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Tips for Photographing a Wedding as a Guest


Many people consider their wedding day one of if not the most important day of their life and as such hire a professional wedding photographer for this special occasion. This article however is for the guests at weddings (Royal wedding or otherwise) who may want to remember this occasion by looking at pictures, and giving some of their shots as gifts to the married couple. If you are a guest or relative wanting to capture a happy couple’s special day in a unique way then here are some tips and tricks.


wedding photography

"The moment" captured by Alvin Gozum 


1. Plan and Prep: Planning and preparing yourself before the wedding can help you perform better on the day.

(2 months before)

  • Ask the bride if she wouldn’t mind you photographing her wedding.
  • Does she have a professional photographer? if yes, you need to make sure not to interfere.
  • Show her a list of potential shots and ask her which she would allow you to take.

(1 week or so before the wedding)

  • Ask for an itenary of the day’s events.
  • Find out if you can take photos at the location and if you can use flash.
  • Check that your camera and equipment is in good working order.

(On the day)

  • Make sure you have: extra film, extra batteries, extra camera(s), a helping hand, a tripod, a watch, directions and the schedule.
  • Have a list of potential shots handy to make sure you don’t miss any.
  • Arrive early to photograph things like the empty venue or the flowers arriving etc.

2. Divide and Conquer: There are more shots to take than one person can usually manage alone. Sharing the task means you can relax a little and will be more likely to capture every moment.

A friend can take notes, hold stuff like extra cameras, shoot alongside you or from another vantage point, and help find and organize group shots for you.


wedding photo secondary angles

Photo captured by Ekaterina 

  • If you don’t have a friend with you, buy disposable cameras to place on reception tables for guests to take photos then collect them at the end of the day.
  • Write down e-mail addresses of people also taking photos to swap pictures.

3. Placement and Direction: Most times as long as you are giving clear and polite instructions people will happily oblige.

Anticipate spots where things will happen and position yourself before a crowd forms.

  • If necessary call out specific people and give specific instructions (something like a crooked tie or piece of spinach in the brides teeth can and will steal the show in a group shot)
  • For formal shots make sure you let them know when you’re about to snap the shot.
  • Move around. Later you will be glad you took several similar shots but from slightly different angles.

4. The Perfect Shots: Perfect shots are the ones that look both beautiful and natural. They capture key moments in the day like the couple’s vows or first dance. Consider all the elements to increase your chances of taking lots of these.

If you think you’ve missed something important like the perfect shot of the cake cutting, you could ask the couple if they’ll do it again.

  • If you know the guests and families personally, you will have a special advantage as a photographer. Try and capture people in their natural looks, if they are goofy and outgoing make sure to get those pictures of them dancing!
  • Take lots of pictures or use bursts. This will give you several photos of the same thing taken fractions of a second apart. This could be the difference between a blinking bride and the perfect shot.
moments in a wedding

Photo captured by Mandy Austin


5. The Special and Artistic Extras: After the perfect shots come the special extra shots that capture the feel of the day without being completely necessary. These include artistic shots and fun candid shots. Some of the most beautiful pictures from weddings are of things, places, and people who have some sentimental significance to the couple. Everything from the flowers to the vicar should be thought of as potential material.

  • Think about the bride and groom and consider setting up shots that show off their personalities.
  • Keep an eye out for cute children and good lighting as both usually perform well in wedding photography.
  • Consider the opposite shot to the obvious shots (if you shoot a photo of the bride and groom from behind the vicar, consider having your friend shoot one from the organ loft).

Here a few examples for shots that will help. Create your own list depending on the type of wedding you’re photographing and of course how close you are to the couple.

Shots before the Ceremony:
  • Wedding gown lying over a chair or hanging on a door
  • A close up of the bride’s shoes peeking out from under the dress
  • Bridesmaids shoes in a row
  • Grooms men dressed and posing
At the Ceremony:
  • Guests walking into the venue
  • Groom seeing bride for first time
  • Close up of couples hands
  • Guests throwing confetti/rose petals/birdseed
taking photos at a wedding

"wedding" captured by b-bee 

During the Reception:
  • Outside the reception venue
  • Arrival of the Bride & Groom
  • Table centrepieces
  • Musicians or DJ