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A Wedding Photography Checklist Will Help You Capture The Essential Wedding Poses

A well organised wedding photography checklist is one of the most important parts of a wedding photographer's tool-kit.

You can be sure that every shot needed on the big day is accounted for by ticking them off as you shot.

It's always good practise to go through this wedding photography checklist or 'pose list' with the bride and groom before the wedding day so they can tell you what type of wedding photographs they require.

Good wedding photography coverage starts long before the guests arrive or the wedding ceremony starts.

Wedding Photography Checklist Part One - The Ceremony

It’s a long day that starts early-when the bride is getting her hair and make-up done and getting dressed for the ceremony with the help of her mother and bridesmaids (either at the ceremony location or her home).

The wedding photography checklist includes coverage of the groom and groomsmen getting ready and pacing in anticipation of the big moment, guests arriving at the ceremony location and being ushered in to be seated, flowers being pinned to lapels, and the teary-eyed father of the bride getting ready to escort his daughter down the aisle. All this before the bridal march even begins to play.

Of course, there are the absolute must-have shots of the ceremony itself, for example, capturing each and every bridesmaid or flower girl walking down the aisle, joining arms with the groomsman she is paired with, and proceeding to the front of the church.

There is the shot of the groom nervously waiting in the front as his bride steps forward and he catches his first glimpse of her all dressed in white.

And then there are all the beautiful shots of the bride and her father walking down the aisle, the giving of the bride to the groom, and the presentation of the couple and their entourage to the minister.

Wedding Photography Checklist - During The Ceremony

During the ceremony, it’s important to get wide-angle shots of the entire gathering (preferably from a higher point such as a balcony, if possible) and close-ups of the bride and groom’s faces as they gaze lovingly in each other’s eyes.

You don’t want to miss shots of the soloist singing, the lighting of the unity candle, the exchange of vows, the exchange of rings, and the wedding announcement and first kiss, and in between there are usually additional key shots to capture. Especially if the wedding is a formal ceremony that also embraces the couple’s faith.

Wedding Photography Checklist - Other Traditions

Roman Catholic and Jewish ceremonies, for example, incorporate other traditional elements that are must-have shots during the wedding, so it’s important for the photographer to know what will happen and when so he or she can get the best vantage point for those critical photos.

Finally, it’s vital to capture the recessional as the newly married couple and the bridal party exit the church.

Many couples will also want pictures of their receiving line as their guests exit, greet, and congratulate them after the ceremony.

Following the ceremony, the photographer’s job is just beginning phase two.

Wedding Photography Checklist Part Two - After The Ceremony

Formal, posed portraits of the bride and groom alone and with every conceivable grouping of siblings, parents, nieces, nephews, grandparents, godparents, minister, bridesmaids, groomsmen, miniature couples, flower girls, ushers, and friends are generally staged at the front of the church.

If you're not shooting your wedding photographs at a church take them at the location where the ceremony was held and expect to be shooting for up to an hour, depending on the number of guests and wedding participants.

At this time, you may also want to "re-enact" some of the key ceremony moments to get closer portraits or capture details you may have missed the first time around.

Finally, if the bride and groom have the energy, they may want romantic portraits taken in another location, either just the two of them or with their bridal party.

Depending on the kind of wedding and the location, there may be bar-hopping between the ceremony and reception and the couple usually wants candid shots of their entourage entering and exiting cars, driving away, getting into or out of a limousine, and toasting to the couple’s happy life together.

Wedding Photography Checklist - Cutting The Cake

At the actual reception, there will be another host of candid shots to capture, including shots of all of the wedding and decorating details, from the table settings to the gift table and the cake and then the photographer will need to corral the bride and groom to get formal cake-cutting portraits of the couple.

Typically the photographer will shoot photos of the dinner, the best man and others toasting the couple, kissing shots, and other candids. During the reception, it is important to capture images of the guests—especially key people like the bride’s and groom’s parents and close family members—and lots of candids of the bride and groom interacting with family and friends.

Wedding Photography Checklist Part Three - The Reception Party

Phase three of the wedding is the dance. Many wedding dances include a grand march where the wedding party promenades around the dance floor leading the bride and groom, and they may form an arch for the bride and groom to walk through prior to encircling them (sometimes joining hands) as the bride and groom share their first dance.

Often, the bridal party will begin dancing for the second song and the bridal party will then switch partners throughout the dance.

There may also be a bride’s dance with her father and the groom may dance with his mother, and there could be other significant and poignant moments a good photographer will want to capture.

There may be "taking off the garter" shots, throwing the garter and throwing the bouquet, and other photo opportunities directly following.

For some couples who will leave that day or evening for their honeymoon, shots of them departing for their trip are a must-have.

Many weddings vary according to family traditions and ethnic or geographic customs, but a good wedding photographer will talk with the bride and groom well before the wedding and produce a wedding photography checklist of "must get" shots and a solid expectation of what to prepare for every step of the way throughout the entire day.

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David Coote
Wedding Photographer
Northern Ireland