The first kiss just happened and you nailed it, capturing a beautiful photo of the moment.  But don’t put your camera down because it’s time for the recessional. The recessional is the moment when the bride and groom walk back down the aisle after the conclusion of the wedding ceremony.  It can unfold quickly, so it’s important to carefully plan out coverage and be prepared.  The results can be some of the best, most authentic photos from the entire wedding day because of the joy and excitement of the moment.  In this article, we’ll review tips and inspiration for wedding recessional photography.

Note: This information is an excerpt from our Wedding Photography Training System in SLR Lounge Premium.  Be sure to check that out if you’re interested in leveling up your wedding photography.

The Basics of Gear & Settings

wedding recessional petal toss
Photo by Lin and Jirsa | Edited with VF Lightroom Presets

Here are the lenses, settings, and positions/shots to consider when capturing the recessional:

Lenses for the moment

  • Lead Photographer: We recommend using a medium zoom like a 24-70mm lens or a wide angle lens such as a 16-35mm lens.  These focal ranges give you the flexibility to capture the moving action.
  • Second Photographer: We recommend that the second shooter use a 70-200mm lens to get a different perspective.  However, if the aisle is tight and already crammed with the lead photographer and a videographer, the second photographer may not have a clear angle.  If that is the case, stay at the end of the aisle and keep it clear so that the lead photographer can walk back safely.
  • Third Photographer: If you have a third photographer, he or she should try to find an angle over the standing guests.  Look for something to stand on like a chair, a planter, or a step that is far enough from the aisle to not be in the photos of the lead and second photographers.

For more information on lens choice, see our article on Wedding Photography Lenses.

Common settings for the Wedding Recessional

Next, let’s review the basic camera settings for the wedding recessional.  These should not be drastically different from the settings you were using throughout the wedding ceremony.  Let’s review each.

Shutter Speed: Keep your shutter speed at 1/500th or above in daylight if possible.  In low light stay above 1/160th to avoid motion blur or camera shake.

catholic recessional
In low light, keep your shutter speed at 1/160th and above to avoid blur

Aperture and ISO:  If your camera and lens setup delivers accurate focus and you have a low aperture lens, use an aperture that delivers a shallow depth of field such as f/2.8 or lower.  Use the lowest possible ISO to maintain your desired Shutter Speed in order to maintain maximum image quality.

Exposure: As with all of your shots from the day, be sure to maximize the histogram with minimal clipping of the shadows and minimal blowing out of the highlights.  In addition, always have your highlight alert on to easily identify areas of the photo that are clipped or blown out.

Focus Modes: Use whichever focus mode you feel most comfortable with.  Consider AI Servo since the subject is moving towards you.  If your camera has face tracking, then turn that on.

Recessional Movement and Positioning

Focusing again on movement, it is important to position each shooter before the recessional begins. The point is to not miss a moment, from the first kiss to the bride and groom’s exit from the ceremony site.

During First Kiss – During the first kiss, lead and second shooters generally stack up (stand next to each other) and capture the kiss at different focal lengths, one using a 24-70mm lens and the other a 70-200mm lens.

After First Kiss – After the kiss, lead shooters should walk to the front of the aisle and track the bride and groom as they walk toward the back of the aisle. It’s important to be careful while doing this so as to avoid walking backward into a person or an object while tracking the couple. Use the second shooter if possible, or warn people ahead of time that you plan to walk backward as the bride and groom exit.

wedding recessional
Walk with the couple as they recess down the aisle

At the End of the Aisle –  When the bride and groom get to the end of the aisle, ask them to go for another kiss, this time allowing the photographers to showcase the guests cheering in the background. First and second shooters should remain on different lenses and capture the moment at different focal lengths, one wider, one tighter.

recessional kiss ritz carlton dana point wedding ceremony photography
Cue a kiss, dip or other action movement at the end of the aisle

Wedding Party and Family Recessional – After the lead or second shooter follows the bride and groom out of the site, third shooters can stay behind and capture family members and other VIPs/guests as they start to exit. They should focus their energy on capturing images of guests who are important to the bride and groom so that the pictures take on more meaning. For smaller weddings, it is likely that most of the guests are VIPs and should, therefore, be photographed.

Wedding Recessional Inspiration

Here are a few more images for your inspiration from our directory of the best wedding photographers.

Photo by Lin and Jirsa (Website | Wedding Maps Profile)
wedding recessional fbalzan photography
Photo by FBalzan Photography  (Website | Wedding Maps Profile)
cameron martinez wedding recessional
Photo by Cameron Martinez (Website | Wedding Maps Profile)
wedding recessional tee and rebecca
Photo by Tee and Rebecca (Website | Wedding Maps Profile)