13 Tips for Amateur Wedding Photographers

As a wedding photographer you are responsible for capturing all of the best moments throughout the wedding day.   The number one piece of advice is this: BE PREPARED!

Here are 13 simple steps that will help you to do your best!  Please feel free to post any questions in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you ASAP


1.  CREATE A SHOT LIST – Picture this: You’ve put in all of the hard work photographing a wedding(hair, makeup, ceremony, reception, etc.)  processing the hundreds of images(probably closer to 1000 if shooting your first wedding) and then either delivering prints or an album to the client when they ask “did you get one of Aunt June and I?”   FAIL.  Of course you may have gotten lucky and captured that particular image-or you may not have.   Working from a shot list eliminates any disappointment that WILL come from not getting a particular image that the client desperately wants.  This cannot be overemphasized.  A shot list is imperative.  During your preparations for the wedding you should have come up with a working shot list that you’ll want to use for reference throughout the day. Be sure to go over any specific image requests with the bride and groom.

shotlistphoto by Naomi Hoare

What I do – I like to ask to bride and groom to create a list of shots they can’t live without that I then incorporate into my own shot list.  Also,  many brides will have been looking at examples of wedding pictures for months-maybe longer-that they would like to recreate.  In these instances,  I will ask them to simply send me a picture(via text, email, facebook) of what they may like to recreate and then I simply save them in a client file for easy reference.


2.  PICK A FAMILY MEMBER TO COORDINATE GROUP PHOTOS – Unless you’re familiar with the family,  getting everyone together for group photos can be very stressful on your own.  Having a family member to help you get everyone together and ready will not only make the group photos go much smoother,  it will also save time that can be used for additional one-on-one photos of the bride and groom together.  Group photos of the wedding party and other family members are an important part of the wedding album,  but are hardly everyone’s favorites.  By saving time on these pictures,  you’ll have a chance make more images of the bride and groom together.


What I do – First,  I’ll ask the bride and groom if there is a family member who will be in attendance that members of the formal group photos will listen to.  This may sound blunt,  but I prefer to be up front and to the point about this.  If the answer is Yes,  I’ll ask the bride/groom to contact this person prior to the wedding to ask for their help in coordinating the group photos.  I will also contact this person,  whether the answer is yes or no,  to thank them for their consideration.  If they don’t think there is someone who can help with the group pictures,  I will talk to members of the bridal party to find out if one of them will be able to help round everyone up.  This usually works just fine.


3. SCOUT YOUR LOCATION – One of the most important parts of preparation as a wedding photographer is knowing the location details.  The best way to get a handle on the environment you will be shooting in is to scout it.  By scouting the location you will see what type of light you will be working with(when flash is not allowed in a church this is even more important) and what additional lighting equipment you will need to do the job right.  Try scouting the location around the same time of day that the ceremony will be held so you get a chance to see what available light you have to work with.  Try to attend the rehearsal to get a better understanding of where people will be and to start planning where YOU will be to best capture the events.  Having even a basic understanding of the venue layout will pay huge dividends!


What I do – Regardless of whether or not I can attend the rehearsal I always scout the venue.  It can’t be stressed enough the importance of knowing what you’re walking into on the wedding day.  With so many things happening around you,  figuring out where you want to shoot from is not something you want to be worrying about the Day Of.


4. DON’T FORGET THE DETAILS – Rings, Flowers, Candles, Shoes, etc.  There are many things that go into making the wedding special for the bride and groom-don’t forget to capture all of these little details that they have been working on for so many months(even years).  These types of images are great for “setting the stage” for the other album photos.

Espiritu Wedding_142

What I do – I like to photograph as many of these ‘detail’ items before the ceremony starts because once that happens you’ll pretty much be with the bride and groom from that point on(group photos, one-on-one’s).  Obviously there will be many detail shots taken at the reception but as far as details at the church/ceremony venue,  get these prior the start of the ceremony!



