beginner wedding photography tips wedding photography tips for beginners

Wedding Photography Tips for Beginners (Beyond Contracts & Shot Lists)

What do I wish I had known when I was just starting as a wedding photographer? What are a few things that would have helped me a great deal to know ahead of time? These are the questions I asked myself when writing this guide of wedding photography tips for beginners and hopefully, they’ll save you from having to learn things the hard way.

If you want to know about the perfect contract and shot list, this is not the post for you. If you want to know how to start right by having the right mindset, keep reading. (Or watch the YouTube video version.)

I have been a wedding photographer for over a decade and have experience dealing with everything from a crazy wedding party or an unpredictable wedding ceremony. My wedding photo tips generally range from how to create stunning wedding photos to how to run a sustainable wedding photography business. These wedding photography tips for beginners are about building a strong foundation so that you can survive in the wedding photography industry.

*Updated post!

wedding photography tips for beginners

Here’s the outline of our wedding photography beginners’ guide for newbie wedding photographers.

  1. Caring about your couples
  2. Memorize the shot list or throw it out
  3. Simple is Best
  4. Learn about Light
  5. One Goal at a time!
  6. Learn about Business
  7. Gear Stuff

When special moments are captured forever it’s not just about the exact moment but the overall feeling and experience of your client. Hope this helps you prepare for your next wedding photography shoot whether you’re a newbie or growing your business.

beginner wedding photography tips

1. know that caring about your couple makes you a better wedding photographer

Caring about your couple is not just about being a good person, it will make you a better photographer. The tip here is not necessarily to care more but to know that it matters. It can be really easy to stress out about missing the shot which is the main reason this tip is so important.

When you care about your couple, you’re going to do your best. You’re going to be focused and present. Try to let go of some of the stress of a wedding day and get all the shots. Know that you’re going to do your best.

Having that mindset is helpful in not getting overwhelmed and it’s something that has gotten easier over time. I still walk into a wedding day nervous but instead of worrying about screwing up, I just have energy around what I want to create.

Caring Makes Your Pictures Better

We never came away from a wedding with zero photos to deliver. We never missed something so bad that we had nothing. The couple doesn’t see what you missed, they see all the precious moments that you captured and printed so beautifully in their wedding album.

And if you’re present and focused and you care, what you get tends to show that. Your pictures of brides are better when you care about your brides, you get a great shot of the flower girls when you know that the flower girl is an important person to your couple. Caring is a better path to effortless wedding photos than than endless awkward posing.

Building Genuine Relationships

It’s essential for photographers to remain true to their artistic vision and personal style. Don’t succumb to industry pressure or trends that don’t resonate with who you are. Equally, encourage your clients to be themselves. This authenticity shines through in the photographs and helps build a trusting relationship.

Remember, weddings are deeply personal and emotional events. Approach each moment with empathy. Understand that you are part of a very special day and treat all interactions with respect and kindness. This approach not only puts your clients at ease but also opens up opportunities for more natural and expressive photography.

Go beyond the transactional nature of business. Show genuine interest in your clients’ stories and be responsive to their needs. Happy clients are more likely to recommend you to friends and rehire you for future events. Thus, the relationships you build can extend far beyond the wedding day.

Serving Your Clients Well Serves You Well

Also, serving your clients well will serve you well both in the moment and in the longevity of your business. Our best clients come from our best clients and our favorite photos happen on our favorite days with our favorite photos. When you’re clients say they had so much fun during their engagement session and plan to recommend you to “all our friends,” that’s the ticket. Care, and be kind, it’s a good place to start if you want to be a true professional.

You can also encourage clients to leave reviews and referrals. I’ve found that I don’t actually have to incentivize my clients to leave a review, I simply have to ask. But here are a few ideas for getting referrals and recommendations.

  1. Just Remember to Ask: As I said, I often only have to ask. If I focus on the client experience and deliver an amazing day as well as amazing photographs, they want to recommend me. If I remember to reach out and ask, most of my clients are happy to write a review. Make it even easier by being specific about where you want them to leave a review and even providing a link for them to do so. I used to offer to send a gift in thanks for the review but the response was always along the lines of, “thanks for the gift but I’m more than happy to share a review, thank you for the incredible photos.” Now, the simplest thing for my busy workflow is to just set a time when I’m not busy to reach out to recent clients and ask for a review.
  2. Timely Discounts: Offering clients a discount for their next photo session if they post a review within a specified timeframe, like a week, can prompt immediate action. This motivates clients to share their experiences swiftly, while their excitement from the session is still fresh.
  3. Bonuses for Sharing Images: Clients could be offered credits or perks, such as a free print or special photo products, when they include their photographs in the review. This not only enriches the review visually but also showcases your work to potential new clients browsing your site or social channels.

