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Wedding Photography Checklist, The Essentials & Must-Have Shots [Examples & tips]

How to avoid disappointment and take the shots your clients really want!


Wedding photography - Bride and the Photographer Excitement by Caglayan Sonmez on

What is wedding photography?

Wedding photography is the photography of activities related to weddings. It incorporates a mix of genres of photography including portraits, family and group photography, documentary, boudoir, event, and close up shots.

The wedding photography trend dates back to Victorian England (circa 1885), but these days, it’s a whole new ball game. While most couples don’t know exactly what they want, they will still have high expectations. A brief and perfunctory shot list won’t cut it anymore; this generation of wedding photographers have to capture it all—without missing a beat.

According to a survey on WeddingWire, an estimated 90% of couples hire a professional photographer for their weddings. That makes photographers the most in-demand wedding vendor of them all—beating out venues (86%), hair and makeup (80%), and wedding dresses (78%).

Wedding Photography Portfolio | Mott Weddings by Justin Mott on


Wedding photography business

This is probably one of the most stressful areas of photography. If you accidentally delete a photo or lose the memory card, you are in trouble. But if you take great photos, you are a hero to the clients and are able to get referrals. Experienced wedding photographers can charge a lot for their services and make a lot of money.

As a professional wedding photographer, a substantial amount of time is spent meeting, listening, and understanding your clients’ needs and wants before the wedding day.

Wedding photography - BNO by Bruno Cervera on


Wedding photography business advice I wish I’d known as a newbie

Wedding photography is definitely one of the most stressful yet fulfilling areas to be in as a photographer. Being a wedding photographer is a dream for many to aspire to, but like all types of businesses, not everyone can make it past year one, and some don’t get off the ground running. That being said, it’s not impossible.

As a wedding photographer, your clients tend to have high expectations because it’s more than one day for them, it’s about a lifetime of memories. It is about capturing moments, emotions, and letting your client relive the day with beautiful photos. It’s about the smiling moments that your client never knew happened because they were so busy on their day, about seeing the emotions on the faces of their family and friends, and the visual story that they will treasure forever.

If you can remember this, you can make it as a wedding photographer.

Wedding photography - sparkle by Steven Cheah on


Top pitfalls of shooting weddings

Most complications usually arise from the business side instead of the photography side. Deciding on a price, what to include in your wedding photography package, and asking the right questions prior to the shoot all play an important part in setting up and running your business.

Whether it’s managing your time correctly or speaking to your clients, things don’t always go as planned. When it comes to common mistakes, there tend to be two kinds—avoidable mistakes and unavoidable mistakes. The avoidable mistakes are the ones that could have been avoided if you had asked a few questions or done some planning. The unavoidable mistakes are the ones that happen because of something that there was no way to plan for.

Wedding photography - La cérémonie est terminée by Cédric Nicolle on

How much do I charge for wedding photography?

Wedding photography prices depend on many factors like location, coverage length (time), number of shooters, products included in the package, brand name of the photography, experience, and marketing skills.

In general, according to Wedding Wire, prices in the US tend to range from $1150 and $3000, with the average wedding photography cost being around $2000. This will likely compromise of 12 percent of the overall wedding budget. This is a significant percentage of the average wedding budget, which makes sense because of the investment in the future.

Wedding photography - The moment by Melli & Shayne  on

7 fun and creative wedding and engagement photo ideas

It’s important for the engaged couple to commemorate this occasion with romantic photos. But not all of them know exactly where to start. One thing for sure is that it’s important for the couple have an engagement shoot that turns out one-of-a-kind and feels right to them. There are a lot of cheesy and predictable photos out there, and it’s important to have a creative and fun array of wedding photo ideas for your couple to make it unique. Before you jump into the engagement shoot, here’s what you should talk to your clients to make it fun and one-of-a-kind.

The couple’s favorite spot: Visit the couple’s favorite coffee shop where everyone knows both of them. Or a brewery where they meet for happy hour every week? Use these spots that are just theirs as inspiration for a great engagement shoot and to help them save memories of these places.

The couple’s next vacation: If the couple is planning on traveling together, this is an exciting time to take photos of them. The hard part would be ensuring you can be where they are or working with another photographer in the region to have an engagement shoot from multiple regions.

The couple’s first date: Revisit the spot of their first date together for a few touching shots.

Wedding photography - R & V Engagement by Yopin Welly on

Do your research

For many couples, traditions play an integral role in the ceremony and reception. Last year, one in five couples incorporated cultural elements into their weddings, paying homage to their heritage and background.

Read up on the history behind any traditional details or customs you’ll be photographing. In traditional Persian weddings, for example, you might find a Sofreh Aghd, or wedding spread; Indian ceremonies can take place over the course of several days, and Jewish ceremonies can take place under a chuppah, or bridal canopy.

A step by step beginner’s guide to photographing your first wedding

If you are nervous about shooting your first wedding photos, or need a refresher on the type of photos to take, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide for you to ease your mind and help you look forward to capturing the couple’s day.

