Wedding Photography Etiquette: Presenting Yourself Professionally to Your Clients

Being a wedding photographer is a challenging balance of technical skill and interpersonal skills. Finding that balance will be an ever-evolving process and each client will have different needs.

The general theme of this post will be to remind you of the little things that can make a big difference in how you’re viewed by clients and potential clients. And considering how much wedding photography business is based off of referrals, this is a big deal.

Obvious steps like showing up on time and being polite to the guests will not be covered, but rather we’ll be discussing some subtle mistakes that are more common than one might think.

Be available

Your clients will reach out to you, likely by email or phone initially, and it’s important you respond punctually and with excitement, providing them with positive answers to all their questions.

Show interest in them as people and as a couple and express your excitement that they’ve chosen you to be part of their special day. Remember that once they pay you a deposit and have a contract signed, that fervor cannot fade.

They might be super easy going and you may not hear from them for months, or they might be over-the-top with questions/comments/concerns about every aspect of your upcoming job for them.

Remind yourself that though they might be your 100th client, you are their first and only wedding photographer, so be attentive. Nothing sets people more on edge, than a so called “professional,” who doesn’t respond to emails and phone calls.

You might be dreading answering the same question for the nth time but do it for them and remember that they are looking to you for guidance and understanding. Sure, they paid you to shoot your camera for a day, but really, they paid you for your experience and intimate knowledge of how this day should be going for them.

Once the big day arrives, and you’ve unloaded your gear from your car and walked into the venue, and have asked the first person you see “where is the bride and groom?” from that moment on, you’re expected to be available to your client for every need they might have.

If the bride needs a message relayed to the mother of the groom, and you’re not busy with something, go do that for her, and if you’re busy with a very important shot, send your assistant, or shed some light on where a bridesmaid might be able to find the mother of the groom.

As the day goes on you should just be available to your clients whenever they are in need. Photography can be a fickle and challenging profession, but it’s not just the technical challenge for the camera settings and lighting conditions -it’s dealing with people.

Also, on a wedding day, moments appear instantly and disappear just as instantly. If you miss a moment, it’s understandable, but try to minimize your absence and be available to capture any and all moments.

Your feet will hurt and you cameras will begin to hang heavier throughout the day, but fight through it, and be available.

 

Photo by Paul Friedman of a couple on their wedding day in a long exposure with stars behind them
Image by Paul Friedman

Appropriate Dress

When you’re a wedding photographer, it is easy to get caught up in wearing clothing that is functional. Likewise, it is easy to get caught up in dressing fancy as well. A wedding photographer needs to be dressed in clothes that are befitting of a formal event, while still being able to blend into the crowd.

Slacks and dress shoes are important and a fine shirt for men.

For ladies, heels are probably a bad idea for functional reasons, and the dress is a personal choice but at the very least a nice blouse.

Please don’t be that wedding photographer in a baseball cap and running sneakers.

Also, don’t be the wedding photographer in the bright orange prom gown. Read the crowd, wear clothes appropriately functional while still being able to blend.

It’is a good idea to ask your clients before the wedding what the dress will be, and it would be an equally good idea to bring a change of clothes (or two) in the car. If you misread the situation and show up drastically under or over-dressed, you’ll want to have the option of changing.

Also, you might have to lay in the mud or something to get a shot, or you might walk behind aunt Clara at just the wrong time and end up wearing her glass of red wine, and you don’t want that spill to define your night so be prepared.

Get Your Shot and Get Out

As the wedding photographer, you have the freedom to travel around during the wedding. You might be in the aisle while the bride walks down, or you might be on the dance floor with the couple while they enjoy their first dance.

That is great if you have the confidence to get close and get the important shots. Remember however, that you are not the only person in the room and that while you want to create good memories, make sure there aren’t 250 people who only remember what a jerk the photographer was.

