The best photographers are the ones that know how to capture the raw emotions and moments of a wedding. Wedding photography is an art form, but it’s not easy! These tips will help you take better photos and make sure your guests leave with memories they’ll cherish for years to come.
Every wedding is beautiful, but with so many photos to take, how does a beginner photographer know what to shoot? There are three main types of shots you should focus on: candid moments posed, couple portraits and details.
Candid moments can be found in the reception line, during dances or when guests are mingling.
Posed couple portraits are more formal and often include an embrace or kiss.
Lastly, detail shots can be any small thing that has meaning for the bride and groom, such as family heirlooms passed down through generations.
These three types of photos will help you get all the essential moments documented without overwhelming yourself!
1. Before the Wedding
Every wedding photographer’s job begins before their client’s big day. If you don’t know this, consider it your first bonus tip!
Adequate preparation will allow you to get the best wedding photos. We’re going to walk you through all the pre-wedding photography tips you will need to be successful.
From Inquiry to Booking the Wedding
Make Yourself Accessible
The absolute first thing you need to do is make sure people can get in contact with you.
At its most formal, receiving inquiries through email is pretty much the standard of the wedding photography industry now. But, you can also let people get in touch via phone, text message, and social media accounts for your photography business.
The more options you give people to get in touch, the more likely it will be for you to get new leads.
Use a Good Inquiry Form
For most people getting in touch with you, the inquiry form will make or break the deal.
If you ask for too much information up front, they might get bored and decide to go with someone else. Let’s chalk that up to millennial ADD or something.
And if you ask for too little information, you’ll end up not having enough to go on to write an adequate response.
In addition to the actual form fields, you should be sure to use a quality form plugin. On website platforms like Squarespace and Wix, this isn’t something you’ll need to think about as there is only the built-in option unless you are planning to code something from scratch. But, if you created your site through WordPress, you will have many options. In this case, we recommend WPForms.
Did you know: there are a lot of bad ways to respond to an inquiry?
Unfortunately, writing the right combination of words to make someone want to follow up and proceed with booking your wedding photography service isn’t always easy. Sometimes, people will ghost you for no apparent reason.
In reality, not everyone who inquires with you will be serious. You can get plenty of inquiries that are pretty obviously just people looking to get a deal or copy/pasting the same message to 20 other photographers. Don’t worry about these too much!
Instead – focus on writing effective responses to the inquiries that seem the most serious.
If you still need help, you can pick up Signature Edit’s Email Templates for Wedding Photographers. This is a tried-and-trusted collection of email templates that will make it far easier for you to get the responses you are looking for. If you want to read more, we wrote a great review of these templates and how they work in real life!!
Set Up a Meeting
Without a wedding photography checklist, you will inevitably miss something out of your shoot. This could be fatal to the start of a promising wedding photography career. A Bride and Groom won’t be pleased to know you forgot to take pictures of them cutting the cake or the Mother of the Bride’s decadent hat!
So, listen up….
Take time to meet up with the happy couple who have chosen you to capture the special memories of their happy day. Visit them a few weeks before and find out as much as you can about their wedding and their expectations of you.
Put these questions on your checklist:
- Do they want lots of posed formal wedding photographs?
- Or do they prefer a natural and candid approach?
- What parts of the day do they want you to cover? Bridal preparation, Ceremony, Meal, Speeches, Cake cutting, Party/Disco etc.,
- What’s the starting time for these parts? (expect there to be delays – you’ll find no wedding runs on time!)
- Are there any particular activities or surprises planned that guests don’t know about?
- How many guests will be present?
- Is there anyone who doesn’t want to be photographed? (Sounds silly, but you’ll be surprised how often an unwanted Aunty or vaguely known Cousin is put to the back of the shots)
- Do they want a big group shot of everyone together?
- What time will the wedding finish?
These will be important questions to ask as you build your Wedding Photography checklist, and they will help you form the basis of your approach.
Once you can set up a meeting with a prospective client, you are 95% of the way to booking them!!
You can have meetings…
- In person (this is best!)
- On Skype
- Over the Phone
You can meet with people in all of these ways.
Sometimes, it just depends on how far apart you are. Some of the bookings can be with people across the country, so it’s not possible to meet IRL – but Skype and cell phones have made everyone more accessible than ever.
One very important not to forget is to ask the couple is:
‘Do you have any ideas of your own?’
Ultimately, it’s their day, and there’s nothing more professional than involving the Bride and Groom (to-be) in the creative process.
There are brilliant websites such as Pinterest, Behance, Flickr and 500px, which are ideal resources to gain inspiration for different wedding photography styles. So ask your happy couple to have a look and send you some of their preferred wedding picture ideas.
Maybe it is old fashioned, but we still prefer meeting over a cup of coffee any day. It’s easier to connect, read the room, and make a real impact.
Require a Contract Signing
The biggest beginner mistake we see is new photographers NOT having a contract.
The reasons for having a contract include:
- Clearly stating what you will be doing (as a professional) and what the clients will be receiving
- Cover yourself legally if anything was to go bad
- Guarantee that you will make some money
- This shows that both you and the clients are serious about working together.
The list goes on…
How you get a contract put together will vary. Some people do it themselves, others work off of a free contract template found online, while others will choose to meet with a lawyer and pay them to create one.
Whatever route you decide, you can make the contract signing process very easy by using Honeybook. This is an end-to-end booking suite that covers ALL of the needs you will have to send contracts, get them signed digitally, collect a payment, and more.
…And a Retainer Payment!
Going along with having a solid contract in place, photographers need to be collecting a retainer payment.
You can read the linked post above for more detailed information on what this entails, but to sum it all up:
A retainer helps to ensure that you get paid and is indicative that the people you are going to do work for are serious about hiring you. It can be nerve-wracking to ask people for money upfront, especially when starting out, but it’s the only way to work. In general, we require a 50% payment upfront.
Cover What Is Included
It’s essential to spell out everything that will be included in the wedding photography package your client will book. This may need to be done multiple times – and for sure, it needs to be done at least once in writing.
Most of the bookings get directly exposed to what they will be getting in their wedding package at least three times:
- Via the Pricing page – this spells out what is included in our standard wedding photography packages.
- Via email – after talking with the client, you will restate what they will be purchasing through email. Most of the time, this just repeats information from the pricing page as around 80% of the clients just book one of the standard packages. However, sometimes, clients may make adjustments (like adding or removing an engagement shoot), so make sure you’ll be clear on this, too!
- In the contract – finally, your contract is the most important location to make sure you clarify what is included. This sets legal precedence for what the client will owe you and be responsible for and what you will be responsible to provide.
“Set expectations – early and often”
This is a simple quote you have to reiterate to yourself and other photographers whenever you talk about how to make it in the wedding industry.
Being able to set expectations effectively will help you make sure your clients will walk away happy with anything you give them. Most of the time, client/photographer problems are the result of miscommunications.
Sure, there are some crazy clients out there. And no doubt – some shady photographers. But, in general, we’d like to assume most people are out to do good for each other.
One area where you will often have to set expectations (and it’s really easy!!) is when you recommend portrait time to be around Golden Hour. Sometimes it’s obvious why this is to bride & groom’s to be – but other times the response is more like, “can we just take those photos earlier, so we have more time during our reception to just chill?”
As expert photographers, your answer here is simple: Golden Hour portraits tend to be the best portraits because the light is soft and glowy. You absolutely can take photos earlier in the day, but just keep in mind this will likely be under harsher sunlight. You can make it work, but always like to suggest Golden Hour for this reason.
At this stage, it’s up to the client to make a decision. Of course, there is no right or wrong – but this is a simple fact that (in this case) is widely accepted by most wedding photographers.
Organize Your Email Inbox
Last thing before we move onto the next section…
This is such a simple tip for wedding photographers, but you can quickly go without if you aren’t an organized person.
A lot of emails in your Inbox = clutter
At first, it won’t be that bad if you just have one or two clients. But, as you grow, you will need to take better measures to organize your client messages.
Make a Plan
Now, we’re going to shift gears in this post of wedding photography tips for beginners. In this section, we talk about the planning phase. A wedding photographer’s real job begins here.
