A Fly on the Wall - 10 Tips for Wedding Beginners

A Fly on the Wall – 10 Tips for Wedding Beginners

img_5992smallerPeople often ask me if I ‘do weddings’. That’s a funny question for a photographer. Perhaps like asking a chef if he ‘does chicken’. I’m a photographer and I have the ability to photograph anything. Do I base my business solely around weddings? No. Can I do them? Certainly! And I love it.

I’ve never taken a class on how to photograph weddings or read a book on the topic. I have my own way, my own style and my own rules and my clients are happy with me so I must be doing something right!

As a woman, I really feel at an advantage in the world of wedding photography. Firstly, I can capture the excitement of the bride getting ready in a way a man can’t because, let’s face it, most brides don’t want a man hanging around while they’re getting dressed.

I have also been a bride and I see things in a vastly different way than a man ever could. Having started as a makeup artist, I’ve been involved in many weddings and have watched many-a-photographer sit and drink or flirt with the bridesmaids while precious moments are slipping by un-photographed (like the mom fitting her daughter’s veil).

img_5999-2-2-copyMind you, I have only done a few weddings and I don’t claim to be an expert by any stretch of the imagination. But I do think that I have a few tidbits I can share with anyone who is just starting out or perhaps is a man in the business looking for a little female perspective.

1. Don’t Manipulate

When the bride is preparing on the morning, don’t get in the way and ask for smiles or stage the dressing. Just be on your toes and try to anticipate what’s next.

Is her hair and makeup finished? She will probably be getting into her dress next. Is she in her dress? Get yourself to the bottom of the stairs to shoot her coming down. There is no time to relax if you’re the photographer!


2. Fill In

If allowed, wander around the house or hotel room and snap photos which can be used to fill-in spaces in the album to create a sense of ambiance and location. I always snap the makeup brushes, dresses hanging up, important things around the home.

If you’re at the bride’s family home, there will be loads of memorable things around the house to photograph. Family photos around the home, her childhood bedroom.

3.Get Alone

Spend a couple minutes alone with the dress, the shoes, the flowers, etc. to take meaningful photographs without anxious people rushing you. There should be plenty of time while you’re there.

But when you’ve got what you need, remember to leave in time to photograph guests arriving at the ceremony and the groom as he waits for his bride.

4. Be Bold

img_6259-2smallerDon’t be shy in front of the audience. Obviously, use a zoom lens so you’re not hip-to-hip with the priest but be strong and bold and remember that you have a license to be there! You were hired and everyone knows that so don’t worry about moving around and shooting from behind the priest if it’s appropriate.

Editors Note: Check out these Wedding Photography Tips from a Celebrants Perspective.

5. Dress for the Occasion

If you’re a woman, forget wedding protocol and wear trousers! No trying to look pretty. Before I figured that one out, I was holding my skirt down more than I was holding down the shutter. Quiet shoes are a must – you don’t want to be tip toeing around like a criminal.

6. Remember the Others

img_6151smallerWhen I first started weddings, my clients were friends so I generally knew one side of the family better than the other. It was entirely subconscious, but I realised that in the ceremony, I was gravitating to the people I knew and leaving the others out.

Find out who is family and make sure to get some images of them as well.

7. Be Bossy

This part is (still) the hardest for me. There are two times I have to throw my weight around: after the ceremony and during family set. I usually take the bride and groom away to a location for 30 minutes of shooting privately and this can be difficult as the guests often form a spontaneous receiving line and kidnap the couple.


c Craig Johnson

Know who is driving you there and make it happen. The bride and groom have told you what they want and although they are often distracted away from their plan on the day, they will thank you after if you make their original plan happen.

For the formal portraits, it can take a precise military operation to execute such an endeavor and this bit still makes my palms sweat! People are anxious to get to the food and dancing and I’m the only thing stopping them! Have a list arranged ahead of time of the specific groups the couple wants otherthan the usual his-family-her-family, him-and-his-guys, her-and-her-girls, etc.

The most important part in making this happen is to have your bossy go-to person who knows everyone (perhaps one of his groomsmen?) to announce all of the family and bridal party to step outside and then have him announce the groups you are needing. You can literally take each shot within 30 seconds if you can gather them and get them to engage with you all at once. Not as simple as it sounds, but it can be done. I just ask everyone to look at me and smile and then take about 10 shots at once. You can use the PhotoShop group merge function to grab all the smiling faces and put them into one photo if necessary.

8. Gear

A few of my thoughts on gear. NEVER use a pop-up flash. Always have an external flash ready to go and never point it directly at your couple. I always point it at the ceiling or a wall. I shoot with two cameras. My main one has a zoom lens and a flash and the other has either a 50mm 1.4 or 85mm 1.4 wide open so no flash is needed.

Be Professional

True story: I once saw a big, sweaty, poorly dressed wedding photographer hawk back a loogie and SPIT on the ground during formal portraits. Absolutely disgraceful!

It can be easy to fall into the fun of a wedding and obviously, you won’t be any good if you’re uptight and not having fun, but if you get too lax and begin socializing, you will miss important moments and you’re basically at work so remember to be professional.

I would even bring my own snack to eat on the sly when you get a chance – I would never accept an invitation to take part in the buffet. Remember that people are watching you and a huge percentage of them are either looking for a wedding photographer or know someone who is so be professional at all times.


c Craig Johnson

10. In My Opinion

I never take posed table shots. I absolutely h.a.t.e. it when the photographer comes around, interrupts your meal, wine or conversation and forces everyone to squeeze their head into the middle of the table for a photo. What on earth would the couple ever do with that photo? Certainly, it’s good to make a record of everyone who was there and you can do that without being intrusive and even do it in a beautiful way.

But – and this is just my humble opinion – the photographer can easily lose guests’ feeling of ease and comfort the instant he/she becomes intrusive. Make yourself invisible!

I really love photographing weddings. It is HARD work and I actually ache for a couple days after. Bring an assistant who can help you (that’s a bonus tip!) and get a good night’s rest beforehand. Have a blast and be confident – the bride and groom already love your talent because they hired you in the first place. So be secure in that fact and own it!

Further Reading: Wedding Photography Tips for Amateurs.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Elizabeth Halford is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

Some Older Comments

  • steven partridge August 24, 2012 07:38 am

    Great tips thank you.I recently shot my 1st wedding and actually did most of what you have sugested here, i agree if it's friends it's easy to photograph the people you know as it feels more comfortable than pointing the lens at someone you don't know. But i'm sure this gets easier the more you do. i really enjoyed the whole experience and the day flew by but i was definetly tired at the end.i did shoot in raw as i wanted to make sure that if i did get anything slightly wrong i'd have a better chance of saving the shot later on.i posted all my shots online after doing some basic corrections to any that needed it and was amazed at the good feedback i got and the fact just the brides family ordered a copy of every photo plus an extra 300 for friends etc.

  • Debbie Moore August 24, 2012 05:52 am

    Thanks for posting the tips. I'm new to Wedding photography and try to take advantage of all the tips I can find.

    Some things I have encountered:
    1. Definitely have 2 bodies and they need to be able to handle high ISOs, so don't try to get by with an entry level camera. I had a two day old 5D2 fail at a Wedding, but pulled out my 7D and kept going. 95% of the Weddings I have photographed do not allow flash during the ceremony, so I am often in the ISO 3200-6400 range.
    2. I always speak to the officiant prior to the ceremony and find out what is and is not allowed. It has ranged from "I don't care" to "I used to be a Wedding photographer, just get the shot" to "stay in the back and stay still" to "no photography allowed during the ceremony". I respect and adhere to these instructions and just make sure that the Bride is aware, so that there won't be an issue later.
    3. The Agreement I use addresses food and just asks them to tell us their preference. Do they want us to bring our own food or eat theirs?
    4. I always stay in touch with the Bride in the months leading up to the Wedding. I call them at least once monthly to check in and see how everything is going. This gives us a chance to get to know each other, sometimes they send me sample photos they would like to reproduce, etc. By the time the big day arrives, they trust me and it's one less thing for them to worry about.

