The Wedding Day Call Sheet: Part 3 - The Evening

The Wedding Day Call Sheet: Part 3 – The Evening


This post is the last in a series. Check out the previous posts at The Wedding Day Call Sheet: Part 1 – The Morning and The Wedding Day Call Sheet: Part 2 – The Afternoon.

Candids in the Dining Hall

Image by Sean Molin

With the guests seated, but before the food is served use this as a good opportunity to take pictures of guests relaxing and chatting with one another. If it is not too dark, use the opportunity to sneak in some more candids, but remember that you may need to use a wide aperture, tripod and/or boost the ISO depending on your kit’s capabilities to compensate for low light. If none of these opportunities are suitable use a flash gun with a diffuser – but you may lose the element of surprise so try to get it right with the first shot.


Pictures of bride and groom entering the dining hall, plus the guest’s reactions make for some nice images before then the speeches begin. Typically (or hopefully) the best man speech will have the couple laughing so capture these as the father of the bride and groom speech may have the bride and guests in tears of joy. Later you can arrange these images; showing a range of emotions, into a heart-warming triptych. After each speech there is typically a toast so for each occasion shoot choose someone different to focus on; i.e. the bride and groom, the guests and the parents.


As the food is served ask a waiter to have you bring one of each dish to you to be photographed first – again this is something the couple has taken the time to choose and will however daft it may seem, want to remember this in the future. Use a wide aperture of f2.8 to 5.6 to keep elements of the food in focus, with the rest diffused into a creamy blur. Place the food on a clean table cloth and clear the background of distracting clutter. Get down low, so you are shooting the food from about 45 degrees. Once these photos are done use it as a chance to take a well earned break as no one wants to be photographed while they are eating.

After dinner shots

After the food is finished and the guests are supping on coffees, perhaps take this chance to grab a few more romantic couple images with the bride and group, for example at a new location in the building or on the grounds or perhaps if the sun is setting revisit some of the favourite locations you used early. As well as more bride and groom shots, incorporate the bride’s maids and groom’s men for some more fun and relaxed compositions; such as the best men lifting the bride, or the bride’s maids flanking the groom whilst blowing him a kiss. These sorts of things may sound silly, but most couples really love this sort of thing and what is more these are the type of photos that guests are most likely to order.

The arrival of evening guests

As the evening guests start to filter in, use this as an opportunity to take casual group shots of the guests, with their friends and family, as well as some more candids and decor shots. It can also be a nice idea to take images of the evening guests as they arrive being greeted by the bride and groom.

Cutting of the cake

Image by Aquistbe

Before the cake is cut, ensure you have taken a few stills of the cake intact at varying angles and focal lengths. It is a good idea to have done this in natural light during the day, but if this wasn’t possible take the photos now with a flash if needed, but adopt a diffuser to for a richer, softened effect that won’t bleach tones or flatten texture. Pull back for wide shots of the couple cutting the cake, as well as zooming in on the knife in their hands – focusing on the rings as a focal point. Ask guests to stand out of the way for these images and then move back to let the guests have a chance of taking their own photos.

The first dance

Image by Sean Molin

The final aspect of the wedding agenda is the first dance. Find out what the chosen song is before time so you’ll know if it’s up tempo or slow and can better predict the couple’s movement, as well as giving an indication of how long you’ll have to get the frames and thus how creative you can be. The couple may also have prepared a choreographed dance so be prepared to move around the hall to capture this to full effect.

Once you have bagged a few safe shots of the couple entwined using flash for freezing the action, switch to a slower shutter and use a tripod for shots injected with a sense of movement. As well as wide angle shots to place the couple in context with their guests looking on, use a fast telephoto with VR to zoom in for close ups of the bride and groom’s faces.

Party time!

Most contracts end here, but some photographers like to stay on for a few tracks to get some ‘party’ shots of the guests having a good time or even stay until the end of the night.

This is a good opportunity to get creative with shutter speeds as well as taking some relaxed group photos of guests. Keep your eye open for children dancing or sitting watching the adults as these images can often tell amusing stories and also consider carefully standing on a chair to shoot the dancing throng from above.

When the evening buffet food arrives, you’ll be able to get some more food macro images as well as story-telling images of guests collecting their food.

As the evening rolls on their will be plenty of opportunity to get ‘lively’ images of guests as well as the bride and groom, drinking, celebrating and generally having a good time. End the evening with the couple heading off in their wedding car, as their guests wave them fondly off into married life.

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

  • Trisha Lyn Fawver September 8, 2011 07:58 pm

    These articles are really helping to inspire me. My sister in law asked me to photograph her wedding, and while I know she doesn't expect the world of me because she knows I'm an amateur with a good camera & that's just not who she is, I want to deliver it! Luckily her aunt will be helping as well so I won't be alone!

