wedding photography tips

Tips for Photographing Weddings from a Decade in the Aisle

Today I’m sharing my best tips for photographing weddings. I have been photographing weddings for over a decade and I have the strong wrists to prove it. Capturing love is an honor and doing right takes experience, which is why I’m sharing mine with you!

This article will talk through some of the aspects of shooting weddings that I find most challenging as well as the ones I find most meaningful. The bad and good news is that there is always something to learn for wedding photographers that are willing to grow. Let’s make better wedding photographs for both the bride and ourselves.

My 10 Best Wedding Photography Tips

I’m going to walk you through each of my best wedding photography tips in more detail. Whether you’re just trying to get the right camera settings for a better wedding photo or you’re dreaming of shooting a destination wedding, these tips will help you be a better wedding photographer. When you hit that shutter button, I want you to feel both confidence and purpose.

  1. Understand natural light but be able to use off-camera flash
  2. Remember why you’re hired
  3. Keep our wedding gear simple and know it well
  4. Schedule time for wedding couples’ portrait photography
  5. Do more than take great wedding photos
  6. If you want to survive you have to remember your purpose
photography tips for weddings

Preparing for Lighting Conditions

If you’re going to be shooting weddings, it’s important that you’re prepared for a variety of lighting conditions. This is what makes wedding photography such a complicated specialty, there is so much out of your control. You need to have an intimate relationship with natural light but also be able to utilize off-camera flash.

Each wedding venue will have its own unique lighting conditions. While most wedding venues have some available light, some have more light than others and you’ll always eventually have to deal with challenging low-light conditions. There are even some circumstances when the best option is to use on-camera flash.

Indoor weddings sometimes have more available light than outdoor weddings because of more ambient light or walls and ceilings to bounce lights off of. My point is, don’t think that you’re an exception to the rule. Learn about light, specifically understand natural light, and learn how to use a simple off-camera flash and tools like ND filters.

tips for photographing weddings

The Importance of the Wedding Ceremony

As you develop your personal style of wedding photography you might decide you love editorial storytelling including capturing all the detail shots of everything from the bride’s dress to the invitation. What I want you to be careful about is focusing so much on those detail shots of wedding venues and decor that you forget what the wedding day is really about.

As a professional wedding photographer, you need to remember that the wedding ceremony is the purpose of the event, and sometimes you need to remind your couple of that too. It’s not about all the stuff, it’s about the vows and kicking off a marriage. Beyond that, you also need to know that the bridal
party and family group shots are the images that most often get printed by your clients.

Wedding party group shots are not my favorite part of the day. Dealing with the wedding party can be challenging, but making sure you capture the important people in attendance is part of your job as the wedding photographer. Make sure you don’t use too shallow depth of field otherwise some people won’t be sharp, which brings me to our next topic about using manual settings on your camera.

wedding photography tips

Wedding Photography Gear Tips for Photographing Weddings

Best Camera Settings

Let’s talk about the best camera settings, you’ve probably heard camera settings advice about using aperture priority mode or shutter priority mode. If that’s what you’re comfortable with starting out, that’s fine. But I encourage you to learn to shoot in manual mode and have complete control of your camera settings and resulting photos.

Aperture priority mode means you set the aperture and the camera chooses a shutter speed. Shutter priority mode means you set the shutter speed and the camera chooses an aperture. While both of these camera settings make sense for different conditions, neither of them works for every scenario on a wedding day.

Manual mode gives you complete control of all of your camera settings which is crucial for avoiding mistakes and crafting images the way that you intend to. Sometimes your priority might be the aperture and creating a proper depth of field while other times you might be concerned with having the proper shutter speed to prevent motion blur or camera shake. There are times you might want to ensure that you’re using a fast shutter speed and other times you are willing to risk a slow shutter speed. It’s best to be aware of all of your camera settings so that you don’t make decisions that have unintended consequences when you’re taking photos.

Camera Bodies and Camera Lens Choice

When shooting weddings it’s important to have backups of everything because you only get one shot at capturing the important moments. That’s why it’s important to make sure you have a backup camera. I can give you suggestions for my favorite wedding photography gear but the trick is finding gear that fits your budget and meets your needs.

Your camera lens choice will determine the focal length of your images and impact the look and feel of your photos. I love 35mm for photojournalism and 70-200mm for shooting 85mm portraits and 200mm shots of mountains with compression. I frequently use 16-35mm for everything from those photojournalism shots to landscape portraits to dance party photos.

Beware of zoom lenses because while they are useful and versatile they can cause you to be lazy and unintentional with your focal length decisions. Zoom with your feet, not your lens. Choose your focal length intentionally based on the type of wedding photo you want to make.

tips for photographing weddings

Plan for Great Portrait Shots

Next, it’s important to make a plan for taking stunning photographs of your bride and groom. Stunning photos don’t just happen, they are created. Bridal portraits are one of my favorite parts of the wedding day.

As a wedding photographer, you’ll develop your own style for the different types of wedding photos but wedding portraits are where you can really get creative. Play with slow shutter speed to create interesting motion blur, use shallow depth for romance, shoot in low light for added drama, or utilize off camera flash to level up. If there’s a lull in the wedding reception and you’ve already captured all the things, take some time to come up with a cool portrait concept, take some test shots, and then grab your couple for a quick shot.

The main thing here is to make sure you plan time on the wedding day and then use that time efficiently. For me, I’d rather have ten minutes at sunset than an hour at noon because I’m focused on quality over quantity. If I build trust with my couple, sometimes I can get both. And when I do an engagement shoot I can be even more efficient with a couple that’s already familiar with how I work.

tips for photographing weddings

Beyond the Wedding Photography: Tips for Wedding Albums and More

It’s also important that as a professional wedding photographer, you do more than just take beautiful wedding photos. Taking photos is just part of it, photographing weddings is about your photography skills and also the client experience that you create. Don’t leave your client hanging without anything tangible after spending thousands on wedding photography.

Personally, I love wedding albums as a way to tell the story of the day. I’ve seen clients put them on an end table, bookshelf, or coffee table and they make a great way to relive memories as compared to looking at a slideshow on the computer. Whether you choose to include an album in your wedding packages or something else, think about how you’re serving your clients and creating an experience for them.

You might have already heard that a professional photographer has to wear a lot of hats. We do marketing, accounting, website design, and more. Whether you’re pressing the shutter button or typing on the computer, at the office or a the wedding venue, remember that wedding photographs are just a piece of the pie.

Wedding Photographer Survival Skills

If you’re going to photograph weddings you’re going to need some survival skills to battle burnout and deal with bridezillas. That’s why one of my best wedding photography tips has nothing to do with how to take great wedding photos. Instead, to be a great wedding photographer you have to have a purpose.

When you head to the wedding venue to photograph your first wedding, your goal is just to survive through the end of the wedding reception. But eventually, you need a bigger goal. A great wedding photographer cares about telling love stories or connecting with their clients or making memorable art.

Take amazing wedding photographs, find something that inspires you to constantly create better wedding photographs. But you’ll also have to find a balance between passion and work. Some jobs will be for the money, they’ll provide you with the ability to pay your bills, and other jobs will help you access those deeper levels of flow.

Next, check out photographing weddings in the rain, photography settings guide, drone accessories, or these tips for beginners!

About the author

I hope you enjoyed these tips for photographing weddings. I am Brenda Bergreen, one half of a husband and wife photography team specializing in Colorado wedding photography and videography and outdoor adventure photography

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