All brides know that wedding photos are one of the most important parts of the wedding day, so coming up with a must-have wedding photo list should be high on your wedding planning priorities. These are the memories you’ll cherish forever and even look back on the very next day (“It goes by in a flash,” they all say). That’s why you want to make sure your photographer nails every photo-op, starting with the getting ready photos all the way through to your (sparkler) exit.
Step one to checking off this to-do list is to hire a wedding photographer you’re excited about—and put your trust in the professional. You are hiring just that—a professional—who should know what they’re doing, after all. They’ll have an idea of the must-have wedding shots, but even so, it’s nice to have some general knowledge of wedding photography yourself. As your 101 guides, we put together a wedding photo list of the must-have moments to capture—from the pretty detailed shot of your wedding day jewels to the table settings and invitation suite.
Of course, you don’t have to get all of these wedding photos in order to create the perfect album, but it’s nice to think about them. (Either way, they’ll put you in the detailed mindset at least as you buy those special bridal shoes and design your custom invitations). So before you get shopping and pinning away, scroll down to see some of our favourite images from real weddings on Brides.com. Once you make a mental checklist of your own, feel free to chat about these photo-op moments with your photographer—or better yet, send a link to this article! But once you do that, it’s time to leave it to your photographer. From there, all you can do is put your trust in them, have fun, and be present on your big day. After all, the prettiest brides are the happiest ones, right?!
Your wedding photographs are such an important part of your wedding day. Once all the fun has passed, they’re the thing (along with your memories) that you’ll be able to treasure forever.
After booking your wedding photographer, you might think there’s nothing else to be done on the front of the snap. But if you really want to get the most out of the photographer you’ve hired, it’s a good idea to provide them with a checklist of the pictures you definitely want to see in your wedding album.
You might have saved some snaps on Pinterest that you’d like to recreate, or there may be a group of friends you’d definitely like a posed picture with. Whatever it is, you don’t want your dream photographs to go forgotten!
You’ve put an incredible amount of time and energy into planning your wedding—naturally, you want the resulting photographs to reflect that. Ensuring that your big day is masterfully documented begins with choosing the photographer that’s right for you in terms of media type, general aesthetic, and experience. That last point is key: A veteran wedding photographer ultimately knows how to manipulate light, work for a crowd, and keep you comfortable in front of the camera. Ideally, you shouldn’t worry about the photos they’re taking or how they’re taking them—the bond between the couple and their photographer should always come down to trust.
We do, however, understand that you want to head into your big day prepared, with a clear picture (pun intended!) of which shots you can expect to see in your future wedding album. That’s where our comprehensive wedding photo shot list, full of must-have shots recommended by some of the industry’s most lauded photographers, comes in. Though this list can be useful in deciding which moments you do (and don’t!) want to be captured, we suggest using it as a general outline. Every couple’s wedding day unfolds differently, which means that a wedding photo shot list can’t and shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all.
Ahead, you’ll discover a set of images that photographers strongly suggest you take. As for the specific photos that you shouldn’t stress about capturing? Don’t fret over detail shots, like bar signage, cocktail tables, or favours, says Jen Huang: “They’re not necessarily important for the story of the day and the story of the couple. I am always up for taking beautiful detail shots, but I think couples should worry less about these.” As for shots to completely avoid? Virtually all of our photographers agree that reception table-to-table shots should be skipped. “It’s time consuming for the couple, disruptive to your guests and dinner service, and takes away from documenting genuine moments,” adds Heather Waraksa.
At the end of the day, though, you shouldn’t feel an ounce of stress over your wedding photo shot list, says Sylvie Gil. “If you hired an experienced photographer, you should not worry about any of the photos—it’s the photographer’s job to worry about it.”
Table of Contents
- 1 Getting ready
- 2 Personality pic
- 3 Ring Shot
- 4 Heirlooms
- 5 The Groom (s) Getting Ready
- 6 The Bride and Her Bridesmaids
- 7 First Look: The Couple
- 8 An Exterior Shot of the Venue
- 9 The Bride(s) or Grooms Entering the Ceremony Room and Walking Down the Aisle
- 10 Generational photo
- 11 Individual bridal party shots
- 12 The Beauty Moment
- 13 The Candid Moments
- 14 The (Confetti-Filled) Exit
- 15 The First Dance
- 16 First Look: On the Aisle
- 17 Ceremony Reaction Shots: The Couple
- 18 Kiss at the End of the Aisle
- 19 Portraits: The Couple
- 20 Portraits: Immediate Family
- 21 Have Fun
These photos are effortlessly casual and make for the most fun photo ops. Before all the glitz and glamour of the dresses and jewellery, get some fun snapshots of the day in cute matching pyjamas or robs to have some more casual fun photos to enjoy!
Your time in the bridal suite will be packed with poignant moments, which makes capturing them a must. If you’re set on snapping the makeup application process, however, you might want to wait until your look is nearly finished, says Elizabeth Davis. “I have found that the majority of my brides do not use or like these images because their bridal look is not complete,” she says. “I communicate with their makeup artist to let me know right before the put on the final touches—at that point, I start photographing the makeup process.” While getting dressed, take advantage of the suite’s prettiest features, which often make for picturesque photos. Moffit loves capturing “getting ready shots of the bride in gorgeous window light,” for example.
Sometimes wedding photos can seem very formal, make sure your personality shines through as well! Don’t miss an opportunity to be silly and to have photos taken that actually capture the rollercoaster of emotions a wedding day consists of. Seriously, look how happy these two look!