By strategically using these incentives, photographers can create a steady stream of engaging, authentic testimonials and referrals, helping to build trust and attract new business effectively.

A Plea for Timely Delivery of Photos

Ensuring timely delivery of photos is paramount for maintaining professionalism and client satisfaction. As a photographer, it’s critical to adhere strictly to the deadlines stipulated in your contract. Whether the timeline is a few weeks or extends up to three months, clear communication and efficient workflow management are key.

Develop a streamlined post-processing workflow that allows you to handle projects efficiently without compromising on quality. This might involve batch editing photos, using reliable software, or even outsourcing certain tasks if needed. There are no excuses anymore as there are countless tools to help expedite our workflow.

Make sure your clients are well informed from the outset about how long the photo processing and delivery will take. Setting realistic expectations will help avoid misunderstandings and ensure client satisfaction. By focusing on these essentials, photographers can enhance their reputation and ensure they meet their professional commitments.

We have specifically booked couples when they’ve heard about our two-week turnaround time as compared to nightmare stories that they’ve heard from friends who had to wait months or even years. We try to send a preview even sooner so that we are exceeding their expectations and making the whole experience feel great.

Sneak Peeks

I used to upload sneak peeks to social media shortly after the ceremony, ideally within 24 to 48 hours. I found that it can play a critical role in leveraging the post-wedding excitement. Here’s why this strategy is so effective:

  1. Capturing Immediate Excitement: The emotions of the wedding day are still fresh, and everyone from the couple to the guests is keen to relive the joyous moments. Posting teasers quickly capitalizes on this heightened emotional state, making the shared photos more impactful and engaging.
  2. Increasing Anticipation: When you provide a glimpse of the wedding photos promptly, it builds anticipation for the complete album. Clients and their guests are excited to see more, which keeps them engaged with your social media channels.
  3. Boosting Social Interaction: Early sneak peeks tend to generate significant social media activity. They encourage immediate shares, likes, and comments, significantly increasing your post’s visibility. This not only delights the clients but also expands your audience reach, potentially attracting new clients.
  4. Strengthening Client Relationships: By delivering on the promise of quick sneak peeks, you enhance client satisfaction and strengthen your relationship with them. It demonstrates professionalism and attentiveness to their desire to share their special day.

I have more recently reduced my reliance on social media for personal reasons despite the fact that it’s a great marketing tool. I still send sneak peeks to my clients but it’s generally via e-mail or text. I focus on how sending a sneak peek can benefit my client and then if they share on social media that’s a bonus.

I am still capitalizing on immediate excitement and increasing anticipation while strengthening my client relationships. I’m simply doing it less publicly which still has benefits to my brand, business, and customer loyalty. The point is that the client experience continues until the client gets their photos, so feed their desire to see their images quickly as possible.

2. memorize the wedding photography shot list or throw it out the window

This might be contrary to a lot of other advice you’re reading right now if you’re busy looking for advice for beginner wedding photographers. You’re probably reading about must-have shots and you probably should read about them. Especially if you haven’t been to a wedding before.

It’s important to know a lot about weddings if you’re going to photograph them. You need to know the structure and the key moments so that you can be prepared and anticipate. You need to know the important moments.

However, I hate shot lists, so much so that I’m probably going to write a whole post on it. I understand the desire to have a list of shots that you want to get. The problem for me is that it gets in the way of being present or in the moment.

don’t let a tool get in the way of being present

I’m more likely to miss something because I’m too busy looking at a piece of paper to make sure I got everything. Not to mention being too stressed to think. It might be my empathetic nature but a shot list gives me anxiety and creates the perception that my client’s expectations are impossible to meet, which is never a good way to start the day.

I do recommend you know your client well and what is important to them. And I do recommend you take pictures of everything because most of the time if something is important enough to be at a wedding, it’s important to your client. But again, you’ll know that when you ask them.

What I’m saying is that if you let yourself get distracted by a list of pictures you want to take it will make it harder to take the pictures. Don’t get distracted, stay present and take photos of what you see. That being said, make sure you’re doing your best to photograph what’s important to your client and not just to you.