5. USE TWO CAMERAS/LENSES – Having two cameras with different lenses on each will cover two things,  it gives you the ability to capture different shots throughout the day while also providing you with a backup body in the event that your main camera body malfunctions.  Having a backup camera body is VERY IMPORTANT!  You’ve been paid to capture once-in-a-lifetime moments for two people and not having a contingency plan in place is a disservice to your clients.  Just think about what would happen if you only had one camera and it stopped working in the middle of the ceremony.  Do you really wanna be THAT guy?  If you don’t already own a second body/lens,  consider renting one.  They are cheap to rent and make a huge difference in your confidence level.  If you can only afford one-rent the body!

What I do – Simple.  I always have 3 camera bodies with three different lenses with me at all times.  Again, simple.


6. BE DECISIVE, NOT OBTRUSIVE – You won’t be the only person taking pictures.  But unlike everyone else,   YOU are being paid to do it.  It is your job to get the best pictures possible and sometimes you will need to “get in there” to get the shot.  Don’t be afraid to.  You cannot be timid in these situations or you will miss things you don’t want to,  like the first kiss.

What I do – I try to pick a time(well before the ceremony begins)when as many of the wedding attendees are present to introduce myself.  This way everyone will know who I am and why I’m there.  Remember,  aside from the bride and groom and a few(maybe all) members of the bridal party, most people aren’t going to know who you are so introducing yourself prior to the start of events will put others at ease when they see walking around photographing them.


7. BE AWARE OF YOUR BACKGROUNDS – This isn’t a controlled studio setting.  Be aware of all the different backgrounds you will be working with during the day(you should already have an idea of these from when you scouted your location!)

Espiritu Wedding_036

What I do – While scouting my location I simply make a mental note of what I’ll be working with.


8. KNOW HOW TO USE YOUR LIGHT – If you’re photographing a wedding,  you should already know how to use all forms of light.  At the very least you should understand different ways of using on camera flash(not pop-up).   Light is everything in photography and knowing how to manipulate it to your advantage is very important,  especially at a wedding where often times indoor lighting can be dim at best.   If you are not familiar with lighting scenarios(flash included),  you are not ready to photograph weddings professionally.  Learn, learn, learn!  

NOTE: While technical know-how is important,  nothing beats hands-on experience!  As an amateur, try to attend as many weddings as possible before charging a client for professional work.  Be aware of how the wedding photographer works(if there is one) and don’t be afraid to shoot away!  Just remember- That photographer you’re watching work is there to work.  Let them.

flashphoto by www.kentyuphotography.com

What I did – Many years of hands-on experience following college  🙂


10. BE READY FOR THE UNEXPECTED(IT WILL HAPPEN) – Being prepared is the most important part of wedding photography and without it you will struggle keep up with the pace of the day and as a result the number of quality images you get will decline.  With that said,  you must also be ready for the unexpected to happen because it usually does.  There are a lot of things happening throughout the course of a wedding so be ready when things don’t go according to plan.

What I do – Expect the unexpected. The more experience you gain as a wedding photographer the easier it will be for you to handle these situations


11. REMEMBER TO STAY LOOSE AND HAVE A GOOD TIME!  YOU’RE DOING WHAT YOU LOVE – Always remember why you are there photographing the wedding in the first place…because you love photography.  Or at least you should.  If you’re in it for the money alone then you should consider a different career.

Espiritu Wedding_456

What I do – My passion for photography was born at a young age and still drives me today.  I enjoy the pressure that comes with photographing a wedding a perform my best in these situations


12. CONSIDER A SECOND SHOOTER – There are almost too many areas to cover within a wedding for one person to cover.  If you’re covering a small wedding than you may be able to get away with just yourself but I’ve used a second shooter from day one.  Be sure to choose someone who’s work fits your style or what you want your style to be and whom you trust.

What I do –  My second shooter has been working with me for seven years and has been a big part of my success.


13.  GET THE RINGS – You’ll need a period of time with the rings so that you can set up a few shots of them.   Don’t be afraid to ask for them!

Espiritu Wedding_265

What I do – I always ask for the rings before the ceremony.  This way I can go off on my own for a few shots of the rings while everyone is still filing in and getting ready for the ceremony to begin.  Just be sure to get them back to whomever you borrowed them from!


Hopefully these simple steps will give you a little more confidence shooting your next wedding.  If you have any specific questions post them in the comments below and I’ll reply ASAP!


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