Are you interested in taking your photography skills to the next level? Wedding Photography Tips for Beginners is a blog post that will teach you how to take better wedding photos. This particular article includes information on what equipment is needed, dos and don'ts of shooting weddings, and more!
Wedding photography is also one of the most financially rewarding artistic professions in vogue today because it is indispensable to the newlyweds' grander theme of romance.
Many photographers, who are starting out, prefer to take the wedding photography route as they feel this niche has a lot of potential to make good money.
Have you ever been curious about how to go from being just an amateur photographer to capturing stunning images like those found in magazines? Well, then this blog post may be right up your alley.
1. Before the Wedding
Be confident, not obtrusive
When you're just getting started with wedding photography, it's natural that you'll lack confidence, but it's essential to keep reminding yourself what you've been paid to do.
With experience, you’ll learn to anticipate when moments are about to occur, but you’ll still need the confidence to get the shot each and every time.
That said, don’t be obtrusive. Mind your manners, and if you can remain low, silent and stealthy to get the photos you need, please do so.
Switch your camera to silent mode to cover the ceremony and creep around like a ninja.
The wedding guests will remember a courteous photographer who remained quiet and hidden during the majority of the wedding ceremony – among those guests may be your next bride and groom, so make a good impression.
Check the equipment
Wedding photography includes all manner of different types of photography, all wrapped up in one day.
Get your gear out and go over the following points. First, get the best lens for wedding photography that you can use in either bright or dull light. Second, check whether the camera batteries are fully charged.
Close-ups of rings? Macro. Venue shots? Architectural. Bride and groom? Portrait, etc.
You'll also need to shoot in all environments and all conditions. For example, a candle-lit church service will really put the high ISO performance of your camera to the test!
If you’re taking up wedding photography as a profession, you’ll need to invest in the best camera gear you can afford.
Make sure to get a backup of all the main items – cameras, lenses and flashes. This can be a significant capital outlay but remember you can always hire equipment too.
Also, check whether the memory cards have sufficient space to store hundreds of photos. Finally, do not forget to carry your best camera for the wedding photoshoot. Just to be extra careful, take two of each item. Also, bring the necessary tools required for out-of-control contingencies like bad weather.
Let’s take a look at the bare minimum wedding equipment that you need.
You can get great wedding photos with any camera, but most wedding photographers use full-frame cameras with at least 24MP resolution.
Full-frame sensors allow you to shoot in lower light without having to resort to higher ISOs. They also mean you can blur more of the background, depending on the lens you’re using.
Dual memory card slots are essential too, despite what Canon EOS R owners may tell you!
Many wedding photographers switch from DSLRs to mirrorless cameras for various reasons, but there’s definitely nothing wrong with a DSLR.
As for your backup camera, it doesn’t have to be the same model as your main camera, but it’ll definitely help when you switch between the two.
(If you choose to carry 2 cameras at once, it’s a huge help if they both have the same controls.)
What’s the best camera for wedding photography? In our opinion, the Sony a7III offers the best bang for the buck in 2021, but any full-frame camera will serve you well.
There's a vast variety of lenses to choose from for wedding photography – everything from wide-angle to telephoto, with macro, tilt-shift and fisheye optional for some types.
It's also a good idea to pack a 'nifty-fifty' 50mm f/1.8 as a backup lens and as something you can rely on in low light situations.
Many wedding photographers carry zoom lenses. The 24-70mm and 70-200mm is a popular combination since it allows for a large variety of 'looks' without many lenses changing.
It's also popular to shoot with only prime (fixed focal length) lenses due to the dreamy rendition of an image shot with a large aperture and the ability to blur messy backgrounds.
It’s hard to shoot a wedding with just one prime lens, but it could be done with a 35mm or 50mm.
Most photographers use a combination of wide and long: 35mm + 85mm, 24mm + 85mm, etc.
Over time, you'll amass several lenses, then whittle your selection down to the ones that allow you to work the most efficiently.
No matter how well your camera can handle high ISOs, you should still bring along a couple of flashes.
The brand/model isn’t so important – just decide if you need TTL or if you’re comfortable with manual mode.
You'll also need to get some wireless triggers for off-camera flash, and you may want to experiment with coloured gels, grids, and other light-shaping accessories.
Check out LIT for some inspiration and tutorials on lighting techniques.
Some products, such as spare batteries and memory cards, are essential, while others, such as camera straps, bags, drones, tripods, etc, are optional.
