I thought this might be interesting for anyone interested in becoming a wedding photographer, and for my clients, to see what goes into a typical wedding. I’ll put in rough timings but of course the timings of a wedding vary wildly so these are just typically average times.
8-10PM the day before.
The day actually starts the night before. I’ll often have to leave pretty early as some of my weddings are 2-3 hours drive away. I also need to leave 1-2 hours spare for things like flat tyres/breakdowns/bad traffic on the way. There are no good excuses for arriving late to photograph a wedding ( other than death! ). So the night before I’ll spend a couple of hours going through the plan for the day, checking equipment and packing it all up so that I can leave quickly in the morning. I’ll also make sure everything is charged up, memory cards are cleared down and lenses are clean. Then I’ll attempt to get a reasonably early night!
6AM: Leave home
I leave early in order to get to the venue an hour before bridal prep begins. Generally this will be 9-10am in the morning. Bridal prep can start very early if there is a large bridal party in need of hair and makeup. This varies massively between weddings, I’ve shot weddings where bridal prep has been an hour, to 5 hours for one wedding this year. I always like to arrive at the venue early to have a look around. Even if I’ve been there before, things can change ( i.e. building work ), so I don’t want any nasty surprises later in the day when I don’t have much time.
Also by this time I’ll have had a large breakfast. I usually find a Toby Carvery near the venue so that I can have a big feed before I get to work. The rationale behind this is that very often I’ll not get the chance to eat before 5pm. Even if I’m being fed at the wedding breakfast I’ll be the last one to eat, and during the day I don’t want to stop to eat lunch in case I miss an important moment. Those moments are bread and butter for documentary wedding photographers, it’s what we live for!). I also like to arrive at least an hour early as sometimes parking can be a problem if the bridal prep venue is in a city.
For a documentary wedding photographer this is an important part of the story of the day. This is one of my favourite parts of the wedding, as everyone is excited, there is usually a good bit of banter flying around and it’s a relatively calm part of the day for me. I get to ease into the wedding and everyone gets used to me being around. I usually have a bit of a chat with them all before even getting the camera out, I don’t want them to feel like they have paparazzi in the room by running in and immediately starting to shoot stuff. Every bridal prep is different, I often see letters from the groom and other family members being read by the bride, although not often with the effect it had on Ali!
OK so things start getting hectic now. I’ll leave bridal prep and go and meet the groom at the ceremony. Usually this involves getting in the car and driving somewhere. In the meantime, my second shooter will have been capturing groom prep. If I don’t have a second shooter I’ll leave bridal prep a bit earlier to go and do it. The grooms party generally don’t want a huge amount of time spent with them by the wedding photographer anyway. I then meet the people officiating the ceremony and establish what the ground rules are. I will have asked the couple to do this anyway, but on the day I need to double check if there is anywhere I need to stand. I’ll then shoot some candid shots of guests arriving, capture the bride arriving, and then get in position inside the room or church where the ceremony is going to be.
If the ceremony is in the same venue as bridal prep it makes it easier to get shots like the one above of Ali and her son going to the ceremony, but I will have asked for a timeline ahead of the wedding so I’ll know wether this is possible.
1.30PM THE WEDDING CEREMONY
This is the sweaty palms ( did you think I was going to say something else? ) time for me, and for everyone else to be honest. We are all hoping everything goes smoothly. I’m nervous because there are shots coming up I absolutely have to get right. My camera will be on silent shooting mode at this point so I don’t disturb the ceremony, I’m trying to be as unobtrusive as possible for this bit, in fact sometimes I won’t be allowed to take photos at all, and that’s fine, I’ll go along with the rules set by whoever is running the ceremony. I’ll have established at this point if there will be confetti afterwards, and instructed the ushers not to let anyone throw any until I’m ready. Then I go about documenting the ceremony and capturing all those moments that occur.
This is where we need our fancy, expensive gear and this is why you need a professional wedding photographer ( well, its not all about the gear ). Ceremony rooms are often very dark, and iphones and cheap cameras just won’t cut it in these situations. You are often not allowed to use flash, and if you did, then it would look terrible unless you really know how to balance your flash with the ambient light. Or there will be a very stark difference between the light outside and inside, like with the photo above this one where Ali is arriving with her son in bright sunlight and then about to enter a much darker room. I can meter for that, a phone camera can also but its much harder to get right and you don’t have very long to do it.
2.30PM After the Wedding Ceremony
Everyone breathes a sigh of relief assuming all went well. I’ll be happy that I’ve got my shots, but I can’t relax, as some of the best moments of the day happen at this point, as everyone goes to congratulate the happy couple. I need to document those moments and not get trapped in the Church behind a long queue of people trying to get out and find the nearest toilet because they went to the pub for a sneaky pint before the ceremony!
