Booking, and What Happens Before and After the Wedding
I frequently get asked about the booking process, and also the timeline and workflow before and after the wedding. This is certainly understandable, as for many of my clients and their families, this is the first time they've been on this particular journey! In this article, I'll answer these questions, and give a general outline of what to expect.
When to Book Your Wedding Photographer
Probably the most-asked question I receive is "how far in advance should we book you?" Unfortunately, that's the most difficult question to answer, with an admittedly vague "as early as possible" being the only appropriate response. While, on average, I am booked for weddings about 8-10 months prior to the date, when examined individually this lead time varies greatly. For instance, for Saturdays in the Spring and Fall, the average lead time is closer to a year, with some dates being booked as much as 18 months in advance. But, on the other hand, I've also booked many weddings just a month or two from the date.
The wedding photographer is usually very near the top of a couple's list of booking priority, right below the venue (though in some cases I've had couples book me first, selecting their ceremony and reception venues based on my availability!). The main piece of advice I would give is to book as soon as possible to give yourself the best chance of getting your first choice. Even though I may be available for your date when you first contact me, I may very well receive another inquiry the next day that wants to book me.
As a courtesy to couples that I've had recent extensive conversations with (beyond the initial inquiry) by phone or email, or an in-person meeting, and I get a sense that they probably do want to retain me for their wedding but have just not gotten around to finalizing the decision, I'll usually attempt to contact them if another couple inquires about their date. But, in general I cannot commit to holding a date for longer than a day or two (if requested). The reason is that if a couple asks me to hold the date for a few weeks, and a few days later another couple inquires about that date, if the first couple ends up not booking me, by that time the second couple would have likely already moved on and found another photographer.
And similarly, though the natural progress of a booking (from the initial inquiry, to more detailed conversations via email, phone, or in-person meeting, and then collecting the information for the contract and signing) usually takes several days or even a week or more, I've also had many instances where a bride or groom inquires as to my availability, and then immediately requests a contract.
So, in short, though I do try my best to accommodate potential clients who I have had consultations with but have not yet booked, in the end I have no choice but to abide by the simple principle of the first couple who signs the contract and gets the retainer to me gets the date.
The Booking Process
Securing me to photograph your wedding can be done in-person, or I can collect the information I need through email and you can sign the contract online, as well as make your first payment to secure the date. I need some basic information (names, address, phone numbers, locations, etc.), package selection, and the start and end times of the wedding day coverage. If you are unsure of what package you want, you can just book the Basic Package to lock in the date, and upgrade later if you'd like. Similarly, if you are not yet sure about the timing of the wedding day, an estimate of the start/end times is fine for now.
Engagement Portrait – Within 1-3 Months After Booking
If you've chosen to do an engagement portrait session, this is usually done soon after booking, as these images are often needed for save-the-date cards. There are a few variables that can affect this timing though. First is weather, particularly if you've booked in June or July. While we can certainly do a portrait session in the Summer, it's best to wait for the milder and less humid weather of late September or October if possible. Likewise, if you've booked in March, April or May, you should try very hard to schedule the portrait as soon as possible, to take advantage of these more comfortable months.
Another factor, specifically for couples having destination weddings in New Orleans, is that it's often convenient to schedule the portrait to coincide with a wedding-planning trip to the city (to visit with florists, bakeries, attend venue food tastings, etc.). If this is the case, please let me know before you have solidified your travel plans, just to be sure I have availability during your visit.
Bridal Portrait – 1-2 Months Before Wedding
The biggest determining factor for the bridal portrait session is, of course, when the dress alterations will be completed. But if you are planning to have a framed enlargement of a photograph from the session on display at the reception, you need about a month to allow for the images to be edited, order the print, and to have it framed at the shop of your choice.
This can get a little tricky for September and October weddings, as this typical timing would put you right in the middle of Summer for the portrait session. Just like with engagement portraits, the bridal portrait can be done in this season, but it will likely not be as comfortable for you because of the heat and humidity. My suggestion in those instances, is to attempt to move up the completion date of your dress, or, alternatively, choose an indoor location for the portrait session to take place (a beautiful space like Felicity Church would be a great choice in New Orleans) eliminating weather concerns completely and making for a much more pleasant experience.
Wedding Detail Worksheet – 1-2 Months Before Wedding
A few months before the wedding, I'll send you a link to a form you can fill out online, with various pieces of information about your event that will be helpful to me. At about that two-month point, you'll likely have most of these details nailed down, but you don't have to finish this form all in one sitting, as you are free to return to it as many times as needed (up to the day before the wedding) to add missing information or provide updates.
Of course, you are free to call or email at any time before or after this. Sometimes there are questions or concerns that need to be discussed in a conversation, so don't hesitate to contact me .
Final Check-In – 1-2 Days Before Wedding
I'll check in with you a day or two before the wedding just to confirm that our starting location and time are correct and find out if there are any last-minute details I should be aware of.
THE BIG DAY!
On the wedding day, I will arrive at the first location before our scheduled start time to get settled in and prepare to begin shooting.
Instagram Post – 1 Day After Wedding
If you provided an hashtag for your wedding (or if I see a sign at the reception with the hashtag), I'll typically post a photo or two on Instagram by the next day.
Blog Post – 1 Week After Wedding
The blog post is a sneak peek of my favorite dozen or so pictures from the wedding. I'll send you an email when this has been posted, which you can share with friends and family if you'd like.
Editing Complete – 3-4 Weeks After Wedding
The editing of all the images is typically finished within about 4 weeks (sometimes a little sooner, but rarely later than this). The gallery access information is emailed to you, which you can forward to any friends and family who may want to view the photographs and order prints. At this time, your USB flash drive of images and copyright release are shipped to you.
The proofing gallery is password-protected, so only those people who you give the information to will be able to access the gallery. A special feature of my gallery system allows you, as the client, to mark certain photos "private" so that other visitors to the gallery will not see them, which is most useful for the "getting ready" photos, as although some couples are perfectly fine with these photos being seen by family and friends, sometimes the preference is for certain pictures to be kept private.
Album Selections – 1-2 Months After Wedding
If your package includes a wedding album, the "ball is in your court" at this time. I encourage you to get me your album selections within a month or two so that we can keep the process moving forward. Your selections can be made within the gallery, or you can just email me a list of image numbers.
Album Design – 2-3 Months After Wedding
Once I receive your album selections, the album design process takes me a few weeks to complete, and then a PDF is sent to you for approval.
Album Delivered – 3-4 Months After Wedding
When approved, it takes about a month to have the album produced, at which time it is shipped right out to you, and we're done!