We do use a shot list for family photos, it’s the most efficient way to get those photos done and make sure you have the combinations your couple wants. And I know we probably take a lot for granted because we’ve don’t it before so we don’t need to be reminded to shoot the first kiss. Know the key shots but don’t miss moments because you were stressing about the table settings or the wedding dress.

just know the important things that happen on a wedding day

The wedding ceremony is an important part of the wedding day. From the groom’s reaction to the bride and groom exiting the aisle, capture what happens. Bridal portraits, bridal party, and family portraits are the most printed photos by our couples. The first dance is key too.

Detail shots and shots of the wedding venue should, in my opinion, be seen as a way to tell the story as a whole. Can you include the details in a photo that tells a story, can your first dance shot show off the venue?

I did write a whole blog post just on this subject: the wedding photography shot list and why you don’t want one.

3. keep it simple and light (your wedding photography and your gear)

Watch out for overcomplicating things, especially when it comes to gear. We play with fancy lighting or try to get creative with our shots but in the beginning, we kept things as simple as possible. If you allow yourself to get bogged down by gear it will slow you down and stress you out.

simplify your expectations

The more you try to accomplish, the fancier you try to be, the more stressed out you are. That’s why I just spent a whole section warning you against getting married to a shot list. Don’t focus on all the things you can’t do or don’t know how to do yet. There are a million ways to light a dance floor and in the beginning you just need one that you know and understand.

When you think about the couple and what they want, it’s not necessarily something super artistic or photographically technical. They want sharp images of the joy of the day. You could do that with your iPhone, not that I’m suggesting that.

gear should make you better, not get in your way

David Dechemin says, “gear is good but vision is better.” If you’re going to memorize something, memorize that. Gear can make a lot of things possible but only if you know how to use it and it doesn’t slow you down from doing what you set out to do.

Our gear has gotten slightly heftier over time but in the beginning, we kept it as simple and light as possible. We never wanted to not be able to keep up or adapt to the circumstances of the day. Now that we’ve been doing it for so long, it’s easier to predict and anticipate.

You don’t need a lot. (Except maybe when it comes to memory cards!) We have numerous lenses but sometimes we find that we shot the majority of our pictures with two lenses, and that’s one each.

Favorite lenses! Wide: 35mm or 16-35mm and Telephoto: 70-200mm. More on gear in a later section.

beginner wedding photography tips wedding photography tips for beginners

4. learn about light (for beginner wedding photography)

Wedding photography is all about light and so you need to understand light. Light has color, hardness, angle, and intensity. Understanding that will help you be a better photographer. For more on light, be sure to check out our Best Outdoor Wedding Photography tips.

This is something that I constantly underestimated in the beginning. Before I took pictures every day I didn’t see the world through a camera lens. I saw beauty every day all day long.

Now, as a professional photographer, I only leave the house during Golden Hour and I only travel to places where the powerlines, trashcans, and other unsightly objects are all hidden. I joke, but what is true is that the more you shoot the more you will see like a photographer.

see light like a professional

Once you start to see like a professional photographer, one of the things that will quickly become incredibly important to you is light. Light is challenging but also sparks your creativity,

As you learn about the light you can solve problems like battling the mid-day sun and how to keep people from squinting. You won’t always be able to solve these problems, sometimes people want to take family pictures in front of the view even if it means they are staring directly into the sun, but you will have ideas.

Eventually, you’ll move beyond natural light and you’ll learn about using flash and adding light but in the beginning I encourage you to keep it simple. Check out our recent post on How to Start a Wedding Photography Business.

Remember these are beginner wedding photographer tips.

5. a beginner starts with one new goal at a time

I tend to push myself hard and say I’m going to get better at everything all at once. That never works. Pick one new goal at a time.

Creativity sometimes means trying something that fails. I love pushing myself to try new things but you might not want to be taking risks all day long at a wedding. I find it helpful to pick one part of the day or one type of trick I’m going to try. It’s less pressure if I mess up and I have better odds of succeeding because I’m focused.

Creativity sometimes means trying something that fails. I love pushing myself to try new things but you might not want to be taking risks all day long at a wedding. I find it helpful to pick one part of the day or one type of trick I’m going to try. It’s less pressure if I mess up and I have better odds of succeeding because I’m focused.

example beginner photographer goals

You might start by just trying to make sure all of your family photos are sharp and framed properly. Then you might focus on trying to get creative with your first kiss framing. Or maybe you want to try to get one nice candid picture of each person in the wedding party.

