How to photograph a wedding – What to do on the big day

How to photograph a wedding: the bride

Our tips and advice about how to photograph a wedding.

It is all systems go once the day has finally arrived. Make sure all of your batteries are charged and your bag is packed the night before and leave plenty of time to get to the location, as you don’t want to miss a shot.

How to photograph a wedding: Arrive early

Allow for worst-case scenario with the traffic, or consider staying somewhere local the night before if it’s a long journey. That way you can arrive in plenty of time and unflustered.

How to photograph a wedding: Check locations

Try to visit the church and reception locations in the morning if possible, just to have a quick look around, brush up on potential shot locations, and check nothing has moved or changed – scaffolding or building work could make for an ugly background.

How to photograph a wedding: Getting ready

If you’ve been asked to shoot the bride getting ready, check what time is best to arrive – you don’t want to be too early or miss the process. Around the time she is having her hair done is normally a good starting point, especially if the hairdresser is coming to her. Don’t crowd her, try to stay in the background, as this can be the most stressful time of the day. Pictures of the groom and best man getting ready can often be done alongside the bride pictures, as long as they’re not too far apart.

How to photograph a wedding: The details

Try to get some shots of the dress before the bride puts it on – the chances are it will be hanging somewhere. Find a clean background for it, or try some detail shots. Any shoes or accessories can make a great composition and will be a great keepsake for the bride.

The car is another important part of the day that the couple will want to remember, so make sure you take some detail shots and static shots of it in all its glory before the bride sets off in it.

Brett Harkness’s Wedding day Tips

  •  Plan the day in your mind; shoot for the book
  •  Change focal lengths regularly
  •  Work with the couple and what they want
  •  Dress to impress and act with respect
  •  Make group shots fun, shoot fast, and have a plan
  •  Don’t waste the walk! Shoot as you go
  •  Check before you go.
  •  Don’t leave until everything is in the bag

How to photograph a wedding: Arriving at the church

Make sure you get to the church before the bride, and if possible, be there as people start to arrive – this is where working with an assistant or second photographer can help. Make sure you take some general shots of the surroundings and the church/building, as these can help set the scene. Inside, take detail shots of any arrangements and decorations such as the flowers and books of service.

How to photograph a wedding: Bride arriving

The bride arriving is a key moment and takes some swift action on your part. Get to the arrival point as the car pulls up and grab some shots as she walks to the church doors. Again, this can be where having an assistant/second photographer can be handy too, as you’ll then want to be by the altar by the time the bride makes it down the aisle, in time for the main ceremony.

How to photograph a wedding: Ceremony

This is the main event, so it is important that you get some pictures – as long as the couple want you to – but you need to remain discreet so as not to distract from the ceremony, or spoil the view for those who have turned up to see it. If your camera has a quiet mode, use it, and switch off any confirmation beeps and your flash. Using a longer lens will allow you to stand well back. Some Vicars may have reservations about shooting during the ceremony itself, so ensure that the couple are happy with arrangements.

The signing of the register is a great photo opportunity but can look a bit staged and be a bit of a bun fight as guests try to grab shots too. Grab discreet shots as they sign for real, then grab a posed shot before standing back to let other guests snap away.

As per on the way in, you need to be out the door before the couple, so keep a close eye on proceedings. Once outside take some initial shots with the couple before other guests leave the church, making best use of the doorway and the open space before the crowds begin to descend.

How to photograph a wedding: Posed shots

Depending on the reception venue, you may want to take some pictures in the grounds of the church. However, you may find the couple will want some time to greet the friends and family after the service. For this reason try to be quick and be patient – get some shots done straight away, then step back and take incidental shots as the couple chat to guests. As the couple start to leave there’s normally the opportunity for confetti, and this can look great in photos if shot right. If there is a car waiting, use it as another location, both inside and out. Once the door is closed though, get moving, as you’ll want to be at the next venue in time to meet them.

Related posts:

  1. Wedding photography checklist
  2. Wedding photography planning

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