How to Photograph a Wedding: Photographing My First Wedding

Married couple holding hands with wedding rings

I just want to start this post by saying… Happy Anniversary Gaby and Jack!! This time last year I was lucky enough to photograph their beautiful wedding. It was exciting, a little nerve-wracking, but also one of the best things I’ve ever done. So, I wanted to write this blog post to look back on the day, share wedding photography tips for other beginners and first time wedding photographers and tell you what I learned photographing my first wedding!

Groom lifting his bride at their wedding with her wedding dress blowing in the wind

Photographing My First Wedding: A Year On

I’ve been friends with Gabriella (the bride) since college. So when I saw her post on Facebook asking whether anyone could recommend a wedding photographer, a voice in my head said “Could…I do that?”. Now, I am not a wedding photographer, but I use cameras every day in my job as a Stylist. Photography is also something I really enjoy doing in my spare time. It’s become a hobby my boyfriend Dave and I have enjoyed doing together over recent years too. From taking film cameras on holidays, to doing photoshoots for my blog and Instagram with a DSLR.

Smiling bride sitting in her wedding car holding a bouquet of flowers

At first it seemed a little crazy to take on the responsibility of photographing Gaby and Jack’s wedding. We had little experience and I’d never actually attended a wedding ceremony before! However, after talking it through Dave and I were equally as excited to make the leap and offer to work together to shoot the wedding. I couldn’t quite believe it when Gaby responded to our message to say that not only did they want us to photograph their wedding, but that we’d be their only photographers!

Groom kneeling down hugging his little boy before the wedding
Bride in her dress and mother of the bride smiling

It can be handy to know someone in the industry when you want to break into wedding photography. A lot of people start out by second shooting (assisting another photographer), but I didn’t have time to do that! Thankfully I have a friend and work colleague who does wedding photography part time. He was kind enough to give me some advice for the wedding (hey Paul if you’re reading this!) I made notes, then did lots of my own research too. I still made a few mistakes on the day, but I learned from them and know how to avoid them next time. So, I thought I’d share the experience and give you all of my wedding photography tips for your first wedding!

What I Learned Photographing My First Wedding & 10 Tips on How to Photograph a Wedding

Wedding photography close up of groom and bride's suit, dress and bouquet of flowers
Tip #1 – Schedule

The first and possibly the most important thing you need to do is find out the wedding schedule. The date and time is an obvious one, but you need to know the locations and timings for every event throughout the day. The further in advance you know all this the better. That way you can plan ahead, look at locations and make sure you’re in the right places at the right time on the day.

Planning the wedding preparations became an important one for us, as the bridal party and groomsmen were getting ready in different houses. If you’re the only photographer, it might work best to start with the bridal party. You can get all the key shots with them, then head over to the groomsmen. They tend to start getting ready much later than the women, so you won’t have to rush! We had the advantage of two of us, so I photographed the girls and Dave went to the grooms house.

Wedding bridal party preparations with hair up and pearl clips
Groom with his little boy holding the wedding rings
Tip #2 – Shot List

When you ask for the wedding schedule, you’ll also want to discuss a shot list for the day. Write down a list of all the photos the bride and groom definitely want. This should include people and specific moments. For example; the groom and best man, bride and maid of honour, bridesmaids, groomsmen, cutting the cake etc. This might also be a good opportunity to discuss style, particularly if you don’t already have a portfolio to show. Make sure your personal photography, editing style and plans will meet their expectations.

Wedding photography family photograph with bride and groom, best man, maid of honour, page boys and flower girl
Tip #3 – Wear Something Comfortable 

As a Stylist who spends most of my time working with, shopping for or talking about clothes, deciding what to wear was a big deal! Although we were the photographers, Dave and I had also been invited to the wedding. So obviously I needed to look like a wedding guest. Having said that, I think it’s so important to wear something comfortable! You’ll find yourself bending, kneeling, or sometimes sitting on the floor to get the shot you need. Make sure you can comfortably move in whatever you decide to wear.