Don’t stand amiably behind the alter during the ceremony, be cognizant of the fact that other people want to enjoy the day, and they also want to get their own photographs. Allow the guests to get some photographs because they might have a special connection to the couple, or they might even be a good photographer, but more importantly, how you make the people feel matters.

If you give off a cocky or overconfident vibe, that attitude will show and it will not bode well for the mood of the wedding, nor will it get you any new clients. Wedding photographers gain a lot of new clients by impressing guests at weddings they are shooting, so go ahead and consider this not only a paid gig, but also a job interview for future work.

 

Wedding photography image by Paul Friedman showing a groom wearing his suit and sunglasses with his groomsmen behind him
Image by Paul Friedman

Smile

Going along with the previous section about being considerate and remembering that you impact the mood of the day, remember to smile and be happy.

Happiness is infections. Smile big and laugh at jokes. You’ll make a better impact on people, you’ll attract more clients, and above all, you just might get better photos.

If you seem grumpy or tired, people will turn their backs on you, but if you are charismatic and inviting, they will engage with you. When you laugh, people will laugh or smile. And not that fake “here are my teeth,” smile, they’ll give you genuine smiles with real emotion, and that is what you want for your wedding photos.

Exude Confidence

Be confident in yourself and people around you will be confident in you. Even if you are shooting your first wedding ever and you’re unbelievably nervous, act confident.

The bride and groom want to know that they are in good hands and if you seem nervous or act like you don’t know what you’re doing, they will sense that, which is likely to make them feel uneasy.

Let them know that you’re great at what you do, they have nothing to worry about, and they will love the photos even more than they expected. You have to balance this with your efforts to not be overconfident and cocky, but being under confident is equally a sin in wedding photography, so instill faith in yourself by being confident in your abilities.

Be Flexible

You might have a system that works great in your wedding photography, but this is not your day so be flexible.

Let your clients pitch ideas to you and express your excitement about those ideas. If they want a group photo with 60 people in a dark room with the kitchen as a backdrop, maybe you can lightly suggest to move to a brighter area with less distractions in the background. If they say no however, be ready to take that photo, and be ready to act excited about it!

Bring gear that is waterproof if they want to shoot in the rain and bring an extra blanket to sit down if they want to get a shot sitting on a wet park bench. Bring an extra flash for that dark corner, and bring a third flash if that one breaks.

Plan for all contingencies with equipment, but also with your attitude. Be ready to field wild and crazy suggestions and be prepared to deliver under the most trying circumstances.

 

photo of a couple on a lake dock looking each other in the eyes and backlit by the sun by photographer Paul Friedman
Image by Paul Friedman

Post-Wedding Photography Etiquette

After you shoot the wedding, there will be a lot of anticipation to see the images.

You know how much work it takes to sort/edit all these images, but your client has no idea unless you communicate that.

You might even consider sending a few favorite photos to your client the day after the wedding to quench their need to see the images and also to put their mind at rest that you really got some good ones.

If your editing takes longer than expected, don’t be embarrassed and certainly don’t avoid your client. Stay in contact with them every step of the way and explain to them the situation. Nothing is worse that ignoring their emails and phone calls.

Final Thoughts

A lot of wedding photography etiquette is really just common sense. But if you don’t put at least some thought into it, then you might inadvertently give off a negative impression to your clients.

Have you seen any wedding photographers committing faux pas at any of the weddings you’ve attended? Share them with us in the comments below.

Featured image by Paul Friedman of mainemountainmedia.com

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Black and white portrait of photographer Paul Friedman

Paul was born in New Hampshire, is based in Maine and has been doing photography for 10 years, and 12 years since he’s been doing Photoshop. He’s been a self-employed, full-time photographer for four years, and is just as happy photographing weddings as he is photographing real estate, products, his dog, or anything else for that matter. He’s no loyalist, loves all cameras and is always looking for something new to play with, but is usually carrying a Canon camera. 85mm lenses are his favorite and everything he owns has gaffer’s tape stuck to it somewhere. You can see his work at mainemountainmedia.com.

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