    I didn't want to do Wedding photography and had several fights with my boyfriend, who was pushing me to do it. As it turns out, I genuinely enjoy it and it provides a nice supplement to my day job.

    Good luck! Enjoy! Please keep the tips coming....

  • PhotoAlbert August 24, 2012 05:38 am

    Everything sounds great but you have to remember that taking wedding pictures is huge responsibility. It is not photo shoot in a park which you could keep repeating. The moments of exchanging the vows, rings and first kiss - If you missed it it's gone.
    It is very challenging and you have to be very organized and resolute when it comes to organizing big group for photo shoot.
    Beginnings are tough and everyone had to start at some point but bare in mind that you could be sued easily if something went wrong.

  • Emily Roesly August 24, 2012 01:27 am

    My girlfriend and I are wedding photographers. She's still actively shooting, while I'm mostly retired. Your method of "working a wedding" is exactly the same as ours! Our clients always tell us that they never realized we were there, but then we also seemed to be everywhere at once. Our motto is to be invisible, like you, and never bark instructions unless it's during the formal poses. We've found we can get all the table shots we need of guests without ever saying a word and they look natural, not posed.

    Working a wedding is exhausting fun!

    Kudos on your article and your technique!

  • Lucas August 24, 2012 01:23 am

    Here's a video I made about 10 tips for beginners after I shot my first wedding:

  • Jay August 23, 2012 07:13 pm

    If you had to choose either a 50mm or an 85mm on a full frame camera for a wedding which would it be?

  • Roy August 23, 2012 04:58 am

    I didn't see this mentioned...but if you only have one camera body, you should not be shooting a wedding. Equipment fails. He talks about the two he uses, but it should be understood, that if you are shooting weddings with only one camera, you are asking for trouble. A few weddings ago, my 5DMKII just stopped working while the bride was coming down the isle, luckily I had my backup 7D on my him and ready to go. I picked it up and kept shooting, When things slowed down, I had time to look at the 5DMKII, the grip had come loose, but I didn't have time to figure that out while she was coming down the isle.

  • Dewan Demmer August 21, 2012 10:27 pm

    Love what you do, Weddings are a constant challenge with little room for error. AH yes and be professional, no matter how ell you get along with the couple.
    This is a wedding I did where I was in a space that I was allowed to introduce a few of my ideas and with an excellent couple that enjoyed watching me work through the concepts. http://www.dewandemmer.com/eloise-and-hein-holtons-wedding-at-makiti-muldersdrift/

  • Cramer Imaging August 21, 2012 09:19 am

    Not to feed the trolls here, but MEN, she has already made a bunch of clarifications about male wedding photographers. Get over it. She is entitled to her own personal opinion as are you. To continue this makes you look really bad. You can politely disagree without resorting to name-calling. There are even some examples of such polite behavior above if you would take the time to read the comments.

    I recently got married and my husband complains still about the photographs and how much time it took. Didn't help that he had some terrible shoes from the tux rental. There are varying levels of caring about the photographs as grooms go but I haven't run into anyone yet who disagrees with the idea that this is the bride's day.

    Elizabeth, I'm glad that you had the courage to write this article. As a woman, I will politely disagree with females having an advantage other than in the female dressing room beforehand. I had a man shoot my wedding and was impressed with his style over the style of another option who was female. It seems that there has to be a certain personality element present in the photographer (male or female) in order to capture those important moments. Women may or may not be predisposed to this trait but all must learn it and how to use it before becoming an effective wedding photographer.

    The rest of the advice was quite insightful as I'm just getting started into the world of wedding photography myself. There is a lot to consider. The first wedding that I shot had the couple immediately adjourn from the ceremony to the reception. There was no option to take formal portraits without everyone and their dog with a p-and-s camera or a camera phone sending masses of flash light grenades and ruining many of my shots. No one would listen to me no matter how bossy I tried to be without getting into being downright rude. My second wedding ended up as me bailing out a student photographer whose teachers had not taught her Camera 101 and she was shooting her brother's wedding. That was interesting to say the least. My third wedding (so to speak) was an opportunity to watch some pros. I learned much from them and made a point of staying out of their way, as is photographer's etiquette, but had some productive conversations with them and ended up with some good shots myself for fun (It was the remarriage of a family member just fyi).

    I have learned a few of these tips the hard way, such as my own dress for the wedding. The second wedding was one of those situations that could not be avoided as I was supposed to be a guest and ended up taking over instead. As far as food at the reception, that is a LOT of hard work and intense concentration as well as quick moving around to get the shot. Energy reserves are not endless. Making sure that you know what the bride and groom want is the best way to not make a faux-pau in that area. Have some arrangement for food and drink.

    I once read a tip about knowing and trying to meet briefly with all the important members of the wedding party, including the officiator, beforehand. This would also include any other important staff such as a videographer. This way they know who you are and why you are there. It opens lines of communication that need to take place with important "players" in the "game of wedding."

    I would add a final piece of advice: try to have some fun. There is nothing worse than having to hyper-intensify your senses for an extended period, being on your feet for hours, and hungry for hours with no reward for yourself other than the paycheck (not even a paycheck in many beginner situations).

  • CJAYJR August 21, 2012 03:53 am

    As usual I come across these type of articles after the fact. My wife and I were invited to her co-worker's wedding in the park a couple weeks back. I took my camera because my wife asked me to and let me say here I was not the official wedding photographer. As all the seats were taken upon our arrival we stood in the back near the street just in time to see the bride (my wife's co-worker) arrive. I immediately started taking photos and end up taking shots during the whole ceremony. Although my wife had already donated to the office wedding gift, she asked would I make her a book from the photos I had taken as a personal gift. The result of this effort can be seen at: http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/3426931. Please feel free to make any comments (positive or negative) as this again was just off the cuff and everything was shot just as it happened. I'm not a professional photograher and shoot as a hobby for my own pleasure. Plus I have never taken photographs at a wedding before. Please remember these are all candid shots!

  • Pete Bosch August 20, 2012 11:31 pm

    Good article, Elizabeth.

    The male/female thing has been beaten to death. :-)

    I second the suggestion that attending the rehearsal is very helpful. Plus, I've gotten good photos at the rehearsal dinner as well.

    I always ask the officiant (another reason to attend the rehearsal) what rules he has - flash, no-fly zones, etc.

    As for food, I've eaten at the table (only at friends' weddings) but find that I have to wolf down food and get back to the action, so really, an energy bar would probably be easier, safer for my suit & shirt, and more graceful (a.k.a. "professional," I guess.)

    Two bodies. Again - TWO BODIES. One on a tripod in the back of the aisle with a f2.8 tele-zoom and a remote trigger, and the other, handheld with a 17-50 or 28-70 (APS-C or full-frame, respectively.) This gives you needed freedom, and serves as a backup if one of them has an issue. I strongly believe that this sort of redundancy and flexibility is essential professionalism.

  • edsalvador August 19, 2012 07:19 pm

    Probably one of the best set of wedding photography tips I have read. All tips are so true but numbers 1 and 7 stand out for me. I have covered a lot of weddings but knowing when not to manipulate and when to be bossy make a difference on the composition. Very good article, Elizabeth.

