Writing a guide learning wedding photography takes a lot of time. I debated about making it a paid "wedding photography for beginners" course. However, I decided that giving away these wedding photography tips and tricks for free was a better choice. What good is it to write a guide to shooting wedding photos and have very few readers because of having to pay?
So please enjoy this massive guide on how to take great wedding photos absolutely FREE of charge!
Table of Contents
- How Article is Organized
- Arrive at Getting Ready Location - Preceremony
- Wedding Ceremony
- Bride & Groom Portraits
- Family Portriats
- The Bridal Party
- Wedding Reception Photography
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I thought it best to organize this by corresponding with the wedding day's timeline. We start with our arrival at the first photography location and move through the entire wedding day. Each section will include a must have wedding photos list that corresponds with that part of the day along with wedding photography ideas and examples to help you visualize the descriptions.
I also decided to write separate articles on what gear to use, how to prepare for the wedding day and post-production because it was simply too overwhelming to put it all into one.
1. Bride & Groom Getting Ready (aka Pre-ceremony)
I arrive at the location where the bride & groom are getting ready. I am already completely prepared for their wedding day. Creative wedding photography starts first & foremost with preparation. Long before their wedding day, I have visited the various sites for preparations, ceremony and reception. I have already created a list of must have wedding photos.
Here is a list of my essential wedding photos during this part of the day:
- Bride's Jewelry
- Wedding Ring Photo
- Wedding Dress
- Make-Up Artist's Tools
- Bride Before Dressed
- Bridal Party Hanging Out
- Toasts & Champagne
- Bridal Shoes
- Groom's Tux Hanging
- Groomsmen Tuxes on Rack
- Grooms Cuff Links, Ties
- Groom Putting on Coat
- Lacing Shoes
- Tie or Bowtie
- Groom's Boutonniere
- Formals of Groom, Groomsmen, Family
- Solo Photos of Groom Dressed
Gallery of Wedding Photos Idea
Browse through the gallery below to get ideas for wedding photos from the pre-ceremony part of the day. Photographers have different wedding photography styles. Don't let the style throw you off, simply look at the wedding photo examples we have here as a guide.
Also remember, moments are more than just a list of wedding photos. When I shoot weddings, I take a great deal of shots that aren't on a wedding photography checklist. They are moments in history that should be preserved rather than a vanilla list of photos. Do both: Capture the Moments and Create the Art.
The gallery below has several images. Just click one then scroll through them.
Here's a quick tip about wedding ring pictures.
We take our wedding ring photo twice during the day. We ask for the rings during this early time of the day and take the shots we need. Later, at the reception, we take the wedding ring photos again with some of the details. It is important to give couples a variety to choose from.
Behind the door
The "behind the door" shot is taken when the B&G aren't seeing one another until she walks down the aisle. This is a great time for them to exchange notes or gifts on the opposite sides of the door, column, or other obstruction. (Don't let him see her!!!)
2. The Wedding Ceremony
It would be impossible to talk about wedding day photography without mentioning the wedding ceremony photos. If you're creating a must-take wedding photo checklist then the ceremony is an important place to have particular shots in mind.
Below you'll find the list of wedding photos to take during the ceremony portion of the day. I have also included examples so that you can get ideas.
Wedding Photos List for the Ceremony
- Family members entering
- Bridal party entrance
- Bride and escort (father)
- Groom seeing bride coming down the aisle
- Family members faces during ceremony
- Shot of bridesmaids lined up
- Shot of groomsmen lined up
- Elbow shot with flowers (look for bridesmaid's elbows in the examples below)
- Bride and Groom facing one another
- Celebrant speaking
- Any special readers, singers, musicians
- Communion or sand ceremonies or etc.
- First kiss
- Bride and groom exiting
- Bridal party exit
- Family exiting
Click one of the images below and scroll through a gallery of must-have wedding ceremony images.
The Money Shot
I call this the money shot. It is a shot I always take at every wedding. Any must have wedding photo list isn't complete without this shot. It is the groom seeing the bride when she walks down the aisle. Focus on the groom's face and shoot right between the bride and her escort.
I name this the "elbow shot" and it is one of the wedding photos to take at each and every wedding (if possible) In most church weddings, this will be a harder shot to get. At outdoor weddings, where you can walk around more, it is much easier.
Ceremony "must take wedding photos list"
Take a loot at the gallery on the left to see some examples from our ceremony wedding photos checklist. There are some we always take and others just happen.
