Advice, Tips & Checklists For Shooting Your First Wedding



When I first started with photography I actually always joked that wedding photography was something I never wanted to do - that it wasn't 'my thing'. To be honest it was because I had no experience shooting weddings and thought they were incredibly scary. It took me years to shoot my first wedding because I wanted to make sure that I was comfortable in shooting and posing before shooting something so important. You only have one shot to get the right images during a wedding and it was important for me to really feel like I was ready for it. If you're thinking about shooting a wedding and really feel you are ready for it then this blog post is for you! Now just to be clear - I mean ready. This doesn't mean you won't be nervous before shooting a wedding. It's normal to be nervous before weddings. I usually sleep terribly the night before because I go over all the wedding details, shots I need to get, things I need to remember. I go over everything multiple times. Not because i'm not good at shooting weddings, but because I take them very very serious. I want this day to be perfect. Being nervous is normal. 

If wedding photography is something you want to get into I HIGHLY recommend second shooting with another photographer first to get your feet wet without all the stress that comes with wedding photography.Contact local photographers you look up to and see if they need anyone to assist or second shoot for an upcoming wedding. I myself have let photographers second shoot with me during weddings and felt it was a great way for them to learn more about weddings and learn how a typical wedding day looks like for a photographer. Don't be scared to reach out to photographers! Some might say no, others might say yes :) 

Signs you're ready to shoot your first wedding: 

Be truthful on these - I'm not listing these to tell you not to shoot weddings. If any of these don't apply to you yet, it just means you aren't ready yet. Work on whatever it is that didn't apply to you and then ask yourself again in a couple months. You'll get there!   

  • You are a LEGAL business
  • You shoot on manual without a problem
  • You know your camera like the back of your hand
  • You can quickly change settings to get the results you need
  • You have no problem in shooting in low light, harsh light and making quick decisions on settings based on lighting
  • You have a backup camera (if you need to rent one thats fine!)
  • You have enough lenses to shoot different elements of a wedding
  • You know how to use a flash
  • You feel comfortable in directing poses
  • You have a wedding contract to protect yourself and your client
  • You can give direction to guests (very important during formals!) 
  • You have a wedding day questionnaire 
  • You have a wedding day timeline sheet  

I'll add more when I think of more :)  

Before taking on a new wedding I also have them fill out a wedding consult form. Which gives me all the information on if this is a wedding that I would like to shoot based on the needs of the clients, style, location, time etc. I send this to people who contact me about possibly shooting their wedding. Once I have this information filled out I can talk to them more about their wedding. 




Before you even book a wedding there are a few things you should do to insure that everything runs smoothly. Being a wedding photographer doesn't just mean showing up the day of the wedding and taking pictures. Making sure to plan accordingly and getting all the important information regarding the wedding is what will help you be organized at the wedding and I can't stress how important this is. 

Send your client a wedding day questionnaire. This questionnaire goes over important wedding day details. It will go over location, start and end times, style, if there are any special gifts that need to be photographed, how many people will be at the wedding. Everything is covered in the wedding day questionnaire. It's a few pages long and is there to make sure that you understand everything that comes to this brides wedding day. 



You'll also need a wedding day timeline. Aside from knowing all the little details having a strong wedding timeline is KEY to insuring you know what happens when, and exactly how much time you have to get things accomplished. Trust me - making sure a wedding stays on track based on the timeline is so important and a lot of it comes down to us photographers. With this wedding day timeline you'll know exactly when you need to be doing what. I will also add that most of the time the timeline ends up changing a little bit through out the wedding. It happens and that's ok. Go into every wedding knowing the timeline and it will help you tremendously! There is nothing worse than shooting a wedding and not having enough time to get something important done like photographing the bride and groom. Not having a timeline will add a crazy amount of stress on you. Avoid getting stressed out and rushed around and create a timeline with each of your brides! 


The last piece of important paper you need for shooting a wedding is a shot list. This comes in handy for shooting a wedding in general. (I always make sure to ask if there is anything specific they have their heart set on, or if there are any must have shots I should get during their wedding.) I also have a list of formal shots my brides get to pick from. This way once it's time to shoot family formals I know exactly who I need and have a strategic way of taking the shots to take as little time as possible when shooting. There are a million little things you'll need to remember when shooting weddings. Trust me - don't shoot a wedding without a specific shot list for formals. Know which images you need to get. 


  • Two days before the wedding day I make sure to do the following: 
  • Print out wedding day questionnaire
  • Print out wedding day timeline
  • Print out wedding day Shot List
  • Pick up any rentals
  • Clean camera bodies
  • Clean Lenses 
  • Charge all batteries
  • Clear all memory cards cards 
  • Reformat all memory cards
  • E-mail the bride to tell her how excited I am for her special day
  • Pack my entire camera bag once everything is completed


I know there are lots of wedding photographers out there and many of them don't have the exact same gear and preference in what to use during a wedding. Just so you can get an idea on what exactly is in my bag when shooting a wedding I'll add a list below!  

Camera Bodies:

Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR Camera

Backup Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR Camera


Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens - Low light situations + Details

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens - Portraits + Macro Detail Shots

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L - During Ceremony + Formals 

Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM Lens - Creative Shots 

Lensbaby Composer Pro with Edge 80 Optic - Creative Shots


Canon Speedlite 430EX II


LP-E6 Battery x 4 (two for each camera!)

AA Batteries x 10 (I always have extras in my bag for my flash)

50+ 8GB Memory Cards 


Preparation, knowledge and skill is key. Enjoy shooting your first wedding! 

January 28, 2016 — Elena Ringeisen

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