Last Minute Wedding Photography Tips

In the eleventh hour, your best friend who’s getting married is in tears.

The professional she hired to photograph her wedding bailed. You happen to have a digital SLR and all of a sudden you’re it. Here’s my survival guide for you.

Photo captured by Olesia Kliots

Photo captured by Olesia Kliots (Click Image to Find Photographer)

1. Make a “Shot List”.

Think of this as your “storyboard.”

A guide to the different scenes you want to see if you were doing a movie.

This shot list will break down what you might concentrate on in the 3 phases of any wedding: preparations, ceremony and reception.

It’s your cheatsheet on the order of the events, various arrangements for the formal portraits, so go over this with the couple.

2. Shoot lots of candids.

Just because you have everyone bossing you around, telling you to take their picture, it doesn’t mean you have to pose all your subjects in every picture.

"Amanda and Taras" captured by Tatiana Garanina

“Amanda and Taras” captured by Tatiana Garanina (Click Image to Find Photographer)

3. Scout out the location.

If the ceremony, reception and preparations are all at one location, then you can thank your lucky stars. Count on starting your day with the bride wherever she plans to get dressed. She may do this at the church or at home, so count on knowing the route.

4. Borrow or rent a second camera body similar to the one you own.

Since you’ll be working quickly, having identical camera bodies will allow you change settings faster. Consider renting identical flash units if you don’t have one. Never shoot a wedding with just one camera. Always have a backup. If you have to rent more memory cards and batteries for the cameras, do so.It will be worth your piece of mind.

5. Do as many of the formal group portraits beforehand.

If the couple is open to this and don’t mind seeing each other before the ceremony, do as many of the formals portraits beforehand.

Photo captured by Ksenia Ashihmina

Photo captured by Ksenia Ashihmina (Click Image to Find Photographer)

6. Shoot closeups or details

Be on the lookout for tight shots of the diamond rings, bouquet of flowers, party favors, textures on the bride’s gown et cetera. These will make good backdrops for albums and backgrounds for DVD menus. These detail pictures will also give you variety in your coverage.

7. Enlist the help of Maid-of-honor.

Women like this role more often than men. (Must be their maternal instincts)

The Maid-of-honor is usually more than happy to help. If you don’t hit it off with her, try the Best Man.

8. Establish a rapport with the DJ & Wedding Coordinator.

Get to know the DJ & Wedding Coordinator. Being on the same page with both of them means you will be scrambling and out of position for the toast, the bouquet toss, the garter toss, the first dance and so on.

Photo captured by Tatiana Garanina

Photo captured by Tatiana Garanina (Click Image to Find Photographer)

9. Be considerate of the other guests.

Even though what you’re doing is important, don’t be obnoxious. If another guest is in your way, ask politely for them to move.

10. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself.

You can’t be expected to be everywhere especially if this is your 1st wedding. Generally speaking, once the ceremony and the formal portraits are done, you can catch a breather. The rest of the proceedings will not happen without the DJ & wedding coordinator consulting you if you followed tip #8.

Remember if you’re not having fun taking pictures, your images will reflect that.

About the Author
A Riverside-based freelance photographer, Peter Phun, who also teaches photography at Riverside City College. He does portraits, weddings and editorial work. He writes about photography, Macs and the internet. He also designs websites and is a stay-at-home dad.

For Further Training on Wedding Photography:

Check out Simple Wedding Photography, it covers everything you need to know to photograph a wedding and the business behind it. From diagrams of where you should stand throughout the ceremony to advice on all the final deliverables to the client. This 200 page ebook will be useful to wedding photographers of any experience level. It also carries a 60 day guarantee, so there is no risk in trying it.

It can be found here: Simple Wedding Photography eBook

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2 responses to “Last Minute Wedding Photography Tips”

  1. Some excellent observations and advice! Too few photographers bother to scout out the location prior to the wedding day, often to find some unpleasant surprises on the day.

  2. Excellent collection of wedding photography tips. Like a wedding photographer myself, I can closely related to the tips offered. Very useful when rushing out of the door to photograph a wedding week after week.

    There are so many last minute details to take care that sometimes these simple but yet important tips are forgotten. I have few on my own which I try to follow on each one of my weddings:

    – have the bridal portraits before or after the wedding. it helps tremendously to reduce the stress on the wedding day

    – check the battery and memory cards before leaving for the wedding. I can shoot with one camera if the primary breaks, but good luck with no spare battery and memory card

    – take plenty of details images. They tell the wedding day story and are good addition to the wedding albums

    Hope that helps others. Looking forward to hear from other fellow photographers.

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