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Monday, September 15, 2008

Interview with Photographer Karen Watson, Part Two: Best Wedding Tips for Great Photography

I am a freelance photographer based in Sydney, Australia. I shoot predominantly for the entertainment industry (music/film - album covers, publicity stills, live concerts, music video stills) and publishing (cookbooks etc) but have attracted private clients for portraiture and weddings. My style is relaxed and unobtrusive – capturing candid moments. Contact details: karen_watson@bigpond.com. My new website will be launched in Oct!

Melissa's Addendum: I added the wrong pictures - thought the ones I had were Karen's but they weren't. Blame it on an overseas move at the time. These above are Karen's.

The Interview, Continued:

Discuss weather and seasons. How do they affect the bride’s choices and your suggestions?

Weather, seasons and also time of day obviously impacts wedding photography. That's not to say that you can't get married in winter or in the rain, just be prepared accordingly. Don't count on the weather being co-operative, even in Summer. Always have a back-up plan in case it rains. I generally suggest a few different locations for wedding photos - both for variety of shots but also just in case the weather is unpredictable or you lose light. In summer, aim to time your wedding portraits for later in the day - it's cooler and the light isn't as harsh so you won't end up with photos with strong shadows and you'll be more comfortable. If you like beach portraits remember SAND gets everywhere. I generally bring towels and water so the bridal party can wash their feet afterwards - check your photographer will supply these items and if not then make arrangements yourself. Also try for a beach with white sand as there is less likelihood of dirtying your dress.

Remember that beaches in the afternoon / evening can get cold so be prepared. If it's likely to rain and you still want some outdoor shots then I suggest investing in some cheap black umbrellas (some photographers like myself supply them so worth checking). Black umbrellas in the rain look great in wedding photos. If the rain is heavy and you have a large bridal party, you may want to limit these types of shots to bride and groom only - it's faster and easier to co-ordinate two people in the rain rather than 8 or more. If you want late afternoon shots or sunset shots timing is critical. The window of opportunity for good light is small so plan these shots with your photographer in advance and take their direction on the day. Once the light is gone, it's gone so if everyone is playing around the photographer will miss the shot. Also remember that on the actual day - especially weekends - some locations at certain times of the year are
VERY POPULAR. I have turned up to locations where there were 8 other bridal parties all vying for the same spot for photos! Consider your locations carefully - a secluded beach in winter can be overcrowded in summer.

10.What is one thing you wished all brides knew about your job?

Have realistic expectations - photographers can only capture what is there on the day and can't be in all places at once. They also don't control the weather! And Don't forget that time is money to you as well as the photographer too - they are there to do a job. The wedding party should listen to the photographer's directions to ensure that the photos are done well and within a reasonable time frame for all. For large group shots or family shots, your MC should be ensuring that everyone that should be in photos is gathered and ready for the photo when the photographer needs them. This will ensure that group photos run smoothly and your photographer is not wasting valuable time.

11. Is there anything you wish brides would NOT ask you to do?

Photographers take the wedding photos - they are not substitute wedding planners, ushers or waiters. Don't ask your photographer to serve your guests food or drink, or to round up your guests for dinner or photographs. Your MC should coordinate all this.

12. Please share a favorite tip or two.

I always tell my bridal parties the following tips:

1. Remember to smile! It's your wedding day - you should look happy!! And it's OK to cry - even if you are the groom! But glum and vacant expressions don't make the best wedding photos!

2. Remember your posture, stand up straight - nothing is more unattractive in a wedding photo than the bride or groom slumping their shoulders etc.

3. Don't rush during the ceremony. It's your day so enjoy it. It's OK to take your time. When you exchange rings or kiss after the ceremony, do it slowly, linger so that your photographer can capture the moment. You'll get better photos!

4. Don't forget to tell your photographer if there are any special requirements. These could be items in your ceremony that have significance to you - such as lighting candles for deceased relatives, special readings or musical performances. If your photographer doesn't know about these then more than likely they may be in the wrong place to capture these properly. Ditto if a member of the wedding party has special needs (such as being wheelchair-bound). I recently photographed a wedding for a bride who wanted shots of the wedding party on the beach - we visited the beach together, discussed how we would pose etc. She just neglected to mention that the best man was a quadriplegic and we couldn't get his electric wheelchair near the beach without causing him great discomfort. If I had known this in advance I would have made alternative suggestions for locations. Thankfully some quick thinking and knowledge of the area saved the day and I managed to get some lovely shots of the wedding party - just not on the beach!!


