So You’re Going to Shoot A Wedding: Part 1 of 3 [Preparation]

So You’re Going to Shoot A Wedding: Part 1 of 3 [Preparation]

About 5 seconds after I purchased my first professional camera, long before I hung a shingle or had any idea of what I was doing, the requests to shoot weddings came flooding in. Because let’s face it; someone’s always getting married. And your cousin’s dentist’s cleaning lady’s daughter would love a deal. And you are maybe just the photographer to give her one.

There are thousands of opinions regarding if non-wedding photographers should ever even consider taking a stab at shooting a wedding– free, favor, or otherwise. For the purpose of this article (and my sanity) we aren’t going to touch the politics of that with a 10 foot pole. Instead, we are going to assume that for whatever reason, you are shooting your first or near first wedding, like, tomorrow and you need a little reassurance that going ahead and shooting it as planned is a better idea than attempting to break your leg on purpose so you can be hospitalized and therefore legitimately unable to work. (The recovery time for this is longer than you would think. I’ve looked into it.) Here are 5 tips for the preparation of said wedding/non-purpose-leg-breaking.


Value Yourself

Never, ever, ever shoot a wedding for free. I know it’s tempting. Maybe you’ve never shot one before and you feel awkward about charging. Or maybe it’s your brother/sister/neighbor/dry-cleaner’s wedding. Still, absolutely no.

Here’s why: these pictures, even if they aren’t of the caliber of work you hope to produce in the future, have worth. Great, amazing worth. A worth that is only increased when they aren’t just handed over for nothing in exchange. Now, in the right situation, I do a TON of work for cheap or trade and always have. But there has to be an energy exchange of some kind.

Work for trade, work for the slightest possible fee to cover your time and equipment rental or wear, but don’t work for free. Never, ever.

You don’t want to work with people who would expect you to and they don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t value their abilities. No matter how new you are to photography, you are right now reading an article on a website all about photography. That says that you have enough interest to research it, and I’m willing to bet, enough skill to pull it off.


Prepare Yourself

I’m pretty high energy. I inhale coffee like it’s air and have to constantly remember to slow down when I talk. And walk. And drive. (Though that one probably doesn’t have much to do with caffeine.) Even so nothing lays me out like shooting a wedding. I don’t care if I have two assistants and the kindest, easiest, and most photogenic couple on the planet; it’s still exhausting.

Plan nothing the day before, and nothing the day after. The night before, sleep like it’s your job. Ice your eyeballs. If you’re into that kind of thing. You will likely be carrying twice as much equipment as normal, working five times as long, and running around like a toddler that mistook Red Bull for apple juice. No matter if you accepted actual compensation for this job or not—you owe yourself and the resulting images the best possible set-up. Day of, that set-up is comfortable shoes, a shirt that gives you renewed faith in human kind, and your lucky underwear. Or whatever. 


Have a plan…..and Faith

Most brides have been told by wedding planners, magazines, and overzealous soon-to-be mother-in-laws that they need to provide their photographer with a “shot list”. If you can avoid this upfront, do. Instead tell them that you plan on taking all the typical and expected shots you can and if they want to provide you with a short list of requested special shots that you may not think of on your own, they are welcome to. You may not know that it’s very important to the bride that all of her uncles fifth removed on her father’s side get a picture together.

But you darn well know that she wants a shot of the kiss, a shot of the wedding party, a shot of cute flower girls doing cute flower girl things, and all the other standard shots that these lists tell brides they need to ask for. If they have a few simple unusual requests, this list goes in your pocket and is all you need. Everything else will happen as it’s supposed to, when it’s supposed to, and if you worry about it, you’ll just miss the cute flower girls doing cute flower girl things.


Bring the Right Equipment (and it’s Not what you Think)

Pack a lunch, water, and easy to eat snacks. I’m not even kidding. I know what you are thinking right now—but they will have food there! Yes, they will. But the logistics of you and said food meeting up for a little break time rendezvous are extremely complicated. Trust me.

Also, you’ll want gum, Advil, and safety pins.

Correction: someone will want these things. It may be you. It may not be. But everyone will assume you are packing minty freshness, pain relief, and an emergency dress fix, so you may as well pleasantly surprise them.

