Wedding Photography Checklist
Free Downloadable PDF With Wedding Photography Checklist
We’ve compiled a downloadable wedding photography checklist for wedding photographers to consider and do before shooting a wedding to help make it easier, reduce the stress of forgetting something, and provide you with a list of shots that the couple may be looking for. It’s important to remember that each couple is different, and will have different expectations on what you capture.
The wedding day is one of the biggest days in a person’s life, and as their photographer, you have the responsibility of capturing each memory, which will be reviewed and talked about for years to come. That’s a whole lot of responsibility to take on, and it can be stressful but also one of the most fulfilling things about being a wedding photographer. The work you create on this day are the lasting memories when it’s over, and the tangible evidence that it happened.
Some couples may want you to get all the little details and decor because they painstakingly made each napkin by hand. Others may have created a wedding celebration that begets all traditional tropes or have incorporated specific religious or cultural elements. Make sure you are thoroughly prepared, understand the client’s expectations, and have all your ducks in a row before the big day. Use this wedding photography checklist as a starting point, but be sure to customize each wedding shoot to the couple you're working for. Wedding photography is not a one-size-fits-all industry.
Before the Wedding
There’s a lot of legwork you need to do before the big wedding day shoot. This includes an initial consultation, logistics review, and understanding the couple’s expectations and guaranteeing that you can meet them.
Meet the bride & groom
It’s important to meet with your couple beforehand to make sure that you have a clear understanding of their vision so that you can provide them with exactly what they are looking for, and get a feel for their personalities and style.
- Ask the couple to bring examples of wedding photography they like. Are they looking for stylized, traditional photographs or more of a photojournalistic vibe? What type of vision are they hoping to create with their wedding?
- How many photos are they expecting from the shoot? Will they be edited or unedited?
- Are there specific moments or details they want to capture? Are they following a specific tradition or culture?
- Who do they expect to be photographed? How many guests? This will help you determine if you need a second shooter or not. If they have specific groups that they’d like photographed, have them list it and you can add it to your shot list.
- What locations do they have in mind?
After meeting with the couple and getting the specifications on what they expect, it’s time to put together your final contract. You’ll want to do this well ahead of the wedding day, and be very clear about payment terms, deliverables, timelines, expected expenses, and cancellation conditions. Things to consider for your contract:
- Price and payment terms
- Expected expenses for travel and gear
- Deliverables, including the number of photos, the medium of delivery (digital, album, prints) and expected timeline for delivery.
- Copyright of final photos, which is important if you’re building a portfolio and want to include them
- Cancellation or rescheduling conditions and terms
- Any other detail that you and the couple have decided on
While many couples decide to forgo the engagement shoot, it’s a great opportunity for you to get a feel for them and their personalities ahead of the wedding day. It might be a good idea to make this as an extra add-on to any package you put together. It also gives you a chance to see how your personalities meld together and make a great dry-run for the big day.
Contact Person & Day-of Timeline
Leading up to the big day, you’ll want to confirm the times and locations of the ceremony and reception, as well as where the bride and groom are getting ready. Also, it’s important to have the couple select a contact person who you can call if anything happens. You don’t want to call the bride or groom on their wedding day to let them know that you got a flat tire on the way and you’re going to be late. This could be a designated family friend, bridesmaid or groomsmen, parent, or a wedding planner or coordinator if the couple has hired one. You should confirm the following:
- Time of ceremony and reception, and what the order of events are. You want to make sure you know where and when each moment is going to happen so that you can be prepared to capture it.
- Time and location of the getting ready photos for the bride and groom, if they want you to capture these moments
- First look and formal photos. If the couple has decided to do formal photos and a first look shoot, they should be scheduled ahead of the ceremony. You’ll need anywhere from 40 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the expected shot list.
- When will the family and bridal party shots happen, before the ceremony or after?
- What is the expected time of the couple’s departure from the reception?
It’s important to review your gear a couple of weeks ahead of the wedding to make sure that you have everything you need. If the couple has requested shots that you’re going to need special gear for, you should go ahead and get it. A good basic kit includes things like a zoom lens for low light, prime lenses, and a flash. A second camera body is always a good idea for capturing quick moments when you don’t have time to swap out a lens or as a backup in case your main body fails. Also, make sure you have enough battery and mobile chargers for 12 hours of shooting.
Second Shooter or Assistant
While not a requirement for every wedding you’re going to shoot, hiring a second shooter is sometimes the best idea because you physically can’t be in two places at once. Depending on the size of the wedding, the couple’s expectations around what they want to be captured, and their budget, you may need to enlist the help of another photographer. Share the wedding photography checklist with them, so that you’re not duplicating efforts and plan who is covering what so that the day moves smoothly.
Each venue has different rules, settings, and you want to make sure that you’re abiding by them. You’ll also want to scope out the best places to take photographs, considering the time of day and what the expected timeline is. Scouting out your locations before the wedding day will make you more efficient and ease the stress of trying to figure out the best setting and best lighting on the spot.