When you look at the examples, we already know this is not an exhaustive selection of what photos to take. It is just a bit of inspiration to get you thinking about shooting your own weddings and creating your own wedding photos list.
3. Bride & Groom
When looking for unique wedding photo ideas, don't overlook the importance of creating epic photography with traditional portraiture for the B&G. What do I mean? Not every moment is candid or happens naturally. However, your wedding clients will expect that you get the epic shots of just the two of them.
We set up this time of the day. Just after the ceremony, we ask the bride and groom to come with us rather than speaking with their guests. They have a wedding "glow" about them and it is the perfect time to get some really great couple's portraits.
Click one of the images below and scroll through the gallery of bride and groom pictures.
Looking - Smiling
I call this shot "Looking Smiling" because the couple is looking strait into the camera and smiling. Remember, parents are often the ones paying for wedding photography. They want at least ONE photo of the bride and groom looking and smiling into the camera.
They want to put it into an 8x10 frame on their mantle at home. We always take several of these and we tell the bride and groom that their parents will want them. Put "Looking Smiling" on your wedding photo checklist.
4. Family Portraits
Don't let family portraits scare you. Sure, they're just about the hardest part of a wedding, but if you do these right, you'll have lots of people singing your praises.
Remember, family portraits are very, very important. I can't tell you how many times we've heard back from families about these images. A wedding just might be the last event an elderly family member attends. I have had the brother of a bride pass away unexpectedly and she thanks us often for the images we captured.
Don't let these turn out bad. They are an extremely important part of the day. If you're asking what wedding photos to take, these are some of the highest priority.
Here are our suggestions for how to structure the family portrait section of the wedding photography.
- Groom's side of the family (Large extended family)
- Groom's grandparents
- Groom's immediate family
- Groom's siblings
- Groom's parents
- Bride's side of the family (Large extended family)
- Bride's grandparents
- Bride's immediate family
- Bride's siblings
- Bride's parents
Why shoot for the bride's family second? Because you want to make sure to give the bride's family the final word on what images they want.
Without family portraits, no wedding photos list would be complete. Family portraits is one of the most important parts of the day. One way that we organize this time is to shoot for the biggest groups first. After the biggest group, we ask those guests to enjoy the cocktail hour and we shoot for ever-smaller groups until we get to the immediate family.
There are lots of images in the gallery below. Click one and then scroll through them.
5. Wedding Photos - Ideas for The Bridal Party
As you look for bridal party photo ideas remember that the attendants of the bride & groom are the closest friends and family that person has. So it stands to reason that your wedding party photos need to be awesome. You want to treat them with the utmost respect while having a great time. These are their best friends!! Their sisters and brothers!!
Click one of the below images to open a gallery of wedding party pictures.
Wedding Party Photo Ideas
It is important to take the formal wedding party photo, but also to have fun with them. This group of people is made up of their best friends and family. They do want the traditional portrait, but they also want something they can share on their social media.
6. Wedding Reception Photography
By this point you are mostly shooting candid wedding photography because the formals are over. There will be a few more choreographed shots but really you're just a fly on the wall capturing moments.
As you're creating your wedding photo list for photographer, please keep these shots in mind. Here's our wedding photo ideas list.
- Cake prior to cutting - This goes along with the reception details. I use an off camera light
- Reception Details - Shoot these before guests are allowed into the reception area
- Introductions -
- First Dance - combination of tight and wide shots
- Dad - Daughter Dance - Similar to first dance. Try to catch the looks on their faces
- Mom Son Dance - Same as the dad daughter dance above
- Toasts - Catch a good shot of the person giving the toast. Catch emotions and laughter of the couple and guests
- Garter & Bouquet - Time your shot to catch the item being thrown while it's in the air.
- Cake cutting - Be sure to have your light right for this shot.
- Money Dance - Sometimes you'll have to have two photographers on this
- Special events -
- Special people on the dance floor - Perhaps a grandmother gets up and dances. Make sure to capture this
- The DJ or Band - Get one or two good shots of them. No need to overdo it unless the DJ or band members are family or friends of the couple.
- The grand departure - When the couple is leaving, you need a great shot
- The exit vehicle - If they have a limo or special car for their wedding, you need photos of it.
- The venue at night from a distance
- Go Outside - We always set up a few night shots with the couple
- Gift Table - part of the details
- Wedding Rings - We shoot these twice during the wedding day