Do you want to take better wedding photos? A wedding is one of the most precious days for a couple. If you’re a wedding photographer, then it’s your responsibility to capture the best moments and create a great memory album of the big day! This article will share some of the best tips on taking stunning wedding photos and common wedding photography mistakes to avoid.
Here are a handful of the concepts we’ll cover. Understanding these tips will help you prepare for your first shoot:
- Working in pairs
- Coming prepared with good equipment
- Planning your shots
- Knowing who and what to photograph
- Capturing the little moments
What Is Wedding Photography?
Before you can understand how our tips will help your wedding photography, you must understand what makes photographing a wedding ceremony and wedding reception challenges.
Wedding photography is different from other photography genres because you only have one chance to get the images right. Weddings typically only last one day — the wedding day! That means there’s very little room for error on the part of the photographer. You have to make sure that you’re ready to shoot at a moment’s notice.
The bride, groom, family, and friends may be stressed, so it’s also vital that you maintain a positive, easy-going attitude.
Like many other event photographers, you’ll want to make sure you prepare a wedding photography contract in advance for the wedding party to sign. Having an established agreement upfront eliminates the possibility of disagreements down the line. This agreement should include the total number of deliverables your clients will receive after the shoot is over.
Your photographs will be your most treasured wedding keepsake. Not sure where to start when it comes to looking for your wedding photographer of choice?
Wedding Photography Tips
Wedding photography can be a real challenge, even for those who are already doing it professionally, because it involves almost every kind of photography. Portraiture, still life photography, action shots, travel and landscape photography, and maybe even underwater shots. You name it; professional wedding photographers have most likely done it on the job.
That said, it can be challenging for beginners to cover their first few weddings seamlessly. However, it’s not impossible, especially with our list of the most fundamental tips for wedding photography.
Get to know the couple.
Take the time to get to know more about your couple during your initial meetings. How did they meet? How long have they been together? Do they already have children? Answers to these questions may serve as your inspiration for covering their wedding and for the story in your images.
If possible, also do their prenup photos. It will serve as an opportunity for both parties to be more comfortable with each other—a huge benefit for when the big day arrives. At the same time, it helps you figure out your couple’s best angles!
Test Your Camera in Advance
You should check all your gadgets to make sure they’re working correctly before you leave to take great wedding photos.
You’ll likely want to bring a tripod with you to use at the wedding ceremony, in addition to several camera lenses and external flashes. If the wedding you’re photographing takes place indoors, you may also need other lighting equipment. For outdoor ceremonies, you can likely get by with a bounce rather than cumbersome lights.
It’s a good idea to err on the side of caution and bring more equipment than you think you’ll need. Pack several spare batteries and memory cards, so you don’t miss anything from drinks at cocktail hour to fun-filled dancing on the dance floor.
Pre-Plan the Shoot
Planning your shoot is just as important as the shoot itself. Make some extra time for this part of your wedding photography preparations.
You’ll want to schedule a time to take multiple photos of the bride and groom in different locations. The couple will follow your instructions and defer your professional judgment, but they may also have their ideas for photo ops.
How you decide to pose the couple in the photos is up to you. We recommend showing your clients a manual of poses as you plan the shoot together. Let them choose the poses they want for their wedding photos, and then add them to the contract you both sign.
Depending on how comfortable your clients are in front of the camera, you may have to provide extra instruction to capture the best shot. That’s why it’s so important to be patient with the newlyweds. The more you can help them feel comfortable, the more they’ll enjoy the experience.
And remember, word of mouth advertising is essential for growing a photography business. A patient photographer is one of your clients I will recommend! In photography, your name is everything. Itʼs your brand, so if you make a mess of someoneʼs wedding, you wouldʼve dragged your name through the dirt and thereʼs no natural way to recover from that.
Often on a wedding day, depending on how strictly the couple sticks to the schedule, things can go completely haywire, and decisions are made on the spot. Perhaps they decide to move the group photos up by 2 hours, and you’ve had no time to look for the best place to capture them. Youʼll is stuck with picking a location that is within view and has to settle for something less than perfect.
Instead, arrive early, walk around the wedding venue, look for the best locations, and visualise where you would shoot the dress, the rings, the couple, the group photos, etc. You could even visit the venue a few days or even weeks before the actual wedding to scout out the best spots. That way, thereʼs no rush or pressure at all, and you might even find yourself with some spare time on the wedding day to eat that peanut butter sandwich you packed.
Create a personalised shot checklist
We intentionally saved this for a second, even though it’s one of the most crucial wedding tips out there. After all, the only way you will be able to find time to complete your shot checklist is to find out when you can do each of them.
More often than not, couples now hire photographers based on how well they can document the entire wedding, down to the essential details. Every bride hopes to look back with their wedding album many years after and be reminded of the beautiful venue set up, what the dress looked like, how happy everybody was, and a couple of other things.
