What Photos Should Be Taken at a Wedding?

When I talk to brides who are planning their wedding, I often get asked about when and what photos I take at a wedding. I like the idea of a collaborative timeline, and while I appreciate being given more time for photos, I also like to make sure that the trains are running on time as well. 

In order to maximize my pockets of time, I’ve always thought of a wedding in sections or “modules”, so I can manage my time well and keep it all straight.  

This “module” system was something that has really worked for me over the years, and I was relieved recently to find out that I’m not totally crazy, and I know other photographers that do this as well. Basically the “module system” (I need a better name for it) is simply sectioning off the most “photo-able” (come to Will Malone Photography for the great photos, stay for the made up words) parts of the wedding. 

Disclaimer: I shot a wedding a couple weeks ago that really didn’t adhere to this system at all, so it’s not a set in stone thing by any stretch. There’s room for couples to mold their time into whatever they want, so don’t see this post as what I believe HAS TO BE DONE by any stretch. This is basically the most common layout for weddings in my experience.

I’m offering this list as a resource to anyone who has no idea where to start with their schedule, so hopefully, this can serve at least as a great starting point for planning your day.

Most of the time, a wedding is divided up into these sections or “modules” (geez I’m talking about weddings like I’m an engineer or something):

Getting Ready (AKA The Drumroll)

These are just fun candids of the bride and groom (separately) chit chatting and hanging out with their respective parties while getting ready. Or, normally, the bride and bridesmaids are getting ready while the groom and groomsmen play video games until 10 minutes before they have to get their pictures taken. 

This can also be a good time to get photos of the rings and other decorations if they are ready. 

Right after getting ready can be an opportunity for the father of the bride to come in and see his daughter in her dress as well.

Photos normally consist of: 

-Photos of the Wedding Dress

-Photos of the Bride Getting Make- Up and Hair Done

-Photos of Bride Putting on the Dress

-Father of the Bride reveal

-Groom Tying Tie/Putting on Suit or Tux

-Groom Practicing Vows  

-And ALWAYS Make Sure to Photograph ANY Fun-Having (Again with sounding like an engineer or something) 

Bridal Party Photos (AKA The Squad)

Usually the groomsmen are ready first, and this is when we take photos of the Groom with each groomsmen and then some group shots. Sometimes, although it’s happening less and less, this is also the time slot in which the First Look takes place. When there is a first look, this makes the bridal party group photos a little more logistically easy, because you can get photos of everyone all at once. 

If there is no First Look, typically, once I shoot photos of the groom and groomsmen, we will then hide the groom and bring out the bride and all her bridesmaids for their group photo and individual shots with the bride. 

Of course, this is again a template that can be adjusted as needed.

Photos in this section normally consist of:

Bride with each Bridesmaid

Bride with assorted groups of Bridesmaids (if she has any sisters or cousins in her bridal party)

Bride with all her Bridesmaids

Groom with each Groomsman 

Groom with assorted groups of Groomsmen

Groom with all his Groomsmen 

Then, of course, any fun ones like the Groom getting tossed into the air, or the Bride doing cool poses with her Bridesmaids, etc. 

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Ceremony (AKA The Main Event!)

This one doesn’t take much explaining at all, in fact, it’s why you’re there in the first place! This is the main event. 

Photos in this section consist of: 

Candids of ushering family and guests into the ceremony

Groomsmen and Bridesmaids prepping for entry

Groom Waiting for the Bride

Bridesmaids and Flower Girl walking down the aisle

Bride and Father entering 

Bride and Father coming down the aisle 

Groom Reaction 

Vows 

Exchanging Rings 

THE KISS 

Presenting the couple

Exiting the sanctuary or ceremony area

Bridesmaids and Groomsmen exiting together

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Family Photos (AKA the photos that will be on your bookshelf)

Here’s where the time crunch feels real. I’m most commonly asked about how long the family group photos takes, and it really depends. On the long side, it can take 30-40 minutes, but I’ve also shot family group photos as quick as 20 minutes. 

It’s all about efficiency in this part of the wedding, which is why I believe it’s best to shoot these photos immediately after the ceremony when the family is already there, before they move on to the reception area. It also helps when I have an idea beforehand of the group combinations that the Bride and Groom is looking for, so I normally request a “shot list” of family members a few weeks before the wedding date. 

Portrait Time (AKA “The Instagram Time of the Day”)

This is the time of the day where the couple gets to break off for a time and get some photos of their freshly married selves just the two of them. This one is meant to be more relaxed and fun as well as a great opportunity for some creativity. This is the time where I’ve been known to get carried away with creative ideas and anyone who’s assisting me has to keep me in check and make sure I’m not turning into a crazy long session. It’s just so darn fun.

As someone who got married and has witnessed a lot of weddings, this is also the time where the bride and groom starts to get pretty hungry and ready to head over to dinner. This is the most flexible module of the wedding, because it’s meant to be fun. Some couples are down for an hour or more, others are good with half and hour. It’s all about what you’re into!

As far as shots that I try and get in this section, it’s usually heavily based on location, time of day, and creative opportunities. I’ve set up a mini-studio in a church Sunday School room using Christmas lights and an umbrella (because it was raining too hard outside to take photos in), had portrait sessions walking through adorable small towns, or stood on the edge of scenic cliffs at sunset. It’s all about using the tools that are available at the time. The world is your oyster on this one.

Reception (AKA: Time to Unwind!)

As for the Bride and Groom, it’s time to relax and party it up! Your work is done, so it’s time to hang with your friends and let the photographers do the rest. This is a full-on candid-fest, and it’s the photographer’s job to run around and catch the awesome moments that are happening all around them on the dancefloor.

Photos this section consists of:

DANCING

Cake-Cutting

DANCING

Bouquet Toss

DANCING

Garter Toss

DANCING

Games and other Entertainment

OH AND DANCING!

The Exit (AKA: The Grand Finale)

Time to go! Exits change a lot with trends. Many people go the sparkler route, some do confetti, some use shakers. It’s up to you on that. The exit has limited options creatively because it’s really just an exciting walk to your car, but we can still make it really fun. (I’ve even flown a drone to get aerial photos of getting in the car and driving away.)

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Hopefully this list was helpful for you! If you got some useful info out of it for your wedding, let us know! We love hearing from you!

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