There are two good reasons to prepare, plan and prepare.
Firstly everyone has heard of ‘pre wedding nerves.’ This applies to the wedding photographer too. It’s good to be on edge, you don’t want to be too complacent about how good you are. Equally you don’t want your nerves to affect your performance. An effective way to control your nerves is to PREPARE yourself as much as you can. You will need to adjust to the events of the day and if something within your control goes wrong you need to have a backup plan. What happens if your camera dies, you run out of memory or batteries for your flash. What happens if it rains outside where you planned to do the formal shots? What happens if the guests keep looking at their friends taking pictures of them rather than you. What happens if your camera can’t get the right white balance between daylight coming through the windows and tungsten?
You need to have answers to these kind of questions. Preparing your gear and researching the location will make you feel more confident about the event and rather than being distracted by your nerves you will be able to ‘focus’ on the job in hand.
The second reason is that if your plans go wrong then you have a physical backup or a backup plan. This is not psychological but very real! Having a backup for everything may seem like overkill but let me assure you it is not. Weddings only happen once and you can’t even think about photographing one without serious preparation.
This is why if you drop your main portrait lens you have an alternative. Obviously you don’t need to carry two of every lens, but if you crack your 70-200/2.8 then you can whip out your 100/2.8 macro and shoot with that. In short, do your best to be fully prepared so that if something happens you can rest comfortably in the knowledge that you were as prepared as you could possibly be.
As I mentioned previously things rarely go to plan on the day and you have to expect the unexpected and go with the flow. Whilst you need to memorise your list of formal shots keep a note of them and check them at the end of the wedding. If you forgot to take a shot of the groom and bridesmaids then you can check your list before the end of the wedding and organise an impromptu shoot.
The schedule often changes. Don’t be surprised if the bride arrives 15 minutes late for the ceremony. This will impact on your 30 minutes of allocated time for a photoshoot and you will only get 15. Get the important emotional shots during and after the ceremony make sure you explain to the organiser or bride what has happened. They will help you to organise people and explain what has happened and ease the pressure on you so you can do the best job in the circumstances.
Don’t get irritable if things don’t go to plan. This doesn’t help anyone and it is so true that the person in front of the camera mirrors the person behind it. Joke and have fun with them. Provide positive GENUINE feedback, chimp and adjust your subjects as necessary so that they feel good about themselves. Remember the more practice you have the less stressed you will be. The less stressed you are the less mistakes you make.