Finally, and this may seem a bit excessive to some but I am nothing if not a bit excessive; I bring an entire change of clothes. A lesson learned after a waitress carrying a tray of full wine glasses and I collided at the very beginning of a reception. I got to spend the rest of the evening smelling like a winery and everyone else got to wonder why the photographer had already hit the free bar when they hadn’t even gotten to the front of the buffet line yet.


Do you have an Exit Buddy?

Whether you have an assistant or not, you need a friend. A go-to. A pal. A person on the inside.  A free Girl Friday, if you will. I don’t know who that person is. Right now, you don’t know who that person is. But it will be obvious who it’s supposed to be and you will find them early on. And you will latch on to them in a way that will have you trading BFF necklace halves by the end of the night.

This person is going to explain who is who to you. Help you out when cousin Johnny is begging for your number and you still have 3 hours of dodging him while trying to remain professional.

This person knows who is giving the toast, every bridesmaid’s name, and will happily fetch you bouquets when you have everything set-up for the perfect shot but everyone forgot their bouquets in the bathroom. It’s a bridesmaid, an aunt, an unofficial wedding planner, a step-sister, or maybe just a knowledgeable family member that is only there for the free food.

And to help you, it turns out.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Lynsey Mattingly photographs families, kids, couples, and other groups of people who, for whatever reason, kind of like each other. Her portrait work has been featured in People Magazine, Us Weekly, BBC Magazine, and on national TV including CNN, Oprah, and Ellen, but most importantly, in the personal galleries of clients across the country. Her photography can be viewed at or on Facebook.

Some Older Comments

  • FiFGUsEWMVgWA August 21, 2013 10:12 am

    579542 91296very good put up, i definitely love this web site, keep on it 109903

  • Margaret August 8, 2013 11:11 pm

    Shooting my first wedding in September for family, after I refused (family of know-it-alls) and being begged (they won't have any wedding pictures if you don't do it). I thoroughly enjoyed this blog and it has given me encouragement and inspiration to do this well. I'm going to be using all of your tips from above. Any idea when the next to blogs will be posted? I'm mostly a sports and theater photographer so I'm eagerly awaiting your next round of advice.

  • Naomi July 31, 2013 01:18 am

    wow thanks so much for this, this is just what i needed to read! i have been like a swan of late, gliding along telling everyone how much i'm looking forward to shooting my first wedding (august)! and yet underneath the water i'm paddling frantically! i also asked for a few first time tip's off what seemed to be a nice friendly photography page on facebook. and go slammed by other wedding photographers telling me i shouldn't be doing a wedding if i didn't know what i was doing and that i certainly shouldn't be charging for it! this did upset me and knock me slightly. but reading this has lifted me. so thank you xx

  • Wedding Car Hire Melbourne July 22, 2013 03:52 am

    Those two kids are so cute together and nice photography.

  • Dianne July 20, 2013 05:07 am

    Thank you, thank you for your encouragement!

    "No matter how new you are to photography, you are right now reading an article on a website all about photography. That says that you have enough interest to research it, and I’m willing to bet, enough skill to pull it off. "
    This is so nice to hear, and so different from all the comments about what a difficult job wedding photography is, and how dare you even try unless you've already shot 50. :)

  • Leslie July 16, 2013 05:04 am

    I came across this article and must say, it's great advice for the newbies. What it points out to me particularly is how important it is to hire a seasoned professional. I've seen it all, faced any adversity you can imagine, and deal with whatever comes my way with nary a blip on the radar. That's what you have to expect at a wedding. Let's talk about the bride going backwards into the ice luge to have a shot poured directly into her mouth, emerging with totally wet hair. Or the groomsman who had one too many shots with the guys before the ceremony and passed out cold during it, with the officiant wondering if she should continue the ceremony. Or, the father of the bride's lost suit pants. The list goes on and on. But I love it! It's my life.

  • Kim July 15, 2013 04:02 pm

    Well, this wedding has some perfect combinations! I like every pictures that are being captured here. Evidence that is truly unforgettable for the couple. Brilliant wedding!

  • Veronica July 14, 2013 12:25 pm

    Reading this article has encouraged me to do my first wedding shoot with my new camera. I wasn't sure how to handle the consultation with the client and now I am more confident I'll be able to do it.

