridesmaids/best friend/parents arrive, make-up is applied, champagne opened, a proud dad sees his daughter in her dress for the first time and so on.
- Hair: Often the bride’s hair will be done early in the morning or out at a hairdresser. This may make it impractical for the photographer to document this part of the preparations. If this is the case, don’t worry. A good photographer will ensure that there are plenty of shots of other things to more than compensate.
- Make-up: Positioning is very important here. Ensure your make-up table is positioned in front of a bright window if possible and leave space around it to let the photographer move around. Delicate and directional window light is extremely flattering and can be used to good effect. Your photographer should be discrete and not get in the way of the make-up artist. Often it is the MUA who is apologetic but she has no need to be.
- Details: There will be plenty of wedding details available to photograph at the preparations. The flowers and buttonholes are often delivered here. There will also be the something old, new, borrowed and blue items if this tradition is upheld. Then there are the dress and shoes, good luck cards and maybe even the rings. Your wedding photographer should look for these things, but let him or her know if there is anything important or less obvious that you’d like photographed.
- Time: Sometimes the bride may not be ready for the photographer when he arrives. Don’t worry about this at all – he can wait. I need about 45 minutes at the preparations, but prefer at least an hour just to be safe. Other photographers will vary. Sometimes the bride and her party will be ready ahead of schedule. In this case, the extra time is useful to take portraits of the bride on her own, with her bridesmaids and possibly with her parents too.
- The Groom: If the bride and groom are getting ready at the same venue, then your photographer should be quite happy to float between the rooms to take some shots of them both at various stages of their preparations. Here, the bride should take priority, but if I can get shots of both, I’m happy to do this.
Here’s a photo from the groom’s preparations that I took at a wedding near Bristol recently. His little boy was an important part of the wedding day celebrations so it was great to photograph them together and capture the essence of their relationship so early in the day.
Wedding Day Arrivals and Your Ceremony in Bristol…
I leave the preparations a while before the bridal party as I prefer to arrive at the ceremony venue (whether a church, register office or other location) about twenty minutes before the bride is due to arrive. This gives me a chance to take some establishing shots of the details, venue and the groom and his party – particularly any nerves that may be apparent!
This will be the first time that many of the guests will see each other and it is a great time for your photographer to take some meet and greet shots. Again, this is a great time to take some scene setting shots that will act as a great link in your book.
A must-have shot is the bride’s arrival. I try to take a sequence of shots depicting this event and continue to shoot whilst she and her party compose themselves at the entrance and eventually walk down the aisle.
**Very Important Tip**
This is probably the most important tip I can give you if photography during your ceremony is important to you…
I have been in the rather embarrassing and unnecessary position in the past of arriving at a venue in Bristol only to have the presiding official tell me that no photography is allowed whatsoever during the ceremony. This was news to the couple as well as myself and came as a nasty shock. A rule of this severity has only happened once, but on many occasions, I have been limited by less severe restrictions. Being allowed to shoot only from the balcony or no nearer than halfway down the aisle are popular rules as well as a ban on flash photography (more understandable) – I only use flash during the ceremony if the venue is particularly dark anyway.
My advice is to be upfront with your officiant about how important the photography is to you. Ask them what rules they have regarding photography. If they do seem unnecessarily strict, find out why and try to negotiate. Assure them that your photographer will be discrete and observe the sanctity of the occasion. Also, tell your photographer that you expect this.
Your photographer should be the soul of discretion throughout the ceremony. They should be able to position themselves so that they are not a distraction and move position when there is less chance they will be noticed i.e. during a hymn or reading and should not snap away randomly as the clicks from a DSLR camera can be very distracting. They should take time to consider the composition and press the shutter sparingly.
I always make a point of introducing myself to the presiding official as a matter of courtesy and reassurance. It’s worth noting that Bristol’s registrars tend to be more relaxed than members of the clergy.
Tip 2: Take your time!
Whether it’s getting out of the bridal car, walking down the aisle or the first kiss, please don’t rush. The first kiss at the end of the wedding ceremony is the one shot that the photographer is most likely to miss. Often it can be so fleeting that by the time the photographer has focussed in, it’s over – although he should be able to anticipate when the wedding kiss will happen. Your first kiss as husband and wife will look great as a full page in the album. I’ve done a double page sequence of the first kiss before now and it looked great! So do take your time.
As far as I’m concerned, the longer the ceremony, the better. It is important for me to have time to move stealthily round and take images from different vantage points. This includes pictures of the vows, exchanging of rings, congregation and various unexpected occurrences that may happen such as this expression of love and happiness:
Signing the Register: The signing of the register is an important legality that must be observed and usually follows shortly after the vows.
As a public document, there should be no issue around your photographer being able to shoot the actual signing. However, government guidelines (not law) state that photographing the signing contravenes data protection laws as there are often other couple’s signatures on the same page. Most Bristol registrars uphold this and arrange a staged signing for the photos afterwards with a blank book. Oddly, these guidelines don’t seem to apply to the church, with the clergy generally being much more liberal in this area.
