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Paul Harris Blog

What to expect on the first day as a wedding photographer

This blog is particularly relevant for anyone who is hoping to enter the wedding photography industry. I won’t go into the particulars in this blog about how to take any images – that can be a later blog I am sure – no, this blog will focus on exactly how the wedding day will go and allow you to focus on the bare essentials that are needed to ensure that the day runs smoothly.

Okay. So you have your first wedding booked in. Awesome. Congratulations! That is a huge achievement in and on itself. However you are concerned about not being prepared. Maybe you have been the second photographer on the shoot but you are worried that you won’t be able to co-ordinate the even as the first photographer had done on the date. Well don’t worry. Relax. This page should hopefully put your mind at ease.

In order you to feel confident you need to know the format of the wedding, so as a brief summary:

  • Bride and groom preparations

  • Wedding reception

  • Groom and best man in ceremony room

  • People entering the ceremony room and taking their seats

  • Bride arriving

  • Bride walking down aisle

  • wedding ceremony

  • confetti moments

  • group photo opportunities whilst guests eat canopees

  • wedding breakfast (and you time to eat and relax – generally no pictures taken when eating

  • Speeches

  • Drinks receptions

  • First dance

  • Wedding disco

Bride or groom preparation

These are sometimes the most difficult shots to capture as you are relying on the houses with enough light or space to work with. Moreover you generally only have an hour to capture all the pictures you need.

So as you arrive just relax and act like you have done it before – I would suggest communicating and letting people know that you will take any photo they want, if they ask, but otherwise you will just be in the background. If you arrive and the bride are not ready to be photographed I would suggest taking pictures of other features around the house, rings, bouquets, bridesmaids. For shots of what to take refer to the section below.

What is good about this part is that you can settle in for the day. If you can get pictures of the Bride looking good here then you can feel a lot more relaxed about the day ahead. Moreover you can see the main family and bridesmaids are so you can ensure you have enough pictures of these people throughout the day as this is who your customer is going to car about.

All this information still apply with groom preparations as well.

Wedding reception

So on this occasion this is your opportunity to take pictures of guests arriving. Normally everyone needs to settle down into the wedding and find the people they know – or get a drink in your hand. They will also need to be accustomed to you taking pictures of them. For these reasons I would take pictures, but not be too worried if you don’t capture many album photos as there are plenty of opportunities later.

Given you could be in a bar area it is useful to get the flash attached to your camera and really have these shots down before the day. Understand how to bounce light of the wall to create a softer lighting that can make any picture look professional.

One thing I find in this moment is you get a sense of who out of the guests is comfortable around the camera. This will also help you understand how standoffish you need to be around people.

Another great tip is too really pick your moments. A person laughing is worth ten of people not smiling. This means you have to see if a moment is building a prepare yourself, thinking about composition. Moreover in these moments take plenty of photos – 4 to 6 preferably of every good moment. This applies for the whole day. There is nothing worse then being at the editing stage and finding people laughing but some people have there eyes closed or looking away or blurred and the images cannot be used. Overall its better to have 5 of a good moment that to just take pictures of everything and anyone and having to just cut them down later.

Wedding Ceremony

For images you need to take refer to the below listing. One thing you need to be aware of is that you can move around more freely than you expect, and you will need to, you need to be confident to really carve the pictures that you know the bride and groom will want.

There are always two moments that you need to be quick to take a lot of pictures as people always laugh. The first is when the minister says “does anyone know any reason why the couple should not be married” and the second is when they thumble to put on the rings.

Group shots

Normally the bride and groom would have arranged who they want to have pictures with but I would ensure that you have a default list (which can be seen below). In this moment you need to ask the bride and groom to get people together however if they are not positioning people you need to be loud and try and organise people yourself. This may seem intimidating but as you are there with a camera people generally follow your instruction if your confident.

I would try and get this part over with in 15 minutes as people will begin to get restless otherwise. I would make sure you have a wide angle lens. I would also try not to be too clever with positioning. Just make sure the bride and groom are in the middle of the group and that the crowd is symmetrical. I would have the guest stand in a flat line so people are not closer to the camera and therefore over emphasised.

Wedding Breakfast

For this you don’t generally take photos as people don’t look there best when eating. So its your time to reflect, relax and grab some food yourself. You can ask the groom/ bride whether anything was prepared.