    The cultural differences are crazy. I've mostly been to weddings in California and Oregon with one exception of a Minnesota wedding, and I can't imagine not getting a shot of speeches or the bride & groom leaving at the end of the night either!

  • Josh Liba April 26, 2011 01:03 am

    Hi there! Great article, with good tips.

    My image is used (first in post), but mis-credited.
    Thanks Sean, for pointing that out too!

    The original is here:


  • Paul April 22, 2011 10:30 pm

    Great set of articles and some lovely photos. Flash on last dance needs to be rear curtain sync.

  • asmita mane April 22, 2011 02:43 pm

    can u give me the tip for close up and coloure combenation of backgroung
    basically most of the wedding r in the loan or in the hall .so i want smoe tip on it

  • jIM April 22, 2011 01:11 am

    Some nice tips Sean but I think the use of a tripod during the first dance is a bit odd. Surely you need to be mobile to capture their movement and avoid al the guests getting in your way trying to take their own photos. We usually have to explain why we want to know the tune and their plans for the first dance, especially when it's choreographed. One of the final bits of detail we ask for the day.

  • M. David Farrell April 21, 2011 02:51 am

    I am in the same set of mind with Mr. Jones- I am always amazed at the cultural differences in weddings. In my case, I am not as far removed from the context as Mr. Jones is, being in Israel. I've recently made the move from the Southeastern US to the midwest.....holy crap what a difference! :-D its a whole new ball game and a whole new strategy! Until I started working in the midwest I have never seen a sit down dinner at a wedding, never seen a speech and the "evening" guests that you mention in the article...who are they? For 99% of the wedding I worked in the south everything went strait from church to reception, heavy hor devours, lots of dancing and lots of drinking! The party is the place to be and I dont leave until the bride and groom do their formal exit of the venue or are too tired to continue on at the party. Even then you meet back up with the newlyweds at their destination to get a few carry over the threshold shots if they want them. (It seems kinda antiquated to some, but others just think that it is the freshest and greatest idea....not gonna tell them that we've been doing it that way since the 80's)

    Anyway- always neat to hear about how other shoots tackle their respective days. I know the markets and wedding schedules vary across that country, but I'm always surprised when I read about it in detail.

    All the best and nice article...

  • Roland April 18, 2011 10:29 pm

    Great article. I wouldn't really agree with the comments about the author being overbearing regarding what settings to use or whatnot. I'm certain that these guidelines are simply what works for Natalie in her particular experience and aren't a mandate for all photographers to follow.

    It's great to have some basic frame work as a starting point and then you can use your own judgement and creativity to make the shots your own.

    One quick tip for those struggling to snap candids of the speeches. If you run into trouble getting the speaker in mid speech with mouth open in odd shapes, wait until they pause to take a breath or grin or smile and then take your frame ;)

    Great job Natalie and thanks for sharing!

  • Sean Molin April 18, 2011 07:37 am

    I also just realized that first image is credited to me, but I did not take it.

  • Sean Molin April 18, 2011 07:18 am

    Thanks for the compliments. This first dance was an example of extreme lighting conditions. It was an entirely candle-lit venue (except for the band), and I was riding high ISOs with a fast prime all night!

  • shabnam April 17, 2011 05:19 pm

    Love the photograph of first dance!!! so romantic!! ^_^

  • Andy Mills April 17, 2011 03:09 am

    I guess the old saying applies to wedding photography: "if you fail to prepare, you better prepare to fail".

  • Macy April 16, 2011 10:07 am

    Great photoshoot Sean, love it!

  • Erik April 16, 2011 02:22 am


    This is a great series on Wedding Photography and the preparation and execution of a successful shoot. It obviously isn't as simple as most folks tend to think - and you only get one chance. A bad shoot can lead to un happy customers and nobody wants that.

    For Roman Catholic Weddings, we discovered that they are very regimented with the couple spending what seemed to be hours on their knees. Restrictions in motion for the Photographers we mandated as well - luckily we has 3 shooters from 3 vantage points.

    Wedding in Little Italy, San Diego:

    regards, Erik

  • mike April 16, 2011 01:18 am

    good article, but i think the writer is being a bit.. overbearing. it feels to me like the writer thinks "this is how it's done and n other way is right" and i really do fear a few brides will read this now and expect nothing less, killing any creativity all the other photographers may have.

  • MrJones April 16, 2011 01:09 am

    the cultural differences always stun me :)
    where your contracts end, mine are just in the middle.
    the party is a huge thing here in Israel and no one will let you leave at the beginning of the wedding party.
    so basically a wedding photographer day begins around noon and ends at midnight at best!
    I liked the tips about knowing the song for the first dance and taking the food aside to photograph properly.