The Ultimate Guide to Getting Perfect Wedding Photographs

One important thing to remember about your wedding photographs is that you will have them for the rest of your life, so take some time in choosing the right photographer.

Finding a photographer is relatively easy, finding a good one, who understands wedding photography, may take a little more time. Good photographers tend to be booked well in advance so you should consider booking at least nine months before the wedding, or even earlier if your wedding is planned during a popular period.

If you would like a professional photographer, but feel that the cost is too great, employ the best that you can, but use their minimum service – which should cover leaving the bride’s home, the formal photographs before and after the ceremony and up to the cutting of the cake.

Before you book your photographer, make sure you read our article on finding the right photographer – it will give you all the information you need to ask the right questions, and make the best choice.

Think carefully about the types of photographs you would like, and if you’re stuck for ideas, take a look at our top ten wedding photograph shots and our top ten photograph styles.

Your reception is another great opportunity to get some great photographs – especially if you’re willing to let your guests do the work for you. We have some ideas on how to get the best candid reception shots (see below).

Finding the Right Photographer

A good time to start looking for a photographer is about nine to twelve months in advance. Begin with recommendations from family and friends, looking through albums for quality, style and formats that you like. Some criteria to keep in mind when interviewing photographers include:

  1. Do the photos have a sharp, crisp quality?
  2. Can they do retouching? What about special effects?
  3. Will there be an extra charge for the proofs?
  4. How long do they keep the negatives?
  5. Does the quoted price include the finished album?
  6. Do you feel confident with the person and feel that they will perform professionally, be inconspicuous and deliver great pictures?
  7. Check for a mix of shots that are technically good.
  8. Look for the emotion the photo projects.
  9. Is the person who is showing you the photos the same person who will be shooting your wedding?
  10. Discuss costs. Work out a clear payment schedule, and obtain an itemized agreement that lists everything included in the package and the total cost.
  11. Can they arrive early to capture last-minute preparations, moments with family members, and the little events that make the day complete?
  12. Will they design your album for you?
  13. Can you see the proofs online? Will the web address be available to friends & family? Can you order online?

Any photographer will be able to show you examples of previous work, explain what they will do on the day, and afterwards. Most work to a standard formula, with any other shots available on request.

A basic photography package will include:

  • a visit to the wedding location to assess the best picture potential
  • a visit to the bride’s home and reception venue (if pictures are to be taken there)
    between 40 and 100 ‘proof’ shots from which the couple make a final selection
    a choice of album
  • the chance for relatives and friends to buy copies (at extra cost)
  • reprint potential for a specified period of time after the wedding (at extra cost)

A basic package will cost from around $500, but extras may bring the price up considerably.

Proof photographs can be circulated among friends and relatives so that they may order any prints from the photographer. Copyright belongs to the photographer and pictures may not be copied without consent.

Getting the Right Shot

Make sure you discuss with your photographer in advance the types of shot you would like. There are a number of photographs that form the basis of most wedding albums:

  • The Bride getting ready at her home
  • The Groom and best man before the ceremony
  • The arrival of the guests
  • The Bride and her father leaving home
  • The Bride’s arrival at the ceremony venue
  • The Processional
  • Bride and Groom at the altar (or desk)
  • Signing the Register
  • The Ceremony kiss
  • The Recessional
  • Confetti throwing
  • The Bride and Groom getting into their car
  • Arrival at the Reception
  • Receiving Line
  • Cutting the Wedding Cake
  • The First Dance
  • Throwing the Bouquet

There will also be various groups or people you want to make sure you capture on film, such as:

  • The Bride and Groom (obviously!)
  • The Bride with her Mother
  • The Bride with her Father
  • The Bride with both Parents
  • The Bride with her Attendants
  • The Groom with his Mother
  • The Groom with his Father
  • The Groom with both Parents
  • The Groom with his Attendants
  • The Wedding Party
  • Bride and/or Groom with their friends

Top Ten Wedding Photographs

1. The Wedding Party
This shot includes the bride, groom, chief bridesmaid, best man, ushers, bridesmaids and any other attendants. It is usually taken at or outside the ceremony. Parents are not usually included in this photograph.