This is the point in the day when everyone is used to you being around. You can really get some pictures of the bride and groom laughing, looking awkward and you can really be creative with composition. If you are not creative then you may end up with a lot of standard looking shots of people sitting looking static. You want to move around and create better shots not being afraid to get in peoples way.

Evening and first dance

The most crucial part to get right here is lighting. A great tip is to set up back lighting for the dancing. Another is to make sure you have as many shots as possible.

Check list of the sort of shots that are required:

Getting Ready

1. Bride having her hair styled and makeup applied

2. Bride’s gown hanging on a padded hanger, spread on the bed, or draped over a chair

3. Still life shots of the bride’s shoes, jewelry, something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue

4. Detailed shots of the bride’s and bridesmaids’ bouquets

5. Candid shots of the bridesmaids getting dressed

6. Mother buttoning or zipping up the bride’s dress

7. Mother helping the bride with one last detail, such as the veil

8. Full-length shot of the bride in her gown, looking at herself in a mirror

9. Bridesmaids reacting to the bride in her gown

10. Father seeing the bride in her gown

11. Bride with her parents and siblings

12. Bride with her bridesmaids

13. Groom getting ready with his father and groomsmen

14. Close-up shot of the wedding bands

15. Groom with his parents and siblings

16. Groom with the best man

17. Groom with his groomsmen

18. Bride and groom separately making their way to the ceremony

The Ceremony

1. Exterior and interior shots of the site before guests arrive

2. Groom walking down the aisle with his mother

3. Close-up of groom’s expression while waiting for the bride

4. Bridal party walking down the aisle

5. Both sets of grandparents walking down the aisle

6. Bride and her escort waiting to walk down the aisle

7. Close-up of bride just before she makes her entrance

8. Bride and her escort walking down the aisle

9. Groom reacting to bride walking down the aisle

10. Bride’s escort giving her away

11. Bride and groom at the altar or the chuppah

12. Both sets of parents watching the ceremony

13. Wide shot of the altar or chuppah, from the guests’ point of view

14. Wide shot of the guests, from the couple’s point of view

15. Special moments, such as the candle lighting and the readings

16. Close-up of the bride and groom as they recite their vows

17. Close-up of the bride and groom’s hands as they exchange rings

18. The kiss!

19. Close-up of the newlyweds immediately after the ceremony

20. Bride and groom hugging family and friends

21. Bride showing off her wedding ring to her bridesmaids

22. Bride and groom leaving the ceremony site

Before the Reception (or Ceremony)

1. Bride and groom together

2. Bride with her mother

3. Bride with her father

4. Bride with both parents

5. Bride with her entire immediate family

6. Groom with his mother

7. Groom with his father

8. Groom with both parents

9. Groom with his entire immediate family

10. Bride and groom with bride’s family

11. Bride and groom with groom’s family

12. Bride and groom with both sets of parents

13. Bride and groom with immediate family members from both sides

14. Bride and groom with bridesmaids

15. Bride and groom with groomsmen

16. Bride and groom with flower girl and ring bearer

17. Bride and groom with entire wedding party

The Reception

1. Exterior and interior shots of the site before the guests arrive

2. Still-life shots of place cards, menus, centerpieces, decorations, table settings, favors, and Champagne glasses

3. The cake

4. Hors d’oeuvres and specialty drinks

5. Guests arriving and signing the guest book

6. Bride and groom arriving

7. Close-ups of friends and family making toasts

8. Bride and groom sipping Champagne at their table

9. Bride and groom speaking with guests

10. Bride and groom’s first dance

11. Bride dancing with her father

12. Groom dancing with his mother

13. Parents and grandparents dancing

14. Wedding party dancing

15. Musicians, deejay, and/or entertainers performing

16. Guests dancing

17. Bride and groom dancing with the bridal party

18. Bride and groom cutting the cake

19. Bouquet toss

20. Newlyweds’ vehicle

21. Bride and groom leaving the reception

Last point.

Finally enjoy it. This is your first step towards becoming a successful professional photographer. Wedding photography offers a you freedom to when you want to, be self employed and also earn a considerable amount of money if you focus on it enough.

I have enjoyed photography and wedding photography for many years and love every wedding I have performed at. You can always learn and always improve the photos you take so it continues to make it interesting.

If you want to enquire about my photography services then please follow the prices or contact me page above.


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