10 Photographer Tips for Surviving a Wedding Day

photographer tips for weddingsDisclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means Photography Awesomesauce receives commission if you make a purchase using affiliate links.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being a wedding photographer. It really is a sweet gig. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and wonder how I ended up here – getting to do this. However, all jobs have their pros and cons. Being a wedding photographer can sometimes give you really long hours. It’s hard work being on your feet with dozens of pounds of camera gear hanging on you all day.

Ever heard the term “wedding hangover?” Well in photography land I always like to refer to this term as the way a wedding photographer feels after working a really long wedding day. This blog post has a few tips for surviving better, keeping your energy up and getting through long wedding days with ease!

  1. Drink Water! – Does this need an explanation? Working on your feet all the time, especially outdoors in the heat can cause dehydration and heat exhaustion. Drink lots of water and keep hydrated when you’re working long hours. I like to bring a stash of water bottles with me or rely on the fact that they’re usually provided at weddings.
  2. Camera Straps – Having a solid way of carrying your gear is more important than you might think. You need to pick a camera strap or support system that causes your body the least amount of stress. I’d rather invest upfront in an expensive harness like the Holdfast Moneymaker system than spend thousands on chiropractic care later. I really love the Holdfast harness because it distributes the weight of gear very evenly and I rarely come home with a sore neck or back anymore.
  3. Pack Snacks – I never know how a wedding day might flow. Maybe the minister won’t show up and the entire day will run 2 hours behind? Either way I gotta fuel to keep up with everything so I pack snacks in case we take a major turn off schedule for some reason.
  4. Comfortable Shoes – Comfortable shoes are integral to being a wedding photographer. While I won’t make any specific recommendations since everyone’s feet are different, what I will say is that you can definitely buy inserts, arch supports, etc. to make any existing pair of shoes more comfy for a day on your feet.
  5. Schedule a Break – A really long day is hard without a break to sit down and eat. I always make sure to let my clients know (in my contract and via email) that I’ll be taking a break to eat when they do. I’m not demanding about having a meal, or a hot one in particular provided for me. What’s most important is that I have time to sit down and have a break. You can add in meal clauses to your contracts as you’d like, but at the very least make sure you make it clear that during a 12 hour day you need a few minutes to sit down and eat too in order to keep doing a great job.
  6. Prepare in Advance – Weddings aren’t only physically taxing, but mentally as well. You could be entering someone’s world on one of the happiest and most stressful days of their lives. The more prepared you are in advance for all the possibilities, the better off you will be. If that means helping your clients create a wedding timeline, keeping your own emergency kit in your car for your clients, or building in lots of extra time throughout the day in case things go late….I just advise any wedding photographer to prepare in advance as much as possible. I like to arrive early to venues to check them out, plan photos, and sometimes I even attend the rehearsal the day before so I can be even more prepared for how things will go.
  7. Communicate – One of the biggest stressors I hear about from other wedding photographers is problems with other vendors, specific guests, etc. A great survival tip for dealing with these stressful relations is to communicate. Just remember everyone else is there stressing out too, and wanting to ensure everything goes perfect. Rather than holding a silent grudge at that guest who keeps getting in your shots, it’s totally okay to politely ask them to move. Be willing to communicate the things you need in order to get your job done to the best of your ability. Don’t be afraid to speak up! It’s totally possible to do it in a polite and friendly way and make sure everyone walks away happy.
  8. Spark – One of my favorite tools for keeping up the energy and positive attitude during a busy wedding day is Advocare’s Spark. I’m super happy my friend Sarah Perkins introduced me to it and I think it should be in every wedding photographer’s survival kit. I like to get the little to-go packets as my little energy boost/vitamin supplement to keep going throughout the day. It’s very easy to mix into a water bottle on the go! I’m going to put a link here to the Spark from my distributor (Sarah Perkins and her partner in crime Dave Glaser), because I like to support their small business. I highly recommend the Mango Strawberry flavor.
  9. Wine – When you get home and start importing those photos, put your feet up and have a glass of wine.
  10. Get Holistic – Before and after a wedding I like to do things like dab on a little lavender oil, or burn some lavender incense so I can be calm, cool, and collected for the day and relax when I’m done.

5 things to think about before you shoot your first wedding

There it is.  The email that you never thought you’d get or even be asked, “What are you prices for shooting a wedding?”

