30+ Wedding Photography MUST-HAVE Shots

We are thick in the middle of wedding season, aren’t we?

That means we’re thick in the middle of wedding photography season. Now I’m someone who doesn’t shoot weddings as my #1 job, but as you know, I tend to put 100% of myself into every job I do. And of the four or so weddings I’ve photographed, each one has been a huge learning experience/inspiration. I don’t know if I’ll ever do them full-time, but the gift of doing them part of the time, and in a highly perfectionistic way, is that I really do know what I’m doing. It’s a lesson in self-confidence, and weather-confidence, and technology-confidence, but since it’s really mostly about that first part, since you can’t control the rest, that’s where I start. There’s a feeling I get either right away, or hopefully not too far into a gig.

And that’s when raw instinct takes over. It’s almost like I’m floating a little outside of myself. It’s what I’m born to do.

With all of the weddings I’ve photographed, I’ve either been given or have asked the bride and groom for a checklist of important shots. Trust me, I find my own big and small moments. That’s what I’m paid to do. That’s what they’re trusting me to do. I don’t know everyone, though. That’s why I rely on these checklists. I don’t always know about the sick uncle, whose dance with the bride might be his last dance of all. I don’t know individual stories – and what people are battling every day. And I can see so much in my photos, but I need those checklists to know what my client thinks is most important.

I get asked a lot of photography questions, and I always have fun compiling them into photography posts, thanks to a great suggestion by my friend AnnMarie. Some questions require whole posts. This is one of those times. People ask me what my MUST-HAVE shots are for photographing a wedding. Whether you’re reading this as a bride or groom, (or two brides/two grooms), or as a family member, friend, or loved one in a wedding, or as a photographer interested in weddings – I’d love to hear your own thoughts of must-haves! Here are the photos I don’t leave a wedding without having taken, OR ELSE!

I have compiled 30+ must-have #wedding #photography shots - whether you're getting married, or photographing a wedding. You can make your own checklist too!

1 – Dress. I like this one billowing out or sleek/stylish on a plain/natural background.

2 – Shoes. I never knew how important these were until brides started to make sure I noticed them.

3 – Bridal details. I’m talking beyond jewelry with painted nails, barrettes, complicated braids, and other closeups.

4 – Jewelry. Rings, of course, and special earrings, meaningful necklaces, bracelets, etc.

5 – All flowers. Decorations, bridal bouquet, bridesmaid bouquets, groom and groomsmen boutonnières.

6 – Invitations. Generally there’s a framed shot at the wedding, but if not, I take one before or after the wedding too.

7 – Groom accessories. Cufflinks, jewelry, and other special touches. (With Cassidy, it was his Converse shoes!)

8 – Welcome bags. These are usually found in the hotel and also sometimes at weddings.

9 – Notes. These can be cards, letters, vows, that brides and grooms sometimes write the day of their wedding.

10 – Bridal portrait. There will be many of these, of course, but they are timeless and unique.

11 – The bride and groom’s first look at each other! Of course, this includes bride/bride, groom/groom weddings. LOVE!

12 – Emotions. Honestly this is why I became a photographer in general, and why weddings are in my wheelhouse.

13 – Bridal party relaxed. These are FUN!

14 – Solos of all members of bridal party. These includes children and groomsmen, of course.

15 – The bride in action. That’s too much fun to resist!

16 – Decorations and favors. One of my recent brides is an artist so it was important to her that the wedding decorations were super special. And her favors were just as much fun! I must have photographed them for 30 minutes!

17 – Family shots. You may need an assistant to locate/round up/point out relatives.

18 – The bridal party at the ceremony. The groomsmen too, of course!

19 – Wedding party kids. This is a favorite of mine.

20 – The bride and groom in action. Another favorite! They’ll be busy busy all day.

21 – The walk down the aisle. And that includes EVERYONE walking!

22 – The groom’s face while the bride walks down the aisle. And during the ceremony in general.

23 – Furry friends. Sometimes pets make a big appearance at a wedding!

24 – Traditions. In our family, it was breaking the glass and standing under a Chuppah.

25 – Sweeping ceremony shots. Sweeping reception shots too, of course.

26 – Guests. This starts before the ceremony and continues until the after party, if you can. This is the meat of a wedding!

27 – The kiss. But of course!

28 – Stolen moments and candids. Sometimes, they really do forget you’re there. This is the BEST!

