My crazy sample wedding shot list!

Crazy sample wedding shot list/running orderSince soon ’tis the wedding season’, I thought I would publish my crazy sample wedding shot list for any budding wedding photographers out there! We all have to start somewhere and I know I was incredibly grateful for all the information I could find on the web before I did my first one! I trawled the internet to find helpful hints and tips for me to use, so that I had some idea of what I was getting myself into and without it I think I would have probably been a bit lost even though I am naturally quite OCD when it comes to planning! I did however find a sample which I then doctored.

Crazy sample wedding shot listThe attached sample is extremely detailed as it is based on my first big wedding in which I was having to be in multiple places throughout the day and had so many elements to it – I thought it would be best to show you how much of the detail that I plan and how little I leave to chance. I was lucky to have a second shooter with me for this wedding, so that is also included in the sample.

I am in the process of setting up an actual template which is basic and can be filled in with the details. I will publish this as soon as it ready, for you to download.

You will see that I used the venue’s running order as the basis for my shot list – there are numerous references that refer simply to things the venue needed to know, but this worked really well as we were then sure that the timings we had were the same.

sample wedding shot list/running orderPlease note that this shot list incorporates the list of shots I wanted to get, notes to myself about where I wanted them, who they were with, as well as how I was thinking of posing them – whilst remembering things like shoes on wet muddy grass and rain and such like. I plan like this before every wedding I do, leaving very little to chance – though changes always occur. For example, we had prepared for rain and had umpteen umbrellas with us, but we had not prepared for it to be as cold as mid January! This meant that most of the outside shots were done right outside the door, and not by the lovely tree and bench and that all the bride and groom shots were done inside.

my crazy sample wedding shot/list running orderI often sketch the poses before a shoot as I prepare for it, and bring that with me, so that I am sure I get the shots that I want. I don’t think it is necessary to do this all the time, but I like to be prepared and I like to know that I have done everything in my power to ensure that the wedding (photography) goes to plan.

A quick note about the candid shots – these are not mentioned in the shot list, but I still have a list of ‘types’ of shots I want to get. Basically I try and capture every person at the wedding, at least once. I often stick with the bride, but I make sure that I always have one eye on the bride and another on what is going on around me, especially if I don’t have a second shooter. I also make sure that shots like grandparents and grandchild dancing, or children in general, are paid attention to and of course shots of the groom looking lovingly at his bride, without him noticing that I am there. The best advice I can give is to blend in, stay a short distance away, so that people don’t know you are there, and keep a low profile.

I am guest blogging in the next couple of days for Paul, a twitter friend who teaches guitar and ukelele and plays at weddings too, so to read more about my wedding dos and don’ts or to check out his musical offerings visit http://paulclews888.weebly.com/blog.html

OK – here we go… your PDF of my crazy wedding shot list! Enjoy!

Wedding Photography Running Order/Shot List

Enjoy! And Good Luck!!

Funeral Photography

Funeral Photography – To be or not to be a funeral photographer…

I have for some time now been thinking about offering my services as a funeral photographer for traditional as well natural/humanist funerals. I look back on all the funerals I have been to (which is not many I have to say), the funerals of loved ones that happened mostly when I was in my early twenties, and I realised how much I would have loved there to have been photographs of the whole family and close friends together, so that now we would be able to remember the day more clearly. We would be able to remember who was there, what the flowers looked like, the church, the weather, remember the people there then and later deceased now too, remember that the day, although sad, was mingled with hope and some happiness from us all being together again. I was so caught up in the emotion of the days, that I simply don’t remember anything. What a shame for the end of someone’s life, their celebration, to simply be forgotten.

For many families, weddings, christenings and funerals are the only time that they get together, and often these events are quite far apart. These days many of us live far away from our families, especially our extended families, and as we get older, funerals are the only time we all manage to be in the same place at the same time.