I opted for a lightweight floral jumpsuit in black and cream. I chose to avoid bright colours so I wouldn’t stand out too much (the more you can go unnoticed the better) Throughout the day I wore a pair of comfy trainers, then switched to some espadrille wedges for the evening reception. Dave wore a suit that he felt comfortable in and took his blazer off later on. We were lucky to have amazing weather on the day, but had jackets and umbrellas in the car just incase – (Take a spare brolly for the bride and groom too and you’re all set!)

Wedding photo of the bride with the wedding photographers
Black and white photo of wedding photographers kneeling with cameras and a tripod
Tip #4 – Scout Locations 

One thing I’ve learnt from is that I wish we’d gone to the locations before the wedding. We looked online at the registry office where the ceremony was being held and the wedding reception venue, researching as much as we could. However, as we live so far away we didn’t get chance to visit them before the wedding. I’d definitely recommend you look around the locations at least once if you can. It’s good to get an idea of where you’ll take photos so there’s less improvisation needed on the day.

Just before the wedding ceremony, Dave and I were told where we could stand. One at the back and the other at the front of the registry office. You might also want to find out if there are any location restrictions so you know where you’ll be shooting from.

Wedding ceremony bride and groom holding hands
Bride and groom's first kiss in wedding ceremony

We knew Gaby and Jack wanted their group shots taking at a nearby park after the wedding ceremony, but there were no plans for the exact location. Thankfully when we arrived the area was quiet so there was nobody to walk through the back of the photos! I found a lovely red-leafed tree that I thought really complimented their colour palette. We set up our tripod and took traditional photos from the shot list, but threw in a few fun ones too!

Wedding family with bride and groom kissing and bridesmaids, best man and page boys dabbing
Tip #5 – Know your equipment

This tip will avoid so much stress and panic on the day of the wedding. It will make your life SO much easier if you’re familiar with the equipment you’re using. I’ve had lots of practice using a Canon 5D Mark II at work and Dave had my old 600D that we used at university.

Here’s a full list of our kit if you’re interested (this is everything from what I can remember! I might have missed something)

Equipment We Used:   
  • Canon 5D Mark II with neck strap and 3 batteries
  • Canon 600D with neck strap and 3 batteries
  • Lenses: 24-105mm f4L, 50mm f1.8
  • Lens filters (although we didn’t end up using these)
  • Neewer Flash for each camera
  • 2 Flash diffusers
  • 2 Packs of AA batteries
  • Multiple SD cards (64GB, 32GB, 16GB)
  • 1 Tripod
  • 1 Camera backpack and 1 camera shoulder bag
Wedding ceremony bride placing ring on groom's finger
Wedding ceremony first kiss with bride and groom

Although I was used to my equipment, admittedly I still made mistakes. Honestly, I don’t think I was as prepared as I thought I’d be when it came to changing camera settings! One minute I was photographing the nervous groom, when suddenly the bride was walking in and was at the front of the room in seconds. So my advice would be not only know your equipment, but prepare and quickly change settings!

Bride walking down the aisle with her grandad
Wedding ceremony groom crying reaction to bride walking down the aisle
Tip #6 – Continuous Shooting Mode and RAW

Not only is your shutter speed important to catch movements in focus, but you need to know how to quickly expose correctly. Lighting conditions can change fast during weddings! From shooting the ceremony inside, to stepping out into daylight with confetti thrown in the air. I think in all of these situations, it’s best to use continuous shooting mode. Especially the bride walking down the aisle, the kiss, throwing the confetti outside and the bride throwing her bouquet. I’ll definitely be doing that in the future, and I’d recommend doing the same. That way you’ve got plenty of shots to choose from when you’ve got your settings right.

Shoot Raw

Another tip if you don’t already do so would be to make sure you shoot in RAW image format. This will give you much higher quality images and more freedom when you come to edit. Just bear in mind you’ll need spare memory cards as they will fill up faster!

Wedding photography throwing confetti over bride and groom outside wedding ceremony
Tip #7 – Capture The Little Details

Capturing all of the little details in one of my favourite parts of wedding photography. Lets face it, the bride and groom have put a lot of time and effort in to all the little things to make their big day special, so it’s nice to capture them all, right? During the bridal preparations I made sure to get some shots of the dress, the veil, hair and makeup and the flowers. Meanwhile Dave captured the rings, engraved cufflinks and the flowers from the brides bouquet on the groom and best man’s suits.

