As a pro photographer, knowing the ins and outs of how to shoot a wedding is crucial for capturing the best images possible. Here at ShootDotEdit, we know there are several options photographing a wedding. In addition to providing you with wedding photo editing services, we love to connect with other vendors and pros in the industry to gain valuable information on topics that are relevant to your photography business.
That’s why we reached out to our friends at The Lake House, Guest Cottages of the Berkshires, a venue who hosts weddings throughout the year and works hand-in-hand with photographers. Today, they will share their insights into how to shoot a wedding, including 18 of the best wedding photography tips for you to use. Read on to learn their tips on how to take great wedding photos your clients will love.
About The Lake House, Guest Cottages of the Berkshires
Situated at the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains, the Lake House is the brand new waterfront, boutique-style cottage resort. They are a weekend event venue designed to sleep up to 50 guests and up to 100 additional guests for the day of the event. In total, their property can accommodate 150 guests as an outdoor venue using their event tent and 60 guests for an entirely indoor event.
How to Shoot a Wedding
Wedding photography is an art, but that doesn’t mean you can’t practice and plan on your way to creative excellence. Whether you are an amateur shutterbug just beginning to hone your craft or an experienced photographer who is always striving to get better, these wedding photo tips may be just what you need to turn another day of “I dos” into a portfolio-worthy masterpiece.
1. Gather the Right Gear
If you are the kind of wedding photographer who loves new gadgets, you likely have a collection of specialty lenses and fancy accessories just waiting to be used at your next gig. Take a moment to remind yourself a perfect wedding shoot isn’t about packing all equipment but rather bringing the right equipment. Invest in a DSLR or mirrorless system that offers versatility in its wedding photography camera settings. At a bare minimum, you will want a camera with a fast shutter speed, superior focusing capabilities, and a high ISO sensitivity. Also bring a second camera, if possible, that you can use as a backup or dedicate to specific tasks such as wide-angle shots or close-ups pics.
Other accessories to add to your list include:
- Lens-cleaning kit
- Wireless transmitter (great for uploading pictures when you have downtime)
- Laptop for broadcasting images of guests in real time (or close to it)
2. Pack Extra Memory Cards
What is worse than missing the ultimate shot of the happy couple? Missing half the wedding because you maxed out your memory card and do not have any more room to store images. Memory cards are reusable, so they are easy on the budget and barely take up any space. So, there is no excuse to not tuck a few spares in your bag.
3. Make a Plan with the Couple
You are the expert in wedding photography, but delivering shots you think the clients should have and delivering the shots they are hoping for are not always the same thing. Client satisfaction and managing expectations go hand in hand. Long before the big day, schedule a sit-down and create a list with three sections:
- Would Be Nice
- Great If You Have Space/Time
By prioritizing the images you will be expected to capture and deliver, you are setting yourself up for success and ensuring everybody is on the same page.
Related: Are you using these 7 tips for shooting better ring shots your clients will love?
4. Scout the Location
It is not always possible to tour a venue beforehand, but if you have the time and access, scouting your location can give you a chance to memorize the layout, brainstorm angles, decide where to set up, and see how long it will take you to get from the parking lot to the ballroom or oceanfront ceremony site.
Another tip for preparing to shoot wedding photography is a pre-event tour. A pre-event tour may have another benefit, too. Make a point to say hello to venue management and establish a relationship and you may be lucky enough to score referrals later on.
Related: What else should you do to prepare for the wedding shoot to ensure it is a success?
5. Prepare, Check, and Double Check
Are the fresh batteries in your cameras and external flashes? Did you pack those extra memory cards you bought? Do you have your laptop, phone charge, and power cords, if necessary? Are your lenses clean and in working order?
Do you have the correct address for the venue? Are you sure about the day’s itinerary? Is there gas in your car? Do you know how long it will take you to get from your home or office to the event site?
Leave nothing to chance and never assume anything.
6. Eat Before the Shoot
It is kind of an inside joke among married folks that the bride and groom spend a ton of time and money creating a mouthwatering wedding meal and then they never get to eat any of it. That is often true, but do you know who eats less at a reception than the guests of honor? That’s right, the wedding photographer.
You don’t have time to sit, visit the buffet or even sneak off the bathroom, lest you miss an important moment and fail in your duties. So, eat a hearty meal before you start work and pack a few healthy snacks you can eat one-handed when hunger strikes.
7. Honor the Dress Code
Just because you are not in the wedding doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look like you are a part of it. As a photographer, part of your job is to blend in so you capture the experience rather than interrupt it. Ditch jeans and scruffy cargo pants in favor of simple, streamlined attire that looks professional and stays neutral. One hint: you can never go wrong with all black.
8. Consider a Different Point of View
The best wedding photographs are often the unexpected ones. Rather than taking all of your pictures in your normal, fully upright position, vary your altitude and try to see things from another angle.
Crouch down and point your lens up, stand on a chair or even a table (as long as you are not making a spectacle of yourself), point your camera through a bit of foliage or peek around a fluttering drapery to catch the emotional mother and father of the bride in a sweet embrace. Play with wide-angle and tight shots, too. You can always crop or discard the unimpressive wedding photos later.
