7 Things Every Wedding Photogapher Must Do the Night Before a Wedding Shoot

[Edit: An astute reader pointed out that my list actually contains 8 things, not 7. So, I suppose you can consider the 8th one a bonus.  Enjoy!]

You’ve had this date circled on your calendar for months. Every time you glance at it, your mind and body are filled with exhilaration (and maybe just a bit of nerves too).

Now that it’s the night before the wedding, your mind is in over-drive making sure you’re going to be ready to do the job you’ve been hired to do – as best as you can possibly do it.

Minimize the nerves and the mistakes by using this 7-point checklist the night before the wedding.

1. Equipement Checklist

This is NOT the time to make sure you own or have rented all the gear  you need to shoot the wedding. The night before is when you just run through your camera bag to make sure you have all the little things in order. Here’s some of my checklist items:

  • Charge batteries and bring lots of AA’s for the flash
  • Clean lenses (and remember to take out any lenses you don’t intend to use at the wedding. Keep your bag as light as you can)
  • Empty SD cards where you’ll need them (always keep them in the same place either in your bag or in your pocket so you don’t have to fumble around during a key moment during the wedding)
  • Tripod
  • Check camera settings (ISO, RAW, etc — and don’t forget to turn off all the sounds!)
  • Flash (with fresh batteries loaded)
  • Iron your white shirt (leave your salmon coloured one in the closet. No need to draw undo attention to yourself)
  • Pack some snacks and water (don’t expect to be fed. And pack foods you won’t have to heat up.)
  • Add anything else to this list that you know you’ll need

2. Know the Agenda, Where You’re Going and How You’ll Get There

You should already have asked the bride or groom about the details of the day — where, when, who, what, and how (just not why! :) ). You’ll want to have a good understanding of the agenda to help you anticipate “what’s next”.  Print out any maps you might need or have all your directions pre-loaded in your smartphone.

3. Create a Shot List

This one is especially important for beginners, but you should have already asked the couple to provide you with a list of shots they want during the day.  Print this list off so you can check ’em off as you go.  There’s nothing worse than getting the photos loaded onto you computer and realizing you forgot to include the shot with Grandma.

3.* Memorize the VIP’s

Of course you know the names of the bride and groom. But do you know their parents names? What about the bridal party…the MC…the minister? All of these people are likely VIP’s.

Yes, you’re hired to take the photos…but if this blog teaches you anything, its the incredible value of doing the little extra things as a business owner to ensure your clients become raving fans. Knowing who’s who and being able to call them by name is a business skill you’ll want to cultivate.

Trust me on this one – calling the maid of honour “Lisa” right off the bat instead of “your friend” or “MOH”…will pay off huge for you down the line. Just make the assumption that all those people are going to be in the market for a professional photographer in the next year. Treat the VIP’s like they are already your clients….and guess what?  If you do, it’s way more likely they will be.

Get the list from the couple, do your best to know the major key players of the wedding, and put the list in your pocket for later reference.

*Opps. I used the number 3 twice in this list.  So I guess this point is a bonus.  Lucky you!

4. Get Inspired

Find time to browse websites of your favourite wedding photographers. Don’t try to memorize poses and composition – but recognize that by viewing great images it will help your subconscious mind see and act on things at your wedding shoot tomorrow.

And be careful not to get into the mindset of “I’m not as good as so-and-so…” Just let yourself be in awe. Now is also a good time to browse your own portfolio on your website too.  Looking over your past work should help give you a final confident booster and get you pumped with the work you’re about to do.  Which leads to…

5. Get pumped!

This couple has hired you based on your work and your personality. Tomorrow you are going to take a lot of fabulous photos – while getting paid to do something you love. You will be playing a key role on someones big day. Relish in these thoughts and get pumped!

6. Send an Email or a Text to the Bride

If it’s not too late in the night (before 9:30pm to be safe), send a quick email or text to the bride.  Don’t ask her any questions (that should have been done during the week). And don’t write a huge long email (she’s got enough on her mind). Just write something very simple….”I’m so excited to shoot your wedding tomorrow. It’s going to be fantastic. Have a great sleep and I’ll see you in the morning.”

Yep, it’s the little things.

7. Get Some Sleep

Shooting a wedding for 8-12 hours is a lot of work.  The wedding is likely on a Saturday, so don’t be tempted to go out with your buddies for a few drinks on Friday night – especially if this is one of your first wedding gigs.  You need to be on top of your game tomorrow and a good nights rest is critical.

After you’ve done all the other things in this list, let it all go, take a few deep breathes and get some sleep…you deserve it. :)

Did I Miss Anything?

Let me know in the comments below or let me know through twitter – #weddingphotogig

Comments

  1. Thanks for such a great tips. I am a photography student, so these tips are quite helpful. I seriously looking for such kind of tips……

  2. thank you

  3. CameronCreations says:

    Hey Ryan! The check lists are the way to go. I’m actually shooting my first wedding this weekend. I have my list done. My gear laid out. I went to the venue to check lighting out today. The white shirt; thanks… I added it to my list.

    I’m excited!

    • Ryan Oakley says:

      @CameronCreations Hi Cameron….I hope you CRUSH IT tomorrow. Let us know how it goes!

    • Ryan Oakley says:

      @CameronCreations So Cameron…..how did it go?? I’d love to hear about your experience….what worked well, lessons learned, etc. If you want, sent me an email at ryan AT weddingphotographygig DOT com. :)

  4. A couple of additions to your items:

    Add to #1: Ensure you pack your spares.

    Add to #7: Set as many alarm clocks as you can. Nothing worse that forgetting to set your alarm (or turn it off in your sleep) when you have to be at the venue at 8 AM.

    • #7 – Great advice. I’m usually so excited that I wake up just before my alarm goes off. But yeah….you do NOT want to be late or even rushed. Give yourself plenty of time in the morning.
      Thanks for the comment John.

  5. Great resource for both us experienced wedding photographers and the newbies. Sometimes even the vets need to revisit the fundamentals. Thanks Ryan!

  6. Great post Ryan! I think this is helpful. What do u think about a checklist sheet to DL for things Like night before shoot and I’m sure their are other checklists too! :)

    • Thanks for your comment Christine. I’m a huge fan of checklists — especially for people just starting out. I plan on formalizing the ones I use in the near future. Make sure you sign up to my email list so you’ll be notified when I publish them.

      :)

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