27 Essential Wedding Photography Tips I Wish I Knew 20 Years Ago

All photos by Parker Photographic!

You’re about to get at least two pro tips not found anywhere else online. Nobody is talking about these, and it’s essential to know these tips now vs. after your first wedding. I can’t wait to share these tips with you because they’re going to blow your mind!

Hello, my name is Chris Parker, and I spent fifteen years shooting over 500 weddings. Today I want to share with you 27 essential wedding photography tips all wedding photographers should know.

I wish I knew these pro wedding photography tips when I started my wedding photography business. If I did, I would have been able to grow my business faster. Oh, and I would have been able to create better images… that would have led to more bookings.

If you’re preparing to shoot your first wedding, it’s imperative that you go through these wedding photography tips before the big day. The sooner, the better.

If you’re ready to learn these essential 27 wedding photography tips, let’s get started. Oh, and I should note that there are actually more than 27 tips… there’s an additional 10 pro tips (within the basic tips) and a bonus tip that you shouldn’t skip!

Beach Ceremony

A beach ceremony I covered in the summer of 2011 in Naples, Fl.

Table of Contents

one. In wedding photography having more than one camera is essential.

Wedding Dress Photo

Not your typical wedding dress photo.  But, it tells a story about the location.

Pro Tip: 

Once your wedding photography business takes off, reinvest your earnings back into your photography business. 

In my first 3 years, I allocated 10% to gear and 15% to advertising. 

This resulted in $10K for camera gear and $15K for advertising… per year for those first three years.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dropped a camera at a wedding. A lot! Here are just a few instances of equipment that was destroyed during a wedding…

The day before a wedding, a brand new D300 arrived. Just in time, I thought. I asked my wife to put the camera strap on… big mistake. 

The next day I threw the camera strap around my shoulder only to watch the camera continue its momentum and crash into the cement driveway. 

New but cracked!

After a ceremony, I began preparing to set up for the family shots at the altar. Starting with the Bride and Groom, I turned my back to fix her dress. 

Then a loud crashing sound rang out, followed by a loud gasp from all that was present. Apparently, the ring bearer knocked over my tripod. That was the last time I used a tripod!

In a rush after another ceremony, I failed to zip up my camera bag after placing it in my car. Once we reached our destination, I ran to the other side of the vehicle to pull out the bag. 

Bet you know what happened next? 

Yep, every camera body and lens crashed to the pavement. Luckily it wasn’t too high off the ground and was able to minimize the damage.

During a reception, I began the process of shooting table details. With only two hands and three cameras, one was placed on a table. 

My mind was racing thinking of all that had to be done and I forgot about the camera. At least until someone brought it back and said they found it on the floor.

Ooops… it cracked when it fell.

Sometimes a camera would crack, and sometimes it wouldn’t. Sometimes, the glass on the lens would break, or the zoom mechanism would get stuck… making it impossible to zoom.

Regardless, I guarantee that you’re going to break equipment on the big day at some point in your wedding photography career! A wedding day is a once in a lifetime event. 

If you do not have backup equipment, you will not be able to do what you were hired for. Not good for business!

My number one recommendation: bring two or more camera bodies and at least two of every lens. 

If you can’t afford or don’t have the budget for this, what can you do instead? 

Here are some tips to consider…

Borrow

Rent

Or don’t start your wedding career until you can afford it

two. As a wedding photographer being prepared is vital.

It also wouldn’t hurt to be prepared for the unexpected. Here are some tips to consider before going out and shooting a wedding.

What are you going to do if you forget to charge your batteries?  What if the batteries were charged but then died for some unknown reason?

The best types of AA batteries for wedding photographers:  Eneloop.  Make sure to buy more than you need and at least two chargers… one for home and one in the car.

If you only have one media card and it becomes corrupt, what are you going to do? 

Multiple memory cards are required of anyone photographing weddings.

Personally, I have at least six memory cards with me at all times.

What if you get a flat tire on the way to the ceremony?  Or any other part of the day?

