Wedding Photography Tips

wedding photography tips by Shotkit
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These wedding photography tips are the culmination of my experience as a wedding photographer, shooting weddings all over the world.

Over the years, I’ve taken courses and attended workshops, picking up tons of helpful advice from some of the best wedding photographers in the world.

I’m not saying I know it all – far from it! Photography of any genre is a constant learning process – as such, I intend to add to this guide regularly, whenever I come across new tips that I think may help you.

Whether you’re a newcomer to wedding photography or a seasoned pro, I’m confident that you’ll learn something here or be able to contribute your advice.

If you have any great tips for shooting weddings, be sure to leave a comment at the end – let’s all help each other, and grow together.

All images in this guide were taken by me – I welcome your constructive criticism :-)

Wedding Photography Tips in 2019

bridesmaids in car

I’ve tried to organise these tips in a logical order, as you’d expect to use them during the time line of an actual day. Click a title below to skip ahead to the relevant section:

I’ve included a few tips for ‘before the wedding’, but there’s SO much more to be said here. I also plan to add in some more tips on editing your photos.

So without further ado, let’s get stuck in!

1. Before the Wedding

  • Be mindful of what you show on your website
crop

What?! The bride asked for a shoe shot!

Don’t show anything on your website that you have no interest in shooting. If every blog post shows a picture of shoes/rings/dresses, every bride who sees it and hires you will expect these photos too.

Or, you’ll attract the type of bride who values these kind of photos (not that there’s anything wrong with this, of course!)

Similarly, consider the fact that the weddings you show on your website will determine the clients who eventually hire you. Want to shoot more ballroom weddings? Show them. Want to shoot more marriages on farms? Show them.

If you do this consistently, you’ll see you can influence the type of weddings you book.

  • SEO before Social Media

This is a bit of a broad topic to broach in a few lines, but suffice to say, the majority of your time when setting up and running a photography website should be spent on SEO… not social media.

While sharing your work on social media can definitely help for some exposure in the short term, you’ll find it’s an uphill battle – you’ll quickly feel like the hamster on a wheel, continuously trying to produce new content to share… then have it evaporate into thin air moments after!

Social media is like a never-ending dash, whereas SEO is like a slow-paced marathon…

Spending time getting your SEO right from the start, then working on it bit by bit throughout the year will yield far bigger dividends, and compound in effectiveness over time.

I share all my best ‘on-page’ SEO tips here and, some more advanced ‘off-page’ strategies here.

  • Create a solid questionnaire

Your client questionnaire is a powerful tool – with it, you not only get a ton of useful information about your clients and their wedding day needs, but also it’s a great opportunity to start priming your clients on how you plan to cover their big day.

Check out this free wedding photography questionnaire template for examples of what you should be asking to get the most out of your time.

  • Learn names before faces

In the questionnaire I ask for the names of the bridal party, mums and dads, and anyone else important.

I’m not great at remembering names, but I believe it’s important in our role as photographer, so I make an effort to try and memorise them, or at least familiarise myself with them before the wedding (usually right before I enter the room).

If you’re already familiar with the names, when you actually meet each person, you’ll find it much easier to cement the name to the face – one tip is to say their name both when you shake their hand, and then once again in the next 10 seconds (thanks Trevor Dayley).

As well as being useful to direct people when shooting the family formals, being able to use a VIP’s name will get you remembered. “ A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language” – Dale Carnegie.

  • Consider all backups
wedding gear

My three lenses include two 35mms – the f/1.4 is the workhorse and the f/2.8 is the backup.

Wedding photographers need backups of their gear – you should already know this. Second-cameras, flashes, memory cards – this is all standard in the industry.

What isn’t so standard, however, is carrying a backup lens of your preferred focal length.

For example, if you shoot a 35mm and an 85mm prime lens combo, or even a 24-70mm and 70-200mm zoom combo, can you really shoot an entire wedding at a 70mm+ focal length if your other lens dies? I think not…

If you can’t afford another version of your main lens, I recommend that every wedding photographer have a nifty-fifty as a backup stashed in their camera bag.

Every brand has a cheap, sharp 50mm f/1.8 or something equivalent, so be sure to cover your ass!

  • Keep it simple, stupid

The best piece of advice I can give to a beginner wedding photographer is to keep your gear selection to a bare minimum.

Yes, have backups of everything stashed nearby, but keep what you’re using to one lens and one camera wherever possible.

Personally I like to further reduce complications by using prime lenses, but I appreciate the advantages of zoom lenses too.

Free your mind up to concentrate on your client interactions, the composition, the light, the moment – anything but your gear.

In general, the less complex your wedding photography gear, the easier you’ll find adapting to the other stresses of the day.

  • Be mindful of the hours you offer
bridesmaids jump in pool

Destination weddings are the only time I shoot unlimited hours… because of this!

This will be heavily dependent on your situation, and I encourage you to experiment, but I’ve had most success with limiting my hours of coverage.

Offering ‘all day’ is fine, but be prepared for brides to invite you to start hours before you have anything meaningful to photograph… and sticking around to the final minute, just because.

Brides don’t need 100 photos of them having makeup applied. At the other end of the day, the dance-floor is at its peak in the first 20 minutes – get photos of everyone going crazy, then pack up before it gets too messy!

Telling the whole story of their day is important, but you can do this without being there for every single minute!

  • Get a CRM before you get too busy

If you’re decent with the camera and you’re marketing yourself properly, (check More Brides for the methods that have brought me most success), the first few weddings you shoot should lead to a rapidly accumulating snowball of wedding inquiries.

The first wedding I shot was published by a handful of popular wedding blogs, which led to my next few weddings being booked. However, I made the mistake of trying to use a clunky Excel sheet to manage my bookings…

No matter how few weddings you currently have booked, I recommend you invest in a Client Relationship Management software… before things get busy.

You can use the calm before the storm to find the right CMS (I recommend Studio Ninja), then take the time to set it up ready for the deluge of new clients coming your way ;-)

2. Bride’s Preparations

  • Ask what’s important

This is following on from my tip about not showing rings on your site if you don’t intend to shoot them.

I always ask my bride during her prep about any details she wants me to shoot.

Perhaps her mother has just given her a new set of ear rings, or perhaps her maid of honour has gifted her a new necklace…

If the bride doesn’t mention her shoes, perfume, or whatever else you think all brides want photos of, you don’t need to shoot them – instead you’ll be free to shoot much more important things that are going on in the room.

What if they do want a shot of the ring? The next tips will help…

  • Use light and shadows for details

No matter how ugly the hotel room, there’s always a way to get an interesting details shot – just look for harsh light, and with it, harsh shadow.

Then align the details in the light, stop down your exposure (underexpose so the shadows turn black), and get creative with the composition. Instant ‘frame’!

  • Two details at once
photograph-ring-bride

Point the ring toward the light-source to help highlight the diamond.

Another fail-safe option for shooting the ring is to place it inside the bouquet, resting it on the centre of a flower, for example.

This shot is pretty much guaranteed to be used in an album, and covers two details at once.

Another option is to lay the wedding dress down, and place the details on it for a shot that kills two birds.

  • Get close… then get closer still
get close

With a 35mm, I was practically touching the bride’s father in this shot!

The bride’s prep is a great time to experiment with getting up close and personal.

It allows you a chance to build your confidence nice and early with the people you’ve only just met, and it allows your bride & co the chance to get used to your proximity.

Saying that you’re actually shooting ‘past’ the subject when you’re really close, can sometimes help them understand why you’re all up in their grill!

If you don’t already know, getting close means using a wide lens – I find 35mm to be perfect, without distorting the scene.

You need to make the viewer feel that they’re a part of the photo.