2.45 PM – CONFETTI!!
I must admit, I love confetti shots, although they can be very tricky to shoot, as the camera must focus on the faces rather than all that distracting confetti. This is one of the few parts of the day when I will make myself heard and organise things. If you don’t do that then people will throw it randomly at random times and you will end up picking it up off the floor and attempting to reshoot it ( yes, that has happened to me, but only once!!).
3PM – Drinks Reception
The day doesn’t always follow this pattern, but often there is a time after the ceremony to relax and have a drink and a snack. When I first started doing weddings the bride and groom would often want the group shots right after the ceremony. Experience has taught me to avoid this scenario for two reasons. Firstly, everyone is much happier about an hour later having been fed and watered after a potentially long ceremony, secondly, the light is generally a lot kinder later in the afternoon.
There is a sweet spot to doing the group shots/formals, leave it too long and everyone will be too much into party mode to want to bother, but do it too soon and they will be desperate to get to the bar…! So, I usually shoot candid shots for a bit then start to organise the formal/group shots. I’m not really a formal/group shot photographer, I’d be happier to just shoot candidly throughout the day, but I do recognise their importance and if the couple wants these shots then I will do them to the best of my ability.
4.45 PM – Wedding Breakfast – the entrance!
At this point everyone goes into where the meal is being held and sits down, then they stand up again as the bride and groom enter the room. This can be a really tricky shot to get, as people will tend to get in your way, but its often also a great moment. Once they are seated, the meal begins and at this point I down tools for an hour and feed myself, or get fed if the couple have arranged for a meal for me.
By this point I’ll have been on the go for 9 hours on average, sometimes longer, so I will need a break. You do start to feel a bit weary at this point, and everyone else is getting quite merry usually but as the photographer you need to stay sober and stay alert. I generally don’t take photos aside from the bride and groom entering the room and the speeches, as people eating doesn’t make for a great shot, but I will photograph the room, the decorations and the food.
6PM – The Speeches!
Hopefully I’ll have managed to grab something to eat by this point, as otherwise energy levels will be flagging! Speeches are a lot of fun, and if I have a second shooter here it is a real advantage, as I normally ask them to get the reactions of the audience while I focus ( literally ) on the speakers. Although many people go with the traditional set up, I’ve seen all sorts of variations, from brides rapping, to videos by the couple’s parents. The rules are there to be broken, the only one I’d suggest sticking to is, don’t let them go on for too long!
8PM:Cake cutting and first dance
These two normally go hand in hand, although of course, that rule can also be broken. For the cake cutting I’ll normally need to pick my spot carefully, and then get my shot done and let everyone go nuts with their mobiles. The first dance can be the hardest part of the day to capture properly, so I’ll have scoped out the room before hand and planned how best to do this. Sometimes I’ll set up lights in corners of the rooms, being careful to keep them out of the way as I don’t want running kids tripping over them ( I don’t want to test out my public liability insurance thank you! ). Sometimes I’ll just stick a flash on top of the camera and bounce it off the ceiling if it’s white.
I usually also find this is the part of the day my second shooters really struggle to get great images, these are the hardest shots to get right. The main reason for this is quality of light, which is generally quite poor by this time of day, and then the DJ may be using coloured lights ( red is the worst ). Sometimes you can’t use flash, in which case I’ll have constant lights I can set up.
After I’ve captured the first dance, I then wait around for other people to come on to the dance floor, as I like to get shots of the guests having fun. Sometimes this can mean waiting quite a long time, as people in the UK tend to need a few drinks before getting stuck into the dancing! Even though I’ll be really tired, hot and sweaty by this point, this is one of my favourite times as you often get some of the most unscripted shots of the day here, and being a candid wedding photographer is my whole reason for doing this.
10-11PM – Drive Home and then backup photos
So I may be going back to a hotel if I’m more than a couple of hours drive away, or I may be going home, but either way, the first thing I do when I get back is to back up the photos. This will take a couple of hours to do properly, and I may have had time to partly do this during the day, but it is my number one priority. There are plenty of horror stories on the internet of wedding photographers losing photos. I never take risks with this part, no matter how tired I am.
The next day I’ll move my backups to a different physical location and will also back up files to the cloud or dropbox. It’s not so bad, I’ll usually freshen up, grab a beer and look through the photos while I do this, then finally get to bed around 1-2AM.
It will then take another day to edit the photos, get the album designed and tweak it to the couple’s taste. On average I’d say it takes 30-40 hours effort for each wedding.
Conclusion and useful links
So there you go, my typical wedding day! I hope you found the article interesting! If you are looking for wedding suppliers for your wedding I’d start with a site like https://www.hitched.co.uk/, although I’d also recommend reaching out to your friends for recommendations. Nothing beats a good referral when it comes wedding suppliers!