With excellent planning, you’ll be setting the stage to have a wildly great wedding photo experience – and your clients will love you for it!!
Visit the Venue Beforehand
Knowing the lay of the land will help you to avoid scrambling to find the scenic locations at a wedding venue.
This isn’t always possible, but it’s a simple tip that goes a long way to help reduce any anxiety you may be feeling about shooting at a new location.
When we were beginners, it was common for us to travel out to venues, meet with the owners, and get a walkthrough.
Shoot the Couple’s Engagement Session
Engagement sessions are a great way to build a relationship with the couple.
While not everyone wants one, we recommend including them in your wedding packages and suggesting them as a way for people to get comfortable being photographed in this way.
At virtually every engagement session, the couples usually go through three simple emotions:
- We’re nervous – we haven’t had pictures taken before OR we’ve had a bad experience.
- We’re feeling pretty good about this – naturally, within about 10-15 minutes, the nervous jitters go away, and couples realize that it isn’t so bad.
- This was really fun and a good experience – by the end of the shoot, couples tell us how it was “so great”.
As a result, you’ve set yourself up for a good time when the wedding day rolls around. The couple already knows your personality and what to expect from being photographed by you.
You always have to aim to be professional in working with people, but it’s also important to be personable, friendly, and easy-going!!
Send the Couple a Wedding Questionnaire
In order to effectively plan out what you will need to do when the wedding comes around, you will want to begin by sending your couple a wedding questionnaire.
This is precisely what it sounds like!
You send a consolidated list of questions, and the couple fills in the answers. This will cover topics like their schedule of events, listing out must-have shots, discuss any venue photography restrictions, etc.
You should aim to be comprehensive without asking for excessive information.
Make a Wedding Photography Timeline
With a completed questionnaire in hand (…or email inbox…), you can put together a wedding photography timeline.
The benefits of a wedding timeline are seriously significant! A few that come to mind:
- It shows a concrete start-to-end flow of the wedding day – this is helpful to both you and the couple!!
- It dictates when certain people will be needed and at what time
- It allows you to set timing expectations – you create the timeline based on your couple’s information
- It also lets you clearly indicate your start and end times – we find it’s easier to say “goodbye” when a client hasn’t booked us until the end of the night when we’ve been clear when we will be leaving
Always Leave Buffer Room
Your timeline will only be useful if you can stick to it on the big day!!
One of the most significant planning things you have to learn is to always (ALWAYS) include a buffer room around the key events. This is especially true earlier in the day.
For example, if a bride plans to only need 1 hour for hair and makeup, you should factor in at least 1.5 hours if it runs over. About 90% of the time – it does.
Make Clear the Most Important Times of the Day
Many mini-events happen during a wedding day, but only a few of them matter to the bride & groom.
Most events during the reception are pretty flexible to move around as needed. For example, the cake can be cut a little earlier or later if necessary, and a bouquet toss or round of the shoe game can move around as needed too.
Obviously, the ceremony start time is going to be set in stone. However, things that happen right around it, like formal family portraits – are also hugely important.
With this in mind, it’s good to remind your clients that “hey, this is important” and for events like family photos where other people are involved, those people should be notified in advance that “hey, we need you around for these pictures!”
You will find that this preparedness before the wedding makes things go so much smoother!
Put Together a Shot List
One of the essential wedding photography tips for beginners is this one!
Having a shot list will make a world of difference so that you remember all of the photos you need and want to capture.
Write down all the possible combinations of portrait shots you could capture during the wedding day. Then, think about all the other people participating in the ceremony, such as Page Boys and Flower Girls. It’s a good idea to place them at the front of your group, so others don’t hide them.
Usually, a shot list comes with two sections:
- Photos the couple specifically want
- Photos you want to take
It should look like this:
- Bride and Groom – obviously!
- Maid of Honor and Bride
- Bride and Bridesmaids
- Page Boys and Flower Girls
- Groom and Best Man
- Groom and Groomsman
- Bride, Groom and Parents
- Groom, Best Man, Bride and Maid of Honor
- Bride, Groom, Page Boys and Flower Girls
- Bride and Bridal Family
- Groom and Family
- Best Man & Maid of Honour
- Mothers of the Bride and Groom
- Fathers of the Bride and Groom
The clients will sometimes request specific pictures. It might be a photo with some friends who came in from out of town, a shot of a special piece of jewellery, or even a shot similar to one they saw on Pinterest. Whatever it may be – you have to write these things down and make darn sure you get those photos.
Cross them off as you go, so don’t forget a pen! It makes it much easier to know you’ve captured all the shots your newlyweds asked for. You’ll start to look like a professional wedding photographer already.
On your end, you also might like taking specific photos. For example, you may have some standard “go to’s” at virtually any wedding, but also come up with some special ones depending on the couple, the venue, and other factors. While usually, it’s easy enough to remember some of these ideas, you should write them out, so there is no chance of forgetting.
Map Out Locations and Know Time Between Them
This is a wedding tip that is extra special for those with multiple locations.
We know that driving from a hotel to a church to a reception hall all takes time. Sometimes, these are all within a short distance from each other. In other cases, they can be seriously spread out.
One other pro-tip: make sure you leave extra time in your schedule in case the drive ends up taking longer due to traffic, construction, etc.
Bring an Assistant
Is it better to have an assistant photographer or an assistant-to-the-photographer?
In all seriousness, having a second set of hands on the big day will be very helpful. The number of times you will scramble to collect your gear bags, loose camera caps, and other things you end up carrying for your clients can be counted on many hands.
Having someone around who could provide support in this way would be hugely beneficial.
The most significant area for this will be when setting up your lighting equipment. Being able to send an assistant ahead to a reception hall to situate your off-camera flash setup can mean the difference between having to rush when you arrive or being able to take a quick breather before the entrances.
Or Better Yet – A Second Shooter
Any wedding photographer would benefit from the second set of eyes taking actual pictures.
Having double the amount of photographs from multiple perspectives throughout the day makes for a more exciting gallery. While we hate to admit it, it also serves as a bit of insurance because if one of you messes up your settings during a pivotal moment like the first kiss, the other will have photos that can be used.
In addition, a second shooter just makes things more fun and less stressful. You can also quickly sell yourselves to couples because you can be in two places at once – like one of you photographing the girls getting ready and the other capturing the guys.
Don’t worry if you don’t want a second shooter or can’t find one to help you out! You can still photograph a wedding by yourself.
Have the Right Stuff for the Job
Consider your equipment to be a means to an end.
Having new and exciting gear is very cool at first, but they just become the things you use to create photographs over time.
As you will find in any aspect of life, your tools can help you to produce a better end product – but at the end of the day, lower quality tools in the hands of an experienced professional are still going to result in a better result than a novice coming out with the most high-end supplies.
In this section, we will talk about the many options you have as a beginner wedding photographer.
Rent Photo Gear if Needed
For beginner wedding photographers, you may not have all the money needed to buy the great equipment you’ll want to take high-quality photos.
While budget equipment will work for budget weddings, you’ll need to support these costs by offering higher quality images if you want to start charging more money for your service.
One of the easiest and cost-effective ways to get quality images in your portfolio at first is by simply renting gear.
Try to borrow or rent a backup camera (something you’re familiar with) in case the worst should happen during the wedding – it’s rare but not implausible.
Compact cameras are, in truth, useless for weddings. They will not operate fast enough to capture all the fleeting moments of the day.
It all begins with a simple rental.
The only downside with renting is that you will end up spending money that is not going towards owning something.
From a local camera store, you can rent the Mark IV for $50/weekend. It’s not that bad, but after you rent it a couple of times – it ends up being a little chunk of change that you can’t help but wish was just put towards financing the camera on a credit card.
If you don’t have a local shop you can visit and support, there are online rental options like LensRentals.
If you are a beginner in wedding photography (intending to become more serious), you need to consider investing in a reliable mirrorless or DSLR camera. Fast shooting cameras are vital if you want to make the most of the day.