  • Genie-G July 14, 2013 05:52 am

    Great article wish I had read it before I did my friends wedding.. Beginner I am and was begged to do the shoot (for Free) so I got talked into it my camera buddy to come along .. Bought heaps of new bits and even a new lens ... If I new then what I know now .. Hours and hours of hard work from am- pm bride & groom getting ready till first dance We was exhausted and days upon days editing and organizing photos ... One thing I gained from it "experience" if you don't try it you will never know so some times it is good to be in the deep of it

  • Linda B July 13, 2013 07:39 am

    What perfect timing! And the perfect read for me who is shooting a wedding a week from tomorrow. Eeeek! What was I thinking! I've done a couple of informal wedding shoots before and know it isn't easy and still I said, "yes". Part of me loves it but as you all have said, it is an exhausting job filled with worry, doubt and some wonderful moments inbetween. Love all your suggestions. I would add one more and that is to keep your sense of humor with you. A few laughs can break the tension.
    Good luck Fe Allen and thank you Lynsey for a great article.

  • Fred Bray July 13, 2013 12:29 am

    Dear Linsay, I really enjoyed your pearls of wisdom tonight, for after over 800 Weddings over the past 25 years you are spot on with your comments for Photographers wishing to be able to capture Weddings.
    I have lived through the Golden Era of Wedding Photography here in Adelaide, South Australia, where we started shooting on Medium Format 120 roll film, progressed through the 35mm years to the dynamic Digital age where it's at now. Client expectations are radically different from years ago and it's now a savage market to compete in at this level. Sadly we have since closed our Studio as the weekend Discount Digital Cowboys are running riot and undercutting prices to the point where you cannot compete. I note that we have never had more complaints to the Fair Trading Ombudsmen about Budget Photograpers who don't deliver on their promises to the Brides & Grooms.
    However, for those who wish to shoot weddings, here are some additional tips...print out and read the above comments, you are about to become a small business with all its benefits and trappings, so, do as much training as possible, work as an assistant (even for free) with a Pro who knows the business, after a while you may even get a small Wedding to practice on. Learn as much about Colour Management, Digital editing (I use & love Adobe Photoshop Lightroom), Printing and Presentation.
    Join a Professional Organisation (even as a Student Photographer) & have a binding Legal Contract which details everything. Learn Project Management Scheduling and People Management Skills and apply that knowledge to a Wedding - it works wonders on the day! Build up a Photo Portfolio of "Your Style", learn how to shoot those images well, then add in the creative stuff. Be enthusiastic, Look & act Professional at all times - people will respect you for it. Know your equipment so well you can shoot in the dark, have multiple pieces of backup equipment, you never know when a breakdown will occur, or worse still, gear is stolen ( it happens) so have insurance. But the best advice I give to the new Photographers is to get out there & have a great time capturing the magic of Weddings, It's one of the best Photo Jobs going.
    Thanks Lindsay, I hope I haven't pre-empted your next Blog, Regards, Fred.

  • Petrus Keyter July 12, 2013 06:56 pm

    Very good information on preparation here. I am sure I will be able to apply it to more than just wedding photography

  • bill griffith July 12, 2013 04:00 pm

    What a delightfully refreshing and ever so true article. The only thing I would add ( and it's easy being the editor)
    is to allow for inconsiderate guests either bumping into you while you are setting up or taking a shot, or standing /walking in front of you as you take the shot. Strange people wedding guests. You've got your 500mm lens on a big manfrotto tripod pointed at the bride and groom at the bridal table, and they, the hot-rod linkon guests didn't see you!
    Bill Griffith/Transportraits

  • ravijohnsmith July 12, 2013 02:12 pm

    i am a professional indian wedding photographer who based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. the article about good to apply on christian wedding which suit the clients requirements but not all can apply on other culture weddings. please visit my blog for indian culture weddings at - ravijohnsmith

  • Rachel July 12, 2013 02:00 pm

    This is a brilliant article Lynsey, your sense of humor is fantastic and very honest.
    From this first article I am looking forward to the rest of the series! Great tips, I am looking forward to when I get to shoot my first wedding.

  • jef Nolan July 12, 2013 12:31 pm

    Not to be redundant, I would add, bring a role of duct tape,
    if you don't know why, watch an episode of Red Green, he'll explain it.
    What ever you're using for memory, double it.
    What ever you're using for batteries, double it.
    Finally, with the advent of digital photography, you just about have an unlimited amount of candid shots you can take. Keep your eyes moving and keep your finger clicking.

