Ten Tips

10 Wedding Photography Tips From A Photographer Who Doesn't Shoot Weddings

The Bride
They held hands the whole time
Eye of the Hurricane
Something Blue
Grab the champagne and lets go

I never set out to be a wedding photographer, but as I get older more of my friends are getting married...and calling me! While I'm honored to be a part of their big day, let's be honest, it's a lot of pressure and stress. The day always seems to fly by and I want to make sure that every shot is as good as it can be since they will be looking at them for years to come...and thinking of little ol' me. Here's some of the lessons I've learned over time.

1. Ask them to show you what they like.

They called you because they're planning their wedding, that means they'll be looking at hundreds of wedding magazines, etc. Tell them if they see an image they like to cut it out or email it to you. Best case scenario: they say 'I asked you because I like your style, so just do what you do and I'll love it.' I asked someone to do this once and they gave me pages and pages of grainy soft focused images. That's not my style, but I went out and grabbed a filter and boosted my ISO and they loved what I gave them. You just never know what people like until you ask! Remember, they'll be looking at these for years to come, not you.

2. Ask for schedule and keep it in your pocket.

Everything will run late, but at least this way you're prepared. You'll know everything that's theoretically going to happen and having it with you will help keep your stress level down a bit.

3. Exchange phone numbers with the best man.

Let's face it: girls take forever to get ready, and that's where most of the good prep photos are. The men take no time at all, but you need some photos of them too. If you're able to communicate with the best man and have him tell you when they're getting ready you can duck out and get photos of both. Don't guess though, or expect it to happen at a certain time, or you might miss it completely.

4. Know that the ceremony may be much shorter than expected, ask for a cue.

Knowing if the couple is religious or not will help you know how long the ceremony will be. If they're keeping it simple, chances are it will be shorter than they expect. Knowing if there's a cue that will let you know that it will end soon will help you be where you need to be. I've almost missed that first kiss as man and wife too many times because the 15 minute ceremony was really less than 5 minutes!

5. Have a list of the group shots, let them know how long they have to give you to get it done.

Some people will have a million different groups so having an honest conversation with them so that they know how much time it will take will help them prioritize what they really want. No one likes spending much time with you for these photos, so if they are giving you a long list make sure they know what to expect.

6. Start with the biggest group, then have them leave.

Make sure people know to meet after the ceremony who are in the groups shots- and make sure that the bride and groom understand the importance of this. You simply can't have time wasted waiting for so and so to appear, especially since you don't know who they are. Make sure it's organized, that is, make sure that the bride and groom are organized about it or they probably won't get what they want. Don't let them think that people will know to meet after for photos- they won't.

7. Watch out for the birds- you know who I'm talking about...

The word 'birds' is what pops in my head for the women that follow you around and wait to take the same photo you did with their little point and shoot camera. You think they will be gone, but they will swoop in from seemingly nowhere. They will waste your time, drive you crazy and more importantly you'll get the photos back and some people will be looking at them instead of you, ruining the shot. Be prepared to deal with this. Figure out how you will do it based on your personality. But, get them away! You are the 'pro' so people expect you to take charge. You'll have to do it in a way that's appropriate because to you they are an extreme annoyance, but to the couple, they're family.

8. Scope out places for the groups shots.

You must. You need to be prepared and be quick for the group shots-you'll have less time than you think to get it all done. Go there before hand at the same time of day that you will taking the images so the light will be the same. Find as many spots as you can. Save the best one for the photos of the bride and groom.

9. Bring something to eat.

No one ever looks good in photos of them eating so while everyone is eating dinner you have an opportunity for a short break- just don't count on getting food. The wedding these photos came from I couldn't find a fork, then these kids were running around near my gear all crazy...the next thing I know it's the toast and I haven't eaten. After 10 hours with no food I learned my lesson: bring a snack just in case. Always.

10. Even if you had a terrible time and are about to cry...smile

Don't let on that it will take days before your blood pressure will go down and all you're thinking about is curling up in bed with vodka in a sippy cup. While I hope that people will remember me at my best, they often remember you at your worst. So smile, give them a hug if you're friends, and say that it was an honor to be a part of one of the most important days of their lives.

Good Luck!

These are a few photos from a wedding I photographed a few weeks ago. I took 1,500 photos...so these are just a few of my favorite black and white ones.

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7 responses

  • Marj Kline

    Marj Kline said (12 Aug 2009):

    Great tips. I am 2+ years out of photo school, and I don't live in NYC. I am coming to grips with the fact that I might eventually have to add weddings to my repertoire if I want to make any money shooting. I will bookmark this page.

  • Omran AlOwais

    Omran AlOwais (Deleted) gave props (30 Aug 2009):

    voted, thanks for the tips :) Will try them some day.

  • amanda miller

    amanda miller gave props (2 Oct 2009):

    i live by these words lol

  • Brian Jaworski

    Brian Jaworski (Deleted) gave props (12 Nov 2009):

    I agree with your tips espc #9 - energy bars are a part of my camera gear for all occassions. I might shot one wedding a year but every little act of preparation and planning counts towards the over all satisfaction of the newly weds.

  • Norm Levin

    Norm Levin said (13 May 2010):

    You need nerves of steel and a warm heart to shoot weddings. The ones I've done so far, have been among my most rewarding photographic experiences. What gets me, is that so many brides in an effort to save on their budget, relay on FWCs (Friends with Cameras) to do this for them. For the cost of the table decorations or a full bar, they could have memorable images shot by a talented pro. The regrets for the flowers or booze may last a day. The remorse over missed photo opportunities will last a lifetime.

  • Gary Benefield

    Gary Benefield gave props (9 Nov 2010):

    great tips

  • Chris Jennings

    Chris Jennings said (15 Feb 2011):

    This is a great essay, funny, but oh so true. Great tips. I am afraid I have one that trumps them all, I usually say no. But it seems that you are nicer than I am. On the one ocassion I said yes, I insisted that the couple contract someone else to do the group shots. It was a success. Your images are great too, unforced, natural and spontaneous.

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