Pepper and Wesley were married in September 2020 at St. Mary's Basilica in Natchez. Photo by Taylor Squared Photography.
Ask a Pro: Wedding Photography
Savannah and Taylor were married in Oxford at the Jefferson. Photo by Taylor Squared Photography.
Ask a Pro: Wedding Photography
Emily and Bruce were married in Memphis in 2020. Photo by Lyn Laswell Photography.
Ask a Pro: Wedding Photography
Details from a wedding photographed by Taylor Squared Photography.
Ask a Pro: Wedding Photography
A bride gets ready for her wedding at the Jefferson in Oxford. Photographed by Taylor Squared Photography.
by Kristina Domitrovich
photos by Taylor Squared Photography and Lyn Laswell Photography
Ann-Marie Wyatt started her photography journey in high school. In college, she studied journalism with a focus on the magazine industry; but when she graduated, it was “the invention of the iPad and print was dead,” so she worked for a law firm for a few years. In 2012, she opened Taylor Square Photography in Oxford, and about three years ago started doing that full time. Her business has a handful of employees and second shooters, and they shoot about 30-35 weddings a year.
Lyn Laswell started her photography journey in high school, but never really did anything too serious with it until she graduated college in the Philippines. She got her start in eCommerce photography, until her husband, who was in the Air Force, was stationed in California. There, she began doing family and couples’ photography. Her first wedding was a friend’s elopement, and she fell in love with wedding photography. When she and her family moved to Pontotoc in 2020, she decided to focus on weddings, and shot 15 from August to December.
We chatted with Wyatt and Laswell to ask about all-things wedding: When to start booking photographers? What’s included in their packages? How much communication can clients expect?
The first step, and how to find photographers
Step 1 is always going to be picking your date. After that, you can curate a short list of photographers you’re interested in, and start checking to see who is available for that date.
For Wyatt, throughout her time in the industry, she’s seen trends for when to book photographers vary anywhere from a year and a half out, to just six months out. Now, she’s seeing weddings being booked further in advance again.
“I would do at least a year ahead of time,” she said. “We’re receiving leads right now for May of 2022.”
Where to look
Laswell recommends wedding resources like The Knot, WeddingWire and bridal magazines that may have featured photographers. Both Laswell and Wyatt agree that Instagram is a wonderful resource.
“If I were looking for somebody really good right now, I would get on Instagram,” Wyatt said. “I would search hashtags, #Mississippiphotographer, #Memphisphotographer, or anything like that to try to find somebody locally that’s really good.”
Look through their Instagram profile, and see if their work is any good. Laswell says to make sure their style, whether “moody, like dark and gloomy, or bright and airy” matches what you’re looking for. You can always find a photographer to match the type of photos you’re wanting, but you can’t ask a photographer to change their style to match yours.
“At the end of the day, it’s their art,” Laswell said. “Whatever is in their portfolio represents who they are, it’s a representation of their business.”
How to tell if they’re legitimate
Wyatt says there are plenty of photographers who say they’re professional, but that doesn’t always hold true. She suggests asking any prospective photographers to see a complete gallery.
“Always request a full gallery of an entire wedding day, so you can see start to finish,” she said. “Because what you see on someone’s website and their Instagram are very curated and hand-chosen images.”
Once you’ve narrowed down your prospects, go ahead and reach out. Each photographer will have their own practice: at Taylor Square Photography, it starts by emailing a 24-page wedding menu, detailing their services and followed by a phone call, but for Laswell, it starts with a phone call. When you first meet a photographer in person for a consultation, that part is kind of like the photographer’s job interview, where you’re both seeing if it’s a good match. Personalities matter, especially for your wedding photographer.
“Personalities do matter, and you’re spending the whole day with this person and they’re in a very emotional state,” Wyatt said. “(The photographer) needs to be somebody that’s very calming and that you can get along with that doesn’t stress you out, because it’s already stressful.”
Good questions to ask
Wyatt suggests asking about back-up plans for what-ifs: “If you don’t show up, if you get in a car accident or get hit by a bus,” then what? “If it’s pouring down rain and we have nowhere to shoot but inside a church with a little red carpet and ugly window, what do you do with things like that?” It may be a dark question, but a photographer should be able to send a backup in case of emergency if they absolutely can’t make it to the big day; and they should know how to shoot in imperfect lighting situations, like a gloomy church.
Once you’ve determined that a photographer is a good fit and the contracts have been signed, there may be a relaxation period. A lot of times, a photographer won’t have to touch base until three to six months before the wedding date; they should answer any questions you have in the meantime, but they’re likely set until the date comes nearer. During this downtime, it’s the perfect opportunity to do engagement sessions. These are a great way for the bride and groom to get to know their photographer before the big day, plus, it’ll warm them up to the camera.