  • Now’s the time to experiment

During bride/groom prep, you’ll usually have much more time to experiment with your shooting, and subjects will often be static.

Experiment with some off camera flash, some obscure camera angles, some double exposures – anything you might not have time to use later in the day.

Obviously you should have practiced these techniques before the wedding, but it’s fun to have a play around with something new in a ‘real situation’, safe in the knowledge that it’s a safe portion of the day to do so.

  • Direct a dress first-look
brides father sees bride in dress

One time to take control is for the reveal of the bride in her dress.

There are certain parts of the wedding day that I believe we as photographers should take control of, and this is one of them.

Brides often don’t realise how emotional mums and dads become when they see their daughter in the dress for the first time. Preparing the scene for a ‘dress first-look’ is simple and effective, and the photos are usually treasured by the clients.

I always ask brides if their parents have seen them in the dress before – usually the response is no, so I’ll instruct mums and dads to wait with me outside the room while the bride slips the dress on.

When the bride is ready, I go in first, compose the shot, then call mum and dad in.

  • No fancy coat hanger? Use a bridesmaid!

If your bride wants a photo of the dress before they put it on and you can’t find anywhere nice to hang it, just ask a bridesmaid to hold it up – get them to stand on a chair if necessary.

Including the bridesmaid or the mother in the shot gives context, or crop the photo so it’s just their arm for a bit of quirkiness.

  • Use mirrors to tell both sides of the story
capturing the first look bridal photo

Sometimes you just get lucky with the position of both subjects.

Hotel rooms, no matter how ugly they are, always have a big mirror somewhere on the wall. You can often use the mirror to show both the bride in her dress and her parent’s reaction.

Sometimes it’ll happen by chance (such as in the photo above), whereas other times, you can instruct the parent to wait in the right spot to capture their reflection.

Using mirrors and reflections in photos isn’t anything new, but they’re perfect for trying to tell two stories in one frame, and during the slow pace of bridal prep, it’s a great opportunity to practice the technique.

  • Make connections using hands
bridesmaids hands

I could have improved on this shot by asking the bridesmaids to extend their fingers.

Posing a group of girls isn’t an easy task, but one thing that can elevate a mediocre bridesmaid shot, is to ensure everyone is connected in some way, using their hands as the ‘links’.

Unless the girls are super touchy-feely, it’s unlikely that they’ll naturally touch each others’ shoulders, hips, or even hands. This is where your direction comes in!

Be ready with your camera, because as soon as you start directing one girl to place their hand on the next, you’re guaranteed laughter, and some lovely natural photos, regardless of whether you got the hand-connecting thing right!

  • Bride & mum
bride and mum

Get females as close as possible – usually when they’re closer than normal, you’ll get some laughter too.

You’ll be taking photos of the bride with her mum later on, but it’s always nice to get a shot of these two together sometime during the bridal prep, since the nervous energy is more palpable, and comes across beautifully in a photo.

For bonus points, you can ‘slim’ the bride’s mum by partially hiding her body behind the bride – see above photo, although it obviously wasn’t necessary here. Thanks to Bambi Cantrell for this tip.

  • Shoot the ‘side photo’

This is something I always need to remind myself to do, but am always thankful when I see the final image.

It’s as simple as asking your bride to face the direction of the window light, then to take a few steps back, and shoot her from the side (i.e. her ‘profile’).

Something about a bride’s side profile looking out of the frame is mysterious, romantic and alluring.

By facing her towards some soft window light is also flattering, and if you can underexpose sufficiently (or use a gradient in post), you can create some lovely shadows to hire the rest of the room.

  • Always shoot females downwards
GoldHatPhotography Portfolio

Window-lit bride portrait | Nikon 750 + Nikon 35mm f/1.4 | 1/2500 f/1.4 ISO200

When photographing the bride head on, always have your camera above her eye level.

Being tall, I’m pretty much always above the eye level of my brides, so I don’t need to think about this! However, with shorter grooms, I need to do the opposite, and crouch down so my lens is slightly below their eye level.

If you get it right, it won’t be obvious for the viewer that you’re in fact shooting downwards, but the bride’s features will be shown in a more flattering way.

Combine with a shallow depth of field, and nothing wider than a 35mm, unless you’re stepping back a bit.

  • Be aware of basic posing mistakes

It’s good to have a basic understanding of what looks unflattering when it comes to photographing females, so you can guide your brides away from the way that most women naturally stand or sit.

If it bends, bend it. Soften fingers. Shift weight to back leg. Push hip away from camera. Crop above the elbow if cropping, or show the whole arm. Sit on the front edge of a chair, etc etc. You need to train your eye to notice the ‘mistakes’, so you can avoid them next time.

This book is the best I’ve found on the topic of posing – I highly recommend it. Posing females well is definitely a work in progress for me.

  • Don’t forget dad
bride-father

Nikon D750 + Nikon 35mm f/1.4 | 1/600 f/2.5 ISO 100

It’s common for the bride’s father to be hanging around with very little to do during the bride’s preparations.

I recommend you take the opportunity to snap a ‘cool dad’ photo, just as you would do for the groom.

Just find some window light, and get him to look towards it (out of the frame) for some intrigue.

Expose for the highlights, and let the shadows create the mood of the shot. Editing should be minimal due to the naturally increased contrast of the shot.

  • Don’t forget the kids
child seeing bride

Match your eye level with the child’s eye-level.

Since having kids of my own, I’ve realised just how important it is to capture their every moment with a photo.

If your bride has her son or daughter at the prep, make sure you take lots of photos of them, but also remember to take things from their point of view.

Imagine the child looking at their mum’s wedding album in years to come – try and bring them back to that day with your photos, by capturing moments through their perspective.

3. Groom’s Preparations

  • Sidelight for males works well

Men look great when lit from the side, even if the light is harsh. An easy way to accomplish this is to find a window with light streaming through it, then expose for the highlights.

When I’ve found an interesting composition with my camera settings dialed in, I’ll get the groom in place, and either get them to look out the window, or if the sun is too harsh, fiddle with their pocket square, watch, or whatever else that feels natural to them.

  • Try the Gangta-Groomsmen* shot
shotkit gangsta-groomsmen

Nikon D750 + Sigma 24mm f/1.4 | 1/500 f/9 ISO100

Similar to the tip above, I’ll take the groomsmen into the harsh morning light and position them all so that the sun is hitting part of their face.

Then it’s just a case of underexposing so the highlights are preserved and the shadows are black, and instructing the groomsmen to pretend they’re bouncers on a nightclub door!

This is also a handy way to disguise whatever ugly background they’re standing near, since everything without the sun hitting it falls into complete darkness.

During a seminar I attended somewhere, I realised Lauren Belknapp was doing something similar long before me.. and her version was far cooler than my own!

*I need to trademark this name!!

  • Get the groom used to your proximity

This applies to the bride as well, but if you’re an up-close-and-personal photographer with your 35mm or 24mm lens, it’s good to get the client used to your proximity nice and early.

Since grooms won’t be sitting still having make up applied, it can feel awkward for you when you try to get really close to him for the shot.

Just like you did with the bride, you can explain that “often I won’t even be photographing you, but rather, I’ll be shooting the person in the background.”

When the groom is used to you being close, the rest of the day will pass much more comfortably for both you and him, and you’ll be able to get those candid, real moments you’re aiming for.

  • Nothing’s off limits!
naked-groomsman

I apologise if you are this groomsman. On the plus side, you’re now famous!

As a guy, I’m always walking on eggshells around bridesmaids getting ready – the first sign of some bare skin and I’m shuffling backwards out the door mumbling “sorry…sorry” with my eyes averted!

With the guys, however, pretty much anything goes! Even if I’ve just met them.

