Powerful Wedding Photography Tips & Ideas:
The Complete Guide
Have you ever wanted to learn how to photograph a wedding like a pro? Or learn the best wedding photography tips & tricks from a professional photographer to capture those precious moments and memories for newlyweds?
Then, you need to check out this iPhotography™ guide. It’s packed with wedding photography tips and ideas on how to take stunning photos on the big day and avoid the common mistakes that every new photographer makes.
Over the years, the Tutors here at iPhotography have shot hundreds of weddings and engagement photo shoots. Now we want to share our best wedding photography tips and techniques to our faithful and dedicated students.
Becoming a Wedding Photographer
Wedding photography is one of the most popular ways of turning your hobby into a career. It’s an ideal place to make money from your photography and a fantastic opportunity to get noticed in the local community.
But all too often amateurs and semi-pros overlook the essentials when either preparing their photography equipment, planning their poses or composing their shots, resulting in poor wedding photographs.
Remember, you only get one chance for each special day!
So, we are here to help you overcome that pressure and turn every wedding photograph you take into a magical memory for the bride and groom to cherish forever.
Now we understand that everyone has a different approach to photography, and weddings are no different. Whether you prefer formal wedding poses or the reportage side then this guide will help you. We’ll look at the best techniques, ideal wedding photography lighting, along with hidden tricks and little-known tips that professional photographers use when directing the Bride, Groom and even the whole wedding party!
But before we get into that, let’s talk about how to prepare yourself for the big day.
Wedding Photography Checklist
Without a wedding photography checklist, you will inevitably miss something out of your shoot. This could be fatal to the start of promising wedding photography career. A Bride and Groom won’t be pleased to know you forgot to take pictures of them cutting the cake or the Mother of the Bride’s decadent hat!
So, listen up….
Take time to meet up with the happy couple who have chosen you to capture the special memories of their happy day. Visit them a few weeks before and find out as much as you can about their wedding and their expectations of you.
- Do they want lots of posed formal wedding photographs?
- Or do they prefer a natural and candid approach?
- What parts of the day do they want you to cover? Bridal preparation, Ceremony, Meal, Speeches, Cake cutting, Party/Disco etc.,
- What’s the starting time for these parts? (expect there to be delays – you’ll find no wedding runs on time!)
- Are there any special activities or surprises planned that guests don’t know about?
- How many guests will be present?
- Is there anyone who they don’t want photographed? (Sounds silly, but you’ll be surprised how often an unwanted Aunty or vaguely known Cousin is put to the back of the shots)
- Do they want a big group shot of everyone together?
- What time will the wedding finish?
It’s vitally important to know what the couple want to do with the final photographs too. Some newlyweds just want digital copies on a CD/USB drive to share on social media, others may request you to make an album for them or a big canvas of their happy day.
Either way, it’ll help you decide whether you need to shoot the wedding in high-quality JPEGs or RAW files.
The Happy Couple
‘Do you have any ideas of your own?’
Ultimately, it’s their day and there’s nothing more professional than involving the Bride and Groom (to-be) in the creative process. There are brilliant websites such as Pinterest, Behance, Flickr and 500px which are ideal resources to gain inspiration for different styles of wedding photography. Ask your happy couple to have a look and send you some of their preferred wedding picture ideas.
Wedding Photography Shot List
Bride and Groom – obviously!
Bride and Maid of Honor
Bride and Bridesmaids
Page Boys and Flower Girls
Groom and Best Man
Groom and Groomsman
Bride, Groom and Parents
Bride, Groom, Best Man and Maid of Honor
Bride, Groom, Page Boys and Flower Girls
Bride and Bridal Family
Groom and Family
Best Man & Maid of Honour
Mothers of the Bride and Groom
Fathers of the Bride and Groom
Sssh! Don’t Tell the Bride – A clever trick we use is to write down all the combinations and put them on a sticker behind the camera’s flip out screen. Concealed and neat!
Now your shot list is ready, is your kit bag?
Wedding Photography Camera Bag Tips
What Do You Put In a Wedding Photography Camera Bag? As little as possible, but enough to cover all eventualities!
Confused? We know.
But don’t worry, what we mean is travel as light as possible.
You’re going to be on your feet for hours, so you don’t want heavy bags.
It’s a good idea to check out the weather beforehand so you’ll know if you need to take provisions.
Try to borrow or rent a backup camera (something you’re familiar with) in case the worst should happen during the wedding – it’s rare, but not implausible.
Compact cameras are in truth, useless for weddings, they will not operate fast enough to capture all the fleeting moments of the day.
If you are a beginner in wedding photography (with a view to becoming) more serious then you need to consider investing in a reliable mirrorless or DSLR camera.
Fast shooting cameras are really important if you want to make the most of the day.
Here are a few other wedding photography essentials all photographers should have in their bag on the big day:
- Extra camera batteries (make sure they’re fully charged the night before)
- Neck or hand strap (we’ve known sweaty palms be the cause of many a broken camera)
- A zoom lens (unless you have dedicated wide and telephoto lenses already)
- Reflector (a small fold up one will be ideal)
- UV filter (protects the lens against champagne spray!)
