I’ve been photographing weddings for over 10 years and recently, I thought to myself, “What are some useful tips for someone shooting their very first wedding?” In this video, I’ll be sharing 10 critical tips for first time wedding photographers that will actually matter.

Video: 10 Critical Tips for First Time Wedding Photographers

  1. Charge Something
  2. Set the Right Expectations
  3. Know Your Client’s Values
  4. Prioritize Your Client’s Values
  5. Shoot RAW
  6. C.Y.A
  7. Take Control and Be the Director
  8. Wide, Medium, Tight
  9. Create a List for Family Portraits
  10. Hire an Experienced Second Shooter

Tip #1: Charge Something

Since you’re new, you might be able to charge a premium, but charge something. It doesn’t matter if it’s $500 or $1000. The truth is that people don’t appreciate things that they don’t pay for. If you don’t place any value on your time, your clients will likely take advantage of you.

Tip #2: Set the Right Expectations

Your work may be worth higher than you’re charging, but be honest with your client that you’re new to this. It’s hard to justify prices without prior experience and your clients are taking a risk by hiring a new photographer. Set the proper expectations and then blow them out of the water with incredible results. By providing more value than your clients are paying for, they’re likely to rave about your services. This is your ticket to higher paying clients as you gain experience. However, remember to always keep your rates below the value of the service you’re providing.

Tip #3: Know Your Client’s Values

Since you’re new to this, you’re likely at it alone or with only a second shooter. A wedding can get pretty hectic and as one or two people, you have to make sure that what you’re capturing is what your client actually values. We have an exercise for discovering exactly this in our Wedding Photography Training System at SLR Lounge Premium.

To keep it short here, sit down with your clients. Stop asking about their wedding plans. Save them for later. Instead, ask them open ended questions to get them to tell stories and reveal what’s truly important to them. An example would be, “What are you looking forward to most on your wedding day?” Listen closely and remember their answer when the time comes to photograph their wedding.

Related Reading: The Role of Psychology in a Photography Business

Tip #4: Prioritize Your Client’s Values

I know you want to get creative and show off some mind-blowing shots on your portfolio. However, if those shots are not what your client values, hold them off until after you’ve covered the must-have shots.

Here’s another scenario. There’s a crazy guest on the dance floor. It’s amazing and interesting so you focus in on that moment. However, when you deliver the photos, your client asks if you had a chance to photograph their grandmother, who was next to the dance floor at that time. You check your catalog and sure enough, no portraits of grandma. This is why it’s important to remember that despite what other interesting opportunities arise during a wedding, always focus on what your client values.

Tip #5: Shoot RAW

Shooting RAW allows for much more flexibility in post-production. Weddings are often so fast-paced that it’s not uncommon to dial in the wrong settings. Shooting RAW will give you a good chance of being able to recover details that would’ve otherwise been lost had you been shooting JPEG’s.

Along with this, use a camera that has dual-memory card slots and make sure your images are being saved into both memory cards. A wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event (in most cases) and having an in-camera backup as you shoot will save a ton of heartache down the road.

Bonus Tip: When we leave a wedding, we send the primary cards with the lead shooter and secondary cards with the second shooter. This way, two copies of the entire wedding exist at all times just in case of an accident or stolen gear situation. We also don’t clear those cards until we verify that all of the images are on the server and the cloud.

Tip #6: C.Y.A. (Cover Your Assets)

If you don’t know whether you should capture something or not, shoot it anyway. These could be some random wedding details or the food. Even if you don’t know if your client will want those images, capture them anyway. It won’t cost you anything to capture extra images. However, it will cost you a lot if you don’t capture enough.

Tip #7: Take Control and Be The Director

A lot of photographers are uncertain and timid, especially early in their career. They have a hard time directing a group of people to pose or going up to ask if a stranger would like to be photographed.

As creatives, many of us are introverted. However, a camera in our hand is a passport into the moment. You are being paid to ask to take photos and you have the permission to direct and pose (kindly, of course).

So long as you’re holding the camera, embrace the role and don’t let it go until you’ve put down your camera for the night.

Tip #8: Wide, Medium, Tight

Early on in your career, it’ll be difficult to be creative on the spot and focus on the story while under pressure. Don’t worry, everyone struggles with this you’ll gain the comfort and ability to think creatively in a pinch over time.

For now, remember Wide, Medium, Tight. In order to properly tell a story through wall art, albums, or blog spreads, we need a variety of images. A wide shot establishes the overall scene of the story. A medium shot shows who’s involved in the story. Then, the tight shots focus in the key memories and moments.

This framework appears in TV and films everywhere, so keep an eye out to see how it’s used in your favorite show or movie!

Tip #9: Create a List for Family Portraits

Even if the photographs are incredible and epic, the most common area for client complaints is family portraits. This boils down to one of two:

  1. You didn’t get a certain portrait.
  2. You didn’t get a certain combination.

Maybe you photographed the entire bride’s side of the family, but maybe they wanted separate shots of just the girls and guys. We discourage detailed shot lists because it often takes away from your ability to capture what’s happening in front of you, but at least have a shot list for family portraits. The shot list should show who and in what combination. Let the family know that each combination will take 2-3 minutes each and make sure you have enough room in the wedding timeline to capture those portraits.

Tip #10: Hire a Second Shooter With Experience

If you want to fast-track your career, I highly recommend this tip. Yes, you may be only getting $500-$1500 for the wedding and an experienced second shooter will cost around $500. For some of you, this could be your entire revenue for the job, so why do this?

Treat your early weddings as live educational events. Live workshops can can cost you more than $2000, but an experienced second shooter at around $500 will not only instantly level up the quality of your work, they bring just that: Experience. You’ll have access to someone who knows what they’re doing and that you can ask for advice on the spot. You’ll also have all of their images in your catalog which you can study after the shoot.

If you don’t need the money urgently, hiring a second shooter will amplify your career five to tenfold. In a year’s time, you’ll be far ahead from having learned on the job from more experienced photographers.


I hope you enjoyed these tips for first time wedding photographers! If you’d like to learn all there is to know about how to photograph every aspect of a wedding, check out our Wedding Photography Training System on SLR Lounge Premium. This is the same training system that our photographers at Lin & Jirsa use and is created from over 10 years of experience in this field. You’ll also find a ton of other photography related courses such as the Flash Photography and  Photography Business Training Systems, so be sure to check them out.

Don’t miss our next episode of Mastering Your Craft on Adorama’s YouTube channel next week! If you want to catch up on all the episodes, make sure you check out our playlist!