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Wedding Photos: The Essential Images

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Wedding photography is one of the most challenging jobs you'll face. Here's the essential images you’ll need to make.

A high pressure and time sensitive job, there’s very little opportunity for mistakes in a professional wedding photography coverage.

With that in mind I thought it would be useful to list the essential images I’d recommend you make if you find yourself photographing a wedding.

As far as scheduling and coverage on the day I think it would be much the same for both heterosexual and same sex couples. But you’d need to work that through with the couple in question.

What follows is what I consider to be the essential photos you should try your very best to make on the day of the wedding.

As far as a workflow is concerned it’s probably a good idea to break the day up into its individual components, that can describe as follows:

  • Pre-Service
  • Wedding Service
  • Outdoor (e.g., garden) location
  • Reception

Now let’s explore each of these components separately.


Pre-Service adjustments to the wedding dress at the bride’s family home.

Pre-Service adjustments to the wedding dress at the bride’s family home.

Bridal Photos Made Pre-Service

As far as the coverage you’re likely to provide, prior to arriving at the church, it’s almost certainly going to include photos at the bride’s house.

This part of the coverage is extremely important as, symbolically, the bride is leaving her family and the home in which she was brought up in and moving onto the next stage of her life.

This is your opportunity to make formal portraits of the bride in head and shoulder, half, three quarter and full length poses.

Make sure you make these images as you never know what might happen to that dress throughout the rest of the day.

But, as you can see, the bride’s house is also the place to make really great, candid photos like this one of the bride being dressed.

I like the interaction that’s been documented, but also the fact that it gave me a good opportunity to show some of the intricate detail on the back of the bride’s wedding dress.

As to the photos you should make at the bride’s house I’d advise you to consider the following:

  • Formal portraits of the bride in head and shoulder, half, three-quarter and, importantly, full length poses
  • Close-up image of the flowers and any trinkets (horse shoes, etc)
  • Close-up images of the brides dress (e.g., from behind) and shoes
  • Bride and father
  • Bride and mother
  • Bride with both her parents
  • Bride’s father
  • Bride’s mother
  • Bride’s mother and father
  • Bride with any grandparents present 
  • Bride and family, if available
  • Bride with family pet, where appropriate
  • Bride with each individual bridesmaid and flower girl
  • Group shot of bride, bridesmaids and flower girls
  • Individual portraits of each bridesmaid
  • Individual portraits of each flower girl
  • Flower girl with her parents, if possible

That probably looks like a fairly extensive list. It is, which is why you need to do all you can to ensure you have around one hour in the day’s schedule put aside for these photos.

Wedding Day Anxiety And Stress

The photos you create at the bride’s house are important, beautiful and, often, made under pretty difficult conditions. They’e not easy images to make, particular as the bride is almost never on time.

But it’s not her fault. In many cases it’s the first time she’s been married and, therefore, the first time she’s experienced the rigors of such a full and eventful day.

Almost certainly our bride will be held up at the hairdresser and simple acts like getting in and out of the wedding car on this, her big day, will become quite involved given the scale and complexity of many wedding dresses.

And then, of course, there’s family politics and potentially inclement weather to deal with.

The bride is likely going to expend a great deal of energy on the day. That can only add to the levels of anxiety and stress that may, from time to time, emerge.

Be prepared for plenty of emotion including the possibility of a tantrum at the brides house. And it may not come from the flower girl.


Fun photos of the groom and groomsman before the wedding service.

Fun photos of the groom and groomsman before the wedding service.

Photos Of The Groom Before The Wedding

Some photographers try to include coverage of the groom and groomsman making their own preparations before leaving for the wedding service.

I think that’s great as these photos are usually quite jovial and balance the often more intimate and emotive images made of the bride and her parents at the family home.

You can see our groom, surrounded by his loyal groomsman, enjoying the health giving benefits of a refreshing beverage prior to the wedding service.

Here’s some of the images you’ll want to record.

  • Groom and groomsman relaxing
  • Groom and groomsman get organized
  • Individual formal portraits of groom and groomsman
  • Candid images of groom and groomsman clowning around, writing and/or rehearsing their speeches
  • Formal portraits of groom and groomsman



Bride and flowers in the bridal car after arriving at the church.