“Engagement sessions are really nice,” Wyatt said. “It’s a good opportunity to get to know the bride and groom before the wedding day. It’s especially good for our grooms, because most men aren’t comfortable with the camera, no matter what (type of photos) it is.”
Laswell says this is also a good time for the couple to know her as a photographer, “my style and how I prompt them.”
Decisions you need to make for your wedding photos
There’s the age-old debate of whether to do a first look, or not. Some brides are dead-set against it, and that’s totally fine; but Wyatt said she always feels like they’re walking away empty-handed.
“I always feel like sometimes our brides and grooms are slighted when we don’t do the first look because on a wedding-day timeline, if we did the first look, that would be the first pictures,” Wyatt said. “If we didn’t do it first, they’re the last pictures.”
Oftentimes, this means the photographer, the bride and the groom alike are rushing through the couple’s portraits and family photos, trying to get to the reception.
“We’re rushing,” Wyatt said. “We only have 15 minutes to do their portraits, and by that point in the day, they’ve had so many pictures that they’re tired of taking pictures.”
Do you want to do first looks with your dad and/or the bridesmaids?
What visions do you have for your photos?
“It’s really important to discuss with your photographer where you want to do pictures, the look of the pictures you’re going for,” Wyatt said. “If you’re at a church downtown and there’s no green space and it’s concrete all the way around it, are you okay with having all of your pictures in front of the church, on the steps and on the inside at the altar? If you’ve looked at all these galleries and you’ve seen beautiful green outdoor photos and you think in your mind that’s what you want, okay; but you also have to think, ‘Where am I going to get those types of pictures?’”
Photographers will happily drive all over with the bride and groom to get the photos they want, but they have to know what you’re looking for ahead of time, so they can factor in those different locations and the extra time it will take.
The details your photographer should know
Ahead of the wedding, the photographer will reach out and start determining the timeline of your wedding day. They will take care of this for you, but they need to know a lot of information up front to craft an accurate document; remember, the photographer is going to be the first person a wedding planner or hair/make-up stylists check in with, because they will work around the photographer’s timeline.
Knowing any niche information ahead of time, will help the photographer a lot: Are your parents still together, or are they separated? How many people are in the wedding party? As a part of the timeline, a photographer will likely have a shot list, too: a list of photographs they need to get.
“During the consultation and during the questionnaire,” Laswell said, “we talk about the things I have to photograph, so that I don’t miss anything, and I take care of that.”
Giving the photographer any added details will only help your wedding day go more smoothly, and it will help reduce any worries you may have.
What to expect for the big day
Relax and enjoy yourself! Your photographer may ask you to cock your head a few degrees past what you think would look good, or they may not pose you much at all and may rely more on candid interactions. Trust the process, and trust your photographer; after all, it’s what they do. Some photographers will probably give you a peek of what they’re seeing, and show you a few photos as reassurance.
“My biggest goal is to make them realize that what I am taking looks good, and they don’t look stupid,” Wyatt said. “Once I convince them of that, then they’re totally on board and they’re having fun, and they’ve forgotten that we’re actually doing something that they’re uncomfortable with.”
What wedding photographers wished you knew about their job
Whether your photographer bases their packages by the hour or not, wedding days are long, exhausting days for them, too. There’s a lot of directing and positioning people, and every wedding party is different from the last.
“A wedding day is like a marathon for photographers,” Laswell said.
For Wyatt, it’s not uncommon to walk away from a wedding with 5,000-6,000 photos she then has to parse through and narrow down before even beginning to edit, which she does in-house. By the time your photographer returns your photos to you, they’ve put countless hours into that work, and “sometimes it hurts our heart” to never hear from the couple again.
“There are some weddings that we do and we deliver them, and we never hear from them ever again,” she said. “As artists, we’re always constantly looking for validation for what we’re doing. … We have a really hard time getting our brides to get their wedding albums ordered. Once the wedding’s over with, they’re done with it. I have brides from two years ago, I’m still waiting on wedding album information.”
How to juggle a wedding and COVID
COVID or not, both Laswell and Wyatt agreed: Love is still happening, and so are weddings. They both said, “It’s business as usual.”
For Laswell, she’s only known wedding photography during the pandemic, but Wyatt has a different perspective.
“It’s definitely changed some of the weddings that we’ve done, but gosh, they turn out so beautiful,” Wyatt said. “I haven’t had one single bride that has regretted the way that they’ve shaped out. Most of my brides have honestly said at the end of the day, they were so glad that it worked out the way that it did. They were so happy with the way it turned out, because some of these intimate sit-down dinners where you can stand up and look at every single person at the table and have a close relationship with, there’s something to be said for that.”