Wedding Photography, The Essential Images

My friends Orley and Alexander photographed, on their wedding day, in the Melbourne Botanical Gardens.

Wedding photography is one of the most important and difficult endeavours an enthusiast photographer is likely to experience. Let me take you through the essential images you’ll need to make on the day.

It’s a high pressure and time sensitive job and there’s little or no opportunity for mistakes.

I thought it would be useful to list the essential images I’d recommend you make if you find yourself photographing a wedding.

As far as scheduling is concerned, I think it would be much the same for both heterosexual and same sex couples. But you’d need to work that through with the couple in question.

It’s probably a good idea to break the day up into its individual components, that can be described as follows:

  • Pre-service

  • Service

  • Outdoor (e.g., garden) location

  • Reception

Now let’s explore each of these components separately.

Careful adjustments to the bridal dress made at the brides family home on the day of the wedding.

Bridal Photos Made Pre-Service

As far as the coverage you’re likely to undertake, prior to arriving at the church, it’s almost certainly going to include photos at the brides house.

This part of the coverage is extremely important as, symbolically, the bride is leaving her family and the home in which she was brought up in and moving onto the next stage of her life.

This is your opportunity to make formal portraits of the bride in head and shoulder, half, three quarter and full length poses.

Make sure you make these images as you never know what might happen to that dress throughout the rest of the day.

In addition consider making the following photos:

  • Close-up image of the flowers and any trinkets (horse shoes, etc)

  • Close-up images of the brides dress (e.g., from behind) and shoes

  • Bride and father

  • Bride and mother

  • Bride with both her parents

  • Bride with any grandparents present

  • Bride and family, if available

  • Bride with family pet, where appropriate

  • Bride with each individual bridesmaid and flower girl

  • Group shot of bride, bridesmaids and flower girls

  • Individual portraits of each bridesmaid and each flower girl

That probably looks like a fairly extensive list. It is, which is why you need to do all you can to ensure you have around one hour in the day’s schedule put aside for these photos.

And it won’t be easy as the bride is almost never on time.

But it’s not her fault. In many cases it’s the first time she’s been married and, therefore, the first time she’s experienced the rigors of such a full and eventful day.

Almost certainly our bride will be held up at the hairdresser and simple acts like getting in and out of the wedding car on this, her big day, will become quite involved given the scale and complexity of many wedding dresses.

And then, of course, there’s family politics.

Be prepared for plenty of emotion on the day, including the possibility of a tantrum at the brides house. And it may not come from the flower girl.

It's great to make some fun images of the groom, groomsman and other family members prior to them leaving for the wedding service.

Photos Of The Groom Pre-Service

Some photographers try to include coverage of the groom and groomsman making their own preparations before leaving for the wedding service.

I think that’s great as these photos are usually quite jovial and balance the often more intimate and emotive images made of the bride and her parents at the family home.

Here’s the images you’ll want to record.

  • Candid images of groom and groomsman clowning around, writing and/or practicing speeches

  • Groom and groomsman getting organized

  • Individual and group portraits of groom and groomsman

Photography At The Wedding Venue

 
 

This next series is extremely important as it covers so much of the emotion of the day.

You’ll need to be on your toes as most of these events need to be recorded quickly, as they happen.

 

My friend Ashley and one of his grandchildren, Adama, enjoying the sunshine at his daughter Orely's wedding in the Melbourne Botanical Gardens.

Some photos you should look to make at the service include the following:

  • Groom and groomsman waiting for bride, either inside or outside the church

  • Bride inside car as she arrives at the church

  • Bride still seated but about to alight from the car

  • Bride with one foot on the ground, about to stand up, and being assisted out of the car by her father

  • Bride walking down the isle

  • Important moments throughout the service (e.g., readings, vows, exchange of rings, kiss-e-poos)

  • Candid individual images of bride and groom signing the register

  • Formal, posed image of bride and groom pretending to sign the register after the actual signing has been completed

  • Bride and groom walking down the isle

  • Bride and groom on church steps or wherever the service is conducted

  • Wedding party on church steps or wherever the service is conducted

  • Family groups on church steps or wherever the service is conducted

  • Bride tossing the flowers over her head

 

A photo with members from both the bride and groom's extended families at a lovely outdoor location.

Wedding Garden Location Photos

This is where the bride and groom get to relax, in between their church and reception duties.

My advice is to do all the group images first.

That will allow family members to move onto the reception and allow you to reduce the amount of people hanging around by the time you begin photographing the bride and groom.

A candid photo of a bride with her father at a lovely outdoor setting immediately following the wedding service.

You may find it helpful to take the bride and groom on a short walk to ensure that you’re able to work in a quiet and more intimate setting.

  • Family groups (if you were unable to make these photos at the church)

  • Wedding party groups

  • Groom with bridesmaids

  • Bride with groomsmen

  • Partners (each bridesmaid with their respective groomsman)

Bride and groom relaxing on the trunk of a huge tree in the Melbourne Botanical Gardens.

  • Bride full length (of critical importance)

  • Bride and groom full length (of critical importance)

  • Bride and groom photographed in three quarter, half length and head and shoulder poses

  • Bride and groom casual and romantic poses in more secluded parts of the garden location

  • Wedding party casual group images, including the garter shot

  • If cars are important then, if time allows, the bride and groom and, maybe, the entire bridal party can be photographed both in or standing around the cars

The bride's dad making a speech, with an appropriate mix of humour and advice, at the wedding reception.

Photos At The Wedding Reception

Cutting the cake is usually considered the most important image from the reception.

Some photographers do a mock or pretend cutting of the cake, as soon as they arrive at the reception venue, and leave almost immediately.

Other photographers offer a more complete coverage of the reception. In that case the cake cutting can be photographed upon arrival and/or as it happens during the evening.

 

The bride and groom cutting the Wedding cake at the reception.

The photos you’d need to make, if you’ve been booked to cover the entire reception, would include the following:

 
  • The cake

  • Cutting the cake

  • Overall wide-angle images of the location and guests

  • Small group shots of guests (e.g. seated at tables)

  • Speeches

  • Any elderly and/or infirmed family members who could not be photographed earlier in the day

  • Bridal waltz

  • Bride and groom, family members and other guests dancing

  • Band performing

  • Any other culturally important rites or shenanigans that occur throughout the evening.

A candid snap recording a moment of romance at a lively wedding reception in Mildura, Australia.

Think Carefully About The Wedding Product You Want To Produce

Not all weddings include coverage of the groom and groomsmen prior to their arrival at the church, nor is an extended coverage of the reception always expected.

The more photos you make the harder your day will be and the more images you’ll need to process and deliver, in a timely manner.

I’d estimate that photographing the guys, prior to the wedding and the reception would add around 40% to your workload. This means a much longer day resulting in more travel, time and stress.

If you offer this kind of complete coverage you need to make sure you charge for it. I can tell you, after photographing several hundred weddings (back in the day), it’s extremely exhausting work.

If the bride and groom determine the cost is too great they may well consider your normal coverage to be better value.

This allows you to use the complete coverage as a way to book more weddings based upon your normal coverage (though don’t use the word normal to describe it).

Of course what I’ve covered today is only a small portion of what you need to know and do to cover a wedding successfully.

But I’ve seen so many wedding coverages that didn’t include a full length of the bride, or the bride and groom for that matter, that I thought an article was timely.

I hope it helps.

If ever you’re asked to photograph a wedding for family or friends, my advice would be to run like hell. You just don’t know what you’d be getting yourself in for.

However, if you think Wedding photography is for you then the above list should be useful. Just don’t forget that full length photo of the brides dress.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru