6 Tips for Photographing a Wedding for the First Time

Marianne Stenger
30th May 2017

Whether you’re a professional photographer or hobbyist, photographing a wedding can be scary. Everything has to be captured perfectly the first time around, as you can’t just say “Wait, let’s do that again,” after the bride and groom’s first kiss or the bouquet toss.

Of course, shadowing a professional is one of the best ways to learn the ins and outs of wedding photography, because you’ll be able to see firsthand what it involves. 

But what if you’ve never photographed a wedding and now a friend or relative who knows you’re good at photography has asked you to shoot their big day? If you’re not sure what to expect or how to prepare, here are a few important tips to keep in mind before photographing a wedding.

1. Research the location

If at all possible, try to visit the location a day or two ahead of time so you can scout out locations for the group shots and portraits, think about where you want to position your subjects and see what sort of light will be available to you throughout the ceremony and reception.

If visiting the location in person isn’t possible, you can still check the venue’s website or ask the bride and groom to share some photos of the wedding location so you can plan ahead.

2. Discuss the wedding schedule in advance

If you’ve agreed to photograph a wedding, the bride and groom will be counting on you to capture all the important moments, from the bridesmaids and groomsmen getting ready to the wedding ceremony, the cutting of the cake and the first dance.  

In order to be in the right place at the right time, though, you need to know the wedding schedule. So make sure you sit down with the bride or groom a few days before the wedding to discuss their plans. You need to know where the bride and groom will be getting ready, where the ceremony and reception will be held and what time each separate event be will starting.

3. Create a shot list

Another important thing to discuss with the bride and groom before their wedding day is the day shot list. Find out exactly what events they expect you to cover and who their most important guests are so you can make sure their close friends and relatives appear in the group shots.

You can then create a shot list of all the essential moments you’ll need to capture, from close ups of the flowers, rings and place settings to the couple portraits and after party photos. On the day itself, you can consult the shot list regularly to make sure you’re not forgetting anything important.

4. Know your equipment and bring extras

There won’t be time to figure out how your gear works on the wedding day itself, so make sure you understand every button and setting well in advance. If you plan to rent or borrow any photography equipment, try to get it a day or two in advance so you can practice with it.

It’s also a good idea to bring extras of important photography gear, just in case something malfunctions. Obviously you should always carry extra batteries and memory cards, but an extra camera and a few additional lenses are also good to have in case anything breaks or gets lost.

5. Don’t be afraid to take control

On the day of the wedding, there will undoubtedly be moments of confusion and the bride and groom will likely be preoccupied with everything that’s going on, so it’s your job to take control and make sure you get the photos on your shot list.

Call the bridal party and family together when it’s time for the group shots and don’t be afraid to give people specific instructions on where to stand and how to pose.  

Image by Smart.

6. Make backups of the photos

You can’t reshoot a wedding, so safeguarding the wedding photos should be high on your list of priorities. Although SD cards come in sizes of 64GB and up these days, wedding photographers often purposely use smaller sizes to spread the risk in case a memory card fails or is accidentally formatted before the photos have been transferred. 

As soon as one card is full, you should transfer the photos to your laptop as well as an external hard drive. Once you get home from the wedding, you can move them to the cloud.

Finally, remember that while photographing a wedding is a big responsibility, it can be a lot of fun too, so try to relax, enjoy interacting with the guests and focus on capturing gorgeous photos that the bride and groom will cherish for the rest of their lives. 

Image by Smart. View their online photography courses complete with a wedding photography module.