What if you run out of gas?

I’ve been close!  

What if you’re in a car accident?

Make sure to have pertinent phone numbers of any family members and or friends attending the wedding that can assist you during unexpected events.

These are all contingencies you should plan for. Bear in mind this list is short. There are numerous possibilities. So, it won’t be possible to plan for everything.  But, plan for the most and you’ll be covered!

unexpected expression

This was an unexpected expression. But, a memorable one indeed.  Wouldn’t you agree?

Pro Tips: If you’re seriously injured in a car accident, the last thing on your mind is shooting a wedding.

But, again, it’s a once in a lifetime event for your clients. I’d say you should have a plan in place. If the plan is an assistant or 2nd shooter, are they prepared?  Contact them immediately so they can cover the wedding day without interruption.

Then, you’ll need to contact the bride and groom or the immediate family to provide an update on the situation.  

See the bonus tips for replacing yourself in other possible scenarios out of your control.

three. A “shot list” is vital when starting out as a wedding photographer.

When first starting out you’re nervous enough as it is. That being said, your client is nervous and stressed out too. The last thing they want to do is worry about whether or not their wedding photographer is doing their job.

If you come across as nervous or appear to not know what you’re doing, only bad things can come from it. It’s going to adversely affect the bride and groom too. 

Even if this is your very first wedding, you should come across as confident. You can achieve this by having a shot list created before the wedding.

Plan out the day from getting ready through the ceremony and reception. Make a list of shots you need to capture at each part of the day. Involving your clients in this process can add to the list and instill their confidence in you.

But, having a list is only half the battle to building your confidence. The remaining wedding photography tips can also boost your confidence.

Shot gun wedding

Ever been to a shotgun wedding?

four. Get a free "photography coordinator" on the big day!

A photography coordinator is a non-paid assistant. How do you get an assistant without paying them?

It’s easy, actually. Here’s how…

You’ll volunteer a member of the wedding party, a family member, or a friend of theirs to “assist” you at specific points of the day. Here are a couple of reasons when you’ll need their help…

In most cases, you may not know the bride and groom’s family personally. You may never meet the parents, grandparents, siblings, uncles, and aunts until the day of.

This will make it harder for you to gather the people needed for the formal portraits. Yes, the bride and groom know who they are. 

However, it’s your job to be in charge of the situation and get the people needed for the family pics. By taking charge, you’re relieving the happy couple from the stress of the moment. They’ll thank you for it!

Although I always ask the immediate families to be ready after the ceremony, there’s always at least 2 or more that never make it on their own. Instead, they’re out mingling with guests!

As you begin photographing the couple, you can have your “photography assistant” gather the other family members needed.

Oh, and don’t worry, most people are glad to help!

five. Scout the location before the wedding

Once you have all the details about the wedding day, like locations, it would be a good idea to visit them before the big day. This will allow you to see any challenges that may arise, visually see how you can utilize a location creatively and many other benefits.

Let’s say, the bride and groom would like to have their photography done at a local park filled with beautiful trees and flowers. 

However, when you show up, you notice that behind those majestic trees is a huge eyesore… a nuclear reactor, industrial park, abandoned 50 story building, etc..

Now, you have to spend extra time to find the best spot to eliminate that eyesore as much as possible. Or take some time before the wedding to go to each location to plan ahead.

Urban wedding

Another not so typical wedding photo.  A lot of my clients like urban landscapes… sometimes with graffiti.

six. Don’t be a distraction or risk being banned.

The last thing you want to do is draw attention to yourself during a ceremony. If you do, you’ll become a distraction to the guests. 

Even worse, if you’re distracting the priest too expect negative consequences.

In fact, Catholic churches are the strictest venues I’ve ever photographed at. 

Some will ban you during the ceremony if you become a distraction. 

One of the things you can do to limit distractions is to turn off the sound on your camera. If you have any “beeps” that go off after a particular action… shut it down.

Catholic Ceremony

seven. Record all the small details.