  • M.Alif Anhar August 20, 2010 04:17 pm


  • sarah August 6, 2010 07:30 am

    this is a great article...i've never shot a wedding before but love to take pictures. we've got a family wedding this month so hopefully i can put some of these tips to good use!
    i wanted to comment on the issue of comfort level of the the bride's dressing room. i think to say that women have an advantage because a man would change the "dynamics" of a dressing room is unfair and there are certainly many options to capturing this important moment. if the concern is that a bride or her bridesmaids will feel uncomfortable in any state of undress with a male photographer in the room, simply ask him to wait outside--OR--have the bridesmaids get dressed first, and then assist the bride in getting most of her gown on and then call the photographer into the room to capture the dress being buttoned or laced or whatever. that is what we did at my wedding because my bridesmaids were more on the modest side. as much as i might have liked a shot of me getting dressed, i wanted to respect their privacy. our photographer busied himself with taking pictures of the calendar with our wedding date starred and circled and highlighted.
    the other thing that bothers me is tip number 4. it's extremely important to remember that while you are a vendor, you still need to respect the sanctity of the ceremony (especially if it is religious in nature). our priest told us outright that the only place the photographer was not allowed was the altar. it may force you to have to think creatively of other ways to shoot but in the end, the most important thing is to remain discreet. i don't think any couple or priest would mind recreating different parts of the ceremony. the emotion will still be there...and i would think that the couple will be more relaxed now that the actually ceremony is done.

    anyways, those are just a few of my thoughts...from someone who has been a bride. communication is definitely key here...making sure you, the bride, and the groom are all on the same page will help the day to go smoothly! :)

  • Rhonda June 11, 2010 09:53 am

    My husband and I were attending a wedding about 12 yrs ago when the photographer went to the side and slightly behind the couple, the officiant and some flowers. The officiant actually stopped the wedding and insisted that he didn't like anyone behind him shooting pictures and asked the photographer to leave the area. Seriously, which was more rude? For that very reason I would NEVER EVER step behind the couple and officiant even if I wanted the shot without first asking all concerned before hand. It was embarrassing for everyone and more than disruptive to the wedding. The poor photographer. Who would have expected such a reaction?

  • Christina Martinez May 19, 2010 04:29 am

    This article was very reassuring that I am doing well and what I could do better at. I have been shooting weddings for about 5 years now and it's tough work, but I love it. I feel so fulfilled when I have made a bride relax and when the couple and family are pleased with my work. There are some great tips here that I will be putting to good use from now on.

  • Carlos Graça March 16, 2010 02:58 am

    Nice post on your point of view on a wedding photo shoot, love that you put your foot down and do what you´re their for, and this is how it should be, the book has to come out great or even amazing, and thats what has to be done to get more clients, The cheeeeesy photos of people all in one shot, or always smiling at the camera are not a must, and in the church of course you cant go around geting in the way of the ceremony, a tip I saw a while ago is to know the people you are going to shoot, have lunch or dinner with them before, find out what they like and want, knowing them only make you more comfotable, when you have to put your foot down...

  • radj February 27, 2010 01:38 am

    Appreciate the table shots tip much. Thanks. :)

  • Alex - Suffolk Photographer November 5, 2009 07:59 pm

    @Jim and Elizabeth.

    Interesting to see both points of view in regards to shooting in a church.

    As for Jims quote ' you're a guest', yes, we wedding togs ARE guests in the church, just as the priest would be the guest in our studio. While most of us behave accordingly, there are some who spoil it for others by doing exactly what Elizabeth said not to (fisheye from under the altar? :D)

    Elizabeth, you're also correct that we are paid vendors who have a job to do, so we do need to do it - the trick is to be as unobtrusive as possible. That's probably the hardest skill for any aspiring wedding tog to learn, being part of the scenery.

    I'm sure it goes without saying, but we must also respect the occasion at all times.

  • Chris October 30, 2009 12:09 pm

    I've been asked to photograph the wedding of a friends kid. I told him that I was amateur at best but he didn't care. Thank you for posting these tips. It is a Halloween Wedding and it scares me a little.

  • Elizabeth Halford October 28, 2009 08:12 am

    @jim: thanks so much for taking the time to read! However, I must reply to your comments as I quite strongly disagree :*) The photographer is not a guest, they are a hired vendor the same as you the officiant or the caterer and if a couple hires me, it is because they like my style which is not to stage photographs. That may have been ok circa 1980, but these days, many photographers strive for a photojournalistic 'reportage' style and as we all know, photojournalists cannot re-stage moments (exe: "oh shoot could you please drop that bomb one more time I didn't quite get the light right") or events by their very nature as it is our job to catch the real moment the moment it is really happening and this involves movement around the scene, however not IN the scene which I did mention in my article (dont rest your camera on the priests' shoulder for goodness sake!) :)

  • Jim October 28, 2009 06:39 am

    You write: "You were hired and everyone knows that so don’t worry about moving around and shooting from behind the priest if it’s appropriate."

    As a Lutheran pastor (and sometime reluctant wedding photographer) I have to tell you that you are a guest in the church. Act like it. I have never met a professional photographer I did not like and all the professionals I've met have conducted themselves accordingly.

    We've "restaged" the exchange of the rings, lighting the wedding candle, receiving the Sacrament, etc. and in the restaging the photographer had carte blanche in getting the best shot possible.

    As a sometimes reluctant wedding photographer, I respect the worshipful nature of the wedding service and will not violate it. The people for whom I've shot (always gratis) are pleased with the outcome (they couldn't complain anyway--after all, the got what they paid for!)

  • Jen M. October 28, 2009 12:52 am

    Great tips, however I think Ian was right: If you're not a big people person (*waves*) weddings probably aren't your venue. I've already been asked at least once if I "do" weddings, and I had to decline.

    I think having a good, good, good photographer--the RIGHT photographer--for a wedding is essential. I applaud those among us who do this and do it well. :)

    Jen M.
    JenniferLynn Productions, LLC

  • Chris Ridley October 23, 2009 06:38 am

    Great article, thanks for sharing.

  • Sam October 23, 2009 02:27 am

    this had been one of the most inspiring article on doing wedding photography for new birds like me. thanks for your time and effort to share your experiences and i find them really useful and acts well for the small little reminder and pieces of advice.

  • Michael October 23, 2009 02:02 am

    Thanks very much for this enlightening bit of info on weddings! I'm shooting my first official one tomorrow here in Dubai (shot some unoffically - family weddings). Although an actively professional fashion photographer, this still does seem a little nerve wracking, but I've take on board what you've said!

    Thanks again,

  • Fran Miller October 18, 2009 06:58 am

    Great article. I have experienced most of the situations you described. I do have an assistant if necessary and that does relieve a lot of the stress allowing me more time to focus on the bride and other shots I might like to capture.

    I love doing weddings and family portrait photography. I agree with what you say, I also hate posed table shots. Do you work with a zoom lens while doing the table shots?

    I would appreciate any suggestions on improving my technique. Look forward to more lessons on improving as a photographer.

    Thanks, Fran

  • Katie Clark October 18, 2009 01:18 am

    This was a great article! I'm just hours away from shooting my first wedding, and I was very nervous, scouring the internet for a few uplifting words. Thanks for writing this article; it gave me some good ideas and also set my nerves at ease. I've been worrying about being too "into everyone's business" when it comes to the formals; I just have to set my mind on being bossy, and getting those shots done! I know they will appreciate it now.

    Thanks again!

  • Gayleen October 12, 2009 06:58 pm

    Thanks alot . Nice tips!

