A wedding is often one of the most important days in a couple’s lives, and as the wedding photographer, there’s a lot of pressure on you to capture those memories in the best way possible. Try our course, Wedding Photography for Beginners to learn about everything you’ll need. In this lesson, you’ll find out about the preparation you’ll need to do before the big day.
A Wedding Itinerary, Photo Script, and Tips for Getting Ready to Photograph Your First Wedding
As the saying goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail and that’s why a lot of your solid foundational work will come before the wedding itself.
Visit Locations Before The Wedding Day
Visiting your venues prior to the day is absolutely essential, you'll need to see where everything is going to happen and work out where to position yourself for each portion of the day. Find out whether the building has any quirks, like being strangely lit or too dark, and whether your lens or camera will be able to cope with those demands.
It's also worth seeing how far you'll be from the couple; a balance between close enough for you to get great photographs but to also not be intrusive. You may find you'll need to use a different lens than you'd intended, or be in a different area than you'd imagined.
Looking inside the venue is a given but make sure you check out all around the outside for any good photographic opportunities. Conversely, you may have a really beautiful outdoor location like the grounds of the castle but you can't rely on this entirely — what if the weather's really bad? So have indoor and outdoor options for each venue.
You might even be able to take the couple elsewhere. For example, I photographed a wedding where the hotel for the reception wasn't particularly attractive, inside or out, but it was close to the beach and also a nice park. I had a quick chat with the bride's driver before the ceremony and he agreed to take the couple and their children to these places for photos before we went on to the hotel, so don't just look at your exact locations, have a look online at a map of the area if you're not familiar with it already and visit any nearby beauty spots beforehand to time how long it will take you to get to each place. This is particularly important if you’re leaving from one of the couple’s houses before they do, you need time to get some photos before the ceremony and to get set up in time for their arrival at the venue.
However much time you need to get from place to place, add a reasonable buffer in case of delays or unforeseen circumstances. It's better to be very early than even a little late.
If driving, be aware of your parking options for each location. A lot of people are going to be arriving on the big day, so car parks may fill up. Make sure you have an alternative and have money (particularly loose change) on you in case it’s a paid-for car park that doesn’t take contactless.
Some venues won't have a car park, so you’ll need to so find the nearest place you can safely and legally leave your car, and again time how long it will take you from there. If you have an assistant — something we talk about in another lesson — it may be worth them dropping you off and parking up to save you time.
As well as prepping your locations you should prep your photography too. Look for inspiration online. Pinterest is good for ideas, and you can search for locations similar to the ones you'll be at and see what photographers have done in those places. Base your research on the kind of things that you know your couple likes, which you should know from your meetings with them. Don't worry about trying to do anything too wild, the important thing is to be able to meet your couple's expectations and hopefully, to exceed them.
Remember that if you need any props for your photos to get them well in advance and keep them with your kit so that you don't forget them on the day or have to spend an inordinate amount of time looking for where you stored them. It can be useful to put all of your ideas into one document and then put that with your essential shots list.
No doubt that photographing a wedding day can have its stresses, but doing thorough preparation will really reduce those and will also mean that if something should go wrong or not as expected, you'll be able to deal with that in a much calmer and more practical way, because you'll have prepared!
- Visit venues before the wedding day
- Have alternative options for bad weather
- Find out if there are any nearby beauty spots
- Look online and talk to your couple for photographic inspiration
- Test how long it takes you to get from place to place and add buffer time to that
- Create a list of shots and a kit list (including any props) to take with you
Hopefully everything will go perfectly on the day, but if it doesn't, you'll be cool, calm, and able to still get great results.
More Wedding Resources for Photographers and Videographers
About the Authors
Marie Gardiner created the video course that includes this lesson, and wrote the updated text version. Marie is a writer and photographer from England, with a background in media.