Wedding Photography Checklist | Your Major Shots & How to Shoot Them

Updated: Jul 3, 2020

Yes, folks, we know you've heard of the infamous wedding photography checklist. Pinterest has countless graphics of seemingly never-ending check boxes of photo shot ideas to pass along to your wedding photographer. We find a gigantic list of shots can be daunting for our clients to peruse, so we've simplified the process for you. In this article, we break down the key moments of your wedding day with some creative photo ideas for each, without overloading your plate. This should serve as a launch pad for you to begin to think about the type of photography coverage important to your wedding. That way, you can make your own personal checklist without all the fluff. Feel free to comment below with any of your own must have wedding shots!


1). Our Favorite Type of Hanging Dress Shot

So often we find hanging dress shots on their own fall short. It’s hard to capture the depth and beauty of a dress draped flatly on a wall. Therefore, we love to add the bride to the shot, holding or arranging the dress in some way that creates a dynamic shape as well as showing her personal relationship to it.

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2). Last Minute Touches, Details

Let’s be honest. You don’t want professional photographs of yourself with makeup only on half of your face. That’s why we take photos when hair and makeup are almost fully set, making for some luxurious glamour shots. For guys, we opt for candids in black and white as they create an emotional beginning to your wedding day.

3). The Lace Up, Of Course

We would be sacrilege wedding photographers to not mention the lacing or buttoning up of the dress. When in doubt, make sure to get a close up of the action. It’s wonderful to see the intricacies of your dress in this way, as well as the loving hands who helped you into it.

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4). Wedding Ring Decor

Prep is the best and only time to shoot photography of your wedding bands and engagement ring, because once you exchange them at the ceremony, there is no way you'll want to take them off. We are addicted to finding new and inventive places to set the rings on. Some fan favorites are inside floral bouquets or on the wedding dress itself.

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1). Establishing Shots of Your Venue

So, yes, this may be common sense, but it’s super vital you get great shots of your ceremony space that you spent countless hours designing. Pro Tip: Ask your photographer if they offer drone photography. There is no more thrilling of an experience than flying above your ceremony and gazing down on it.

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2). Bridesmaids Reactions

Getting a shot of your significant other going crazy as you walk down the aisle is essential, but something fun if your photographer has a spare moment is capturing the reactions of your girl squad as well. It's lovely to remember all your important people in the major moments and seeing it from their perspectives.

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3). Small details

You must capture the big stuff: vows, rings exchanged, first kiss. But what about the smaller moments that stitch them together? A ceremony is the perfect time to capture the big and the small because the photographer must become a photo-journalist of the moment, shooting everything as it's happening. So, encourage some creative coverage of your ceremony from different vantage points to relive the story a bit more fully.

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3). All The Girls

Have your photographer get a shot highlighting you and your full bride squad behind you. It’s a great alternative to a bridesmaids group photo happening in real time, which usually yields the best blend of candid and posed photography.

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4). Just Before the First Kiss

This moment has the greatest anticipation a wedding photo could ever hope to portray. The moment your officiant announces you as married is such a privilege for us wedding photographers to capture. We love to tell stories in still frames of life. This one allows you to relive those fateful seconds in a visceral way.

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6). A Candid Procession Out

We’re a little biased toward candids, but we usually find they create the most meaningful type of wedding photography. And while we encourage you to smile your face off when walking down the aisle, we tend to favor the photo where you’re not looking into the camera. It’s that just married moment of realization as you walk together that takes the cake every time.

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Group Photos

1). The Perfect Locale

This is more like a general rule, but chat with your wedding photographers to make sure you have the most stunning backdrop for your group/family photos. Since you will probably have at least 10-20 of these, and family photos are some of the most popular to be printed later on as gifts for years to come, taking the time to make a little art out of the activity can go a long way. Sometimes group photos can lack detail if they are placed in front of a flat scene. Setting them in a landscape with depth and beautiful nature can really help each individual pop.

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2). Portrait Highlights Within the Group

We love to let our brides shine even in the group photo session. So, we always make sure to snap a few that show them off with their besties around them. Pinterest has a bunch of great posing ideas for Bridesmaid photos like this, but our absolute favorite is to have the girls put their arms around each other (with flowers), facing away from the camera. I'll then direct the bride to look over her shoulder at me. It's a nice moment of feeling surrounded by your favorite people while also being the center of the frame.