  • Abbie October 8, 2009 01:42 pm

    Great article! I do, however, slightly disagree with the man-photographer issue, but do know that women are, as most will agree, very emotional and sentimental, thus are often more sensitive to the emotion of the day. I wouldn't say men have an inability to capture the emotions though.
    I have a friend who is a guy photographer and it's nice doing weddings with him because he can be bossier than I am comfortable being, and I can do the girlie photos while he focuses on other things. A good balance.

    God bless

  • William Nolan October 6, 2009 07:17 am

    i have found that the unusual shots seem to work better so thanks for these tips

  • Doug Palmer October 6, 2009 05:24 am

    This is a must have for beach weddings. http://thebeach.tk

  • Justin October 5, 2009 11:07 pm

    What zoom lens would be best suited for wedding photography?

    Thanks a lot!!

  • Benjamin Vogt October 4, 2009 03:36 pm

    that is a wonderful and encouraging article. Like many here, I am far away from photographing (anything) prfessionally, but it's wonderful to read about it. And I (and everyone else) can get a lot out of that. So, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • mitziart October 4, 2009 10:32 am

    If it is possible for you to go to the rehearsal and check out the "rules" and preview angles and camera positions it makes for a much less stressful situation on the day of the wedding. I was doing the photos for a friend and spent an hour or two at the rehearsal getting ideas. Since it was an outdoor wedding I got some of the surrounding lake and landscape just in case the weather didn't cooperate on the actual day. I realize that a professional probably would not be able to spend that time.

  • Carole Jeffs October 3, 2009 11:50 pm

    Oh, I forgot, Thankyou Elizabeth for sharing your tips with us!!!! SHARING is what DPS is all about! I don't know why people take it so personally.....we are ALL here to learn.

    Also almost all of the Photographers I consider my mentors ARE men, and capture emotion beautifully.

  • Carole Jeffs October 3, 2009 11:43 pm

    As far as the hot topic of capturing emotion in the getting dressed time... I have had multiple brides request that a female photographer be shooting in the dressing room. I don't feel like Elizabeth was saying that men cannot capture the emotion......it's just that the women (bride, bridesmaids, mother of the bride,) that are being photographed are some times more relaxed making those preparations in front of a lady. Its kind of like hanging out around the mirror in a ladies restroom or a dressing room. Alot of girl talk, makeup application etc.. goes on and when a guy shows up its definitely not the same!

  • Elizabeth Halford October 3, 2009 04:40 pm

    @darren bennet: Wow thanks for the response. I think it does well in proving my point exactly how emotionally out of touch and unempathetic a man can be towards a woman.

    I have (more than once) stuck up for the cause of the male wedding photographer in my follow-up comments. "I know a great many exceptional male wedding photographers and I also have known of a lot of crap female ones. I just happen to be writing from the viewpoint of a woman simply because I am one."

    Darren, take a page from Hal who had the emotional capacity to disagree like a gentleman.

  • Rosie McCobb October 3, 2009 06:06 am

    Interesting piece Elizabeth, and also interesting comments from everyone.

    To add my two cents to the mix - first, it seems that the flash-during-the-ceremony issue is less of a problem here in the US - I have used flash during the ceremony, although these were outdoor weddings. I find it definitely makes images pop.

    Second, I would actually disagree with Elizabeth's first statement re. "I'm a photographer; I have the ability to shoot anything." I think many photographers can get themselves in trouble by saying "I'm a photographer - of course I shoot weddings!" when their skills, personalities, or true preferences for subject matter or work style don't actually gel with what's ideal for weddings. I don't think all photographers can - by default - shoot a wedding well, just the same as many cannot shoot food or fashion well.

    Having worked as both a filmmaker and now as a photographer, I definitely stumbled, technically, when I first started shooting weddings with flash, although it helped that I'm friendly, connect well with people, and have no problems bossing people around. I was used to working in a way every shot is planned, logged, and lit with studio lights ahead of time, where there was the time to make adjustments. I would say that if you're going to shoot weddings, it actually takes a lot more expertise than Elizabeth mentions (at least to be really good, and to make a living at it). It's very fast, high-pressure, and you have to really be great with choosing your settings/lenses/accessories on the fly. You've also got to be a nice person, with good social skills, great manners, and ability to really connect with people - as well as being able to attend weddings over & over again without getting cynical.

    Personally - I found that it wasn't for me, because I like working slower, and tinkering with studio lighting, props, and locations, and taking my time to get creative with composition; I also like meeting and telling the stories of people in less stage-managed phases of their lives (as opposed to the pomp and circumstance, and sometimes excessive pageantry, of the wedding), so I found I am better suited to both still life/product photography and photojournalism. On a long-term basis, I would argue that it makes more sense to choose one or two types of photography to focus on, professionally, and learn all you can and improve your skills in those areas, as opposed to going back and forth all the time.

  • Eugene Cole October 3, 2009 01:32 am

    Very good article Elizabeth. Always ask for the "rules" before the wedding even in a garden. I always have a person from both parties help with identities. Be prepared to shoot without flash. Eat with all the rest all the while "shooting". A Morman church does not allow a photographer at the ceremony. Have done video and stills.

  • Jacqui Watson October 3, 2009 12:17 am

    Once again, you nailed it. These are tips that make a photgraphers job easier and the day go smoothly . Thanks for sharing your expertise with us.

  • Cosmin Nahaiciuc October 3, 2009 12:17 am

    Excellent down-to-earth comments with many valuable tips. I have my own experiences shooting a few weddings but there is always something new to learn if you are ready to listen and keep your eyes open.

    Thank you for your openness.

    Cosmin Nahaiciuc
    NACO Photography

  • Len Pugh October 2, 2009 11:27 pm

    I am interested to know that you take about 10 shots of each group and then merge them in photoshop,
    do you use a tripod for that? It would make it easier to line up the shots in photoshop.

  • levi clordearta October 2, 2009 09:18 pm

    thank you for sharing sir ,its really helps me though im just a new in photography,thank you again

  • ROD B. FERMIN October 2, 2009 07:31 pm

    i really enjoyed viewing the photos! very helpful tips for wedding shooters!

  • Darren Bennet October 2, 2009 06:08 pm

    Well, what a distgustingly sexist/insulting post for any professional photographer to read

    Firstly, I can capture the excitement of the bride getting ready in a way a man can’t

    I have also been a bride and I see things in a vastly different way than a man ever could.

    It may surprise you to know that as men, we have also been through a marriage ceremony of our own, and photographed countless others with great results.

    What a distgusting post

  • Intan October 2, 2009 01:33 pm

    Thanks for the tips...It really help!!!

  • Ene Anuar October 2, 2009 01:09 pm

    Love the practicality of this article. Kudos!

  • Qais October 2, 2009 11:32 am

    Great article!! I learned a lot. I am a brand new wedding photographer, have done couple friends weddings with no pressure. I am going to my first ever real client wedding in a couple of weeks. Any more tips??

  • Chris Westinghouse October 2, 2009 11:01 am

    Bravo! Fabulously common-sense and practical advice that will help you get great photographs, survive the ordeal, and perhaps even have some fun!

  • Carroll Owens October 2, 2009 10:51 am

    Last year my wife and I attended the wedding of a family friend's son. The dance floor was quite roomy and during a slow dance I sensed the photographer near by. I said "Honey, look over your right shoulder". She did so, and a photo was taken. The photographer nodded her thanks and I thought that was that. A while later, when we received a thank you note for the wedding present, enclosed was a 4 by 6 photo of us alone, dancing. A very nice surprise for us now displayed in our lining room.

    Had the photographer been invisible, she would not have gotten the shot. Sometimes you have to insert yourself a little.

