The only wedding photography checklist you will ever need

Wedding photography can be an overwhelming experience. You are capturing fleeting moments on a day that is likely to be one of the most important days in your subject’s life. You can’t afford to mess it up. 

Here is our ultimate checklist to photographing a wedding – we would definitely bookmark this page! 

Jump to the specific checklist for easy access on the day:

Tips for the day of the photoshoot

Here are our top tips for what to do on the day of the wedding when you arrive for the photoshoot:

  • Arrive early! It’s likely that while this is a happy occasion, the bride and groom will be tired and stressed out, try not to add more stress to their day by being late. 
  • Have a snack on hand to keep your energy up, remain focused and stop you from getting the shakes while shooting. 
  • Review your shot list. Are there any special requests from the couple?
  • Check all camera settings and that memory cards and batteries are good to go.
  • Sync time on cameras with the second photographer. 
  • Make this routine a habit for any shoot. 
  • When you arrive, introduce yourself to as much of the family/bridal party as possible.
  • Look for good light sources to set up photographs.
  • Turn on lights, open curtains, move lamps if needed.
  • If photographing kids, try keep it quick

Tips for photographing the venue

Get a shot of each venue. There may be multiple venues if the ceremony and celebrations are in different locations.   

Photograph the exterior and interior. It is best to do this on the day of the wedding as it could be decorated quite uniquely by the couple.   

Coordinate with the venue manager to photograph the reception room. It is best to do it when all the decorations and lighting are in place.

Photographing the details

A wedding with all its trims and frills can be the ideal setting for close-up shots and capturing the finer details of the day. Here are some of the considerations you need to factor in:

  • Lighting – do you want to use ambient light, flash, flash as fill light or bounce flash?
  • Background – Look for one that either compliments the subject/object or is simply not distracting. If it is distracting, get it out of the shot or out of focus!
  • Arrangement/composition – you need to be thinking about how you want to arrange or compose the subject. Don’t get caught out simply putting everything in the centre of the shot. Play with your rule of thirds or use other compositional features such as the use of shapes or lines to create a beautiful, interesting shot.
  • Depth of field – explore different ranges while shooting to bring elements such as the cake to the forefront to stand out while the background is blurred, or the couple with a crowd watching them from behind all blurred out.

Checklist of shots: bride getting ready

  • Wedding invite / cards / stationary / bouquets / buttonholes / corsages
  • Dress hanging-any details on back?
  • Jewellery laid out, shoes, make up, perfume, etc
  • Bride and bridesmaids getting ready, having champagne, having fun
  • Bride getting ready, putting on veil, dress being buttoned up, getting help from mum or bridesmaids
  • Close up of dress details, buttons, bows, lace detail
  • Putting on jewellery / shoes
  • Close up of bride holding bouquet
  • The big reveal- everyone seeing the bride ready for the first time, especially father/mother and bridesmaids
  • Bride alone, maybe checking herself out in mirror
  • Bridal party going downstairs/leaving house
  • Mother and bride portrait
  • Father and bride portrait
  • Bride and bridesmaids/flower girls
  • Family shots
  • Bride and father in car

Checklist of shots: groom getting ready

  • Details of cufflinks, shoes, aftershave, buttonholes
  • Suit hanging, laid out on bed
  • Wedding rings
  • Groom and groomsmen getting ready
  • Best man doing grooms tie
  • Groom alone
  • Groom with father
  • Groom with mother
  • Groom with family
  • Groom and groomsmen/pageboys
  • Having drinks/playing golf/football before the ceremony

Tips for photographing the Ceremony

This is the most important part of the day. It is important to capture all the important moments in a respectful manner. Remember this is an exchange of sacred vows whether it is a religious ceremony or not. 

  • Know what type of ceremony it is – Religious or Civil ceremony? You must photograph the important moments; these can be different for different weddings/cultures. 
  • Know the order of the ceremony – will there be readings, music, exchange of rings, vows etc.? 
  • Introduce yourself to the officiant – see if there are any restrictions to where you can photograph. 
  • Know if you can use a flash – this is best to know in advance of the day. 
  • Check your batteries and memory cards – make sure to have a full battery and clear memory card in your camera before the ceremony starts. 
  • Check your settings regularly – be aware of changing lighting conditions.
  • Never stop proceedings! 
  • Tell the musicians to only start the music when you are at the top of the aisle then you will be in the right place for the bridesmaids and bride walking up. 
  • Watch for the intimate gestures between the couple.