Scout the location
If you want to be a good wedding photographer, then take disciplined care to do a preliminary recce of the marriage location to understand the kind of lighting to be expected. For example, determine whether you should be carrying portable lights or not.
Scouting also helps judge which spots you can use to take position shots and how the lighting will come into play.
Meet the family members to understand their expectations better
If you want to be a great portrait photographer, you need to do more than just take pictures. You need to get to know your subject and connect with them on some level.
The same is true for wedding photography. The better you know your couples and the more they trust you, the better their wedding photos will be.
To understand the wedding process better, meet up with some of the family members after you're done scouting the location. Then, finalise the wedding photography prices if you haven't done it already.
Depending on your circumstances, you might not have time to meet up with the bride and groom in person before their wedding.
Ideally, you’d be able to take some engagement photos together to get to know each other or meet up for a coffee to chat about their expectations of you as a photographer, but this isn’t always possible.
Although it is better to discuss the marriage photography packages before scouting the site and meeting the family. It would also be fruitful to get a chance to meet the couple to take in any requests or set expectations. (You can find a general breakdown of the wedding rituals here too.)
Ask them about their favourite foods, movies, date ideas – anything that you can use to connect with them on their big day to make them feel more at ease.
You could also ask the bride and groom separate questions, like how they felt when they first saw each other – revealing this during the bridal portrait session can lead to some candid and emotional moments.
Try getting a second photographer
This is a prudent measure because it allows you to concentrate solely on the couple and the main wedding proceedings. In contrast, the second photographer could take the venue and family shots.
If you're strapped for cash, then a smart way to get a second photographer is to either reach out to amateur or budding photographers in your family/friend circle or ask the community to extend a helping hand in return for a small cash stipend.
‘Candid’ v/s ‘Formal’ shots
Remember to go through a mental list in your head, designating the time and place for candid and formal shots. Also, do thorough research on the wedding photography ideas you need to implement during the wedding shoot.
In an Indian wedding, formal shots usually happen during the main ceremony and are scripted, and candid ones are taken around the formal ones, totally unscripted.
Make a checklist
You need to have a wedding photography checklist to ensure everything is in place before the wedding day arrives. It can include finalising your gear, location, style, team, setup, etc.
Get a Full Night’s Rest
Do not underestimate the value of a whole night's rest. Photographing a wedding requires strength and endurance, not to mention a clear mind for navigating the unexpected challenges that wedding days notoriously bring, whether it be bad weather, an unrealistic timeline, harsh lighting conditions, a demanding client (it happens!), or some other source of stress. The more rested you are, the better you'll be able to address and overcome any unforeseen challenges.
2. During the Wedding
Stay on your feet
Make sure you wear some comfortable shoes because you will be moving around quickly to cover all the events, rituals, and moods.
Shoot with Storytelling in Mind
Simply put, be sure to capture wide, medium, and close-up shots during each part of the day. For example, if you're photographing a marriage ceremony, shoot a wide-angle shot (maybe 24mm) from the centre aisle to showcase the location, the altar/mandap, the couple, and the guests.
Then shoot a medium angle shot (maybe at 50mm or 85mm) of the bride or groom from each side of the ceremony site. This might look like a picture of the bride from the waist up, captured over the groom's shoulder, and so on.
Finally, photograph a close-up shot (70-200mm) of the bride and groom holding hands, or perhaps of their expressions (laughing, crying, etc.). The benefit of doing this is telling a compelling visual story while also setting yourself up to design a better wedding album or blog.
Don’t Forget to Capture Prep
We often think of the ceremony and couples' portraits as wedding photoshoot ideas, but don't forget to photograph the bride and groom while they're getting ready for their big day. Prep is one of the best times to get candid shots of the wedding party while hanging out with friends and family.
Rather than photographing the couple in various states of undress, capture the final moments of getting ready, which includes having the best man help the groom straighten his tie or put on his coat and the make-up artist putting on the final touches of the bride's make-up.
Parents are usually present for this, which offers an excellent opportunity to get a couple of intimate family portraits.
Nail the group shots
Photos of groups of people can be intimidating, especially at weddings. So whether you're photographing the bridal party, groomsmen, bridesmaids or family members, you must get some great group shots.
Here are some quick tips:
- Choose a safe aperture – don't shoot group shots wide open! Depending on your lens, your distance from the group, and how the group is arranged, you should use an aperture of f/4 or more to ensure every face is in sharp focus.
- Remove sunglasses – it looks weird if some people in the group wear them and some don’t.