Tips you need to know before shooting your first wedding

Before you get started, you need to know that being an awesome wedding photographer is not all about photography. Having good photography skills is only about 30% of what it takes to be a fantastic photographer. The other 70% includes the soft skills that are intangible to being client-focused. They include:

Being able to smile, knowing people’s names, being genuinely interested in other people, and making an effort to learn how to build rapport with anyone. Clients will choose someone they like over a candidate they don’t enjoy being around, even if they are more talented.
Being a problem solver when things go wrong (e.g., equipment breaks, family drama arises, etc.)
Being bold and having the ability to establish common ground with people, so they will want to listen to you.

Weddings around the world

Cultures around the world have their own unique way of saying, “I do.” Some are sweet like in the Czech Republic, where an infant is placed on the couple’s bed to bless and enhance their fertility, while others are a little different, like in Congo, where couples are forbidden to smile on their wedding day.

Many people are aware of the tossing of the bouquet and the first dance, but are you familiar with the money dance? Money is tossed at or pinned on the couple, as a way for friends and family to support them. There are many ways to say ‘I do.”

To prepare for a cultural wedding, it’s all about the communication leading up to the event that matters the most. As a photographer, it’s essential to stay in the loop.

7 ways to not mess up your wedding photos

When it comes to great wedding photos, we’ve seen the good and the bad. Here are seven things that you should tell your clients to make sure their wedding photos are amazing.

Take engagement photos
Look to the past
Schedule a trial or two
Don’t try anything crazy
Consider your best sides
Pay attention to the little things
Drink water, lots of water

Use a wedding photo checklist to avoid disappointment and take the shots your clients really want

We compiled this must-have checklist with tips to help you avoid disappointment and get the shots your clients always wanted and dreamed of—even if they didn’t know to ask. We’ve also included a list of classic shots (e.g., vows, kiss, first dance) and incorporated a few moments most people might miss. Use it as a guide, and feel free to add your own shots as well.

Meet the couple

Wedding photography - Heck Yeah! by Ben Sasso on


The average couple books their photographer about nine or ten months before the wedding, so you’ll have ample time to get acquainted. A scheduled interview (in person or over the phone) will suffice, but an engagement photoshoot is a natural way to learn more about them. Spurred by social media and wedding websites, these sessions are increasingly popular—and some wedding photographers include them as part of a package deal.

An engagement shoot presents a great opportunity to get to know the couple, their love story, and—perhaps most importantly—their expectations going forward. Spend some time discussing what exactly they have in mind, and make sure they’ve prepared a shot list of their own so you can add it to yours. 30% of millennials create a Pinterest board for wedding planning, so check and see if they have one they’d like to share.

Wedding photography - Big Day by Man?s N?ra on


Shot list: Before the ceremony

From zipping up the gown to peering in the mirror, the “getting ready” shots are essential for any bride or groom. Plan in advance when you’ll arrive at the hotel, home, or venue, and be there to capture the morning’s excitement, laughter, and anticipation.

The invitation and rings

Grab some photos of the invitation, the rings, and any other meaningful accessories, including the “something” old, new, borrowed, or blue. Bring a macro lens to capture the inscriptions inside the rings, too.

Wedding photography - wedding flower composition by Ruslan Olinchuk on


Wedding photography - Invite by Stanislav Novak on


Hair and makeup

These “primping” shots aren’t just pretty—they’re also a chance to capture some of the quieter, more intimate moments before the day kicks off. Remember to include the mother(s) and bridesmaids.

Wedding photography - wedding prep by Nora Biro on


The veil

Capture the moment the mother or maid of honor pins the veil on the bride, and zoom in close to capture the intricate details of the veil itself.

Wedding photography - Veiled by Jonathan Hoomes on

The dress and tux

Get that “dress hanging by the window” shot before the bride puts it on, and then remember to catch the mother-of-the-bride as she helps her daughter zip it up. The groom’s outfit is also important, so don’t forget to include the tux and tie. The shoes complete the outfit, so grab some detail shots of those too.

Wedding photography - Whiskey on the Rocks by Rick Lawrence on

Wedding photography - ?? by ?? on


Portraits with parents

Throughout the day, take any opportunity you can to photograph the bride and groom with their parents. The morning is the perfect time to get mother/daughter, father/son, mother/son, and father/daughter portraits since everyone’s together in one place. Focus on reaction shots (e.g., the mom seeing the veil for the first time, the dad watching his son put on his tie, etc.).

Wedding photography - A&A by alexander halin on


Wedding photography - Bride, groom with parents posing for the photo at wedding reception outside in the backyard. by Jozef Polc on


Father’s first look

The moment when the groom sees the bride is a classic shot that is a must-have, but the father-daughter first look will steal people’s hearts. Making a plan to capture this first look will help set up a priceless photo.

The father of the bride is typically one of the first to see the bride before she walks down the aisle, an incredible shot would be to capture the look on the father’s face when she is all done up.

