Photographing a wedding can be a daunting task. A little time spent planning your wedding shot list can make the day stress free and enjoyable.
Use this list to break down your wedding shoot into manageable parts. Capture the special day with confidence and style. And be mindful, although this article refers to ‘Bride’ and ‘Groom’, these tips apply to any and every gender and religion.
Planning a Wedding Photography Shot List
When a couple approaches you about their wedding photography, it is key to understand their expectations. Sit down for a casual chat. Do not be afraid to ask questions.
It is important not to be caught up with the ‘style‘ of photography they are after. If they have asked you to be their wedding photographer, they like how you see things.
There are two important things to learn from this meeting. Aside from the date, venue, time, and logistical information.
- The important people and their names;
- How the couple wants to experience their photographs in years to come.
The ‘Important’ People
The ‘important’ people are the ones who will help make your life easier on the day. For example, addressing the couple’s parents by name will help them relax with you and make for better pictures.
The ushers are critical because they will know most guests. They can round up groups for upcoming photographs.
Family names—Bride and Groom, parents, siblings, bridesmaids, groomsmen, glower girls, page boys, who gives the Bride away.
Vendor names—Wedding venue, officiators name, reception venue, caterer, DJ/band name.
How the couple picture themselves enjoying their photos can impact your wedding shot list. Knowing how they want to re-live the happiest day of their lives will clarify what you shoot and why.
As odd as it sounds, not everyone who gets married is a professional model. The purpose of meeting with the couple before the wedding is to make them feel comfortable with you.
Use this time to practice your direction and get a feel for what looks natural. Looking into each other’s eyes without laughing can be a challenge when people are nervous, so expect the best shots to be at the end of your camera roll.
The Must-Have Wedding Photography Checklist
Bride Getting Ready
- Bride’s hair and makeup—Shooting into the mirror can give a lovely intimate depth of field whilst showing people and the environment.
- Bridesmaids—Lots of smiles here, and great for black and white reportage.
- Wedding dress—Hang the bridal gown by a window to pick out detail in natural light.
- Wedding shoes—These usually look best if one has fallen over and is surrounded by flowers and wedding paraphernalia.
- Accessories—Something borrowed? Are there any heirlooms or special hair, clothing, or dress accessories laying around?
- Final touches—Someone (like the mother of the bride) doing the last zip or button.
- Ready shot—The prepared Bride is now ready to get hitched. If you can, use natural light for a few portraits before you head outside to shoot;
- Bridesmaids/ Family—Group shots of the Bride with her entourage. These are best taken outside for space and an atmosphere of togetherness.
- Flowers—With the bridal party in the background or against the colour/pattern of a dress. Always shoot the flowers.
Groom Getting Ready Checklist
- Tie the tie—Every groom needs someone to check his neckwear.
- Cufflinks—A groom must adjust his cufflinks so as not to fiddle with them during the ceremony.
- Nerves—Even the most confident groom will check and double-check the time, decorations, and arrival of the guests.
- The ready shot—Portraits of the groom dressed to impress and ready for action.
- Groomsmen/Page Boys—In group shots and fulfilling their roles.
Ceremony Venue & Guests
- Location—Whether it is a castle or a registry office, it is an important place. Try to capture it in an evocative way.
- Interior—Wide shots of the space, chair backs, decorations, and features.
- Signs—Welcome signs, seating signs, village signs, etc.
- Congregation arriving—Friends and family smiling, laughing, and seeing loved ones.
- Page boys—Album cover style poses can be great for this.
- Officiator—Do not forget to portrait the person who performs the ceremony.
- Brides arrival—You will be ready for this because you made a timeline in your initial meeting! Getting out of the car can be awkward in a massive dress so try not to get in the way.
Wedding Ceremony Photo Checklist
- Aisle shots—Your chance to get some environmental portraits with the congregation.
- Dad’s last look—Or whoever is giving the bride away.