  • Glenn July 12, 2013 09:39 am

    Wonderful article.
    So true for stating that you should charge something, anything!! Even family expect a lot but weddings can also be fun to photograph. Ive done a few for Family and Friends and they are exhausting and you don't really get a chance to sit and relax, but its great when friends and family state that you have saved precious memories for them.

  • Don July 12, 2013 09:18 am

    I have photographed many weddings over the years and I have made some good money from them. I do think however there are situations where you might work for no fee.
    1) A wedding of a family member (I have a grandchild about to get married). What a wonderful wedding gift.
    2) Someone genuinely living in poverty with no means of engaging a professional at all still would enjoy some memories of their special day. (I am a retired social worker).
    3. A special close friend with little means.

    Except in the case of family members where my work is my wedding gift I do charge enough to cover my direct expenses - printing costs etc. when I do "freebies".

  • Joe July 12, 2013 06:40 am

    First, if you are going to charge so much as a dime to photograph a wedding, you need to be a real company registered with your state, and hopefully as a Limited Liability Company. Failure to this could result in getting sued for all of your assets if the pictures turn out terrible.

    Second. Get practice by photographing the weddings of friends (with their permission) who have already hired a professional. Stay out of the professional's way but take pictures as if you are a wedding photographer. Practice with real weddings and do it for free. Once you know this is what you want, then create a real company, become an LLC, get business insurance, and open for business.

    If the wedding couple love your pictures, then that's great news. You know you're on the right track. I photographed two weddings this way, and decided wedding photography was not for me.

  • Graham July 12, 2013 06:22 am

    You are so correct in every aspect, your first wedding is a blur of faces comments ,bumping barging and maneuvering people into position or out of it much is "That "worth,the two things i would add to your comments are, You must be in charge of the photography and ready with a go to setting using flash for those unexpected spontaneous inside shots ,get that exposure right for the wedding dress and your on the money ,,,,great article
    regards Graham

  • Mr Richard David Tuffin July 12, 2013 05:02 am

    I really like that you've focussed on some very practicable advice here and it all rings true for me after having shot a 1/2 dozen weddings or so.

    The idea of having someone "in the crowd" who knows who's who is really important. Focussing alot of attention on the mother of the bride can be a good idea as she can be the biggest stress puppy on the day and also try to familiarise yourself with any "family issues" (divorcees in the main bridal party, "Uncle Bob" who tends to have one too many scotches by the time the speeches roll around etc).

    I never have any alcohol at a wedding, even if offered by the bridal party until I've finished every last shot of the day after an experience where the photographer at a wedding I went to WAS the first person sitting at a reception table with a beer.

    I'd rather shout myself a nice bottle of wine after the event knowing my work is done and that all that's left is to send the invoice!! :)

  • AprilM July 12, 2013 04:54 am

    I could have used this two years ago. If I had known I was going to be "the photographer" at my nephew's wedding, I definitely would have done a little preparation! As it was, I had a good camera and memories of my daughter's fabulous wedding photos fresh in my mind and I have to admit the photos I took were a lot better than the ones taken by a pro for my wedding 25 years earlier.

  • Fe Allen July 12, 2013 04:30 am

    Great article and timely for me. I am NOT, by any stretch if the imagination, a pro photographer. I am currently learning as I go but a friend asked me (twice) to take her wedding pics. I stressed that I am not a pro but she still continued to ask so I said yes. The wedding is next Sat. And im starting to get a little nervous. Im glad u wrote the article because it provided some great tips! Thanks so much and wish me luck!!

  • Lynsey Peterson July 12, 2013 03:45 am

    Thank you so much for the sweet words and I'm incredibly glad if this was helpful to some of you! Wedding photography ALWAYS ruffles some feathers, but as Norm pointed out everyone has to start somewhere. I would like to say something about shooting a wedding for free, which I mention in this article to "never, ever do". I stand by that, but I want to point out that I did say there needs to be an "energy exchange" of some sort. Would I shoot my brother's wedding as a gift (therefore, it not being free, but rather gifted)? Perhaps. But I would much rather be there as the sister of the groom who is really awesome at getting the hired wedding photographer water. There is more cost involved to the photographer for a wedding than a portrait shoot. You need back-up equipment and possibly more equipment than you own, making you have to rent or purchase, you also need more memory and batteries than you maybe own if you shoot for hobby only. I would hate to see a photographer take on these costs without having them covered in some way.