  • Kevyn October 2, 2009 10:37 am

    @Elizabeth - Regerding your comment to Jeffery, I do not doubt that some male photographers told you they felt women could capture emotions better. Some male photographers, and perhaps a lesser percentage of female photographers, are emotionally constipated. They have degenerative "people skills". Look, if they can't capture emotions in one of the most emotional settings ever gift-wrapped and handed to a photographer on a silver frigging platter, they should seriously consider fields other than wedding photography. This is a field that centers on capturing the emotions of the day in addition to merely documenting the events. I'm a hopeless romantic, wear my heart on my sleeve, I believe marriage is a sacred thing, and I actively build a relationship with the couple long before the wedding. I don't shoot weddings because I need the money; I shoot weddings because they're my favorite thing to shoot. I'm as emotionally exhausted as physically exhausted after a wedding. Let's get over sexism oversensitivity, guys, and let's all agree emotionally constipated photographers regardless of their sex need to be shooting catalog spreads with a 4x5 under tungsten and not weddings with a DSLR.

    Next point. I actually ask the bride AFTER engagement and bridal shoots (relationship established, they know my kids names) if they are interested in giving their bridegroom a small album of tasteful but sexy boudoir images the morning of their wedding. I explain they will have on the same amount of covering as they would on a beach, that I refuse to shoot semi-nudes except for mothers & infants (so they'll call back in 2-4 years), and that they are encouraged to bring along some girlfriends to the session (which I will NOT shoot alone). Those that say yes typically will have zero issue with me in the wedding day dressing room as we've already done photography with them in their "skivies" (a humerous, non-threatening word I've chosen carefully). Those who say no do so for two reasons: modesty or budget. If they seem interested but say no for just budget reasons alone I ask "Would you want me to capture for your groom a few less sexy but still memorable images of you getting dressed in your gown?" No extra cost there, removes budget, now it's a pure question of modesty. If they say no to that, or find the boudoir concept too risque to begin with, I'll photograph them getting their makeup on and leave a female assistant in charge when they are ready to get undressed. I am NEVER pushy and ALWAYS professional, and I've never had a woman be offended. It is a professional service I offer like any other, and the bride decides if she wants that product or not.

    Since your post is directed at beginning wedding photographers, I would advise the following to them:

    1. Take your camera off friggin' Program mode and set it to MANUAL. Go do it now and never change it.
    2. Read https://digital-photography-school.com/learning-exposure-in-digital-photography. Learn it, OWN it.
    3. Learn the Sunny-16 rule, OWN it, tweak it to both camera bodies. Make exposure control INSTINCTIVE.
    4. Buy a $130 50mm f/1.8 lens and leave it on f/1.8. Really discover depth of field. Wow, cool, huh? Yep.
    5. Shoot kids birthday parties, college keggers, whatever - hone your skills when the pressure is off.
    6. Get a real professional flash system - examples: Quantum Qflash or Nikon SB-900 with SD-9 battery pack - as soon as you can afford it. Save your cheap one as a backup ( have redundant everything). Insure your flash is never reflected in the subjects eyes. Point it backward/sideways - not just up.
    7. Learn to make the wall and ceiling your indoor light source. Read "On Camera Flash" by Niel van Niekerk, ISBN# 978-1-58428-258-7.

    Once you can change ISO f/stop and shutter instinctively and understand your flash modes like tha back of your hand, start second shooting with a real pro (who doesn't hit on bridesmades or use priest's shoulders as tripods) for free - give them sales rights to your images for the right to use the images for your portfolio and to learn workflow from them. Find the best top name guys in your area who will agree to it and make them your mentors.

    Second shoot 20 weddings with 2-4 different real pros and you'll have a great education, plus some outstanding connections.

  • jpm8jpm October 2, 2009 10:15 am

    i love wedding photography. i make money out of it and at the same time i enjoy doing it. every weddings has their own uniqueness and u have to be ready for tough job. simple philosophy...think as if it is your own wedding that you are photographing...but of course if it is your wedding you cannot do it in reality.

  • Joe Horine October 2, 2009 08:07 am

    Great article and tips, Elizabeth. I particularly liked the tip on shooting some still-life's around the house/room (make-up brushes, etc.) if you have time.

    I just did a wedding in a small country church that had a wall and a pillar RIGHT behind where the bride stood. THAT was a challenge.

    I've enjoyed some of the tips from the comments too.

    Thank you again.

  • Brian October 2, 2009 07:58 am

    Interesting comments and suggestions. I am an amature, hobby photographer who has been asked to photograph about eight weddings. I like shooting weddings and enjoy delight from the bride ang groom and the families when the pictures are presented. I would like to add a couple comments.
    I always confer with the officiant at the wedding concerning their policy about the use of flash during the ceremony. Most of the time the poplicy has been to not use flash during the ceremony, that is after the procession. And I absolutely adhere to their guidelines. I will begin using the flash at the very end of the ceremony when the new couple is introduced to the assembly and they are about to recess.
    I am always concerned about the time required to take pictures after the ceremony. I provide the bride and groom a list of suggested pictures and ask them to add to or delete ones they prefer or not. I ask them to identify parents, grandparents and other relatives who are to be included in the post-ceremony pictures. Then, I organize the post-ceremony picture taking into a sequence that involves everyone who is to be included in a large group shot. Subsequent pictures include fewer and fewer people until just the bride and groom remain. This allows many people to leave and clear the area so I can concentrate on the bride and groom at the end.
    I have also encountered some delicate moments involving families with divorced members who do not wish to be photographed together. In these cases, I consult with the bride and groom during our planning meetings on who these folks are and how to include them in the photo set but just not together. It usually works out but sometimes smiles are hard to get.
    My intent at a wedding ceremony is to be as invisible as possible. I am not the show, the bride and groom and their ceremony is the important point of everyone being their. But you must ac
    I enjoyed reading all of the comments in this series and look forward to other informative discussions.

  • Shannon Bilger October 2, 2009 07:27 am

    One of my recent couples actually wanted me to get on the stage and shoot up close. That was a little weird, but they loved the pictures. They were even pretty religious. The groom was a videographer and he knew what he wanted. I really need to work on being more bold and bossy...people can be very hard to control during the family pictures!

  • Eric Mesa October 2, 2009 05:37 am

    @sabrina: What was teh photographer doing that was so intrusive?

  • Elizabeth Halford October 2, 2009 04:38 am

    @Hal - Hi Hal thanks so much for that - very good insight from a true professional. Thank you.

  • Hal Mooney October 2, 2009 04:21 am

    Thank You Elizabeth, for a good article. Don't worry about all the differing opinions. The best articles make people think, and want to respond.
    I do agree with some of your points. As a wedding photographer since 1981, I have been involved with all kinds of ceremonies - some where I was free to move around, and a few where I couldn't move at all.
    One Catholic church in my area (Tampa, FL) puts a tape X on the floor. The priest says "There's your spot. Move off of it, and Brother John will see that you spend the rest of the ceremony on the sidewalk." He is NOT kidding!
    I personally do not use flash after the bride reaches the groom, and except for shooting the processional, I don't go more than half way up the aisle. But I do set up a camera on the side, behind the altar, and one in the balcony. I fire these with radio remote triggers. Expensive, but well worth it.
    One last point. As far as food goes, I have generally been working with my brides for several months prior to the wedding. They trust me, they like me, and they always offer food. And I always accept. BUT, I set my plate on a side table near my cases, and eat standing up, with my camera in one hand, watching the action, ready to step in to grab a shot. It's fine to eat, but not to sit and socialize.

