The Art of Event Planning From The Photographer’s Perspective

April 19, 2020  |  by:

Event planning is a tough job that requires a multitude of independent and creative teams to work together on the big day with a unified front. In the end, it’s all about the client experience. And to help foster better understanding between the various event professions, I interviewed a fantastic wedding photography duo to get their perspective. 

Previously, I’d shared a video they posted about planning events during the COVID-19. Still, I wanted to get their thoughts on events in general. So let’s get to know Kate Harris and Keith Tharp of Kate & Keith Photography.

Who Are Kate & Keith Photography?

Well, they’re an adventuring, hiking, artistic, wonderful husband and wife team based in Maine. They’ve been in business together for about seven years.

But they’re not necessarily your typical photographers. Yes, they do a lot of standard events like weddings, and also work for non-profits and small businesses, but they have a style all of their own. They’re “adventure wedding photographers.”

Keith Tharp Wedding Photographer

Keith explained it to me, saying, “Non-traditional being our preferred type of wedding, outdoors-y, and casual. More about the celebration of the union rather than having a big party and formality.”

I asked them each how they got into the photographic arts. Keith’s journey “started as a kid with my grandfather being a very prolific hobbyist amateur photographer. And he got me into being inspired by it because of the way it gets you to slow down and observe the world a little bit differently.”

Kate Harris Wedding Photographer

Kate has a different source of exposure (photography pun intended). “I went to a high school in Princeton, New Jersey, that had a really robust photography program. So that was where I really got into photography as an art form. Then I went through a few different careers in my life and kept doing photography throughout the entire time. Then I started doing internships with different types of photographers from commercial to portrait and ended up loving wedding photography. So started really honing in on that. And once I met Keith and we joined up, it became a passion because of doing it together.”

The Art of Event Planning From The Photographer's Perspective

What Happens After The Photographer is Hired?

To be totally honest, I’m not sure Kate & Keith’s process here is standard, but I absolutely love it. See, I think it’s really cool for event planners to facilitate a warm relationship with the vendors who’ll be capturing the happiest day of the client’s life. 

“The planning really starts with the intro phone call or meetup,” Kate told me. “We try for an in-person meetup, if that’s not possible, a video call.” It’s important that “we’re on the same page with a couple, that our styles align, and that’s where we really start with the planning process.” 

This event planning process includes getting to know the clients as a couple and as individuals. And getting to know what the client’s vision is. The client receives questionnaires, not only to give them ideas on how to plan the event to maximize photography. But also, to perhaps inspire new ideas.

Throughout this process, Kate & Keith make themselves available to meet and discuss ideas along the way. 

Keith describes the process as “socialization. Us getting to know them, creating a relationship with them. And through that socialization process, we’re learning what they want, what they desire, and how they envision their wedding evolving. We fit into their comfort level as far as really fine-tune planning or loose, go-with-the-flow type of planning.”

Related article: What Event Planners Should Know About Stationery & Printing

How Important Is The Vendor-Client Relationship In Event Planning?

I found this fascinating and wanted to dive a little deeper. The comfort level with the photographer makes a world of difference. And I say that from personal experience. 

“For us, it’s incredibly important,” Keith said. “It starts with us developing those relationships and being able to understand who those clients are. We create photos that are genuine and representative of those clients that speak to who those people are.”

Keith continued, “I’m not so sure that that level of socialization would be as critical for a musician. Although I do believe personally that it would be very important, maybe not as critical. Then the planner or that musician has an understanding of who these people are so that they can cater to those desires.”

I’ve heard similar ideas from event planners. The stronger the understanding of the client, the more the event professional can artistically meet the client’s vision. Event planning requires understanding.

But Keith takes some extra time to explain that this might not suit every client. “Some couples are not going to want the same kind of intimate thing. We’ve interacted with couples who are not interested in developing relationships with their photographers. There are better-suited photographers for them. We want to make sure that they are getting the best photographer for them, and that might not be us.”

Kate added, “But when we get to know a couple, it’s natural for us to create an artistic photo, one that is telling the story, the authenticity of the people and the moment. And that’s something that we wouldn’t be able to do if we didn’t know them.”

The Art of Event Planning From The Photographer's Perspective

The Event Day Process Is All About Preparation

Keith explains the importance of event planning preparation with a Football Analogy. 

“Tom Brady once said that on game day, all of the hard work should’ve already been done. You should be able to coast through the event because you’ve already done all the prep and planning. I think, as far as event planning goes, whether it’s for the photographers or anybody, my guess is that it should technically be the same for all of them.”

Kate shares some more details. “We divvy it up, so we each have our own roles. So a couple days before the event, Keith will be charging up batteries and doing an inventory of all the memory cards. He makes sure that all of our gear is ready to go.”

