The art of wedding photography is like any creative craft in that it always presents new opportunities and challenges. Although shooting a wedding can be quite a demanding event, it also gives great rewards and the kind of satisfaction that comes from being a part of a couple’s special day. Plus, it encapsulates a plethora of photo genres: portraiture, documentary, close-ups, event photography, and landscape.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro, just starting out, or rolling the idea around in your head, these wedding photography tips will provide a path for you to take your craft to the next level.

Research the Locations

It’s important to know as much as you can about the area you’ll be shooting in and around. When you meet with the couple (either in person or over the phone), write down the venue names and any details the couple provides for each space. Then research those venues. What’s the lighting like? The environment? Where are the best places for shooting formals? Even better is to actually visit the site, walk through and around the venue, notice the lighting, discover potential spots for different kinds of photos. Knowing the area will also help you make backup plans in case of inclement weather and other unexpected situations.

Know Your Equipment and How to Use it

Just as a bride shouldn’t experiment with a new haircut or slather on fake tanning lotion a few days before her wedding, you shouldn’t experiment with a new piece of gear or try out different settings the day of the wedding. Figure it all out long before the big day arrives, make sure your gear works and that you feel comfortable shooting with different settings. Otherwise, you’ll be left with unprofessional photos and disappointed clients.

Black and white photo through a doorway of a couple kissing under a chandelier in the hallway of The Contemporary Austin, Laguna Gloria in Austin, Texas. Photograph by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikk Nguyen.

Shoot Engagement Photos

An engagement photo session is the perfect way for you to get to know the couple and vice versa. These pre-wedding photo shoots allow you the opportunity to practice things like lighting and posing the couple. You’ll get to know their style, their personalities, and what makes them feel comfortable enough to be themselves in front of the camera. It’s worth including an engagement photo session in your wedding package or even as a separate, à la carte option because it has so many benefits, not only for you, but for the couple as well.

Groom sits on edge of the bed of an old rusty pickup truck while bride stands in the bed of the truck behind him with her arm resting on groom as they look at the camera at Star Hill Ranch in Austin, Texas. Photograph by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikk Nguyen.

Shoot a Styled Wedding

Shooting a styled wedding (a.k.a. pretend wedding) is another great way to practice working with your camera equipment, lighting, directing couples, and getting comfortable with taking wedding-type shots (detailed, location, portrait, etc.) on a mini scale. Even if you’ve photographed a hundred weddings, putting together a styled shoot gives you the opportunity to work with other wedding vendors and provides you with more portfolio material.

Don’t Forget the Groom

Weddings are often centered around the bride and lots of pictures get taken of her, but let’s not forget her other half. Consider taking getting ready photos of the groom and groomsmen, portraits and group shots, the groom’s outfit, and detailed shots of things like the boutonnière.

Close up shot on bride's hands as she places wedding ring on her finger. Photograph by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikk Nguyen.

Capture the Details

A wedding is packed with so many beautiful things to shoot, which means you should definitely have a shot list, but you can also think outside the list and capture the little things that are easy to overlook: the groom’s colorful socks, the bride’s jewelry, the locket attached to the bride’s bouquet, a handwritten note, the patterns sewn into the veil, the mother of the bride fanning out the wedding dress. The couple will love adding these kinds of photos to their wedding album and you’ll have upped your wedding photography game by taking the time to capture these small moments of beauty.

Related: Essential Wedding Photography Gear

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