Photographing a wedding can be a cumbersome task even for experienced professionals. It involves everything from capturing an awkward couple, choosing the right camera equipment, picking up the best locations, and keeping every single person who wants to appear in the photographs happy. Wedding is another name for photographing chaos.
More importantly, the pressure of taking captivating photos that the family can treasure for the rest of their lives can get to your nerves, especially if you are a beginner. But you need not worry. This article contains the best wedding photography tips for beginners to get you started.
Wedding photography is not a bed of roses. You only get one shot at it and you have to take it. There is no room for mistakes at all. Therefore, you must be well organized and prepared beforehand. On top of that, you must know your stuff and what you are doing. Only this way, you will rock your first wedding photography project.
Wedding Photography Tips and Ideas
Nailing the wedding photography requires extensive preparation and the right set of mind. You also need some camera skills to take seriously beautiful photographs and the following tips for wedding photography will help you acquire all of these things.
1. Always Sign a Contract
Many beginners get carried away when they get their first wedding project and forget the basics. Not signing a contract and making it legal can have serious consequences for you. A legally binding contract serves as an agreement between the two parties which neither of you can breach.
Clients accept your responsibilities and role for the wedding when they sign a contract with you. The contract must clearly state what the client is going to get from you and vice versa. As the project involves money, a signed contract is necessary to protect you as well as the client.
The bottom line is that you must sign the contract with the client at the earliest to make it legit. Do not go to the wedding if the client hesitates to sign a contract.
2. Have an Open Communication with the Client
One of the best wedding photography tips experts can give you is to keep your lines of communication open. You will get the project after a series of inquiries, payment discussions, and bookings. You can only win the project through effective and honest communication. It will give you a better idea of the client’s requirements and expectations, enabling you to do necessary preparations well in advance. Make it easier for the client to contact you, may it be through email, social media, contact form, or phone.
Respond to the Queries Quickly
Replying to the queries and messages can be scary, especially for beginners. You may also get nervous when a client does not instantly respond to your answer. You may also start thinking you have done something wrong.
Delayed answers from couples are pretty normal. Remember they are planning their wedding and have a lot of things to take care of. You just need to respond in a jiffy whenever they contact you through any means. They will very likely award you the project if you impress them with your professionalism and the excellent experience you provide them.
Send a Questionnaire
It is also important for you to learn and understand the main events as well as all the activities going to take place on the wedding day. You can get all the information about the time of the day the function begins, the location of the wedding, any special requirement the couple has, names of the important members of the family and friends, and when the coverage ends by sending a detailed questionnaire.
You should also learn as much about the couple as possible. Try to find out how and where they went, how long it took them to fall in love and decide to marry, how did the proposal go, and why have they chosen the specific date and venue for the wedding. You can also use this information to create a fascinating blog post after the wedding.
Meet in Person
Responding to phone calls and sending questionnaires is important. However, meeting the couple a few days before the wedding will help you personally connect with them. Spending time with the couple face-to-face gives you the unique opportunity to find out what they are thinking, review the wedding timeline in person, and release any tension you and they might have. Similarly, you can also ask last-minute questions to ensure nothing goes wrong on the big day.
3. Streamline Your Workflow
Wedding photography is not all about taking photos. You will spend most of your time answering the queries, communicating through phone and emails, handling the booking process, post-processing, and delivering the final photographs. It is better to hire an assistant (more than one) if possible. However, you need to streamline the workflow if you manage all these tasks yourself.
For example, you can send automated answers to the clients using a studio management tool. It will help you send timely responses, answers, questionnaires, and even contracts to your clients.
However, the main role of studio management software is to create a workflow for you. For example, you can make a wedding photography timeline using this software. The workflow or timeline enables you to assign deadlines to the various tasks and prioritize them according to their importance. After all, you must meet deadlines when it comes to wedding photography.
4. Prepare a List of Photographs
It is the list of photographs you want to take on the big day, not the list of couple. The couple would want you to take certain photographs but sometimes, you must also work on your own. After all, you also have some expectations for yourself. Similarly, you must have a good idea of which photographs are necessary and which not while accommodating the couple’s and guest’s requests as well.
There is a difference between what you want to capture and what needs to be captured. Shooting the right moment largely depends on your preparation as well as your gut-sense. If you have both of these, you will be invested and present at the wedding, giving vent to your creative juice.
Most newcomers rely solely on their instincts which is a big mistake. We are not questioning or undermining your memory. However, you will end up missing some key moments in the event, especially if you did not include them in your list in the first place.
To make things easier for you, the following are some wedding photography tips and ideas to capture the “necessary images” before the function ends.
