SIMPLYPHOTO » Rockford Wedding Photography by Chris Warkocki

Wedding Tips by Chris – A New Kind of Formal

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Hello all you beautiful people who come to my blog eagerly waiting for new pics with words. Today we have a different blog post which happens to be the beginning of a new series of tips to having a better wedding regardless of who is photographing it. With my experience away from the camera working directly with my couples building timelines and forging a successful wedding day I want to share what I’ve learned battling the ever fearsome wedding day. I hope to cover each and every important wedding topic and if you have a topic you’d like discussed please let me know in the comments.

Todays topic is one that I personally have found to be an area that many couples don’t take the time to truly plan out with their photographer and I have seen many photographers, including myself, fail at taking the time given and creating that something special for each and every couple. Let’s do a little background on what we consider the formal time and what to consider.

When I’m talking about formals with my clients I tend to be focused on the time after the church and between the reception that I’m given to create those once in a lifetime moments with plenty of wonder and merriment added in to the pot. Now this time could happen before the ceremony if we are having a first look so let’s actually think of this as the time you and your wedding party get to have the epic shots taken by us photographer people followed by the even epic-er (yes that’s not a word) shots of you two. When I first started photographing weddings I just rolled with the punches and if the couple gave me 30 minutes I used that 30 minutes to shoot the pictures and whatever location they wanted I put my smile face on and accepted it.

If you want a photographer to do this I promise it’s not for the best. I learned quickly that when I didn’t give input the quality of work given had to suffer to meet the demands of the timeline/location, which in turn meant I wasn’t giving 100% on wedding day. If you want those once in a lifetime images captured by yours truly or any photographer you desire let me/us be vocal about timeline and location.

After taking the time and effort to sit down with you I want you to feel like we are both steering a wedding ship of sorts but your wheel only turns left and mine only turns right. Without good teamwork our boat is eventually going to hit something and sink to the bottom of some cold water river and everyone is wet and gross. Time constraints are typical for a wedding day because there is a lot to do in such a short period of time, but the one area you do not want to skimp on time is this formals. In 30 minutes believe me  that even the best of the best would end up handing you a couple of great shots and missing a bunch that you may have been expecting.

So how much time should you allot for your wedding day formals?

Well… Don’t be mad at me but depending on the wedding I would super duperly recommend at least an hour and a half for rocking all your formal pictures. From the whole wedding party to individual images to pairings and of course to get those wall hanger images of the two of you.

So how did I come up with such a crazy number??? Besides being at over 200 weddings as photographer I’ve talked to other photographers and we all sort of agree on the same number if not a little higher. We want time to give you the best without rushing anyone or missing key shots that we love capturing. Imagine that you’re in our shoes for a moment and you’ve given me the proposed hour and a half to rock your session. Ok. So we plan to leave the ceremony at 3:00pm and have to be at the reception hall by 4:30 in order for you to get ready for your 5:00pm entrance. Let’s do some math. A typical wedding involves you and your entire wedding party gathering all your things from the ceremony location, hauling them to your ride(s) and eventually all driving out to the proposed formal location, which should be about 10 to 15 minutes away no more. It’s now 3:30pm and we have arrived at our first stop with let’s say about 10 minutes to get everyone out and ready to start shooting so the first actual pictures begin at 3:40. Your wedding party, like every single wedding party, will always prefer to have fun vs listening to the evil photographer person asking them nicely to pose here and there and such so the entire wedding party takes about 30 minutes, but we were able to capture the entire party, individuals, multiple poses and all sorts of fun goofy stuff to make you smile when you’re looking at your wedding photos. We now have to send the wedding party back somewhere so we can begin your uber epic wedding photos featuring just the two of you so now it’s officially 4:10pm and if we account for drive time to the reception hall we have about 10 minutes to rock the most important pics of the day before we need to be back in vehicles by 4:20pm to be on time for our 4:30pm arrival. Now after doing all these weddings I’ve learned that we always push that limit and make the DJs unhappy so we end up staying just a tad bit later than expected and it’s all good because the DJs timeline doesn’t matter. I’m kidding, not really, but honestly DJs do not like us. 🙂

In all we had maybe 40-45 minutes to physically photograph you and your wedding party in the hour and half segment. Mind you most of the time we photographers are told 30 minutes to an hour max so I’ll laugh a bit and then work out ways to make things happen or help everyone understand the need for a timeline redux.

You’re probably asking yourself if there are any ways to maximize your wedding day photography. Well, the best way I’ve seen is to have the dreaded first look! Seeing your groom before the ceremony??? NO!! With all the hoopla about tradition and all sorts of jinx’s and such believe me that seeing each other first down the isle vs seeing each other ahead of time isn’t too much of a difference except that everyone that has done a first look with me enjoyed it more than you think. Why? The first look is far more intimate because it’s just the two of you alone with a creepy photographer snapping a few images and then letting you two chat for a bit before getting to work vs a whole bunch of people staring at you.

Imagine a wedding day where you get ready and are in pristine shape, you both see each other basically all alone and following a hugging and kissing session you get to start getting your photos taken still in reasonably pristine condition. After the ceremony you get hugged and smushed and smashed so by the time the formals happen after the ceremony you look like a much prettier version of Lindsey Lohan. Just kidding on that last part, but honestly you will always look your wedding day best immediately following getting all dolled up so the first look followed by photos of just the two of you is the best choice. After a good 30 minutes of just photographing you two the wedding party can join in and viola we have a group of people ready to work and get to the ceremony vs a party so they’re mentally more focused on the task at hand.

No, you don’t have to have a first look but that doesn’t mean we can’t hammer out some of the wedding day shots beforehand. We can always figure out a way to keep the two of you apart and rock some bride and bridesmaid images before hand then tuck you ladies away to bring out the handsome dudes for their part of the photography fun. This will cut a good 10 minutes from the post ceremony formals and give us more time to play.

I know this article will help you make some fantastic timeline decisions and photographers out there just starting out take what I’ve written here and apply this immediately if you haven’t already. Believe me that this is the difference between having a camera and being a professional wedding photographer.

Stay tuned for the second episode: Family Formals Strike Back.

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