Couples spend a lot of money on weddings. It’s your job as the photography pro to record the event in its entirety. This includes capturing all the small details…

The details of the brides’ dress, jewelry, shoes, and more
Bouquets, boutonnieres, and any other flowers
The rings… return them immediately when done!
Reception decor from centerpieces, to the cake, and more
jewlery

eight. Consider a second wedding photographer.

Photographing a wedding by yourself can be difficult. Especially when you’re shooting your first wedding. Being in two places at once is impossible even for the best wedding photographers in the world. 

For example, your client may want to get ready shots of both of them. But, they are getting prepared at the same time in two different locations. How are you going to be in two places at once?

In that case, you may need a second wedding photographer in situations like this. This isn’t the only time you might need a second photographer, though. 

Here are a few more tips where two or more photographers might be required.

Photos of the bride and groom separately with each side of their family at the church before the ceremony.

Pre-ceremony… one photographer inside the church capturing photos as the guests are seated, and another outside as guests, family, bridal party, and others arrive.

During the processional… one photographer near the front by the third or fourth pew photographing the bridal party and the father/daughter entrance. Another photographer following the Father and Daughter before entering.

Reception – One photographer capturing all the details of the venue while the second photographer finishes any family pictures that weren’t taken at the church.

Personally, out of 500+ weddings, I only had a second shooter… once! It wasn’t my style. So, I never booked a wedding that required two photographers. This was due to the timeline, the client’s budget, and their preference of one vs. two photographers.

nine. Be a photojournalist to capture raw emotions, for better storytelling.

The best compliment I get from couples and family members was: “I didn’t even know you were there.”

My clients’ favorite photos were candids. Also known as photojournalism.

Imagine your bride gets a card from her husband to be, and it brings tears of joy to her eyes. If you decide to tap her on the shoulder to get her attention… well, never mind, the moment is ruined!

Another situation that all photographers find themselves in is the Mother-Son and Father-Daughter dance… and even the couples first dance too. Here is a typical situation…

Fathers dream of dancing with their little girls on their wedding night… I know I do. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it (and I’ve shed a lot of tears during the Father-Daughter dance too). Then, that moment arrives where dad is called to dance with his daughter. 

They embrace, and the music begins. It’s not long before one or both are overcome with emotion… then, the inevitable happens…. 

Click to enlarge.

…Grandma wants a picture of the two of them and taps on their shoulders… say cheese! Moment ruined!

You best be ready to capture those raw emotions before they’re tapped out of their current emotional state! 

Have a plan of action. Take as many photos as possible in those first 30 seconds… because someone… grandma, grandpa, mom, dad, or uncle joe… are right around the corner!

ten. Diffuse on-camera flash by bouncing off walls and ceilings.

Although this is the shortest of all the wedding photography tips, it will directly affect your photos’ quality. The higher the quality of your images, the more couples you’ll attract.

Direct, on-camera flash will often result in red-eyes. Not a good look for your bride (or anyone else)! 

Instead, learn how to bounce your flash off a wall or ceiling. This technique eliminates red-eye and softens the light. The result is more natural and flattering.

light diffusor

Wall and or ceiling too far?  No problem.  Use a light diffuser to soften the strobe of light.

eleven. Shoot in RAW and here's why...

When it comes to weddings, shooting in RAW or JPEG is a simple decision. A RAW file is going to give you more information from which to edit. This will provide you with a higher quality file.

Imagine your bride spent $10K on her wedding dress. It’s covered with exquisite detail, and while shooting under the intense sun, you settle on using JPEGs. The limitations of JPEGs and the dynamic range of the sensor will hinder your ability to capture all the detail under the intense sun.

Is your bride going to be happy about this? It’s a rhetorical question, of course.

Here’s why JPEG files are inferior. Unlike with a RAW file, JPEGs do not retain all the detail captured. 

This is because a JPEG file is compressed before being written to your memory card. During compression, your camera will decide what detail to keep and what not to keep. 

