Photographing a Friend's Wedding: Part II

Continued from Photographing a Friend’s Wedding: Part I

The Photography Sessions

The photography at a wedding can be broken down into three separate sessions: posed photographs, ceremony photographs, and reception photographs. Each one naturally having its different required shots.

The posed photographs are very probably going to be the most time consuming and is often broken down into two sessions. The first session is pre-ceremony and should be allotted a minimum time of 2-3 hours, with the idea of finishing no less than 30 minutes before the ceremony. If possible, get the bride and groom involved together with the posed photographs before the ceremony which will eliminate the second posed photos session which is done after the ceremony and referred to as altar returns.

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Altar returns are done immediately after the ceremony and are posed photos which involve the bride and groom together, if, due to tradition, they did not want to see each other before the ceremony and did not pose in photos together before the ceremony. Since the altar returns are done between the ceremony and the reception, and people have a tendency to get annoyed waiting, they should only consist of photos which involve the bride and groom together, as all other photos should have been done before the ceremony. Try to get the altar returns done in 30 minutes, but absolutely no longer than an hour.

The posed photographs should consist of the shots in the following list:

  • A head and shoulders shot of the bride
  • A half length of the bride holding the bouquet
  • A full length of the bride holding the bouquet and showing the full length of the train (the long part of the bridal gown which trails behind).
  • A head and shoulders shot of the groom
  • A half length of the groom (usually seated or standing with his hands on a post or a chair back)
  • A full length of the groom (you can use the same chair or post if you want)
  • A head and shoulders couples pose of the bride and groom
  • A half length of the bride and groom
  • A full length of the bride and groom
  • (extra shots of the bride and groom are advised, especially the bride)
  • The bride with her parents, then his, then both
  • The bride with her mother
  • The bride with her father
  • The groom with his parents, then hers, then both
  • The groom with his mother
  • The groom with his father
  • The bride and groom with both sets of parents, then his parents, then her parents
  • The bride and groom with all family members
  • As an option, if the bride and or groom have siblings, you can take a shot of them individually with their sibling/siblings
  • The bride with her family, then his
  • The groom with his family, then hers
  • The bride with the matron of honor and the matron of honor separately
  • The bride with her bridesmaids (as an option, you can take individual shots of each bridesmaid, with and without the bride, depending on time)
  • The bride with the groomsmen (usually one formal and one humorous, like all the groomsmen singing or on their knees proposing to the bride)
  • The groom with the best man and the best man separately
  • The groom with the groomsmen (as an option, you can take individual shots of each groomsman with and without the groom, depending on time)
  • As an optional shot, the groom with the bridesmaids
  • The bride and groom with the flower girl and ringbearer (bride with each, groom with each, and bride and groom with both)
  • The flower girl and ringbearer (together and separately)
  • The wedding party (the bride, groom, bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girl, and ringbearer)
  • As an option you can also take a shot of the wedding party and family members together.
  • After the posed shots and just before the ceremony, if you have the time, you can get a shot of the person (usually a female) handing out the programs (if they are doing such)

The ceremony shots should consist of the following list:

Flash Shots
  • The groom waiting at the altar for the bride
  • The mothers of the bride and groom coming down the aisle
  • The flower girl and ringbearer coming down the aisle
  • The bridesmaids and groomsmen coming down the aisle
  • As an option, the mothers lighting the candles
  • The father of the bride bringing the bride down the aisle (the most important shot at this point in the ceremony)
Non-Flash Shots
  • A wide shot of the wedding party at the altar
  • A shot of the minister speaking to the bride and groom
  • The lighting of the unity candle
  • If communion is used, get a shot of the bride and groom partaking in the communion
  • If the bride has the wedding license signed at the altar, especially if the witness is a sibling or best friend of the bride, get a shot
  • In some churches, the bride and groom may kneel for a prayer during the ceremony, especially Catholic churches, you may want to get a shot of this, but without a motor wind as it could be considered rude
  • The exchanging of rings
  • The bride and groom’s first kiss (never miss this shot)
Flash Shots Again
  • The bride and groom walking down the aisle (if they do a meet and greet, you may have to wait)
  • Throwing of the rice/birdseed (a.k.a. the stoning of the bride and groom..heh..heh)
  • The groom putting the bride into the limo/lincoln/carriage/4-wheel drive pickup (I am not kidding)
  • If possible, a shot of the bride and groom inside the vehicle (in a limo, this is done from the passengers seat taking the shot toward the back of the limo)

The shots taken at the reception consist of the following list:

  • The bride and groom arriving at the reception
  • A shot of the wedding cake (if the groom has a groom’s cake, then get a shot of it as well)
  • If they go straight into dinner and you do not want to waste time, then go around and get shots of the guests at each of the tables
  • The toast (or toasts) to the bride and groom (which can take place at the cake cutting)
  • The first dance
  • The bride dancing with her father
  • The groom dancing with his mother
  • If the best man and matron of honor have a dance, get a shot of that
  • If they have a money dance, you may want to get at least one shot, but don’t waste film unless it is something humorous (a money dance is where guests will come up and give the bride or groom a dollar to dance with them until the next guest comes up with a dollar)
  • The bride and groom having a toast
  • The cutting of the cake
  • The groom feeding the bride
  • The bride feeding the groom (it is important that it happens in this order as the bride will be chided to put the cake in the groom’s face, and at most weddings I do, it is usually me doing the chiding)
  • The removing of the garter
  • The groom acting like he is tossing the garter
  • The catching of the garter
  • A shot of the groom with the guy (usually) who caught the garter
  • The bride acting like she is tossing the bouquet (which is usually a smaller bouquet as the actual bridal bouquet could injure someone)
  • The catching of the bouquet
  • (the reason why the tossing and catching are done separately is that you will rarely have the depth of field and/or room to get them both in focus and together in the same shot)
  • If they do it, a shot of the garter recipient putting the garter on the leg of the bouquet recipient
  • If the bride and groom want to do a special exit at the reception, get a shot of that as well

As a note, at any time during the reception, which is the best time to do this, you can get a close-up shot of the bride and groom’s rings. This can be done as a shot of their hands softly placed on the bouquet, fingers slightly overlapping, so that both rings show. Another method is to take the rings by themselves and place them on the bouquet in such a way that they are clearly visible and not sinking into the flowers.

Other poses that can be used include shots of the bride getting ready for the ceremony, which include shots like her putting on the garter and perhaps having her mother assist with her veil. A source of poses that will be necessary will usually be provided by the bride and groom or their families. If they have not previously suggested poses which they would like to have, ask them, and treat any poses they have requested as must haves.

If you get into a situation of being requested to do extra shots during the posing session, make your list of primary shots your priority and do any extra requests if you have the time. If you get into a habit of trying to get everyone’s requested shots that they happened to think of at the moment, you will end up running out of time and missing important shots. Be polite though, and sincerely try to get extra shots only if you have the time or it is easy like putting an extra person in a pose you have already set-up.

Continue on to Photographing a Friend’s Wedding: Part III