So far in Part 1 and Part 2 we’ve looked at:

  1. Understanding and setting expectations with the Bride & Groom
  2. Preparing your equipment
  3. Planning logistics.

We’re now ready to tackle the big day and take some great photos. Here’s what you should keep in mind as the day progresses.

bride groom2 Basics of Wedding Photography – Part 3/4

Dress For Success

First of all: dress appropriately! Wearing jeans and a t-shirt may be comfortable for you, but showing up at a nice wedding dressed poorly will only reflect badly on you and your professionalism. Wear dark clothes so as not to attract attention, and try and match what the guests would wear. If a suit is difficult for you to maneuver in, you can always wear some nice slacks and a dress shirt (or a dress).

1. Pre-Wedding Preparations

This is the period before the ceremony (usually early morning) when the bride and groom are getting ready for their big day. It will often be at someone’s home and will involve them getting dressed, putting on make-up, and lots of laughter among the bridesmaids and groomsmen. There should be a lot of intimate moments between close friends and family that the couple will love to see later, so be prepared to capture it all using the following tips:

  • Arrive early and on time!
    This goes without saying, but remember to give yourself time to pull out your equipment as well.

  • Go wide
    Often you’ll find yourself in tight cramped quarters, so put your wide angle lens to good use here.

  • Use fast lenses
    Lighting at homes will be dim, so you need fast lenses to allow you to capture the moments without blur. Look for windows or doors that can be opened to allow more light in.

  • Fill-Flash
    If you need more light, use a fill-flash. Personally, I prefer to just use fast lenses and use natural light, but sometimes you need to use a flash. If you want to avoid the paparazzi look, make sure your flash is used as a fill-flash to brighten up shadow areas. Full on flash may end up being too harsh and ruins the intimate nature of the moment.

  • Look around and Move Around
    Don’t be shy and force yourself to move around and engage people. It’s easy to focus solely on the bride and forget about everyone else, but make sure you also look around at friends and family who are around her. Often, there are some great moments of joy away from the bride and groom that are worth capturing to show a true picture of the day’s events.

  • Blend in and respect people’s privacy
    You’ll be in a house full of people you don’t know very well, photographing their most intimate moments. Nothing is worse than a photographer who is in everyone’s way and is invading people’s private space. So, if a bride or a guest asks you to step out for a private moment, make sure you do! Respect their privacy and you’ll find them to be much more inviting at other times.

  • bride mirror Basics of Wedding Photography – Part 3/4

  • Group shots
    When you’re shooting the groomsmen when they’re getting ready, look for interesting and original group shots that highlight their camaraderie.

polytropos Basics of Wedding Photography – Part 3/4

  • Vehicle and Limo Shots
    Often a special vehicle will be arranged to pick up the bridal parties. Remember to photograph the bride or groom getting into their respective vehicles with their party.

(c) Jazmin Millions - used under creative commons license

(c) Jazmin Millions – used under creative commons license

2. The Ceremony

The ceremony location may be a religious building such as a church or temple or a more neutral place such as a government building where a justice or judge may carry out the marriage. Whichever it is, make sure you’ve read up a bit on the wedding ceremony if it’s one that you’re not familiar with.


The Marriage Ceremony

Some points to remember:

  • Watch your flash
    As I mentioned in Part 1, some halls may not allow you to use flash or even take photos during the actual ceremony, so be aware of this.

  • Use 2 Photographers if possible
    Ceremonies are often best photographed with 2 shooters. The reason being that 1 photographer can focus on the ceremony itself (ie. the priest reading the vows etc.), while the other photographer works in the background taking pictures of the audience, family members and also taking wide shots to put the ceremony in context. This is why the main photographer may hover near the front, while the 2nd shooter is at the back.If having 2 photographers isn’t possible, you should make sure you spend plenty of your time near the front focusing on the bride and groom, but still try and capture the audience and family if you see an interesting moment.

  • Use 2 Cameras, one with a zoom, one with a wide angle.
    If you have 2 cameras available, use a zoom on one, and a wide angle on the other, to allow you to quickly switch between focal lengths when necessary. This will allow you to capture intimate moments close up, or go wide and provide context.
  • Blend In
    Try your best not to block the view of the audience to get your shots and if you do, move away once you’ve taken your photographs. Don’t run back and forth making noise. In essence, take care to be quiet and to remain unseen.

  • Don’t stop guests from taking their photos
    Remember, guest will also be taking photos while you’re shooting and they have every right to do so, after all it’s their friends or family being married. Whatever you do, don’t be rude and don’t try and stop them even if they don’t seem too considerate in giving you the opportunity to tale your shots! If guests are truly getting in the way of your shots, you need to first decide whether you can move to a different position to get a different angle. If you have no choice but to ask guests to give you some room, be polite and remind them that you’re trying to do the best job possible for the bride and groom.

  • Use flash for motion
    In dark locations like a church, you will likely need to use your flash for extra light when the couple starts moving around, otherwise you’ll get blurry photos like this one:

This photographer did not use a flash and ended up with blurred action! | (c) natal007 used with creative commons license
  • Think ahead and be ready

    If you know the ceremony is completing, and that the couple will be down the aisle soon, position yourself ahead of time where you need to be. Remember, guests might jump in the way at any time, so be prepared for unexpected movements!

    Position yourself ahead of time to get the best angle for your shots | (c) libertyd8 used under creative commons license

Position yourself ahead of time to get the best angle for your shots | (c) libertyd8 used under creative commons license

In Part 4, we’ll take a look at shooting the bride, groom and family portraits as well as the big reception party.

The 4 blog posts for the Basics of Wedding Photography can be found here: