Where do you stand to take pictures at a wedding?

Are you where you’re allowed to stand while shooting a wedding? Sometimes the wedding location can be different from a general space, and you need to know a few facts about where you should be standing. In this photography guide, we will tell where the photographer should stand during the wedding ceremony.

Throughout the wedding day, there are various, important moments to capture for your couple. The ceremony is one of the most memorable times for your couple and their loved ones, and it can provide you with some of the best picture-taking opportunities. It is a great opportunity for you to showcase the genuine emotion from everyone involved, which adds to the overall story of their day.

It’s funny how one really important part of the wedding is often the last thing we think of when shooting weddings. Couples usually buy big prints of portrait shots, and even in albums, the ceremony isn’t the main focus.

The good thing about this is that it takes the pressure off of you, the photographer, and it also allows you to experiment a little more than you would during other parts of the wedding.

Of course, there are certain shots that need to be taken, but let’s face it, a ceremony can be kind of boring from a photography standpoint. It’s two people standing in the same place for a long time.

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Why We Are Here?

Although wedding days can run long, a typical ceremony lasts only 20-30 minutes, which limits the time you have to creatively capture all of the important moments and people as the ceremony unfolds. Of course, ceremonies can last longer depending on the culture of those getting married and the activities or rituals they choose to practice, but we’ll discuss that in more detail below.

Suppose you photograph weddings as part of a team of 2-3 photographers, which is often the case. In that case, you’ll also need to know how to coordinate with your team members to capture the best angles for stronger storytelling effectively.

In this article, we offer eight tips to help you (and your team) efficiently photograph a wedding ceremony from the processional to the recessional, and everything in between.


How To Master The Ceremony

Attend Rehearsals

Most weddings have rehearsals before the final day—the couple practices the rituals to perform best in their ceremony. A photographer should be a part of the rehearsals and understand the ceremony.

You’ll find the bride and groom moving around with the other important people. It will also help in developing an understanding between you and your client. If the rehearsal is at the same venue where the wedding will be held, then you should mark the positions for the best photos.

Ask Where to and Where Not to

Sometimes the couple has seen poses from other weddings and wants to implement them into their wedding ceremony. These poses will need you to stand in specific positions.

However, you need to make sure that you won’t create any disruption in the ceremony. Attending rehearsals will also help in sorting out these positions with the couple. It will make you confident to shoot on the big day.

Visit the Venue

The wedding ceremony has a venue that you need to visit on your own if possible, separately from the rehearsal, before the final day. This visit will help you to mark down your positions.

You should move around and make a list of places where you need to stand and where you need to add a tripod. As a photographer, the angles and the poses can be measured on an empty venue for the perfect photos in the wedding ceremony.

Have you ever used a tilt-shift lens? Explore this amazing gadget for shooting your next wedding.

Get Approval From the Officiant

Weddings can be different on the basis of rituals followed by the couple. Most of the ceremonies that are planned in the churches or gardens need you to collaborate with the priest, pastor, or another officiant.

Approval From Pastor

Though the officiant should understand that photography is an essential part of the wedding, you should discuss and get approval on when you can hit the flash and when you can’t. Similarly, your positions should not distract the officiant in performing the wedding rituals.

Your discussion with the officiant will also create a sense of understanding that will let him avoid minor errors. 

Communicate with the Guests

It is recommended to talk to the wedding attendees. Give favours to take favours. When you communicate with the guests, it will help you develop a positive environment for the shoot.

The guests will easily take your directions, so you can move around in your positions for the shots you need. This networking may also help you to get more work for the future.

Speak with the Officiant Before the Ceremony for Timeline Cues

As officiants tend to run the show once the processional is underway, we recommend talking with them before the ceremony begins in order to get a solid understanding of what to expect. General wedding timelines rarely outline the ceremony in detail, so ask the officiant how the ceremony will unfold.

Ask the officiant for a specific phrase, he or she will say before announcing the first kiss. Knowing this cue ahead of time should allow your team to move into position in time to capture the moment. We also recommend respectfully asking officiants to step out from behind the couple after announcing the kiss so that only the bride and groom remain in the frame (see before and after images above).

Communicate With The Cinema Team to avoid cross shooting

As we mentioned in our previous article on how to photograph a bride and groom’s first look when working alongside a cinema team you will need to communicate your plans with them in order to avoid crossing angles and getting into each other’s shots. Communication is especially crucial for the bride’s entrance and the recessional, in which the bride and groom are on the move.