Sit down with the couple at least once before the wedding and ask them what they specifically want to include in your short checklist. They’ll probably say it’s up to you, but they’ll think about it more if you share with them the standard wedding photo list below:
- Bride and Groom Preparations
- Essential Items (Invitation, bouquets, rings, dress, jewellery, wardrobe, etc.)
- Family Portraits
- Church & Venue (Empty and packed)
- Bridal Car & Entrance
- Groom’s Reaction
- Wedding Ceremony
- Décor & Details (Flowers, cake, venue, place cards, table settings, etc.)
- Reception (First dance, cake cutting, toasts & speeches, dance with parents)
- Entire Wedding Party
Don’t forget to get to know who the critical members of their wedding party are, such as their immediate families and closest friends, so you don’t miss any of them. We have the best wedding photographer in Yarra Valley to capture your beautiful moments on your wedding day.
Hire or be part of a team
A lot goes on at weddings. It’s nearly impossible for a single shooter to cover everything, mainly due to time constraints and difficulty in multi-tasking. Couples usually go for a team of at least three wedding photographers, with at least one assigned for each of them. This way, the photographers can have required shots distributed among them and have fewer chances of missing a moment. You may also hire an assistant for your gear and lighting set-up. It benefits you as a shooter, too, as it helps you become more at ease on the job.
You can’t carry all your photography accessories alone. You’ll likely need a helping hand to make the best wedding photography images you can. You may also need another professional photographer to help manage lights, take test shots, and capture scenes you’d otherwise miss. You can’t be everywhere at once!
Ask a wedding photographer to become your assistant in exchange for being their second in command at their next event. This trade is a smart way to stay on budget and get help from an experienced wedding photographer.
Bring the right gear.
Good wedding photography gear significantly increases your chances of successful wedding coverage. Invest in the best cameras (yes, plural, because you’re definitely going to need a backup camera) and lenses for wedding photography that are within your budget, as this will significantly improve the quality of your images and your ability to capture various scenes correctly. For example, a great camera to start with would be the Canon EOS R5, Sony Alpha a7S III, or the Fujifilm X100V to take wedding photos.
Your kit should include comfortable walk-around lenses, ideally one prime lens and one wide aperture zoom lens, that allow you to get close and walk among the guests without drawing too much attention. A good wide-angle lens is also essential for group shots and capturing the venue, while a telephoto (whether prime or zoom) is also necessary for instances when you need to shoot from a distance.
Another helpful item is a reliable external flash that you can direct towards the ceiling for more natural and diffused lighting if you don’t have a diffuser. Pop-up flashes are no-nos, as they produce harsh lighting and are hardly attractive for portraits.
You would also need a handy tripod to help you capture steadier and sharper shots. Finally, and this should go without saying—bring extra batteries and memory cards!
Have backups of everything
Wedding photography, and photography in general, can get very expensive very quickly, so if you have GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), make sure you get that in check first.
Youʼll need backups of everything from lenses and camera bodies to cards, batteries, and speedlights. Anything can happen on the day, and you donʼt want to be the guy or girl who is being paid to be at the wedding with a camera, without a camera.
One way to combat this is to rent gear that you canʼt afford just yet. There are a few advantages to renting over buying. You get to try out the equipment you’ve always wanted without breaking the bank, and a lot of the time you’ll realise that investing in a new lens won’t really make your work THAT much better, and suddenly you’ve saved yourself thousands of dollars.
Familiarise yourself with the program
Besides learning how to photograph a wedding, it’s equally important to know the kind of wedding you will be covering. Some cultural weddings have different symbolism and rituals, and you have to be aware of them, so you don’t miss important moments. It would help both you and the couple if you could also get a copy of their reception program, so you know what to expect and can plan your shots accordingly.
Part of the job is to also know the schedule for the day, from the time that you have to turn up for the bride and groom preparations to the end of the reception.
Figure out the lighting situation beforehand
If possible, visit the venue a few days before, around the same time as the actual wedding, so you can see what kind of lighting situation you will be working with. Walkthrough the entire venue and note what type of lighting you will get in each spot, whether indoors or outdoors. This will allow you to properly prepare for it and figure out what kind of lighting equipment and accessories you may need to bring.
You should bring your camera and lenses with you! Take some sample shots of each part of the venue so you can figure out the best settings to work with. This should help save you some time during the actual event, as you won’t have to waste your time trying to come up with the correct settings for each given lighting situation.
Get accurate exposure to the bride’s dress.
Here’s a tip that some wedding photographers might overlook: make sure to get accurate exposure when photographing the bride’s dress! Suppose you have a very traditional bride, who most likely went with the classic white dress. In that case, you need to remember that the white colour can be tricky to photograph correctly, especially in certain lighting situations.
To help you get the correct exposure that allows you to capture the dress’s brightest tone without sacrificing the necessary details, you need to learn the proper metering technique.
Stay alert and be ready for anything.