Let’s face it – it’s pretty hard to offend a guy, so see how far you can stretch the boundaries to get something that really tells the story of what groomsmen get up to when no one’s looking!

4. Ceremony

  • Create some tension with the first look
first-look-bride-groom

You don’t always need to see a face to appreciate the tension in the moment…

I don’t tend to do many bride/groom first-looks – probably since I don’t show them on my site – but, when I do shoot one, I aim to have one photo show the tension or anticipation as much as possible.

The simple way is to stand facing the groom, shooting over his shoulder with a small aperture so you get both his anticipation face and the bride’s excitement face in one frame.

Remember to turn your camera to silent shutter if you’re shooting mirrorless, so as not to spoil the surprise!

  • Arrive early for the groom
grandma hugs groom

Gotta love a fashionable grandma!

I always try and get to the ceremony venue around the time when the groom arrives – this is usually a good 30mins or so before the bride arrives, but it’s also when the main guests start arriving too.

In doing this, not only can I get some more shots of the groomsmen pre-ceremony, but it also means I’m there to capture the groom interacting with guests and close family – many of whom he won’t have seen for a long time.

This is always a great opportunity to capture some priceless ‘reunion’ moments.

  • Ask the groom to point out the VIPs

When the groom is hanging around waiting, it’s a good time to ask him to point out any VIP guests that aren’t sitting in the front row.

You’ll already know that the front row is reserved for parents and family, but where are the other important guests located?

Get the groom to point them out so you’ll know who to concentrate on in the sea of other faces.

  • Ask for forgiveness, not permission

I imagine this wedding photography tip ruffling some feathers, but hear me out here…

I’m all for remaining humble and respectful, especially during a church wedding ceremony service, but I also believe that your number one priority is to get the shot.

For my first few weddings, I always approached the priest before the ceremony, introduced myself, and politely asked what he preferred that I didn’t do.

On one occasion, I remember the priest telling me I wasn’t allowed within 10 metres of the bride, groom, or any of the family members – thank the lord for my long lenses that day, but I learned to never ask that question again!!

No doubt some priests have had to deal with d*ckhead wedding photographers in the past who took things a bit too far, and rightfully, want to make sure that doesn’t happen again – hence their absurd requests.

However, I find it’s much more efficient now to leave any permission-seeking politeness out completely, and just shoot the photos I think the client needs to see.

When it’s a non-church wedding, I obviously still introduce myself to the celebrant, but I never ask what I can’t do, for fear of shooting myself in the foot.

  • Get in the aisle, then GTFO!
aisle shot

Be mindful of whose view you’re blocking, but make sure you still get the shot.

While every other iPhone warrior is shooting from the sidelines, be sure you get the best shot of the bride walking down the aisle by planting yourself slap-bang in the middle of it… then get the hell out of the way so you’re not blocking the groom’s view!

I feel like I’m strafing in a video game when taking the aisle shot – bang, bang, bang… and I’m outta there!

  • Focus on the groom for the aisle shot
groom sees bride first time

Shoot from the perspective of the bride for added story-telling points!

Before the bride walks down the aisle, position yourself somewhere that you can see the bride, then be able to turn quickly to see the groom’s reaction.

This is much easier if you shoot with two camera bodies, with one long lens handling the bride coming from a distance, and the other wider lens up close to the groom, for maximum-emotion-capture!

I remember Jeff Newsom wowing (confusing!) his workshop attendees when he said he handled this part of the day by shooting with two cameras at the same time, one in each hand…!

If you shoot with a single mirrorless camera like I do, set a custom button to switch from full frame to APS-C mode for an ‘instant-zoom’, without needing to switch lenses.

  • Father’s fond farewell
bride with father

Zoom in to see the well-timed tear-drop at this farmhouse wedding I shot in Montreal.

Get yourself in a good spot ready to capture the father giving away his daughter, which is pretty much guaranteed to be a tear jerker.

Shot right from behind usually means you’re able to capture either the bride or the father’s face – keep your fingers crossed it’s the brides… or in the case above which was at a French (Canadian) wedding, I got lucky with the old kiss-on-both-cheeks!

  • Get ready for the ‘first touch’
first touch

So cute! Capturing these moments make shooting weddings so rewarding for me.

When the bride and groom touch for the first time (not sure what this is called?!), you’re guaranteed a cute photo.

If you’ve just followed the bride down the aisle to capture the father of the bride giving her away (see previous tip), you’re usually in a great position to capture this too… as long as dad gets out the way quickly enough!

  • Go OTS during the ceremony

An ‘over the shoulder’ shot is standard in movie story-telling – I like to incorporate it a lot when photographing weddings.

If you shoot alone like I do, this will mean walking from one side of the ceremony to the other, to shoot over the bride’s shoulder at the groom/grooms men/bride’s family, then doing the same on the groom’s side.

Including a shoulder and part of a face as a blurred foreground element with the main focus on the other party is a great way to make the viewer feel as if they were there… which leads me on to the next tip.

  • Choose a lens to make the viewer feel like they are there
get-close-35mm

35mm is the perfect lens to make the viewer feel involved. Use 24mm if you’ve got BIG balls.

I don’t care what lens you use to shoot a wedding – do whatever does the job. However, I do recommend you have at least one lens that allows you to get close… so close, that the viewer feels like they’re at the wedding.

For me, this means a 35mm. I find any wider than this is too intrusive (i.e. you need to be practically on top of someone to achieve the closest minimal focusing distance).

Compare an image shot up close with a 35mm with one shot from way back with a 105mm, and you’ll sense the detachment that comes with a longer lens.

Imagine the children of the bride and groom looking at the wedding album in years. Make them feel like they were there.

  • Concentrate on the family
crying dad

Crying dads are the best for photos!

There’ll be a time during the ceremony where not a lot is actually happening for you to shoot. Perhaps the celebrant is rabbiting away, or perhaps the vows are taking place…

After I’ve got the essential shots, I like to get on the other side of the bride and groom with a longer lens, and concentrate on shooting the family members and VIPs. If I can use the B & G as an out-of-focus foreground element, even better.

If you get an emotional mum or dad, these photos are usually gold. They’re also the pictures that only you will have taken, and also the ones that the bride and groom will treasure the most… particularly since they won’t have seen these moments for themselves.

  • Get behind for the first kiss
behind arbour

I was straddling a fountain to get this angle – can’t imagine how the guests’ photos would’ve looked!

This works particularly well if you’re fighting for a place in the middle of the aisle to shoot the ‘first kiss’ – I like to stand behind the couple (on the other side to the guests), to capture both the newly weds kissing and the guest’s reactions.

Remember to stop down to an aperture that balances the focus on the foreground subjects (the B & G), but also shows the guests’ reactions in the background, albeit at a slightly softer focus.

This photo pretty much guarantees you’ll be the only one with this angle, and your clients will love you for it. Take that, Uncle Bob!

  • Top down for the certificate
marriage registry

This tells the story far better than the cheesy ‘posed certificate’ shot.

I always cringe when the celebrant suggests that the bride and groom hold up their marriage certificate for a photo… I’m pretty sure that my clients will never want to show this photo to anyone!

The way I like to shoot the signing of the marriage registry is from the top down, by quickly flipping my camera’s LCD to 90 degrees and shooting over the top of where they’re signing.

Usually you have ample time to capture it when it’s actually happening, in proper PJ-style.

However, if you mis-time things, simply placing their hands back on the registry for another photo works well – they don’t have to be doing a ‘fake sign’ for the story to be told well.

  • Watch behind the signing

After the bride and groom have signed the marriage certificate, keep your eye glued to your camera’s viewfinder – as soon as they move away from the signing table to be replaced by the witnesses, you’re guaranteed a completely natural kiss shot, or at least some form of affection.

