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How to Shoot Your First Wedding {By Bronwyn Pickering}

Love weddings? Love photography? Dream of combining the two?

But say you’ve never shot a wedding before, and you know couples don’t get a do over if they don’t love their photos. That makes you nervous. You care about their big day, and you don’t want to learn on their coin.


Try Second Shooting

If that sounds like you… dip your toes in by second shooting for a professional wedding photographer. Think of it as an apprenticeship (I do!) (accidental pun!).

So what does a second shooter do? Well, I know people, and I opened my little black book of fabulously talented and generous photographers and came up with Bronwyn Pickering of Essie + Elsie.

Bronwyn is a Click Love Grow graduate of both our Enthusiast Photography Course and our Advanced Photography Course, and an Australian family and wedding photographer of fabulous repute. She’s also hugely admired in our graduate community (and seems oblivious to that fact!). You might remember her from such posts as Four Generations, which clearly showcases her talent in family photography.


She was perfect for this post, because she has both hired second shooters and been a second shooter. That’s the trifecta. Ok it’s only two things, but I don’t know the equivalent word that means two awesome things, so I’ll go with it.

Take it away Bronnie…

A Hands On Mentoring Session

For anyone considering wedding photography, second shooting is a fantastic way to start. I would also recommend trying it with a few different photographers and wedding styles before contemplating going solo, as this will help you narrow down how you want to approach weddings.

You may need to offer your services voluntarily but it’s such a fantastic learning experience, it’s well worth it.

Consider it a hands on mentoring session.

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You need to be accomplished shooting in manual mode… this is not a mentoring session for your technical skills, and it’s not the time to be asking questions in that regard.

You’ll need to be super quick to capture moments as they happen as you can’t ask people to redo.

You will also need to work fast if you’re dealing with constantly changing light.



Meet with the photographer a few days beforehand to ask how it will run from start to finish.

Ask her to detail her expectations of you – the more you are prepared for the day and know what you’re expected to produce, the more smoothly the day will run for you both.

Also, getting as much information as possible lessens the unknown and will help alleviate nerves.


Be Genuine and Authentic

Be passionate about weddings and photography.

Wedding photography is not just a job, it’s someone’s big day. You owe it to the couple and the photographer who is giving you the experience, to genuinely care about their love story and what you produce for them.

Connect with the wedding party and guests, and take notice of their movements and gestures. The more you pick up on, the more you are able to tell their story.

Feel it by shooting as though these are your people on their special day.

Quietly capture their joy and happiness, mess, laughter, tears. Look for real moments and connections – strong images are all about emotion.


Be Self Aware

If you can see the photographer and videographer in your shot, they can see you. 

Be aware of the signals you are sending with your body language, and be approachable and the calm in the storm. If you feel confident you will convey confidence.

You are your business card!


Be Calm and Helpful

In moments of pressure, especially with the build up of nerves in the process of getting ready, be reassuring and calm even if you are also feeling the pressure of a stressed bride.

If you need to, put your camera down and offer to help in some way. Pour the bride a water, help a flower girl do up her shoe, offer to fix a twisted strap… these small gestures can go a long way.

If you and your lead photographer are confident to do so, offer to go solo with the groomsmen getting ready. The photographer generally gets limited time in the preparation process, see if you are able to focus solely on the guys for an hour or so, it’s a big help.

Confidence and Initiative

The photographer has hired you to back them up whilst they shoot, so don’t expect constant direction throughout the wedding.

Instead, they need you to be prepared and confident, and to take initiative. They will be focused on the moments unfolding before them and will assume that you are also capturing moments unfolding before you.

So use your initiative, look for and capture true raw moments and emotions.

Also, take notice of what the lead photographer is capturing, and look for moments they may be missing.

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Look for Moments

Try to anticipate what’s coming next and be ready for it.

Capture children, grandpa, the bride with her dad, aunty Mabel filming on her ipad/iphone.

Photograph details such as hands, laughter, hugs, champagne being poured.

Try not to pose the wedding guests, be like a fly on the wall and capture the moments in front of you as they happen.

Use a longer lens to capture moments from a distance, try f/1.8 – f/4 and nail the focus on the main subject.

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Photograph scenery to capture the landscape so that they are able to remember the feeling of their surroundings.

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Frame using foliage, people, buildings, anything… make it fun.

Be creative with your perspective, but always remember to keep horizons straight.

Horizons aren’t crooked.



Often a wedding is held in harsh mid afternoon sunlight which is generally unflattering.

Be aware of light and shadows, and dappled light from trees and change your position for the most flattering and even light.

My personal favourite is backlighting. Some golden hour light can add a certain kind of magic so if you’re lucky enough to get some, use it!


Ownership of Images

You will be expected to shoot in full resolution raw, and hand the images over at the end of the day. Your images are for the lead photographer and they will edit them to ensure the gallery is consistent. Unless you have permission you are generally not able to post or add these images to your portfolio.

There may be a contract that you need to sign which details the photogapher’s terms.



Be fun, have fun… weddings are a celebration!

Feel it, enjoy it!

And drink lots of water… wedding photographer hangover is real!



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Ready to start improving your photography?

If Manual Mode is your next goal, pop your name on our waitlist for our next Enthusiast Photography Course and we’ll let you know the moment we open for registration!

If you’re already confident in manual mode, check out our Advanced Photography Course and take your photography to the next level!

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