Jackpot!  You get to shoot a wedding, eat cake and raid the candy bar.

Yes!  You’ve made it.  I mean does it really matter that you’ve never shot a wedding before?  You’ve been to more than a handful of them so how hard can it be?

Behind the scenes with Lisa Otto Photography

Stop.  Just stop right there.

Before you answer them back with some lowball price think about something.  You are taking a couples biggest day into your hands, no matter how small or big their day is going to be, you are responsible for their wedding day pictures.  Are you ready for that?  Here are a few things to consider before jumping on that email and shooting your first solo wedding.

1.  Do you have backup gear?
You’ve shot 100’s of portrait sessions and nothing has ever happened to your gear but there’s always that one time.  Why would you want it to be the time that you’re shooting someone’s wedding?  I’m not saying that you can’t rent the gear but having a backup camera is one of the best decisions you can make.

2.  Do you have the equipment (and knowledge) to shoot a dark reception?
It may sound stupid or you may not think of it but most receptions are dark so are you going to be able to shoot it?  Again, you can rent the gear to shoot it but do you know OCF (off camera flash) well enough to shoot it?

3.  Are you ready to take on a whole wedding day?
Some think that all you need to do is show up, snap a few pictures and move on.  HA!  Further from the truth.  Who’s doing your time line for the day to make sure you stay on time?  Who is making up your family formal list?

4.  Do you have liability insurance?
For backyard weddings, smaller venues, you may not need it as far as the venue is concerned.  Most bigger hotels/venues will require all of the vendors have $1 million liability but this isn’t just about shooting the big venues.  This is also about having insurance if something goes wrong.  This is what liability insurance is for.  Bride sues you because you screwed something up?  Equipment failed?  Your liability insurance may help you in that so you aren’t paying anything out of pocket.  For as cheap as insurance is a year, there’s no reason not to do it.

5.  Have you second shot a wedding?
If you haven’t, DO IT!  Seriously, just do it.  Network with other photographers and get in on second shooting.  If you don’t get paid for it the first couple of times, don’t complain.  You’re learning, you’re soaking it all in and you’ve never shot one before so asking to get paid for it would be, well rude.  Down here (in Florida) we have a Facebook group for locals that we can post up when we need a second so find a local group and start posting.

Advice for second shooting, sign a contract with the primary.  Make sure that you are able to use your images on your website/portfolio.   Using them on your blog or Facebook can usually be done as long as you link back to the primary and the primary has delivered the clients images but that’s something to discuss with the primary and make sure that it is very clear in the contract you sign with them.

There should be no reason that you can’t get into wedding photography, just do it the smart way.  Be prepared and by prepared, I mean not jumping into a Facebook group when the client is ready to book and you don’t have a contract.  Be ready from the very beginning, do you research so this way when the time comes you can rock it out!

Stop being a Bit@h to your ‘Competitors’ (and you may just help your business)

cass bradley business bossy big sister business coach

Raise your hand if you are in competitive market?One where you feel like you ‘fight’ for every client? That someone is always cheaper?  Or, you feel their work is better?  …Published more  (the list goes on…)

Yah–Me too.

If you threw a rock out of my studio window you would hit no less that 10 photographers who have physical studios.  (And hundreds more working out of their homes or scrambling to nab the last available table at the Starbucks.)  It could be very easy to  want to be self-protective.  To get “competitive.”  To hoard what we know. To be hesitant to help and share and fiercely guard such items as our pricing, process, shooting locations and the like.

Or worse yet—to feel the need sling mud, to undercut, to let our insecurities take over and act like a real bitch to/about your competition.

—Well, wake up Sally, because I have got news for you:   Your competitors can often be not only a very valuable resource (and great sounding board based on being some of the few people in this world that truly understand how difficult it can be to be a professional photographer) —but can also have great impact on your bottom line.


Your bottom line.

As in—more bookings.  More profitability.  More dollars in your pockets for travel, red wine, high-heeled boots and drawers full of red lipstick.  (ok—those are mine..substitute your vices here).

So HOW do you get over yourself and build ‘competitive’ relationships that matter?