You could coordinate a private reveal so you can capture this moment without a lot of people, allowing the father to open up and express his emotions.

Portraits with friends

Grab plenty of photos of the bride and groom with their bridesmaids and groomsmen. Ask for some posed formal portraits, and don’t forget to capture those candid shots while they’re chatting and having fun.

Grab plenty of photos of the bride and groom with their bridesmaids and groomsmen. Ask for some posed formal portraits, and don’t forget to capture those candid shots while they’re chatting and having fun.

Wedding photography - Happy Bride by Manuel Orero on

Wedding photography - Wedding party by Wayak Studio on

Solo portraits

No matter how busy the day is, make time for portraits of the bride and groom alone. If your bride and groom have written each other letters, make sure to capture the moment they read them before the ceremony.

Wedding photography - Préparatifs… by Cédric Nicolle on

Wedding photography - ??????? by Mihail Gerasimov on

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The jewelry

Wedding photography is all about the details—and that often includes jewelry that’s been passed down through the generations. Incorporate these pieces into a series of still life images, or capture the bride’s friends helping her to put them on.

Wedding photography - Before "I Do" by Nicole Corbin on

Wedding photography - Beautiful Thai girl in Thai traditional costume by Sasin Tipchai on

Wedding photography - Anna by  Alexander Valmont on

Bouquets and boutonnières

Couples also spend a lot of time and money on their flowers, so incorporate them wherever you can—in posed portraits, still lives, and candid shots.

Wedding photography - Dreamy princess by Jovana Rikalo on

Wedding photography - Beautiful bride  .. by Smoothy . on

Wedding photography - Your Wedding Day by Manuel Orero on

Wedding photography - Alexey & Irina Wedding by Romiros and Mila LoveReporters on

The journey

Transitions from house to ceremony to reception all allow for candid, on-the-go photos. Don’t put your camera away during the walk or drive—some of the best wedding photos are taken when you’re on the way from one place to another.

A man with a girl and a guitar has the world. by Photocillin Photography on

Wedding photography - He Protec by Felix Russell-Saw on

Shot list: During the ceremony

Coordinate with the couple and the officiant to ensure you know exactly what to expect during the ceremony. Avoid surprises by creating an exact timeline of what will happen, from prayers and readings to the reciting of vows. Some couples choose to do a private “first look” photoshoot and see each other before the ceremony, so give them that option.

The venue

Arrive at the venue before the crowd to get those stunning interior shots. From there, watch as the audience fills up, and guests start to mingle.

Les mariés vu du ciel… by Cédric Nicolle on

The arrival

Photograph the bride and groom as they exit their wedding cars and enter the venue, accompanied by parents, siblings, and friends.

The processional

Photograph every person as they walk down the aisle, and remember to include some of those audience reactions too. Keep your eyes on the bride and groom from start to finish. This is an important moment, so consider bringing an assistant or colleague to take additional shots from different perspectives—you don’t want to miss anything.

The reaction

Even if you’ve already done a first look photoshoot, this is an essential shot for any wedding album. Make sure to get a close-up on the groom’s (or bride’s) face when they see their partner for the first time.

That moment by Melli & Shayne  on

The “giving away” of the bride (or groom)

The final moment in the processional is just as important as the beginning. Look for those tender, spontaneous moments between parent and child.

The vows

The exchanging of vows and rings offers up ample time and opportunity to get those raw, emotional shots for the couple’s album. Remember to include as many angles as you can, and don’t forget the ring bearer.

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The rituals

Traditions and rituals are part of what make a wedding unique. Learn about the important cultural moments that’ll take place during the ceremony, whether it’s breaking the glass, jumping the broom, or lighting the unity candle.

Engagement for better and worse by RBV T on

The kiss

Confer with the officiant about the exact line or phrase to expect before the first kiss. In addition to the kiss itself, don’t forget to capture the moments immediately before and after it—when the couple is looking into each other’s eyes.

Moving our feet, to the heartbeat by Jere Satamo on

The recessional

The recessional is the perfect time to capture celebratory, spontaneous moments between bride and groom—and their guests. If the couple has planned something special, like throwing confetti or birdseed, use it to your advantage.

Shot list: After the Ceremony

This is your opportunity to get all your formal portraits and any funny wedding photos your couple has requested. If you’re shooting outdoors, make sure to scout your location on a different day. You won’t be able to reschedule the wedding, but you will be able to direct the wedding party to the spots where the light is most beautiful.

The newlyweds

Use these portraits to capture the couple’s personality. There’s no such thing as too many wedding photos of the bride and groom.

Newlywed couple 5 by Kenneth Zee on

Together in hands by Khang Huynh on

The families

Include every pairing you can imagine—bride/groom alone with mom, bride/groom alone with dad, bride/groom with grandparents, bride/groom with one set of parents, bride/groom with entire immediate family, etc.

Our Family Wedding by Lucian Diaconescu on

Wedding Walk by Julien Batard on

Janine & Arvin by   on

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