Buy the Best Gear You Can Afford
While renting is sometimes necessary, you will still prefer buying things when you can.
If you have decided that buying your equipment is best, we’d recommend buying something within your means AND that will fulfil your wedding photography goals.
When we approached this, we knew we wanted to be professional photographers. As a result, we also knew we needed to have professional-level gear. To make this happen, we put off buying cheaper equipment just because it was in our current price range but would save a little longer to get exactly what we needed.
This ends up saving money in the long run, as much camera equipment does begin to depreciate quickly after purchasing.
Bring Enough Batteries and SD Cards
Batteries and SD cards are kind of like the salad of photography gear. They are not anyone’s favourite thing, but they can undoubtedly compliment the main attraction. And much like salad, they add a lot of value.
It’s easy to take for granted how many batteries you actually will need to shoot a wedding. When you first start off, you will often be underprepared and scrambling to get batteries on chargers in the corner of a reception hall.
Over time, you will start to bring more and more batteries until you learn how many you need to successfully power all of your cameras, flashes, transmitters and so on.
As far as SD cards are concerned, you don’t need too many but instead should just invest in a few good 128Gb storage cards. We’ll talk about our recommendations in a second!
Have Fast Enough SD Cards
First – you need SD cards with a fast write speed. We would suggest a card with at least 95MB/s speeds.
The reason for this is because, as a wedding photographer, you will be snapping a lot of photos in rapid succession. Therefore, your SD card needs to be able to withstand the number of images it needs to capture and store on the card. Thus, most SD cards with suitable speeds will be branded as “professional” or similar terms.
Fortunately, SD cards with fast writing speeds are becoming more of the norm, and prices are becoming increasingly lower for these types of cards.
Dual Write Images on 2 SD Cards
The last thing about SD cards that you should seriously consider is having a camera with 2 SD camera slots that can be used to dual write images. This means – when you take a picture, it is backed up on two cards. So in the event, something would happen (God forbid!) like one of the cards becoming corrupted, you will still have a backup.
For most purposes, this isn’t a necessary feature to take advantage of. But for professional work, and especially that of a wedding day that cannot be reproduced ever, having backups is really, really important.
To do this successfully, you can use the following SD cards exclusively:
Get Insurance Coverage
It is essential to have insurance so you can be covered from all angles. There are a few different insurance types we recommend you have as a wedding photographer:
- General Liability Insurance. The most important type of insurance for photographers. It provides coverage if you were to get hurt, hurt someone, or cause property damage. Some wedding venues actually require that you have this type of insurance, often up to 1 million dollars of coverage.
- Professional Liability Insurance. This type of insurance will cover you in the event that you are sued by a client – whether you are actually at fault or not. There are some ways to invalidate your coverage, like if you committed actual fraud. In practice, this type of insurance comes into play to cover your legal costs to sort things out in court. While no one ever would hope to use this insurance, it is good to have in case the worst happens.
- Commercial Property Insurance. Lastly, this insurance covers your business equipment. We have coverage on all our cameras, lenses, flashes, and so on. You should choose coverage to quickly replace all of your gear if everything was lost, like in a fire.
While this might look overwhelming if the idea of having insurance is new to you, it’s pretty simple and more affordable than you might think.
You can only pay about $60/month in insurance premiums for ALL of these. So you will have the peace of mind of having good insurance coverage.
If you want to look into getting business insurance, we recommend going with Hiscox Insurance. Getting a free quote is a quick and straightforward process that you can do right here.
With the right insurance in place, you could end up saving yourself millions of dollars!
Wear the Right Attire
One goal of a wedding photographer is to look presentable, professional, and like you are a guest at the wedding.
To get this right, it’s very simple.
Be sure you ask your clients what their dress code is. You may want to just include this as a question in your wedding questionnaire we discussed earlier.
Four types of dress codes can be seen most often:
- Wear What You Want!
You should aim to wear clothing that suits the event (no pun intended!). If you have any concerns, be sure to ask your clients well in advance to clarify. For example, you can go to weddings that list “casual” as the dress code, yet everyone shows up in lovely dresses and suits. It is a wedding at the end of the day, so you will most likely be absolutely fine to dress like you would for any special event.
Workout and Eat Healthy
This is a general lifestyle tip, but it directly impacts your capabilities as a wedding photographer.
Doing wedding photography regularly and as a career is physically and mentally taxing. However, you will find that making strides to better your personal health can positively influence photography work.
Make an effort to get regular exercise and eat reasonably healthy, and you will find yourself with more clarity and an ability to keep up as long and tough wedding days come along.
Bring Water and Snacks
When prepping for the wedding day, you can never underestimate how much being hydrated and having some extra energy will help you make it through the day. Whether you’re shooting for 8 hours or 14 hours, these simple things will help you stay on your feet and get all the shots you need.
Come Prepared with Extra Supplies to be a Good Support for the B&G
When you pack your bags, always make sure you have a couple of essential items with you if your bride & groom need something in a pinch. These are items that aren’t photography related but leave a lasting impression, such as:
- Face wipes
- Bug Spray
You can see how these things would be valuable!!
Prep Your Bag(s) the Night Before
The easiest way to make sure you have everything you need is to pack your bags in advance.
You’re going to be on your feet for hours, so you don’t want heavy bags. It’s a good idea to check out the weather beforehand, so you’ll know if you need to take provisions.
When you pack the night before, you can make sure you have EVERYTHING you will need. You’ll then be able to just chill before the wedding, instead of rushing around like a crazy person!!
Have Business Cards on Hand
Finally, business cards are your friend!
At every wedding, you can always find yourself handing out at least a few cards. Often you’ll exchange with other wedding vendors. Sometimes, you’ll be approached by guests at the wedding for your information.
It’s a simple way to build relationships and get new business. What better way for someone to get exposed to your photography service than actually seeing you do your job?
If you need some cheap but high-quality business cards, look no further than Moo. Despite the funny name, it’s one of the most trusted print companies for this purpose. Highly recommended!!
2. At the Wedding
The most practical wedding photography tips for beginners we can give you will be found here.
These are the tips and tricks that will help you to capture great photographs on the wedding day.
Arrive a Little Early
Getting to the wedding prep location is the first wedding photography tip for beginners that will play directly into how you are taking photos. Some of the benefits of arriving early include:
- Time to check in with the bride and groom without being under time pressure to get all the shots you need
- Scope out the venue for best photography spots
- Get to meet some immediate family and bridal party members
- Make sure all the detail items are together and in one place
How early you arrive is up to you. Usually, you can show up 15-30 minutes in advance, depending on the specifics.
Identify the Best Light Source
Light is always going to be your best friend as a photographer. So when you arrive, one of your first goals has to be to check the lighting. If there is natural light available – great! If there is not, you’ll need to make some adjustments and use flash to create better images.
If you’re being asked to photograph from start to finish, you’ll know you’ll need some lights (as the daylight fades) and some extra accessories, for example. But if you’re only required for the actual ceremony, you can travel lighter.
It’s vitally important to know what the couple want to do with the final photographs too. Some newlyweds wish for digital copies on a CD/USB drive to share on social media, others may request you to make an album for them or a giant canvas of their happy day.
Either way, it’ll help you decide whether you need to shoot the wedding in high-quality JPEGs or RAW files.
There will be a great light source in some cases, but it’s not being utilized effectively. The number of times you can see this is staggering.
Embrace the Stress
No lie – getting ready photos can be a little stressful to take!
There is often so much going on at this time. A lot of people rush around to get things done. As a photographer, working in this type of space can be challenging – especially if you are an introverted type of person!
All we can say is do what you can to prepare in advance and embrace the stress of the situation to create the best images you can. Stress can sometimes be debilitating, but you can learn to view it as a positive –, and this can help you perform really well even when things aren’t easy.
Make the Best of ANY Location
Some getting ready locations are naturally photogenic. You will absolutely LOVE these!
But…most of the time, people are getting prepared for their wedding in hotel rooms or their parent’s cramped spare bedrooms.
One of the big goals of being a wedding photographer is to make magic no matter what the location is.
Fortunately, it becomes easier with time. You can help yourself prepare by really learning how to take advantage of light and use your camera effectively in any situation.