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3). Walking Shots

If you want us to get real for a moment, Groomsmen walking shots in black and white are simply the way to go. There's something both candid & formal about it that makes it feel straight up classy cool. It can be a great one for personalized thank you cards to the boys later on.

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Romantic Portraits

1). Veil for Days

There are so many variations of the infamous veil shot during couples photos. We are obsessed with a veil that appears to be flowing seamlessly into infinity. It’s a great way to show off the magnitude of the piece you put so much thought into choosing. Pro Tip: Have your photographer appoint someone to stand off camera holding your veil in the most grandiose fashion possible.

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2). The Sunset Shine

If possible, schedule your portrait session at or near sunset. It’s arguably the most romantic lighting a day can offer. Have your wedding photographer place you in front of the sun and let the light shine through you, onto the camera. We adore sunset because the vibrance really depicts the celebratory feeling of your fresh union.

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3). A Candid Embrace

Traditional photos of couples staring at the camera and smiling are, in a word, traditional. We definitely think those types of photographs are important, but we strive for the moments where you forget a camera exists. Therefore, we always invite our clients to embrace and talk to each other as we set them in a beautiful locale. This could go on for several minutes. Letting them live together and breathe within the craziness of the day is often when the best photography magic happens.

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4). Yes to the Dress 

Your wedding dress is a major detail of your day, so make sure it gets its chance in the sun. Tell your photographer you want a shot that really showcases the fullness of it, and let them take care of the rest. We suggest finding a backdrop in nature with depth and magnitude, just like your gorgeous gown. It will be the proper canvas to allow your wedding dress to shine.

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5). Bridal Highlight

While bridal portraits are vital to your wedding photography album, we also think highlighting the bride in the couples session can be equally powerful. There are tons of ways to do this, but just let your photographer know you want some photos that focus on you individually. It’s not selfish; you deserve to be fully honored in your wedding photography!


1). Venue Portrait

You’ll definitely want to remember exactly how your reception venue looked and felt. Seeing the grand scope of the building can make for a beautiful photo. Again, ask if drone photography is possible as a vantage point for this key shot.

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2). The Simple Entrance is The Best Entrance

We usually aim for genuine emotion in the reception grand entrance. We don’t feel a need to stage any large action for our clients to do when they parade into their venue. The smile on their faces as they are announced is simply enough. When in doubt, keep smiling. Your photographer will be shooting a million photos a minute to get just the right nanosecond of you taking your seats at the head table.

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3). Details for Decades

Part of why you hire a wedding photographer is to be able to hold onto all the memories, large and small, for years and years to come. Ask your photographer how they handle capturing the small details. It’s definitely an art in itself, usually requiring specific lenses and gear to get the job done. You can look to photographs they’ve taken of wedding decor, rings, and reception details to get a gage on how they’ll capture the decorations you’ve spent years curating.

4). Speech Reactions

It's so important to remember the people who sent you well wishes at your wedding reception. However, we believe it's equally important to relive all the emotions you felt while listening. That’s why we love to capture you during speeches, laughing, crying, and everything in between. It seats you right in the action, helping you feel the magic a bit more vividly. (We also have a secret love for putting these candids in black & white.)

5). First Dance Intricacies

During your first dance, you’ll probably be so engulfed in each other you won't even realize anyone else is there. Getting detailed shots of the action can make for an epic remembrance. We love to get shots of your feet gliding across the floor together, and your hands laced tight. We find these are great for artsy prints to hang on your wall forever.

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6). A Final Celebration

Something we’ve found to be vital in any wedding photography album is a final photo that exemplifies the crazy bliss you are feeling. It can be as simple as a dip and kiss on the dance floor or as structured as a formal exit with fireworks and a horse drawn carriage. All that matters is that you have an insanely good looking final photo in your wedding photography album, showing how happy you are to finally be married.

Have and To Hold Photography is a luxury wedding photography and videography company based out of Denver but serving all of Colorado. Keep up with their Colorado wedding adventures on instagram! @haveandtoholdphotography

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