    If it's something you are looking to do full time, obviously you have to start somewhere and build a portfolio. The first wedding I ever shot I did in trade for 4 hair cuts as the bride was my hair stylist. Did I have any business shooting their wedding having never shot one before? I believe so. I had the equipment and the skills needed to do the job, confidence in myself, and trust from the bride. I also knew that without me, they wouldn't have been able to to have a photographer at all because of their budget.

    "Should" you shoot a wedding is a question that only you can answer. It is a ton of pressure. It can also be great fun and end up being something you want to do more of.

  • Debbie July 12, 2013 03:22 am

    I forgot to say that not only should your gear be insured but you should also have liability and E&O coverage. A contract is critical. My contract specifically details what editing is included and what editing will incur an additional charge. 99% of my brides have been wonderful but there's always that one such as Allen described. If I see multiple red flags leading up to the wedding I will offer the bride a refund so that she can choose someone who better suits her vision. I work full time in addition to offering photography services so I would rather pass on a job than be miserable.

  • Debbie July 12, 2013 03:06 am

    I was dragged into wedding photography kicking and screaming (literally) by my boyfriend. He was already doing wedding video and saw this as an activity that we could do together while earning some extra money. He finally bribed me with a 5D, if I would just agree to do 10 weddings for a reasonable price. I have now doubled that price and now have about 30 weddings under my belt.

    Some of the things I do to prepare for a wedding include staying in touch with the bride at least once a month prior to the wedding. Charge all camera and flash batteries the day before and have extras in your bag. Format all memory cards prior to the wedding. Test all equipment in advance to be sure everything is in good working order. Have backups for everything: 2 bodies for example. When I arrive at the wedding I pack a fanny pack with memory cards, batteries, gum and phone on vibrate. Good luck and have fun! I am looking forward to Lynsey's next article. Weddings pushed my hobby from something I enjoyed doing to a hobby that pays for itself.

  • Allen July 12, 2013 03:04 am

    What an excellent article. I must confess that I would go for the "Broken Leg" myself after my step daughter got married a year or two ago. Talk about "The Bride from Hell" and at one stage she wanted me to do the photos and then started demanding that I upgrade my equipment as she expected "Perfection" on "HER" day. The end came when she demanded that my "Dog" be relocated elsewhere for the day as it might spoil some of her shots or jump up on someone with mud on its paws while she was "Getting Dressed" and it is only a little dog anyway [King Charles Cavalier] and where was it going to find mud anyway.
    Everything was planned and changed and planned again and then put "On-Line" on the wedding forum for their comments and so on until it simply drove everyone crazy. The Photographer that eventually was chosen was some poor girl who got every shot checked by the bride to make sure that it was exactly how she wanted it to look. She saw a photo in a magazine of a bride with a "Rainbow" behind her and wanted one like that yeah right. The poor photographer was driving all over town to about seven different locations to do the "Studio" photographs and I never saw any of them so I have no idea of how she went with them.
    Sorry folks but there is only me and the dog now and I like it like that. Weddings are just too scary after that woman had hers and even the word puts a sour taste in my mouth. I am sure that there are some beautiful people out there who simply have a wonderful day on their wedding day but this woman wasn't one of them and it takes time to get over such a bad experience. Twelve months in the planning, three months in finding the bridesmaids dresses. change of bridesmaids several times, three wedding dresses bought and then exchanged for another one, several long phone calls every single night between mother and daughter for over a year and all about "My Wedding". She was an only child as well and simply got everything she wanted.
    Funny part is that I had packed my camera gear into a carry bag and put it in the car and the "Mother of the bride" took the camera bag out of the car 'unbeknown" to me as there was too much junk in the car. What a classic excuse for doing nothing. Not the most enjoyable day of my life though and was the start of the end of my relationship with the brides mother as nothing could survive "The bride from Hell". Ciao.

  • Norm Levin July 12, 2013 02:45 am

    First off, as a pro photographer, I recoil slightly at the thought of anyone attempting their first wedding shoot. Let alone for "free" or even "cheap". Yeah, my self interest says I don't need this type of competition. But it's there and there's no way to avoid it.