Take Photos of Details
First and foremost, you must arrive at the scene pretty early, even before the guests. This will help you take photographs when the wedding party, couple, and family are in the preparation process such as doing their hair and makeup. It is a great opportunity to capture unique details like:
- Close up pictures of veil, cord, and rings
- All the flower arrangement including corsage and bouquets
- Invitation cards and messages
- Hanging suits and dresses
- Accessories like jewelry, perfume, and cufflinks
Then, every family has a sort of wedding heirlooms such as a bridal dress, the bride’s ring, and the groom’s tie, and so on. You must also pay special attention to these items. They may have a deeper sentimental value than meet the eye. These are the things which make a wedding personal. These images will always induce emotional feelings and therefore, you must always include them in your list. It is even better to ask the couple if they have any such thing beforehand as well.
How to Cover the Bride?
All wedding photography tips for beginners must also include ideas to cover the bride. Bridal coverage is all about how the bride prepared for her bid day. You have to highlight even the minutest of details regarding the bride. It is the special time and day of her live and you can accentuate the feelings as a cameraman.
The bridal coverage normally includes the following.
- Bride, bridesmaids, and maid of honor getting their makeup and hair done
- Bridesmaids, maid of honor, and other friends having fun and a good time with the bride
- Bride dressing up for the ceremony
- Parents helping the bride with accessories
- Group photos with family, bridesmaids, and friends
- Creative shots of the bride such as in the staircase, beside a family portrait or a big window, or any other beautiful area at the venue
- Boudoir shoot but only if the client requests it
Remember, your photos should present the bride as the main attraction of the wedding because this is what she is.
How to Cover the Groom?
You would capture the groom and his friends preparing for the wedding just like the bride. Not to mention, it also involves documenting them having some fun with the groom. Generally, you would capture moments such as the following while covering the groom.
- All too common ‘cheer’ shot with some scotch or beer
- Family shots such as with parents, siblings, and other relatives
- Group shots with friends
- Groom putting on the dress, tie, and cufflinks
- Solo pictures of the groom
- Quirky pictures of the wedding function
Covering the Ceremony
Remember you cannot control what is happening at the ceremony. You must remain attentive and ready to shoot iconic moments that sprout out of the blue. It is your job, as a photographer, to capture all these moments and everything else going on to the best of your ability. Similarly, equip yourself with the right information and the gear because the ceremony is the essential and the hardest part of the entire function to document.
Get Hold of the Ceremony’s Schedule
First of all, contact the wedding coordinators or the client to get a copy of the ceremony’s schedule. Every wedding has some unique parts and functions which you may not be aware of. Therefore, you need the actual timeline of the program.
Knowing how the ceremony is going to unfold is crucial for you. It will help you get to the right place at the right time. Having full knowledge of when events like the procession, vow exchange, and the first kiss will happen will eliminate the chances of missing them.
Learn more about Wedding Traditions
Wedding in all parts of the country has similar traditions and customs. However, you will come across many cultural and religious traditions, depending on the couple’s religion and region. You should have a good idea of what to expect. Are there any rules and regulations that you should also abide by?
For example, Islam does not allow an outsider (only in the case of males) to take photographs of the family’s women. A Hindu wedding, on the other hand, lasts for many days. In simple words, you may have to adjust your coverage depending on religious or regional traditions.
Most weddings follow a general pattern no matter it is civil or religious. You only have to focus on capturing the most important aspects of the wedding. Some of the shots which you cannot and should not miss are the bride walking down the aisle and the groom’s reaction, the officiant’s address, exchange of vows and rings, the pronouncement of marriage, and all the angles of the first kiss, etc.
5. Practice before the Event
All wedding photography tutorials emphasize the importance of practicing before every wedding you attend as a photographer. It is essential for taking beautiful and memorable shots. You are destined to fail if you go to a wedding without any practice or experience.
However, you may already have some experience of capturing people in your photos. Therefore, keep photographing your family and friends wherever you can to build on that experience. Another brilliant method of gaining confidence is to visit the wedding location with your friends and photography them as much as possible, especially if you are covering a wedding for the first time.
6. Check Out the Location
Checking out the location a day or two before the wedding will help you find the best spots to photograph. It will also help you reveal your nerves and tension which is very common among new photographers. Another excellent idea is to ask the couple to visit the location with you for taking some test shots. Ask them to make different poses at different spots to see what works best for you and them. You can also get some input from the couple to learn what they want from you.
7. Fully Prepare before the Event
One of the best wedding photography tips for beginners is to be fully prepared before the main event. You would make a mockery of yourself if you are clueless about what is going on. We have already discussed how important it is to get hold of the wedding schedule. You should know what the best areas of the building to take photographs are, especially the main parts of the function.
You can obtain that knowledge by scouting the building and practicing beforehand. You will also learn how to move swiftly between the spots you have identified. You can also attend the rehearsal to ensure you have a viable plan for the actual event. Most couples would gladly allow you to attend the rehearsal if you ask.