I know that people might think that it is a little macabre wanting to photograph funerals, but essentially, photographing a funeral is much like photographing a wedding, for a photographer. As a wedding photographer I spend most of my time keeping my distance, using a photojournalistic approach to photography. I never want to be the centre of attention, I just want to blend into the surroundings, become part of the furniture and be very sensitive to the needs of the people around me. Of course there are always the posed family group shots, the fun bridesmaids ones, the ones of the children at a wedding and some time alone with the bride and groom, but who is to say that the family shots could not also be a part of a funeral, just dealt with more sensitively perhaps.

Wedding photography takes a great deal of planning, with meetings/consultations with the bride and groom before hand. In the same way, I would meet with the family of the deceased – or perhaps the person suffering from a life-limiting illness – and discuss what they would particularly like to be photographed, creating a shot list, much like I would for a wedding. If it is a traditional funeral, they might only want the arrival of the cortege and the family as well as the service and the leaving of the cortege to be photographed, or perhaps they want the whole day shot, including the wake, the service and the cremation, the decorations, the food, flowers, the headstone, any speeches, the order of service and most importantly the people. On the other hand, if it is a natural funeral, in a woodland venue perhaps, they may wish for the photographer to be there all day, taking photos of people, offerings, decorations, flowers and the farewell celebration at the end. I think we all have different ideas about what we would like as our funeral – how we want people to celebrate our lives once we are gone – and that in itself is the beauty of it. It would be such an honour to be able to be a part of that, to help the families carry on the memory of their loved one.

On a personal note I would definitely want my funeral photographed and have already decided on the photographer I would ask and the celebrant too. I would want my loved ones to be able to remember the day with fondness, hopefully with a little joy in there too, as well as the inevitable sadness that funerals hold – we can hardly get away from that and nor should we. I don’t think that there are many funerals that are completely joyous occasions and at times, shooting a funeral could well get very emotional (for those that know me, you know that this is the part I am likely to struggle with most as I have been known to cry at weddings), but I think one would simply have to acknowledge that the emotions are there and take a break, if and when the break was needed.

I would offer that each funeral package should come with a book of the images included in the price and I would personally want to offer a bit more than just the photography. I think the option of having a larger keepsake book made, where the family can add old letters, memories, writings, ticket stubs, diary entries, emails, drawings, personal photos and all sorts of other lovely things that can be scanned in and added to the book of funeral images, would be a wonderful idea for the people left behind to have and to pass on to the next generations to follow so that they may remember too. As I love writing, I think that alongside the photography it would be wonderful to offer a ghostwriting service especially to help people who are planning their own funerals well in advance and who want to record their memories or memoirs and leave messages for the people they leave behind.

I really hope that I get the chance to do this. It feels like it is something really important for me to do, and I just hope that there are other people out there, who agree with me. I would love to hear from people who have either experienced having a photographer at a funeral, or who think they might like one – or even people who totally disagree with it, and think I am quite frankly a little barmy! I’d be interested in your views…

Thanks for reading as always!

Christina

Weddings Schmeddings – what I have learnt so far…

Claire&TomWedding-0087

I have had a few people ask me for advice about shooting weddings recently. I am not sure that I am best placed for writing an ‘advice’ post on them, since I have actually only done three weddings in my short career as a photographer…I have however learnt a great deal in a very short space of time and perhaps imparting a little bit of this knowledge will help. It will certainly be cathartic!

I was utterly terrified doing my first wedding even as a second shooter, last June. I don’t know what possessed me, but at the time I thought it would be a bit of fun and good preparation for a wedding I had agreed to do a few months later! I had made no preparations at all, in fact I just turned up at the railway station and started snapping away. I was not prepared, and that was the probably the hardest thing, didn’t really know my camera well enough, had never used an external flash, had no idea how to set the exposure to capture things like detail in a white dress, but, we live and learn and that is the beauty of photography. We never stop learning. As a second shooter I didn’t have to do much prep, but it would have helped had I known my camera a bit better. the best thing? Meeting the people I was photographing and at the end of it coming out with a few shots that I was actually really proud of. I am not sure that I felt particularly happy about ever having to do another wedding, but could hardly go back on my word, having said I would do the next one only a month later.