  • sabrina October 2, 2009 03:45 am

    Posting from the perspective of a bride/guest, I want to highlight the being invisible tip. I was at a wedding recently where the photographer was on the dance floor taking some pretty invasive and I would say probably inappropriate photographs. It made several of the guests quite uncomfortable. Even if the photographer was being entirely professional and we all misinterpreted the situation the point is he was absolutely not invisible and he made himself appear unprofessional.

    On a similar note, about the debate over where to be during the ceremony, at our wedding our minister did not allow pictures during the ceremony because he felt it was too much of a disruption to the wedding party and guests. Instead we recreated some of the shots afterward. I know staged shots make people groan, but it was still a light casual atmosphere with laughter and other residual emotion from the ceremony and the photographs show that. And we have lovely candid shots from the reception. Anyway, the point is since then at every wedding I've attended where the photographer has been shooting during the ceremony I have noticed them and found them extremely distracting. In the aisle with the flash going, the camera clicking away. I have to say it always takes away from the event.

    I know a photographer needs to be everywhere and of course you can't actually be invisible, and don't want to sacrifice a variety of shots of all elements of the event. But I will say the one wedding where I never noticed the photographer had by far the best pictures of any I've attended, and some of the best of any I've seen anywhere.

  • Wallflower Kim October 2, 2009 03:35 am

    ASK before going BEHIND a Priest - especially a Catholic wedding. You have to respect the ceremony and the beliefs.

    You may be a Professional, but yet so is the Minister /or/ Priest, and is VERY important that you do not step on the altar without permission.... I know a photographer that was not allowed back to a certain church after he angered alot of the very devout Parishioners.

    His loss was my gain in a gorgeous old Catholic church. =)

  • Yvonne October 2, 2009 03:33 am

    Thank you Elizabeth. I may never shoot a wedding because of all the stress and controversy, as proven by these postings, but if I do, you have helped me a great deal. I try to read and learn all I can, and your ideas seemed very helpful to me. I have turned down four weddings in the last three weeks, mostly because I am still having difficulty with lighting. I would not want to risk not getting the best photos of the important moments. I have done two weddings for friends and relatives, and given the photos as my gift to the bride and groom. They were thrilled, which was a help to my low self esteem, but think I will leave the paid weddings to all of you who know much more than I.

    To Darren: I absolutely love your website, and can hardly wait for the weekly newletter to come to my inbox. Thank you so much.

  • Rob October 2, 2009 03:22 am

    I cant agree more with the "Be Bossy" tip. I did a wedding last weekend with 23 people in the wedding party. They originally wanted pictures after the reception (a simple lunch) but changed their mind and wanted them between the ceremony and reception (of course on a super bright mid-afternoon day with a lake in the background and sun in their faces...talk about a challenging group picture). I started soft and nice but in order to get things in order I had to go military style on them. If I had continued to be soft the pictures would have never been taken!

  • Ed October 2, 2009 01:37 am

    Some good tips here, i also take a lot of extra shots of the surrounding area. Very useful for cutaway shots, and they also help tell the album story. Here's another idea- mix in photos with video as well and put it on a 10 min hightlights dvd.
    Ed- wedding videos Northern Ireland professional

  • Duane October 2, 2009 12:24 am

    Regarding photography in churches, keep in mind that you are attending a religious ceremony. In the case of a Christian wedding, it is regarded as sacramental. If you can take a photo that captures the spiritual import of the moment *while* being discrete, then do so. If you disrupt the sacred moment to get the shot then it has already been lost.

  • Joel October 1, 2009 11:50 pm

    I didn't even notice the pre-tips part of the article until Jeffrey mentioned it. I 100% agree with you Jeff - it's absolutely ridiculous to assert that just because someone is a woman that she'd have a better understanding of how to capture the emotion than a man would. I call bull on that. If a man asks a female photographer to take photos because "they couldn't capture the emotion the same" that just means that either 1. they aren't very good photographers, or 2. Elizabeth is just an objectively better photographer.

    My wife is a videographer like I am, but she'll be the first to tell you that even though she's good, I'm better at capturing emotions and shots in general than she is - even of the bride. Why? More experience. I'm objectively better because I have more experience.

    Do some brides prefer working with women while they are getting ready? Of course, but *not* because women photographers are better at photographing women, or photographing emotion - it's because when the bride is getting ready she may not be fully dressed, she won't be "made up," and if there's a guy around, it can be it somewhat uncomfortable for her. I have my wife film the bride getting ready, not because she's better at capturing emotions, but out of respect for the bride (professionalism remember?) who may not want a guy around while she's getting into her dress.

    There is a wedding videography company here in my city that actually uses Elizabeth's same "opinion" that because they are all women that they can capture memories better than men can because a man doesn't "understand" the little things like the importance or significance of the dress, the shoes, the hair, etc. How utterly stuck-up and self-important.

  • Steffie van den Akker October 1, 2009 11:16 pm

    Great article! I will photograph a wedding party on Saturday. The bride is a colleague, she asked me yesterday (!). I have never done this before, she has never seen any pictures I've taken, so for me this takes some of the pressure away. I know she doesn't expect much and just wants some pictures.

    But of course I'll try my very best to take great pictures anyway! This article will definately help me! Thank you so much!

  • Elizabeth Halford October 1, 2009 09:23 pm

    @Jeffrey: Thanks for your comment. I did not come to this understanding on my own. Only through quite a few male wedding photographers who tried to hire me as a second shooter because they said they couldn't capture the emotion the same as I. I was led into this opinion by male photographers who said they only work with female second shooters who add the emotional element to their work.

  • Jeffrey Wilkins October 1, 2009 03:37 pm

    I appreciate your sharing of these tips. However I feel that your choice to start your article by suggesting that simply being a woman makes you superior was a mistake. To suggest that a man cannot be in tune with the sensitivities of the brides preparation is ludicrous. Talk about alienating a large percentage of your audience out of the gate. This would be akin to me suggesting that I can capture the groom's preparation because he and his groomsmen will not be distracted by my short skirt. I guess I wont miss the shot of the father pinning the flower to the grooms lapel because I am hitting on the groomsmen, honestly . . . I take offence to this. Personally feel these the most important moments of the shoot, if handled correctly can produce the best images, shot by a man or woman. The truth is the importance is to be aware and sensitive to ones comfort level. Your job is to be the fly on the wall as you suggested and make the bride or groom feel comfortable in what they are doing, but I would argue that this is not a gender specific trait. Come on this is not a boudoir shoot acceptable level of comfort can be reached by being sensitive, I think this is common sense. I have not experienced the emotions of a bride as a bride but I have experienced them. To be in the room with someone and share in these beautiful moments is amazing. Being in tune with this emotion and capturing the experience gives you the edge not your gender. These are the money shots the ones that show the raw emotions and touching moments between friends and family. Any photographer with any sense of professionalism would not miss the key shots due to their personal agenda.
    You can definitely argue that you have a different perspective than me as I have not been a bride however that only speaks to your personal experience and nothing more. The same strength can be emphasized without alienating anyone. eg: I feel the my experience as a groom allows me to better capture his day by empathizing with his experience and emotions. I don't need to say "better than a woman can" because it is unnecessary and does nothing to increase my ability that my "experience" hasn't already. Trying to raise yourself by trying to lower another is never a good tactic. I am not better than anyone, I do what I do well because of my personal experiences and my sensitivity to emotion. Keep doing what you love, keep learning and move past this. In the grand scheme of things this is just a bunch of words.

  • Mei Teng October 1, 2009 01:41 pm

    Big Ben, thanks for the suggestion. I am inclined to stick to my 17-70mm if I don't use a 2nd camera.