Bridal Boudoir Portraits (optional)
Be Sensitive and Reassuring
For the uninitiated, bridal boudoir portraits are an example of nude photography (or semi-nude) where the bride has these types of photos taken as she gets ready.
They are becoming more and more common, and brides will often take these images and have them put together in a printed album for their husband.
At its best, bridal boudoir portraits can be empowering for the bride and really exciting for the groom to see!!
As a wedding photographer, you are tasked with taking these shots tastefully and professionally. To achieve this goal, you should always do what you can to empathize with your bride.
The easiest way to do this is to ask a straightforward question:
How would I want to be treated if someone was taking photographs of me like this?
Always Get Consent
Wedding photographers often have to do a lot of posing to get the best shots.
While you should always make an effort to make sure the people you have move around (or, in some cases – actually helping to move around) are comfortable with the things you are requesting, it is especially important for boudoir photography.
Getting verbal consent is easy to do, though!
When you ask the bride to do something, always follow up with statements like “if you are comfortable”. You can always set the stage before starting your shoot by telling her that if she feels uncomfortable, let her know, and we can adjust course.
In addition to this, you may want to consider having an additional model release form to cover this type of photography in a legal document.
For sure, nude photography of this sort is a lot more personal, so that most people will want more control over their images due to privacy concerns. However, clarifying what can and cannot be done in advance is a great way to ensure no harm would ever come to anyone proactively.
Use Natural Lighting
Bridal boudoir photography should always aspire to be soft and flattering. Natural light is one of the best ways to achieve this look.
While flash photography can be used, it is easy to go overboard and create harsh lighting that doesn’t have a gentle and soft look you will likely be going for.
Most locations will have some areas of natural light. Once you’ve identified the right spot, be sure to get everyone to clear out so it is just the bride and you taking pictures. You really only need 5-10 minutes to get a lot of great shots!
Be Aware of Unflattering Angles
The positioning of the bride will play a significant role in how the photos turn out. Once you’ve accounted for the light and have a good exposure dialled in on your camera, your composition and posing instructions will dictate how the photos end up.
While different factors will play into what is flattering vs. unflattering depending on the person, a few things we look for include:
- Double chins. If your bride is “double chinning”, we suggest using more posing prompts to help her extend her neck. You will want fewer images of her looking down. Having her turn her head left or right is one way to help eliminate this.
- Unbent limbs. This one sounds pretty funny. But, in practice, an enormous portrait photography tip is this – “if it bends, bend it.”
You may also want to consider any personal attributes the bride may be self-conscious about. For example, a curvy bride may not be entirely comfortable with some extra weight around her stomach area – especially when nude or in lingerie. One solution may be to take more photos from the torso up.
Please note…there is no one size fits all solution here. You need to use your judgment and communicate with your bride as necessary. Always, ALWAYS, use positive language.
Understand the Value of the “Little Things”
Photographing wedding details begins by understanding what all of these objects represent for the bride & groom. At most weddings, you’ll come into contact with at least 1 or 2 details that have been hand-made with care or even-handed down from generation to generation.
On occasion, you can get asked why photographs of details matter. The truth is – for some people, it doesn’t matter all that much. Especially right now.
But, when a couple revisits their wedding day a decade or two, having photos of the small items will help stir up great memories of the event. No, they probably won’t compare to their portraits, but they will help to enhance their memories.
This is the single reason why we find it to be so essential to capture the details.
It helps tell the story of the wedding in the same way a great movie features some well-designed props. The props don’t make the movie, but they can make it better!
Use a Macro Lens for Close-Ups
The smallest details like wedding rings and other jewellery will need a macro lens to capture them in their finest.
The best macro lens is the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens.
You could also pick up a macro lens adapter if you need a cheaper solution since you are just starting out with wedding photography.
You can think of these as magnifying glass attachments you can put on the lenses you currently have.
Manual Focus is Your Friend
For most of your photography, you will simply use auto-focus. However, you have to make an exception for macro photography and shift your lens from auto to manual focus.
Your camera’s autofocus performance will probably not be all that great when taking pictures of small objects. You will find that adjusting the focus yourself is a way to get more consistent in-focus shots.
Use a High F-Stop
One of the keys to getting crisp images is to make sure you get everything in the scene in focus.
For normal-sized subjects like taking pictures of people or landscapes, you can often get away with using a wide aperture (i.e., low f-stop) to create depth by blurring out the image’s background.
While this still applies in macro photography of wedding details, you will want to use a higher f-stop to get more of the item(s) in the frame in focus.
Have a Few Props to Enhance the Details
One special wedding photography tip we have is to bring along props to make the layout of your images more exciting and appealing. The changeup is often subtle but can help you to have more control over your images.
One way to have a really consistent portfolio of detailed images across all of your weddings is to use props.
Another excellent wedding photography trick is not to overlook those detail shots; get really close up to photograph the wedding rings in unison and the beautiful Bride’s floral bouquet.
Remember to talk to your clients; keep it light-hearted and fun. Encourage the Groom to shower his new wife in kisses, suggest a cheeky grab of her bottom (make sure you capture her reaction!). Or even sweep her off her feet in a graceful gesture; all of these little tips will keep the smiles flowing and the laughter natural.
A few things we recommend:
- Wood hangers for the wedding dress
- Rustic serving tray for photos of smaller details AND flat lay images
- Moss for adding texture around the detail items
- Loose tulle for adding additional texture
These are just a few things to have with you.
If you prefer using things already present in the environment, that is okay!
Once you’ve got the majority of the shots in the bag and you’ve still got time, then consider using any props you’ve brought to add a unique touch to your pictures. For example, smoke bombs and fairy lights are cute minor additions. Don’t forget to rope in an extra pair of hands if you need help.
Get a Written List of ALL the Most Important Details
If you get the sense that we like lists, you’d be right!
Having a list of all the details you should be capturing will help you ensure that you photograph them all.
You should request this information in the wedding questionnaire you send out to your clients before the wedding. It’s that simple!
Always Capture Details Throughout the Day, Too!
While we love details on their own, it’s important to continue getting detail shots throughout the day.
Using wedding rings as an example, you can often take close up shots of the rings on the newly married bride & grooms fingers. Taken during their portraits, these can be really intimate and romantic shots that show off the jewellery in the context of being on the people who are wearing them.
First Look (optional)
Select a Great Spot Earlier in the Day
Nailing the first look begins by finding a location that fits the bill. The things we look for in a great spot:
- It’s private. This is a moment to be shared between the bride & groom alone.
- It’s got the proper lighting. However, one of the most challenging parts about picking a spot is keeping in mind how the sun will impact it.
- It has some unique character. The first look is a lot like a standout moment in a good movie. This is the first time this couple will be seeing each other on the big day. So finding a spot that looks great is an excellent way to add to the romance in the air and make for a really photogenic first look.
Once you get your beautiful newlyweds away from the crowds, like Hollywood starlets at a premiere, then you’ll have a bit of peace and quiet to take those all-important shots. Remember to take a moment to breathe and relax for a moment. This is the only calm moment of the day, so enjoy it.
There’s no harm in having your mood board and inspiring shots printed out in your back pocket to reference. And it helps the couple understand how you want to pose them.
They’ll still be quite giggly and intimate, so make use of those natural reactions and ask them to gaze into each other’s eyes lovingly – it shouldn’t be too hard to do!
Walk the Bride & Groom Through What to Expect
You should know by now that the most important wedding photography tip for beginners is communication.
On paper, a first look is super simple. But, for a photographer, it can require some logistical planning to make sure everyone is set up and in position AND not seeing each before the moment is just right.
Working as two photographers, you can often approach it like this:
- Photographer #1 sticks with the groom. He gets in position and is arranged appropriately. Often, he’ll end up having to stay facing in one direction so as not to see the bride as she arrives.
- Photographer #2 sticks with the bride. This will typically involve walking with her from the bridal suite to the first look location. Again, she will get positioned for the first look.
- Photographers #1 and #2 will quickly confirm their approach to capturing the scene and make any last-minute adjustments as needed.
