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Tips & Tricks

5 Essentials for Every Wedding Photographer On the Wedding Day (Besides Equipment)

By Hanssie on September 22nd 2013

Lukesh-2281There are many articles out there on the type of cameras you should have to shoot a wedding, the myriad of lenses that should be in your bag and the lighting accessories that should be required for a wedding day. This is not one of them.

Beyond the equipment, there are some important “must haves” that sometimes get overlooked when packing your gear in preparation to shoot a wedding. Here are five essentials that every wedding photographer should have on the wedding day.

1. Good Communication Skills

Make sure that before a wedding day you’ve discussed with the bride and groom their expectations as well as yours. I send out a multi-page questionnaire with my contract that asks for the names of all the vendors, bridal party, and parents as well as special issues regarding families that I should know about. (I’d rather know that Mom and Step Mom don’t get along before the punches start flying when you try to get them in a “one big happy family” photo). In the questionnaire, I also ask the bride to circle adjectives about the feel of her wedding day and her style so that I can know her personality and her expectations a little better.

Introducing yourself to all the wedding vendors that day there also is a proactive way to help things run smoothly. Not only does it make life easier if you all work together, there’s always the possibility of future weddings together and referrals as well. It always makes the job more fun when you enjoy the people you work with and photography is no different.

  • The Coordinator:  The first person I usually introduce myself to the the wedding coordinator (or the person in charge of the venue if there isn’t a coordinator). They can help make the day run seamlessly and figure out how to sneak your couple away during the reception for those awesome sunset photos.
  • The Videographer: The videographer is also an important person to befriend as they will be right by your side almost the entire day and you will most likely get into each others’ shots at numerous points throughout the day.
  • The Officiant: Before the ceremony, I also pull the officiant aside and ask him if he has any restrictions or instructions for me (which in the light of this recent viral wedding video when the officiant interrupts the ceremony to tell off the photographers, is a really good idea). At this time, I request that when the officiant pronounces the couple as husband and wife and allows them to have their first kiss, he move to one side so I can get a great shot of my bride and groom. (The shot at the top of this article was thanks to the officiant who was delighted to comply with my request).
  • The DJ: The DJ is usually super cool about helping you work with the schedule for the remainder of the day especially giving you warnings about surprise speeches during your dinner break when you’re trying to shovel a plate of food in your mouth in 60 seconds or less.
  • Everyone Else: I also make sure I introduce myself to the banquet/catering manager, florist and make-up artist as they are a good source of referrals for future weddings.

One last thing about communication, make sure you have tact. At times you’ll need to be firm (and a little bossy to corral all the family members for the formal portraits) and other times, you’ll need to use tact (so you can politely ask the man that keeps jumping in front of you to get the shot, to move…or else).

2. Random Stuff

You would never forget your backup camera and lenses for a wedding day, but here are some things you might not think to pack:

    • Snacks: Every wedding season I lose about 5lbs. Besides chasing the bride everywhere, I usually don’t really get to eat lunch and I have a rapid fire dinner at about 9pm during the reception. I survive wedding season on protein bars, almonds and whatever food I can shovel into my mouth in about 5 minutes.
    • A Change of Clothes: As a photographer, I could sometimes double as a gymnast, contorting my body in strange yoga positions just to get the shot. Other times, there are wardrobe malfunctions and sometimes one could fall into a murky swamp-like body of water (That’s only happened once. Okay. Maybe twice).
    • A Wooden Hanger: How many times, while you are doing the detail shots, have you gone to hang up a wedding gown only to find that it is resting on an ugly plastic hanger? Throw a few wood hangers in your trunk and voila, a nice hanger every time.

Lately, brides have been providing their own customized hangers which adds a nice touch.

