10 Things Wedding Photographers Secretly Wish You'd Tell Them

Featuring our Planning Posse
My name is William Petruzzo and I am a professional photographer of various disciplines in the Washington DC area.  I thought I’d take the opportunity to share with you some of the less obvious information that I (and other wedding photographers) are going to want to know before your big day.
Photograph by Alicia King 

The names and phone numbers of our wedding day co-workers.

We’re going to be working closely with your other wedding vendors, especially your DJ and your wedding planner or day-of coordinator. In some cases, it can be immensely helpful to know this information. That way, we can interface with them directly and remove you as a middle-man (or woman.) We can begin collaborating before your wedding day, and we can start to create a teamwork mentality. A lot of photographers don’t ask for this information and most will do just fine without it. But when we do have it, we’ll usually take advantage of it. If you volunteer this information to us, we’ll appreciate it and be impressed with your organization.

The names of your whole entire family and every single person in your wedding party.

Photographers with experience know how much better it is to practice learning people’s names before they show up. Petruzzo Photography specifically requests all these names from our wedding clients. But many years ago, we’d try and wing it. Do you know how awkward it can feel to be standing in front of 30 or 40 people who all know your name, but for whom “hey you” is the best you can muster? Hint: very awkward. And it’s exceptionally difficult to be a bold, creative artist when you feel super duper awkward. If you’ve hired a newer photographer, this probably isn’t even on their radar, so just send them the names. (At the same time, if you give them all those names, keep in mind that they have a lot to remember already. There’s only one of them and lots of you. So give them a break if they have difficulty remembering everyone’s name.)

If there is anyone who needs special considerations.

This includes things like hearing, vision, and mobility impairments or less obvious things, like strong aversions to flash lighting, a tendency to overheat or if someone sweats a lot more than average. Having this kind of information in advance lets your photographer make more calculated decisions at more convenient times. For example, at Petruzzo Photography, we build in some time to scope out a location either in advance or on the day of the wedding. We can make a more considered effort with this time if we know that someone in the family or wedding party needs a wheelchair. If it’s going to be a hot day, we can avoid the open field, so the best man isn’t soaked in sweat at the reception. If one of the bridesmaids has severe allergies, we could skip the garden. Of course, without any of this info, a good photographer should still be able to wing it. But you’ve paid for their time and creativity, why not help them be as efficient as possible?

If there is any family drama.

If your mother-in-law really didn’t think you should get a photo booth with lots of silly props, it would probably be best that we don’t hand her one of those props on the dance floor. Or if say your parents are separated and having trouble getting along, knowing this can help us avoid exacerbating the problem on your wedding day. (This is especially important information during the family formals, where family conflicts have a way of showing up.)
It could feel a little awkward discussing personal issues with your photographer, but it can make things way less unpleasant later. When there is family drama, big or small, we want to know. A great wedding photographer is out to capture the best of your relationships during your wedding. Even if there is drama of some sort, there will still be smiling faces, and honest, heartfelt exchanges. We’d like to keep it that way.

How organized you are.

As the wedding photographer, we are among the few truly persistent people at a wedding. From the time we arrive, through the end of the wedding, we are rarely more than 20 or 30 feet from the bride and groom. That means when cogs in the wheels of a wedding fail, we provide the last chance to pull it off–whether it’s about photography or not–and we still have to capture the photos. So we want to know: are you doing your part for this wedding to run smoothly? If not, that could mean a lot more work for us on your wedding day. And that might even be OK with us, but if we’ll need to keep some safety pins in our camera bag, it’d be helpful to know!

Whether you're going to do a crazy dance.

Surprises at weddings are fun, but photographers hate being surprised. During your wedding, your photographer will have to employ multiple disciplines and groupings of equipment which are specialized to the task. Certain shots might need to be lit with an off-camera light, or off camera lights might need to be disabled for others. All of these things require attention and time to transition between, and, of course, the best of us can do it quickly. But still, if we’re setting ourselves up for a romantic dance that suddenly and unexpectedly turns into a dance that we really wish we had a different set of gear for, it’s going to be a challenge to capture those images in the best way. Leave your photographer out of any planned surprises and you’ll risk losing those images.

What wedding details you DIY-ed.

Photographers love shooting the DIY bits of your wedding. Because you put so much energy into these things, the photos become special reminders not just of your wedding day, but of all those funny, exciting, frustrating, frightening, all-around worthwhile moments leading up to your wedding. Your photographer wants to know about all your DIY projects in advance and, ideally, where to find them on your wedding day. A good photographer is going to try and capture a sense of everything, but those things made from your own sweat and hard work? We want to document them in brilliant detail.

When photographers get to eat. 

Photographing a wedding is not only physically strenuous–being in constant motion, nearly doing gymnastics to get the shot–but it’s mentally strenuous too. Our creative and problem-solving skills have to be in constant and sharp focus. And those skills take a considerable hit when the fuel light comes on. During most weddings, the photographer is typically fed last; from a party-planning standpoint, that seems to make sense. But what most couples (and venues and caterers) don’t realize is that if we are fed last, we frequently do not have enough time to eat at all.
The best time to feed the photographer is actually right smack dab in the middle of dinner. At the time, most of the guests will either be waiting for their food to arrive or actively eating it. Both of which do not make for especially moving or flattering photos, and during which very little else is happening. And if your photographer will have to wait until the end of dinner to eat, let them know ahead of time so they can plan accordingly (and maybe pack a snack).

What made you hire them.

In most photographer’s minds, the only right answer to this question is “our excellent images.” But we’re not actually that naive and the truth of that information is actually really important. Of course, every photographer wants to believe you chose them because they were the best, but really, that’s not usually true. The truth–the price was good for the package, the album options are great, you had a fight with the only other photographer in town–holds information they need to be a way better photographers and service people. It can also help us capture more of what you like (and avoid what you don’t like) when shooting your wedding. We want that information.

What you're most anxious about.

Your wedding photographer will have an amazing power over the wedding day to keep things going smoothly. Here are some of the concerns we’ve heard from brides…Her sister didn’t have any good family formals and it’s really important to her to get great ones. She’s feeling insecure about how she’s going to look in her dress because she thinks she has a “belly.”She wanted an adult-only wedding, but it turns out there’s going to be a lot of kids coming. Whether it’s through any conscious process or not, every good photographer is looking for this sort of information. It informs the angles we explore and prioritize. It shows us what we should emphasize and what we should de-emphasize. It tells us when we should be especially alert, at a time we might otherwise have our focus largely on some other important task.
It also gives your photographer the opportunity to lend his or her expertise in less-than-obvious places. For example, earlier this year, a couple mentioned to me that they were worried about their first dance. Neither of them are the sort of people to dance, at least not in any kind of choreographed way. Since they’re both talented musicians, I suggested they write a song together and perform it in place of the first dance. They ran with it and called it their first song. It was a natural, comfortable, and honest expression of what’s really at the heart of the first dance. And I got to offer the advice because they were open with me about what had them worried. This is why choosing the right wedding photographer for you is so crucial. The very best results are going to come from great photographers who you feel comfortable opening up to.
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Featuring our Planning Posse