The first look begins, and that’s it!
Set Expectations with Family/Friends Who Are Around
Most couples want to be alone for their first look, but that isn’t always the case. In our opinion, it’s up to the bride & groom to decide what they want. You find this information out by simply asking!
In the event they want to be by themselves, finding a secluded location will help. But, as you will learn from experience, that doesn’t always mean a mom or best friend won’t find their way to the spot. As such, it’s essential to make sure the information is conveyed that…” Hey, they want to have some quiet time to themselves for their first look. Could you guys stick back for the next 15 minutes?”
Make Sure Light is Even on Both the B&G
Shooting in the shade or more controlled environments will help with this tip. One of the absolute worst things to happen in any first look is to visualize how great a shot will look; then the sun decides to peek out and drench one person in bright light and the other in dark shadow.
For this very reason, you will become a lot more selective of your shooting locations and make sure you factor in the lighting pretty seriously.
Wedding Traditions Vary – Ask Questions if You Don’t Know
Weddings have a lot of common traits between them, but there will also be significant differences. Going from shooting a Jewish wedding to a Catholic wedding is a pretty significant change up when it comes to the traditions and pacing of the ceremony.
This is actually one of the most exciting parts of being a wedding photographer.
Being exposed to so many different religious and cultural traditions. Heck, some ceremonies even incorporate really personal and family traditions that are probably the ones that can bring you closest to tears as they unfold.
If you’re unsure about what to expect, ask the couple and their officiant to walk you through the ceremony.
Know the Photography Restrictions (if Any)
Wedding ceremonies can be tough to photograph if there are restrictions.
In truth, most places will not have many, but one place we’ve consistently run into restrictions is in Catholic churches. Typically, you will not be allowed in the altar area, and flash photography will be prohibited.
There are exceptions even in the church, but it’s something worth noting, and it’s a big reason why we recommend having a camera capable of shooting well in low light conditions.
Arrange How to Handle “Uncle Bob”
Have you ever met “Uncle Bob”? Or “Aunt Sally”, for that matter?
These well-intentioned family members, often older, want to show off their photography chops during the wedding ceremony.
Sometimes it’s with a beginner DSLR camera, other times it’s with a camera phone, and at worst, in our books – it involves a giant iPad screen.
To document the wedding, they end up serving as a distraction for a lot of the guests. They can also get in the way or otherwise distract from the professional photographer paid to be there.
The easiest way for a couple to nip “Uncle Bob” from doing this is to have a camera and cell phone free ceremony. However, in the event they don’t want to go that far, it’s a good idea to talk about how they’d like you to handle the Uncle Bob who is disruptive or gets in the way.
Get a Copy of the Ceremony Schedule
While your wedding photography timeline will tell you when the ceremony starts, it won’t usually detail everything that will happen during it.
From the processional to the exchanging of vows and rings to the first kiss, it can be valuable to know how the ceremony will unfold so you can make sure you’re in the right spot at the right time.
The more you photograph weddings, the more you learn that the format of a wedding ceremony can play a huge role in how things unfold. Having a copy of the schedule will make a world of difference.
Shoot with Two Cameras
Two cameras are always going to be better than one for wedding ceremonies.
You can manage with a single camera and lens setup during most other points on the wedding day. Still, ceremonies are so time-limited that quickly transitioning from one camera to the next is HUGE!!
The way you can use two cameras is by setting each up with different but complimentary lenses. For example, you might choose a 70-200mm lens to capture shots from further back and a 16-35mm lens for capturing wider photos. This can allow you to get virtually any composition your heart desires within seconds of each other.
While you could just keep one camera on the sidelines and run back-and-forth to swap it out with the other, our preferred solution for shooting with two cameras involves having a 2-camera harness.
The super-affordable OP/TECH USA Double Sling is really accessible for any wedding photographer and does the job exactly as you’d want it to.
If you wanted something with the same functionality but a little more durability and cool points, you could also pick up a HoldFast Moneymaker harness.
Be Quiet (We’re Hunting Rabbits!)
During a wedding ceremony, your goal as a photographer is to be like a ghost. Don’t do this at the expense of getting shots you need to get, but do it to be respectful of the bride & groom and their guests who have gathered to see them for this really special event.
During religious ceremonies, it’s even more crucial to maintain this respectful sense as the marriage ceremony also reflects on the church itself.
Aside from just trying to be relatively quiet yourself as you are moving around, a pro wedding photography tip for beginners is to turn on your camera’s silent shutter mode. This will reduce the noise when you’re taking pictures!
Talk to the Bridal Party Before They Walk Down the Aisle
While the ceremony is about the B&G, you will also be capturing photos of the bridal party and family members as they walk down the aisle. A good idea is to quickly go over what you need with them before they walk.
Typically, you will want to suggest that they walk slowly and even pause for a quick shot at a particular location.
This is a good idea because it will help you get all the shots you need and allow the people walking down the aisle to take good photos of them.
Make Less Crowded Ceremonies Look Lively
One aspect of wedding ceremonies that often go overlooked is how many of them don’t actually have many people in attendance.
Whether the couple is having a small wedding altogether or just inviting a smaller group of people to the actual ceremony, there is always a chance there will be few rows of people, and the guests are spread thin.
One solution to not negatively impact the images is to use a longer focal length lens and not utilize any empty seating in your shots.
Even if there are few people actually at the wedding ceremony, as a photographer, you have the ability to make it seem like everyone is there.
Use Guests to Frame the Bride & Groom
This wedding photography tip is really an extension of the one before it. You will love using guests as a foreground framing device.
It instantly gives more context to ceremony images. For example, while shots of the bride & groom alone at the altar with the officiant are necessary, these types of shots help to give more context.
Not only this, but it is a way to show off that people are paying attention. You can even go as far as to intentionally use people close to the bride & groom – like parents, siblings, etc. Having a shot of a mom watching from the front row as her daughter is getting married is an effortless and powerful thing!
Do Not Be Afraid to Get Close
You can talk a lot about liking to use your zoom lens so you can stay more in the background and that you like to be quiet and as unobtrusive as possible, but in practice – if you really need a shot that is close up, you will go and get it.
You will want to learn to use your best judgment for situations like this. However, you are hired by the client to get photos at the end of the day, so if there is a shot you really need and feel would be valuable for them to have – get it!
Get Front-and-Center for the First Kiss
This may seem obvious, but since you will take a shot through some ceremonies where the first kiss wasn’t even announced, being front and centre at the time the kiss will be happening. It’s one of the few shots of the entire ceremony you won’t want to take too many liberties with.
Wedding Portraits (Family, Bridal Party)
Have a Formal Portrait List
We know, it’s another list we’re suggesting here! But here we are!
Having a family formal portrait list is an excellent idea because it allows you to make sure you get a shot with everyone and include shots of all the requested pairings. You can do the same with bridal parties, though you can only do it if they are particularly large.
A sample family formal list would look like this:
- Bride, Groom, Bride’s Mom (Shirley), Bride’s Dad (Jeff)
- Bride, Mom, Dad
- Bride, Mom, Dad, Bride’s Brother (James)
- Bride, Groom, Groom’s Mom (Alexis), Groom’s Step-Dad (Adrian)
- Bride, Groom, Groom’s Mom
- Bride, Groom, Groom’s Dad (Rex)
It makes it less stressful for everyone involved and saves time!!
Designate a Helper
The easiest way to get through formal portraits is to have an assistant. If you photograph a wedding alone, designating someone from the family or bridal party can be a big way to get things in order.
You can often utilize the parents and best man/maid of honour to help wrangle people and get them together.
This helps solve one of the biggest challenges – getting together with people you don’t actually know.
Look for Clean Backgrounds
This should be a standard tip for any type of portrait you are taking, but it’s vital for these formal photos.
The reason for this is because these shots, among all others taken at a wedding, are the most likely to be printed out by the family. You know how it goes – the parents want a picture in a frame of the family, grandparents wish to a big wall canvas, and so on.
