What to expect from your photographer on the wedding day

This is part 2 in a three-part series on what to expect from your wedding photographer.

Part 1 is What to expect from your photographer before the wedding day.

Here's a rundown of what to expect from your wedding photography on your actual wedding day. This outline is probably similar for most photographers although not exactly universal. As a photojournalist photographer who also likes classic portraits, I approach your day with certain things in mind - one is to stay out of the way most of the time and to let events unfold spontaneously, the other is to get involved at certain points to create beautiful and relaxed portraits. Some photographers are much more hands on all day in order to create more posed photography. Others are more hands off and rely totally on spontaneous events.

The more you know and understand my process, the more you can contribute to getting the most amazing wedding pictures ever. Yes, you have a tremendous impact on how your own photos turn out.

The stages of the day outlined here are somewhat general as far as weddings go and depend on many things. You may or may not be having a traditional style wedding with a sit-down dinner reception. Also, it may not be possible to cover everything depending on your timeline, travel distances between each spot and how many hours you've booked. Also, if everything runs behind, I may not be able to get as much variety in photos, but I will work fast and hard to get something

Getting Ready

Usually I will show up in the morning to either the bride or groom's getting ready location. I start by gathering up your details and photographing them. For brides, this is their dress, shoes, veil, jewelry, fragrance, rings, invitation and flowers. For grooms, this can be their suit, tie, shoes, cuff links, bow tie and boutonniere. You can ignore me while I'm doing this.

I will also shoot candids of the bride and bridesmaids getting makeup and hair done and the groom and groomsmen hanging out.

When the bride is ready to get dressed, I will have her pull her dress up but not zip up the back. Then we move to the best possible light and bring in your mom or maid of honor and bridesmaids to help you finish. This is a semi-staged series of shots. I will put you in place and then leave you alone to interact naturally and put on your jewelry, veil and so forth. 

When you are completely dressed, I then take time to photograph you in your dress in the most beautiful light ever. Then we will photograph you and your mom and you and your bridesmaids, preferably outside but possibly inside and outside if we have time.

The same will happen with the groom. When he is ready to put on his tie and cuff links, I will move him into the best possible light and bring in Dad or best man to help. Then I shoot some portraits of the groom looking his best. Then the groom with his Dad and with his groomsmen, preferably outside. 

If I shot the bride first, I then go to the groom's getting ready location. If I shot the groom first, I head to the bride's location.

First Look

A 'first look' is when the bride and groom see each other before the ceremony. It's the first time you see each other all dressed up on your wedding day. A first look is a great option if your ceremony is late in the day or will end after dark. It allows for photographs of the bride and groom together using natural light. 

If you have a first look, I like to photograph you again after the ceremony if time allows. My reason is that you will look different after the ceremony. It's true. You will be more relaxed and you will just be different.

The Ceremony

You can ignore me during the ceremony.

One small detail - I photograph everybody going up the aisle. I don't photograph everybody going back down the aisle after the ceremony. Instead I will follow you. Some of the best moments are when you and your groom and your friends are out of public sight right after the ceremony. 

The Family Formals

Family group shots are best taken right after the ceremony. Otherwise people tend to vanish.

I prefer taking them outdoors if weather allows. 

I shoot family photos in the following order, with the largest family going first.

  1. The entire family - aunties, cousins, red-headed stepchild - you name it
  2. Siblings, parents and grandparents
  3. Parents

Repeat with the other mate's family.

If there are additional combinations you would like, please let me know. 

It can help to have a family wrangler to yell out and get people to come for their photos. Every family has one loud person who is good at that sort of thing.

The Wedding Party Photos

I take a traditional wedding party photo and a more relaxed wedding party photo. The traditional photo has the men all on one side and the women all on other. The modern one will be more magazine style with individual poses for each person. 

If you want individual portraits of each member of the bridal party, let me know. I find that people end up preferring the group shots, so I no longer take a bunch of individual shots since it eats up time unless it is requested.

The Bride and Groom Portraits

Usually brides and grooms prefer outdoor natural light photography for their portraits (and so do I). I will start with a few traditional shots with you looking directly at the camera. Then the rest of the images will be more relaxed and modern. I will encourage you to interact with each other rather than look at me. 

You will walk around, maybe dance a little. I like to encourage movement and natural expressions of happiness and love. At times I will intervene a little more to pose you in a way that is most flattering.

Depending on the time of day for your reception, I will try to drag you outside during your reception for a few minutes to capture an epic sunset. This is the best light of the day, which photographers call "Golden Hour".

The Reception

You can ignore me throughout the reception. If we are on time, everything will flow from here. 

If time allows, I will get into your reception room before the guests, and I will photograph the tables and details in the room before they get messed up with purses and stuff being put on the tables. 

I prefer to shoot candids of your guests rather than "table shots" where each table poses as a group. If you want table shots please let me know. 

I don't try to photograph every guest, especially at a larger reception. If i stop to take a lot of posed shots of everybody doing the same smile at the camera, I missed the candids, which is not usually what people want since they tend to hire me for the candids. If there are specific "grab and grin" shots you or your guests would like during the reception, feel free to wave me over. I will take whatever you want.

If we arrive early enough, I will shoot candids of your guests during cocktail hour. 

Entrance and First Dances

I will shoot your entrance if I know it's coming. I haven't missed one yet. 

For the first dances, you can pretty much ignore me. My only tip is not to talk through the whole dance. Otherwise the photos will be of you talking. 

The fancier your dance moves, the harder you are to photograph. But I probably need to work out more anyway. 

Cake Cutting

Just do your thing.

General Dancing

I will shoot the dancing until I poop out or run out of time. 


This will depend on your timeline and how many hours you booked, but I do like a good exit, even if it's just all your friends piling on you for a group hug. Spontaneous exits are sometimes the best.