Last month, my best friend got married! I had the privilege of photographing their surprise beach proposal, and later that day on the drive home, we were talking excitedly about weddings when she said, “I want you to be our photographer! …but I also want you to be IN the wedding… can you do that?” she asked. To be honest, I wasn’t sure at the time, but we went for it! And it was an AMAZING day.
If you’re considering photographing a wedding where you’re also in the bridal party (or if you’re a bride torn between asking your best friend to be a bridesmaid or the photographer), it is totally possible to pull double duty! But it will require some serious planning on your part to ensure the day goes smoothly and unfolds like a dream rather than a disaster. I can’t imagine anything worse in the wedding photography world than messing up your best friend’s wedding images. So if you’re unsure about it, don’t do it! But if you’re up for an adventure, keep reading for some tips to remember!
1. Hire a reliable second shooter. Or two.
Think about it. Some of the most important shots of the day– i.e. the ceremony and bridal party portraits– will not be shot by you. You’ll either be standing at the front next to your best friend or you’ll actually be IN the picture, and there’s nothing worse than being totally distracted from the marriage vows happening in front of you because you’re worried that your second shooter is missing the shot. Hire someone you trust without a shadow of a doubt to do an amazing job! I worked with Rachel from Rachel Elisabeth Photography, and because she’s such a awesome person and photographer, I didn’t stress one single time because I knew she was going to nail it!
2. Hire an experienced second shooter with a similar shooting style to yours.
This may be an obvious one, but your second shooter needs to be completely comfortable shooting a wedding on their own. Now is not the time to bring someone who is is brand new to the industry! When you’re fulfilling your role as bridesmaid, you don’t want them constantly coming to you with questions, because that will not only distract you, but it will also probably distract the bride and make her nervous. That’s not good!! Your second shooter should also firmly grasp how you normally handle a wedding day to ensure their work matches your shooting style and will flow seamlessly with the images you capture to create one cohesive story. Normally in my wedding blog posts, I only include a few images captured by my second shooter because even though they may be beautiful, they don’t exactly reflect my shooting style so they would seem a little out of place. But at a wedding where you’re in the bridal party, this is different! Your second shooter will be capturing a significant portion of the day on their own, so if there is a noticeable difference in style, the gallery won’t be cohesive and you may end up with gaps in the overall wedding story. Rachel and I both use full frame Canon bodies and love shooting wide open with prime lenses, so we were able to share gear AND come out with consistent images across the board! When I was editing, there were some portraits that I literally couldn’t remember which one of us had captured, because they looked so similar!
3. Shoot the details ahead of time.
At your best friend’s wedding, there will be moments when you need to chill and put your camera down. Rachel was really good at telling me that 😉 The part of the day when the bride will need you most is pre-ceremony, while you’re getting ready and just hanging out. She wants you to be a bridesmaid, not a vendor! One thing that helped a LOT with that was shooting the details ahead of time. I shot pictures of Lauren’s dress and the getting ready room after the rehearsal dinner the night before, and shot the rings, shoes, and jewelry early the next morning during the hair appointments. Getting those details out of the way as soon as possible made me able to relax more in the morning and enjoy getting ready with the rest of the girls!
4. Wear a comfy dress & shoes (with the bride’s permission, of course).
If your bride gives you a choice of gown to wear… pick the most comfortable one. Seriously. Same goes for shoes! Just like when you’re photographing a wedding normally, dealing with falling down straps (or strapless), a super low neckline, or shoes that hurt your feet will make it a million times harder to do your job well. Go comfy if you can! And if the bride has specific heels for you to wear in photos, bring a pair of comfy flats that you can slip on during bride & groom portraits to give your feet a break!
5. If the idea of pulling double duty at your best friend’s wedding makes you sweat… don’t do it.
If you anticipate feeling high-strung and anxious on the wedding day, some of that stress will inevitably transfer to the bride, and the images you produce won’t be your best. Take your place in the bridal party and help your friend find her dream photographer instead! There are so many amazing photographers in the industry and chances are, you know some of them!
I hope this glimpse into my day as a matron of honor and photographer helps some of you who are thinking about doing the same thing. Enjoy these behind-the-scenes shots (courtesy of Rachel, and girl, looking back I can’t believe we didn’t grab a picture together!), and if you’re about to pull double duty, leave me a comment and let me know how it goes!