Columns » A Photo Life

How to find the perfect wedding photographer: Your engagement sitting and creating the wedding schedule

by

comment
Cathryn and Taylor's engagement was photographed at their Montana ranch. - CATHY CAYTON
  • Cathy Cayton
  • Cathryn and Taylor's engagement was photographed at their Montana ranch.
Now that you’ve booked the photographer for your wedding, you’ve signed a contract and paid a non-refundable retainer to ensure your reservation. You’ve planned ahead — now it's just waiting six to nine months for the big day.

If you've purchased an engagement sitting with your photographer, now is the time to schedule it. Engagement sittings are important for you and your photographer. Most couples have never been photographed professionally, so it’s good to learn what that feels like before your wedding day — and to learn to enjoy it.

For the photographer, an engagement sitting is a chance to develop a rapport with you. They can watch how you interact as a couple, and you can have some fun and develop a level of trust before the pressures of your wedding day.
Ali and Joe's engagement was photographed at Tejon Street Music in downtown Colorado Springs. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Ali and Joe's engagement was photographed at Tejon Street Music in downtown Colorado Springs.
It’s hard to overstate the value of trust. Being able to trust the photographer’s suggestions is critical if the photography is to go smoothly at your wedding. The fewer things you have to worry about, the more you’ll enjoy the day.

After the engagement, you can also pore over the proofs online or in hard copy form, much like you would your wedding photographs. So that helps you to understand the order fulfillment process. We always include a slideshow with our engagement sittings, which makes for a great diversion at work or home and gets you and your families excited about the big day.
Jenny and James engagement was photographed on the Brooklyn Bridge at sunrise. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Jenny and James engagement was photographed on the Brooklyn Bridge at sunrise.

Thinking about the schedule

Even if you decide not to do an engagement session, don’t stop talking to your photographer about your wedding.

Good wedding photographers are usually obsessed with your wedding day schedule, and it’s important (especially if you’re not using a wedding planner) to discuss the agenda with your photographer well in advance of your big day.

What all wedding photographers really want — and need — is time.

Time for family pictures. Time for portraits of the two of you. Time enough to get from the ceremony to the reception and photograph the hall and the cake before the guests arrive. And time to be able stop and see pictures they may not have seen while under the pressure to get from here to there.

Finding time on the wedding day is like finding water in the desert. It’s a precious resource to a photographer and it should never be wasted. That’s why working closely on your schedule with your photographer will ensure there's enough time to make all of the pictures you want — and for the photographer to find the pictures he or she wants.

In our business, we lay out the wedding day in a precise timeline. Here’s an example of a typical plan:
  • 1:30 p.m.: Bride arrives at the location/photographers arrive
  • 1:35-2:15 p.m.: Bride preparation in suite
  • 2:00-2:30 p.m.: Groom arrives at location/groom prep in locker room
  • 2:30 p.m.: Private moment at location
  • 2:40-3:05 p.m.: Portraits of bride and groom
  • 3:15-4:15 p.m.: Wedding party and family formals
  • 4:15 p.m.: Guests arrive/bride and groom retire to waiting areas
  • 5:00 p.m.- 5:45 p.m.: Ceremony, Processional, Serenade, Communion, Vows, Rings, Kiss, Recessional, Guest release
  • 5:45-6:30 p.m.: Cocktail hour
  • 6:30-6:45 p.m.: Group photograph of all guests (outside weather permitting)
  • 6:45 p.m.: Call to dinner/reception
  • 7:00 p.m.: Bride and groom entrance
  • 7:05 p.m.: Welcome/blessing
  • 7:05-8:05 p.m.: Dinner
  • 8:05 p.m.: Toasts
  • 8:20 p.m.: Cake cutting
  • 8:30 p.m.: First dance
  • 8:35 p.m.: Parents’ dance
  • 8:45 p.m.: General dancing
  • 11 p.m.: Departure and bubbles
Samantha and Christopher's engagement was photographed at the Garden of the Gods. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Samantha and Christopher's engagement was photographed at the Garden of the Gods.

Your Game Plan

For the sake of brevity, I didn’t include the list of family photographs in this timetable. But I always put one together with help from the bride and groom well before the wedding day. This list includes all the family and wedding party pictures the wedding couple wants. It also includes the names and relationships of family members and the wedding party to the bride and groom.

In addition, we ask our couples if they have any “must have” pictures. Many times these are pictures that parents may have in their own wedding albums, and we are asked to duplicate them. As long as the couple makes the time, we will make sure to honor all of their requested photographs.

The schedule for your wedding day is essentially your game plan. While circumstances will almost always result in some improvisation on the day of the event, it’s much easier to adjust when working from a plan.
Caroline and Ben's engagement was photographed over the holidays at The Broadmoor. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Caroline and Ben's engagement was photographed over the holidays at The Broadmoor.

Next: What to expect on the big day and how photographers handle inevitable changes in plan.
Sean Cayton is a wedding photojournalist of 19 years and operates a successful, award-winning wedding photography studio in Colorado Springs. He's also an award-winning photojournalist. Sean is happily married to the love of his life (also his business partner) and is father to three beautiful children. When he’s not working, Sean can be found outside flying kites with his kids, hitting golf balls or casting a fly rod to hungry trout

Add a comment

Clicky Quantcast