Kirsty and David wedding colour high res (8 of 439)

So what did I do? I trawled the internet for as much advice on shooting a wedding I could find. I searched and searched. I read everything I could, quite literally devouring article after article until I was satisfied that I had everything in hand. So, July came and I felt I had pretty much everything in order… shot lists, sketches, more lists and more sketches. Nothing prepares you for flu though… I can safely say that this was the hardest day ever. Flu, tonsillitis, headache – the lot – and a wedding to shoot… IN THE RAIN! But I did it! It worked and all the preparation in advance was worth it.

So what did I do for my 3rd wedding. Well, I felt so much more prepared for this one and actually the preparations started way back last year in October when I did the couple’s engagement shoot. Doing an engagement shoot is one of the best ways to get to know your clients and to make them feel comfortable in front of the lens and with how you work. Since the engagement shoot I spent the rest of the year really looking forward to this wedding, and I was not disappointed. I loved every minute of it and I simply cannot wait to do more. So, as I have now been blabbing on about nothing in particular and not a single piece of advice has been issued about shooting a wedding, perhaps I should start! Here are my 20 things that might make you think twice about doing a wedding, and if at the end of it you still think you have what it takes, I would heartily recommend going for it. It is the singularly most rewarding thing I have ever done, and such a huge privilege to be let into people’s lives in such an intimate way. It is a great honour to shoot a wedding. I hope I never lose sight of that.

Kirsty and David wedding colour high res (108 of 439)One of the most important things to remember is that the bride and groom have chosen you because they know you can do a good job and that they like your style. Have self belief that you can do it and that you are the right person for the job.