Having a well-taken family portrait is one of the best things you can do for your clients. Unless they are adamant about having their photos taken in front of a busy altar, a simple backdrop will do best, so the focus remains on the important people in the shot and not on any distractions in the scene.
Bouquets Down to the Side
If in doubt about how to position the ladies of the bridal party, you can always fall back on a simple pose of facing the camera at a slight angle with bouquets down to the side. It’s a classic and fabulous looking pose!
Look Through the Viewfinder Before You Shoot
This can be tough if you’re in a rush, but always make time to look at the people you are photographing.
Taking just a few seconds to pay attention before clicking the shutter may be the difference between a good and great photo.
There are just a few things you have to look for during this time:
- Everyone is looking at the camera
- People are smiling!
- No one is being hidden
- All accessories are positioned well
These are fundamental things that, when overlooked, can create a lot of problems for your images.
Try to Address People by Name
Learning some names is an excellent way to help control the crowd and build rapport because it shows you care.
We know, it’s not always easy.
But, it’s something you will try to think about more actively. Even if you only remember people’s names for a few minutes, it will still make a big difference.
Use Off-Camera Flash
Unless you shoot portraits outdoors under excellent lighting conditions, you will want to utilize flash to take good formal portraits.
While you may be able to manage with an on-camera flash setup, we’d suggest learning your way around off-camera flash so you can better fill in the space with directional lighting. You may even want to have two off-camera flashes setup if you are shooting a really large group.
Implement that zoom lens and track the Bride as she and her Father commence their glide towards the front.
Check beforehand with the ceremony officials that you are allowed to use a flash at this point, as many venues can be dark and dimly lit. There’s no harm in shooting in burst mode to capture the famous entrance.
Ceremonies, depending upon the religion of the happy couple, may last between 15-30 minutes. Furthermore, take your opportunities to capture the presentation of the wedding rings, the crying parents, the fidgety flower girls and the sleepy uncles!
That zoom lens will help you capture all the truths of the day which the Bride and Groom will not otherwise see. So get back down to the bottom of the aisle when their first kiss is in the bag and be ready for the walkout.
Make Jokes, But Don’t Try and Be a Comedian
Keeping things light with some humour is a great way to get on with just about anyone. We all know that family formals and bridal party portraits can feel like a chore, but as the photographer in charge, interjecting some humour can help make it easier even for those who are impatient and want to get on to cocktail hour.
As with anything, you can take it too far. Just have a good time and be professional, and you’ll be fine!
Check for Any Unflattering or Unwanted Extras
Two things will drive you crazy when you are taking formal portraits:
- Bunny ears
- Guests and venue staff working in the background of the shot
If we dug deeper, there would probably be other things to add here (go ahead and comment if you have anything else that’s come up for you!).
These are surefire ways to ruin a portrait image. They are both (usually) fixable through photo editing, but never having them as a problem in the first place is the way to go.
Capture People Authentically
Finally, you should always aim to capture people authentically.
Some portraits are of the simple variety – stand here and look at the camera. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun. Having mom hug and kiss her daughter or dad take another shot with a massive grin on his face are some of our favourite family portraits.
Not to mention the candid moments that happen when people are getting into position!
With the bridal party, this is an area you can really expand on. You will love using prompts to get everyone interacting with each other instead of just standing still and looking at the camera.
One of our favourites is setting everyone up and having them play whisper down the alley. It always leads to hilarity and sets the stage that everyone is here to have a good time.
Wedding Portraits (Bride & Groom)
Golden Hour is Best
The hour before sunset is the absolute best time for romantic portraits of the bride & groom. The sun is low on the horizon and leads to a really soft and beautiful look that is flattering for everyone.
We 100% recommend scheduling these portraits during the time leading up to sunset and clarifying why this is an excellent idea to your clients if they don’t understand!
Two Angles Are Better Than One
Taking pictures from different angles can make even a simple pose all the more enjoyable.
This will be easiest to achieve if there are multiple photographers. But, the easiest wedding photography tip for beginners as it pertains to this is to keep moving.
You can move in a circle around the couple while they remain in the same position. This allows you to get many different perspectives quickly.
Play around with different angles and perspectives on the groupings, bring the Bride or Groom closer to the lens and push the Bridesmaids to the background and use a wide aperture to blur out their presence.
Get down low and make them look dramatic and powerful like a group of Superhero Groomsmen. Even ask them to put on their best poses with folded arms and puffed out chests. Then, try moving in really close and get everyone to huddle around the camera like they’re taking a selfie but with a quality finish.
Feel free to cut out the faces altogether and look for funky perspectives like multi-coloured socks, champagne, colourful shoes or coordinated bow ties. These are the quirks designed by the Bride and Groom, making the photographs even more personal to their wedding day.
Push the boundaries as far as everyone is comfortable with. Listen to their suggestions but don’t be afraid to say no, or change it slightly to make it a more photographable moment.
Movement will allow you to get the best portraits imaginable.
Get low, get high, move in circles, stand further back, and get real close. All of these perspectives have something to offer – take advantage of each type!
Be on the Lookout for Romance
Two people who just got married are most likely going to be feeling pretty sentimental and affectionate. It’s amazing how open you will find people to be in front of the camera.
While your approach to posing is essential to getting great wedding portraits, the unexpected candid moments the couple shares with each other are also incredibly important.
Experiment with Wide & Tight Shots
Portraits do not just have to be taken with a 50mm lens.
Use a wide-angle lens to capture environmental portraits. That is – portraits of the married couple in the context of their environment. This is a great way to show off a beautiful wedding venue they selected for their big day.
For tighter shots, you can use any lens but just get up close. You will often turn to your trusted 85mm lens to get a tightly compressed photo. These portraits are much more intimate, and at times can even be abstractions just showing off parts of the couple, like their hands holding each other.
Always Be Reassuring
The wedding day is the one day a couple wants to feel like they are looking their best. Of course, brides want to look and feel beautiful. But, even if they won’t admit it, Grooms wish to look and feel as sharp as ever.
Photography can be an empowering part of this process – and you, as the photographer, have an important role to make sure they are feeling like they are looking great and doing great in front of the camera.
Aside from just using your words to say, “You’re looking great” or “You’re naturals!” – one way to be reassuring is to show off some of the photos you are taking. Pull up an image preview and show it to your couple, and watch as they react with excitement. It gets us every time!!
Use a Combination of Posing and Prompts
You will be often asked…how did you get that portrait? It looks so natural!!
The answer is a combination of good poses and posing prompts.
For poses, you mostly just need to replicate the work of others. Find some portrait images you really connect with online and put your couple into a similar pose. This part is not too difficult with a bit of practice.
To enhance your poses and get more authentic reactions from your couple, prompts can help sweeten the deal.
Basically – what it comes down to is creating a shared moment. You’re kind of like a choreographer, but ultimately the couple will decide what to do that makes for compelling photos.
If you need help finding the right prompts to say and getting great looking portraits, we highly recommend grabbing a copy of Signature Edit’s The Candid Couple’s Posing Guide.
Use Artsy Accessories
One of your favourite things to do during portraits should be bringing in some accessories to change up the look of your images. A few accessories that you might frequently use include:
- Copper pipe
- String lights
Each of these are incredibly budget-friendly and just plain fun to use.
Come Prepared (No Matter the Weather)
When the weather cooperates, portrait time may be the easiest and best part of the wedding day.
In reality, you will often have to work around bad weather to take great portraits. Rain, snow, high winds…these are all things that can positively impact a shot, giving them some moodiness and texture, but it’s easy to be under-prepared.
If you see some bad weather in the forecast, you can either make plans to get great portraits indoors or be prepared to go outside and brave the elements.
If you choose the latter, we highly suggest bringing along some photogenic umbrellas and ensuring you have lens wipes on hand. Of course, a camera rain cover will also come in hand to protect your most important asset on the big day!!
Make Solo Portraits Easier (extra special wedding photography tip!)
One of the best wedding photography tips for beginners you will read is our approach to taking solo portraits of the bride & groom. This time can often feel a little awkward, and most couples would rather be back in each other’s arms instead of having their picture taken.
We found out that a great solution to keeping the couple happy and engaged while also having their solo portraits taken is to have them interact during this time.