Aside from the signing, having your eye glued to the viewfinder is good practice to capture more in-between moments.

With experience, you’ll understand that it’s usually these types of photo which are often the most treasured by your clients.

  • Stop down for the recessional

The recessional is when the wedding party exits the ceremony space, or in this case, when the newly weds walk the opposite way down the aisle.

After the clients have signed their documents, I always remind them to walk a bit slower than normal for the recessional… but inevitably, they forget!

Regardless, it’s good practice to set your aperture much higher than you’re probably accustomed – something like f/5.6 if light allows, and choose something no longer than a 35mm lens.

Shooting at a larger aperture will mean you’ll not only have more chance of capturing the newly-weds’ faces in focus, but you’ll also get guests’ reactions, confetti, bubbles, or whatever other craziness is ensuing in focus in the photo too.

Don’t get me wrong – I love shooting wide open as much as the next guy, but this is one time I think we should all be in full on story-telling mode :-)

  • Missed the kiss? Do it again!

I’d like to preface this tip by saying I’ve only ever needed to do it once before, but I still think it’s valid advice…

If for some reason you’ve missed the all-important first kiss, don’t fret. Just wait until the newly weds have signed the registry, then ask them to have a kiss when the celebrant announces them man and wife (before they do the recessional).

If you stuff that one up, get them to kiss under the arbour again, when everyone has left.

Then when delivering the photos, you can rearrange the timeline to include the ‘good’ kiss shot where the ‘bad’ one should have come… then make sure you don’t stuff it up again!

  • Get ready for the huggers
huggers

Can you feel the love??!

Right after the ceremony, your camera should be permanently affixed to your eye – you need to be ready for the flood of hugs, kisses and high fives that will be taking place all around you.

Faces never look particularly attractive when being squeezed in a hug, but try shooting them from above, or simply try and convey the emotion by showing the hands/bodies mid-squeeze.

5. Family Photos

  • Roll call is not your job

Shouting out family members’ names and rushing around like a headless wedding chicken to find the right people isn’t something you should be doing.

Sure, you can help out all you want, but it’s better to leave this stressful task to a family member or friend.

In your client questionnaire (get mine here), always have a question in there about “the name of the helper”.

Explain that the helper will need to have a loud voice, be familiar with important faces, and have a copy of the family photos shot list.

With that handled, all you need to concentrate on is making the group photos look great, and making sure there are no blinkers… which leads on to my next tip.

  • Burst mode is your friend

Taking the family/group photos is one portion of the day you don’t want to be stingy with the shutter button – turn on high speed burst mode, and shoot more than you think you need of every group combination.

Why? Goddamn blinkers, that’s whassup! Unless you’re zooming in 100% on every photo during Playback, you need to cover your ass!

For a shot of 10 people, you need at least 10 photos to mitigate the chances of someone blinking in the shot, saving you time and some dodgy Photoshopping in post production.

  • Get high for the all-guests shot
all-wedding-guests-monopod

That time I used a 10 metre-long monopod in Bali…!

If the bride wants a shot of all the guests, the only way you’re going to be able to do it and get everyone’s face in the shot (or as many faces as possible) is by walking back far enough, then by getting the camera a good metre or two higher than the guests.

Obviously, not all venues have a high vantage point, which is why it’s a good idea to pack a monopod – stick your camera on self-timer + interval burst mode, tilt your LCD screen down if you have one, then lift the camera above your head and hope for the best!

  • Careful with your aperture

We all like to shoot with a shallow depth of field, but with group shots, it’s way more important to get everyone in focus.

While it’ll depend on a myriad of other factors, one rule of thumb is to match the f-stop with the number of people… within reason, of course – there’s no need to use f/16 for a group shot of 16 people, but for a group of 5 with a 35mm up relatively close, f/5.6 should cover you nicely.

If you’re using a mirrorless camera, try turning on focus-peaking to see exactly what’s in focus. Or have a play around with this handy tool and memorise the relevant numbers for your camera + lens combo.

 

  • Stuffed it up? “Someone was blinking!”

On those rare occasions when you mess something up with a group photo, like using too shallow an aperture, or cropping someone’s arm out, don’t be afraid to call the entire group back.

I like to use the excuse, “someone was blinking!” – it still elicits plenty of groans, but at least it’s forgivable!

  • Lock in your exposure/white balance

No matter how you shoot during other portions of the day (I use Aperture mode + Auto ISO), manual mode is your best friend during the family photos.

You should also set a constant white balance too, i.e. ‘Shade’, or ‘Daylight’, or whatever mode that’s not Auto.

This will save you a ton of time in post production, where you can simply apply a batch edit to the whole series of photos, adjusting exposure/white balance accurately all at once.

  • Get a great ‘friends-photo’
funny wedding group photo

Create a ‘Facebook Like magnet’ with an epic friends shot.

This is something to organise before everyone disappears, but brides/grooms often forget to include a group photo of just their friends.

There’s a specific way you’ll want to go about it for maximum impact – this photo can be a really powerful marketing tool if shot/shared properly – I go into the whole tip and how it can lead to future wedding bookings here.

  • “Look inwards at your son/daughter”

When shooting the bride/groom with their respective parents, it’s always a nice shot to have the mum and/or dad to look inwards towards their son/daughter.

Using other peoples’ eyes to direct the viewer’s eyes is one thing, but this technique also invokes emotion and leads to a more touching photo – the subject will truly feel loved :-)

I like to do this if there’s a child involved in a photo with one of two parents too.

  • “Look at your favourite parent”

Yes, it’s a bit cheesy, but you’re guaranteed a natural-looking photo of all three people laughing genuinely.

  • Watch for the side-hugs

A ‘side hug’ is what I call the old arm-behind-the-next person’s-back thing that friends/family like to do when standing in a line for a photo.

Side hugs can tend to cause mens’ jackets to be pulled up and open, or girls’ dresses to appear wider than they actually are.

To combat this, simply instruct any side-huggers to move their hugging arm lower on the huggee’s back – just above their bottom usually works, and helps to elicit some smiles too :-)

6. Bridal Party Photos

  • Don’t be too precious with your style
wtf-groomsmen

Seriously guys, WTF?!

I hate ‘jumping photos’ as much as the next ‘natural’ wedding photographer, but if my clients want them, I’ll take them!

Same with making hearts with your fingers, laying the bride down in the grooms-mens’ arms, or anything else that secretly makes me die a little inside if my clients suggest it…!

Remember – it’s your clients’ day, not yours. Don’t you forget that. I make it a deliberate point during the bridal photos to ask, “Is there anything else you want? Absolutely anything, no matter how crazy!”

My wedding photography style is predominantly journalistic and natural, but I’ve shot bridal parties doing human pyramids before because that’s what they asked for!… and you know what? That’ll be the photo I never show on my website, but the bride/groom will be sure to show to all their mates on Facebook! 🤦🏻‍♂️

  • One photo of each person

I try and remember to take one nice head-shot of every member of the bridal party.

If you’re building an album, these become great photos to include, but I think that in general, it’s a nice way to show that you care about your clients’ closest friends.

As an added bonus, if you nail the shot, each member of the bridal party will remember you too…

An easy way to do this is right after you line everyone up for the main bridal party group photo – just instruct them to look at the camera as you come past, and shoot each person in succession.

  • Imagine you’re just shooting the couple
creative bridal party photo

Directing several people at once can be nerve-wracking.

I find that I usually get most anxious when I’m trying to direct lots of people at once. During the bridal party photos can be particularly stressful.

The way I try and deal with this is to imagine that I’m only shooting one couple – ie. just the newly weds.