    There's such a steep learning curve a newbie shooter has to over come, including technical, logistical and people issues that only experience can prepare you for. Yet everyone has to start somewhere. A key piece of advice not mentioned yet in this article (maybe it will be in future posts) is to scout the venue! Go to the church, synagogue, chapel, park or wherever the ceremony will be held. Go during the time of the event to see what it looks like, what and how much light you'll have to work with (no, you cannot use a flash during the ceremony), take the temperature of the light, talk to the officiant about where you can position yourself, study all the possible angles, determine which lenses you have - or should have - to get the shots. Then look around for the idea location to do the formal portraits. What is the background like? Where can you position the couple? The wedding party?

    Do the same for the reception venue, although this is not nearly as critical. For one, you'll be likely using a flash. Maybe you should plan on bringing additional flash units if you know how to use them. Here you'll be pretty much being in a reactive mode looking for those memorable shots of the wedding party having the time of their lives. Be sure to get shots from several angles of the First Dance, Father Daughter Dance, Toasts, Cake Cutting, Bouquet Toss, and any other key moments. Do that and you'll at least covered the basics.

    Do bring an assistant, someone who knows how to find and change batteries and memory cards. You must have back-ups and back-ups.

    Oh, be relaxed and cheerful as possible. No one wants to see a stressed out photographer.

  • Susan Beth July 12, 2013 02:38 am

    First wedding I shot (only one so far) I literally took off my half slip and gave it to the Maid of Honor, who forgot hers. So, I whole-heartedly agree, have a bag full of everything everyone will need, because they'll love you for it and cooperate with you much more when you were able to solve their issue so easily.

  • Rodolfo July 12, 2013 02:23 am

    Number one rule when shooting with multiple cameras: Sync your cameras using

  • Hector July 12, 2013 02:17 am

    Great post!

    A lot of details that I think people don't come to think about until a few wedding shoots in (or many)!

  • kimberly July 12, 2013 01:59 am

    I LOVE this post! I just did my first wedding a couple of weeks ago and you ain't lyn! I packed food and had water available. The bride kept insisting I eat, but then would come grab me for some random shots, so I was happy to have tucked some bananas and a protien bar in my bag. I was EXHAUSTED. I was a lone shooter for 7.5 hours!! It was fun, hot and just plain exhausting. I found the Matron of Honor and she was my BFF in gathering people together for a huge group shot. She brought me water and checked to see if I was ok several times. Loved her! The one thing I forgot was extra flash batteries... the flashe made it about 6 hours so I was ok, but I would have liked to have it for several shots.
    I only charged $225.00 for the whole day and all of the editing I did on over 1,000 pics. I felt bad for charging this even, but after reading your post I believe it was fair. Thank you!
    It was a great experience and I learned: I don't ever want to do another one! haha...just too much for me alone. Maybe if I had a 2nd shooter I'd consider it.

  • Geoff July 12, 2013 01:48 am

    At least you don't have to remember to check that there's film in the camera any more...

  • Hala July 12, 2013 01:37 am

    Great tips!

    I do have to disagree on the whole 'free' shoot thing. I would so do a photoshoot for my siblings for free (and more if they need it!). Although on a sibling's wedding day, I would rather be 'the sister', and actually be a part of the wedding and give support and celebrate the event, than be 'the photographer' and be standing just 'outside looking in'.

  • Scott July 12, 2013 01:28 am

    Thanks Lynsey for the great words of wisdom and an enjoyable read!

  • Mike Frazier July 12, 2013 01:21 am

    Nice story, you have a great way of writing. I've gotten out of the wedding photography because of the physically demanding work and the strain on my feet. I just turned 65. However I shot weddings part time for over 40 years (somewhere between 400 and 600 weddings) and still think it's what I'm best at when it comes to photography. I would add a couple of things: bring enough equipment so that every piece of equipment has a duplicate or you can duplicate it's function with another piece of equipment. My wife and shot together and in the film days we had enough film to shoot the wedding twice and then some. Second ALWAYS have a contract that spells out the who, what, where etc. of the job, ALWAYS! Secondly do a written timeline and give a copy to the Bride and Groom and you keep a copy. Next dress the part of a professional. The last wedding we went to the photographer looked like a person off the street. I wore either a suit and tie or a tux depending on the bride and grooms wishes. I might take the jacket off at the reception. As for the extras bag we carried hair spray, combs, brushes, lint removers a sewing kit, safety pins and several types of tape, meds: Aspirin etc. as well as a laptop or external had drive to down load images too so that when we left the wedding we had two sets of images (on the cards and on the laptop. All of our equipment went into 4 bags, two rolling and two shoulder with a bag in the car with extra/extra equipment. Weddings are the most fun of any event to shoot oh the stories I could tell, for example the low angle shot with bride about to hit a golf ball off the mouth of the groom who was laying on the green!!! But I digress. Keep shooting.

