Over the past decade I have photographed weddings for lots of great couples, and while everyones big day will be slightly different, the planning and sequence of events is usually very similar. If you're new to wedding photography or you're considering becoming a wedding photographer, I've put together a free guide to wedding photography based on my own experience to help get you started and hopefully help everything run smoothly for you, especially if you're working alone as I usually do. Obviously you can't control things like the weather but if you're well prepared you'll be able to adapt to anything you need to deal with on the day and get the best possible photos for your clients.
It's a good idea to include some of the information about your packages on your website but don't write to much about them as most people will just want to see the key details and then contact you for more information. After an initial enquiry you can send them some more details or talk to them directly. This is a good opportunity to gauge the sort of thing they are looking for and make sure you're all on the same page.
If they're happy with everything and you want to go ahead with the booking this is when you want to send them over a wedding contract which will outline in more detail what they can expect from your service. You can find plenty of examples online althought I would recommend using a solicitor to create one for you. You should also send your invoice for the deposit as well and once you've received the deposit and signed wedding contract you can confirm the booking.
It's not always possible but I would recommend a pre-wedding meeting with the couple, preferably at the wedding venue if it's one you haven't worked at before, so you can get to know them a bit more and look round the venue to plan out your shots for the day. The venue will normally have certain area's they use for the group shots and other key shots so it's worth talking to them to find out the best places to use because some may not be publicly accessible when you're looking round.
Vicars and Registrars
While most officiants will be accomdating to photographers it does vary hugely with what you can and can't photograph in the ceremony depending on who is running it. I always recommend that couples check with the Vicar or Registrar well in advance because at one wedding the Vicar wouldn't even let me and the videographer inside the church! While that was an extreme case, often there will be some restrictions on what you can do, whether that is not using a flash or having to stand at the back of the church and only take shots at key points like the exchange of the rings and the first kiss. It's just something to bare in mind.
The Getting Ready Shots
If you've been booked for the full day, this will usually involve some pre-wedding photos of the bridal party getting ready and perhaps the groomsmen as well depending on logistics and if you're working on your own or with another photographer. If it's a same sex wedding your time might be split more evenly between the couple depending what they want but generally in my experience you will usually spend more time with the bridal party if you're working on your own. I always make sure I arrive in good time because you don't want to start your day stressed, especially if you have big wedding to photograph and you're going to be there for the next twelve hours.
When you arrive the bridal party will probably be getting ready with hair and makeup so this is great time to get some more relaxed shots of them all and you can also take the opportunity to photograph things like the flowers, wedding dress, shoes and anything else that you think needs to be included or would make a nice background image for one of the album pages later. You might have to search around for the best place to photograph the dress and shoes as with everyone getting ready there isn't always a lot of space to work with.
*Caution | When you're taking the getting ready photos there will probably be a lot of hairspray been used so just be mindful of your lens and if you need to change lenses go into another room so you don't risk getting hairspray all over your sensor.
If everyone is getting ready at the same venue you can also pop over to photograph the Groom and groomsmen getting ready, this is usually a good opportunity to get shots of the buttonhole flowers and the groomsmen trying to put them on. You can also usually find the best man and get some artistic shots of the wedding rings before heading back to the bridal party.
Some brides may want photos of the dress been done up, or shots of the bridal paty seeing them in the dress for the first time, or they might just want some photos when they're ready to head to the ceremony. You can check with them ahead of time so you know what they would like on the day.
You will usually be at ceremony before the bridal party unless they want you to stick with them throughout. I would usually try and arrive at least 30/45mins before the ceremony to photograph guests arriving, get some shots of the Groom and Best Man waiting and double check with the Vicar or Registrar about what I can or can't do. Once I'd covered that I will head outside to wait for the bridal party to arrive. There will normally be an opportunity to take a few shots of the bridal party as they walk to the ceremony or just before they go inside. You can then head inside to get positioned to capture shots as they enter the ceremony.
The ceremony itself can vary in length from 15-30mins at small weddings and registry offices up to 60-90mins if it's a big formal church wedding with lots of hymns and readings. I always try not to be too distracting with the shutter going off constantly especially when the couple are trying to concentrate on saying vows, so I normally try and time the shots just as they finish speaking as this is usually when they laugh or smile at each other as well. Depending on the type of ceremony there will be key points to photograph such as the Bride been given away, the vows, the exchange of rings, the kiss (although not all ceremonies do that now) and the signing of the register, which again can vary depending on the ceremony. As you can't photograph the legal document there will usually be some sort of mock register set up so you can get a few shots of the couple pretending to sign it and a few shots of them with their witnesses.
Formal Group Shots
After the ceremony you will likely spend a bit of time on things like the confetti throwing shots and taking some more candid shots of people congratulating the couple. I usually plan to do the group shots as soon as possible after the ceremony, preferably at the ceremony location, although that isn't always possible and you might need to do them at the reception venue if it's not all in one location. Ultimately the sooner you get the group shots done, the easier it will be. Once people start wondering off to get drinks or drop off things in their rooms it can be hard work to get everyone back quickly when you need them.
To make it as straight forward as possible, I always try to follow a simple plan, photographing the large group shot of everyone first and then working through the smaller family and bridal party groups. This way it allows most of the guests to head off and get a drink after the main group shots and you're not left trying to track people down while you're trying to arrange photos. Inlisting the help of the best man or someone else in the bridal party who knows who everyone is also helps to get things arranged much quicker.
I've found the best way to make sure you get all the formal group shots is to send my clients a standard group photo list that I created and then they can look through it and remove any that aren't required and add any others they would like. This way I have a list to work from on the day to ensure I capture as many of the shots they want as possible.
Once all the formal group shots are done there is normally some time to do the wedding portraits of the couple before everyone sits down to the meal. How much time you have will depend on the venue timings and the size of the wedding. If you have planned shots with the couple at various locations around the venue, I recommend getting as many as you can before the meal, because while you might be able to get a few more later in the day if you need to, it's also possible the couple may not feel like posing for more photos as the day goes on.
Most venues will have multiple indoor and outdoor locations to take some of photos of the couple together and individually. Picturesque gardens, elegant bridal suites and large staircases all make for great wedding portraits but you may need some additional lighting in some cases. Sunsets also make some great wedding portraits but you might just have to keep an eye on the weather and go get the couple for a few shots if it looks like it's going to be a good one.
You will probably be there for the cake cutting in the evening, but if you're not photgraphing the full day, you can set up for a mock cake cutting shot and just get the couple to pose as if they're about to cut the cake. That way they get the photos and then they can do the actual cake cutting later in the evening.
The length of wedding speeches can vary a lot but usually they are no longer than about 30mins in total as everyone will be ready to eat by this point. These usually take place before the meal but sometimes after. To photograph the speeches I usually use a telephoto lens like the Nikon 70-200mm. This way I can move around the outside of the room without getting in the way and still get some good close up of the couple and families reacting to the speeches.
Editing The Photos
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