When you’re just starting out in the world of wedding photography, capturing stunning images can seem incredibly daunting. After all, you only get one chance to photograph the big day; there are no do-overs or second chances.
But fear not! Snapping amazing photos on the big day is totally within your grasp. Trust me, it’s not as hard as it might seem. In fact, with the right techniques and a little know-how, you’ll be well on your way to capturing those picture-perfect moments that will make couples and their families cherish their wedding memories forever.
In this article, I’ll be sharing 21 invaluable tips to help you level up your wedding photography game. We’ll cover everything from lighting and composition to camera settings and more. So let’s jump right in and discover how you can create wedding masterpieces that will leave everyone in awe, starting with:
1. Create a shot list
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received for capturing stunning wedding photos is to have the couple plan ahead and think about the specific shots they want on their big day.
Create a checklist of these shots so you can tick them off one by one. This tip is especially valuable when it comes to family photos. Trust me, you don’t want to get the pictures back only to realize you forgot to capture the beaming couple with Grandma!
And it’s not just about family shots. You should also identify those little detail shots that matter, like the photos of the rings and the beautifully arranged table settings.
Now, I’m not saying you should stick to the script all the time. Let the shot list be your guide, but don’t be afraid to photograph those spontaneous moments when they happen. After all, some of the most memorable images come from those unexpected, unplanned events!
2. Find a family photo coordinator
Weddings are beautiful and often well-organized, but there’s one part of the day that can turn into a chaotic whirlwind: the family photos. People scatter in all directions, different family dynamics come into play, and – let’s be honest! – some guests might have indulged in a few celebratory spirits.
To ensure a smooth family photo session, get the couple to appoint a family member as the “director” of the shoot. They’ll be like your very own photo general, rounding up the troops, and keeping the show on the road. The photo coordinator will rally everyone together, help you get them perfectly positioned, and make sure everything flows smoothly. In other words, they’ll take charge while the couple enjoys the festivities.
By having a designated family photo coordinator, you’ll avoid missing any crucial shots on your list, and the entire day will be far less nerve-wracking for everyone involved.
3. Scout the location
Before the big day, make sure you take a trip to the wedding venue and familiarize yourself with the surroundings. Now, I know some pros might skip this step, but trust me, it’s a game-changer! Exploring the location beforehand gives you an edge. You’ll get a feel for the best positions to capture those stunning shots and how the light will work its magic. Plus, if they’re up for it, you can even bring the couple along for some engagement photos as a bonus!
During your scouting mission, keep an eye out for captivating backgrounds that will make your photos pop. Also be on the lookout for distractions to avoid. Think about how the lighting will change throughout the day; see if you can determine which areas will be bathed in glorious light and which ones might be in the shade.
These small details can make a world of difference!
4. Prepare, prepare, prepare!
When it comes to wedding photography, preparation is the secret ingredient for success. You never know what might throw a curveball on the big day, so it’s crucial to be well-prepared. Here are some key tips to ensure you’re ready to capture those unforgettable moments:
First and foremost, have a plan in your back pocket for any unexpected weather surprises. Mother Nature can be unpredictable, but you won’t be caught off guard if you’ve got a plan B up your sleeve.
Make sure your batteries are juiced up and your memory cards are ready to go. The last thing you want is to miss out on capturing the magical moments because your gear isn’t up to the task.
As I emphasized in the previous section, take some time to scout the locations and think about the best routes and timings to get to each spot. Being familiar with the surroundings will help you effortlessly navigate the venue and seize those picture-perfect opportunities.
One pro tip: If you can, attend the ceremony rehearsal. It’s like a sneak preview of the main event and will offer plenty of invaluable insights. You’ll get a chance to identify ideal shooting positions, observe the lighting conditions, and familiarize yourself with the order of the ceremony.
Remember, the more prepared you are, the easier your job will be.
5. Set expectations with the couple
Before you start planning for the big day, it’s important you set clear expectations. This step is crucial because it ensures you’re on the same page and ready to capture their special day.
First things first, show them your work and unique style. This will help them envision their own wedding captured beautifully through your lens (and perhaps inspire them to ask for certain photos).
Next, have an open conversation with the couple to understand their goals. Find out what they want to achieve with their wedding photos. Do they dream of capturing heartfelt moments, candid shots, or the grandeur of the ceremony? Knowing their desires will allow you to tailor your approach accordingly.
Now, let’s talk numbers. How many shots do they expect? Some couples may want an extensive collection, while others prefer a more curated selection. Get a sense of their preferences, and make sure you’re both on the same wavelength.
Remember to discuss how they plan to use the photos. Will they be printing them in a stunning wedding album? Or do they have other creative ideas in mind? Knowing their intentions will help you deliver exactly what they need.
Last but not least, bring up the topic no one likes to talk about: money. If you’re charging for your services, it’s crucial to establish the price in advance. Have an agreement in place that outlines the cost so there are no surprises later on. This ensures a smooth and transparent relationship with the couple.
By setting expectations early on, you’ll be laying the foundation for a successful collaboration.