- Groom’s first look—Wait for the split second of relief to pass and snap the undying love in the look that follows.
- Nerves—The couple feeling giddy together.
- Smiles—Once the celebrant has clarified why we are all gathered here today.
- Celebrant/Minister—Explaining what marriage is and giving you time to get to the back of the room for the;
- Readings—From family members or friends, get a few shots through the congregation to frame the speaker and add focal depth.
- Vows—The way a person looks at someone when they pledge their life to them can be intense.
- The Ring—In most ceremonies, the ring is held on the finger for a while, allowing for that closeup.
- Congregation’s reaction—While you have a zoom lens on, get shots of the family watching, crying, or looking at their significant others.
- Kiss—The moment everyone has been waiting for. Bonus points if you can get the couple and reaction shots from the congregation.
- Signing the register—Get your shots done and move out of the way to let friends and family capture the moment.
- Exit—Arrange an usher to guide you back as you shoot the couple’s grand exit.
Outside Wedding Venue Group Photo
- Confetti—A countdown can help to get even confetti spread. Take note of which way the wind is blowing. If possible, have it blowing toward the couple.
- The Couple—Use the surroundings for romantic portraits of the happy couple. Water and bridges are a firm favourite, along with trees and ‘in vail’ closeups.
- Bride’s parents
- Groom’s parents
- All parents—Including step/surrogate parents.
- Siblings/children—Opening a pre shaken bottle of champagne can be fun.
- Bridesmaids—The Charlie’s Angels pose is always a winner.
- Groomsmen—Incorporating whatever superhero outfit they have on under their suit.
- Entire bridal party
- Exit—The couple being driven away in their fancy car.
- Exterior—As before, it may not be an exciting looking building, but it is important to the couple.
- Table settings—Centrepieces, place cards, decorations, and favours.
- Couples entrance—Find yourself a good spot. Do not forget everyone will stand up as the couple enters.
- Speeches—Do not overshoot this. Two or three shots are all you need unless something spectacular is happening.
- Stolen glance—During the speeches, try and catch the newlyweds looking at each other when someone says what a fantastic couple they are.
- Entire wedding party—Find a high vantage point and gather everyone for a must-have wedding photo.
- Cake—A nice shallow depth of field with the wedding party in the background.
- Cake cutting—And in some cases feeding each other.
- Bouquet throwing—And catching.
- Wedding rings—The reception is a great place to shoot some wedding portraits and detail shots with the rings.
- First dance—Either a nervous shuffle or a choreographed routine. Use a wireless flash and bounce it off the ceiling from the corner of the dancefloor.
- Bride and father dance
- Groom and mother dance
- Party Pics—Keep it classy!
- Signing book—These objects can be extravagant and imaginative.
- Exit—The couple leaves to live happily ever after.
The Best Editing Practices for Wedding Photography
Editing a whole day of shooting can take several more. But there are a few things you can do to make the job easier. Applying a preset on import is a good way to have all the photos auto-adjusted for exposure.
The single photo view combined with your arrow and number keys is the quickest way to rate your shots. Filter your view by star rating, then narrow that selection further. It might seem you are wasting valuable editing time, but it is much quicker in the long run.
If you have a considerable number of shots and not a lot of time, you could consider using software like ImagenAI to edit your photos for you.
How to Deliver Wedding Photos
Websites like Shootproof and Smugmug make a great way to deliver images digitally. Downloads can be restricted to only those with the password. Friends and family can purchase prints straight from either site.
For canvases, books, photo boxes and other physical products, you may want to meet the couple for their ‘reveal’. This is your chance to positively reinforce your work and strengthen your relationship with them. Ask for reviews and feedback so you can continually add more value for future couples.
Meet the couple to discuss their wedding day and create a custom wedding photography shot list. This is key to creating images they will love and treasure forever. Your wedding shot list acts as your framework for the day, but be ready to capture those unscripted special moments. Feel free to use and modify this list for your wedding photos.
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