Wedding Photography, The Essential Images
Wedding photography is one of the most important and difficult endeavours an enthusiast photographer is likely to experience. 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:
Outdoor (e.g., garden) location
Now let’s explore each of these components separately.
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.
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.
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
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, which 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.
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 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
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 photos you’d need to make, if you’ve been booked to cover the entire reception, would include the following:
Cutting the cake
Overall wide-angle images of the location and guests
Small group shots of guests (e.g. seated at tables)
Any elderly and/or infirmed family members who could not be photographed earlier in the day
Bride and groom, family members and other guests dancing
Any other culturally important rites or shenanigans that occur throughout the evening.
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 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