Karen Watson, photographer extraordinaire

What are some of the differences between taking photos of weddings and of other events?
The major difference is that you only get one chance to get it right on the day - no second chances if you miss the shot in the ceremony for example. Also depending on the denomination of the ceremony, there are particular types of etiquette that you may need to follow, particularly during a ceremony. Weddings in general tend to be more emotional than other events too - trying to settle everyone's nerves and emotions on the day can be challenging and you don't generally have to contend with this when shooting other events.
Describe some of your favorite backgrounds for wedding shots.
The ocean is always great or the bush. I try to find interesting textured backgrounds or architecture such as vines creeping up a wall, old gazebos, archways and so on.
When money isn't an object (or not much of one), what is the most likely (or the best) scenario for preserving the bride and groom's memories of the day?
Unlimited options really - you could get 2 photographers to shoot all day starting with bride and groom dressing through to end of reception. One photographer would focus on more formal shots and the second would focus on capturing candid moments through the day. You could get albums, parent packs, DVD slideshow, framed prints as well as miniature keepsake albums for the bridal party. It's endless really.
What do you consider to be your greatest asset as a photographer?
My personality, as clichéd as that sounds. My approach is relaxed, fun and easygoing and where possible I try to be as unobtrusive on the day when taking photos. I find people photograph the best when they are not even aware the camera is there.
Any dream locations for taking photos for the future (as in, if the wealthiest and most
influential person in the world called you up and told you that he had chosen you as the perfect photographer to immortalize his wedding day and was willing to fly you and the wedding party to as many locations that day as you wanted, where would you choose and what would you do to make the day special)?
I think the Japanese blossom gardens in Kyoto would make an excellent location for wedding pics. Santorini for its beautiful light and architecture, a secluded beach in Thailand with white sands.
What is the most difficult task for a wedding photographer?
Getting everyone to follow your directions! Keeping everyone's emotions in check, especially before the ceremony. Rounding up everyone for group shots. Ensuring you capture everything that is important on the day.
Any humorous moments that have occurred during the weddings you have photographed?
I have had wedding cakes collapse before the bride and groom arrive, wedding limos crash before they even get the bride to church, I have had torrential downpours during a beach wedding - I have even had a guest slap a bride in front of all the guests just before she walked down the aisle! You see a bit of everything at weddings!
10. If you could photograph your own wedding (and location was no impediment), what would you choose to do?
I'd have a small wedding with my closest friends and family in a beautiful secluded location.
11. What is the best advice you can give to couples contemplating how to record their wedding day?
Don't feel you have to spend a fortune on the day - pay for what you need and spend the rest of the money on the party or your honeymoon or your new home! It's supposed to be a fun day - enjoy it.


Anonymous Hannah said...

Another interesting installment, Karen. Where I work we have a lot of weddings and a lot of wedding-dramas. You might be amazed at how many photographers DON'T do some of the things you've suggested. We see the same photographers taking the same shots in the same place month after month after month.

You just know that there's 30 of that same shot in wedding albums all over the city.

We've had guest punch-ups (but no bride slaps... that must have been startling!), we've had a mother-of-the-bride tumble into the Koi pond and we've had a very drunk father-of-the-bride (drunk before the wedding) tumble off the back of the golf-cart they were all being transported in.

But you know what... those were also the loveliest weddings too. Loose, relaxed, informal. Everyone just rolled with the punches. Literally!! LOL.

September 15, 2008 at 1:43 AM  
Blogger Karen Watson said...

Hi Hannah :-)

That's classic! I always think that it's inevitable that things will go wrong on the day but it's how the couple manage their expectations (and also their reactions) at the time that will determine whether the day is ruined or not!


September 15, 2008 at 3:26 AM  
Blogger Karen Watson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

September 15, 2008 at 3:31 AM  
Blogger Jane Beckenham said...

Thanks Karen and Melissa, great blog and great information. How long should wedding photos take after the ceremony. The reason I ask this is at a beach wedding I went to several years ago, the bride and groom took nearly 4 hours(yes four!) for photos, guests got fed up and went to the coffee shops up the road for a drink instead of waiting around - i will also add that it was freezing and windy and outside venue where we were expected to wait, so four hours was a tad excessive!
jane Beckenham

September 15, 2008 at 10:21 AM  
Blogger Melissa James said...

Oh, Jane, how well I remember one like that...photographer and bride's mother were so fussy quite a few people went home.

So for Jaime's wedding we hired a coffee lounge while we waited, in the same building as the reception. :-))))


September 15, 2008 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger Brandy said...

I like the tip about the black umbrella's in the rain. That sounds lovely! Do you take both color and black and white shots when taking wedding photos? Or is that not done seperately now? *g*

September 15, 2008 at 1:37 PM  
Blogger Virginia said...

These are some really great tips. Thanks for sharing them with us.

September 15, 2008 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Karen Watson said...

Hi Brandy!

Yes the umbrellas can make wonderful images, especially in black and white.

Most weddings these days are shot in digital which gives couples the flexibility of deciding whether they want a shot in black and white or colour.

One thing I love though is the texture and depth of black and white on film. You can't really beat it. I do give my clients the option to have black and white photos shot on film if they would like. Of course it's important that they understand the relevant costs and limitations of that option - it will cost more to develop film and of course you can't convert black and white film into colour.


September 15, 2008 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger Karen Watson said...

Hi Jane

WOW 4 hours! What on earth were they doing all that time? Sounds to me like the photographer maybe wasn't prepared and so wasted a great deal of time.

I generally allow no more than an hour and a half for the official portraits - less if possible. Afterall it's supposed to be a day of celebration and partying!

I think it's important for photographers to do their homework beforehand - find the locations, do some test shots so you know how and where you are going to pose the couple and do a dry run so you know approx travel time between locations and also back to the reception venue. I also try to plan out who I need for the shoot - I start with the entire bridal party and then if need be allow them to make their way back to the reception venue while I finish off shots of the couple. It's just easier for everyone and also keeps everyone focused.

My view of the location shoot is to pick up those few "classic" shots of the bridal party that will hang on walls or sit on mantles. So I aim to shoot as many natural, candid portraits of the couple and the bridal party before and during the ceremony so I don't waste too much time on location trying to capture more of the same. Much more efficient. Hope this makes some sense?


September 15, 2008 at 3:53 PM  
Blogger Karen Watson said...

Hi Virginia!

Thanks so much for the feedback - I am glad and hope you can make some use of the information!


September 15, 2008 at 3:54 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Wow, more great tips! Thanks, Karen.

And those photos at the start of the post are just gorgeous!

September 15, 2008 at 5:49 PM  

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