6. Turn off the sound on your camera
Those annoying beeps from your camera during speeches, the kiss, and vows? They’re not adding anything special to the event. In fact, they’re just distracting the audience and annoying everyone around. Trust me, no one wants that.
So before the big day, make sure to turn off those camera sounds and keep them off. Luckily, most of the latest mirrorless models come with powerful silent-shooting options. That way, you can capture all those magical moments without making a peep.
7. Shoot the small details
When it comes to wedding photography, it’s not just about the happy couple and the lively guests. Don’t miss out on the hidden gems and carefully curated details that make the event truly special.
Take the time to capture shots of those stunning rings, the intricate designs on the backs of dresses, the elegant shoes, the vibrant bouquets, the meticulously arranged table settings, and even the charming menus. These little things may seem insignificant, but they hold a world of meaning for the couple. Plus, they’ll add an extra touch of enchantment to the final album.
Feeling a bit unsure about which details to focus on? Check out the websites of your favorite wedding photographers for some ideas.
Remember that it’s the small things that often carry the most significance and have the power to bring back cherished memories later on!
8. Use two cameras
Professional wedding photographers often work with at least two cameras, and it’s a practice worth adopting. Using two cameras will enhance your versatility as a photographer and provide a safety net in case your main camera malfunctions.
Also, whether you borrow, rent, or buy an additional camera, make sure to set it up with a different lens. I recommend shooting with wide-angle glass to capture candid moments and handle tight spaces, especially during the pre-ceremony preparations. Having a longer lens available (I personally use a 70-200mm) can also be advantageous in certain situations.
9. Consider bringing a second wedding photographer
Bringing in a second photographer can be a game-changer! It means less running around during the ceremony and speeches and allows one photographer to focus on those classic, formal shots while the other captures all those precious candid moments. It also takes the pressure off you as “the one” who has to nail every single shot!
Let’s face it, weddings are chaotic, and having an extra set of eyes and lenses ensures that no unforgettable moment goes uncaptured. So why not double the talent and double the memories?
10. Be bold but not obtrusive
To capture that perfect shot, you need to be bold and confident. However, it’s crucial to strike a balance and avoid getting in the way or distracting the audience.
During the ceremony, aim to move around discreetly at least 4-5 times. Timing is key, so try to coordinate your movements with songs, sermons, or longer readings. By anticipating and positioning yourself for the important moments, you can ensure that you capture the right shots without causing any disruptions. Attending the rehearsal can be immensely helpful in achieving this.
When it comes to the formal shots, don’t hesitate to take charge. Be assertive, know what you want, and communicate your vision to the couple and their party. As the photographer, you play a leading role in this part of the day, and it’s essential to keep things running smoothly and efficiently.
11. Learn how to use diffused light
The ability to effectively utilize diffused light is crucial in wedding photography as many churches and indoor venues often have low-lighting conditions. If you can use a flash (some churches may not allow it), consider whether bouncing the light off a surface will be suitable (remember that bouncing light off a colored surface can introduce a color cast), or if investing in a flash diffuser to soften the light would be beneficial.
In situations where flash usage is restricted, you will need to rely on a fast lens with a wide aperture and/or increase the ISO setting. Additionally, a lens with image stabilization can be a big help.
Basically, when shooting indoors, you must be well-prepared and equipped to handle challenging low-light environments!
12. Shoot in RAW
Many beginner photographers feel that shooting in RAW is unnecessarily time-consuming due to the additional processing required. However, if you’re dedicated to capturing beautiful wedding moments, committing to working in RAW is crucial.
Shooting in RAW provides a wealth of flexibility when it comes to adjusting your shots afterward. Weddings can pose challenges thanks to varying lighting conditions, so files often require adjustments to exposure and white balance. RAW files significantly aid in these adjustments, allowing you to enhance your photographs effectively.
13. Display your shots at the reception
One of the remarkable advantages of digital photography is its immediacy. Lately, I’ve noticed an exciting trend among photographers: bringing a computer to the reception, uploading shots taken earlier in the day, and showcasing them as a rotating slideshow during the evening. This adds a delightful element to the night, and the wedding couple often loves these photo previews!
Of course, it’s crucial to share only your best shots. And if you shoot in RAW format (which you should, as discussed above!), you’ll need to quickly edit the earlier shots to ensure they’re ready to be displayed.
14. Mind your backgrounds
Weddings are a whirlwind of people, and people have a knack for sneaking into the backgrounds of your precious shots. So before you hit that shutter button, take a moment to consider the backdrop and adjust your composition accordingly.
Note: Even if you manage to find a background free of photobombers, it doesn’t automatically guarantee a jaw-dropping result. Especially with formal shots, it pays to scout the area in advance and seek out picture-perfect backgrounds. That way, you’ll have plenty of go-to options on the big day.
Pro tip: Aim for uncluttered spaces and seek out shaded spots away from harsh sunlight. These beautiful areas will add an extra touch of magic to your frames.
15. Don’t discard your “mistakes”
In the world of digital photography, it’s all too easy to swiftly discard images that don’t immediately meet our expectations. However, let me share a little secret with you: Those so-called mistakes might just hold real artistic charm. Don’t be too hasty to hit the delete button!