Maybe your goal is to get one portfolio-worthy image from each wedding. Or you could focus on trying a new technique during the getting ready pictures. I’m giving you a lot of options here but I’m telling you to choose a priority for any given shoot. Small wedding photography ideas turn into big results one step at a time.

The skills will be additive. If you practiced your group photos at the last wedding you’ll be able to apply those skills to the next while you work on getting more creative with your portrait shots. The trick is to recognize that you’re learning wedding photography and growing your skills by having a goal. Engagement photos are another great time to practice new skills.

6. learn about business

Any experienced wedding photographer will tell you that some of the best wedding photography tips have nothing to do with photography. They’re not about nailing the family shots, which you should do. They’re not even about surviving all the lighting challenges of a wedding reception, which you should also do.

Professional photographers will tell you that photographing weddings and delivering great wedding photos is only the start. After that, you have to run a business and you have to run it well. Your first wedding shoot is intimidating but that first wedding is only the beginning, if you’re going to making to 10 weddings or 10 years of weddings like we have you have to have a lot more than just what’s in your camera bag.

A successful photography business requires that you have a budget and do your accounting. It requires that you learn and implement marketing. After you’ve kept your couple and all the guests happy, you have to figure out how to book future weddings. It’s not about having the best camera gear, but building a strong business.

business tips for photographers

You’re going to want to establish a business which means you’ll need a business name, website, and business license. Next, you’ll need an e-mail address so that you can communicate with clients. Once you start booking work you’ll need a way to invoice clients and have them sign an attorney-drafted contract.

We use Tave to import inquiries from our website contact form, we can track where leads come from as well as our conversion rates and the time it takes for a lead to book. We can also send quotes, invoices, and contracts and track our income sources. Having the right tools is crucial to working smarter not harder.

Check out this blog post on how to start a wedding photography business.

marketing tips for wedding photographers

Marketing is another area of your business that you’ll need to focus on. How are you planning to attract potential clients and how will you make sure they are the right clients for you? Some of the best marketing strategies are things we’ve already covered.

Serve your clients well and it will serve you well. If you take amazing photographs and are great to work with, your clients will spread the word and so will other vendors that you work with. As you develop a marketing plan, don’t try to do all the things but rather focus on the things that seem like a good fit for you.

For example, don’t give away free wedding photography. Start valuing yourself from the beginning, that’s probably wedding photography 101.

Start with these marketing steps!

business workflow

As part of running your business, you’ll want to think through all the aspects of what you do Hint: it’s not just taking wedding pictures. You need to outline everything you do and come up with systems for how you’re going to do it well.

What is your pre-wedding workflow, wedding day workflow, and post-wedding workflow? That means the when and how of scouting, packing, backing up, and cleaning your gear. Make sure you’re communicating with clients effectively too. How often do you plan to reach out and communicate?

7. equipment recommendations

I have to talk about photography gear because you’re probably trying to figure out what you need to start your business. Remember, simple is best when you’re just starting. If you overwhelm yourself with the gear you don’t know how to use you might as well not have the gear at all.

I specifically remember our first wedding when we rented a bunch of equipment we thought we needed, only to leave it all in the bag. The reality was, we were hustling all day just to keep up and there was no time to incorporate equipment that we were unfamiliar with.

Let’s talk about your camera bodies and lenses, backup gear, lighting equipment, and accessories.

camera bodies and lenses

You’ll want a lightweight and durable camera body with dual card slots. We shoot with the following equipment:

Lightweight Camera Body: Sony A7IV

Favorite Lens: Sony 16-35mm f/2.8

Telephoto Zoom Lens: Sony 70-200mm f/4

Versatile Prime Lens: Sony 55mm f/1.8

Multiple lenses are nice so that you can get different focal lengths, angles, and compositions. You’ll want a wide lens for storytelling and for when you’re in tight spaces and a longer lens for compression, ceremony, and portraits.

A telephoto lens can be nice because it covers multiple focal lengths but it can also be heavy. Many photographers love using low-aperture prime lenses. Regardless of the lenses you choose make sure you’re making a conscious focal length choice.

