10 lessons I learned after photographing my first wedding

Now that I’m finished shooting my very first wedding and I’ve healed from my hangover (the bride and groom threw an awesome party!) I wanted to reflect on the many, many lessons I learned, in hopes that it helps someone else prepare for theirs!


This past Friday, November 4, 2016, I had the absolute pleasure of photographing my very first wedding!

If you told me this time last year, only a couple months into my professional gig, that I’d be shooting a wedding next fall, I’d tell you that you’re crazy. But, I’ve been very blessed to have amazing support from those around me. Specifically, my friend Annie from Knight Media has given me a number of opportunities to build my portfolio. That includes her asking me to second shoot this wedding for a friend of ours. I was so thrilled, and nervous, for the opportunity. After all, you can’t redo wedding photos… it’s kind of a get it right the first time, now or never, once in a lifetime thing.

Now that the wedding is through and I’ve healed from my hangover (the bride and groom threw an awesome party!) I wanted to reflect on the many, many lessons I learned from shooting my very first wedding, in hopes that it helps someone else prepare for theirs!

I can’t share many sneak peaks just yet, so be sure to like Kelsey Vere Photography on Facebook, and click “see first” so you can be sure to get my photos in your feed.

In no particular order, here’s 10 lessons I learned from shooting my first wedding – lessons that I’ll take with me to every wedding I shoot from now on.

1. Get the right gear – rent if necessary

Having the right gear is obviously essential to getting good shots. But, it’s super important to keep lighting in mind.

What will the lighting situation look like at the ceremony – is it outdoor with lots of light or indoor with more orangey, incandecent lighting? You’ll definitely need a lens with a lower f-stop if it’s indoor. Incandescent lighting could mean extra post-editing.

Are the on-location bridal party shots outside in the harsh sunlight, in a shaded area or is it inside? You may need a reflector to bounce harsh lights off your clients if it’s outside in the middle of a sunny day.

Usually the reception is dark, that’s where you’ll need an external flash.

Obviously, when you’re first starting out, you don’t have a budget to buy all the fancy equipmnt you need – nor should you. Don’t buy equipment without trying it out first. I recommend renting your gear first, like from The Working Centre’s Commons Studio. Nathan is super helpful.

Don’t forget to fully charge your camera’s battery and wipe out your SD card so it’s empty.

2. Scope out the venue beforehand – take some practice shots if you can

This will help you get a feel for the focal points in the room, where you might get certain shots, how far your lens can see across the room, where the best spots will be for you to stand in order to be out of the way of the guests and also get the money shot. It will also give you a chance to test out how your gear performs in the venue if you haven’t shot there before.

3. Meet with the bride and groom long beforehand to discuss the itinerary of the big day

Don’t just wing it. Meet with the bride and groom to understand the flow of the day. This way you can plan your downtime for bathroom breaks, water breaks, or snack breaks accordingly. You’ll know just how long you’ll be shooting the big day and can be more prepared.

4. Find out what shots the bride and groom absolutely want and don’t want

It’s their big day, and there’s no doubt they have specific shots that they don’t want you to forget. Know what those are and put them somewhere that you’ll never lose. At the same time, there will also be shots that they don’t care for you to take. Know what those are so you can save time and energy focusing on what they really want.

5. Build a schedule of where/when/and what shots you’ll take

Based on the itinerary of the big day and the photos you absolutely have to take, build a schedule for yourself. Map out exactly when you’ll take what photos and where that’ll be. Know where the bride and groom are getting ready, where the bridal shots will be, how they’re getting there, what will the procession of the ceremony take place? Have your schedule readily available for reference throughout the day.

We used MeisterTask to organize all of these details but you could also use Trello.

6. Look up example shots for inspiration and save them for reference on the big day

Pinterest, duh. Once you get professional, you’ll have some go-to shots and be able to think better on your feet in high pressure, tight deadline situations like a wedding – I think, anyway. Who knows, maybe seasoned wedding photographers never wing their shots. Maybe they always have a plan. I’ll tell you in 5 years. ;)

7. Bring extra gear, just in case.

If you have a second camera body, bring it just in case. You never know when you make a mistake and drop your camera or it just quits on you. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you can’t finish your shoot because your gear didn’t meet your expectations. If you have an old body, I’d rent a second one just to be safe.

Bring an extra battery and make sure it’s fully charged. Bring an extra SD card just in case your main one corrupts. I’ve heard of photographers actually switching out their SD cards throughout the day just in case it does crap out on them, they’ll have a mix of photos on each. That’s dedication!

8. Agree on the terms of sneak peaks and final photos

How soon after the wedding will you provide your sneak peaks? And how many? In what format – digitally or USB? Can you publicly post the sneak peaks on Facebook, for example? Can you share them on your photo blog?

Likewise, when will you have all of the final photos delivered? How many will you give them in the end? Will there be a second copy of each photo in black and white or will that be depending on your personal preference of how the photos look best? What size will the final files be – will they be print ready? Will they be provided digitally or on a USB drive? Who provides the USB drive? Will there be any printed photos included? Are printed photos an additional cost? Do you even provide this service?

9. Bring snacks

Especially when you’re shooting all the moments of a wedding, from getting ready to the party on the dance floor, you’ll want to make sure you have quick, healthy, and filling snacks on you to keep you going.

You probably won’t be able to sit down at the reception to eat a meal, but you can graze. The bride and groom probably don’t want photos of them eating. :P

10. Wear comfy shoes

And comfy clothes in general. Look professional but make sure you can stand for hours on end in your shoes (no heels unless you’re a seasoned supermodel) and get into awkward positions to get the right shots. If you’re taking outdoor on-location photos of the bridal party, you may get a bit dirty if you’re walking through a park. Keep that in mind when choosing your shoes.

Bonus! Chat with the bride and groom after giving them their sneak peaks and before you finish editing the rest.

It’s something that isn’t normally done but I think is well received (based on my one and only wedding client and hearing feedback from other friend’s experiences with wedding photography). Find out what they liked and didn’t like so you know that your final edits won’t disappoint.

This may be the difference between a quiet, just satisfied bride and groom, and an advocate for your wonderful service. It could make or break your reputation!

That’s all I have, for now. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more photos from my first wedding!
– Kelsey

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