Day before Checklist
Preparation is key, and you’ll want to make sure that you’ve covered the following on the day before the big wedding:
- Double confirm with the couple on times and locations, as well as the contact person for the wedding day in case of an emergency
- Clean your cameras & lenses
- Sync time on all of your cameras as well as your second shooter cameras. We recommend using https://time.is
- Charge all your batteries and make sure you have plenty of memory cards that are already formatted
- Bring lots of batteries for your flashes
- Pack all your gear up in your bag, and make sure everything is together and ready to go. Don’t forget water, snacks, Advil, reading glasses and sunscreen!
- Plan your outfit. You’re going to want to wear something that is wedding appropriate (all black outfit is customary but certainly not mandatory), but also comfortable enough to stand, crouch, and kneel in, along with some super comfortable shoes. It’s going to be a long day!
Wedding Photography Shot List
The following is a basic outline of the top and most popular shots for wedding photography. Again, you’ll want to take into consideration your couple, their unique style and expectations when putting this list together. You’ll also want to make sure that you’ve incorporated all the shots that they have specifically requested. Use this list as a jumping-off point and go from there. Be sure to share this completed wedding photography checklist with your assistant, if you have one, and determine who will be responsible for which shots.
Getting ready shots for the bride
Some brides prefer that you arrive at their getting-ready location up to an hour before departure. These are the typical shots that are expected
- The wedding dress. hanging up by itself (remember that the Groom shouldn’t see the dress beforehand, so choose the location wisely!)
- The veil. Perhaps ask the Bride’s mom or grandmother to help position the veil.
- The bride’s wedding shoes with her engagement ring
- Bride getting ready with hair and makeup
- The bride being helped get into her dress
- The bride putting her shoes on
- The bride putting the garter on
- Bride putting jewelry on
- The bridal party getting ready, including hair and makeup.
- Other candid shots of the bride and bridal party. Clinking champagne glasses, laughing, and eating.
- Close-up of the bride holding her bouquet
- Shots of the bride alone
- The bride’s reveal to her father or escort
- The bride and her father
- The bride being helped into the car
- If the bride has special transportation, like a decorated vehicle or specially rented limo, be sure to photograph it separately.
- The bridesmaids opening up their gifts
- The bridesmaids and bride toasting
- The bride reading a letter from the groom
- The bride gifting to her mother and father
- Any special items or accessories that the bride is wearing
- The Save the Date and Invitation. (Most brides will have an extra lying around and will be more than happy for you to capture it)
Getting ready shots for the groom
If the bride and groom are getting ready at different locations, this would be a great opportunity to send your assistant or second shooter to capture his preparations while you work on the bride.
- The rings
- The groom putting on his suit
- The groom putting on his shoes
- The groom putting on his jewelry
- The groom putting his tie on. As his father or special relative to help him.
- The mother of the groom putting the boutonniere on the groom
- The buttons alone
- The groom hugging his mother
- The groom shaking his father's hand
- The groomsmen getting ready. Joking and laughing, candid photographs.
- The groomsmen opening up their gifts from the groom
- The groom's car alone. or if they've rented a special car or decorated it, definitely capture that
- The groom reading a letter from the bride
- The groom toasting with his groomsmen
- The groom gifting to his mother and father
- Any special items or accessories the groom is wearing
- Neckties, pocket squares, and socks
If the couple has decided to capture first look photographs ahead of the ceremony, these would happen approximately 40 minutes to 2 hours ahead of the ceremony start time. Be sure that you understand your couple's expectations, and remember to remind them of the time required to capture these moments so that they're not running too late to miss it. Some first look photos feature the groom standing alone and the bride coming up behind him. Other's are more creative, using balloons. There are also shots where the bride and groom don't see each other but stand on opposite sides of a door. Work with your couple to understand what they want this experience to be like.
- The groom standing alone
- The groom with hands in his pockets
- The groom with the bride in the distance behind him
- The bride directly behind the groom
- The bride putting her hand on the groom's shoulder
- The groom turning around.
- The first look of the groom seeing his bride
- The bride and groom on opposite sides of a door
- The bride and groom reading their letters to each other while on opposite sides of a wall or door
- The bride and groom greeting each other and checking out how they each look
- The bride and groom sharing a hug or kiss
- The bride and groom walking together
Be sure to arrive at the ceremony site ahead of any guests or bridal party members to capture the empty venue beforehand. This makes sure that you get all the details before the real event starts.
- Shots of the venue before anyone arrives
- The groom arriving at the ceremony location
- The groom greeting his groomsmen in the backroom awaiting guests
- Details that were added to the ceremony venue, like aisle runners or decorations
- The ceremony program
- The officiant and the groom
- The groom walking his mother down the aisle
- The bride getting out of the car
- The bride's mother being escorted down the aisle
- The groom standing at the alter
- The bridesmaids coming down the aisle
- The groomsmen coming down the aisle
- The bride being escorted down the aisle
- The look on the groom's face of seeing the bride for the first time
- The bride being "given away"
- A wide-angle shot of the crowd
- The guest reaction to the ceremony
- Any readers, speakers, or musicians
- The bride and groom listening to the officiant
- The signing of the register or license
- The exchange of rings
- The vows
- The lighting of the candle or sand ceremony or some other unification ritual the couple has decided upon
- The kiss!
