What To Photograph at a Wedding

You’ve locked in the contract, gathered your gear, and now your couple’s big day is rolling around. 

Being trusted with a couple’s most significant moments the ones that won’t come around again is understandably intimidating. But with a bit of preparation, after reading our guide on what to photograph at a wedding, you’ll be ready to shoot the wedding day with confidence. 

When trying to figure out those essential moments you shouldn’t miss, a wedding photography shot list will be your best friend! Print out this list and put it in your pocket (just in case), but really you should make an effort to memorize it. 

You want to be shooting from the hip and the gut. If you’re pulling your shot list out every couple of seconds, you’ll look unprofessional. But more importantly, you’re going to miss the moments while you’re staring at that paper. 

So take this list in. Like really take it in, and then take on that day!

Client-Led Wedding Shots

Happy newlyweds hugging wedding photoshoot
Photo by: Jessica Maddela Photography

Yes, you should always have a list of shots that you want. The ones that really highlight your brand and will look great on your website and social media. 

You can hit the mark for both yourself and your client – and that’s the vital clarification – you need to also know what your client wants in their wedding album!

Please don’t assume that you and your couple are on the same page. You both have an idea of what photos you’re going to end up with, and likely, those lists don’t 100% overlap. 

What I’m trying to say here is to talk to your client!

Interview Your Couple

Get rid of the guessing game, and simply interview your couple. Ask them to provide you with their ideal shot list, and then go from there. 

Knowing their expectations upfront will not only allow you to hit them (or discuss potential issues), but it also allows you to exceed them. And that’s how you’ll start to get those word-of-mouth referrals pouring in!

Get Both Shot Lists

There are two? Yes. You want to make sure you get their overall shot list (you know, the veil shot, first kiss, cake shot, etc.), and you want to get their family shot list. 

Their family shot list will provide you with their non-negotiable family formal portraits. Everyone has them. They may not be the most fun to shoot, but when you have a list to work off of, you can efficiently get through them and get everyone to cocktail hour. 

Once your couple gives you their family shots, make sure to organize them so that you can move through them quickly and painlessly. 

What To Photograph At A Wedding: Must-Have Wedding Photos

These are the photos that you better not leave the wedding without. Almost every couple will expect these, so make sure you’re able to deliver!

Getting Ready Photos

the beautiful bride puts on earrings while looking in the mirror
Photo by: Jaymi Nichole Visuals

Highlight both partners while they’re getting ready. 

Focus on:

  • bridesmaids and groomsmen helping
  • makeup
  • tie-adjustments
  • putting the dress on
  • letters and gifts, if any
  • jewelry and accessories 

The Dress

Get some detailed photos of the wedding dress both on and off the bride. Think of some creative angles using your surroundings for inspiration.

Bridal Pictures

It’s her wedding day. Make sure you let her strike a pose!

Entire Wedding Party

guests admire the newlyweds while they are kissing wedding photoshoot
Photo by: Jaymi Nichole Visuals

You’ll want to make sure you include:

  • bridal party only
  • the couple with bridesmaids
  • groomsmen only
  • the couple with groomsmen
  • the couple with wedding party together
  • individual shots, if requested.

Bride Walking Down Aisle/Groom Reaction

Don’t miss this special moment! If you’re shooting by yourself, make sure you get the groom’s reaction and then shoot the bride walking down the aisle. 

Ring Exchange

bride and groom exchange rings
Photo by Thomas AE on Unsplash

Capture each partner putting the other’s ring on during the ceremony. 

First Kiss

the first kiss of the newlyweds during the wedding ceremony in the church
Photo by: Wildhive Photography

Obviously can’t miss this one. Try to get a closeup and a wide shot for variety.

Family Formals

Now is the time to break out that family formal shot list and start working it out. 

The Married Couple Alone

the married couple walking in the meadow wedding photoshoot
Photo by: Foxtails Photography

This is the time every wedding photographer loves. Couple portraits are some of the most fun moments of the whole wedding. 

Reception Space and Exterior Details

Make sure to work in some time to capture the wedding venue before anyone enters it. You’ll want to focus on the table settings and centerpieces as well as wedding cake detail shots.

Entrance as a Married Couple

Make sure you capture your clients during their first entrance as a married couple.

First Dance

newlyweds dancing their first wedding dance
Photo by: Wildhive Photography

If your couple opts for a first dance, be sure to capture all the tiny, intimate moments. 

Cake Cutting

Be sure to grab a few shots of the cake before your couple digs in. And if there’s a cake smash, don’t miss the moment!

Party Photos

wedding party photoshoot
Photo by: Jess Living Photo

If the guests are here to get lit, make sure to get the photos that will make them blush later. 

Exit

Whether it’s a formal or faux exit, be sure to get shots of the guests sending the newlywed couple off on their wedding day. 

The Extras

Bouquet and Boutonnieres 

bride holding her wedding bouquet
Photo by: Jaymi Nichole Visuals

Get photos of the bouquets being held and the boutonnieres worn, but also set up some detailed images of them before they see action. 

Invitations

Highlight your couple’s invitations in a well-crafted invitation photo. Include some accessories and thoughtful details from the day. 

Generational Photo

Generational photo
Photo by: Lauren Dahlhauser Photography

Are there multiple generations present? Make sure to document that. 

Shoes

newlyweds shoes
Photo by Marc A. Sporys on Unsplash

Grab a shot of them on and off the bride and groom. 

Empty Ceremony Details

Get all the decor shots before the guests sit down. 

Wedding Rings

wedding rings hanging on the yellow flower
Photo by Luigi Pozzoli on Unsplash

You may want to include the wedding rings in an invitation shot as a way to make things look more cohesive. 

Groom Portrait

Don’t forget to let the groom strut his stuff. 

Kids

kids posing for wedding photoshoot
Photo by Mikael Kristenson on Unsplash

If little ones are present who are special to your clients, grab a few photos of them. 

Favor Details

Are the bride and groom providing favors to guests? Document their thoughtful gift. 

Veil

elegant bride with glass
Photo by: Jess Living Photo

Work the veil photo if that’s something your bride and groom are into. 

First look

Groom waiting for the first look at his lovely bride
Photo by: Lauren Dahlhauser Photography

Not everyone chooses the first look, but if your couple is interested, make sure to capture it, it’s a meaningful moment! 

Cocktail Hour

If you have multiple photographers present, you may want to send one to the cocktail hour to grab a few photos of guests mingling. 

Tell the Story

Newlyweds walking among sparkle lights on their wedding day
Photo by: Jess Living Photo

I know this is a lot to take in, but the more weddings you shoot, the more this will all become second nature.

Please don’t make the mistake of getting caught up in all the details and missing the in-between candid moments.

You’re not just there to take pictures. You’re there to preserve memories, and memories are tricky. 

They bend and change as time goes by, and the story may shift. So more than just producing photos, your job is to capture the story of your clients!

Capture it so it lives on as vibrantly as it did on their wedding day. 

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