  • First—Know yourself and ‘live’ your authentic brand with confidence.    (In which case—you really do not have competition in the traditional sense)  As a business coach I had worked with once stated  “anyone can compete with what you do but they cannot compete with who you ARE,”  (or, something like that…maybe that shouldn’t be in quotes. I digress….)  But you get my point, right?  For example:  I tend to focus on clients who adore intimate and elegant , outdoor weddings.  My couples are a tad glamorous and definitely fearless and fiery!  They are witty-ass people who focus on bringing their family and friends together for their wedding day and less about it simply being  a ‘pretty wedding spectacle.’   Whereas, another photographer friend specializes in younger/southern brides who monogram all-the-things.  ‘Mom’ is making a good majority of the decisions and have both large bridal parties and guest counts. More traditional/Southern.   Our ‘ideal clients’ could not further worlds apart!   So guess what? The more I know ME and she knows SHE….the less we need to feel and act competitive.
  • Join some local groups:  my market has more than few larger photography groups that offer a place to make valuable connections, share information and  even group shooting outings , etc. (And can really better an entire market by elevating each other vs. each of us trying figure it all out on our own.)
  • Form a small group of local/trusted advisors:  Though I enjoy and benefit from the larger groups—they can vary in experience level and can be less ‘personal.’   A ‘competitor and I started a small group last year with the premise being “an intimate group of photographers hell-bent on helping each other succeed.”    We have a private Facebook group and share ideas, ask questions and even share things like insurance agents, shooting locations, sample contracts and pricing.  We also  gather once a month for dinner and starting to add some educational components.    We laugh, vent, drink wine…and most importantly:  help each other grow.
  • Refer each other:  A funny thing happened this past week.  I booked a wedding and received 3 referrals from other photographers in my market. One of which —is one of the most tenured wedding photographers in my market.  And, in this case-we  do actually have some similarities in both our photography style and attract a similar clients. (and she also delights in red wine and high-heeled boots  😉    So we have every reason to be ‘competitive,’ right? WRONG.  There are only so many weddings we each want to book in a year (around 25)  So when one of us is booked?  Who better to refer than someone who attracts a similar client?   The few couples she has sent my way have been some of my easiest to book!  They come in warmly referred by someone whose opinion they valued enough to inquire with,  who already like a similar style of work,  and prefer our shared way of interacting with clients.  (both my competitor-turned-friend and I enjoy a very personal interaction with our clients vs. just being their ‘photographer.’)
  • Give what you want to get: Not new, news..but so spot on.  I had a photographer say to me once ‘its just effing stupid to help someone else in your market with SEO.’  While I understand the logic in that if a competitor successfully works on their SEO they have the potential to bypass my hard fought toggle between 2nd and 3rd page.   To this I say—if 40 photographers in my market are listed in the first 3 pages…I’d rather be surrounded by 39 other photographer who realize there is room enough for us to be successful and there is great benefit in helping each other. So I am happy to help with SEO or anything else for that matter!  If you are closed-off, protective and competitive..that is exactly what you will find your market to be.  However, if you are open honest, giving and helpful….guess what you will find?   ‘Competitors’ who are the same.    …and it just may impact your bottom line.

Here is a little peek at our intimate group of competitor-friends at some of our recent meet-up.  –I adore these talented women. (and please forgive the servers iPhone/skilz:-)

charlotte best wedding photographers

Retouching Skin for Weddings

Retouching Cover

Retouching.  What an ugly word, right?  It seems that every time a question about retouching skin for weddings comes up on Facebook there are a million different opinions of what we should do and why.  So to fuel the debate even more I’ve decided to write this months post on retouching skin for weddings.

Let me start by saying I am a firm believer when it comes to retouching skin!  I believe, that as a wedding photographer, clients come to me for a number of reasons.  The big reasons are because they love my photos and believe that I am the right person to capture such a momentous occasion.  But another, more subtle, reason I believe clients come to me is because all of the people they see featured on my website, blog, social media, marketing materials and albums all look really good.  And while I wish I could sit here and say it’s because all of my clients have flawless skin and we are always shooting in perfect light, that’s just not the truth.  The truth is it’s because I take a little bit of extra time retouching skin.

While culling in Photo Mechanic I divide my keeper photos into two separate categories.  The largest set receives a general edit and are the images I spend the least amount of time on.  The second set are my feature images that will receive the full Jamie Ivins Photography treatment. These feature images may be used in a number of different ways but mostly are images that will either go on to represent my brand or will end up in a client album, slideshow, or as proof prints.

Once I have finished culling in Photo Mechanic I upload my photos into Lightroom and apply a custom preset while uploading to give my photos the pop that I like.  I do a general quick edit on the lot of them to color correct, make sure horizon lines are straight, and get the overall look I want for the set.