Diamond and pearl necklace details on bride in her wedding dress
Bride's diamond and pearl earrings in her hand
Wedding rings photographed on a wooden slice on grass in sunshine

If you can, try to get to the venues early. By arriving at the reception first you can capture all the little table placements and decorations before the guests are seated.

Wedding party table with flowers and fairy lights
Tip #8 – Photograph Kids At Their Level

When my friend Paul and I were discussing wedding photography, one of his memorable tips was to photograph the kids. Running about, playing or dancing at weddings, they’re a go-to for fun shots. This one is more of a photo composition tip, but I think it’s always good to kneel or sit down when photographing children. Not only are you less intimidating than standing above them taking photos, but you’re at their eye level. Suddenly you become part of their world and they can look at you and the camera.

The photo below is Gaby and Jack’s son Elijah. He’s the sweetest little boy, but was quite shy in front of the camera on the morning of the wedding. At the reception I sat on the floor with him and we played with his toys, before I asked him if I could take his picture. He proudly stood up and smiled at me, and I captured one of my favourite photos of the day!

Page boy toddler in bow tie and braces at wedding party
Page boys riding piggy back in matching shirts, shorts, braces and bow ties
Tip #9 – Evening Photography and Flash

In my job I work in a studio and often work with lighting and flash photography. However, I don’t tend to use an attached flash to my camera outside of work. If you’ll be staying for the evening reception, my tip would be to practice using your flash in advance. I practiced in low light at home, with and without a diffuser. If you find your flash is too harsh, try adding a diffuser and pointing it up to bounce the light off the ceiling. You definitely want to make sure you’ve got your flash and settings perfected before the first dance!

Wedding photographer with DSLR camera and flash taking a photo at wedding party
Bride and groom holding microphone laughing at wedding party
Black and white photo of a group of women, friends and the bride dancing at wedding
Tip #10 – Backup Your Images

My last tip is to back up all those images ASAP! A lot of wedding photographers these days use lower storage SD cards. Although your memory will fill up faster, there’s a lower risk if something goes wrong with one of the cards. After filling a card, get all those images transferred onto a laptop or computer and then back them up again to an external hard drive. The more places you can back up your photos the better!

Shooting on two cameras, Dave and I filled numerous memory cards between us. I made sure he guarded them with his life each time we took them out of the camera!! haha. We exported them to my laptop as soon as we left, backed them up to an external hard drive, then when we travelled home the first thing I did was put them all on the computer and open in Lightroom to start my post-processing workflow.

Bride and groom smiling during their first dance
Final Thoughts

Although there were a lot of images to go through, I absolutely loved editing them! It took a long time, but when I finally finished and sent the photos to Gaby and Jack I was so excited. Their reaction honestly couldn’t have been better – they even cried! The whole thing was such an amazing experience and the best start to wedding photography I could’ve hoped for.

Black and white photo of bride throwing her flower bouquet back to a group of women
Bride and friends pointing and laughing with flower bouquet

…Well, that’s it! My 10 tips on how to photograph a wedding.

If you read one of my previous blog posts My Summer Goals 2018, you might remember I said I wanted to get back into photography. I mentioned plans to shoot this wedding and the challenge I thought it would be. Well, it definitely did challenge me at times, but it was also one of the most fun and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had! I loved it so much that in June this year I took my camera along to my auntie’s wedding. Even though I couldn’t take photos during the ceremony (I was a bridesmaid!) I couldn’t resist taking some snaps after the ceremony! You can find the photos here if you fancy taking a peek!

Flower girl going downstairs at bridal preperations

I’ve shared a few of my favourites from my first wedding throughout this post, but if you’d like to see more of the photos, you can also check them out here: Mr & Mrs Wale 11.08.18.

Behind bride and groom standing under a wooden archway surrounded by flowers

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my experiences from photographing my first wedding. Hopefully you find some of these tips on how to photograph a wedding useful! If you’re here because you’re thinking of getting into wedding photography (or maybe you already have your first gig, congrats!) I want to wish you the best of luck – hopefully you’ll love it as much as I did!

Laura. xx

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