Many people will recommend a 24-70 mid-range prime but this can cause you to be lazy when you’re first starting. Zoom with your feet and your photos will be much more intentional. You might end up buying and selling lenses after you realize that you shoot your wide angle lens to capture the whole scene more than you thought and you want to invest in a nicer one rather than have money in a prime lens you don’t use.

backup gear

Wedding photographers need two of everything. A backup camera is essential even if it’s not as nice as your primary camera. Don’t break the budget but make sure you have a plan if your camera stops working. Renting gear is also an option when you’re just starting out and can’t afford a second camera.

I think it’s important to own your primary camera so you can be very comfortable using it and make sure that it is set up in a way that works for you. If you rent equipment, rent a backup or rent additional lenses.

Make sure you have dual card slots for your memory cards, it’s redundancy and insurance that you won’t delete photos or lose them. Make sure you have spare batteries too.

Nothing is worse than a battery-low warning right in the middle of the first dance or a card full message when your couple is about to kiss. These are key moments that happen once and missing them isn’t an option!

lighting equipment

You’ll need lighting equipment and a plan for the best lighting for all of the crazy aspects of a wedding day. Sometimes on-camera flash will be the solution, other times you’ll want to use off-camera flash or bounce flash. Below is a list of some of our most used lighting equipment:

On Camera Flash: Godox V860iii

Off Camera Flash: Godox AD200

Trigger for Off Camera Flash: Godox XProS

Small Light Stands

Big Light Stands

photography accessories

You’ll want a durable camera bag to hold all of your gear. Ideally, it holds everything you need and you can carry it with you everywhere you go. You’ll want a lens cloth and any other cleaning tools as well as all of your spare batteries. I listed some of our favorite accessories below:

Shimoda X30 Backpack
Peak Design Leash Camera Strap
Spider X Holster
Peak Design Field Pouch

Pack snacks, water, chargers for everything, and a headlamp too.

If you want some more tips on gear and other accessories check out our wedding photography gear checklist, drone accessories, or this guide on ND filters.

wedding photography tips for beginners in review

photographing weddings for beginners

This guide to photographing weddings for beginners is a great place to start. We have a lot more content if you’re looking to grow your business like this exposure triangle guide.

Let’s review these simple steps. Keep in mind that things will go wrong at every wedding. But you will take photos, your couple with have a good time, and they’ll have incredible digital photos and a fine art album to remember it all by.

It’s true that you only get one chance but you also have the whole day to tell an incredible story. You can avoid common mistakes and have a backup plan for things that might go wrong. Then, you can focus on what went right

a few more notes

Clients often search for “wedding photographers near me” so make sure you set up a local listing on google so that you’ll appear when people look for “photographers near me.”

Another random question that people often ask is “what should a wedding photographer wear?” Wedding photographer outfits will vary from location to location just as dress code might vary from wedding to wedding. You’ll want to know how formal the wedding is before you decide to wear jeans at a country wedding or invest in black tie wedding photographer attire for the ballroom.

I’m personally a practical person so I have a go-to wedding photographer outfit that is comfortable, moveable, durable, and formal enough for most of my weddings. When looking for outfit ideas, search for something you can be active in but not appear unprofessional, no one is looking at you as much as they’re looking at the bride.

6 simple steps

  1. Know that caring about your couple makes you a better photographer
  2. Memorize the shot list or throw it away
  3. Keep it simple and light
  4. Learn about light
  5. One new goal at a time
  6. Learn about Business
  7. Gear Stuff

Hope you enjoyed these wedding photography tips for beginners and are enjoying the creative process. Be sure to join our newsletter below to keep up with fresh content, let us know what you want to hear, and get our free Build Your Life e-guide. You might enjoy checking out our recommended reading list.

Recent Building a Life and Tips for Wedding Photographers you might enjoy:

Focus on making the wedding photography idea a memorable experience for your clients and it will be one for you as well.

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Looking for more wedding photographer education and wedding photoshoot ideas? Check out these popular posts on the blog.

We are Marc and Brenda Bergreen, a husband and wife photography team specializing in outdoor weddings and other adventures. Capturing people in nature and the mountain lifestyle is a passion that became a dream that became a life.

We don’t link to a lot of things but when there are books or gear we love we’ll share it and links to Amazon are affiliate links.

Based in Evergreen, CO we travel throughout the state (Vail, Breck, you name it) as Colorado adventure wedding photographers. We also frequently travel to California and other wedding destinations to document love and adventure in a variety of memorable settings. Don’t hesitate to contact us and let us know how we can help! Be sure to follow us (weddings instagram & adventures instagram) and/or like us (facebook) to stay tuned.

In the meantime, remember to…

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