  • Angela Rader July 12, 2013 01:17 am

    P.S. does anyone have a wedding contract they can send me?

  • Angela Rader July 12, 2013 01:15 am

    Enjoyed the article!! I have a few weddings under my belt now but you have taught me a few things that I shouldn't have done previously. Like accepting a list of shots!! i found it was distracting because you do miss out on the shots you could be getting because the basic ones will be taken. getting those candid shots are the best! Live and learn, right! I have a meeting today with a future bride for a wedding in October. I'm excited!
    Thanks again!!

  • Angela Rader July 12, 2013 01:15 am

    Enjoyed the article!! I have a few weddings under my belt now but you have taught me a few things that I shouldn't have done previously. Like accepting a list of shots!! i found it was distracting because you do miss out on the shots you could be getting because the basic ones will be taken. getting those candid shots are the best! Live and learn, right! I have a meeting today with a future bride for a wedding in October. I'm excited!

  • Nikki Buck July 12, 2013 12:43 am

    This is great advice! Thank you! :)

  • Kevin July 11, 2013 11:45 pm

    With three weddings under my belt and a chance view at this article, I really thought it was "only me", the green sweaty guy shooting a wedding... thanks, this was a great read!!

  • Nurella July 11, 2013 08:36 pm

    Good Article you had me laughing throughout.

  • Ruthie July 11, 2013 11:48 am

    Thanks, this is great! Another necessity that I never shoot a wedding without is an extra pair of comfortable (black) shoes! I learned the hard way. And Drew, I agree with Tim that you will be far too preoccupied to be the main photographer at your daughter's wedding! Your job is to be calm, gracious and photogenic on that special day!

  • Tim July 11, 2013 08:16 am

    And Drew, don't shoot your daughter's wedding! Such an important day for you and being the wedding photographer will be a full time job! If you do at least find a second shooter that can cover shots that you're meant to be in at the very least.

  • Tim July 11, 2013 08:10 am

    Wonderfully written and packed with great advice. However, disagree slightly with the philosophy in "value yourself". When just starting out portfolio building and experience are probably the most valuable things you can get out of shooting weddings. So arguably, even if you shoot your first few weddings without charge (like I did) you're getting something better than money, goods, services in kind etc. In the world of online presence, portfolio shots in particular are key to getting a foot in the door. Of course, you could always add a slab of beer to the order. :)

  • Jackie July 11, 2013 01:27 am

    Thank you for this! I am still learning "the ropes" and have already been in this very same place.....not a place to be in when you do it for "free"! It sounds like a very good idea at the time to shoot a wedding for your niece as a "gift".... but TRUST me when I say IT IS NOT A GOOD IDEA!!! The fact that the more someone pays for something the more they value YOU is so true! Let's just say I have learned my lesson the hard way....

  • Dj July 10, 2013 02:28 pm

    I get very irritated when I hear things like "never, ever, ever shoot even your sister's wedding for free". I would rather never, ever, ever pick up a camera than be that person.

  • Ada July 10, 2013 01:25 pm

    That article comes in too late (((
    I already shoot my first wedding and for free...
    But I learned my lesson. Never ever again for free!

  • Clark J. Ryan July 9, 2013 07:44 pm

    Would that be a nice keepsake for her after the wedding, or do I need to look for anther flower girl gift?

  • Rachel S. July 9, 2013 11:03 am

    Oh gosh, this couldn't have come at a better time! I'm in the exact spot you speak of - just starting my portrait business and said yes to shooting a relative's wedding... in 30 days! Hopefully this series will wrap before the end of July :-D. Thanks so much for sharing some wisdom and very much needed advice to boost my confidence...