This will limit your ability to recover lost details in the highlights and or shadows. In a way, your camera’s processor is making creative decisions for you.

If you insist on shooting in JPEG, there’s a couple of things you’ll need to do for the best results…

ONE.

Nail your exposure at the time of capture. This will ensure detail in the highlights and shadows are captured.

Although, if some detail is still lost due to other factors like the dynamic range of your camera, they will be gone forever. With RAW, you may have a chance to bring some of the detail back.

TWO.

Nail your white balance in-camera. Getting the white balance wrong can result in excessive editing and not being able to fix it in post-production.

However, with RAW, you can fix it in one click!

exquisite details

Pro Tip: 

If you’re still unsure about RAW, I recommend doing the following: shoot in both RAW and JPEG. That is if your camera has this feature. 

If so, capture both file formats and compare them during the editing process. 

This way, you can see for yourself the limitations of JPG. And you’ll discover that RAW is superior, guaranteed!

twelve. Promote your photography at the wedding without actually promoting.

Several things make it difficult to become a pro wedding photographer; budget for gear + advertising, experience, and a portfolio are the top four

Back in 2001, when I started promoting my photography business, I didn’t have the luxury of social media. Imagine that! No Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or even Youtube. So, I had to get creative.

Here are several tips to promote your wedding photography business, on the day of weddings non-aggressively.

Show confidence in your ability to capture the day

Be in control of situations (family photos – get your “assistant” to help you) and put your couple at ease

Don’t be a distraction during crucial points of the wedding day: times of emotion, during the ceremony, first “dances,” and more

Arrive early and stay later than the contracted time… creates excellent word of mouth.

In my first year, I often stayed till midnight, even though the contract was completed at 10pm.

Without fail, the parents (since they paid for my services most of the time) of the bride and groom would say, “I can’t believe you’re still here! 

We’re so happy you’re taking the time to… blah blah blah.” The best word of mouth I’ve ever earned!

So, how do these tips promote your business?  Like the last one, it will create positive reactions to your services and word of mouth will spread faster.

These next wedding photography tips are a bit more aggressive but will get more eyeballs on your service. An often requested service is posting the couple’s wedding pictures on an online gallery. 

This can be done through vendors that specialize in this service like ShootDotEdit, Pixieset, or Shootproof

In most cases, those online galleries will not be available directly on your website.

Either way, you’ll want to create a page on your site that family and friends and, of course, the couple have to visit to reach the gallery.  

This can be a simple page that links to the gallery located on another URL.  Or another part of your website.

If you shoot a large wedding with 250 – 300 guests, you have (at least) that many possible visitors. Who doesn’t want to see the photos of the happy couple? 

Plus, if those guests are at work, how many people are they going to invite to see them? You literally have thousands of possible prospects that can visit your site and learn about your photography!

But, the question is, how do you get people on your site? There are two steps you should initiate. Check out the pro tip  to learn what you need to do…

Pro Tip: 

First, always get permission from the happy couple before the wedding, of course. Some may find it tacky. It all depends on your clientele… 99% of mine were laid back and encouraged it.

One.

Create business cards with the link and password to the couple’s online gallery portal (located on your site, of course). On the front of the card include your standard photography business info. On the back, add the online gallery details.

If your client prefers to see the photos before family and friends don’t include the password. I mention this because I’ve been known to have wedding photos ready for viewing three days after the wedding, and all of my clients see their photos on their honeymoon!

Two.

Place the cards at the reception where they’ll be visible for all to see… backside up with the gallery info. The best places are at the table with the cards for the seating arrangement and or with the guest signing book/photo.

The above passive promotion accelerated my ability to generate 90% of my bookings via referrals! Oh, and to drop my advertising budget from 15% to 2% after year 3.

thirteen. Use a large aperture to selectively blur the background.

Backgrounds in portraits can be distracting. To separate your subjects from the background use a large aperture to blur it. 

Depending on the number of people in your group shots use anywhere from f/1.4 to f/4 to blur out the background.