Here’s the thing: By keeping those seemingly flawed shots, you open doors to a realm of creative possibilities. Through post-processing wizardry, you can transform these images into captivating pieces of art!
So here’s my advice: stock up on memory cards and refrain from deleting any photos right away. While it’s wise to use your camera’s LCD to assess exposure and composition, ensure that you preserve every single shot you take. Only when you sit down at your computer and carefully examine each image should you evaluate their potential and consider sending some shots to the recycle bin.
16. Change your perspective
Here’s a nifty composition tip:
Get a little adventurous with your shots. While most of the pictures in the final wedding album will likely be taken from the usual eye-level view, it’s a good idea to spice things up by capturing images from different angles. Try getting down low, climbing up high, or shifting to the side.
Don’t hesitate to kneel down, even if it means getting your knees a bit dirty, and search for unique high-angle vantage points like balconies, chairs, or even ladders. (Of course, if you decide to shoot from a lofty height, be sure to exercise caution!)
17. Do a big group shot
At every wedding I’ve had the privilege to photograph, there’s one shot I never miss: a grand picture of every single person in attendance. Here’s how I pull it off: I find a vantage point high above the crowd, such as a tall ladder, a balcony, or even the roof. Then, just after the ceremony has ended, I gather everyone together.
But here’s the trick: You can’t keep the guests waiting forever. You need to swiftly guide them to the designated spot and be ready to snap the shot before they get antsy. To rally the troops, I’ve discovered the best tactic is to escort the newlyweds to the area and enlist a couple of helpers to usher everyone in that direction.
By nailing this group shot, you’ll immortalize the spirit of the wedding and ensure no one is left out!
18. Use fill flash when shooting outside
The sun is shining, the couple is radiant, and the wedding venue is breathtaking. Sometimes, however, capturing the perfect outdoor shots can be a bit tricky. That’s where your trusty flash comes in!
When you’re shooting outside, whether it’s right after the ceremony or during those posed moments, it’s wise to keep your flash attached. This little device can work wonders by adding a touch of extra light to fill in any shadows. Here’s a pro tip: Dial back the flash just a bit, maybe a stop or two, to avoid those overexposed shots.
You might be wondering, “Do I always need fill flash?” Well, not necessarily. But when you find yourself battling against strong backlighting or shooting in the harsh midday sun, fill flash becomes your secret weapon. It helps banish those pesky shadows and ensures your subjects are beautifully illuminated.
19. Use your camera’s continuous shooting mode
When it comes to wedding photography, timing is everything. Being able to seize those key moments is crucial, and even a slight delay can cause you to miss out on capturing an essential photo. That’s why it’s essential to activate your camera’s continuous shooting mode and take advantage of its incredible capabilities.
Different cameras offer varying continuous shooting speeds, so it’s worth investing in one that can handle at least 5-10 frames per second. This will ensure you have the ability to freeze those fleeting moments with precision.
Remember to come prepared with plenty of memory cards. Continuous shooting can quickly devour your storage space, so be ready to swap cards and keep the magic flowing without interruption.
20. Expect the unexpected
Here’s some solid advice I received on my own wedding day: “Things will go wrong, but they can be the best parts of the day.”
In every wedding I’ve had the pleasure of capturing, there’s always been a little hiccup along the way: the best man frantically searching for a missing ring, a sudden downpour drenching the lovebirds just as the ceremony wraps up, the groom unintentionally leaving his fly undone, or the flower girl deciding to take a seat right in the middle of the aisle.
These unexpected surprises might induce a momentary panic, but trust me, they often end up being the highlights that everyone remembers. As a wedding photographer, your job is to seize those moments and immortalize them through your lens. You might just capture some uproariously fun shots that perfectly encapsulate the essence of the day.
During the first wedding I ever photographed, the bride and groom’s car collided with a tram on the way to the park where we planned to take pictures. Chaos ensued: the bride was in tears, the groom was utterly stressed. Yet once the dust settled, a glimmer of optimism emerged. We managed to capture a couple of shots before moving on to the park, and you know what? Those photographs became cherished favorites!
21. Have fun
Weddings are all about celebration and joy. They should be brimming with excitement. As the photographer, your task is to capture those priceless moments of bliss. And guess what? The more fun you have, the more at ease your subjects will feel in front of the camera.
One surefire way to loosen everyone up is to sport a big, genuine smile. Trust me, I’ve mastered the art of grinning from ear to ear at weddings (although I must admit, my jaws and cheeks often ache by the end of the day!). But it’s totally worth it because those infectious smiles light up my images.
Wedding photography tips: final words
We’ve reached the end of our wild wedding photography journey, so I hope you’re ready to capture some epic shots! Wedding photography may seem daunting at first, but with these 21 tips under your belt, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a pro.
Remember that planning is key – but don’t be afraid to embrace the chaos, either. Also, remember to have fun and enjoy the celebration while capturing those precious moments for the happy couple.
Now grab that camera, go forth, and make some wedding photography magic!
Over to you:
Which of these wedding photography tips will you use first? Share your thoughts in the comments below!