Ever wonder what it’s like photographing a wedding day with me? You’re in luck! Today I’ll be going breaking down how I prep, photograph a wedding day, and which lenses I use for each part of the day. But first there are a few things to consider before we dive in.
First, each wedding is unique! I have never photographed the same type of wedding twice! So my process and timeline might shift around a little depending on the flow of the day and that’s ok! Another thing to consider is that some couples have separate ceremony and reception venues or opt not to do a first look and that’s fine! I have a pretty standard system that works with all types of weddings so that the only thing that shifts around really is the time. For writing purposes I’m going to break down a typical wedding day where the ceremony and reception are all in one location and where the bride and groom are doing a first look.
I arrive at least an hour early to the venue so I can get a lay of the land, pick out portrait spots, and figure out where the sun will set for golden hour portraits. I also like to spend this time connecting with the bride and bridesmaids and learning everyone’s names. Often times I won’t pick up my camera for the first 10-15min or so and just chat with everyone. I think this really sets the tone for the day by putting everyone at ease and just talk about about how wonderful the day is going to be!
(50mm and 10mm macro)
I like to start the day by shooting the brides details (rings, shoes, invitation suite, special heirlooms, etc). I always encourage my brides to put all of their details in a bag so I can just grab it and get to work! I love love LOVE this part of the day because the details tell me so much about the couple, their love story, and the things that are important to them. These images help paint the picture of what their day will look like and highlight the sentimental details they have thoughtfully incorporated that might otherwise go unnoticed in the hustle and bustle. I really like to spend a good chunk of time on this (around 45min ideally) so I can curate and highlight each special detail. I use things like a styling mat, ring boxes, silk ribbon, etc. to help curate each shot. After I’m done with the details, I’ll spend some time shooting the bride with her hair and makeup team getting those final touches and her sweet bridesmaids looking on.
Pro Tip for Brides: Ask your florist to keep some clippings of the flowers and greenery being used for your bouquet and centerpieces and put them in your details bag! Adding those little floral touches just adds something extra to those detail shots!
(I use my 50mm lens and the 85mm)
After hair and make-up are finished, I will photograph the bride getting into her dress with the help of her mother and Maid of Honor or sisters and putting on her veil. Then I’ll spend some time (near a big beautiful window with all that gorgeous natural light or outside) photographing the bride. After I get some solo shots of her I’ll do a little First Look with her bridesmaids and then we go get set for the First Look with her groom!
(50mm and 85mm)
This is hands down one of my favorite parts of photographing a wedding day. All the emotions and excitement come out and the reality of their day sets in. It’s one of the only moments during the day where they are alone (with the exception of me photographing them!) and get to just soak each other up before the whirlwind of their day continues. I give no direction during this moment so as not to spoil any of the emotion. After their happy tears are wiped away and the makeup is retouched, we jump right into bride and groom portraits.
I like to get all the bridal party portraits done before the ceremony if possible! So usually these take place after the First Look and some romantic portraits. This typically takes me 10-15 minutes if everyone is cooperative. I like to finish this part of the day at least 20-30min before the ceremony starts so everyone has time to go hide, rest, and retouch makeup before everything begins. If for some reason we don’t have enough time, I’ll do these portraits immediately after the ceremony with family portraits.
(50mm, 85mm or 70mm-200mm)
Once the bridal party portraits are done, I will go to the ceremony site and capture any details there that I may have missed earlier. Then I just get set in the aisle ready to capture the bride coming down the aisle and the groom’s reaction! typically float around during the ceremony getting both wide and closeup shots of each special moment in the ceremony while sticking to the venue’s rules (some churches have restrictions on where the photographer can stand). After the “I do’s” and the kiss, I encourage my couples to go hide in either a side room or area where they are out of view from their guests. I really encourage my couples and to have an exit strategy for after the ceremony for themselves and their bridal party so as not to get pulled aside by guests. Hiding out until everyone has left the ceremony site makes it so much easier for this next part!
I’ve only had one case where the bride and groom didn’t have an exit strategy and they were swarmed by their guests trying to greet them right outside of their chapel. I spent about 30 min trying to wrangle the couple, their bridal party, AND their families and it only left us with 15min to get the family formals AND their portraits! Their reception venue was an hour away and they didn’t want to be late so it was a pretty rushed and stressful part of the day. Needless to say, exit strategies are important!
I typically send a wedding day questionnaire to my couples well before the wedding so that we can go over all of the details of their day. This includes their family photo groupings. I ask my couples to come up with 10 groupings and to include names of the people included in the photos so that I can just go down the list and get these shots done as efficiently as possible. If I have an assistant with me, they will call out the groupings and we roll right through the list. If wrangling is kept to a minimum, this part of the day is typically finished in 15-20min! I can’t tell you how many parents and relatives come up to me and tell me how much they appreciate how fast and efficient this part of the day is so they can spend more time mingling with guests during cocktail hour.
After the family formals are finished I spend the rest of cocktail hour getting portraits of just the Bride and Groom just being all sorts of romantic now that they are husband and wife! I like to finish this up a little early as well so that it gives them time to grab some champagne and just chill out before they are announced into their reception and gives me time to head over to the reception and capture all of their decor and set-up before the festivities begin. If I have extra time I will take some group shots of the guests for the rest of the cocktail hour!
(35mm and 50mm)
This is a more relaxed part of photographing a wedding day because I don’t have to give any direction or pose anyone! I capture the reception as it unfolds- the cake cutting, toasts, dances, bouquet toss- all of the joy and celebration! I also like to pull the couple away from the reception for a few minutes to get some great sunset portraits. The light is always beautiful at this time and it’s also nice for my couples to take a breather and get a little alone time to just soak each other up. I highly recommend my couples to consider scheduling in some sunset portraits to their wedding day timeline! After we return to the reception I’ll do the exit and head home to edit!
There you have it!! Now you know what it’s like photographing a wedding day with me from start to finish! Obviously things will move around based on the individual timelines but my process is still pretty much the same. And just remember that this isn’t the ONLY way to photograph a wedding day! It’s just the way that works best for me and my couples! My main goal when photographing a wedding day is to make the day go as smoothly as possible, to serve my clients with care and intention, and to give them images they can cherish for a lifetime.
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