However, other factors will determine how much the background is blurred out. This is in relation to the depth of field or the “zone.” 

Here are a few things that can affect how much the background is blurred; the focal length, distance of lens to subject, distance of subject to background, and more.

Pro Tip: 

If you’re unable to achieve the desired bokeh (blur), you can always try to blur the background in Photoshop.

shallow depth of field

For this image, I used a fairly small aperture of f/5.  So, how did I achieve a shallow depth of field?

Depth of field is also affected by distance of subject to background and focal length.  There’s actually a couple more too.

fourteen. Don't always shoot at eye-level, change your perspective.

The next time you’re at a wedding, look around and pay attention to where everyone is placing their camera… which is? That’s right, they’re all shooting at eye level.

In today’s digital world, every wedding has dozens of wedding photographers… that is, everyone with a camera! Your photography should stand out. After all, you are the pro photographer hired for the job. If your compositions and perspectives are the same as everyone else… why did they hire you?

The most unique way to change the composition is to change your perspective. Here are a few tips…

Shoot from the hip

Lay down and shoot

Get elevated by standing on a chair

Or raise the camera above your head

shoot like grandma

Grandma knows what she’s doing!

fifteen. Don't accept the 'ole "you can just Photoshop it."

After shooting 500, 800, or thousands of images at a wedding, the last thing you want to do is spend days or weeks in front of the computer “fixing” them in Photoshop. Unless you enjoy spending countless hours in front of the computer?

Instead, get it right in camera. Nail your exposure, white balance, composition, and more as you shoot. This will result in hours saved staring at the computer “fixing” your photos.

Sometimes dumb luck creates interesting photos.

"Don't worry about it. You can just Photoshop it."

At the wedding, as you’re setting up a shot, If you ever hear someone say you can just “Photoshop it,” run! Well, don’t run… but fix it… now!

For example, you’re setting up the happy couple for a quick photo in front of the church. But, Uncle Joe is in the background, either unaware or photobombing. Either way, you decide Uncle Joe shouldn’t be in the photo. But, a bridesmaid says, “don’t worry about it… 

…you can Photoshop him out.” Umm, no!

I’m sure you have the editing skills to remove him in Photoshop. Or do you? Either way, if you take 30 seconds to get Uncle Joe to move now, how much editing will it save you? 5 minutes? 10, 20, 30? It all adds up.

Especially when the couple wants all 10 photos with Uncle Joe to be retouched! Don’t use Photoshop as a crutch. Get it right, in-camera!

sixteen. Fill-flash for formal pics at dark locations.

When shooting formal portraits in a dark location, like a Catholic Church, use fill-flash to light your subjects. If not, you’re going to make your life more difficult by trying to fix it in Lightroom or Photoshop, especially when there’s a lot of mixed lighting. 

The color of that light is spilling onto your subjects’ skin. You’ll end up with skin tones that look unnatural and will be difficult to fix.

Plus, you’ll end up with a lower quality image and a photo that is not as sharp as possible. This will be due to needing to use a higher ISO setting

This creates a lot of digital noise that will need to be removed during the editing process. The end result will be a lower quality and softer photo.

Fill light

Nikon D300 | 1/60 | f/4 | ISO 1600

This is a typical, dark, Catholic church.  I upped the flash compensation on my SB800 at +3. Even with the compensation and high ISO I could only muster an f/2.8.

Luckily, there were double doors to my right.  After opening the doors, the new available light allowed me to shoot with a larger depth of field! 

Pro Tip:  

In tip #10, I recommend bouncing your flash off the ceiling and or walls. At a large Catholic church or most churches, what are you going to bounce off of? All surfaces will be too far for your on-camera flash. So, you have two options.

One.

Bring professional, off-camera strobes with umbrellas or soft-boxes to light your subjects. Make sure they’re powerful enough to light multiple people for the formal pictures. 

This will provide the best, professional results and will eliminate unnatural skin tones from mixed lighting… that is if they’re powerful enough to overcome ambient light. Although this is also the most expensive and most difficult of the two options.