In doing this, I keep trying to find a creative way to shoot the entire group, as if I would do if I were shooting just the newly weds on their own.

  • Longer > Wider
group photo

Using a 24mm for a group photo can be fun, but 50mm+ yields more flattering results when up close.

This goes for any group shot, but if you have the space, a longer focal length will yield better results than a wide angle lens.

This is a common mistake that I see a lot of wedding photographers make, i.e. using a 24mm to shoot a close-up group photo instead of using, say, a 50mm and stepping back.

If you can shoot a group photo at 85mm and ensure everyone is in sharp focus, the shot will be much more flattering for the subjects, and as an added bonus, you can take advantage of some nice shallow depth of field from the longer focal length too.

  • Go with the flow
bridal party in pub

This is where the bridal party usually wants to be…

At this stage in the day, the bridal party usually just want to hang out and have a drink. Standing around for photos gets boring quickly, and your photos will start to look a bit forced if you try and push through it.

After we’ve got the main photos, I always ask what the bridal party would be doing if I wasn’t there… which usually means we all go off to the nearest pub together!

  • Something cool for the boys
avert the gaze

Looking out the frame = intrigue. Side light for men = cool.

For the guys, it always seems cooler if no one looks at the camera, nor smiles… for at least one of the groomsmen shots.

Obviously this will depend on the mood and who you’re working with, but I always suggest one: “ok guys, time to look fkn cool… and don’t look at the camera!” shot to see how it looks.

When the subject looks out the frame, it can help to encourage the viewer’s eye to linger on the photo for longer, and more comfortably too.

  • Something fun for the girls

Bridesmaids look best when they’re smiling or having fun. Just by saying “OK… act natural!” usually brings about fits of laughter, with every one looking at each other for guidance.

Just be sure to fire off a good succession of rapid photos when the bridesmaids are laughing – this will help maximise the chances of getting at least one photo that’s not got one girl mid-snort – never a good look!

7. Bride & Groom Portraits

  • Allow them their awkward moment

Your clients aren’t models, and they’re probably a bit nervous to be in front of the camera. Use this to your (their?) advantage and just let them be together… then see what happens.

Before I even start to direct, I allow the newly weds a minute or so to just stand together, and just keep my mouth closed.

I usually pretend I’m fiddling around with my camera’s settings from waist height, but really I’m shooting via the tilting LCD screen with the shutter sound turned off.

I’m also observing to see if they’re naturally touch-feely, or just to gauge their energy. You can usually tell straight away if the couple looks like they’ll need direction, or if you just need some gentle hints or guidance.

Allowing them an awkward moment where they have no idea what they’re doing is beneficial in so many ways – if you interrupt this with your voice too early, you won’t be able to get it back again, so just be patient.

  • Give them some room
bali destination wedding

A Nusa Lembongan destination wedding I had the pleasure of shooting.

If you’ve got the time, it can be good to start off further back and work your way towards the couple.

Tell them to get comfortable (sitting is usually an easy one), then say you’re going to go “over there to see what I can find”.

Then sneak a peek over your shoulder and see what’s unfurling behind you. If nothing’s happening, feel free to direct them from a distance.

The shot above could have been improved if I’d asked the groom to place his hand on the bride’s knee, but the moment was already great without my prompting so I chose not to ruin it.

  • Get far away
little people wedding photo

First direct the people… then direct the ducks!

Once you’ve given the newly weds some room, consider walking back even further. We all know those ‘little-people-big-scenery’ wedding photos that were popular a few years ago – well clients (and photographers) still love them.

I for one would much rather print out a photo for the wall where my wife and I are tiny in a vast landscape, than one that shows us all up close and personal. I already know what we look like!

I remember Dan O’Day mentioning this tip at Mystic Seminars in Portland one year – something about counting 10 steps away from your couple, then turning and shooting, then 30 steps and shooting, then 50 steps…etc. until the couple pretty much thinks you’re going home without them!

  • Keep the talking until later

Once you’ve given your newly weds an opportunity to relax or be awkward with each other, it’s good practice to let them know you need them to STFU!

You can explain that having their mouths open mid-sentence looks weird in a photo, which is definitely true.

An additional benefit of limiting the talking is that the bride and groom will have to find other ways to communicate their feelings. If nothing happens naturally, suggest that they use their hands to convey the affection they feel for each other.

Remind your groom that he can show emotion using his grip, and that the bride can do the same with a gentle caress. Then keep your mouth closed and let the scene unfurl…

  • Direct the movie
Sydney_Harbour_Engagement_Photography_041-1024x684

Part of a sequence of photos of the couple walking closer to each other, as part of their ‘movie’.

One tip I learned from Robert J. Hill is to imagine you’re directing a movie, rather than simply ‘posing’ your clients in static scenes:

“I simply see couples as the actors in my movie. Being that I’m the director for this movie, I simply just give them scenes to play out rather than just telling them to stand still and hold their position for a few moments. Their final gallery of images is a collection of frames that create my final ‘film’.”

  • Experiment with separation
separation

Side light doesn’t work so well with females’ faces  – better to ask them to look towards it.

You don’t always need to have the bride and groom next to each other.

For something a bit different, experiment with positioning the groom in the foreground, and have the focus on the bride in the background.

Find some interesting light, and use the out-of-focus groom as your compositional element, to help direct the viewer’s eye.

  • Don’t be afraid of your go-to poses
posed wedding shot

Find a favourite pose, then use it every time it makes sense.

You may not like posing your clients – I get that. I also appreciate every client will be different, and ‘forcing’ a pose on them isn’t natural.

However, I also believe that as the photographer, you should have a handful of go-to poses, from which to start your direction.

If your clients are the type that need some direction (they usually do!), they’ll also appreciate being told what to do, as long as it feels natural to them, of course.

In an ideal world, you’ll have built a relationship with the couple long before their big day, and everything will occur naturally, since they’re more comfortable, and feel less vulnaerable with you as their ‘friend’…

However, more often than not, I’ve met the clients for the first time on their wedding day, and we only have 20 minutes to get some great photos – maybe it’s the same for you?

I like to tell the couple that I’m going to direct them into something that looks good, then say, “don’t worry if it feels posed – just get comfortable, and I’ll capture the natural moments in between.”

Having an idea of how to start their portrait poses is a huge time-saver, and can help free up your mind to get creative with the composition, or try and elicit a natural moment to capture.

You can use a wedding photography posing tool like Together Cards to base the initial pose off an ilustration on the back of your camera’s LCD, all without the client being aware – it looks like you’re just checking your settings.

dslr camera mockup-2

Together Cards can make it easier to direct your couples into natural-looking poses.

Then when you have your clients looking like you want, say what you need to elicit the desired response – whether that’s a moody quiet moment, or a relaxed, jovial one – unless you have a lot of time to work with, you’ll need to encourage this.

Just make sure to use your go-to pose as the starting point – allow your clients to mold it from there into something that feels more natural to them.

Having the confidence to direct your clients without much thinking will free up your mind to get creative with the composition, or try and elicit a natural-looking moment to capture.

  • Get the most out of the moment
boat wedding

After shooting several shots while I was still on the boat with the couple, this was the image I ended up liking the best.

If you’ve gone to the trouble of finding the perfect light, or directing he newly weds into the perfect pose, remember to make the most of it by changing the variables.

Swap lenses, move closer, move away, shoot from above, shoot from below, add a bokeh foreground element, experiment with a slower shutter speed… just make sure to experiment a little before you move on.

Remember – there are no rules about how you need to shoot. Get creative to maximise your chances of having something truly unique to deliver to your clients.

  • Harsh Sun? Use the Groom-brella!

This is a tip I learned from my buddy Jay Cassario during his workshop in Las Vegas…although I’m going to take credit for coming up with the awesome name!

