5 Secret Ingredients for Success — #3 Time! | Damion Hamilton

Today we continue the exploration of the “secret” ingredients that help create the beautiful images you see here on the blog.  I call them “secret” because you will never be able to identify them from simply looking at the picture, BUT they are the ever important components of the Damion Hamilton Photographer recipe for beautiful and moving images. Back in Secret #1 post, we discussed how every business has their own recipe for success and the ingredients are different and unique.

Here is one of our most important secret ingredients: T-I-M-E.  The passage of time possesses magical qualities for us as photographers–it allows the subjects in front of our camera to relax enough to allow the true beauty of who they are inside to shine through.  It’s not just plastered, nervous smiles, but rather intimate glimpses into what brings them joy or their expressions of affection.  Time is truly our currency and it’s what we need to create intimate and active art.

Typically, the first 20 minutes in front of the camera is a wash.  The clients are usually nervous about how the shoot is going to go and about being in front of the camera (not where most people spend their time.) They are nervous about what to do, how to act, how to position their body, how they’re going to look etc.  It typically takes at least 15-20 minutes for our clients to get the hang of how we shoot (capture, not create) and they begin to relax and ignore us, which is exactly what we want them to do 🙂

This is why an engagement session prior to the wedding is so helpful.  When we show up to the wedding day, those nerves about being photographed are gone!  The couple is confident..they know how we shoot and that we’re going to make them look great! They barely  notice us then! For an engagement, we recommend planning a long enough time that the clients can have time to warm up to the camera and us, be natural, have a couple of changes of clothing and location, and really have enough time to relax.  The end of the engagement session is typically our most productive time because as you can see from these images of Jeff & Sara’s engagement, by the time we get to the end, the couples are relaxed and a little tired, their guard is down, and they are usually a bit more cuddly & uninhibited.  That’s gives us great opportunities to capture stunning images.  All of Sara & Jeff’s engagement pictures were cute, but if you compare the ones at the beginning to the ones taken at the end, you will see an evolution from smiley, cute pictures to relaxed fun.

Sara & Jeff EngagementsSara & Jeff Engagements

Sara & Jeff Engagements

On a wedding day, TIME IS PARAMOUNT!!! If you were to see our recommended schedule for the timeline, you might be surprised.  It would seem superfluous and unnecessary.  We do create huge time cushions in the day, but there are good reasons for that. First of all, to capture amazing images, it is so important that everyone be relaxed, especially the bride & groom.  If the timeline is rushed and everyone is scurrying about like a bee hive, the stress will be evident in the pictures.  We build enough time in the timeline so that we can capture special moments that will never happen again, which is truly what weddings are all about.  In this image Kevin is spending a quiet moment alone, writing out his vows. It was quiet in the room and he wasn’t rushed.  He had time to spend doing something that was precious to him.

Kevin & Grace's Wedding

Having a cushion of time also allows us to capture plenty of fun shots! Davis & his 12 groomsmen (yes, 12!) are kicking back, sharing a beer and some laughs before he was whisked away to see his bride.  Yes, they had time to do this!

Speaking of the bridal party, we need to tell you about another thing that takes lots of time–transportation.  For example, in Davis’s at Meadowood Resort, located in the hills of Napa Valley, the terrain and the distance make it almost impossible to walk between locations.  Transporting all of these gentlemen to the next location entails calling down to the front desk to bring multiple cars, waiting for said cars to arrive, loading everyone up with all of their accoutrements, driving to the meeting location, unloading everyone, and walking to the meeting point.  This alone could take 20 minutes if not more! But, that’s ok! We’ve got a time cushion for that and everything will still be running on time!

On that note, one should be wise about selecting locations that are nearby one another.  Otherwise, the time taken in travel impacts our ability to produce the results you see here.  For instance, this year we had a couple having an elopement in Napa who booked us for two hours only and then booked their hotel for preparation in Santa Rosa.  That is an hour away.  They lost one hour of photography time just because of driving!  Always make sure that your sites are near to each other OR you account for that time lost by adding extra time to your day.  For instance, if you are traveling to separate locations for prep, ceremony, and reception and they are all 45 minutes away from each other, you just took away 1.5 hours of the magic time that creates these images.  When this happens, everything is broken down into small snippets of time where we don’t really get that opportunity to capture relaxed beauty.  The images will still come out fantastic, but not with the magic that we could have with more time. The shortest time that we’ve ever had with a couple was exactly seven minutes for the bride and groom from first shot to last shot–in my next post, you’ll find out why.  Did the pictures come out stunning? Yes.  Do we feel that we captured the very best that we could have if the couple had given us more time? No…there’s always room for more.

When planning a timeline, you have to account for everything! The majority of people underestimate is the time it takes to get a bride into a dress. Most people think, “We’ll just throw on the dress” and are surprised that we allocate 15 minutes just for getting the bride dressed.  It’s never a “just” moment with a wedding gown! Caution is taken with hair and makeup, there are tiny buttons to hook, carefully chosen jewelry to savor putting on, the special moments of slipping the shoes on, and of course, if you’re with us and want to do it, a moment for the bride’s dad to soak in their beautiful daughter.  After all that, then we must carefully get the bride to her next destination!

Weddings are made up of moments that should not be rushed! This is why time is on of our magic ingredients!


There are more ways in which time affects a wedding day, but I could go on about that all day! I’ll just wrap it up with this — as I mentioned in Secret #2, it’s not a matter of if something will go wrong on the wedding day, it’s a matter of when.  There is always something that does not turn out the way it was planned! Maybe the flowers weren’t ready at the right time or mom got caught in a traffic jam or the best man forgot his tie in the hotel room.  Do you know what makes those changes bearable?? Having a plentiful time cushion! As I said in the previous post, three times last year, hair and makeup teams (not recommended by us) put us an hour behind schedule.  But the very best, best part is…..every single one of the brides and grooms were tucked away out of guests’ sight in plenty of time.  Do you know why?  Because we had extra time built into the schedule. Time is your friend, not your foe.  If you’re a client and you want to see the amazing images that you see right here on this blog, then give us that precious secret ingredient — time 🙂





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