Two.

Personally, I use my Nikon SB-800 strobe for the formals. Most of the time, I shoot at an ISO of 800 and rare occasions at 1600. This provides an aperture range of f/4 – f/8. This is sufficient to keep 2 – 3 rows of people in focus. 

If the ISO settings are scary to you, they shouldn’t be. Today’s editing software is powerful and able to reduce the noise considerably.

You’d be surprised to know that I was shooting at 1600 regularly with my first digital camera, a Fuji S2 from 2002. Even then, I didn’t mind the digital noise since it wasn’t much different from the grain created from film rated at the same ISO setting.

Anyway, when using an on-camera strobe, you’ll want to increase the Flash Compensation up to +3, depending on how dark the location is. If shooting family portraits outdoors, you have a lot more leeway.

seventeen. Use but don't rely on continuous shooting mode.

There are times during a wedding day when you may be tempted to use continuous shooting mode. For example, a father walking his daughter down the aisle is a once-in-a-lifetime moment that cannot be recreated.

Yes, you’ll be able to recreate it after the ceremony, but…

You will not be able to recreate the genuine, raw emotions of that moment. 

In those cases, if you are nervous about missing something that can’t be re-created, then you may want to consider using continuous shooting mode.

However, you don’t want to use it as a crutch for every part of the wedding day, especially during the ceremony. This is because of the constant noise of the shutter curtain clanking 20 times a second. Plus, you risk having to post-process thousands of images!

eighteen. When it rains it pours.

On the day of the wedding, you’ll find the wedding couple, family, and friends tuning in to the weather situation… 

Hour. After. Hour!

Therefore, always have umbrellas handy for those rainy days.

This is one of those three weddings that it actually rained at the time of the photoshoot. This wedding took place in Windsor, ON… that’s why it rained! 🙂

This is a true story.

Over the 15 years I spent shooting hundreds of weddings, I could not get the shot I needed due to bad weather only three times.

After a few years, I realized a phenomenon was occurring.

Countless times the weatherman or woman predicted foul weather that coincided with us doing photos outside.

Needless to say, the bride was disappointed with this news. Being the professional wedding photographer that I was, I decided to take things into my own hands and put the bride’s fears at ease.

I pronounced a bold prediction to her and all that could hear. “At the time of your outdoor photos, the clouds will part, the sun will shine down upon us, and it will be a glorious afternoon!”

Luckily, only three times out of the hundred or so times I made this prediction did this not come true!

There’s a saying in Michigan in regards to the weather. If the weather is dreadful, wait 10 minutes. So, maybe that was a part of it.

Due to my predictions, I garnered the love of my couples and an almost cult-like following. Ok, maybe that’s stretching it a bit.

My point is, expect the unexpected, and have a plan for it. When you do, and you’re able to implement that plan, everyone will think you are a magician.

Oh, and for those three unlucky couples, there’s an old saying: “rain on the day of your wedding is good luck!”

Pro Tip: Check the weather before and the day of the wedding… just like everyone else is doing. Then, you’ll be prepared for that rainy day.

Make sure to bring your own umbrella and remind the couple, family, and everyone in the bridal party to bring one too. There will be a lot of creative opportunities for using the umbrellas!

nineteen. Have Fun!

Wedding days can be long and stressful as it is. 

If you’re not having fun in the process, the wedding pictures you create will suffer too.

Pro Tip: Just smile and be happy! When you do, you’ll have more fun, you’ll create better photos, and your couple will be happy with the results.

twenty. Liability insurance?

Previously, we talked about the importance of having backup equipment if something is destroyed during the wedding day. But, what if something besides your equipment is destroyed due to something you did.

Let’s say you’re setting up group photos at the altar of a 300-year-old Catholic Church. You set up a couple of strobe lights for the group shots. To power these strobes, you plug them into an outlet that is 100 years old. Then it happens… the electrical outlet melts and causes a fire.