- Extra memory cards (the faster writing speed the better, you’ll be taking lots of shots so you won’t want to slow down)
- Off Camera Flash (this depends on the location and the time of day. But if you do, take spare batteries and a wireless trigger)
Do I Need Props?
An ornate photo frame can make for quirky shots as all the guests can have a play. The Bride and Groom may already have some cute props arranged so it’s best to check first.
Morning of the Wedding
Typically, but not exclusively, most wedding photographs begin with the Bridal party’s preparation. Expect to be graced by rooms strewn with clothes, champagne and makeup – therefore you’ll have to be clever to work in small spaces to make use of mirrors and Dutch tilts.
A make-up artist will be vying for your attention of the Bride during the preparations as they beautify the lady of the day. It’s a good opportunity to turn your attention to other party members like the Father of the Bride rehearsing his big speech or the Mother of the Bride wiping away her tears of happiness.
These candid moments add to the story of the wedding.
Wedding dresses are their own fashion, no two are the same and reminding the blushing Bride of her fabulous outfit through your photographs will never be forgotten.
Sssh! Don’t Tell the Bride – Dial back your exposure compensation function to stop a white dress being too white and losing all that fine silk and lace detail.
As she’s whisked away into the fancy wedding car grab those poignant shots of the Bride leaving her family home to start a new chapter in her life.
Knowing that you’re not Superman and you can’t be in two places at once, don’t put pressure on yourself to photograph the Groom’s preparations as well, unless they are only a few doors away. If we can speak from experience, the Groom’s preparations take a lot less time, so your opportunities may be fleeting. You’ll know where to divide your time if you speak to the couple in advance.
Here Comes the Bride
Check beforehand with the ceremony officials that you are allowed to use a flash at this point as a lot of venues can be dark and dimly lit. You may have to compete with the flashes of excited guests, so you’ll have to be fast.
There’s no harm in shooting in burst mode to capture the famous entrance.
Ceremonies, depending upon the religion of the happy couple may last between 15-30 minutes. It’s a quick event in the scheme of the whole day, so move around, trying not to distract anyone and take your opportunities to capture the presentation of the wedding rings, the crying parents, the fidgety flower girls and the sleepy uncles!
That zoom lens will help you capture all the truths of the day which the Bride and Groom will not otherwise see.
Get back down to the bottom of the aisle when their first kiss is in the bag and be ready for the walk out.
These shots will be perfect in black and white if you decide to edit your images afterwards, the emotion of the wedding is ideally translated through simpler tones such as black and white, whereas colour adds the energy and a more general description of the location.
Tips & Tricks for Posing Newlyweds
There’s no harm in having your mood board and inspiring shots printed out in your back pocket to reference, and it helps the couple understand how you want to pose them.
They’ll still be quite giggly and intimate so make use of those natural reactions and ask them to gaze into each other’s eyes lovingly – it shouldn’t be too hard to do!
Remember to talk to your clients, keep it light-hearted and fun, encourage the Groom to shower his new wife in kisses, suggest a cheeky grab of her bottom (make sure you capture her reaction!) or even sweep her off her feet in graceful gesture, all of these little tips will keep the smiles flowing and the laughter natural.
Once you’ve got the majority of the shots in the bag and you’ve still got time then consider using any props you’ve brought to add a unique touch to your pictures. Smoke bombs and fairy lights are cute little additions – don’t forget to rope in an extra pair of hands if you need help.
Traditional Wedding Photography Tips
Again, use your list to make sure no-one is left out. Now as odd as this may sound, this part requires 10% photographic skill and 90% crowd control skills
You may be dealing with 5-10+ people in every following shot so you need to make sure your voice is heard clearly (without being rude) to get everyone in position.
Typically, the Bride and Groom always take center stage and the rest of the group filters in either side.
Try placing the Groom’s family to the right and the Bride’s to the left, and place the important people close to the middle. Don’t have a random work colleague stood next to the Bride while her Father is stuck on the end (unless that’s what the couple have requested – ouch!
Grade the assembled line by height to make a clear composition or couple everyone up, Bride & Groom, Father & Mother of the Bride, Father & Mother of the Groom, Best Man and Bridesmaid etc.,
A good wedding photography tip would be to keep your lens on a wide perspective to fit everyone in, shoot at eye level or slightly elevated. If you have to position people into rows you may need a little step or raised platform nearby.
Make sure you speak loud and clear.
Modern Wedding Photography Tips
Modern wedding photography expresses more drama, emotion and flair than a traditional picture. Be prepared to embrace the use of more props and more creative wedding photography techniques. Sparklers are a great way of igniting your wedding shots to look enchanting.
Slow down your shutter speed to about 5 seconds and as you start the exposure get sparkling assistants to draw letters to spell out ‘LOVE’ or draw a big heart around the group. This may take a few attempts to get right though.
Get down low and make them look dramatic and powerful like a group of Superhero Groomsmen. Even ask them to put on their best poses with folded arms and puffed out chests. Try moving in really close and get everyone to huddle around the camera like they’re talking a selfie but with a quality finish.