8. Hire an Assistant
Wedding photography for beginners can be a daunting task. You can greatly reduce your burden by hiring an assistant or requesting the couple to arrange one. It will save some of your skin if a disaster occurs. You are bound to miss an important or even a less important moment because of the chaos that is the wedding. However, your backup photographer is more than likely to cover these events for you. You can also delegate your duties to your backup photographer. For example, you can focus on the bride and groom, requesting your assistant to cover the guests. He can also carry some of your gear as well as set it up for you.
9. Prepare Your Gear
Every photographer has one camera he loves more than his life. However, you do need a myriad of backup gear, including a second camera in case your main camera breaks down. The same is true for batteries and memory cards. Never rely on a single memory card and battery. They will burn out within minutes because you have to take so many shots at a maddening speed.
It may be possible that you still cannot afford all this stuff. The alternative is to borrow extra stuff from your friends or colleagues. Similarly, you can also rent the equipment for a small fee.
The following is a list of some of the equipment you need to cover a wedding.
- A good DSLR or more advanced mirrorless camera
- Multiple lenses to cover different situations
- A camera bag to easily carry all your gear
- A flash with a diffuser for indoor shots as well as the ceremony
- Several memory cards with a lot of storage
- Separate chargers and batteries
- A tripod. However, you don’t need one in most cases.
10. Assist a Professional
One of the best methods of learning the tricks of the trade is to assist a veteran wedding photographer. He will impart a wealth of knowledge to you such as the dos and don’ts of wedding photography. Similarly, he will teach you how to avoid the most common photography mistakes when it comes to covering a wedding.
Therefore, you must work with a professional wedding photographer before you make a solo flight. They may help you in many different ways. For example, some of them may allow you to assist them in a real wedding.
You can apply the knowledge you gain from an experienced photographer to the later weddings. You may already know some of the tips depending on your experience and photography skills. However, you would only attain your goal and the best results if you closely monitor how professionals in your field work.
11. Capture the “First” Moments
Coming back to, a couple will always remember the milestone first moments of their wedding including the couple’s first look, first kiss, and the first dance. Some couples have first moments of their own that may be new to you. Therefore, you should ask them if they want you to capture any special moment.
To capture the best shots, you should know when they are going to happen. Similarly, set yourself at the appropriate spot well in advance. You must be prepared beforehand because milestone moments are usually quick and short-lived.
The best strategy to take multiple quick shots that come out well is to use a high shutter speed. It will give you a series of images at the time of post-processing. You can then pick the best photogs out of them.
12. Capture the Reaction
Newlywed couples love to see the reaction of their family and guest not only at the wedding but in the photo album as well. You should also strive to capture them dancing on the floor or having fun during different parts of the ceremony. People treasure these moments for the rest of their lives and therefore, expect you to capture them.
However, this is the job you best leave to your assistant. You can focus on the bride and groom while he can spend some time capturing the “wow” moments and expressions of the family and guests.
Also, instruct your partner to take as many shots and cover as many faces as possible in quick succession. You don’t want to miss any of these joyous moments.
13. Look for Smiles
How to shoot a wedding? The best way is to cover the smiles. Every smile is worth capturing be it is friends having fun and laughing, kids playing, bridesmaids teasing the bride, or people talking about a special moment. These are original, rare, and unplanned moments and thus, you cannot prepare for them in advance. On the other hand, you should look out for the smiles and click the shutter as soon as you find one. These images will live up to any wedding album if captured properly and the couple will love it too.
14. Take a Group Photo
It will take you a long time to capture every single person with the couple. You can also end up missing the more important moments. Therefore, the better option is to shoot in groups. Similarly, you should or rather your assistant should assign groups as it will save you a lot of time. He will also be responsible for adjusting small details such as fixing flyaway hair, allowing you to concentrate on photography.
Taking a lot of extra shots will also enable you to get the best out of the portraits. Remember not everyone can look perfect in a portrait. Some people can’t help blinking while others will get out of focus. These extra shots allow you to pick the best picture for every group.
15. Capture the Guests
It can be fun capturing the guests. However, your main focus should be on the bride and groom because they hire you for the event, not the guests.
However, there are some VIP guests you have to cover such as parents of the bride and groom as well as their families and friends. The best way of knowing them is to discuss the guest list with the hosts or couple. Similarly, learn and memorize their names because these guests deserve priority portraits. Also, try your best to make them feel comfortable during the shoot.
Our guide to the best wedding photography tips for beginners provides you with a lot of information. It will help you hone your skills as well as plan for your next wedding photography endeavor.
We also urge experienced wedding photographers to share their experience and knowledge with the beginners.