29 – The food. Including and starring, of course, the cake!

30 – Aerial shots. This can be done in different ways – drones, ladders, higher elevations. I have found (safe) ways.

31 – Musicians. Enough said there.

32 – All dance. Formal and planned, plus late night and crazy.

Happy Wedding Season!

In My Wheelhouse.

I first heard the term “In my wheelhouse” last year.

My good friend asked me to help him write a biography for a band he had created and was fronting, and I was waffling over whether it was something I could do or not. In my heart, I knew it, but it was like I knew it too well. He is one of my oldest friends and I believe in everything he has ever written and done. My heart knew it, because it was in my heart. If that makes sense. Then he said something that clinched it for me. He said, “I read your blog. This is totally within your wheelhouse.”

That day, that term stuck with me for good.

wedding photography (This photo will make sense in a minute..in theory.. if I don’t ramble too much)

It’s absolutely in my wheelhouse to use the term “in my wheelhouse.” I can’t get enough. Can you say “wheelhouse” so many times and write it twice as many, that it starts to look like nonsense to your tired eyes? That hasn’t happened to me yet.

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I can’t get enough of the term even now. A sponsored post about Carter’s clothes, when I haven’t been able to afford a back-to-school shopping spree ever, and now I get to do it and write about it? In my wheelhouse. Blogging in general? A place not locked into time nor space nor seeing you in person and having to get all jittery? In my wheelhouse. Submitting to an anthology about postpartum depression? Actually, not in my wheelhouse… but.. submitting to the HerStories Project’s upcoming anthology – “So Glad They Told Me”? In my wheelhouse. I found out last Sunday that I got accepted! I pretty much screamed and my heart went all pittery-pattery (happens sometimes) and there were happy tears and then suddenly I was in the Berkshires with my sister, and it was a happy, happy day. I had been dreaming about that book submission.

And then to celebrate it with this lovely lady.

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Not to mention it was the day after I worked for ten hours straight as a wedding photographer.

Is being a wedding photographer.. in my wheelhouse?

I never intended to be a wedding photographer, and I’m not one. I’m a photographer, who now does weddings. It started with one, but somehow it will be four. Will there be more? My background is abstract. It’s more fine arts. It started in darkrooms with long exposures and sepia-toned film. It started with confusion and darkness, and just the right amount of light for me.

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Then I had kids and learned the amazing and hilarious production of family and child photography. I added a few things along the line that seemed to work for me. Maternity? Yes. Newborns? Yes! Although I only do lifestyle newborn shoots, and not naked babies in baskets.. because.. poop and four hours and heat lamps and.. poop. What about real estate? Oddly, yes.

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Not everything works. Not everything is in my wheelhouse, at least not yet. Some things may be in there now but won’t stay forever. I don’t think I write fiction well. I don’t think I’m a good food photographer. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible, but it hasn’t been developed. It’s just not in my wheelhouse – maybe it won’t be ever. I was asked to do a wedding last year. I hesitated to say “yes” because of extreme nerves but it was a mellow barbecue type of wedding and they seemed to think that what they wanted from a photographer was something I could provide. Love and emotions and pretty things? Say yes.

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When I was asked to do two weddings this month, I said “yes” without much thought, but I was petrified. It was holding over my head. The thing is, I think it’s so very much in my wheelhouse. I think it’s so in my wheelhouse that it scares me. It’s like when I was in college and I had to give speeches in Japanese (no lie) in front of the class. It was oddly in my wheelhouse but I was so intent on proving it, that I’d freak out beforehand. I can thrive on being social and most of you see me that way, even in person. Even when I’m not hiding behind a computer screen. On the other hand, anxiety shuts me down. Like a full dead in the water, plug and unplug, reboot, blow on the cartridge, shake it out, dance it out, hug it out, see what happens.

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So of course, I fear that it might be just the wrong time on the wrong day or the wrong trigger. And will I not be able to do it? To do my job? I think it’s safe now. I thrive on the energy involved in being a part of a wedding. I thrive on knowing my part and doing it well, and realizing that nobody is asking me to cater a wedding, sing at a wedding, officiate a wedding, or even get married again. Those things don’t seem to be in my wheelhouse. And that’s ok. Knowing that there are some other things?

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That are already in my wheelhouse, or are least seem more possible to get there. And I can’t wait to see what comes next.