Pose your engagement ring and wedding bands prettily on your wedding day—they’re symbolic of your union, after all. Photographer Cassi Claire says she returns to this particular shot over and again, especially when flipping through her own wedding photos: “I don’t often wear my engagement ring while travelling, so this photo has been referenced many times.”
“Objects and details that are culturally and emotionally meaningful to the union” should be photographed, advises Jen Huang. You will, however, want to notify your photographer of these accents, especially if they’re small or easily overlooked, notes Jiu: “As photographers, we aim to get all the photos that are important to you. But sometimes, we may not notice the really small things without you pointing it out to us. So if you’re carrying your grandmother’s rosary or your Groom has a picture of his grandparents on his cufflinks, we want to see it all!”
The Groom (s) Getting Ready
It’s all well and good capturing snaps of the bridal party getting ready, but what about the Groom?
If your other half is getting ready in the same building as you and you have one photographer then arrange timings beforehand so that they don’t miss any vital getting ready shots of either of you.
The Bride and Her Bridesmaids
“While group photos are important, I suggest keeping the list to a minimum of those nearest and dearest,” advises Heather Waraksa. Your bridesmaids obviously make that shortlist—ahead of the ceremony, snap photos together to revel in anticipation of your nuptials surrounded by your sisters and best friends.
First Look: The Couple
So many photographers cite the first look like one of their favourite wedding moments to capture, and there’s a good reason why. “We love first looks because they are all about our couples!” explains the pros at Koman Photography. “Our couples get to hug one another, laugh, kiss, cry, jump up and down, and soak in the realization that they are getting married today!”
An Exterior Shot of the Venue
Does your wedding photographer have a drone to hand? If your venue allows it, get them to send a drone into the sky to get a photograph of your wedding venue pre-ceremony.
The Bride(s) or Grooms Entering the Ceremony Room and Walking Down the Aisle
What a gorgeous photograph this is!
For same sex couples, you may either choose for one of you to walk down the aisle with a parent/both parents/on your own first, followed by your partner. Heterosexual couples usually opt for the Groom to wait at the altar as the bride enters, but we encourage all couples to make their own rules!
If you are lucky enough to have parents and grandparents celebrate your special day with you, do not miss the opportunity for a generational photo. We love this up-close photo showing off three generations of happily married ladies!
Individual bridal party shots
Don’t forget to take individual shots with the members of your bridal party! These images will be so meaningful since oftentimes bridesmaids and groomsman don’t know each other. They love you so much and will definitely cherish a solo picture to remember your special day! We love the idea of printing these out and including them in thank you notes!
The Beauty Moment
Invite your photographer to the bridal suite to capture the beautiful moments, like actress Carlson Young did to get a shot of her pretty braid. Give them a timeline before the big day, and don’t forget to include your partner’s getting ready moments as well!
The Candid Moments
Wedding candids are our favourite moments. Be yourselves as your photographer snaps pics of the two of you. We especially love this photo of a bride reading her Groom a love note before walking down the aisle. Make sure your photographer knows you want them to capture those authentic moments.
The (Confetti-Filled) Exit
Whether you’re choosing confetti, sparklers, or any other type of creative exit, make sure it’s captured! If your reception goes late into the night, consider staging the moment, so your photographer gets the best shots before everyone leaves.
The First Dance
This is one of the big photo-op moments, but don’t worry about your dance moves while you’re at it. Your photographer will capture all the fun you’re having—like this Groom singing to his bride! (You did pick a favourite song, right?!)
First Look: On the Aisle
Speaking of having your first look on the aisle—Huang actually prefers this moment (and its resulting photos) to a pre-arranged first look ahead of the ceremony: “I find that couples are passing up the irreplaceable moment of coming down the aisle for something that was originally created as a back-up for tight wedding schedules. I think they can be really beautiful, but I would always recommend walking down the aisle as your true first look—there’s nothing like it!”
Ceremony Reaction Shots: The Couple
Emotional moments during the ceremony—everything from belly laughs to happy tears, both of which come out during the vows—are especially worth capturing, notes Gil. Huang says shooting poignant ceremony happenings is often both the most challenging and rewarding aspect of wedding photography: “The ceremony can be difficult because it is wildly out of the photographer’s control in terms of timing, location, and lighting, but I find these moments tend to be the most real and the most sacred,” she says. “It’s a balance of creating beautiful images without disturbing the sanctity of the ceremony that I love.”
Kiss at the End of the Aisle
After your first married kiss, pause for another as you walk back up the aisle. It’s “one of the happiest moments of the day,” says Yale—one worth immortalizing on film. Pro tip: “Walk slowly as you recess down the aisle so that your photographer can get some good photos,” adds Jiu.
Portraits: The Couple
“I value the time I have with my couples during portraits,” says Waraksa, who cites these types of shots as some of her favourites to take. “I love seeing their connection up close and personal, exploring different locations with them, as well as seeing their personalities come out in front of the lens.”
Portraits: Immediate Family
“This may sound very boring, but couples should never pass up photographs with their families,” says Huang. “I sometimes see family photos rushed because the couple wants to join in their cocktail hour, but these photographs are the ones that end up being passed down from generation to generation.” Claire agrees, adding that “the combined immediate family photo of both my parents and siblings plus my husband’s parents and siblings” is one of her most treasured wedding photos.
Weddings are about celebrating – they should be fun. The more fun you have as the photographer, the more relaxed those you are photographing will be. Perhaps the best way to loosen people up is to smile as the photographer (warning: I always come home from photographing weddings with sore jaws and cheeks because of my smiling strategy).