  1. It starts with a conversation…have many of them with the bride and groom to be. Find out what their hopes and dreams are, listen to the preparations they are making, pay attention to the dress, the bouquet, the table decorations – talk to them about bridesmaids and ushers, be a listening ear. For me this was the most important thing. I wanted to be absolutely involved in the whole experience as I knew that knowledge would be power and the more I knew about the day, the more prepared and relaxed I would feel.
  2. Include a free engagement shoot in the price of the wedding shoot. For me, this was really important. Getting the couple together, with or without their children (in both the two weddings for me it was with children), is a sure fire way of everyone getting to know each other. Doing an engagement shoot allows the couple to get used to being photographed so that when it comes to the big day, they will already know what to expect.
  3. Make sure you ask for their honest opinions on the engagement shoot. If there is something they are unhappy with, you want to make sure that you don’t repeat it on the day. Pay special attention to what the couple may be unhappy about in themselves, it could be nose, teeth, eyes, anything. Remember, we never see ourselves the way other people see us.
  4. A few weeks or so before the wedding (or more if you can), sit down with the couple and prepare a list of the people who are going to be in the shots. There will be friends, family, bridesmaids, ushers and all sorts of people that will be expected to be captured on the day, for both formal and informal shots. Talk to the couple about the types of shots they would like of family and friends. If they have samples from websites even better. Some couples are happy to use Pinterest, and if they are, then following their pin boards is a good way to get a better idea of what they would like you to achieve. Make sure the list includes names and descriptions (ie Father, Mother etc), so that when it comes to the day itself, you can approach them by their first names or as Mr/Mrs… if that is more appropriate). The list also needs to include the shot lists of which people are going to be in the shot together. It might look something like this:Claire&TomWedding-0218
  5. Abby and Peter (Dad) – on bench by the tree
    Abby, Peter and Molly – on bench by the tree
    Ben, sandra and bill (parents) – on bench by the tree
    Ben, Lillie and Harvey – sitting on swing
    and so forth… 
    I also ensured that I had asked the family in advance to make sure that there would be 1 person responsible for getting all the people for the formal family shoots together at the right time. An usher, a best man or a bridesmaid is usually good for this, unless of course they also need to have their photos done. A responsible teenager did a great job at the last wedding!Mr and Mrs N Wedding MIX BWCOL HIRES XTRA (34 of 52)
  6. Always visit the venue and church in advance to scout out the best places and to speak to the vicar about what is allowed in the church in terms of photography. Some photographers just expect the couple to speak to the vicar on their behalf, but I prefer not to leave anything to chance. When you visit the church and the venue, take some shots to see what the light will be like. I thought I was very well prepared, but having taking practice shots of the light in the church, I was appalled to see that they had put red hot heaters on which made everyone’s faces bright pink. I was not prepared for that, so there is a certain amount of thinking on your toes that also has to be done! Luckily much of this was rescued in post processing.
  7. Make lots of notes when you visit the venue, think about where you could do the creative couple shots, and if you get the chance, do their engagement shoot in the same place, so you get some practice in.Mr and Mrs N COL hires (176 of 610)
  8. Before the wedding – about a week before – I sat down and made a complete shot list, from morning until night… I didn’t want to miss anything at all and I found it incredibly helpful to walk through each shot in my mind and pop it down on paper, so that I would have something as a form of reference when I needed it.
    My shot list started at 9am and included a concise schedule and looked like this:
    9am – CD arrive at venue. Bride staying in cottage (get directions in advance).
    SHOT LIST: (50mm and 90mm lenses for close ups and portrait)
    Prep shots – make up, hair
    Bride and Bridesmaids
    zipping up the dress
    The dress
    Jewellery
    Shoes
    North window bride
    Bride in Mirror
    (if time would be good to spend 20 minutes with bride and bridesmaids for some posed shots before we go)
    Bride walking down the stairs
    Bride leaving
    Bride and dad getting into the car
    CD leave before bridal party to get to the church in advance
    This list went on for 3 pages of typed A4 – possibly a bit excessive but really helpful. and later I cut each section out and put it on index cards bound together so that I had them to hand and knew exactly what was coming next and at what time. I also had a reminder as to the lenses I wanted to use. Mr and Mrs N COL hires (327 of 610)
  9.  Another list I wrote was the 30-45 minute couple only photoshoot. knowing the venue reasonably well having already photographed the engagement shoot there, I had each shot pretty meticulously planned, knowing exactly where I wanted them to stand/sit, and how I wanted them to pose. All the shots were outside. However, I messed up here as we were not able to be outside at all, not due to rain, but because it was so incredibly cold! The only shots we were able to get outside were the bridesmaids ones, and most of those featured blue-tinted skin tones – those poor girls! I was not however very well prepared for doing the shots inside, so for all my list writing, I still missed something. In the end, we had to do the shots inside, and we chose the bedroom which was magnificent, but for me, it was not enough. Had I been better prepared, I would have had a list of inside shots that I could have used and which would have been better than having to think on my toes.