I’ve been invited to photograph a number of weddings in the Coventry area so I thought I’d pick out three of my favourite venues for this blog post and explain why I like them so much.. The first venue is Dunchurch Park Hotel near Rugby, which is where I photographed Natalie and Gareth’s wedding in March last year. Here is the website for the hotel…
Here are some of my shots from the wedding…starting with the room where Natalie had her bridal prep( with her two young children ). It’s always nice as a wedding photographer to have a really nice room for the bridal prep shots, and this was lovely.
The wedding was in March, but they managed to put up a fantastic marquee that was very cosy, and the grounds were spectacular. Here is a group shot from the day. I’d really recommend this place for a medium to large wedding.
The next venue I would recommend based on personal experience is Coombe Abbey ( https://www.coombeabbey.com/ ). I shot Caroline and John’s wedding here this year in the summer and it was spectacular, some parts are like a fairytale castle. I also spent some time over the wedding breakfast chatting to their Master of Ceremonies ( always a handy person to get to know if you are a wedding photographer, as he kept me up to speed with the plan all day ). He was a lovely guy and very on top of everything, I could tell everything was very well organised, but they sometimes have multiple weddings going on, so it has to be! Caroline and John had afternoon tea served as part of their day and it was amazing.
The grounds are also spectacular, there are some bits that are private for the wedding, the wider grounds are open to the public, but still lovely to mooch around in and plenty of space for the kids to play. For this wedding, they had hired someone to create spectacular balloons for the kids and also provided lots of games on the lawn at the back of the house, which worked really well.
My third and final recommendation is Antsy Hall near Coventry ( Antsy Hall ). I shot a wedding there this year and it was great. The rooms inside are spectacular and the grounds outside lend themselves very well to group shots and also shots of the couple. There was a room off to the side for the evening reception that was great, and being off to the side meant that it could be prepared well in advance of the evening reception. The staff there were lovely, really helpful to me and my assistant. Sam ( the bride ) stayed overnight and this meant her bridal prep was in a spectacular room which overlooked where the guests arrived so she could keep an eye on things. Having a nice room for bridal prep makes my job a lot easier..
Here is the rear of the building. It was a lovely warm day so its perfect for the drinks reception and the confetti shots.
The evening reception area had plenty of space for dancing, as well as a photo booth in one corner. Here is one of the dance shots I took of Craig:)
This is one of the smaller venues in this list, but although it is compact, there is still plenty of room, especially in the main reception area ( a lovely marquee ). I have only been here on a fairly wet spring day but I can imagine in the summer it would be even more amazing.
I was really impressed with how helpful the staff were, nothing was too much trouble. They even laid on extra coffee for me! The ceremony room was beautiful with some nice light for the photos.
I would recommend any of these venues, obviously I was the wedding photographer, not the client, but you get a good sense of how things are run when you photograph a wedding at a venue, as you are often dealing with things behind the scenes. At all these places they went out of their way to make my job easier and I could see how well organised they were. I hope you found this useful if you are looking for a wedding venue in the Coventry area.
I get this question quite a lot, and I believe it is important to explain the value of good wedding photography, as well as the reason it costs what it does. I’m talking about the average price for wedding photography here, which in the UK is between £1200-1400 for mid range weddings. So I’m going to talk about the value of wedding photography first and then go into the costs. It should be noted that compared to the US, where wedding photographers charge $5000 routinely for mid range weddings in some areas, the UK is actually pretty cheap.
It’s a family thing
Your wedding photography is not just for you. Think about your parent’s wedding photos, or your grandparent’s wedding photos, and the value they hold. They are priceless, especially when the people in them are gone. I don’t want to be morbid about this, but there have been numerous occasions when wedding clients have said to me, sometimes years after their wedding, that I captured some of their favourite photos of people who are no longer around. For your children and grandchildren, these photos may mean even more than they do to you, so yeah, wedding photography is important. Your wedding is one of the few occasions in your life when almost all your nearest and dearest, both friends and family, are in one place, and its important to capture those moments when everyone is together and ( hopefully ) having a great time.
Think about what will last….
After the big day, the flowers will eventually wilt, and the food will have been eaten, the drink will almost certainly have all been drunk! All you will have left is each other, the rings, and the memories of one of the best days of your life. Good wedding photography will transport you back to that day, and really good wedding photography will show you moments you may have missed because you were so busy being, well, married.
It’s not as easy as it looks
Good wedding photography is not always easy. The pros will make it look easy, but it really isn’t. Sure, you may get lucky and have beautiful weather, well behaved guests who love being in group photos, and a spectacular venue. However, that doesn’t always work out the way you think it will and it can be very challenging to get decent photos on the day. A pro will get the photos no matter what happens. An amateur on the other hand, or your best mate who happens to have a DSLR, will need a good slice of luck to come out the other side with some decent shots.