- Watch for huggers – if men hug each other in a line, their jackets ride up and look ugly. Ask them to remove their jackets or hug lightly around the waist, if at all.
- No hands covering balls – don’t let men stand like defenders in front of a football freekick!
- Get girls and close family to ‘connect’ – hands on shoulders, around waists, held together, etc.
- Take lots of photos – this is important. The larger the group, the more chance of 'blinkers'. Take enough photos to ensure you have a photo with everyone with their eyes open. Narrative Select can help you find the best shots.
How About a First Look?
Some couples prefer to wait to see each other at the altar for the first look on their wedding day. However, it has become increasingly popular to do a first look before the ceremony, and the benefits are many for those who choose this option.
Doing a first look before the ceremony allows for more time to capture couples portraits and wedding party portraits with the bride, groom, bridesmaids, and groomsmen, not to mention family members who may be present.
Furthermore, the first look typically results in excellent candid photos of this emotional experience for the couple, who can share a private moment together away from the watchful eyes of the guests.
Get the background right
Make sure the relatives are smiling during a group photo while you are concentrating on details. Don't forget to check that the couple isn't squinting under the bright flashlights. Also, the background should be soothing to the eyes and not glaring.
Learn to pose
Think of it more as ' directing' if you're scared of posing the bride and groom. Imagine yourself as a movie director, encouraging your actors in a scene.
Analyse your favourite wedding photographers’ images to see why their poses work so well.
Pay attention to hands – they can portray a lot of energy and passion if you pose them correctly or give the right cues.
Have a shot list of poses to fall back on – an easy way to do this is to use Together Cards, which can help maintain the flow of the photoshoot while allowing you to direct with confidence.
Don’t be afraid to have a shot list
Until you feel comfortable photographing weddings, it’s OK to have a shot list to remind yourself of the ‘standard’ images to capture.
Must-have images might include the getting ready moments, the bridal portrait, the bouquet, the boutonnieres, the bridal party, the wedding venue, the walk down the aisle (aka the processional), the ring exchange, the first kiss, the exit, the place settings, the cake, the first dance, the bouquet toss, the garter toss, etc.
Eventually, of course, you’ll no longer need a shot list – everything will come naturally.
Expect to Use Flash During the Reception
Reception halls tend to reside on the darker side, and they can prove downright tricky to photograph without proper lighting.
A couple of ways to make it easier to photograph a reception include using prime lenses with wide apertures to let more light reach the camera sensor, and of course, using flash to add more light to the room. If you only have one flash, put it on your camera and try to bounce light off of the ceiling or nearby walls for softer lighting.
A simple modifier can help with this, too. If you have access to multiple flashes, use one flash on-camera and place the remaining flashes in the corner of the room, all pointed to the centre stage or dance floor, all zoomed in (several flashes zoom in to 200mm).
Take a test shot before the action begins to check your power settings. Typically, you'll use a lower power setting unless the flash units are placed very far from their intended target.
Learn to bounce flash
On-camera flash has a bad reputation for having unflattering results, but that's only when you don't know how to use it.
The most straightforward on-camera flash technique that yields the best results is bounce flash, where you point the flash head at an angle to your subject and 'bounce' it off a wall/ceiling/guest etc.
You can use TTL or manual power mode but always try to find something with a neutral colour to bounce off.
You can also bounce the flash from a distance when photographing wedding speeches or the wedding party from afar – at full power, you’ll be surprised how far the light will travel.
What if there's no surface to bounce off, like at an outdoor reception? Don't be afraid to use direct flash – just try feathering the light by lifting the flash head slightly and experiment with the zoom/power settings.
Document the Decor Before the Action Begins
This is where it really pays to have a second shooter. If possible, try to capture photos of the ceremony site and reception site before the guests are allowed to enter.
This includes photos of the altar/mandap, flower arrangements, wedding programs, signs, and any other important elements for ceremony sites.
For reception sites, look to photograph the sweetheart table (for the bride and groom), centrepieces, table settings, the wedding cake, and anything else that adds to the room. Be sure to capture a wide-angle photo of the entire ceremony and reception site.
Suppose you don't have a second shooter that you can send to document this while you're photographing the first look (which usually happens just before the ceremony). In that case, you may need to dismiss yourself from the couple a short while before the ceremony begins in order to get these shots.
Get high, then get low
One way to quickly improve your wedding photography looks is to experiment with camera angles – try lifting your camera high and taking a shot, then putting it at waist height, or even on the ground, and taking another shot.