  10.  In between times there were lots of candid shots being taken of the bride and groom, of people  enjoying themselves at the reception, of the table decorations, the well wishes tree and the flowers. Don’t forget to also take shots of the children and grandparents. I love photographing children so I always make sure that I build in time to pay special attention to the children that are there. Mr and Mrs N COL hires (132 of 610)
  11. Make sure that 1 person is responsible for making sure that you are where you are supposed to be at the right time – I almost missed the first dance because no one told me it was happening and it started earlier than expected.
  12. Memory cards… take lots. Change them regularly before they run out. There can be no worse feeling than one of the cards not working and losing all the images because the cards were not changed frequently or not until they were full. Shoot in raw even though it takes up more space – you have much more scope to play around with the image in post processing afterwards.
  13. BACK UP – If you can, bring back up options. I brought my ipad, my notebook, a WD passport hardrive and my laptop… I had an hour whilst they were eating and I backed up 2 of my cards in that time. Obviously don’t delete them off the cards until you get home and you have backed up again, but it is well worth trying to back up whilst you are there. Remember to always format your cards, rather than delete the images off them once you are done. Deleting the images can apparently corrupt the cards.
  14. KEEP cards safe… pockets are not safe! Label the cards with numbers and names.
  15. When shooting indoors remember to keep you ISO high – if you are shooting in AV, increase the ISO to as much as your camera can or pop it on automatic. There will be lots of noise in your shots but this can also look quite effective. However, if you don’t like it you can reduce it in post processing. Keeping the ISO high (Or if in shutter priority mode or manual, keeping the shutter speed fast) will ensure that your pics don’t end up blurry or with yellow or red casts on them! If they do – convert them to black and white and pray that that works afterwards in post processing… If you are really struggling getting the quality you want, set the camera to its automatic setting and let the camera do the work for you, especially if you are moving between inside and outside. Don’t feel bad about this, know when you are beaten and act accordingly, you can always do more research afterwards and figure out where you went wrong and how to change and learn from it for next time. The end results are the most important bit and if you are not yet totally at ease with your camera settings, then just let that go and pop it on automatic so you can concentrate on the composition of your images. I wish I had done this whilst moving between indoors and outdoors at the last wedding. Sometimes things happen so fast that it is difficult to keep track and it is not until afterwards that you really your ISO was not high enough and the images did not come out as sharp as you would have liked them to. Really, the best thing is to know your camera really well. Study, practice, study and practice some more! Mr and Mrs N COL hires (100 of 610)
  16. Using a flash… personally I prefer natural light but it can be very helpful using a flash, especially when indoors. Use a diffuser for the flash and/or if possible bounce the flash so it doesn’t hit the people right in the face. If you are using the on camera flash you can also use a diffuser or a neat trick is to use a piece of card that it reflects off set just under the bulb which gives you a really soft ambient light. Using a flash outside in direct sunlight can also a  stop harsh shadows on people’s faces. I made the mistake of bouncing the flash off the walls too often when I would have been better off remembering that I had a diffuser on it, and that it would have been fine to have been facing forward or upwards most of the time. I was a bit obsessed with not having harsh light. It is unlikely that you can use a flash in the church, so use a tripod or a monopod to insure you don’t get a problem with shakey hands and I recently found out that using a monopod raised high up with a remote control is a really effective way of getting some great shots whilst standing at the back of the church – thank you to Peter Duce Photography for this little tip!
  17. Know your lenses and know when to use them.  ave back-up lenses and a back-up body in case of emergency. I only carried 2 extra lenses on me, plenty of batteries, plenty of memory cards and flash batteries. I left the back-up body and back-up lenses in the car.
  18. Get insurance! Have a contract! Get it signed. This is really important, and, you will feel so much safer knowing that you have personal indemnity insurance, public liability and contents cover. The last thing you want is to lose the images and get sued, or have granny trip over your equipment and hurt herself. Don’t forget to insure your car for business use.
  19. Never stay and have a drink afterwards – one can lead to two..! Get your precious images home as soon as you can, and back up your raw files straight away. Back them up to 2 different places, the last thing you want to do is lose any of them. I tend to not look at the images until the next day, and then I just have a cursory look. I find that removing myself from them physically before making rash decisions about whether they are good or bad, is the best thing for me. I am super critical and sometimes that means that images that are actually not too bad, get popped in the recycle bin too!
  20. Last of all – Well, I have been thinking about this for a while now… I think the only real bit of advice is to enjoy yourself and to know that very often the whole wedding party will be looking at you for answers as they expect you to be in control – so be in control. To get the shots you want you will need to be well prepared and not be worried about being a little bit bossy! You will need to stick to your timekeeping and that often means dragging the bride and groom away from their guests. If you do not take control, you will not get the shots that you or the bride and groom want, even if at the time, they forget how much they want them.Most of all though? Have fun! Weddings are great fun, and capturing them as they happen is fabulous and exciting, and oh so very joyful! Claire&TomWedding-0043 retouch