Who do you think the church is going to blame for this incident? That’s correct, you. Now, how are you going to pay for it? 

If you have liability insurance covering this type of accident, you won’t have to worry about filing for bankruptcy.

Some venues like Catholic churches will require liability insurance before you can actually shoot at their location!

Where To Get Liability Insurance

The best place for liability insurance is through the Professional Photographers Association (PPA).

As a member (myself), you can acquire the necessary liability insurance to keep you financially healthy.

twenty one. Camera insurance?

Even if you decide that you can’t afford to buy another camera body or multiple lenses (per tip #1) , you should still protect your investment.

Another true story.

It was just the bride, groom, and I that went to a local park for some photos. For this photoshoot, I decided to bring most of my camera gear with us. This way I didn’t have to worry about going back and getting something out of the car.

The camera bag can hold 3 camera bodies and 4-5 lenses. At the time, it was completely full other than the one camera and lens being used.

After about 30 minutes, I realized we were going to be late for the reception if we didn’t leave immediately. Our plan was to only be there for a few quick shots and 10 minutes at most! I got carried away.

I rushed back to the car and made a 5-minute drive in 2. I rushed inside the venue and started shooting the small details. Only to realize that I left my camera bag at the park!!!!

This time I made a 5-minute drive in 1. Luckily, my camera bag was still sitting in the middle of the park!

How To Protect Your Investment

Now that you have a membership in PPA (so you could sign up for liability insurance) guess what? As a member, PPA also has an insurance plan for your gear!

Oh, and the camera insurance plan covers broken equipment and “stolen” gear too. Which I’ve used many times!

twenty two. Speak with the officiant BEFORE the wedding.

When arriving at a church, for the ceremony, the first thing you want to do is talk to the officiant. Especially, Catholic churches, and here’s why…

Rules, rules, rules!

Some will have stricter rules than others.  

You need to know these rules ahead of time, so you don’t break them during or after the ceremony.

If you do, get ready to be kicked out and banned! That’s a great way to lose confidence in your couple and to generate negative word of mouth.

rules of worship

twenty three. Touch base with the DJ when you arrive at the reception.

Even though you have the itinerary for the reception, it’s always a good idea to consult with the DJ (or band) as soon as you arrive!

One, it’s possible the DJ, and your client changed the timeline. Or canceled/changed something else. Two, you want to ensure that you’re around for important moments of the night, like…

Intro’s

First dance

Cake cutting

There’s nothing worse than missing an important moment that the couple is expecting you to capture.

Pro Tip: The first thing I do when arriving at the reception is to photograph all the little details… as mentioned in wedding photography tip #7.

The second thing I do is introduce myself to the DJ and or band. I pull out my pre-filled itinerary. We’ll go over the important times of the evening and confirm that nothing has changed. If something has changed, it won’t be missed!

Why do I talk to the master of ceremony second? Usually, my arrival is in conjunction with all the guests. I like to get all the detail shots done before too many people are seated. Another great reason for a second photographer!

twenty four. Don't forget the rings.

The couple’s rings are one of the most important small details you shouldn’t forget. Often it’s not possible to get the rings until the reception. This makes it easy to forget after a long day of shooting.

Write it down on your “shot list!” Next, ask your wedding photography assistant to grab the rings for you. Or grab them yourself… which is what I usually do.

wedding rings

Now that you have the rings, how are you going to capture them? 

Well, weeks before the wedding, you scoured the internet for photo ideas. Rings were one of them. You noticed that the majority of photos have the rings placed on the bride’s bouquet.

Easy enough. Or is it? 

For your first wedding, it’s not that simple. Here’s why… the rings will not always stack neatly, can be heavier than the petals, and many more unforeseen situations. 

Therefore, it’s best to practice before that first wedding!

Oh, and since you’re not an average wedding photographer, you strive to provide variety for your clients… and your portfolio.

Rings on a bouquet are classic, and most couples want that shot. But, you decide to go a step further after reviewing some wedding ring photo ideas.