When you’re an event photographer, there’s no time to relax. You may have your shot checklist at the ready, but what makes priceless photos are often the unplanned ones. Be aware of what’s happening and be prepared to whip out your camera in an instant, especially when somebody suddenly bursts out crying or when the young bible bearer decides to leave the book in the middle of the aisle. Don’t just stay with the couple throughout the day; feel free to do quick shots of the guests as they wipe their tears or burst out laughing.
Remember, it’s those bit behind-the-scenes moments that make some of the best wedding photos.
Be authoritative and professional.
This one may need a lot of practice and confidence. Even professional wedding photographers struggle to control situations and direct people in the middle of all the mingling and celebrating. It would help if you learned how to be somewhat bossy and confident about taking front and centre during group photo ops and other ceremonial moments. It enables you to remember that you are being paid and therefore have the license to (respectfully) tell people what to do to get the best wedding photos possible.
It’s also vital that you dress for the occasion. Ask about the dress code and wear appropriate clothes that are comfortable enough for you to walk around in but formal sufficient so that you don’t stick out like a sore thumb.
Maintain a professional yet approachable demeanour—after all, people are watching. Even if your photo set is fantastic, nothing turns other potential clients off more than an unprofessional photographer. At Wild Romantic, we have the best wedding photographer in Mornington Peninsula to capture every single moment on your wedding day.
Know when to keep your distance and when to move closer
It helps to establish your authority among other guests armed with cameras, but don’t overdo it. Unless you have to direct the party for wedding photo poses, keep your distance. This is particularly important when the wedding ceremony is taking place and when speeches are being delivered. Don’t be an annoying, hovering photographer; make use of a good zoom lens so you can capture those moments without getting too close.
On the other hand, going closer allows you to get a better variety of angles. The bottom line is, a good photographer should know when to keep his distance and when to move in for a particular shot.
Don’t manipulate or interfere with your subjects.
When taking photos of the bride and groom preparations, natural is the way to go. Let things happen organically. An overly directed shot can look awkward and fake, no matter how good a model or actor your couple is. Of course, it helps to control the couple, entourage, and guests to do a couple of creative or traditional poses for group shots and the photoshoot before the reception.
But unless the photos require some natural posing, it’s best to stay out of the way to keep yourself from influencing your subjects’ behaviour. Allow them to do what they want to do to get some spontaneous candids, as they might even prove to be better than what you had initially planned!
Capture the Firsts
Couples want to remember every minute of their big day, especially the milestone first moments. These monumental firsts include the couple’s first kiss, first dance and first look. Your clients may even be planning their own nontraditional “first moments,” so it’s essential to ask them about any memorable moments they want to be photographed.
Plan time for these first moments, and make sure that you’ve set up in advance to capture the best shot. These milestones are quick, so you have to be prepared ahead of time.
The best strategy for ensuring that your first-moment images come out well is to set your camera with a high shutter speed so you can take multiple, quick photos without delay. That way, in post-processing, you’ll have a series of images from which you can choose the best one. Try to get different angles of these first moments, too! For example, if the couple plans a grand entrance, try setting up multiple cameras with a remote shutter to capture the access from various perspectives.
Shoot the Reactions
Newlyweds love seeing photos of their guests having fun in their wedding album. If you notice guests and friends having fun on the dance floor or during the reception dinner, make an effort to capture those moments, too. Those expressions of the relatives, friends and family that showed up to support your clients deserve to be captured.
If you’re working with an assistant, this is an excellent job for them to assume. Assign them to capture the “WOW!” expressions of guests and family while you stay close to the bride and groom.
Ask your partner to take photos quickly and cover as many faces as they can. It’s a joyful occasion, and these moments should be preserved for the couple to see later.
Learn from each wedding you do
One of the best wedding photography tips anyone can give you is to use each gig as an opportunity to learn. You’re never going to get things perfect on your first wedding gig, but you can use that experience to gain more knowledge and learn more about wedding photography. Take note of everything you did right—as well as everything you did wrong—every time you do a wedding because, as they say, the experience is the best teacher. Not only will this help you improve your wedding photography skills, but you’ll also learn other things such as how to handle the initial negotiations with the bride and groom, how to act around the guests so you can get the right emotions, how to achieve tricky shots, and how to think on your feet (which is extremely important when covering events).
If you can, apply to be a second or third shooter for a professional wedding photographer to get personal tips and gain first-hand experience without being put under too much pressure.
And here’s one final bonus tip for you: RELAX and HAVE FUN. This is a celebration, after all. Don’t take things too seriously to the point where you forget that this is supposed to be a happy occasion, and just because you’re not technically a part of it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself in the process. You chose the wedding photography niche for a reason, or perhaps even several reasons, and one of them is likely to be the fact that you enjoy it. Please don’t take the enjoyment out of your craft by forgetting to have fun while you do it.
If you’re genuinely enjoying yourself, chances are, it’ll show in your final output.