The Wedding Day Call Sheet: Part 2 – The Afternoon

The Wedding Day Call Sheet: Part 2 – The Afternoon

This is part 2 of a series of posts on Wedding Day Call Sheets. Check out Part 1 at The Wedding Day Call Sheet: Part 1 – The Morning.

The Ceremony

Image by Thomas Hawk

Before the day you’ll need to check with the vicar or registrar to see whether photography during the ceremony is allowed, however most will allow you to shoot a few set up shots of the couple once the register has been signed.

Church and indoor ceremonial establishments tend to be on the dark and under lit side, and as flash is rarely permitted be prepared to push the ISO, use a tripod and/or opt for a fast lens. Capture the bride walking down the aisle and don’t miss people’s reactions – especially that of the groom as he first lays eyes on her.

Record all the obvious, but crucial elements such as: the vows, lighting of the candle, the placing of rings, the kiss and the ‘faux’ signing of the register. Then opt for some more ‘out of the box’ images to flex your creative muscle.

If the wedding is in a church and you have time and permission; arrange the guests at the front under the pulpit. Climb into the pulpit and take a few images from above using the flash if the vicar permits it. This is particularly useful if the weather is rainy as this could be one of your only opportunities to get a group shot of all the guests.

The Group Shots

Image Giant Ginkgo

Photographers vary on their approach to this; some allowing the couple to dictate as many set ups as they want, whereas others restricting it to a shortlist of a dozen or so.

Whether you are at the ceremony or receptions venue; these images should be taken in favourable light where there is enough room to accommodate everyone, which may mean incorporating a tier formation to ensure everyone can be seen and a wide angle lens is vital. This is why a reconnaissance mission a week or so before the big day is a very sensible idea. For group shots its best to employ an aperture of f8 or f11, depending on the number of guests and it’s a good idea to get these captures in the bag before everyone starts drinking.

Ideally it can help if you start with the bride and groom and work in steps to build up the composition. For example start with the bride and groom and then photograph them with: the bridesmaids, the best men and ushers, then both together. Next shoot the couple with his parents, then her parents, then both together. Next take the couple and all of her family and then do the same with his family, then repeat with their friends and then finally invite everyone into the frame. Always review the image after the first shot of each set up is taken or when the light changes. Once you have taken a few formal frames don’t be afraid to get more creative with compositions and let people have a laugh in them.

As well as large groups, if you have the time and the bride and groom the inclination – why not try some smaller group shots around the venue? Get creative in terms of poses and positioning – use elegant set ups such as an ornate staircase – right through to seemingly mundane ones such as a long line in front of a rustic brick wall – but have the people interact with each other for a fun-filled frame.

Romantic Portraits

Image by Kelly Niemann

These are likely to be the images the couple treasure the most so getting the right is crucial. On your pre-wedding day visit to the reception venue isolate several areas (indoors and out) where these can be taking. It doesn’t always have to be a beautiful Japanese garden or sat on a lovers bench surrounded by flowers, it could be stood against a small area of foliage or even a beaten up garage – as long as you make the couple the focus nothing else need matter.

Take the couple away from the main throng of guests to minimise distraction and maximise their comfort. Suggesting poses comes with experience so perhaps take a look online for things you like and want to ‘recreate’. Some simple suggestions include: hand in hand walking away, the bride sat on the grooms lap on a bench, the groom stood behind the bride with his hands around her waist, the groom lifting the gown to reveal the garter and don’t forget lots of images of the couple kissing looking adoringly into each other’s eyes. As well as pulled back wide shots, go in for close ups of the face, rings, bouquet, and play with the aperture to create some creatively selective out-of-focus images.

Reception Decor

Image by Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos

It’s a good idea to get an idea of timings and the day’s agenda well ahead of time so you can plan when to shoot this part of the wedding. Ideally it’s best to start after the group shots are finished, but before the guests sit down to eat.

Collate as many images of the reception and its decor as you can, this includes: the building and grounds, the reception rooms and dinner hall, the cake, seating chart, place names, party favours, flowers, centre pieces, and anything that the couple has put time and energy into selecting and creating. This is a great opportunity to be creative and don’t forget to catch some images of gifts, balloons and cards left for the couple – in particular anything which includes the new married names of Mr & Mrs Whoever – even its just on a card.