“I’m the one who does the timeline and types it up, I put it in Evernote so that we can both share it when we’re in different places, and modify it as we go through the day.”

And then, Kate explains why shared event timelines are so useful to photographers. “So if a picture needs to get taken that the client tells me, I can put it in Evernote, and it’ll pop up on Keith’s end.”

Keith added, “We’re already made connections with the other vendors. If there’s a videographer, a DJ, the florist, we’ve already made connections. In case there are any points or necessary knowledge that we need, we’ve put it into our own knowledge-base before the event.”

But back to the pre-event prep. Kate says, “I keep communicating with the couple.” Kate and Keith believe in reassuring their clients, all the way up to the event itself. They take the time to let the client know they’re on the ball. 

Day-of-Event Tips from The Photographers

Kate explained to me what they do on the day of the event. “So we get there ahead of time. We add that buffer in case anything were to happen along the way, like a flat tire. Once we arrive on the scene, we spend time ourselves getting dialed in. We’ll set up light stands or anything that we need to set up.”

Then, they do something that venues absolutely love

“We’ll connect with someone at the venue. We get a tour of where things are happening, where we can hide our lunch box to access later in the day.”

Don’t Forget to Tell the Photographers About The Special Moments.

Kate brings up an absolutely critical point. If there’s a special moment, the photographers must know about it. They want to be positioned to capture the moment.

Kate elaborated. “We’re not often privy to the information that everyone else has. So like there might be a sand pouring ceremony as part of the service, and we won’t know about it, but the DJ will because they know that they have to stop the music. So trying to get everyone on the same board, so we all know what our roles are to support each other can be a challenge.”

Okay, at this point, I have plug ThymeBase’s event planning software. Particularly the shared timelines. I mean, that’s a pretty reliable solution right there for when knowledge needs to be shared with everyone involved.

The Event Begins

The first thing Kate and Keith do is say hi to the client. They let the client know that everything’s good, they’re organized and ready to get to work. 

Even if each of the newlyweds is getting ready in different locations, at least one of them will take the time to check-in.

Again, preparation and sensitivity matters. 

Kate said, “Our clients know what we’re going to be doing as soon as we arrive. So we’ll tell each, the bride and the groom, or groom and groom, or whoever it may be, to have all their details ready for us. And that could be what they’re wearing, invitation suite, jewelry, anything like that. When we arrive, we’re able to introduce ourselves to everyone but not start photographing them. We help them get more comfortable with our presence before we start pointing a camera in their direction.”

During The Event, It’s All About Positioning

“So we’ll start by taking photos of the details, doing that in the same space so that we’re able to communicate with the bridal party. Then by the time that’s done, they comfortable with us being there.”

This comfort allows the photographer to operate without disrupting things. “If they need something, we’re there to do it. But we’re not interrupting any natural process.”

The Art of Event Planning From The Photographer's Perspective

Typically they start the day apart. Keith sticks with one of the soon-to-be-newlyweds, while Kate is with the other. By the time of the ceremony, they’ve built a relationship with the bridal party. They’ve also, like photojournalists, captured everything leading up to the service.

Kate describes the ceremony onwards. “We’ll swap out lenses at that point because what we use for indoor closeups space is going to be different from ceremony space. We set up different tech protocol for the ceremony.”

“And then Keith and I position ourselves where we’re kind of at opposites all the time. So, for instance, if I’m taking a photo of the vows getting read, Keith will be capturing the reaction of the parents. We’re able to focus on something different so that it gives two perspectives of what’s going on. Most of what we do is unspoken because we always work together.”

Communication Creates Better Photography And Better Event Planning

I’ll let Keith explain this. 

“I would say that the two biggest things that from the beginning, from the first time we speak with a client until that relationship continues on, is honesty and constant communication.”

“We do our best to kind of pry information out of people, whether it’s a vendor or the couple, or whoever it is, but sometimes we might not know the exact right question. But we’ve learned through our years of experience that we should ask maybe separately, but possibly together, ‘Is there something surprising happening? Are you planning on singing a song? Or are you planning on pulling a rabbit out of your hat?'”

Why Photographers Should Appreciate Event Planners

I’ll leave the final words to Kate.

“It helps when there’s a planner involved. An event planner is a communicator to tie it all together. The planner is the point person who acts as the record keeper for everything. So we have one person to go to to ask questions, and one person who we know will have all the answers.”

Kate and Keith are a Maine husband and wife wedding photography team. They enjoy traveling and make it as easy as possible for you to bring us along as your destination wedding photographers. They say that your wedding is extremely important to them. Almost as important as it is to you!

The Art of Event Planning From The Photographer's Perspective

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