Bride and flowers in the bridal car after arriving at the church.


Photography At The Church Or Wedding Venue

The photos you create at the church or other wedding venue, including those made during the actual service, are extremely important as they showcase much of the emotion, ritual and ceremony of the day.

You’ll need to be on your toes as most of these events need to be recorded quickly, as they happen.

This lovely image of a bride, sitting in the bridal car before the wedding service, is a really important image to make as it documents one of the final moments before her marriage.



Proud grandfather with his grandchild enjoying the pre-wedding sunshine.

Proud grandfather with his grandchild enjoying the pre-wedding sunshine.

Do you like this black and white photo of the bride’s father with one of his grandchildren prior to the commencement of the wedding service?

I love the candid nature of the image; the relationship explored between grandad and grandchild; and the abstract element I was able to introduce to the image through the addition of the shadow.

Some photos you should look to make at the service include the following:

  • Groom and groomsman waiting for bride, either inside or outside the church
  • Bride inside car as she arrives at the church
  • Bride still seated, but about to alight from the car
  • Bride with one foot on the ground, about to stand up, while being assisted out of the car, usually by her father
  • Bride walking down the isle
  • Important moments throughout the service (e.g., readings, vows, exchange of rings, kiss-e-poos)
  • Candid individual images of bride and groom signing the register
  • Formal, posed image of bride and groom pretending to sign the register after the actual signing has been completed
  • Bride and groom walking down the isle
  • Bride and groom on church steps or wherever the service is conducted
  • Family groups with bride and groom on church steps or wherever the service is conducted
  • Bride tossing the flowers over her head
  • Candid images of bride and groom being congratulated by friends and family after the service


Relationship Between Photographer And Minister

It’s important to take the time to approach the minister or celebrant prior to the day of the wedding to seek guidance and ask permission about the kind of photos you’d like to make.

This is particularly important when photographing inside the church during an actual service. You should avoid flash, where possible, and be sure not to move onto the altar area without permission.

Make sure you’re at the church nice and early so you can make contact with the minister and re-confirm these arrangements before the bride arrives.


Bride and groom relaxing by a huge tree trunk, Melbourne Botanical Gardens.

Bride and groom relaxing by a huge tree trunk, Melbourne Botanical Gardens.

Wedding Garden Location Photos

An outdoor, garden location provides a great setting for photos where the bride and groom can relax in between their church and reception duties.

Take a look at this fun image of a bride and groom relaxing on the roots of a huge tree trunk at the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne, Australia.

An important tip for beautiful outdoor photos on a bright, sunny day is to position your subjects in an area of open shade and avoid including any sky in your composition.

It’s a great way to reduce contrast to an acceptable level and ensure that the bride and groom are illuminated by flattering light.


Group photo of bride and groom's extended families at an outdoor location.

Group photo of bride and groom's extended families at an outdoor location.

Garden Location Wedding Photos Sequence

When it comes to the order in which you should make your outdoor, garden photos my advice is to do all the group photos first.

That will allow family members to move onto the reception and allow you to reduce the amount of people hanging around by the time you begin photographing the bride and groom.

You may find it helpful to take the bride and groom on a short walk to ensure that you’re able to work in a more secluded and quieter locale.

Moving away from the gaze of onlookers should allow you to make more intimate, emotive images.

Here’s what I consider to be the photos you should look to make between the service and reception.

  • Family groups (particularly if you were unable to make these images at the church)
  • Wedding party group photos, ideally featuring different compositions and/or backgrounds
  • Groom with bridesmaids
  • Bride with groomsmen
  • Partners (each bridesmaid with their respective groomsman)
  • Bride full length (of critical importance)
  • Bride and groom full length (also of critical importance)
  • Bride and groom three-quarter, half and head and shoulder poses  
  • Casual and romantic images of bride and groom in more secluded parts of the garden location
  • Formal wedding party group photos
  • Wedding party casual group images including an image showing the bride’s garter
  • If cars are important then, if time allows, the bride and groom and, maybe, the entire bridal party can be photographed standing near or around the wedding cars


Candid wedding photo of bride and father outdoors after the wedding service.

