Professional wedding photographers are responsible for capturing all the best shots at a wedding ceremony. To succeed in the wedding photography business, you need to have patience and quick reflexes. You’ll need to spend your time observing the guests and waiting for special moments to capture on this emotional, meaningful day.
What Is Wedding Photography?
Wedding photography is a branch of photography that involves capturing the most memorable moments of a wedding celebration. Wedding photographers use techniques from documentary photography and portrait photography to capture special moments featuring the bride and groom, their family members, the bridesmaids, groomsmen, and other guests. This type of photography can also include shooting the days leading up to the wedding ceremony.
What Equipment Do You Need to Photograph a Wedding?
You will need a few key pieces of equipment to capture the best moments at a wedding shoot:
- 1. A camera. Invest in a camera that suits your needs and that delivers high-quality images—either a mirrorless camera or a DSLR will work. When selecting a camera, choose one with fast shutter speeds and reliable autofocus. While you can edit wedding photographs after the ceremony, the initial quality of the images will determine the final result.
- 2. Lenses. Wide-angle zooms are ideal for group photoshoots and candid shots, while macro lenses work better for close-ups and small details (like rings, table settings, or bouquet). Keep a variety of lenses on hand for different shots and scenarios, so you can swap them out when necessary.
- 3. External flashes and diffusers. Some weddings take place at night, or at venues where there is low natural light. Bringing your own light source allows you to control the lighting and helps you avoid taking blurry photos. A flashgun or other external camera flash (along with a diffuser to soften) are good light sources to add to your arsenal.
- 4. Extra accessories. Keep extra batteries, chargers, and memory cards in your camera bag to ensure you have backups should anything go wrong with your main gear. If possible, bring a backup camera.
9 Wedding Photography Tips
Whether you’re shooting your first wedding or you’re a seasoned pro, here are nine essential tips that every photographer can use to hone their wedding photography skills:
1. Know your gear. Familiarize yourself with all aspects of your camera gear, including your lenses, camera settings, and shooting modes. For example, a fast shutter speed is great for capturing fun party moments at the wedding reception, whereas a long shutter speed works best for still, pre-wedding portraits. A wide-angle lens is great for group shots, but a prime lens (lenses with a fixed focal length) is a better option for that high-resolution shot of the wedding couple at the altar. Understanding the best settings and lenses for each shot allows you to capture the best quality images you can when shooting weddings. Test out your gear beforehand to ensure everything is in working order.
2. Bring help. Consider bringing a second photographer along who can simultaneously capture alternative angles of your shots. You can also task your fellow photographer with capturing all the smaller, candid moments, giving you enough time to shoot the significant, emotional events. Bringing a second shooter will provide you with a wider range of photo options to choose from during post-processing.
3. Prepare. Weddings can be stressful and unpredictable—you should prepare yourself for all possibilities. Whether it’s bringing extra batteries and memory cards, or finding additional locations to shoot the fun wedding party photos, have a backup plan and be ready to shift gears if necessary. Your preparedness can potentially save the day and inform how to handle similar issues at your next wedding.
4. Know who you’re shooting. The wedding day is about the couple and the friends and family who are gathering to celebrate their nuptials. Request a list of attendees or the seating arrangements to familiarize yourself with all of the guests that you need to photograph for the wedding album.
5. Be familiar with the locations. Visit the venue before the wedding to see the layout and lighting opportunities. If you’re shooting the wedding party at a separate location, visit it before the shoot. Seeing the space beforehand will help you prepare for any potential obstacles (like poor lighting or an obstructive landscape) you may face on the day of the actual wedding. If you’re shooting a destination wedding, aim to arrive a day or two earlier to give yourself time to check out the location and meet the team at the wedding venue.
6. Make a shot list. Creating a shot list that you can refer to throughout the ceremony will ensure that you capture the important shots, like the groom’s first look at the bride in her wedding dress, the bridal party preparing for the wedding, emotional family moments, the flower girl walking down the aisle, the cake-cutting ceremony, and the newlyweds’ first kiss. Be sure to ask your clients and their family for any specific shots they would like as well.
7. Be bold. You need to be in a prominent position to capture an intimate moment between the bride and groom on the dance floor. Find a space that gives you the best angle to snap your photos without being overly intrusive.
8. Observe. You have to be attentive and watch at all times. Avoid distractions that may cause you to miss out on shooting a touching moment, like the couple’s first dance.
9. Capture different angles. There are many creative ways to capture a moment, outside of the classic poses featured in many wedding photos. Don’t settle for one shot. Taking multiple photos from different perspectives can result in memorable images.