  • Drew July 8, 2013 10:50 pm

    Great article...perfect timing since my daughter wants me to do her wedding next month. I've been doing SLR photography since 1980, but I am really nervous on this one! I'm not sure if you'll address it in your next articles, but identifying key places to stand and shoot from, specifically in the ceremony, would be a great help.

  • Maik-T. Šebenik July 8, 2013 06:40 pm

    That article comes in at the perfect time - I'll be shooting my first "official" wedding this weekend! :-)

  • Johnette July 8, 2013 02:18 pm

    Awe! I love your advice! Although I have never shot a wedding (yet), the advice is great. I think taking photos for free IS easy to do but agree that it does not give us the credit we deserve. It IS hard to ask to be paid for time and talent; at least for me it is!! :). Thanks for inspiring me!


  • Tim July 7, 2013 01:18 am

    Great article. I just shot my 2nd wedding as an assistant yesterday afternoon. Great time, but as you pointed out, exhausting (and I was only the assistant). I have to say, I think your line on prep is a classic:
    "Plan nothing the day before, and nothing the day after. The night before, sleep like it’s your job. Ice your eyeballs. If you’re into that kind of thing. You will likely be carrying twice as much equipment as normal, working five times as long, and running around like a toddler that mistook Red Bull for apple juice."

  • Jessie July 6, 2013 09:30 pm

    Great post! I'm glad I came across your site. I'm going to bookmark it so I can have a better look around when I have more time.

  • MD Singh July 6, 2013 06:27 pm

    Very interesting topic and well written. I have done around two wedding shoots but have not been happy with the results. Though people have been appreciating the work but I believe it cud be far better. One reason I knew that I shot these without any assistant. I am looking forward to the next two parts of it where you will certainly speak about equipment, settings etc. Would look forward to picking some tips there. Cheers!

  • Mridula July 6, 2013 05:37 pm

    I like reading about photography and maintain a travel blog. I sweat even if someone wants me to do their portrait, forget wedding. But this sure was a fun read.

  • mika July 6, 2013 05:34 pm

    great list! I would add the following:
    - have the wedding pair assign a person in advance that has a copy of the portrait must-have list...they can run around finding Aunt Mabel and deal with those who think they should be in this or that portrait. I once had an elderly guest come to me with tears in her eyes asking me to explain why she's not included in that portrait session! someone close to the wedding pair (but not in the wedding...with other duties) can deal with those things.
    - have a plan B. yes the majority of shots will be getting those just happening around you but if there is a lull in activities the wedding couple will look to you for artistic direction. Before the wedding i peruse an image board I keep on pinterest of ideas and inspiration ...sometimes the portrait angle, the lighting or the concept can be adapted to this wedding but at least you won't be caught off guard if they ask what they should do now :)
    also I request in advance that no other photos are being taken during portraits or the ceremony - not only can the flashes from other cameras ruin your shot but you'll always have uncle joe standing next to you taking the same shot and share those online before your images are hand-crafted.

  • SherriS. July 6, 2013 06:38 am

    I really needed this series oh about a month or so ago. I just shot my 2nd family member's wedding. I chose to do it as their wedding gift and I'm ok with that. I am sure I went above and beyond any wedding pro's packages offered but the memories will be cherished and I will always have a special place in their hearts.

    But you are so right about how exhausting it is the day of the wedding and then culling and editing all of those photos. My husband was my assistant and a really good sport as I bossed him around. One major lesson learned after the fact - we should have time synched our cameras...ugh. HUGE. Maybe you will address that in your upcoming posts.

    Overall, my niece is very happy and her groom was pleasantly surprised at our talent.

    Loved your sense of humor and am eager to read the rest of your posts as we consider doing wedding photography.

  • Pat Hagemeister July 6, 2013 04:01 am

    Lynsey, you are a tremendous writer! I love your sense of humor. I went to your web site and I came away feeling as if we were friends. You have such a nice personal touch. I hope the fires in Colorado didn't come too close.

    Best regards and happy shooting.


  • Barry E Warren July 6, 2013 03:58 am

    I'm planning to do my first wedding in Aug. The couple is my step son,and his wife to be.I've been mostly into nature,landscapes, port's of people and Pets or animals. I never intended to get involved with weddings because of the time it takes ( the wedding ,reception and editing etc etc etc. But as I thought about it ,it might open a hole new horizon for me. I know I've been to many weddings, and taken photos there. But not as the Photographer.....