There are a few things that end up happening seamlessly as a result:
- We can capture photos of each person on their own with authentic reactions – no forced smiles or anything like that.
- We let the couple dictate how their images will turn out based on their personalities – when photographing the bride, we’ll normally tell the groom to “tell her how beautiful she looked walking down the aisle”, this is so effective at eliciting a million emotions that photograph so well.
- We consistently use an over-the-shoulder viewpoint of the groom looking at the bride (and vice versa) – this is a great photo moment.
Once all the traditional formalities are over, the party really gets going, evening guests may arrive, and the venue fills up more as it gets darker, so your senses for opportunistic photographs will need to be heightened.
As the dance floor gets busier, it’s going to be harder to pick out your intended subjects but look closely for the first dance of the Bride and her Father. It’s a very personal moment, so hang back and zoom in close to capture the loving embrace.
If you can find a safe point of elevation, raise yourself higher to get wider shots of the whole dance floor as the party is in full swing. You may not be able to see everyone’s faces clearly, but it’s a great atmosphere shot to evoke memories.
By this time, your energy levels will be sapping, take time to have a drink and some food. The party will go on for a while, so don’t fret about cramming all your party shots into the first 20 minutes. The more tired you are then, the less interest and motivation you’ll have, and this will become obvious in your pictures. So, make sure you’re energized and ready to go!
Talk to the DJ
When you first enter the reception hall, a great place to start is chatting up the DJ. Most of the time, they will have their own timeline on hand – and it’s good to compare notes to make sure you are both on the same page.
Most DJ’s will be on your side and helpful to make for a better experience by combining forces. In addition, you will often utilize DJ’s to help you identify where everyone will be entering into the reception (if it’s not apparent) and discuss other things throughout the night.
Best of all – a good DJ leads to fun vendor-to-vendor conversations. This is one of the funniest aspects of doing your jobs because you are both working this event!
Know the Rules of the Reception Venue
Most reception venues will have some rules in place like “don’t stand on the chairs.” These rules are mostly common sense.
With that said, some locations will have more rigid rules. In one case, you can receive a document with a bullet point list of things you could and couldn’t do – including not being able to use an off-camera flash on a light stand.
You obviously wouldn’t have thought of something like this as a problem, but it’s best to know beforehand to avoid any unwelcome surprises.
An excellent way to find out the rules is to touch base with the venue. A phone call or email can make a world of difference and help you stand out as a photographer who cares – earning you some brownie points.
Secure Your Belongings
You will build a relationship with your clients and trust them, but you don’t know everyone and their motives at a wedding with 200 or 300 people.
While there is no accurate sure-proof method to avoid this sort of thing from happening, the steps you can take are as follows:
- Place your belongings in a “safe” location. For example, you can use the behind DJ booth. In some venues, you can also ask staff if there is a better place to store your stuff.
- Have a line of sight with your gear at most times. You will feel best when you can see your camera bags. If you can see it, that means anyone who would try to swipe something would have to be really ballsy.
- Keep your most crucial belongings on you. Your personal things such as your wallet and phone stay in your pockets at all times. As lovely as it might feel to unload some weight into your bags, keeping these things on you is the best option.
Always Look for the Action!
Unless there’s an actual event happening like the bouquet toss or cake cutting, the reception time will be filled with you taking many candid photos.
You will start to take a step back, observe what is going on, and go where the action is.
Much of the time, this is right on the dance floor.
At other times, if you hear people laughing and having a great time over at a table, it’s worth popping in for a few quick shots.
At its best, you will be able to pick up on little moments that were completely unexpected.
Kids = Great Photographs
At every wedding you’ve gone to, there has always been at least one kid. Say what you will about children, but they make for great photography subjects. Whether they are being cute, driving someone crazy, or just doing something crazy – it’s always a good time.
If You Want to Dance, Go for It!
This may not feel like a wedding photographer tip for beginners, but trust us – it is.
When the music is blasting, and everyone is having a great time on the dance floor, it can be pretty hard to resist the urge to dance. As silly as it may sound, letting loose for a few minutes is an excellent way to show your human side to the bride, groom, and all their guests.
While you’re not getting paid to dance, you are getting paid to capture people having a good time. So sometimes, you can bring some extra life to the party by…being the photographer who started dancing.
As an extra tip – you can add some flair to the dance floor by passing along a spare flash to one of the guests and remote triggering it from your camera. This can add some attractive directional lighting and get everyone HYPED.
Take a Break
Shooting non-stop for 8, 10, 12…or even more…hours will mean you need to have a break from time to time. This will help you not only feel rejuvenated but allow you to pay attention to the things going on around you a little easier.
Identify Who is Most Important to the B&G
Take notice of who the bride & groom seem to interact with most throughout the wedding. Often this will be a parent, sibling, or best friend – but you’ll also see other relationships on display.
We aim to figure out who everyone is and how important they are to the B&G because it influences what images we want to focus on capturing for them – and what ideas we’ll be sure to keep when we are culling them down.
If we give the couple 400 photos from their wedding and need to narrow some down, we’d rather cut out shots of the twice-removed step-aunt that the couple secretly loathes instead of photos of them with the people they care about most.
Always Keep an Eye on Grandparents
We have a big soft spot for grandparents at weddings. Capturing their affection for one another and interactions with other families is a great thing.
You can make the mistake of rushing and not thinking much while taking photos during the reception with everything going on, but this can lead to problems.
Not only missing focus and just not getting any oxygen into your brain, but it can lead to you missing essential things happening right in front of your eyes.
Slowing down, taking a deep breath, and paying close attention to what you are actually photographing can go a long way to ensure you take photos people will want to look at later.
The Grand Exit
Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for: the end of the wedding!
The majority of weddings you will shoot end in a grand exit. About 90% of the time, this involves many sparklers, all the guests (drunk or not) forming lines, and the bride & groom walking through as a newly married couple.
Actually, photographing the exit is a mixture of challenging and exciting. In our experience, the photos always turn out looking better than we originally expected.
For these shots, you can use two different methods and like them both in their own ways:
- The Natural Light Method. In this approach, you will raise your ISO and use a reasonable aperture like f/2.8 to capture the bride & groom as they move through the ambient light given off by the sparklers. In your camera preview, these images may not look the best – and admittedly, we’re not a huge fan of the overly orange look to everything. But, with great preset selection, you can effectively edit the images to look absolutely breathtaking.
- The Flash Method. You can fill in all the dark shadows and be guaranteed a great looking shot by using flash. While off-camera flash would be preferable, it’s not always feasible to set up – and there is more of a risk of someone running into the equipment. With on-camera flash, the results will generally look very good – nicely illuminating the bride & groom and still capturing the sparklers authentically.
3. After the Wedding
Now that you have wrapped up shooting, you get to take all of those great photos home and get to create them into a beautiful end product for your clients.
While you will no longer be lifting up your camera at this stage, the amount that could go wrong is very high. So, with our practical tips, we will help show you how to select the images you want to use effectively, how to edit the photos (A BIG DEAL), and what to do from there!
Editing the Wedding Photos
When the sun sets and the big day is officially over, your job won’t be entirely over yet. There’s still the enormous task of editing the hundreds of wedding photographs you’ve taken.
Only with time and experience will you learn that taking so many pictures can impact your editing time, as you’ll spend a while deleting the weak ones and filtering out the elite. But don’t worry about your first foray’s into wedding photography; as long as you have the essential shots on your checklist, then you won’t have gone wrong.
Adobe Photoshop has long been the perceived standard of photo editing. However, over the past few years, Adobe’s spin-off program, Lightroom, has become a favourite for editing amongst wedding photographers because it allows the ability to select individual shots and batch edit them in the same way, which provides consistency in your work.
Now depending on your preferred style, editing wedding photographs is a very personal experience and will only be perfected with time.
But there are a couple of tips that we can offer based on simple wedding photography mistakes a lot of beginners make when it comes to editing:
Make Backups of ALL Your Images
Two is one, and one is none.
This is a great quote that will be stuck with you for a long time. It is used by people who have jobs backing up data (among other things).