After the witnesses have signed, I like to take some posed shots of the couple and witnesses holding the pen (if I didn’t get what I needed previously) and a group shot of all four if time permits.
Tip: As with all photography, it’s mostly about the light. Most Bristol venues have a dedicated signing area, but if you do get a choice of where to sign, choose somewhere with good directional light.
Leaving the Ceremony: When you exit the church, there will most likely be so much you want to do yet time constraints may prove limiting. At this time, everyone will be vying for your attention, wanting to give you congratulatory hugs and wishes for the future.
There is also the confetti (where allowed) and this should be done soon after you exit the church. As you will exit first, you may need to return inside whilst the photographer organises your confetti throwing guests into an aisle for you to walk through. I use a wide angle lens for this, walking backwards close to the couple so I’m right in the middle of the action.
Tip 1: Always ask the venue as some may not allow paper confetti but will allow bio-degradable such as petals. Some venues may have been warned by Bristol Council about litter violations, so it is important to abide by their rules. Where confetti is not allowed, bubbles have become popular and can look effective in photographs.
Tip 2: Try colour coordinating your confetti. If you’re having a purple wedding, choose confetti that compliments this. If there is any left over, it may look good sprinkled over the dinner tables.
For the part 2 of my wedding day tips – ‘Posed Shots’ to ‘Wedding First Dance’ go to my page here:
The Bristol City Council List of Approved Marriage & Civil Ceremony Premises
Alma Tavern and Theatre, 18-20 Alma Vale Road, Clifton. BS8 2HY.
Armada House, Telephone Avenue. BS1 4BQ.
Arnos Manor Hotel, Arnos Vale. BS4 3HQ.
At-Bristol, Anchor Road, Harbourside. BS1 5DB.
Avon Gorge Hotel, Sion Hill, Clifton. BS8 4LD.
The Beeches, Broomhill Road, Brislington. BS4 5RG.
Blaise Castle House Museum, Henbury Road, Henbury. BS10 7QS.
Brasserie Blanc, The Friary Building, Cabot Circus. BS1 3DF.
The Bristol Hippodrome, St Augustine’s Parade. BS1 4UZ.
The Bristol Hotel, Prince Street. BS1 4QF.
Bristol Old Vic, King Street. BS1 4ED.
The Bristol Pavilion, The County Ground, Nevil Road. BS7 9EJ.
City Hall, College Green. BS1 5TR.
Clifton Club, 22 The Mall, Clifton. BS8 4DS.
Clifton Hill House, Lower Clifton Hill, Clifton. BS8 1BX.
Clifton Pavilion (Bristol Zoo Gardens), College Road, Clifton. BS8 3HA.
Colston Hall, Colston Street. BS1 5AR.
Doubletree by Hilton, Redcliffe Way. BS1 6NJ.
Freemason's Hall, 17-31 Park Street. BS1 5NH.
Future Inn Hotel, Bond Street South. BS1 3EN.
The Glassboat, Welsh Back. BS1 4SB.
Goldbrick House, 69 Park Street. BS1 5PB.
Goldney Hall (University of Bristol), Lower Clifton Hill. BS8 1BH.
The Grand, Broad Street. BS1 2EL.
Holiday Inn, Bond St. BS1 3LE.
Hotel Du Vin, The Sugar House, Narrow Lewins Mead. BS1 2NU.
Kings Weston House, Kings Weston Lane. BS11 0UR.
The Mansion House, Clifton Down. BS8 3LJ.
Marriott Hotel, 2 Lower Castle Street. BS1 4AD.
Marriott Royal Hotel, College Green. BS1 5TA.
The Mercure Brigstow Hotel, 5 – 7 Welsh Back. BS1 4SP.
The Mercure Holland House Hotel & Spa, Redcliffe Hill. BS1 6SQ.
Merchants' Hall, The Promenade. BS8 3NH.
M Shed, Princes Wharf, Wapping Road. BS1 4RN.
No.4 Clifton Hotel, The Rodney Hotel, Rodney Place, Clifton. BS8 1HY.
The Old Council House (Bristol Register Office), Corn Street. BS1 1JG.
Paintworks Event Space, 2-7 Paintworks, Bath Road. BS4 3EH.
Radisson Blu, Broad Quay. BS1 6NJ.
Riverstation, The Grove. BS1 4RB.
The Southville Centre, Beauley Road, Southville. BS3 1QG.
Spielman Centre, Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bath Road. BS4 3EW.
The Square, 15 Berkeley Square, Clifton. BS8 1HB.
SS Great Britain, Great Western Dock, Gas Ferry Road. BS1 6TY.
The Trinity Centre, Trinity Road. BS2 0NW.
University & Literary Club, 20 Berkeley Square, Clifton. BS8 1HP.
Water Sky Chinese Restaurant, Eastgate Oriental City, Eastgate Road. BS5 6XY.
Watershed, Canon's Road, Bristol, BS1 5TX.