9. Pay Attention to the Big 5
Most experienced wedding photographers agree there are 5 shots you should never, ever skip:
- The groom’s face when he first glimpses his soon-to-be spouse walking down the aisle
- The married couple’s first kiss
- The first dance
- The cutting of the cake
- The “exit” – the confetti toss, the run to the getaway car, a sprint through a saber arch, etc.
Of course, there are dozens if not hundreds of other pictures that are almost as iconic as those 5, but none that would be quite so glaring if omitted from the final album.
Related: Don’t miss these 24 detail shots to capture from every wedding you shoot!
10. Shoot the Small Stuff
Once you capture the “big 5” as described above, make an effort to capture those small moments and tiny details that make the event space, decorations, ceremony, and reception personal to the couple who hired you. Those tender hugs between the bride and her grandmother, the tear in a dad’s eye as he watches his son quiver with emotion, the niece or nephew who swipes a sneaky taste of the buttercream off the wedding cake, the DJ shooting flirty glances at the adorable maid of honor – these are the moments that guests will cherish for decades to come. And, you are likely the only one in a position to save them for posterity.
Set your watch, your smartphone, your camera, and your tablet to silent. You don’t want to hear your Lady Gaga ringtone go off in the middle of the vows and digital shutter sounds can be almost as distracting.
11. Move with the Ceremony
A great wedding photographer masters the art of being bold but also stays inconspicuous. You need to be confident enough to step forward and claim your shot. On the other hand, no one wants guests staring at you rather than the bride and groom. One way to camouflage your presence is to change positions when somebody else springs into action. When the choir finishes a song and the pastor steps up or the groom gets in position to stomp on a glass, use the movement as a cover for your own relocation plans.
Related: Are you capturing these 30 must-have images from the wedding ceremony?
12. Shoot in RAW
RAW is a file format similar to the more widely recognized JPEG or GIF, but with one major difference: while JPEGs can only hold 8 bits of data per pixel, RAW holds 12-14 bits. That might not seem like a huge difference, but those extra bits mean a lot to a photographer who is skilled at editing. The more photographic data you have to work with, the more you can manipulate an image, tweaking lighting, balancing exposure and restoring detail you once thought lost. In essence, RAW gives you a second chance to take the perfect picture, and that is priceless.
13. Be the Posture Police
One thing that can’t be fixed in post? Bad posture. Slumping brides and slouching grooms will ruin a shot every single time. Swap out the typical “stand up straight” with a suggestion your clients elongate their spine. It is a new way of thinking and it might encourage the right results.
Related: Don’t miss out on these 5 tricks to never miss a wedding shot during a time-crunch!
14. Practice Group Photography
Putting together a group shot takes patience, skill, and the ability to shout commands over a gaggle of extra-excited partiers. When the groom’s aunt refuses to stand next to ex-husband she recently divorced or the bride’s ornery cousin insists on pulling faces throughout the entire shoot, life will be easier for everyone if you know how to cope and subtly nudge people in the right direction.
Also important: Knowing how to arrange people in an aesthetically pleasing way. Leave the wedding party to organize themselves and you will have chaos. Go in with a plan and gently but firmly guide your subjects until they are where you need them to be.
15. Help Clients With Their Hands
Most people can smile in a photo without thinking twice, but widen the angle to include their whole body and suddenly they are floundering about looking for something to do with their hands. Make suggestions such as “lightly touch your veil” or “rest your hand on his lapel” and you won’t give them enough time to stiffen up.
16. Don’t Ignore “Oh No” Moments
No wedding shoot goes completely according to plan. It may be tempting to make like a professional and pretend you don’t see those awkward events. But, you are there to document the day, and that includes all things good and bad. Feel free to take a shot of the grump ring bearer hurling his pillow down the aisle or the sheepish groom hurrying into the church 20 minutes late. Even goofs that seem stressful at the time tend to be funny later on, and your clients may be thrilled that you saw fit to record those lesser moments. And if not, there is always the delete button.
17. Talk While You Work
Posing is not natural unless you are a professional model, and a majority of your clients won’t be hitting the catwalk after their honeymoon. Rather than quietly snapping away as the newlyweds stand rigid and silent, engage them in conversation. Ask them to tell you how they met, what their favorite part of the day has been so far, or what they will be doing on their honeymoon. Then, watch as the memories and excitement lights up their eyes and brings their face to life.
18. Share in the Joy
A grumpy wedding photographer is a real bummer. You are there to do your job, but you are also there to capture two people in love, surrounded by people celebrating that love. No matter what is going on in your life, leave the stress and distractions behind and embrace the occasion. Relax, smile, and remember, you have been entrusted with an incredibly important task. How special is that?
What did you think of the photography tips for how to shoot a wedding? How many are you currently using? Are there ones you want to incorporate into your next shoot? Let us know in the comments!
When you learn how to take great wedding photos for your clients, they will have memories documented for years to come. Discover additional must-have shots to capture when you download our free photography playbook for the wedding day! Click the banner below to download our 127 Essential Wedding Images You Must Capture Guide and master every wedding shoot.