In the case of wedding photographers, a big part of our job is to keep our clients’ information secure and private when we need to – but we also need to make sure we never, under any circumstance, lose photos we have taken for them.
It has become our tradition to immediately unload images off of the SD cards straight to an external hard drive when we get home from a wedding. Yes, it is kind of crazy, considering we often don’t arrive home until midnight or later. But, it’s very intentional because we take this part of our job very seriously.
Before we even go to sleep, we have three backups of the images:
- one on the original SD card,
- one on a second SD card (some cameras can write to 2 at once),
- and the last backup on an external HD
Because of how important all of this is, having backup drives you can trust is critically important.
When it comes to external hard drives – you can use the Western Digital My Passport. They come in 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, and 4TB sizes and range in price from 50$ – 100$. A great deal if you ask us!
Cull Photos Quickly
One of the best things you can do for your post-wedding workflow is to get Photo Mechanic. This is a simple program that allows you to cull through photos on your computer quickly.
At one time, it would take hours to cull down wedding photos since between the two of us; we’d end up with around 4,000 photos per wedding.
Doing this in your regular computer’s finder window is extremely slow and tedious. This is an easy workaround to save you a whole lot of time fast!
Define Your Editing Style With Words
Finding your preferred photo-editing style can take time. You may find yourself browsing through countless presets available online – and this might help you narrow down the things you like and dislike.
While experimentation and proper product evaluation should be a part of finding the right edit for your wedding photography, we used another little tool.
Write down what characteristics you want your photography to embody. Seriously, take out a piece of paper and just write down a list of words to describe your ideal photo edits.
You can start to identify what in photo editing helps you achieve the look you are going for.
For example, “moody” image edits will generally be darker with a good deal of contrast. You might even be incorporating a whole lot of stylish black and white imagery.
For “natural”, this could mean keeping colours true-to-life. Many photo editing is designed to alter colouring in some significant ways, but this just isn’t for us.
As you can see, defining what you want your edits to represent, then finding ways to make that actionable is a great little exercise that you can do pretty quickly!!
Use a Trusted Editing Software Program
The most popular photo editing applications are Photoshop and Lightroom.
These are hands down the photo editing tools we would recommend for anyone ranging from total beginners to advanced users. The things you can do with these platforms are absolutely fantastic. Right out the gate, you can start to enhance your images in extraordinary ways.
Use Presets to Speed Up Editing
Presets are a wedding photographer’s best friend.
You can use Lightroom presets.
Your choice of presets will come down to how well they will help you achieve the style you are going for. Some really great preset packs we’ve seen and used ourselves include:
- Signature Edit’s Genesis Presets
- BeArt Wedding Presets, Film Wedding Collection, and Vintage Wedding Collection
Prepare Sneak Peaks
After a wedding, your goal is to usually get some sneak peeks posted on social media within 24-48 hours. These are just a few photos so the newly married couple can see some photos from their big day, and often friends & family really LOVE seeing them, too.
Even if it’s tough to make time for this, it’s really important too. During this window of time, people are riding the high of the wedding, and everyone will be excited to see and share the images around. Almost always – we end up receiving several new followers, too!
Black & White Photography Edits
Black and white photography is exceptionally suited for weddings. It’s sleek, modern yet timeless, conveys raw emotion, and is very romantic when done right.
While we never take black and white photos in camera because we consider it unnecessary, every image can be edited to be black and white in post-production. The solution here is to use solid black, and white photography editing presets.
In general, there are two distinctly different styles of black and white editing:
- High contrast. These are photos where the blacks and whites in the photo are very distinct. There is much less of the middle ground (grey). These are often more dramatic and bold.
- Low contrast. Your edit can also include a mixture of black, white, and greys. Again, the effect is far softer.
We can see the merits of both approaches. We actually prefer lower contrast edits, but sometimes this can also be subjective depending on the specific image in front of our face.
Crop Images When Needed
The last editing tip for wedding photography beginners we want to give you is straightforward: remember to crop your images (if you need to).
Sometimes, you will snap photos without realizing that there is much unnecessary space or distracting things around the edges. By cropping in the image, you can hand-select what becomes the focus of the picture.
The Follow Up
Deliver Photos on Time
Your follow up with the client is hugely important.
The first and most important aspect is to make sure you are fulfilling your contractual obligations.
Your contracts should state how long it will take for the client to receive their photos (if it does not – you need to update this ASAP!). For many photographers, this will be between a few weeks or 1-2 months.
There is no right or wrong – but you need to be realistic with the amount of work you are taking on and set the expectations with your clients appropriately.
Delivering your photos on time is a surefire way to make sure your clients are happy and not leaving them with some horror story of trying to chase their photographer to get images from the most important day of their lives.
The Online Wedding Gallery
At one time, wedding photos would be purchased exclusively through prints and rolls of film, but the times have changed.
Any modern wedding photographer will use an online gallery to host their client’s images and make them available in digital format.
At its core, most gallery services offer at least one simple thing: a place to store photos online using cloud hosting.
From there, the many gallery platforms will also include other features, such as the ability to sell prints through an online store.
We currently recommend Pic-Time. This is a really great platform that offers one distinct advantage over most others we have tried and used – the ability for clients to create their own wedding albums.
Offer Albums, Prints, and Other Upsells
An essential part of running a successful wedding photography business can sell additional products after a client has booked your services. The most common of these things are wedding albums and prints.
As we mentioned, most wedding gallery services incorporate a storefront to make this a more straightforward process. Your choice of printing vendor will vary, but a few we recommend include ZNO and CanvasPop.
Give Referral Incentives
Once you have completed all the work for your current client, it is good to give them a reason to refer new clients to you. In truth, most clients who are really happy with the work you’ve done for them will be spreading the word about your business to their friends and family – but this is a way to sweeten the deal for them.
Some possible referral incentives you could incorporate:
- Offer free or discount products from your print store
- Give actual cash for booked referrals
- Offer a % off a future photography session
You may also consider offering a discount for the client who has been referred as well!
Ask for Reviews
One of the easiest ways to grow your photography business is to be confident in your work and ask for reviews. It can be a little scary to do at first, but it’s always worked out.
Clients who love their images will be happy to write a review for you, and those reviews provide proof to anyone looking to hire a photographer that you are legit.
Professional photographers who have their own studios (and thus – a physical address) would also benefit from having reviews on their Google Business page and other locations like Yelp.
If you need some help to figure out how to word your email asking for a review, consider getting some proven email templates.
Schedule Future Print Offers
You know how some companies send out emails every day with offers for discounts on products and other information? As a wedding photographer, you can do that too!
While we actually don’t recommend doing this every day, having offers for discounts on your print store is a good thing to do. Consider timing these around holidays when people might be most interested in buying prints like Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas.
The way we see it, there are three ways to go about scheduling these offers:
- Send emails the old fashioned way to ALL your previous clients with active galleries with a discount code to apply to their future orders.
- Use a mass email marketing platform like Mailchimp to curate a nicer looking message and automate these emails throughout the year with offers.
- Take advantage of mailing discounts through Pic-Time periodically to ALL or some specific clients.
At its core, all of these methods work roughly the same. The 1st will be the most manual work on your part, while options #2 and #3 are ways to automate this process to save time.
Be Clear About How Long the Gallery Will Be Online
Unless you plan to keep the wedding galleries online forever, you should define how long it will be available for your client to access their images digitally.
Your approach can be this:
- Wedding galleries – removed after one year
- Engagement session – removed after six months
Send a “Thank You” note
The last part of your follow-up should include giving your client a heartfelt “thank you” for trusting you to provide an excellent wedding photography service. You can do this how you want, and really, there is no right or wrong way.
Since the beginning, we have sent thank you notes in the mail – because snail mail is a way to show you care because it takes just a bit more effort than sending an online message.
You can buy some stock of thank you note cards from the store or customize your own designs to be more uniform with your brand using an online service.
For this, we recommend BasicInvite. Their “thank you” cards are quite beautiful, and the ability to customize with your own imagery, logo, etc., makes them just a little more robust.