Tips to Prepare for Your First Wedding Photography Gig

When your photography skills reach a certain level, a family member or friend is going to ask you to shoot their wedding. They might even offer to pay you, which could be your first real gig. Score, right? You’ve made it. 😉

Photo by Johnny García
Photo by Johnny García

Of course, later when you realize the challenge ahead of you, the pride fades to anxiety, and, googling furiously, you end up at an article like this, looking for answers. If this sounds like you, then here’s some good news: You are normal :).

Even seasoned photographers get nervous before a wedding.

This isn’t a typical photography session. With money on the line and once-in-a-lifetime moments to capture, shooting a wedding is a lot of pressure. But with thorough preparation, your nerves will go away, at least a little. More importantly, you’ll be set up for a successful shoot, so you can relax and do what you do best…which is to take beautiful photographs.

Know What You’re Getting Into

Hasselbride by Manuel Orero
Hasselbride by Manuel Orero

Shooting a wedding is a big job, even for experienced pros. There’s often a tight schedule, emotions run high, and you have to deal with crowds of stressed (sometimes drunken) people. If you’re better suited to capturing the last glint of sunlight on a mountaintop or waiting for hours to photograph a bald eagle, then maybe wedding photography isn’t for you. That’s okay. It’s just better to know this now instead of realizing it on the “big day.”

Here are the pros and cons of shooting a wedding:


  • You’ll have a chance to take beautiful photographs.
  • Your photos will be treasured for a lifetime by the bride and groom.
  • You’ll improve your photography skills.
  • You could make some money.
  • It can be a lot of fun.


  • You are shooting once-in-a-lifetime memories, and it’s stressful knowing people are counting on you to deliver beautiful images.
  • You’ll have to be bold and interrupt people. You’ll also have to direct groups of people, many of whom are just looking to have a good time.
  • You’ll be busy and won’t get much of a chance to enjoy the party (or the open bar :)).
  • Considering you’re an amateur, your friends or family might expect you to work for free or very little pay.

Does it sound like wedding photography fits your personality and shooting style?

Should You Turn It Down?

Bridesmaid by Manuel Orero
Bridesmaid by Manuel Orero

You want to be a good match for your prospective “clients.” As a pro photographer, you would only want to work with clients who fit well with your skills and personality, and you might as well practice screening clients now.

  • Are you willing to forgo some fun and embrace a little stress?
  • Do your potential clients love your photography? Or are they the “thrifty uncle,” who just wants to save money?
  • Sure, you love your family and friends, but would you want them to be your boss? (Basically, are they demanding, controlling or cheap?)
  • Do you have wedding photography equipment?
  • Are they paying a respectable wage? You’re signing up for a lot of work, not only with prep and shooting, but also editing later. (Prices range from about $500 to $2,000, based on your experience, equipment and negotiating skills.)

If you answered yes to the above questions, then great. This could be the right wedding gig for you. If you answered no, make a judgment call as to whether to accept or reject this gig. Remember, if you’re serious about photography, this won’t be your last chance to shoot a wedding. You’re just getting started. 🙂

Talk About Expectations

It can not be by Chaim ("chenai") Naimark
It can not be by Chaim (“chenai”) Naimark

Before the wedding, sit down with the bride, groom and relevant family members to figure out what they want and to set their expectations. Be honest about what you can realistically deliver and gather information about the preferences of your clients. As you do so, be sure to set a tone of calm professionalism and open communication.

  • Bring samples of your work: Do they want you to imitate certain shots in your portfolio?
  • Make a shot list: Know the 10 wedding shots everyone wants, and bring wedding magazines and websites to browse together. Note the photos they like and don’t like.
  • Make a list of important people: Who do the bride and groom want (or need) a photograph with? You don’t want to forget to photograph grandma with the happy couple.
  • Setup a pre-shoot: Can you shoot the bride and groom alone, before or after the wedding? This will free up precious time on wedding day.

Don’t hide the fact that this is your first wedding, but be confident, too. Even though weddings are challenging, if they’re asking you, they trust you (maybe even more than you trust yourself :).

Prepare for the Shoot

wedding preparations by Mariusz Opiela and Dominik Opiela
Wedding preparations by Mariusz Opiela and Dominik Opiela

In the weeks before the shoot, you’ll have to prepare a number of things:

  1. Triple-check your equipment: Be sure to test the equipment in your camera bag. Know your equipment inside and out, and have back ups ready.
  2. Recruit a partner: It’s ideal to work with another photographer, so you can tag-team the event. If you can’t find a partner, ask the bride and groom to appoint a reliable family member as your assistant, maybe an aunt who knows the family members and isn’t shy about organizing groups.
  3. Scout locations: Visit the ceremony and reception sites. Figure out the backgrounds and best lighting options while looking for traditional and creative perspectives.
  4. Finalize the shot list: Before the wedding, make a complete list of the shots you want and verify it with the bride and groom.
  5. Study wedding magazines and websites: Look at inspiring wedding photos regularly.

Capture the Details Early

wedding rings by Viktor Korostynski
wedding rings by Viktor Korostynski

On wedding day, shoot the details first. Arrive as early as you can and take advantage of your extra time to shoot the wedding invitations, decorations, cake, church, dress, rings and the other shots you can do alone.

Shoot the Big Day

HA 001 by Olivier Meyrignac
HA 001 by Olivier Meyrignac

Before the ceremony, here are a few final preparations:

  • Turn off any noises and beeps on your camera.
  • Use Continuous Shooting Mode.
  • Is it okay to use flash during the ceremony?
  • Know the significant family members and where they’re sitting.

Then, go get the gorgeous shots that the bride and groom will never forget.  Oh, and if you can relax and have fun, then you’ll set other people at ease, which will hopefully lead to better photographs. For more tips, here’s how to shoot perfect wedding photos.

Do you have any questions about wedding photography that I missed? If so, please take a minute and ask in the comments below. We would love to hear from you and will try to answer your question personally.

By Benjamin Jenks

Benjamin Jenks offers creative strategies to help you live, work, and travel, like an adventurer at


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