2. The Family
This traditional picture includes the bride and groom with their parents, and may or may not include brothers and sisters. The bride and groom stand together, with the parents on either side.

3. The Bride and her Parents
This photo is usually taken before the ceremony, with the bride positioned between her parents. If the bride’s parents are divorced, she may decide to pose with her parents separately, or with their new spouses.

4. Cutting the Cake
This photo is usually captured in a series of shots that include the cake cutting and the bride and groom feeding each other the first bite.

5. Down the Aisle
This photo is taken during the ceremony, and shows the bride and her father as they walk down the aisle.

6. The Groom and Parents
The groom is positioned between his parents. If the groom’s parents are divorced, he may decide to pose with his parents separately, or with their new spouses.

7. The First Kiss
This picture is taken during the ceremony, and captures the moment the celebrant proclaims, “You may now kiss the bride.”

8. The Bride and Groom’s Hands
This shot is typically taken just before the cake is cut. The bride’s left hand is usually placed over the groom’s left hand, and positioned so the rings are in perfect view.

9. The Newlyweds Leave the Ceremony
This candid picture is traditionally taken as the bride and groom exit the ceremony location. It is usually an action shot.

10. The First Dance
This candid or posed photo is taken during the reception as the couple first dance together.

Top Ten Photography Styles

1. Portrait
Here the photographer arranges key players, such as the bride, groom, their parents and the bridal party into formal poses. Although the popularity of reportage is growing, you should still have a few formal portraits.

2. Colour
Vibrant and evocative, colour photographs are also less expensive than black-and-whites. Even if you love the look of black-and-white photos, make sure you get some colour pictures as well.

3. Reportage
Your photographer catches these candid moments as he finds them, and often they turn out to be the most descriptive and emotional photos of the day.

4. Black-And-White
Adding instant sophistication to any shot, black-and-white photos remain popular with brides everywhere.

5. Action
It could be your first dance or you and your partner being showered with confetti. Ask for a few pictures filled with movement and energy to add a bit of excitement to your wedding album.

6. Detail
It’s always nice to have a record of those little details that made your wedding, so ask your photographer to get a shot of your flowers, your rings and all those covered buttons on your wedding dress.

7. Fish Eye
Taken with a wide-angle lens, these pictures are great for sweeping shots of your ceremony and reception locations.

8. Infrared
These arty shots give the image an unearthly, dreamlike or silken quality. People are not distinctly recognizable, and details of garments and hairstyles are minimized. These prints resist being dated, and create an atmosphere of suspended time.

9. Hand Coloured
Your photographer can add subtle accents of colour to your black-and-white photographs, such as a shot of you as the bride with your bouquet of gerbera daisies providing a dramatic splash of pink.

10. Sepia
These photos, in a range of rich browns, give a look of old world stylishness to your wedding photos.

Wedding Reception Photographs

Along with the official photographs, another great way to capture the mood of the day is with candid photographs taken by guests or members of the wedding party.

Disposable Cameras

Put a disposable camera on each of the tables at your reception, along with instructions to your guests on how to use it. This is particularly important if your reception is inside and a camera flash is needed. The last thing you want is 200 completely dark photographs!

Buy a good quality brand of camera, and maybe test one out before you buy the rest of them. There is really no point in you paying out for cameras and developing just to get poor quality grainy photos.

Many of the disposable camera makers provide cameras specifically designed for weddings, and so you should be able to find one to coordinate with your colour scheme.

Designate someone (possibly the best man or chief bridesmaid) to collect all the used cameras at the end of the night. Many film-processing firms will put your photos on CD for you, which means that you can e-mail your favourite shots to your guests.

There are now many websites that will allow you to create your own online photo album, all you need to do is create an account and then upload your photos. You can then let all your guests know your album address so they can take a look at their handiwork.

Instant Shots

Ask your bridesmaids or other trusted friends to roam the reception or evening party armed with a Polaroid camera to capture a picture of each guest or couple. This camera can be used with instant sticky film, giving you a picture (3.6 x 2.4 cm) with an adhesive back. Once the photo is developed it can be stuck into a guest book, and your guests can write any comments or messages they have for you next to their photo.

You’ll end up with a book that really captures the mood of the day, and you’ll find out just what your guests were getting up to whilst you were enjoying the reception!