Ten Tips

10 Tips For the New Wedding Photographer

The Honeymoon Starts Early
Flirty Bride
Gettin' the Groove On
The "Rockstar Pose"
A Wedding of a Different Color
Ring Braider
The Groom
So The Lighting Wasn't Perfect...
Wedding March
The Bridesmaid

Shooting your first wedding?


Join the club.

Here's one fact you need to accept before you shoot your way down the aisle: you're going to screw something up. Somehow, in some way, a mistake will be made. Take a moment to digest that before you ponder these ten suggestions to prevent your first wedding job from becoming a total loss.

Ok, maybe I'm being a little glass-is-half-empty here. Your first wedding is supposed to be a fun, learning experience. No doubt it's going to be stressful, but the most important thing is:

1. Relax. Even if you don't FEEL it, you have to LOOK it, because if you are tense, hesitant, nervous, sweaty, disheveled, clumsy, too quiet, too loud, intrusive or invisible, you are going to make your clients uncomfortable. They need to look and feel confident for their photographs and in order to do that they need to have confidence in you.

2. Less is more. All the fancy photography equipment in the world will not improve your photographs one bit. Moreover, big studio lights, reflector boards, large flash units or other gadgets will make your clients stiff and nervous. You need to connect with them to help them relax, and the best way to do that is to have nothing between you and them accept your camera.

However, there are some exceptions. First of all, under no circumstances would I ever suggest you set up studio lights or any large pieces of photography equipment for the actual wedding ceremony. This is distracting to guests, limiting to you, and just plain rude. You want to capture the ceremony in its existing mood. Don't try to change it.

The only time I might suggest using studio equipment is during formal portraits. And if you can, do it with the entire wedding party present. Some people become self-conscious under bright studio lights, but with their friends and family there they might loosen up - if you take the initiative that is. Get the bystanders involved! Ask for some jokes to help people laugh, be nice, and above all - smile!

3. Go to the rehearsal (if you can). This is more for you than your clients. Even if you're not taking pictures, (though you should be), attending the rehearsal will familiarize you with the surroundings, with the order of the ceremony, and with the people involved. Knowing ahead of time the groom's mom from the bride's mom, about how long the ceremony is, and whose walking down the aisle when, will help you tremendously on the big day.

4. Communicate. You must communicate with the wedding planner, or, in the least, the priest or officiate in charge of the ceremony. Some priests don't allow flash during the wedding; others have strict rules about where you can wander, and some don't care what you do. Most of the time they just want to make sure you are respecting the ceremony, which they consider very sacred. So find out from them ahead of time what you are and are not allowed to do.

5. During the ceremony you need to be as unobtrusive as possible. This means not walking in front of seated guests unless absolutely necessary, and not butting in the way during key moments. Remember, almost everyone else will have a camera, too, and though you want to get the pictures you're being paid to get, you don't want to be in the way.

6. You are there to observe, not participate. This means not sitting down to eat, not drinking on the job, not party-hardying with the groomsmen, and not stealing a dance with the bride – no matter how much of a babe she may be. Try to act like the professional you are being paid to be. Carry a snack in your bag and eat during transition times, such as after the ceremony, but before the reception. The last thing you want is to miss a great shot because you were stuck in the buffet line. NOTE: Honestly, on very rare occasions I have sat down to eat, but only because the reception was moving along very slowly and usually because the bride and groom or their parents insisted I enjoy their catering. So, what the hell!

7. The bride and groom are the stars. This is their day. You need to know where they are at all times, but keep your eyes peeled so that when the Best Man makes a jerk of himself trying to do the splits on the dance floor, or the flower girl gets into a tickle fight with her daddy, that you're there to get it on film.

8. Dress the part. I almost didn't write this one because it should be common sense. But if you're wondering about how to dress, just keep this rule in mind: you want to look sharp and professional, but you're there to work, which means you need to be comfortable. You're going to be on your feet all day, so comfortable shoes are a must. Usually if you try to dress like the average guest you'll be fine - i.e. if you're shooting the wedding of the CEO's prep-school daughter, you might want to dig out the dress slacks. On the other hand, if it's a country wedding where Carharts and pocket-tees are the rave, feel free to get your honky-tonk on.

9. If you're shooting film, pack plenty of rolls with varying ISOs and plan your day accordingly. Have that fast ISO film ready for the indoor shots and the slower one ready for the outdoor ones. If you're going digital, bring a big enough memory card, or a laptop to download images as you go. But no matter what you're shooting, just shoot, shoot, shoot! You should be capturing 800 to 1,000 photos at least over a period of about 4 to 6 hours, though you will most likely only present the happy couple with 400 or 600 photos. Some people give more, but personally I feel this is overwhelming to the newlyweds.

10. Do some research before hand. The most successful wedding photos I have achieved were captured after I spent an hour or so browsing other wedding photos, either on the Internet, or in a photography book, or even some of my old favorites. This will help get you in the mindset, give you ideas, make you think and plan ahead.

Lastly, remember this: You will be spending more time interacting with the bride and groom than almost anyone else at the wedding, so your attitude can affect the mood of the entire day. Be respectful and you will be respected. Have a good time (or at least look like you're having a good time).

One of the most frequent compliments I get at weddings is how great I am to work with. I try very hard to have a good time, to smile and enjoy the day, and that rubs off on people.

Good luck to you in your first adventure!


I have been shooting weddings since 2007, and shooting professionally since 2004. Visit www.isleofturmak.com to learn more about my work as a writer, illustrator and photographer. And feel free to e-mail me with any questions.

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3 responses

  • Joergen Geerds

    Joergen Geerds gave props (5 Oct 2008):

    great tutorial and great advice. thx for posting.

  • Mei Teng Wong

    Mei Teng Wong said (19 May 2009):

    I have been asked by a friend to photograph her wedding in a couple of months' time and seriously, I am nervous about the whole thing as I am an amateur and wedding shoot is a first for me. Thanks for your wonderful tips.

  • arcaire agunday

    arcaire agunday said (24 Feb 2011):

    This really helps a lot. :) I'm not a professional, but I want to shoot at my cousin's wedding. Thanks a lot!

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