Pro Tip: For my ring shots, I mostly use a (60mm) Nikon macro lens and a Speedlight for lighting.

twenty five. To ride or not to ride in the limo (bus).

It’s easier to ride with the wedding party to any and all photo locations. However, if they don’t plan on going back to the ceremony location, you’re stuck without a car!

Plus, you’re at the mercy of the bridal party and the driver. If they decide to take a detour, before arriving at the reception, to get some more beer… you’re stuck.

If you drive yourself, you can head straight to the reception to capture all the small details (before anyone arrives). Or get a second wedding photographer!

twenty six. Get fed!

Pro Tip: PPA can help you write a contract (for free) as a member. I love my PPA. They provide so many resources for pro wedding photographers!

My contract also mentions I’m to be fed with the rest of the guests. Oh, and it has to be a hot meal! 

None of this dried, sun-burned (I’ve had brown “bags” of food left out in the sun), sandwiches leftover from the other day.

If not, per the contract I’m allowed 1 hour to leave to acquire proper nourishment.

There’s nothing worse than working 12 straight hours, without a lunch break, only to find out the couple isn’t feeding you at dinner!!

Get fed. Put it in your contract!

twenty seven. Get an assistant.

Having a paid wedding photography assistant can make your life easier! Like…

Remembering to put your camera bag back in the car… zipped up of course

Following you in another car while you’re in the limo (bus) to capture some of those moments

Keeping kids away from your tripod with the $5,000 camera gear mounted atop

Conversing with the officiant and DJ leaving you time to do other stuff

Fluffing the bride’s dress for photos, fixing crooked ties, making sure your batteries are fully charged throughout the day, and much more

Now for the most important wedding photography tips you’ll ever learn about…

bonus. Do you have a "human" backup?

What!?!?! 

What is a “human” backup? In the first wedding photography tip, you learned about backup gear… and how important it is. But, what about a backup for you?

Yes, you need to have a substitute for you as well. Think about it. You book your first wedding, the couple signs the contract, and now you’re in a signed agreement with that couple. 

What happens if you don’t show up. Legally, they have a right to sue you!

I know, you’re not going to intentionally not show-up. However, what if you get Covid-19 and you’re quarantined for 14 days? You better have a “human” backup!

In the early days, I networked with other wedding photographers in the area. The four of us would exchange leads when a specific date filled up. 

But, more importantly, we had “human” backups! In the 15 years we worked together, we only had to initiate the “human” backup clause once…  I was asked to fill in for one of the  spouses that fell ill.

Oh, and by “clause” I mean that it was written in our contracts something like this…

“In the event, Chris Parker is unable to attend your wedding event due to conditions out of his control, a backup photographer with equal skills will be provided.”

Be sure to have PPA add something like this to your contract. You can also network with other PPA members to widen your net for backing up yourself.

What Now?

Wedding photography is the best source of income I’ve ever had. It was easy but challenging. Fun but exhausting. Most of all, it was rewarding. 

To know that I was honored to capture a once-in-a-lifetime event that current and future generations were going to enjoy was humbling. Wedding photography is a journey. One that doesn’t end with your first wedding.

Every day you should strive to be a better photographer. Continuously learn to hone your craft. Challenge yourself with goals, enter photo contests, ask for feedback, and anything else you can think of to excel as a wedding photographer.

Last but not least, you’re only as good as your last wedding. In today’s social media world, one bad wedding can ruin your reputation. 

Be on your toes and give 110% at every wedding. Before you know it, you’ll be a full-time pro wedding photographer with more leads than you know what to do!

Hope you enjoyed and learned a lot with my best wedding photography tips. If so, please share these photography tips!

Parker
Parker
A 30-year photography pro with a desire to help you achieve your creative vision! Facebook | Youtube
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Hello! My name is Chris Parker and I run this place. But, more importantly, what’s in it for you? Well, my passion is to help you achieve your creative vision.

With 30 years experience I believe I can help you do just that. So, if you’re ready… let’s do it!

 

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