Follow Through From Beginning To End During The Processional

When photographing the processional, we recommend following each subject (parents, groom, bridal party, etc.) from the moment they enter the aisle to the moment they take their final position for the ceremony. Otherwise, if you start capturing images of the groom as he makes his entrance and then quickly transition to the next member of the bridal party before the groom has taken his place at the altar, you may miss an important moment, such as the groom hugging his mom at the end of the aisle (see the image below). Your clients will appreciate seeing these candid moments when you deliver the final images, and they go a long way to help you exceed your client’s expectations. 

Divide And Conquer The Aisle Shot For The Bride’s Entrance

As the bride prepares to walk the aisle, the second shooter (S) should take a position at the back of the aisle in order to shoot over the bride’s shoulder and capture the groom’s (G) reaction. In contrast, the lead shooter (L) remains by the groom to capture the bride’s processional & his reaction up close.

Wedding days revolve around the bride, so her grand entrance to the ceremony site ranks highly on the list of important moments. Traditionally, couples would wait until this moment to see each other for the first time on their wedding day. While the trend has shifted and more couples are choosing to do a first look before the ceremony, this momentous occasion still draws incredible reactions from both the bride and groom, as well as the guests.

When photographing this moment, team & lens synergy is important. If the lead is shooting down the aisle to capture the bride on a wide-angle lens, for example, then the second shooter should use a lens with a tighter focal length, such as a 70-200mm lens, to capture the groom’s reaction (see the images below). We discuss shooter movement and positioning in more detail in Photographing the Ceremony.

Top row: Lead and second shooter angles for the bride’s father “giving away” his daughter during the processional. Bottom row: Lead and second shooter angles for the bride hugging her father during the processional.

Lead and second shooters should continue capturing images of the couple as the bride’s father as he gives his blessing and leaves his daughter with the groom at the altar.

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Coordinate Positions To tell a stronger story.

This image shows all the possible angles and shots that can be taken in a single wedding moment. As you can see, it is important to position your team in the optimal location to capture these moments as they unfold.

Wedding photography teams vary in size, but they generally range from an individual photographer to three shooters depending on the guest count. The more shooters you have on your team, the more coordinated the movement must be to ensure that the angles are covered for each of the important moments and that the bride and groom’s (as well as the guests’) experience isn’t hampered by intrusive coverage.

During the ceremony, all shooters should rotate through three basic positions: Center aisle, outside the left side of the seating area, and the right side of the seating area (see the image above). In most cases, the lead will likely start at the back of the centre aisle and capture wide or artistic angles of the ceremony. When the lead leaves the centre aisle to find creative angles, the second shooter should move into cover the centre aisle. The third should note the other shooters’ positions and move accordingly to avoid occupying the same space. Ideally, these movements would work like a well-choreographed dance; however, it may take time to perfect this coordination.

Be Aware Of Cultural Nuances

Each culture practices a wide variety of symbolic traditions and rituals that are derived from their respective history and religion. We recommend studying cultural nuances and wedding traditions associated with the bride and groom’s culture before photographing their wedding. When you understand the significance of the rituals and objects used, you can identify when key moments will occur and know exactly how to capture them.

You can find more information on how to photograph various cultural weddings with our Cultural Wedding Photography Guides. 

Stack shooters For The First Kiss And Recessional

If you talked to the officiant before the ceremony, you should know the cue for when he or she is going to announce the bride and groom’s first kiss. During the first kiss, lead and second shooters generally stand next to each other (also known as “stacking”) in the centre aisle and capture the kiss at different focal lengths, one using a 24-70mm lens and the other a 70-200mm lens.

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 back as the bride and groom exit.

You expected key moments like the recessional offer a great opportunity to experiment with creative angles or tools, such as a tilt-shift lens (see images on the right above). However, if you are the lead shooter, we recommend that the second shooter take the lead on a 24-70/70-200mm to capture the action to ensure that you don’t miss any important moments.

Direct The Couple To Do A Second Kiss During The Recessional

When the bride and groom get to the end of the aisle, it is common to 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.

Must-Have Ceremony Angles

Depending on the location of the ceremony, certain challenges can arise. Whether it is outdoors or indoors, there are issues that can arise from lighting, to weather, and more. When this happens, it can be necessary to move around and find the best angles to take the best photos. Plus, it diversifies the images you deliver after the wedding day.