If you’re struggling with harsh midday sun, or those speckled highlights falling on your clients’ faces are distracting, try positioning your groom in a way that his head provides shade on the bride’s face.

To keep things simple, just pose the couple as normal, then ask them to rotate as if on a record player until you see the bride’s face fall in shade.

You can also try and use the groom’s entire body to cast shade on the bride for a full length shot.

  • Groom-go-bye-bye!
groom's face hidden

I don’t mind that the groom’s face is hidden in this shot since his hands still express his emotion.

Sorry fellas – sometimes it’s just not your time to shine! During the couple portraits, hiding the groom’s face in favour of the bride’s is absolutely fine.

Hiding the bride’s face? Not a good idea. Hiding both their faces? Possibly! (See the boat shot from a previous tip.)

Obviously I don’t mean you need to hide the groom’s face in every photo – that would just be cruel!

Just try it for one or two snaps, and see how much longer your viewer’s eye lingers in the frame when there aren’t two sets of features to anchor the eyes upon.

  • Remember the ‘standard’ photos

Most photo-journalistic wedding photographers don’t like to show any boring ‘looking at the camera’ photos on their websites. Does this mean they’re not even taking them for their clients? I sincerely hope not…

No matter how hipster your clients, or how much they love your PJ style, I encourage you to always take what I call ‘standard’ photos – bride and groom looking at the camera, smiling, for example. Photos their parents will want to get printed for the mantel piece.

Remember – you’re still the one that;s in control of what you show to the world via your website or social media.

Just be sure to include the more ‘classic’ styles of photo too – your clients may not be interested in them now, but maybe one day they will.

  • Try the ‘almost-kiss’
almost-kiss

The tension in a frozen-moment before the kiss is far more powerful than a photo of the kiss itself.

I try my best to avoid asking the newly weds to kiss for a photo – to me, it seems lazy (on my part) and forced.

(If they kiss while embracing without my intervention, I’ll obviously shoot it all and delivery anything that looks good.)

One thing I like to do if I can sense some energy between the couple already is the ‘almost-kiss’ – I ask the couple to go in for a kiss as slow as possible, even pausing for a moment before their lips meet.

Yes, you might feel like you’re directing a cheap porn movie, but the resulting photo can be great!! 😅

Make sure the bride has her lips slightly open – if she doesn’t, instruct her to inhale through her mouth.

  • Moments trump poses… every time
wedding day moments

The best moments can’t be scripted nor directed…

Yes, I believe there’s a point in the day where posing/directing clients is important as a professional wedding photographer, but I also know that capturing real moments is way more important.

The more you shoot and deliver to your clients, the more you’ll realise this – the epic photos you consider ‘amazing’ are never the photos your clients put on Facebook, nor the photos your clients’ parents frame for their bedsides.

That drunken photo of the bride laughing in the corner of the dance-floor while her husband pulls a silly face? The moment in-between two of your go-to poses when the bride squeezes her groom’s arm to reassure him he looks good? These fleeting moment are what you’re paid to capture.

The ‘epic’ photos to impress your photographer friends? They’re just the added extras.

  • Explore their boundaries
malaga destination wedding

They’d come all the way to Malaga for their destination wedding. Of course she was up for getting a bit messy in the brambles!

If you’ve got time to spare, see how far the bride and groom are willing to go to get an interesting photo.

Don’t assume that just because the bride is dressed up like a princess with $1,000 Jimmy Choos, she won’t want to kick them off for a walk on the wild side…

I always preface my whacky ideas with, “feel free to say no, but I’ve got an idea for a cool photo…

You could also try and remind the bride that she’ll only wear the dress once, or that she needs to get her money’s worth, or just anything else to get her to loosen up a bit for your non-standard photo idea!

  • Use a ‘false-time-restraint’

A FTC is what a pick up artist uses to communicate that he won’t be remaining long, or taking up too much of their time… apparently!

I use this technique to try and set my newly weds at ease when I begin the bridal portraits. I know all they really want is to have some down time before the reception, so it’s important to communicate what to expect.

I’ll usually explain where I’ll be taking them (usually within a 50 metre radius of the venue), and how long we’ll be spending (usually 15~20 mins). Then all the way through, I’ll let them know how we’ve nearly finished, or how much more to expect.

By setting a time limit to the photo session, the clients won’t be worrying about how long it’s going to take. As a result, they’ll be more in the moment, and hopefully this will come through in the images.

  • Show some flare
get-high

Mavic Pro | 1/200 f/2.2 ISO 100

Unless you want to spend hours messing around with silly presets and filters in post, try placing your couple in between the sun and your camera during the bridal portraits for some authentic sun-flare.

The unpredictabiltity of flare is what makes these photos unique and fun, so grab an old lens without any fancy Nikon nano-coating, and have a play around with the sun backlighting your couple, letting it creep in to your frame.

See the above photo? Who’da thought a drone would produce such crazy flare! I boosted the saturation in post, but the pink/purple tones were really there!

  • Watch for the hands
brides hands

Don’t let the bride’s hands show too much tension in the fingers.

I’m definitely no expert on how to pose a couple, but one thing that I do know is how important hands are in conveying emotion in an image. Not only the hands, but the fingers too.

Any photo, no matter how epic the scenery, how beautiful the colours, how passionate the kiss… is RUINED if the groom has one hand in his frickin’ pocket!

Just remind yourself – emotion flows through the hands, so if need be, direct your groom to lightly squeeze the bride where his hands lie, or for the bride to lightly caress the groom’s lapel. Always be connecting via the hands.

Look at Gabe McClintock‘s work, and pay close attention to the delicate way he poses his clients’ hands.

  • Get high
get up high

Sieze any chance you can to change the viewer’s perspective to something less ordinary.

This tip applies to throughout the wedding day, but especially during the bridal portraits where you have more control of the situation, holding your camera up high can give some variety to your images.

I find that holding the camera above my head and shooting downwards, (composing the shot via the tilting LCD), yields a cinematic quality to the image.

In the image above from a destination wedding in Spain, I was perched on a wall, waiting for the newly weds to emerge from the church.

  • Get low
get low shot

This couple were Japanese, hence the ‘Sumi’ ink style edit

As long as you’re not too close to your subjects, shooting from the ground upwards doesn’t need to mean an unflattering ‘up the nostrils’ point of view!

Getting right down to the ground can also have the added benefit of allowing you to include some foreground elements in your shot, which can add to your composition of help frame the subjects.

  • Make use of the groom’s cheek

I learned this wedding photography tip at WPPI during thanks to Jerry Ghionis, and relates to getting some light onto the bride when shooting a backlit embrace.

The trick is to position the groom slightly to the side (away from) the bride, so the side of his face acts as a reflector for the light, throwing some of the light back towards the bride’s face (which would normally be in shade).

This little tweak can yield some great results, making your bride’s face pop out from the image in a much more natural way than if you were to lighten it up in post.

  • Forget the feet
france destination wedding

Destination wedding in France | Sony a7III + Sony 35mm f/2.8 | 1/500 f/2.8 ISO640

Something I learned from Fer Juaristi is that including the couples’ feet in a shot (or rather, the ground on which they stand), can sometimes make it less interesting.

Try cropping above the knee (below it looks odd) for a couple of photos to see the subtle difference it makes.

  • Nail the walking shots
bride and groom walking

Photographing the bride and groom walking looks best when there’s some separation between them.

Another great tip from Mr Ghionis solves the problem of why couples walking together in a still image can sometimes look disjointed, especially when they’re walking towards you.

The trick here to coordinate everything perfectly is to instruct the couple to start with their outer foot first, then walk slowly.