  • Shane October 1, 2009 07:03 am

    I have to thank you for these tips they are really helpful. I have done 1 wedding and have asked to do two more and these tips really help.

  • marvin October 1, 2009 06:28 am

    thanks for sharing this info with us all.
    I got a lot of good tips from you and all the comments they were posted on the subject!
    thanks again.

  • Eman October 1, 2009 05:31 am

    Thank you for these wonderful tips! Will surely have these handy tips in mind whenever I have the chance to do weddings :)

  • bIG bEN October 1, 2009 12:24 am

    You can change lenses on your camera as you go. Pick the situation and then choose a lense accordingly. Alternatively you can borrow or hire another camera (and lens if necessary) for the occasion. I suspect you will get a lot of use from your 17-70.

  • Mei Teng September 30, 2009 04:09 pm

    If I have only 1 camera body, which lens should I use? A wide angle 17-70mm (f/2.8 - f/4.5) or a 70-200mm (f/2.8)?

  • Mei Teng September 30, 2009 04:06 pm

    Great set of tips. I will be doing my first wedding photographing in about 2 months' time and just thinking about it stresses me out. You mentioned about the posed table shots and you know what? I hate that too.

    I have already set my mind on wearing as comfortable as I possibly can without looking dawdy for the wedding photography assignment.

  • Justin September 30, 2009 09:27 am

    The Meal. What a hot topic. I don't know about most people but I can quite easily survive say a 10hr stretch without a large plate of sit-down food. A big breakfast beforehand and a good 'end-of-the-day' dinner afterwards and everything is good. Maybe a snack bar in the car driving between locations.
    A large bottle of water is a definite though.

    Agree with Joel completely. You are a professional and as such the expectation is that you will have the skills, the experience and the equipment to do the job whilst being unobtrusive. I would never go up on stage during a couples wedding vows and actually think that to be disrespectful.

    Although Joel I do work along side videographers, I have had a few that are of the assumption that once they set up their video camera on a tripod in the corner, that no-one else bar the wedding party is 'allowed in the camera's field of view'. Sorry but that isn't going to happen. I Do agree with you though that we are all professionals there to work together - and it is way easier when we all do that well and respect one another's jobs.

    Tripod is a bit of a hit/miss at the ceremony (if flash is completely not allowed). Yes it will stop any camera shake and subsequent movement blur that would ruin a photo, but it CAN NOT stop people blur. Your wedding party, clergy, guests won't "freeze" so you can use a slower shutter speed. Some may work (if the blur on the main subject isn't too great, but most may not. Get yourself a fast lens. I have used a f1.4 with my 5DII (huge ISO, low noise) to capture 'those' shots.
    Also on flash, I would recommend getting a diffuser such as a Sto-fen or a Gary Fong system. You pics will improve dramatically.

    There's my 2 cents worth... again.

  • Arturo Godoy September 30, 2009 06:50 am

    Thank you very much for the tips!!! Precisely on this coming Saturday I've got my second wedding (so to speak, ;O)), and this year has been my transition between amateur to pro. In my first wedding I also made some mistakes but I guess it all came out pretty good given the circumstances... I am glad to say that I am photographing friends (just like in the first case), although I don't know the families, so what I am doing is going a couple of days earlier to spend time knowing everyone so that we all feel comfortable, because like you, I am a bit shy and it is very difficult for me to be bossy... So, getting to know people will ease the job, and it will give also give us time for them to feel comfortable with a camara near or in front of them. It might also bring some other opportunities to have cool shots before the wedding, ;O)

    About the flash, well, in my first experience I had to use it because it was all delayed and the night kicked in, so it was incredibly hard because I prefer to not use the flash...

    Again, I love the article, so once more, thank you very much!!!

  • Joel September 30, 2009 05:36 am

    I am a former professional wedding *videographer* and I have a few comments about these tips:

    I 100% agree with items one through three - I do these same things in video.

    I 100% disagree with number four. Yes, your clients are paying for you to be there and take pictures, however, they didn't hire you to be a distraction. I have had ceremony footage ruined because of photographers that walk around on-stage during the ceremony. It is distracting as an audience member to be trying to focus on the bride and groom when some person is walking around up there with them. Being in the aisle is one thing, you're not literally in front of everyone, but there's no reason that any vendor should be on stage - or at least moving on stage. It's not professional. Some venues, especially some churches, forbid any vendors from being on stage. I've worked two weddings where the church didn't even allow the photographer to be in the same room - they (we) had to be in the balcony or the back behind glass. The couple getting married may be your client, but you still have other people's rules to respect.

    For number five: My wife and I go back and forth on this issue all the time. Our usual rule was that we would dress so that if we weren't lugging cameras around, we wouldn't stick out from the crowd. At the same time, filming weddings in Florida in the summer is *hot* and it isn't practical to be really dressed up when you're shooting outside in 95 degree heat. So, I think this may be a case-by-case thing. I would normally stick to kakhi pants and a long-sleeve button-up (with the sleeves rolled up). The one thing you *must* have though - comfortable shoes.

    Yes for number six.

    Number seven is easier said than done - My wife and I are a bit bossy by nature, so it comes easy for us, however, at the same time, sometimes getting the bridal party to cooperate is just an exercise in futility. My best advice is for the bride to have a literal paper list of the photos she wants, and bring that with her. That way it's SO MUCH easier to know exactly what you are shooting, and with who.

    Number eight: Along with number four, some venues don't allow any flashes whatsoever, so be prepared for that.

    Number nine: While I completely agree that you *must* be professional, I disagree on the eating. When our clients book us, they book us for six to 12 hours! Our contract mandated that we are to be fed at the reception. I don't care if you're superman, no one is going to be able to operate without an actual meal for 12 hours.

    I would like to add to the idea of professionalism: Something that we experienced more often than not when working with photographers was that they oftentimes operated as though they were the only ones that mattered - they would step in front of our cameras while we're filming, they would take the bride and groom away for pictures without telling us, they would coordinate events with the DJs on their own. Being a professional in the wedding industry means that you're working with more than just the bride and groom. You have to work with them as the couple, probably their parents, the entire bridal party, the officiant, the venue(s), coordinators, DJs, caterers, and many others. It's very unprofessional to operate in a manner that makes you oblivious to those others that the bride and groom have also paid to be there. You will find that vendors refer each other - you don't want another vendor to dissuade a client from using you because you're not good to work with.

  • Lila Jackson September 30, 2009 05:04 am

    A natural photo always looks so much better than something staged. You have provided several great tips.

  • Bryan September 30, 2009 02:23 am

    How about dressing up in dark clothes/dress? This can help to keep us invisible during the occasion, right?

  • jeni September 30, 2009 12:18 am

    very well written... if only some of my colleagues would read this before shooting the next wedding. nothing is better when you get home (passed out) after a wedding and the first email you receive is from the bride saying thank you! before she even sees the photos... then I know I did a good job.

  • Iris September 29, 2009 11:12 pm

    Thank you so much for the wonderful tips, Elizabeth.

  • Eric Mesa September 29, 2009 10:14 pm

    I never hit on any bride's maids when doing a wedding. Sorry, but I'd consider anyone who does that to be unprofessional.

  • Elizabeth Halford September 29, 2009 08:43 pm

    @Marvin - hmm don't think I could manage that one! My goal as a photographer is to capture what is happening, not to alter it and I think that would be distracting. I do crouch down in the aisle sometimes though. And someone questioned about shooting from behind the priest which I don't agree with. I think people are used to there being a photographer and entirely accepting of the fact that they will see you working once in a while. I don't mean getting right behind him, though. I have been known to peek from behind around the organ.