Shoot From The Front

The bride and groom spent time on how they wanted their ceremony to look and feel. Before it starts, capture a shot of the ceremony front the front. This will help you include the entire ceremony and will showcase all the details the bride and groom included. When the ceremony begins, stand at an angle that will include the bride and groom as they stand together, with their bridal party on their sides. This will require you to stand to face the front of the ceremony site, where you can capture these images for your couple.

Move Behind The Ceremony

Many ceremony locations have less than ideal lighting, which can be an issue for the images you want to take. This is especially true for outdoor ceremonies, where the light creates unflattering shadows on your couple’s faces (or the harsh light causes them to squint).

When lighting is not ideal, switch angles to and move behind the ceremony. Suppose you have the ability to, stand behind the altar, where the sun may be less intrusive. This angle can include the couple, and may even feature who is marrying them.

Stand Above The Ceremony

If the ceremony location allows, shoot form a higher platform. This can be especially helpful when you are in a church or location that has a balcony where you can stand and take photos. The higher angle gives you the chance to showcase the stunning design of the location, especially indoors. When you shoot outdoors, look for an elevated area (somewhere that is not in the way of the ceremony). You can document the ceremony site, everyone involved, and provide your couple with a unique perspective.

Shoot From The Side

During the ceremony, there are certain angles where you must stand to the side to shoot. It showcases different parts of the ceremony location, as well as the guests. It can also be helpful when there is difficult lighting when your couple and the bridal party walk down the aisle. Another way to shoot from a side angle is to stand on one side of the ceremony and capture the groom with his groomsmen behind him, and then switch sides to capture the bride with her bridesmaids behind her.

Don’t forget to send your ceremony images (and more) to a wedding photography editing company to ensure they are consistent when you deliver them to your clients!

Capture A Lower Angle

One way to shoot unique images from the ceremony is to capture a lower angle. You can shoot from the end of the aisle while the couple stands at the altar. This provides a unique look at the ceremony and captures details from that angle. This image helps diversify the images for your couple and gives you variety for your portfolio.

Also, when you shoot from a lower angle outdoors, you eliminate any harsh shadows that fall on your couples as they stand at the altar.

Stand At The Aisle End

As the bridal party and bride walk down the aisle, take the opportunity to capture this moment from various angles. While your second shooter captures them exiting the limo or building, you can be at the front of the aisle as they walk toward you. When the ceremony concludes, switch angles and move to the opposite end as the bride, groom, and bridal party exit to the reception.

Check out our post on What are the different styles of wedding photography?

Document The Couple’s Perspective

When they are at the altar, the bride and groom are focused on one another. They are also facing each other, which means you should switch angles to capture their expressions. Start with the groom and shoot over his shoulder to capture the bride. Then, shoot over the bride’s shoulders for the groom’s facial expressions. Not only do you mix up the angles and photos you take, but you also get to showcase the bride and groom how they were feeling at that time.

When you switch angles as you shoot the ceremony, you have the opportunity to deliver images that cover every important moment for your couple.

The amount of time allotted for the wedding ceremony does not reflect its significance in the overall wedding day. Depending on the culture, ceremonies can involve a multitude of traditions and seemingly be finished as quickly as they started.

Like always, your best bet is to communicate with the bride and groom before the wedding day and discuss which ceremony traditions they plan to observe and follow up with the officiant before the ceremony begins to confirm the ceremony timeline. The more prepared you are, the better your chances of capturing creative imagery, regardless of time constraints or other limitations.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Wedding Pictures

Photographs can only be taken at certain times. This can often exclude key moments, like the bride coming down the aisle, the vows, or even the exchanging of the wedding rings. Photographers are not allowed to move from their position once the ceremony has started.

How to Take Wedding Photos – Best Wedding Photography Tips
  1. Take your time to recce the venue.
  2. Check your gear twice before heading to the event.
  3. Always prefer to have an assistant photographer.
  4. Know the couple well.
  5. Never miss out on the small details.
  6. Have backups ready.
  7. Take lessons on lighting.

The average wedding photographer (with a 2nd shooter) takes around 3500-6000 photos during an 8-10 hour wedding day. That is a lot of images to go through! One of the reasons that you are hiring a professional photographer is to be the curator of awesome photos.

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