Checklist of shots: the ceremony

Shots of empty venue/church, altar flowers, pew flowers, interior/exterior details, wedding booklet 

  • Groom and groomsmen waiting inside venue/church 
  • Guests inside/outside venue 
  • Ushers handing out program
  • Best man with rings 
  • Bride arriving in wedding car 
  • Bride and father in car 
  • Bride stepping out of car 
  • Bride and bridesmaids outside church 
  • Bridal party entrance 
  • Bride walking up aisle 
  • Grooms reaction 
  • Father/mother giving away the bride 
  • Lighting of two candles 
  • Participants such as officiant, musicians, readers etc 
  • Exchanging of vows 
  • Lighting of unity candle 
  • Ring Bearer 
  • Exchange of rings 
  • First kiss and moment after 
  • Signing registrar (if allowed) 
  • Bride and groom walking back down the aisle 
  • Newlywed shot 
  • Throwing confetti 
  • Bride and groom greeting guests outside 

Tips for the couple shoot

  • Choose the locations beforehand so that you know exactly where you are taking them. 
  • Check whether permits if necessary – private grounds may require a permit and even an entrance fee. 
  • Do you bring the bridal party? Some couples may prefer to bring the bridal party along, whereas others will prefer the time alone. Talk to your couple about this beforehand. 
  • Aim for variation in shots, try different poses to get a variety of different shots.

Couple shot poses

  • Classic “V” pose – couple half turned in to each other, half turned out towards the camera. 
  • Stacked on – one behind the other. 
  • Closed pose – couple completely turned towards each other. 
  • Open Pose – bodies completely turned outwards towards the camera. 
  • Lean back/Dip – typically the groom will lean/dip the bride backwards. 
  • Lean in or “Penguin” – the couple stand a few feet away from each other and lean in from their waist for a kiss. 
  • Movement – walking, dancing, jumping. 
  • Staggered – one person will stand a few feet/metres in front of the other. Often done with a shallow depth of field so the focus is on one person and the other blurred out in the background.

Tip: Don’t forget some individual shots too. Try to create balance with individual shots, get both the bride and groom and ceremony shot checklists as well as the couples shot checklist.

Creating variety in couple shots

It’s important to create a variety of shots for your couple so that you have images that look different, they feel like they are getting better value for money, but it also keeps the couple interested in posing for photographs. Remember if you are always doing the same thing they will get bored!

  • Full length, ¾ length, mid length, close-up 
  • Change your angle of view – get higher, lower and move to the side 
  • Subject positioning – couple looking at camera, looking away, looking at each other, one looking at camera and one looking at their partner 
  • Composition – rule of thirds, leading lines, look for natural framing devices- archways, bridges, doorways, tree branches, etc. 
  • Lighting- flash, silhouette, soft diffused lighting, golden hour

Tip: Small changes can make a big difference to any photograph

Checklist of shots: the couple shoot

Apply all the variation talked about above. 

  • Portraits of the couple alone 
  • Portraits of bride alone 
  • Portraits of groom alone

Considerations for photographing wedding groups

The group shots typically take place after the shots of the couple on their own but if you want to save time and let people go off as quickly as possible you can do these straight after the ceremony and work your way down to just photographing the couple. There is no great trick to photographing groups but there are a few things to consider. 

  • Size of the group
  • The location 
  • The outfits

The size of the group will limit how creative you can get with the photos. And I would put creativity on the back burner here, aiming to ensure that I get good photos of everyone first and foremost. That is not to say that you shouldn’t get creative but only do this after you are sure you have shots you can use in the album.  

The location and the outfits are what will let you get creative. A good location will have places that you can creatively place the groups. Somewhere with some height or somewhere that people can sit down etc. It just means that you are not just posing everyone in a row.  

The outfits will help you to get clever with repetition and patterns and remember to think about the colour of the outfits against a background that you might like to use. 

Tips for photographing family groups and the bridal party

  • Watch what people do with their hands, if looking uncomfortable, put hands in pockets, hands on hips, wrap around the person next to them etc. Aim for consistency. 
  • Get a safe shot, then you can mix it up with something less formal. Have the family or bridal party look at the bride or groom. 
  • Aim for some more creative shots with the bridal party – photographs are considered one of their ‘jobs’ for the day, take advantage! 

See: Tips for group shots

Tip: Start with larger groups and work down until it’s just bride and groom!! 

Checklist of shots: the wedding group

Who will you need to photograph?

  • The Bridal Party (Bride, Groom, Best Man, Ushers, Bridesmaids etc) 
  • Bride and Parents 
  • Groom and Parents 
  • Bride, Groom and Bride’s Immediate Family 
  • Bride, Groom and Groom’s Immediate Family 
  • Bride, Groom and Both Parents 
  • Groom and Groomsmen 
  • Bride and Bridesmaids 
  • Everybody i.e. All friends, family, and guests (optional)

It is a lot isn’t it! You need to allow for time and be organised. “It is a good idea to start with big groups first and work down. If you want to save time, in my experience I have photographed the parents and bridal couple after the ceremony, then moved on to the group shots and then photographed the couple alone. This way you can allow people to head off and eat and enjoy themselves,” says Upskillist Photography Educator William Eames.  