- The bride and groom's exit
- The bridal party exit
- The kiss in the middle of the aisle
- The receiving line, if the couple decides that they're having one
- The couple getting into their vehicle to the reception
If the couple has a wedding coordinator, ask them to round up the people that the couple has requested for formal portraits, including all bridal party members, parents, grandparents, siblings, kids, cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces, the officiant, and whomever else they asked for. Note that you may be able to complete some of these formal portraits before the ceremony after the first look photographs. Be sure to determine the proper time to get these done when talking with your couple ahead of the big day.
- The couple together, inside and outside the venue. These should be a mix of posed formal shots and candid moments, both close-up and full-length.
- The bride alone
- The groom alone
- The bride with each bridesmaid
- The bride with the maid of honor
- The groom with each groomsman
- The groom with the best man
- The bride with all bridesmaids
- The groom with all groomsmen
- The couple with all bridesmaids
- The couple with all groomsmen
- The couple with the entire bridal party
- The couple with any flower girl or ring bearer
- The couple with their children (if applicable)
- The bride with her mother
- The bride with her father
- The bride with both parents
- The couple with the bride's parents
- The couple with the groom's parents
- The couple with both sets of parents
- The groom with both parents
- The groom with his mother
- The groom with his father
- The groom with each set of grandparents
- The bride with each set of grandparents
- The couple with both sets of grandparents
- The couple with the officiant
- The couple with the bride's family
- The couple with the groom's family
- The bride with her siblings
- The couple with the bride's siblings
- The couple with the groom's siblings
- The groom with his siblings
- Any other group photographs that have been requested with relatives, teammates, or classmates, colleagues
If you have a second shooter with you, they can take care of the detailed shots of the decor and reception venue, as well as the cocktail hour so that you can concentrate on the formal portraits. If not, you can always try to squeeze them in while folks are eating dinner and mingling between the bigger events like the cake cutting, dances, and speeches.
- Cocktail hour candids of guests
- Decorations and details
- Table settings
- Sweetheart table or head table setting
- The cake
- Any other special details or decor, especially if handmade
- The escort card table
- The card and gift table
- The memories table with any special family members who have passed
- Any photographs or displays
- The food
- The favors
- Table numbers
- The bridal party entrance
- The couple's entrance
- The DJ
- The couple's first dance
- The groom's dance with his mother
- The bride's dance with her father
- The best man speech
- The couple's reaction to the best man speech
- The maid of honor speech
- The couple's reaction to the maid of honor's speech
- The cake cutting
- The garter removal
- The bouquet toss
- The garter toss
- Everyone hitting the dance floor
- The couple with each table at the wedding
- The couple with friends and family
- The couple getting down on the dance floor
- Any special entertainment
- The dessert station
- The couple's final dance
- Wide-angle shot of Reception before anyone is there
- Wide-angle shot of the dance floor with everyone on it
- The couple saying goodbye to their parents
- The couple's last dance
- The couple leaving the venue, especially if they have something special planned like confetti or fireworks
After the Wedding
You would have already listed out the deliverables with the couple and the timeline when they should receive them in the formal contract for your services. However, many couples are dying to see the pictures from the best night of their lives. One way to do this is to quickly edit a handful of photos and post them for the couple to see as a "sneak peek" of what's to come. Not only will they be thrilled to get access to these pictures ahead of the full set, but it will also buy you some time to put the effort in with editing the full delivery while giving them something to sample on while you work.
After delivery to your clients of their official photographs, be sure to ask them to post a review on Google or Facebook page and to refer anyone they know that could use your services. Another good idea is to offer the couple a discount on additional photography shoots in the future, like an anniversary or pregnancy shoot. Not only will you get repeat business, but it's a great factor in keeping top of their minds for future photography needs.
Wedding photography is a stressful but very fulfilling enterprise for photographers. You alone have the responsibility to capture one of the best days in a person's life. Remember that it's a marathon, but the payoff is so worth the effort. Use this wedding photography checklist as a jumping-off point when planning your shots, but of course, this list isn't exhaustive. There are tons of creative shots that you can get that may fall outside this list. Work with your couple to understand their ideas and make sure that you work to bring their vision to life.
If you're good at your job and produce quality work that exceeds the couple's expectations, you can expect repeat clients and referrals to build your business in the future.
If the couple has decided that they want an afterparty, be sure to include this into the pricing of your services. This is usually an extra cost and not part of a typical package. However, the couple may have a bonfire and s' mores at the host hotel or venue where guests are staying, or they may have a special after-hours party into the early morning hours to continue to party with their guests.