Varying the height offers the viewer something that’s unusual, which creates interest.
Try climbing on chairs or using drones to get a bird’s eye view of the wedding venue or wedding party.
Then try placing your camera down in the grass during the wedding ceremony and shooting along the aisle for a worm’s eye view of the couple tying the knot.
These may seem like simple tips, but they're things that no wedding guest will do – even if everyone's taking photographs of the newlyweds' first kiss, yours will be different, and hopefully, better too!
Photograph a Flawless First Kiss
At the end of many wedding ceremonies, the priest or minister will announce the couple as officially married, and they'll say to the groom, "You may now kiss the bride."
To set up for the best first kiss photo possible, talk with the priest or minister before the ceremony begins and ask if they're going to do a first kiss. If so, ask what the priest or minister is going to say just before the announcement so that you have time to get into position, and then ask if he or she wouldn't mind moving out of the background after announcing the couple.
This way, you can create a more apparent backdrop for the couple's kiss. Also, if possible, line up in the centre aisle with a second shooter and shoot a close-up photo of the kiss while the second shooter captures a wide-angle shot of the kiss. So you'll have two different angles of the same big moment, which can be hard to do on your own.
Do not delete any shot
Lots of you like to review your clicks but try to steer clear of this mistake. So why should you not delete shots? Because deletion will preoccupy your mind, and only the family has the right to judge which photographs must be processed or deleted.
Learn to use light
This tip is appropriate for all forms of photography, but it's all the more important at weddings.
Obviously, you have no control over the weather on a wedding day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use light to your advantage.
Learn how to create shade on the face of your bride at high noon during bridal portraits by angling the groom to block the harsh light.
Learn how to find diffused light under the tree canopies or use directional light to create depth and contrast.
Position bridesmaids near window light during their hair and make-up preparations, or if all else fails, use the make-up artist or hairdresser’s ring light for a DIY glamour shot!
The LIT book breaks down some creative lighting techniques, learning all the various flash photography techniques and experimenting with coloured gels, grids, snoots, high-speed sync, and more.
Don’t be afraid to ‘try something different’
Outside of the accepted standards in photography, do try to get a little creative by trying new angles or running some discrete experiments. Who knows, you might capture a masterpiece of memory in an entirely new and delightful manner.
One for the client, one for you
During the bridal portraits (photos of just the bride and groom or of the groomsmen and bridesmaids), it’s your time to start experimenting.
One fun/safe way to experiment is to think of the session as photos for both you and your couple. Take a few 'safe' shots for the couple, then do something more daring and creative – these can be 'for you'.
Break out some off-camera flash lighting techniques. Try shooting through an object. Play around with your tilt-shift lens. Just experiment with something new and see what you can achieve.
The ‘one for the client, one for me’ mentality takes some of the pressure off the process of experimentation and can help you unlock something special with your wedding photography.
Stay calm and breathe
Now we know this point might seem like stating the obvious, but here's the truth. Most photographers who are trying to establish themselves start doing too many things in a misguided attempt.
Or they over-analyse their shots or fret over moments missed, effectively dooming themselves. So stay calm and simply do your job.
3. After the Wedding
Immediately Back Up Your Photos
In a perfect world, we'd never have to worry about corrupt memory cards or to lose our photos, but the reality is that memory cards fail, hard drives crash, and sometimes we misplace things.
While you should develop a fail-safe workflow for saving and storing your images, the first thing you need to do is backup your photos, preferably while still on site.
The sooner, the better. If you don’t have a portable hard drive that you can use to back up your photos on location, then keep them on your person until you’re able to get to a computer or other device to back up the photos.
In addition to using a hard drive, consider using a cloud service to back up your photos for extra assurance that your images are safe.
Establish an Editing Workflow
We've mentioned the importance of backing up your photos, but what happens next? Photographers often capture hundreds, if not thousands, of photos during a wedding, all of which need to be edited.
This can prove time-consuming, which of course, diminishes your income. To speed up your workflow, cull your images to keep only the best photos. Then, use professionally designed presets to get to a finished look more quickly; finally, batch edit your photos based on your initial edits for each scene or location.
For example, if you’re editing wedding ceremony photos, chances are you captured them under the same lighting conditions without too much variation.
Use presets to edit one of the photos and then synchronise the edits for the rest of the ceremony photos. Again, do an initial edit for each scene, batch edit for that group of images, and then repeat.