When you have the group shots completed, don’t overload the album with them. Pick out the best and make sure you have one of each combination at least but they can get repetitive quite quickly.

Tips for group shots

  • Get a list of everyone you are expected to photograph. 
  • Get a designated “rounder upper” – a family member or someone who will know the people needed is best. These should look for anybody needed for group shots not you. 
  • Start big and work down – you are less likely to forget anybody, and it will be easier to send people away. 
  • Be aware of details, sunglasses, ties, stray hairs – take a few moments to scan over the group and fix anything distracting. 
  • Smile – be friendly, people will be more likely to cooperate and enjoy the shoot. 
  • Demonstrate poses – exaggerate, let people laugh at you, but ultimately it means people will understand what you expect/want from them. 
  • Be loud, be clear – good communication is key. 
  • Take multiple shots – people always blink, cover yourself by having extra shots. 
  • Work quickly but don’t rush – be conscious of not keeping everybody longer than is needed but take the time you need to get it right! 
  • Look for shaded areas with even light. 
  • Medium to Narrow aperture F8 + – this will keep everybody in focus. If it is a very large group you may need to go to F16/F22.
  • Fast shutter speed 1/60th minimum* – Faster is better 

*  depending on focal length 

  • Low ISO – for better clarity

Tips for large group shots

  • You need to think about how everyone will get into the shot. 
  • You could use a wide angle lens or even a fish eye lens, but keep in mind that a fisheye lens will cause extreme distortion.
  • Look for balconies or first floor windows.  Higher vantage point will make it possible to include everyone in the shot. 
  • Use steps or stairways to arrange everybody. 
  • Get a safe shot then try something less formal, arms waving, couple kissing etc. 
  • The couple should be at the front of the group, ideally surrounded by immediate family and bridal party. 
  • If the weather is terrible and an outdoor shot is not possible and if there are no good alternatives indoors you can suggest taking a shot of each table before the meal.

Wait until everyone is seated at each table then get a group shot of everyone at the table.  These could all be arranged on one page in an album. This can be a nice alternative if the entire group shot is not possible.

Tips for candid shots

  • Semi-Automatic modes like Aperture priority (A or Av), Shutter Priority (S or TV) or Programme mode (P) can help you get a correct exposure if you are not comfortable with Manual mode. Semi-automatic mode will allow you to still shoot Raw files. 
  • Spot metering – allows you to take a meter reading from a very small area of your image. 
  • Auto Focus/Servo mode. 
  • A telephoto lens will allow you to take shots from a distance and therefore guests are less likely to notice you. 
  • Learn to anticipate moments, the more familiar you become with weddings, the more you will spot similar moments happening. E.g. Guests hugging the bride/groom after the ceremony or Bride showing off the ring to friends, etc.
  • When guests are chatting at reception, you can line up/compose a shot and wait for laughing/ guests reaction to a story. 
  • Avoid photographing people when eating. 
  • Always keep your camera ready!

Checklist of shots: candid shots

  • Bride and bridesmaids getting ready, having champagne, having fun 
  • Bride getting ready-putting on veil, dress being buttoned up, getting help from mum or bridesmaids
  • The big reveal- everyone seeing the bride ready for the first time, especially father/mother and bridesmaids
  • Groom and groomsmen getting ready 
  • Best man doing grooms tie 
  • Having drinks/playing golf/football before the ceremony 
  • Groom and groomsmen waiting inside venue/church 
  • Bride stepping out of car 
  • Bride and groom walking back down the aisle 
  • Throwing confetti 
  • Bride and groom greeting guests outside church/venue 
  • Shots with friends 
  • Bride showing ring to guests 
  • Guests eating, drinking, chatting, kids playing

Tips for photographing in the evening

Heading into the evening there are still some important moments to capture such as cutting of the cake, speeches, the first dance, and potentially some entertaining shenanigans later into the night once the champagne is flowing. 

While you can’t really direct where/how this is done it is very important to know when all of this is expected to happen and still aim for a variation of shots.   

Encourage the couple to do another formal shot. Evening shots can be super romantic but do look for a variation of lighting to mix it up.  

If doing them indoors, look for beautiful features like stairways or archways to place the couple within. 

Checklist of shots: evening shots

  • Bridal party entrance 
  • Bride and groom arriving 
  • Toasts and speeches 
  • Cutting the cake 
  • First dance 
  • Bride dancing with father 
  • Groom dancing with mum 
  • Throwing of bouquet or garter 
  • Bridal party dancing 
  • Bride and groom mingling with guests 
  • Musicians, singers, DJ 
  • Opportunity for a bride and groom night shoot

Are you ready for the challenge of doing a wedding photography shoot? Of Course you are! You have this amazing checklist. Now go and eternalise those special moments.

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