As the Wedding Season is upon British photographers I thought it might be useful to share a ‘shot list’ I used when my very busy studio in the heart of Warwick was in full swing. Indeed I used it well after that as a mental note and in training other wedding photographers over the years to be both reactive and responsive. It is based upon actually listening to Brides and fulfilling exactly what they want.
In recent years there has been a leaning towards the genre’s of “Wedding Reportage”, “Wedding PJ” and what I feel is the most appropriate description, “Documentary Wedding Photography”. I have heard well known ‘Rock Stars’ in the industry lie through their teeth describing their work as free from intervention but have seen great evidence that they have indeed choreographed images in various ways including, creating a predictable environment. Indeed I extol those virtues rather than seeing them as a negative. After all, surely our job has always been to make our clients dreams and visions become realities? I still feel that a wedding without some structure and choreographed flow is a visual disaster just waiting to happen.
So, here we go and I hope that this framework proves useful. It can be applied for any venue or circumstance…
At the Bride’s home before the Ceremony….In an observational and choreographed manner…
- Detail shots of shoes, corsage, bouquets, jewellery and the dress
- Hair styling
- Application of make up using mirrors and other reflective surfaces
- Bridesmaids getting ready. Introduce play
- The Bride getting ready, putting on the Wedding Dress
At the Bride’s home before the Ceremony….In more formal manner…
- The Bride alone
- Bride & Chief Bridesmaid
- Bride & other individual Bridesmaids, Flower Girls or Page Boys
- Bride & all of the Bridesmaids
- Bride, Bridesmaids and the Bride’s mum
- Bride, Bridesmaids and the Bride’s mum & dad (total wedding party)
- Bride with her mum
- Bride with her dad
- Bride with her mum & dad
- Bride with her mum & dad and any siblings
And now, it’s off to the Church or other venue to meet the lads….
- Groom alone
- Groom & Best Man
- Groom & individual Ushers
- Groom, Best Man & the Ushers
- Groom with his mum
- Groom with his dad
- Groom with his mum & dad
- Groom with his mum & dad and any siblings
And in a more informal manner….
- Guests arriving for the Ceremony
- Cameo shots with the Groom
- Cameo shots with other key participants
Now is the time that YOU ensure that the Groom & Best Man are settled in Church and the guests go in too….
The Bridesmaids arrive with the Bride’s mum (You’ve already done quite a few images at the home so keep this short!)
- Informal images as the Bridesmaids await the Bride’s arrival
- The Bridal car approaching
- Bride in the car through the window
- Bride in the back of the car
- Bride & dad in the back of the car
- Dad helps his daughter out of the car
- The Bridal party approach the door
- The Clergy or officiating minister greet the party
- The veil is put in place and the Bridesmaids help
- Bride & dad (tight shots)
- The Bride looks back before she goes through the door
The Wedding Ceremony….
Depending upon the Venue and officiating clergy or minister, you will be allowed to take some of the following images, WITHOUT FLASH and without disturbing the proceedings…
The Bride’s veil is lifted
- The Groom’s first sight of his beautiful Bride
- Faces during the first hymn
- The Bridal couple sharing an ‘Order of Service’ (concentrate on their expressions and glances)
- The vows
- The exchange of rings
- The massed congregation as an elevated shot or from the back of the venue
- The signing of the registers (observed)
- The signing of the registers re-created at the instigation of the officiating clergy, minister or registrar
- Walking down the Aisle
After the Ceremony….
- The first happy, smiling shot of the newly weds
- Reportage images of the couple with their guests
- Cameo shots of both the Bride & Groom in conversation with their guests
Use this time to explain to the Best Man and Ushers their ‘real’ purpose at the remainder of the Wedding. They are there to assist you in the organisation and the smooth running of the minimum of ‘formal’ images that hold EVERY wedding together….Groups need not be an unpleasant chore!
- Arrange a ‘confetti’ shot
- Pics with the Bridal car, champagne and the chauffeur
- Farewell wave from the couple through the car window
The ‘Formal’ groups….
- Bride & Groom, full length, half length and head & shoulders in rapid succession
- Bride & Groom with Best Man
- Bride & Groom with Best Man & the Ushers
- Bride & Groom with Best Man & chief Bridesmaid
- Bride & Groom with chief Bridesmaid
- Bride & Groom with chief Bridesmaids & the Bridesmaids
- Bride & Groom with Best Man, Ushers & Bridesmaids (This is the formal Bridal Party)
- Bride & Groom with Best Man, Ushers & Bridesmaids with both sets of parents (This is the extended Bridal Party)
- Bride & Groom with the Bride’s parents
- Bride & Groom with the Bride’s parents & siblings
- Bride & Groom with the Bride’s parents, siblings and Grandparents
- Bride & Groom with the Bride & Groom’s parents
- Bride & Groom with the Groom’s parents
- Bride & Groom with the Groom’s parents & siblings
- Bride & Groom with the Groom’s parents, siblings and Grandparents
And that’s it for the ‘Formals’! No more than 15 minutes stress, but probably the most important images of the day!
The ‘Documentary’ or ‘Reportage’ section….
The time remaining before the couple sit down for the Wedding Breakfast affords you an opportunity to capture some of the memorable and delightful spontaneous moments of the day. You must be continually observant and ready to respond in an instant. Look for important details that mark the quality of the guests, their clothing and accessories.
Expensive shoes, handbags, jewellery and watches are excellent opportunities for cameo images. Be outrageous and if the circumstances permit, encourage extravagant behaviour. Try to look for natural couples that may well be your future clients. Shoot well separated, half-length shots that could grace their homes or office desks.
Finally in this section, you may wish to create some more dynamic images of the wedding party, more specifically, the Bride & Groom. Don’t be afraid to do this in front of an ‘audience’, as your importance as a showman and entertainer should not be underestimated. This is your big chance to leave a lasting impression on those who may never have the opportunity of seeing the images you create on the day. Look for unusual locations. Nice cars, stunning architecture, pastoral and beach scenes, barns, pergolas and other features that may afford you top shade are all equally important.
The Reception and ‘End Game’…..
During the Wedding Breakfast you may have the opportunity to shoot some ‘table pics’ between the courses. Again, focus on natural groups and couples and then step back and observe behaviour from a distance. Watch the dynamics as people chat and flirt with each other, all valuable images in your coverage.
At some point in the proceedings the couple will be called upon to cut the Wedding cake. You may have already pre-staged the shot before the commencement of the meal when the area was free from clutter and distractions. This time, shoot it as it happens and be ready to swing around and gauge the guest’s reactions. Do not be afraid to animate the couple at this stage, as by now they will be used to and welcome your direction.
The speeches are your final chance to capture those all important reactions and emotions that make for a truly great wedding coverage. Be prepared to shoot in both directions to capture the speaker and the audience. You will need to be quick to react to the little jokes and quips that encourage great photographic opportunities. The images captured at this stage will enable the couple and their families to re-live the moment for years to come.
Meal finished, speeches over and it’s time for the ‘first dance’. The images captured at this moment will close your wedding album and MUST leave a lasting impression. It is undoubtedly a difficult situation to capture so again, do not be afraid to intervene to get your prime shots. Be mobile and consider using supplementary lighting with your assistant. Pre-visualise the finished image which no doubt will involve some level of intervention in Photoshop. Think about a kiss that is not a kiss, and explain this concept to the couple before they get onto the dance floor. In short, choreograph and design, physically and conceptually, every image you shoot and remember, you are only as good as the last wedding you create.