After the general edit is finished I then move on to my feature images.  These are the images I spend a little extra time on to make sure that everything is exactly the way I want it.  Sometimes that just means extra dodging and burning or simple cloning in Lightroom…but…whenever skin is present in one of these images, it is then taken into Photoshop for retouching.

Once open in Photoshop I start with blemish removal via the healing brush.  I know some users like the spot healing brush tool but I’m old school and still prefer to sample an area of skin before working on an affected area.  🙂  After I am finished removing blemishes I move on to softening skin using Mama Shan’s retouching actions.

The Mama Shan’s actions I use most often are the “Original Powder” and “Mama’s Lite Powder” because I feel that these give me the most natural results on my images without looking fake or overly processed.  When using these powder brushes I like to use a Wacom tablet making sure the pressure setting is turned on and my opacity is set between 40-50% for the fellas and 60-70% for the ladies with a flow of 30%.  It’s important to note that a tablet is not necessary to use these actions but I prefer the control I have with a tablet over my mouse.  Once the skin is finished I then move on to other areas like eyes and teeth to also give them a little pop.

After the retouching is complete I save the file in Photoshop and bring it back into Lightroom to make any final adjustments I may have missed prior before exporting these files for use in a slideshow, album, blog post, etc.

So now that you know the “how” in my process I want to talk a little bit about the “why”, which is two-fold.

First, our clients invest a lot of money in our services and while they want pretty pictures that show their wedding day, they also want to look and feel their best and I believe that as photographers it is our job to give that to them.  To be 100% honest with you, I feel that if we aren’t taking the time to remove blemishes and do some light skin softening we are being lazy and not providing a full service to our clients.  Now, you might be all, “but Jamie…I want my clients to look natural.”  Well, guess what?  Me too.  And there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do a light edit on skin, removing blemishes, hot spots, or sweaty foreheads and still retain the natural look.  Most people are very self-conscious and I, for one, don’t ever want to be responsible for one of my clients looking self-consciously at themselves.  It is my goal to make them feel their best when they’re viewing their images so they are proud to show them off to people and are happy looking back at their wedding day years down the road.

Secondly, I’m doing this because I’m always trying to attract a higher end clientele.  And in my experience, people with higher budgets also have higher expectations.  And along with higher expectations they are going to want to feel like they are hiring someone who can give them a boutique experience they would be hard pressed to find elsewhere.  When looking at their photos they are going to want to feel that I put all of myself into the work and they are getting a one of a kind product and if you, as the photographer, aren’t paying attention to the details, you’re falling short.  So to appeal to the next tier of clients I want a body of work that is able to stand up to their expectation.

Some of you may agree.  Some may disagree.  Such is life.  I’m just here to tell you what is working for me and to speculate as to why.  Ultimately it is up to each of you to decide what is best for your images.  But I urge you to stop being lazy and to start creating an experience your clients deserve.  And if you don’t believe you can retouch while still ending up with the natural look, check out the examples below.  Face!


See you all next month Awesomesaucers!

The Secret to a Killer Wedding Ring Shot

If there’s one thing I always try and do with my wedding couples, it’s to give them a killer ring shot.  Not just laying them on a flower or something along those lines but really using my noggin and giving them something pretty kick ass.  Without fail, every time I post a ring shot the day after a wedding, I get…OMG, how in the hell did you do that?  I would love to think that I’m hoarding some huge secret for these killer ring shots but as you read on, if you don’t slap yourself in the head with a huge DUH, then you’re probably already doing it.

You ready for the big secret?

Orthodontic wax.  Yep, that’s it.  Braces wax that you can buy at any drug store.  A whole $4 and that’s it.

So let’s start with a fairly simple one.  You can see a small dab between the rings and a little bigger dab on his wedding band since it was holding her ring also

IMG_6329 before

Into Photoshop is goes with a little cloning here and there and BAM!



Moving on to my best one yet.  This one even shocked me and to date it’s my favorite shot yet.  You can see where I have the wax under the rings and under the hooks.  I had to use a little more wax with this one since there was a lot more to balance.


Into Photoshop we go with a lot of cloning, a little bit of brightening and BAM!

IMG_1329 WM

So there’s my huge secret.  That’s it.  Now how long is it going to take you to get to the store, buy wax and start balancing your rings?