Candid wedding photo of bride and father outdoors after the wedding service.

Outdoor Candid Wedding Photos

Back in the days when I was a wedding photographer my favorite time of the day was working with the wedding party, at an outdoor location, between the service and the reception.

Everyone’s just so much more relaxed after the service has been completed and they’re found some space and quiet away from all the guests.

As well as ensuring all those beautiful, formal photos of the bridal couple are created the garden setting is a great place to make fun group photos of the wedding party as well as some important family portraits.

It’s also the perfect place for fun candid pics as you can see in this picture of a bride sharing a laugh with her dear old dad.


Bride's dad making a magnificent speech at the wedding reception.

Bride's dad making a magnificent speech at the wedding reception.

Photos At The Wedding Reception

I photographed the bride’s dad making a magnificent speech at the wedding reception. It was witty and full of good advice which is no surprise given the life he’s experienced and his authentic nature.

Speeches provide great opportunities for photos as they’re made by members of the wedding party, family and friends.

Make sure you make the most of such opportunities as your photos can become important historical documents for generations to come.



Bride and groom, cutting the Wedding cake, at the reception.

Bride and groom, cutting the Wedding cake, at the reception.

Wedding Cake Photos

Cutting the cake is sometimes considered the most important image from the reception.

Some photographers do a mock or pretend cutting of the cake, as soon as they arrive at the Wedding reception venue, and leave almost immediately.

For other photographers, offering a more complete coverage of the reception, the cake cutting can either be photographed upon arrival or as it happens during the event.



Candid photo recording a moment of romance at a lively wedding reception.

Candid photo recording a moment of romance at a lively wedding reception.

Photographing The Entire Wedding Reception

The photos you’d need to make, if you’ve been booked to cover the entire reception, would include the following:

  • The Wedding cake
  • Cutting the cake
  • Overall wide-angle images of the location and guests
  • Speeches
  • Bridal waltz
  • Bride and groom, family members, members of the bridal party and other guests dancing
  • Band performing
  • Any other culturally important rites or shenanigans that occur throughout the evening
  • Small group photos of guests (e.g., seated at tables or with half the group seated and the other half standing immediately behind)
  • Any elderly and/or seriously ill family members who could not be photographed earlier in the day
  • Quiet, intimate images of bride and groom away from their guests
  • Bride and groom leaving the reception


Half length portrait of a bride against a pink bathing hut, Brighton.

Half length portrait of a bride against a pink bathing hut, Brighton.

What Wedding Product Should You Produce?

Not all weddings include coverage of the groom and groomsmen prior to their arrival at the church, nor is an extended coverage of the reception always expected.

The more hours you invest the harder your day will be. Likewise, the more photos you make the more images you’ll need to post process and deliver, in a timely manner.

I’d estimate that photographing the guys, prior to the wedding, and including the entire reception in your coverage would add around 40% to your workload.

This means a much longer day resulting in more travel, time and stress.

If you offer this kind of complete coverage you need to make sure you charge for it. I can tell you, after photographing several hundred weddings (back in the day), it’s extremely exhausting work.

If the bride and groom determine the cost is too great they may well consider your normal coverage to be better value.

This allows you to use the complete coverage as a way to book more weddings based upon your normal coverage (though don’t use the word normal to describe it).

Of course what I’ve covered today is only a small portion of what you need to know and do to cover a wedding successfully.

But I’ve seen so many wedding coverages that didn’t include a full length of the bride, or the bride and groom for that matter, that I thought an article was timely.

I’ve include as much information as I could and I hope it helps.

If ever you’re asked to photograph a wedding for family or friends, my advice would be to run like hell. You just don’t know what you’d be letting yourself in for.

However, if you think Wedding photography is for you then the above list should be useful.

Good luck my friend and don’t forget that full length photo of the brides dress.

Visit Schmidt Fine Art Gallery to read more of ourblogs or view ourCollection of art

Licensed from https://www.travelphotographyguru.com/travel-blogs/wedding-photography-the-essential-images

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