I am sure I will have forgotten one thing or another and will no doubt come back to this list again in the future. I very much hope to be able to shoot some more weddings. Ideally I would like to be second shooter on a few more; getting some more experience and building up my portfolio. For now I am just looking forward to the next wedding I have booked. It really is a tremendous honour to be allowed to photograph someone’s wedding and such an immense pleasure too!

Challenges challenges…

About a month ago I had the enormous pleasure of doing a pre-wedding shoot with Abby and Ben. We decided to do it with their children at the venue that they are getting married at. This was great for me as I always like to do a reccy of the venue in advance so that I know what I am dealing with when I get there. The interesting thing about this venue is that if the weather is going to be fabulous on the day, we are in for a total treat! If however it is going to pour down with rain, we may have a problem! Obviously all shots can be done inside, whether it is the creative shots or the family ones. It doesn’t actually matter which ones, the only problem might be that the house itself is so chocka full of items, like stuffed animals and enormous vases and paintings that I am going to have to come up with something pretty special. I love the challenge of this, but it is definitely a challenge. At the shoot itself we utilised one of the bedrooms for a couple of shots and this worked really well as the bed was a four poster and the ambience of the room was dark and cosy and old. It was good fun and the children of course loved it. However, I am not sure that the family, mum, dad, Auntie June etc are quite ready for the bedroom shoot! There is however a fabulous staircase that I think would be perfect!

I learnt from a previous wedding not to be put off by the weather though, and instead invested in a mountain of umbrellas as it was forecast rain for the whole day, and boy did it rain, and boy did we put those umbrellas to good use! They were worth every penny!  I still have those, but feel I might have to invest in some more.

One thing I need more than anything though is an assistant. I need someone, especially if it is raining, to carry my umbrella!! How decadent! I could also really do with someone arty to help with the posed shots. I would love to be able to actually work with someone on these, not necessarily a photographer, but someone who is more prone to art direction and bounce ideas back and forth. I think a partnership works brilliantly like that, and there are many male and female, couples/wedding photographers around. I think they kind of have it in the bag. It’s great that they can also show their wedding couples how they would like them to stand or look, as they can use each other so that the couple understand and can really visualize what is expected of them. This is not a request for getting married to a photographer by the way… simply an observation!

Getting people to pose is also quite a challenge. I feel it is very important to make people feel comfortable and that is one of the reasons that I see the pre-wedding shoots as really important. I believe that if you are going to get the best out of our couples, you all have to like each other and you all have get on. They need to know how you work, and like the way you work, and you need to know what their limits and capabilities are. Wedding photography is not a one way process, it is a partnership, a collaboration. However, many people are not comfortable posing, so you have to be really gentle and careful and not expect too much of them. Sometimes the candid shots that are taken at the same time as the posed ones come out even better than the posed ones, because they are the natural, in between shots. I love these. I much prefer natural to posed, but I do see how essential it is to also have some of the posed ones, simply for posterity. I think that if a bride didn’t get the posed shots (even if she said she didn’t want them) that she  would feel like she was missing out. I would hate for that to happen.

Lighting is another challenge. Outside lighting is very easy. I am a natural and available light photographer. I don’t like using a flash of any kind, whether on or off camera. I like the way that using the light we are given, gives a truer reflection of what is going on and where we were when the photos were taken… that is not to say they can’t be manipulated afterwards to look more sunny and less grey, but in general I would say I prefer the truth of natural lighting. I think I will have to look into using a flash a bit more, when necessary though, as I have an idea that with the extra lighting the quality of the images may be better too. It’s not that easy when you are inside though, sometimes you have to bite the bullet and use a flash. The other thing you can do of course is to change the white balance of a set of images in post production. That can be really helpful, and actually using the luminance tool and noise reduction to get rid of unwanted pixels can often help as well. We have ways and means though I would still very much like to be able to take pictures that don’t need too much post processing. That in itself is a huge challenge.

I need time though… more time please… just to play around with photography… I imagine that one day I will earn enough money to be able to simply take photographs day in and day out, being like David du Chemin; the photographer, the Nomad.

I began this post talking about Abby and Ben and them getting married and having a pre wedding shoot and have come away from that and started talking about the challenges of photography. I want to say though that there is something so very, very special about being asked to photograph people, whether for a wedding or perhaps someone’s children. I may have said it before, but it really is a great honour to be part of or invited into people’s lives in that way. That is how I felt when on this shoot. Seeing two people so utterly devoted and in love and being part of that, fills me with so much joy and actually makes me realise more and more that I am doing the right thing. I came into photography very late on, but am doing my very best to make up for time lost and continue on this golden path.

I’ll leave you with a few images from the Abby and Ben shoot that I love. I do love a good family shoot!!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.