  • An Emergency Kit: When you’re surrounded all day by gaggles of bridesmaids and other ladies, you’ll find that Kleenex is usually needed, along with blotting paper, scissors, double sided tape, a little sewing kit and breath mints. Sometimes the coordinator has one, but if you’re prepared, you can be the hero.
  • Ear Plugs: Receptions can be a lot of fun, shooting people get crazy on the dance floor that are partying it up. Many times though I find myself in front of speakers (and sometimes on top of speakers) and it can get very, very loud. Doing that almost every weekend is detrimental to your hearing (and probably your sanity).

3. Ample Time

Whether there is a coordinator or not, I always send a wedding day photography schedule for the bride and groom about a month before the big day. On it, lists everyone that I am expecting for pictures (by name if possible – I ask for a list of important people for portraits in my questionnaire). I ask the bride and groom to send this list out to everyone on the schedule so that they know where they are supposed to be at what time. Then I practice being flexible.

If it’s a venue I’ve never been to before, I try to visit before the wedding day or a few hours before my scheduled start time to scout out epic places to shoot.


4. A Solid Contract

It seems like everyone is lawsuit happy and you must protect yourself and your business. Make sure your contract is solid and review it often to make revisions as necessary. I’d advise having a lawyer look over it just in case. Here is a template to help you get started.

5. An Assistant or Second Shooter

I always, always shoot with a second shooter. Just in case. One time my camera failed right as the bride and groom were walking into the reception hall and into their first dance. My backup gear was across the room. Unable to get to it in time, I looked at my second shooter and she saved the day. A second shooter is also handy to have to help get detail shots or candid moments that you might miss. It’s also fun to have someone to work with you throughout the day and provide an extra set of hands and eyes when needed.


What are some of your essentials for a wedding day?

(via Photography Talk)

(Images via Lin & Jira Photography/Hanssie Trainor Photography)





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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Patrice

    Very interesting !
    One thing I wish I brought with me on my last wedding was an anti-chaffe/body glide ! You know, you’re running all day and you can’t stop. So, to prevent irritation at the end of the day, when you need to be up and running, it could rapidly become essential!

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  2. maurizio

    one of the best post that i have read about wedding tips… everything it’s true :)

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  3. Joseph Powell

    And I would add that I don’t normally shoot with a second shooter, but I also NEVER take events over 75 people. If I did, I would have a second shooter. I carry two cameras and a back up on me at all times.

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  4. Joseph Powell

    I always ask the officiant if he would mind moving to the side so I can get a clear shot of the kiss. Usually he or she doesn’t mind at all and it makes a big difference. This is a great list and I do most all of them. I would add that I always ask the venue if it’s possible for me to get up on a ladder (if there isn’t an upper level looking down) to get a ‘toast’ shot during the reception. Sometimes it works, other times they nay-say it. But it’s always a fun shot that people are willing to do. Personally, I go out of my way to treat the clients as if each were my client. Perception is reality. The people attending the wedding are typically better connected than you are to the bride and groom. It has payed over and over to be humble and have manners with them. I would say nine times out of ten I get a portrait shoot or second wedding when I integrate myself with the crowd and get to know people a little bit.

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  5. Doede

    Thanks for sharing Hanssie! (sounds like an old Dutch name by the way :)

    What I’ve learned so far is that I have to come up with a plan, and talk this thru with the couple/ wedding coordinator. This is because most people have no clue what it takes to get good wedding photos. It will also help prevent many “Uncle Johns” step in front of you, simply because the couple will announce they hired a professional photographer.

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  6. Philipp

    I never thought about asking the officiant to move sideways to get a clear shot. It’s a great idea thought!
    I completely agree with having a second shooter (me) as often times you have to find somebody and it’s just so much faster with two people.
    Also when people leave the church the main photographer just follows the couple while I get everything together, also driving around is easier; if we’re running late, I can just drop off the main photographer and go find parking and avoid getting a ticket.

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  7. SB

    Can you share your questionnaire with us? Or at least give us general areas that the questions cover? How about a write-up on the questionnaire?

    Thanks! :)

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  8. veresadam

    weather-resistant membrane. i always bring a few square with me to cover my “technical base” and make it waterproof. never knows what kind of weather can ruin your day when you shooting outside.

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