As the icing on the cake, tell the bride to look towards the light source and tell the man to look at her head and talk into her ear.

As you can see in the image above, I broke all the rules, but it hardly matters…

  • Get the safe shots… then break the mold
shotkit-wedding-tips

In high winds with only 3% battery remaining and a beach full of spectators, getting this was pretty nerve-racking!

Once you’ve got what you need, have fun experimenting with a new technique, or try something you’ve never done before. Don’t worry if it works or not – after all, nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Experimenting during a wedding may sound unprofessional, but as long as you pick your moments, it’s actually an essential part of improving as a photographer.

Doing something ‘on the job’ is far different from doing something in the safety and comfort of your own home, and your confidence will grow much quicker.

Even if your whacky idea is a complete fail, at least you’ve pushed yourself – that, I believe, is part of the reason why you’re being paid to do what you do.

  • Leave the bride alone
dress move

The bride has usually put a lot of thought into her dress. Make sure you showcase it!

Don’t forget to take some photos of the bride on her own. This is the time to really let her show off all the effort she’s put into herself on her big day – the dress, the makeup, the flowers, the hair… brides go to a lot of trouble!

If the bride is wearing a flowing dress or anything that can be moved, get her to pick it up and spin around, or do anything that will show its length and some more of its detail.

Once the bride has been photographed alone, I like to tell her to stand and wait with her back to the groom, then have the groom walk up and surprise her with a hug from behind – I’ll be around the other side ready to capture the reaction.

8. Reception

  • Don’t forget the details

I have to remind myself to do this at every wedding – no matter how un-materialistic you think your clients are, always, always photograph the details at the reception.

This means the wishing well, the place settings, the menus, the entire room, the decor… anything that feels like effort has gone into its preparation.

Not only will this serve to tell the story and remind your clients of their big day, but these photos can also be given to vendors to help with your overall marketing/collaboration strategy.

Check out my ShootProof review, a client gallery creation software allows you which to segment your main gallery into smaller ones easily, perfect for sharing with vendors.

  • Frame speaker and listener in one shot

Photographing the speech giver alone in the frame is fine for one shot, but once you have it, position yourself so you can see the speaker and the main recipient of the speech in one frame.

Usually this means a longer lens shot from the side, with an aperture that places the focus on the recipient and their reactions.

If you’re shooting for the album, it’s nice to focus on the speech giver, and then focus on the listener (in two separate shots), with a similar composition, for full story-telling value!

  • Get the shots… then get out the way

Once you’ve captured a good series of photos of the speaker and the listeners’ reactions, go and take a seat until right before the end of the speech.

There’s no need to keep snapping away throughout the whole speech, and it’s best to let the guests get a good view of the speakers without you in their line of sight.

You can usually predict when a speech is about to end, so get in place to capture the hugs and high fives that occur right after.

  • Be patient for the right reaction
fathers speech reaction

I squatted 5 minutes to get this shot! Nikon D750 + Nikon 85mm f/1.4 | 1/250 f/2 ISO2500

I’m a big guy, but you’ll usually find me squatting in some ridiculous position as close as I can to the bride and groom’s table during the speeches.

Obviously they’re aware of my presence, even with an 85mm lens, but if I keep my face hidden behind the camera the whole time, they soon ignore me.

By keeping my eye constantly at the viewfinder pointed at the couple, I’m ready to capture every reaction. I’ve already photographed the speaker, so now I can concentrate on capturing the bride and groom’s reactions – those unrepeatable moments that are so valuable.

At this stage of the night, every muscle is aching, and squatting while everyone else sits is both humiliating and painful! It’s hard to remain patient, but I’m always grateful I did.

  • Steal the mic

This is something I learned from a videographer who was sick of MC’s starting proceedings before he was ready.

It’s more relevant for video shooters and their need to capture absolutely everything, but nevertheless, it’s still useful for us stills shooters, especially if you eat in a separate room to the main reception, where you can’t hear when important events are starting.

The basic idea is that you ask the MC to give you the mic, and tell them exactly where you’ll be eating your meal. Explain to them that you can’t have them starting before you are ready, and this is a surefire way to prevent them forgetting to tell you!

Warning: you’ll probably not make any friends doing this, but on the other hand, it could save your bacon for missing an important speech!

  • Give your clients a break with some outdoor time
GoldHatPhotography Portfolio

Even an ugly car park can look good at sunset!

In the wedding questionnaire, I always ask whether the clients would like a photo near sunset time. On our final phone call before the wedding, I talk about it too.

Then on the wedding day a few minutes before sunset, I’ll approach the bride and ask if she’s ready to “take a break with a night photo”.

I usually find that at this point in the day, brides and grooms always relish a bit of alone time, and are more than happy to leave the reception for a few minutes.

What you do during this time is up to you, but remind them you’ll only be outside for a couple of minutes, get them in place, and then just take a step back – you’ll be amazed at how different the energy is between them now they’re married (and probably had a few drinks!)

  • Learn to bounce your flash

No matter what ISO your camera can comfortably shoot at, or how wide your fancy prime lens’ aperture, they’ll always be a time in the night where you’ll need to break out the old flashes.

On-camera flash has earned a bad rep (no doubt for its misuse), but bouncing an on-camera flash can yield excellent results.

A simple way to start is by angling your flash backwards and 45 degrees to the right or left, then take a shot, see how it looks, and adjust if necessary from there. I learned this tip from an excellent Creative Live class by Davina + Daniel.

Even if there’s a high ceiling or no walls nearby, your flash will ‘bounce’ off anyone nearby, and act as a diffused, in-direct light source, which looks great coming in from an angle. Just watch out for strong colour-casts.

  • Liven up the dance floor with some upward lighting

This is a tip I learned from Two Mann Studios, legends for their high-energy dance-floor photography.

If the venue lighting on the wedding dance-floor is looking a bit lackluster, stick a couple of triggered-flashes on a pair of light stands in different corners of the room, then gel them –  red and blue works well, or purple and orange.

Then place your third flash either on your camera or off-camera elsewhere, and fire away – the gelled flashes add ambience and depth to the image, and liven up any dull dancefloor with colour. Bonus points if you use the off-camera flashes to create some background flare.

  • Try the tear-jerker
brides tears

Prepare to ruin some eye make up!

Use this one with caution – it has the ability to totally ruin your bride’s eye makeup! Used later on in the day is probably wiser than during the main bridal portraits. I’ll admit to only using this tip during the odd engagement session, right at the end…

Next time you’re about to shoot, call the groom over and tell him to whisper into the bride’s ear why he chose her over every other girl in the world – I learned this one from a viral image shot by James Day.

(I must admit I feel a bit embarrassed when saying things like this to the bride or groom, but whenever I see the reaction, I always wish I did it more.)

Stand back with a long lens to let the moment unfurl, then start shooting like crazy! Swap to a wider lens and get close when you sense it’s the right moment.

  • Experiment with a quick ‘one-light wonder’
off camera flash wedding shot

This shot in Montreal took all of 20 seconds to execute – I had to clone out the light-holding groomsman in post, though.

If the client wants a night portrait, I have a certain go-to shot that is simple and fast to pull off.

All you need to do is find a guest to hold a light behind your couple, compose the shot to include some other bright ambient light source, then adjust your exposure to show and hide the various elements in the frame.

Off-camera flash is fine, but I find a constant light source such as an LED panel is much easier – just remember to ask your clients to keep their eyes closed, since you’ll really need to pump up the power 😎

  • Remember the final newlywed dance floor photo
final-kiss

Storytelling should always end with the two main characters.

If your night doesn’t end with a creative outdoor portrait, try and make sure the final frame you deliver to your clients is of them both embracing on the dance-floor.

