Just go with the flow.  Do you ever tell that to yourself?  I sure do.

The truth is, one of the best skills you can have if you want to be a great wedding photographer is to learn when to just go with the flow.  More times than not, weddings never go perfectly as planned and therefore, being the wedding photographer you have to deal with high-stress situations – all the time.

In this article we are going to discuss the importance of being flexible and going with the flow but also going to discuss times when it is your duty to not be too flexible.

When should you just go with the flow?
Or, when should you speak up with a suggestion or differing game plan than your clients?

I told myself this past weekend – “just go with the flow”.  The ceremony had started about 15 minutes late and lasted about 15 minutes longer than planned and suddenly we were 30 minutes behind schedule.  To make matters more hectic, the church was having mass in 8 minutes and people were filling in while I had a list of about 20 family portrait shots that we needed to get, and get quickly before we’d get kicked out of the church.  We got through all of the family portrait shots in record time so our “crisis #1” was averted.  We then arrived at Presidio Park and started taking bridal party photos.  In fact, despite being 30 min later than planned we took more bridal party photos then normal since the groom and rest of bridal party were having fun and offering suggestions for different poses and shots.  Then, out of nowhere, I was told by our bride & groom…

B&G: “we want to do the Harlem Shake”.
Me:  “ok, sure, let’s get you guys dancing and I’ll take a couple shots for you guys”
B&G: “no, Joe is actually going to record it on video, we want YOU to be in it”
Me: “ohhhhhhh, ummm – OK, let’s do it, but we got to do it quickly to have time for your photos, let’s do it right now”
B&G: “ok, cool, sounds good”

And what happened next was something I never planned on or expected… Yep, it’s yours truly showing off my “just go crazy” dance moves.  Enjoy!

When should you go with the flow?

  • When things are simply out of your control.  Common things that may cause the wedding day schedule to be delayed are: hair or makeup running late and the ceremony starting late or running long.
  • When your bride and groom give you a surprise idea that they really want to do.  Remember – this is “their day”, us photographers are there to capture “their day”.  If they have an idea or anything unexpected, always do your very best to make it happen for them.  Let them know and more importantly “show them” that you are on their side and more than happy to make their idea or unexpected change to schedule happen.  Trust me – this is where being flexible will score you BIG points and make you an “all-star” vendor for them.
  • When the change or impact is minor or insignificant.  Don’t forget that minor schedule changes or general “day-of” hiccups happen all-the-time.  This is especially true during reception events such as, first dances or toasts being pushed back because dinner service is running late.  When these small things happen it’s in your best interest to be proactive and professional and work with the coordinator or DJ to adjust the timeline where needed to get back on track.  Remember, don’t fret over the small stuff that can be easily fixed or have no major impact to you.
  • When you can let your clients make the decision. For example – in my story above, I knew that we would have enough time for their portraits as long as the video didn’t take us more than 10 or 15 minutes and also if they were OK to miss all of their cocktail hour, which they originally had intended to go to.  By explaining that we were over 30 minutes behind from the ceremony and also adding the “Harlem Shake” video there wouldn’t be time to make cocktail hour, I allowed them to make the decision.


When to speak up!

  • Don’t be afraid to speak up when the outcome, if you don’t speak up, will impact your ability to do your job. For example –
    • When a wedding guest is taking photos, in front of you, or in an obtrusive location that you, the pro, aren’t able to get your shot.
    • When a bridesmaid or groomsmen is requesting a ton of different poses that you should do (don’t we love that?) despite you knowing you don’t have time and need to be “done” with bridal party.
    • When doing family portraits and working down your organized portrait list and having random family members requesting to add different photos which can cause a flood of unplanned photos that will, zap you for time and completely stress out your bride and groom.


Why it pays to be flexible

While we were already crammed for time, I knew that this was something that my bride and groom were really excited to do, and I was confident that all I needed was 15-20 minutes and we could give them plenty of awesome shots.  It would have been very easy for me to tell them that we really didn’t have any time to spare and we shouldn’t do the video, but all that would have gotten us is instant disappointment with our clients.

So, I went with the flow and said, sure thing, but we got to do it quick.  This is the important part – showing them that you are on their side and willing to roll with the punches and go with the flow, but also be able to be the leader and manage your time effectively.  It would have been irresponsible for me to just go along with the idea of making a video if it meant leaving us with only 5 minutes to try and squeeze in the bride and groom portraits.  Here are a handful of photos that we took after dancing like a bunch of fools on video…

Images below by Cole & Nicole of Cole Joseph Photography
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In closing, always remember that your clients are the lifeblood to your business! And – no matter how good your photos are that will only get you so far, it’s the service you provide and more importantly the experience that you give them.

I know one thing is for sure, they will always have the memories of doing the Harlem Shake video on their wedding day, and having a photographer who wasn’t afraid of having fun with them and going along for the ride.

If you have enjoyed reading this article, I’d love for you to share it on Facebook or Twitter by using the share buttons below!  Thanks so much for reading – I appreciate you.

Cole