    With any tips you read we must obviously use common sense - obviously, it would never be acceptable to get right behind the priest and steady your camera on his shoulder (although I have seen that done believe it or not!)

    @Justin: I'm sorry if I came off as sexist. I know a great many exceptional male wedding photographers and I also have known of a lot of crap female ones. I just happen to be writing from the viewpoint of a woman simply because I am one! :)

  • Elizabeth Halford September 29, 2009 08:15 pm

    Hi! About the flash. My tip said only to never use the pop up and always have an external one ready to go but that doesn't mean to always use it just to have it ready. Obviously, if it's a ceremony where flash is forbidden, then you open up the aperture and use the fastest shutter speed possible and try to keep a steady hand.

  • photography tips September 29, 2009 07:33 pm

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  • Ian September 29, 2009 07:21 pm

    Over the years I've photographed over 500 weddings for my business and freelanced for other wedding studios and agree with most of what you say. In my experience there's not always time to eat at a wedding so I make sure I have high energy snacks and drinks in my bag to snack and sip as I go along.
    The key to thing to remember at a wedding are the people - put the people first and you'll get your shots. Put a foot wrong and you've lost 'em and won't get your images.

    If you don't like people and crowds then most weddings are not for you - if you're not confident with your people skills and creative skills, you shouldn't be photographing weddings.

    In the UK you can observe at (most) church weddings. This is a prime opportunity to see how weddings run and photographers work. Don't make it obvious what you're doing. Blend in, look like a guest and if you must take reference images, do it discretely with a compact camera. I had someone shadow me a wedding many years ago who openly said he wanted to become a wedding photographer and just kept getting in the way - even firing a flash in church, which is a major no-no! In the end the vicar insisted that he leave the church!

    JJ is concerned about not using flash inside a church with little ambient light. There's many ways around this including a tripod (I carry a Manfrotto 755 MF3 with 460 MG quick release head) or cranking up the ISO. I've even managed to get shots in church where photography is not permitted! But this is down to planning and knowing your technique as second nature.

  • jj September 29, 2009 06:30 pm

    Hmm... what will I do if flash is forbidden for an indoors ceremony where there isn't much natural light available? Is it safe to put up a couple of light stands? If so, I would think it'd take a lot of planning to make sure they don't interfere. Any suggestions?

  • Marvin September 29, 2009 05:54 pm

    Nice article here, Liza. I have a question about "Be Bold" when it comes to shooting in the church. Is it okay to lie down just to get THE shot? Did you experience going to the front at the altar, all/some eyes on you, and you just started lying down and take pictures? I don't know. I'm not a wedding photographer but am very interested at this so that's why I wanted to know if it's okay - to the priest, to the audience, to the bride and groom? I have this picture in my head where the the perspective is looking up at the bride and groom probably with the priest in the shot as well, and this magnificent ceiling of the church are all in the shot. Just thinking. Great read, by the way.

  • robb September 29, 2009 04:04 pm

    these are nice tips.
    and if i might add, put more attention during the ceremony.

  • Justin September 29, 2009 03:28 pm

    As a wedding photographer of many years, I tend to not agree with most of what is written here sorry.
    Perhaps the authors own quote "Mind you, I have only done a few wedding..." needs to be kept in mind here.
    Also bordering on a little sexist too. Men can and do make very good wedding photographers thanks, and not all of us sit around of hit on the brides maids.

  • Darren September 29, 2009 03:12 pm

    Hi Jessica
    Regarding your question about shooting with flash is a good point. I always ask permision from the father, priest or who ever is conducting the wedding ceremony. One thing that can be distracting is the on camera or direct flash approach. It aims a full blast of light wherever you are shooting. I shoot with a lambency diffuser that spreads the light softly and evenly all around, i make the person conducting the ceremony aware of its non intrusive flash lighting. You can be sure that 99% of the time you will be allowed to use your flash. Just remember, your clients want the best and have paid for you to be there in the church or registrar.

  • Peter Conrey September 29, 2009 12:22 pm

    Good introductory article. I've shot 10 beautiful weddings since June, and I have to agree with Jessica and Aaron; eating at the reception is perfectly acceptable. We are usually working from 3'ish until midnight, so you need the refreshment. It's not a bad idea to take your plate off to the side or to another room, just do it when you know you won't miss any important shots.

    Also, regarding number 4, ALWAYS CHECK WITH THE MINISTER!!!!!!! NEVER go to the front of the service, especially behind the minister, unless you have EXPRESS permission to do so. Many wedding coordinators would have a fit all over you if you just wander up there, and many potential clients sitting in the sanctuary will consider it very tacky.

    Finally, unless you are asked to do so, NEVER use flash during the service. If you don't have the gear to take photos without flash, you should wait to offer your services professionally until you do, or rent what you need.

  • Zim September 29, 2009 09:17 am

    Very intersting, thank you for the tips :)

  • Steven Lilley September 29, 2009 08:53 am

    Thanks, good article, one I wish I'd seen a few months ago. I was asked to photograph a friends wedding. With hindsight I should have been Bold and Bossy - I'm neither :-)

  • Elizabeth Halford September 29, 2009 08:39 am

    I stand corrected. I think you guys are right about the food. I just find it so akward and have never known how other photographers approach it.

  • Martin Barabe September 29, 2009 08:21 am

    These are very usefull tips and i think you for sharing them with us. I have tryed yesterday to shoot the baptism of my best friends son, I thought i was ready for an event but found it was a lot more work than anticipated ( just pressure i put on my self)

  • TC September 29, 2009 04:49 am

    I love weddings as well. Great fun and very exciting as a photographer (there are a lot of must-not-fail moments). Always a lot of happy people.

    My advice: bring an assistant/second shooter. Somebody to look after you gear, while you get the essentials and maybe get a few candid shots from locations you can't be at, because you are concentrating on the essentials. Doesn't have to have experience or even know much about photography - just somebody you know are a 100% on your side and are willing to be an extra pair of hands.

  • Aaron Riddle September 29, 2009 03:24 am

    Good tips...great for beginners! Although I have to disagree with declining the invitation to take part in the meal if offered to an extent.

    At the weddings I have photographed, when asked, I do decline...but if the bride and groom insist, I will accept and grab a small plate from the buffet table out of politeness. I still remain vigilant looking for photo opportunities while having a quick bite to eat.

    In my experiences, the bride and groom plan on feeding their photographer and DJ, so it is polite to accept if asked. I will add that if you do eat, you should always do so in a separate area off to the side (usually with the DJ). Again, great article!

  • Álvaro September 29, 2009 02:59 am

    I enjoyed reading this. It's clear that you like your activity!

  • Jessica September 29, 2009 02:43 am

    Anyone have any comments on flash during a wedding? I hear "NEVER" do it and "why not if it helps," so I'm not sure about it.

  • Jessica September 29, 2009 02:41 am

    Good tips. I respectfully disagree with the refusing to eat at the wedding. I have heard that many photographers actually put it in their contract that they must be fed at the wedding or be given a break to go eat. It can be a full day's work and everyone is entitled to a meal break. It can be awkward at first and I don't always do it, but I watch the seasoned dj comfortably go get a plateful of food at every wedding. Think of it as a nice perk. Am I wrong here?

  • Melanie September 29, 2009 02:32 am

    Great article! I'm working most on the "be bold" part. :)

  • Tracy September 29, 2009 02:19 am

    Great tips for someone looking to explore this avenue of photography. Thanks.

  • quicoto September 29, 2009 02:08 am

    Nice, thanks for the post.

    Im miles away from taking pics in a wedding but always interesting ;)