Gearing up for Wedding Season


Another month of 2018 is in the books and we couldn’t be more excited to announce the latest series for theFINDlab blog! We’re pleased to bring you a brand-new advice column from various experts in the industry. Throughout the year, we’ll sit down with some special guests and tackle all things photography! With wedding season right around the corner, this month it was our pleasure to spend some time with Julie Paisley, Jessica Blex, and Jake and Anna of Sweetlife Photography to talk about wedding photography! Read on to see what they had to say…

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get started shooting weddings?

Flexibility is KEY to running a wedding day smoothly, not only for you but for your couples as well. STUFF WILL  GO WRONG and it’s okay. Think on your feet and put yourself in your couple’s shoes, what would you want if you were them? Be positive and confident in your abilities because your couple trusts you and knows you want the best for them. -Julie Paisley

Creating a solid (and an over-communicated) relationship with my couples has allowed me to go into all wedding days, confident that I will provide my best work possible for them. I think creating that ‘friend-like’ relationship also helps you to invest more in their day and helps you to enjoy yourself as well. My biggest compliment I receive (in my opinion) is when guests ask how long I’ve been friends with the bride or groom (because it’s usually just since they hired me). -Jessica Blex

The reality of success in this industry is that being a great photographer is only half of the equation at best. The other half is pure business: sales, differentiation in a saturated market/industry, customer service, marketing, office workflow, finance, etc. And honestly, that part is every bit as rewarding as shooting! There’s nothing quite like the feeling of fine-tuning the business side of things (a constant process!), implementing something new, and watching it work. -Sweetlife Photography

How has your work evolved as you’ve been shooting weddings?

Shooting weddings has been something that has constantly kept me on my toes. Gear will fail. It will rain. Things WILL happen. I think my work has been challenged so much because of this. Some of my most chaotic wedding days have shown me “hey, this and this went wrong, but look at all of the amazingness I just created in spite of that.” Weddings have definitely helped me to build my confidence. I now know that no matter what, I can create something beautiful that my clients will love and appreciate. -Jessica Blex

Transitioning to shooting hybrid has easily been the largest change in our work to date. We started out all digital, but now we prioritize film and average 30-35 rolls of medium format per wedding. This has completely transformed our portfolio and our brand, and has helped us just about double our pre-film prices! -Sweetlife Photography

How do you keep your film and gear organized on a wedding day?

You guys. I’m the WORST. I would leave something from my bag at every wedding if it weren’t for my second shooters. I rely on other people a lot for this and I’m okay with that. My brain goes 100 mph on a wedding day and if relying on someone else helps me to be present with my couples, and trying my best to not miss any part of their day, I’m totally okay with that. -Julie Paisley

We each use a HoldFast MoneyMaker so we can quickly switch between film and digital throughout the day. We also each carry a shoulder bag with film, film inserts, spare batteries, and extra lenses at certain times of the day. A larger roller bag holds the rest of our gear until we need it and acts as kind of our “home base” where we can drop off unneeded gear and exposed rolls throughout the day. -Sweetlife Photography

How do you tell a story through wedding day photos?

I really try to communicate with my couples in advance about the things they want captured and what parts of the day are MOST important for them. I will interject if I need to, to ensure that those important moments happen in amazing light, or I will go earlier than contracted to capture details or elements of the day I know the couple spent a long time planning. While telling a complete story of the day is VITAL, I also believe that telling the important (to each couple) parts of the story is most important. -Julie Paisley

Most couples look to their photographers to help them create moments because most of the time they don’t know what to do next. I will often set up opportunities for great photos throughout the day that I know could create special memories for my couples as well. I started doing first looks with the parents almost immediately upon shooting 8 year ago. To me, your family is why you have a wedding and I to integrate them as much as possible in the important moments of a wedding day (whether I stage them there or they just happen to be there). -Jessica Blex

For us, it’s all about capturing three different categories of photos throughout the wedding day: candid moments, crafted portraits, and details. It’s the combination of the three that brings the wedding story to life in the finished wedding album. Forgetting to capture one of these categories or simply failing to give ourselves enough time for them is like ripping pages out of a book! The story just wouldn’t be complete without them. -Sweetlife Photography

How do you build a relationship with your clients before the day of the wedding?

I am adamant about only booking couples I would be friends with in real life. Maybe sounds corny or weird, but I have had so many couples that I have completely adored and remained friends with after their wedding days. It makes wanting to go to their weddings easier. It makes wanting to try your best at weddings easier. I want my couples to trust me 100% and by creating that balance of a friendly, comfortable but remaining (relatively) professional has typically worked well to create that trust. I know there are times when that hasn’t been the best approach for some, but it is easier for me to create at my best, when I feel like I can be myself with my couples. -Jessica Blex

Building a relationship with our clients is a process of earning and keeping their trust. It starts with always being prompt with communication (customer service is so important!) and then from our very first meeting, our goal is to become their trusted advisors. We give them a welcome guide right after booking that has all of our best photo advice, we plan a timeline consultation with them to create a custom photography schedule for their day, and we even invite them to send us photos of their engagement session outfits if they’d like styling help! These are just a few examples of what we do, but the point is that we’re constantly showing them that we are just as invested in the outcome of their wedding and their photos as they are. -Sweetlife Photography

So, there you have it! Some great wedding photography tips as we all gear up for the 2018 wedding season! Many thanks to Julie Paisley, Jessica Blex, and Jake and Anna of Sweetlife Photography for sharing their time and insights. We hope their thoughts come in handy with the rest of your preparation throughout the year!