5 Dos & Don'ts for Every Wedding Photographer

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Weddings can be an overwhelming experience for a photographer, especially when you're just starting out. You have one shot to capture a couple’s wedding day in an artistic, professional way. And taking the photos is just a small part of being a good wedding photographer.

Here are 5 dos and don'ts that can help make photographing a wedding day a little easier.

Don't try to capture everything

When you have the largest camera in the room, everyone wants to tell you which photos to shoot. I can't tell you how many times I've been setting up portraits when a guest thinks a different scene would make a better photo. Stay focused, be polite and make sure to get all the important moments captured.

The small candid moments just happen if you keep your eyes open, but don’t beat yourself up if you miss a few. Be prepared for the little moments like the mother putting on the bride’s necklace, or the flower girl twirling around in her dress. If you’re lucky, someone might even cry when the bride puts on her dress.

I shot one wedding where the groomsmen did a group prayer just before going into the church. I had no idea it was going to happen but I ran up and captured a nice intimate shot. Just keep your eyes open, and do your best.

Do get to know the couple

Meet with the couple for coffee or lunch before the wedding — yes, even if they're your close friends. One-on-one time helps you get an idea of what's most important to them. Plus, getting to know their tendencies and habits can help you plan — it's always good to know how much time you’ll have for portraits before someone gets bored.

Learning about the family dynamic is helpful. When it's portrait time, you're in charge — it's better to know ahead of time if there are divorced parents that can't stand next to each other. I've run into a lot of different family issues throughout the years. The more you know about the couples’ modern family, the easier your job will be.

Don't get in the way

You are in charge for only about 30 minutes out of the day. After that, you should be available but not overbearing.

Capturing natural moments happens by just being there. During the ceremony, be a fly on the wall. Stay up front to get the walking-down-the-aisle photos, then put that long lens on and head to the back.

Not only is this a good habit to get into, but it's sometimes required! At one wedding, I had to sign an agreement with the church that I wouldn’t get in the way. Every venue is different, so find out beforehand what the rules are instead of making a scene.

Do focus on the details

Every little detail at a wedding has weeks, maybe even months, of thought behind it. I usually find time to photograph details like the cake, centerpieces, favors, flowers, and even napkins when people are eating.

This is another reason talking to the couple or the wedding planner beforehand will help. Maybe there are a lot of handmade decorations, favors and flower arrangements that you need to capture. Just remember if it looks like some thought went into it, take a photo.

Do be prepared

There's no such thing as being over prepared when heading off to shoot a wedding. If you think you're going to need a kitchen sink, then bring it!

What goes into a prepared photographer's toolkit?

  • Bring extra batteries and memory cards — and then a couple extras beyond that.
  • Lenses like a 70-200mm portrait lens, a 17-35mm wide angle and a 50mm should cover all the bases.
  • Even outdoor weddings need to be lit properly, so bring lights (and make sure you know how to use them!) so you can adapt as the light changes throughout the day.
  • Don't forget the little things like Extension cords, your camera charger, a second camera if you have it, and a step stool.
The best thing about shooting a wedding is when it's over. Then you can slow down, download, backup and edit your photos. When you find the good ones, it makes it all worth it and the bad ones get deleted.
bride and groom in camera display

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Editor's Note: This post was originally published in May 2013 and was updated in March 2018.
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5 Dos & Don'ts for Every Wedding Photographer