Speed up your editing
When you first start wedding photography, your post-production will usually take a long time. However, the more weddings you shoot and the more you edit, your speed should quickly improve.
Here are some ways to make that happen:
- Use an import preset – import your photos with a preset that applies the base edits on every photo. Here are some free presets for Lightroom.
- Create smart previews on import – this makes Lightroom much faster.
- Cull positively – when culling your images, only select the keepers. Ignore the other photos, which you can delete or archive later.
- Use shortcut keys – learn all the main Lightroom shortcuts or set new ones up for actions you regularly perform.
- Consider AI culling – a tool called Narrative Select automates the process of finding 'keepers' and provides an enormous help when checking faces in group photos.
- Consider outsourcing – if you're shooting lots of weddings, want to scale your business, or simply don't like editing, outsourcing your editing is a gamechanger. But, again, we recommend ImagenAI for a fast and affordable solution.
Being a successful wedding photographer depends a lot on your post-production workflow. If you shoot lots of weddings and spend 10 hours editing each one, you’ll quickly burn out.
Learn how to edit faster, or hire someone else to do it for you. Then, concentrate on the marketing and getting better at your craft.
Tag Vendors in Teasers on Social Media
If you're keen on building your business, be sure to network with other vendors at the wedding, which includes planners, coordinators, and vendors for flowers, lighting, rentals, as well as DJs. One of the easiest ways to do this is to tag the vendors in social media posts.
The key is quickly editing photos that feature the vendor's work, which you should have captured while photographing the details at the ceremony and reception sites. But, again, it's worth nurturing these relationships, as they're easy to maintain, and they often lead to referrals.
Invite Clients for a Design Consultation
Whether in person or via a meeting app like Zoom, invite your clients to a "free" design consultation not long after the wedding. This is your opportunity to put together a slideshow, sample album, and mock-ups of wall art to inspire your clients to purchase prints of the photos you've captured.
We recommend partnering with a professional print lab to simplify the process and offer your clients the best prints possible. Print sales can boost your income and keep your worktop of mind as your clients view the photos every day on the walls of their homes.
Then, as their families grow, they’ll think of you to capture their newborn & family portraits, as well as other significant life events.
Keep some for your website Portfolio
You are running a business, so a smart decision would be to save some pictures that you can use to pitch your services to someone else and display them on your professional portfolio website. An oft-ignored aspect of this genre is fixing your rates.
4. Final Words
A wedding is an occasion to have fun, and unless photographers become a part of the excitement, they will be unable to take great shots.
People at a wedding want to look their best and remember the events in the best possible way. Therefore, wedding photographers have a great responsibility towards them.
Despite it being a competitive industry and a job that’s often stressful and physically demanding, wedding photography is also enormously rewarding and a lot of fun.
Now that you know what it takes to be a great wedding photographer, you can start a wedding photography business of your own. Explore ideas to promote your wedding photography business. Own your digital storefront by investing in an online portfolio.
Complement an Instagram photography account with a professional portfolio website. See your numbers grow in no time. Pixpa lets you build beautiful wedding photography portfolio websites with built-in marketing and Search Engine Optimisation solutions.
Weddings are unique things. Everyone is happy, well-dressed and emotionally charged. But, anything can happen, and it's your job to capture as much of it as you can!
If you’re just getting started with wedding photography, we really hope these tips have helped.
Frequently Asked Questions
Successful photographers usually have goals in mind before they start shooting. For instance, they have a set target of the number of photos they want to take and the time they want to spend in a photo shoot. They may also have angle and lighting goals, among others, to increase their chances of success.
In this career, your job duties revolve around taking pictures of all aspects of the wedding ceremony and celebration. ... Your responsibilities include planning the images with the bride and groom or coordinating photo sessions and group photos with the wedding planner.
You need experience shooting weddings to get hired, but you can't get experience until you get hired. This is incredibly challenging, and tough for any photographer to get around. ... Either way, it takes hard work and perseverance to get that much needed experience under your belt.
Every wedding photographer needs a 50mm lens and when it comes to that focal length, the Canon 50mm f/1.2L delivers. This is a lens that will have you taking photos with that unique, dreamy, wedding-in-a-Disney-movie feel.
For formal weddings, a wedding photographer should wear formal dress pants (a.k.a suit pants), a button-up shirt, a jacket and in some cases also a tie. Never wear shorts, t-shirts, or baggy clothing. Make sure your clothes are well fitted and make you look like a professional.