When Rachel asked me to be her maid (ahem, matron) of honor, I squealed with excitement. YES, of course! Right away, I had visions of lovely dresses, handsome suits, pretty up do’s and flowers. I had ideas for party planning and started thinking about the toast I’d write for her. I couldn’t wait to watch her try on countless white dresses and find her perfect wedding gown. I couldn’t wait to stand next to her as she tearfully said I do to Zach.
One thing I never imagined, was that I’d be shooting it too. She did hire a photographer, and asked me to bring my camera along to shoot a short session on the wedding day. She wanted her bride and groom portraits to be taken by her best friend. She wanted my vision, and the good memories that would come along with looking at these photographs for years to come, remembering the moments we shared from this session together. It was a perfect plan. Ultimately, however, the photographer she hired wasn’t a match for her, and the situation caused a lot of unexpected stress. So Jamie and I talked about it, and came up with a plan. It sounded crazy, but hello! WE could shoot Rachel and Zach’s wedding! I could shoot most of the wedding as usual: the getting ready, details, the first look, family photos, and the bride and groom. Heck, I could even pose the bridal party and hop in. Jamie was easily able to pick up where I left off, second shooting as usual and taking the lead for bridal party, ceremony, and reception coverage. Being a bit of a perfectionist, I needed a foolproof plan. I decided to hire a third shooter to fill in any gaps and gain another perspective. The delightful Emma Jae, a budding wedding photographer from Duluth Minnesota, stepped into that role flawlessly.
The day was beautiful. Rachel was a stunning bride, Zach a dashing groom. Our little photographic trio worked like a well-oiled machine. The day was sunny and bright, everyone was in good spirits, and there was a ton of laughter and love. We all have wonderful memories of that day, and I can’t imagine it any other way.
You can see their full wedding feature here! Rachel and Zach’s Minneapolis Wedding
Should you shoot your friend’s wedding?
If you’ve been asked to photograph a friend’s or family member’s wedding, take some time to decide whether it is something you truly can and want to do. You may have a flurry of mixed feelings about it: flattered that they asked you, nervous about the responsibility, bummed that you’ll be working while everyone else is having fun, or gleefully excited to get started! Take a deep breath, and listen to your intuition.
– Think about it first. You will be responsible for covering every detail of the day, as well as enjoying the event as a guest and catching up with friends and relatives. We thought out and envisioned the entire day, every moment, to be sure we would be able to perform as we would for our commissioned weddings and still enjoy the day as friends. That brainstorming session is what led us to hire Emma. We wanted to be 100% sure there would be no gaps in coverage, and no unnecessary stress.
– Sign a contract. Whether or not you charge is up to you, and it can be an icky subject when working with friends. If you are just starting out, it can be a great way to build your portfolio and potentially book other weddings. As a professional, it’s your livelihood, and taking on their wedding means saying no to another booking. And it’s no less work than any other wedding! Between the planning, day-of shooting, post-processing and album design, you will be pouring hours into it. Don’t be afraid to charge for your time. Once you’ve reached an agreement that works for both parties, nail down hours of coverage, what is included in their package, and when they can expect to receive it.
– Communicate about style. Just like with any couple you’re working with, you want to be clear about their expectations and vision. Friends will often say, “we trust you, do whatever!”, but a lack of communication can lead to disappointment and hard feelings. You don’t get any do-overs with weddings! Talk about the shots you plan to take, talk about their style, your style, your vision, and how it’s all going to come together. Show each other examples to make sure you’re on the same page. You’re going to create a beautiful image collection together that you’ll be proud of, and they’ll adore for years to come!
– Prepare for the crazy. You’ve been to a wedding before, everything is beautiful and amazing and fun! And if you’ve photographed a wedding before, you know what it takes to make that happen, and things can get crazy. Now you’re stuck in the middle. You want to hang out, have a drink and chat up your old high school friends. Meanwhile, your friend in the bridal attire is shooting daggers at you with her eyes because they’re about to cut the cake and you’re not ready. You gotta focus! You’re there for a reason, don’t flake out on your responsibility. Just find your balance and have fun doing it. It can absolutely be done. Be attentive, creative, and anticipate what’s happening next. Know when you when have a few minutes to chat, and know when to be ready for that bouquet toss. (For the record, Rachel did not shoot daggers at me, nor any of us 🙂 )
– Enjoy it! Um, hello, this could be the most amazing wedding. Like ever. You’re photographing your friends! You get them, they get you. You can communicate your vision with them like no one else. It’s like a safe haven for your creativity to run wild. Keep their style and vision and mind, let loose and create some amazingness!
– Stick to the plan. Know exactly when you are going to start, how the timeline will flow, and when you’ll be putting the camera down. You’re going to want to get out on that dance floor and tear it up with your friends and family too! Discuss when that time will be, and stick to it. Put your gear in a secure place, grab a glass of wine, and enjoy the night! Job well done! Cheers!