While the light is still soft and useable outdoors and the guests not too tipsy, start claiming some candid captures. Using a fast telephoto lens with vibration reduction technology; act like a ninja and start sniping candids from a distance. Suggestions for this include: the bride and groom interacting with their guests, children running around, groups of people relaxing and laughing, children eagerly eyeing the cake, etc.

UPDATE: Check out part 3 of this mini series – The Wedding Day Call Sheet: The Evening

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) is the former editor of Digital Photographer magazine, and is now a freelance journalist and photographer who has written for dozens of photography and technology magazines and websites over the last decade. Recent author and tutor too.

Some Older Comments

  • John April 23, 2011 07:09 am

    Congratulations Natalie. As it's usual your article showed us an elegant and full of details way about taking photos. And as it's usual I enjoyed a lot reading your article. Good text and good style to.

  • Paul April 20, 2011 01:41 am

    Some interesting ideas here, a good set of artricles. I enjoyed reading them.

  • Singapore Wedding Photography April 17, 2011 06:34 pm

    I lvoe candid shots. In fact, I tend to only work with couples who also believe in this photojornalistic idea. If possible, I'll encourage a sencond photographer to be employed for the posed shots.

  • Paul vS April 16, 2011 05:03 am

    About the "smaller" group pictures (not the whole-party one):
    What I tell the bride/groom when meeting before is that I don't know anybody there (and as I don't know the faces a list of names won't help either) - so they need to make sure that they get everyone in the photo. They need to either take care of that themselves or better name someone who knows the family/friends to do it.


    The higher the aperture number, the more depth-of-field = everybody is sharp (not in focus but still sharp).
    [versus low dof = people in the second row or not standing in the focus are unsharp]

  • Michael Minick April 15, 2011 10:47 pm

    I've only shot one wedding and I wasn't the principal photographer so I had the freedom to cover it in a casual style with lots of thing that I quuickly discovered was that I should hang around the oldest person at the wedding because everyone comes over to greet 'grannie/grandad' and you can get all these great shots of happy people!

  • John Parli Photo April 15, 2011 05:17 am

    @ TimGray As far as copyright, you'll be fine as long as you're not selling to a publication or as stock.

    Also, don't forget the fun that can be had with dragging the shutter during dance shots!
    [url=][eimg url='' title='1251764951_dSK3N-M-1.jpg'][/url]

  • fortunato_uno April 14, 2011 08:52 pm

    I was wondering why the apature setting for a crowd? does it have to do with the dof? If thats the reason, purhaps it would have been a good idea to clearafy that for the less experianced. Other then that, I like this article, and I'm looking foward to the final piece.

  • chew April 14, 2011 11:21 am

    The road shot is simply stunning!

  • Sean April 14, 2011 05:58 am

    I h ave an amazing picture of the bean on my site, I love the(above) Bean pic as well.. That sucks that hes suing everyone, it will take him awhile though. I'm not taking my pic down. The road pic is great, nice idea.

  • timgray April 14, 2011 04:23 am

    That photo in Millennium park, Chicago is technically illegal. The artist of the chrome blob claims copyright of any image that is reflected in it and has been suing everyone they can find that has a photo of it or a photo of any reflections from it. Last I heard the Chicago courts upheld this ridiculous claim.

    Just a FYI for anyone shooting in Chicago...

  • Andy Mills April 14, 2011 03:16 am

    @Shannon That sphere made me do a double take - we have something similar to it here in Bristol.

  • Andy Mills April 14, 2011 03:15 am

    I am not a wedding photographer, but if there is one tip I would give to add to the ones in this article; it would be to turn the audible focus confirmation "beep" off - it's so incredibly distracting and annoying during the ceremony (and makes you look incredibly unprofessional)!

  • Robert April 14, 2011 01:44 am

    Love the Bean from Chicago!

  • Robert April 14, 2011 01:44 am

    Love the Bean from Chicago!

  • Shannon April 14, 2011 01:40 am

    Love the Road Shot! The sphere shot is really interesting too!

  • Jamie April 14, 2011 12:14 am

    I think it's important to add that for ceremonies, especially long ceremonies, it's important to turn your camera away from the front and get the reactions of the guests as well. You can get some awesome emotional moments as well as some really cute kid shots (like the boy in this post: )

    If you have a second shooter, one of you can be getting the main action while the other is solely there to catch the reactions of the guests. It goes a long way towards telling the story of the wedding day.