I often need to go and look for the bride and groom at this late stage in the night, and instruct them to hit the dance floor together, but whatever the case, finishing on something that involves the two main characters is a great way to end the story.

  • One for you before you leave
new zealand destination wedding

New Zealand Destination Wedding – up in the mountains = clear skies!

Before you leave the venue, push yourself to create one final photo just for you. Obviously your aim is to deliver it to the client, but this is one last time to experiment with something out of your comfort zone.

For me, this usually means the ‘one-light-wonder’ tip from above – I’m usually totally honest with the couple, saying it may or may not work out, but they’re usually up for it either way!

(You can get more ideas for creative off-camera flash photography by some of the world’s top wedding photographers in the LIT book.)

The more experienced you get, you’ll find yourself shooting more and more for you photos during the wedding day – this is one way to really progress your skills as a wedding photographer.

9. After the Wedding

  • Split your cards

If you don’t have time to backup during the wedding day, create a secondary layer of redundancy by removing one of your two memory cards (you are shooting dual cards, right?!), and placing it in your pocket.

How you back up to your computer at home after this is another story, but this one small action of ensuring your clients’ memories are in two separate places shouldn’t be overlooked.

We’ve all heard horror stories of wedding photographers’ cars being broken into, or gear somehow being stolen before proper backups are made – having one memory card on your person can help reduce the odds of you losing everything… and prevent you needing to change your identity and leave the country the next day 😬

  • Start backup immediately

No matter how tired you after after shooting a wedding… no matter what time you drag your ass through the front door to your home… always… ALWAYS start your backup process immediately.

You need to have a set routine that you adhere to without fail. For me, this means placing the one memory card I have in my shirt pocket (see previous tip) in a safe, and inserting the second card from my camera into my computer to begin the Lightroom import, which sends the RAW files to two separate external hard drives.

If you choose to use a RAID set up on your hard drive, that’s fine, but just make sure you have at least two external drives that are separately located ingesting the RAW files. (If your RAID is set to simply mirror other drives in your enclosure, you really only have one layer of redundancy.)

Then I go to bed, leaving the slow import process to run overnight.

  • Save time with the right import settings

I always recommend you import a wedding before you go to bed, so you’re not wasting any time (nor your computer’s CPU) during the day.

These are the Lightroom import settings I recommend:

– Build Previews: Minimal
– Build Smart Previews (checked)
– Make a Second Copy To: (the location of your second hard drive)
– Apply During Import (your preset)

I never bother with Keywords, but if you’re feeling organised, now’s a good chance to enter them so they get applied in bulk to all your files.

  • Consider a ‘Next Day Sneak Peek’

This is a technique that I elaborate on in the first edition of More Brides, but the general gist of it consists of sending the bride and groom a photo the very next morning of the wedding.

You’ll need to choose a ‘vanilla’ image – a full length one of the couple standing somewhere in their venue works best (showing how awesome they both looked and the fancy place they got married). Then you email it to them with a specific email template that helps maximise the chances of them sharing it.

Then you prepare one more image, this time something you’re really proud of (something that might impress people who weren’t even at the wedding), and share it on Facebook later that day, tagging the couple, venue and vendors involved.

I must admit that since having children, it’s become harder and harder for me to follow my own advice, but up until our second child, I followed this process after every wedding to great success. Check out my book for the whole process and email template.

  • Make the most of the Likes

If you follow the tip above correctly, you can expect a ton of new Facebook Likes from all the guests at the previous day’s wedding.

You may already know there’s a way to ‘Invite’ anyone who’s Liked your post, but did you know there’s a Google Chrome plugin to automate this rather tedious process?

This makes sure you’re striking while the iron’s hot, and building your Facebook audience with people who’ve seen you ‘at work’, and will no doubt see the final images from the wedding, is a great marketing tool – these ‘Likers’ are your ‘leads’ for future weddings!

  • Cull positively

There are tons of tips when it comes to actually editing your wedding photos (enter your email below to get notified when I add them), but ‘culling positively’ is what comes before anything else.

As the name implies, culling positively means only selecting images you want to keep.

In practice, this means applying a star or a colour to an image, then having Lightroom automatically skip ahead to the next image (make sure ‘Auto Advance’ is checked in your settings). If you don’t like the image, simply move ahead manually (using the right-arrow key).

I have one hand on the ‘1’ key, which I press to designate a keeper, and the other hand on the right-arrow key to advance to the next photo if I don’t want it.

In conjunction with the Lightroom import setting tips above, you should be able to cull a wedding in well under 30 minutes – I can usually get through a 2,000 image wedding in around 15 mins.

  • Create an online backup of your JPEGs

Once you’ve culled and edited all your images, it’s time to export all the glorious JPEG files to deliver to your clients.

Remember that at this point, you only have backups of your RAW files. Perhaps you also have a backup of Lightroom too (I use Apple’s Time Machine to take care of this in the background), but you don’t yet have any backups of the actual JPEGs.

Sure, you could in theory recreate the JPEGs, just be re-exporting them from Lightroom in the future. However, if your Lr catalog corrupts, or if you lose your laptop, or whatever other disaster occurs, it’s essential to have a backup of at least your JPEGs, to save you having to re-edit everything from scratch (from the RAW backups you should still have!)

I use an online gallery proofing tool called ShootProof, which allows you to export images from Lightroom direct to a private client gallery.

This has 4 main benefits:

1) It allows me to deliver the photos to the client (they can view, share and download the photos from the gallery);

2) It creates an online backup of the JPEGs;

3) It allows me to make some additional money with print sales;

4) It syncs any files I choose to re-edit (in the future) to the files in the gallery.

Check out my ShootProof review for a more in-depth look at this eseential piece of software in my wedding workflow.

  • Make the most of the tools available

There are loads of tools made especially for wedding photographers, which make the client delivery process more efficient, or to add some ‘extras’ to your service.

You can check out this guide to wedding photography resources for more of the tools I use to run my own business efficiently, but I encourage you to also read the Narrative review, SmartSlide Review, and SmartAlbums Review, to see why these 3 in particular are such time-savers.

Paying for software that saves you time and/or makes you more money is a no-brainer as a professional photographer, especially considering we can use the expense as a taxable deduction, so be sure to do some research on the great tools available.

10. Editing Tips (Coming Soon!)

If you haven’t already done so, enter your details in the ’45 Free Gifts for Wedding Photographers’ box below to be notified when I add these tips.

(Be sure to use your wedding business email address.)

You’ll also gain immediate access to the Member’s Only area of Shotkit, which is packed full of discounts and offers for wedding photographers.

Want More Tips for Wedding Photography?!

I hope you found this mammoth post useful. If you’ve read this far, your head should be exploding with ideas for your next wedding shoot! 🤯

As I mentioned at the start, I certainly don’t pretend I know it all when it comes from wedding photography.

(You may be reading this with 500+ weddings under your belt, thinking I’m only just getting started…)

My goal is just to share with you what I have learned over the years. I encourage you to join in the conversation, and leave us any other great tips in the comments below.

2 Comments

  1. Tom Ellis on August 12, 2019 at 10:41 am

    Great list! I might disagree on a few of your more editorial comments but I think you did an amazing job here. You mentioned several things that have become so ingrained in how I shoot weddings that I pretty much forget that I am doing them, and would completely forget to mention to a newbie to weddings. But while some of those things appear obvious to an old-timer like me, I realized while reading your article that a newbie might very well never think about them. Anyway, once again I say great work with this list!

    • Mark Condon on August 12, 2019 at 1:34 pm

      Thanks Tom! Nice to hear some of it resonated with you. I agree – some of the ‘tips’ are things we do without thinking, but I guess a lot of that comes down to experience.

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