Feel free to cut out the faces altogether and look for funky perspectives like multi coloured socks, champagne, colorful shoes or coordinated bow ties. These are the quirks designed by the Bride and Groom, so it makes the photographs even more personal to their wedding day.
Push the boundaries as far as everyone is comfortable with, listen to their suggestions but don’t be afraid to say no, or change it slightly to make it a more photographable moment.
Tips For Photographing The Wedding Breakfast
Photographically speaking, hungry people eating food isn’t normally flattering or attractive to capture so it’s a great time for you to take a break from the festivities.
But, before the room fills with guests it’s a superb opportunity to photograph the wedding breakfast room in its pristine nature.
Wide shots and high angles will help demonstrate the size of the venue.
Don’t forget about the close detail shots of items like;
- Seating arrangements
- Table decorations
- Seat covers
- Floral arrangements
- Wedding Cake
At the end of the day, a cake is a cake, it will only look as good as its creator can make it, so don’t stress over its look.
Just try out a few different camera angles (without touching it). Overhead shots are unusual as well as using a flash with a small aperture to make the background black, which emphasizes the cakes’ colors and fine detail.
Wedding Speech Photography Tips
Cutting the Wedding Cake
The Bride and Groom will always be looking out for their photographer during these moments, but anyone can be easily distracted by Aunt Sally screaming ‘Look over here!’ (other screaming Aunties names are available).
Tips For Photographing The First Dance
A Master of Ceremonies may announce this moment to everyone to give you forewarning to take up the best spot and you’ll need to prepare your flash for this moment as the room lights dim and the vivid disco lights take over.
If those distracting disco lights are still lighting up the dancefloor then make a feature of them by selecting a slow shutter speed. Once your flash has fired, then drag the camera around to make crazy light trails wrapping the newlyweds in a blaze of color! Or, you can even zoom out whilst the shutter is open to create a very abstract zoom burst.
Wedding Reception Tips
As the dancefloor gets busier it’s going to be harder to pick out your intended subjects but look closely for the first dance of the Bride and her Father. It’s a very personal moment so hang back and zoom in close to capture the loving embrace. The same goes for the Groom and his Mother.
If you can find a safe point of elevation, then raise yourself higher to get wider shots of the whole dance floor as the party is in full swing. You may not be able to see everyone’s faces clearly but it’s a great atmosphere shot to evoke memories.
Tips For Editing Your Wedding Photographs
Adobe Photoshop has long been the perceived standard of photo-editing. However, over the past few years, Adobe’s spin-off program, Lightroom, has become a favorite for editing amongst wedding photographers because it allows the ability to select individual shots and batch edit them in the same way which provides consistency in your work.
Now depending on your preferred style, editing wedding photographs is a very personal experience and will only be perfected with time. But there are a couple of tips that we can offer based on simple wedding photography mistakes a lot of beginners make when it comes to editing:
Don't Lose the Highlights
Don't Crush the Shadows
Don't Crop In Too Close
When To Use Black and White
Don't Over Sharpen
Be Selective in Your Editing
Don't Overlook The Silliness
Add a Watermark
Top 10 Wedding Photography Tips Summary
Now let’s try and boil down all that information into a summary of helpful weddding photography tips and hints to give you the best step forward:
- Visit the Bride and Groom before the wedding to find out what they want from their photographer. Make a list of important questions that you may want to ask them.
- Make a shot list of all the groupings you want to capture on the day. Keep it handy.
- Pack extra batteries and memory cards and keep them in a pocket for quick access.
- Research some different poses and compositions from wedding magazines and online to give you some inspiration.
- Pack lightly and don’t take equipment like extra lights if you are shooting outdoors during the height of summer.
- In small spaces look for quirky angles to make dramatic and interesting compositions. Dutch angles are quirky tilts that photographers use to remove distracting elements in an otherwise straight shot.
- Use burst mode in instances where you know you’ll only get one opportunity, like throwing the Bridal bouquet.
- Raise your ISO setting if you are shooting in dimly lit venues but try not to exceed 800 ISO.
- Edit only what you need – don’t spend time retouching all your photographs to then narrow them down to a handful of favorites. Pick your favorites first.
- Be loud and clear with your directions when shooting large groups of people. They’re there for the celebrations, so you need to work quickly and efficiently. If you speak with confidence, people will listen to you.
We hope you’ve gained lots of professional advice and tips about how to get started or improve your wedding photography. Becoming a wedding photographer is a really exciting prospect, it can open the door to a budding career who knows?!
Either way, it’s important to remember to enjoy the day. It’s not just the Bride and Groom who are celebrating their love, but if you capture those perfect shots, you’ll be head over heels with your photography.
The iPhotography Team
Learn photography the iPhotography™ way
There’s no right or wrong way to take a photograph. But, if you spend all your time obeying the ‘rules’ of photography, your work will simply look like everyone else’s.
A shot can be technically perfect but aesthetically boring! That’s why iPhotography Course not only teaches you all the standard technical expertise, settings, skills, and special effects with your camera – but we also show you how to use these skills to develop your own individual style as a photographer. By the end of iPhotography Course, you’ll see the world differently, and the world will recognize your shots as your shots.