Let your nearest and dearest enjoy the day and leave the camera at home
So why not get your niece or uncle with the nice camera to take your wedding photos? That may work out if they are skilled and have done a wedding before, but don’t you want them to enjoy the day? If they are doing wedding photography properly on the day they will be working all day, with barely time to eat, so no, they won’t be enjoying the day in the same way as a guest. It’s a lot to ask, and there are numerous stories out there of friends or relatives who felt pressured to photograph a wedding and as a result had a horrible time, or at best just didn’t get to be a proper guest and enjoy the day. I’d never ask one of my friends or relatives to do it, when the time comes for my kids to get married ( a long way off just yet! ) I’ll be budgeting for a pro to photograph it ( they’d better be awesome if they are going to make me look good!).
So why is wedding photography so expensive?
It’s not really that expensive when you think about what you are getting and all that goes into it. An average wedding takes about 30 hours of the photographer’s time. It’s not a case of rocking up on the day and taking a few snapshots. There are timelines to plan, wedding contracts to send out, pre-wedding meetings to attend with the couple and then there is the editing , which can take as long as the wedding day. For an average wedding I will have between 3500 and 5000 photos to go through. Then they will need cropping, colour grading, and delivering to the client. After which there will probably be an album to design.
Practice makes perfect
There is a lot of training to go through to become a good wedding photographer. Your wedding photographer will have spent hundreds of hours learning their trade, including things you may not even see them do on the day, such as using flashes or other lighting equipment when the natural light is not good enough. Before I was the main shooter for my first wedding I’d second shot at 10 other weddings to make sure I knew what I knew what I was doing.
It’s not about the gear..except when it is
Wedding photography gear is expensive, I mean really expensive. An entry level camera and lens just will not cut it, unless conditions are close to perfect ( lots of lovely natural light, no rain, bright venues ). Your gear needs to be able to operate in all kinds of conditions and enable you to get the shot when the light is terrible, it’s raining, and there are awful LED lights from the venue making everyone look like Shrek. And for each bit of expensive equipment you will need a backup, because on the day you can’t afford for your camera to go wrong and not have a backup handy. You then need insurance for all that expensive equipment and that is not cheap. You also need public liability insurance to operate in most venues. As a result photographers operating at the cheaper end of the market may well cut corners on some of these things. Can you afford for them to do that if it means they can’t get the photos you want?
The recommended amount to spend on wedding photography is around 10% of your budget, though of course if you want a particular photographer you may need to spend a lot more than that. While every wedding vendor adds a tremendous amount of value to your day, it’s important to be able to capture the memories of all those things, so don’t cheap out on your wedding photography, you will regret it if you do!
This will probably only be of interest to other photographers interested in the kind of gear needed to photograph a wedding in the always sunny UK..but it might interest a few of my wedding clients as well, who knows! I’ll start with the cameras, my main camera is a Sony A9. Please note this gear set was put together for documentary wedding photography, so the whole point is to be unobtrusive and for the couples to not really notice me being there. For that reason, the main camera I use is this one….
This camera, in my opinion, is the best wedding camera in the
world at the moment. It is completely silent, has amazing low
light performance and best in class autofocus. It also has a
very deep buffer. I’ve used other cameras where I’ve filled the
buffer when shooting certain parts of the day, namely confetti shots
and the bride walking up the aisle. That just doesn’t happen
with the A9. It also has eye AF, which means it can pick the
eyes out on someone’s face and use that to track them, very useful
for confetti shots like this one. Even though Sam’s eyes were
sometimes closed the A9 tracked her all the way through this confetti
run. Battery life is also much better than most other
mirrorless cameras. For weddings the A9 is paired with the Sony
Zeiss 35mm 1.4, which is a fantastic lens and I use it for around 70%
of the day ( I prefer primes to zooms in general ). It’s
a great low light lens and I love the 35mm focal length, I also find
it to be very fast to focus but most of all its the look of the
images I get from this lens that I love.
Some people may wonder why I use the A7R3 rather than the cheaper
A73. Well, the A73 was not out when I bought the R3, and I also
wanted one high megapixel camera for my commercial work. I also
use it when I shoot fashion and portraits, which I do quite a bit of,
and occasionally I also shoot landscapes and wildlife just for fun,
and all that resolution can come in handy. The dynamic range is
also better than on the A9 so if I think I will need that range I can
always switch to this camera.
I do also find that for big group shots it is nice to have a very
high res image in case the couple want to print it big or I need to
crop in for any reason. It’s not as quick as the A9, but its no
slouch and the AF is still very good indeed. I pair this with
the 85mm 1.4 GM lens which is superb for portraits and if I want to
keep my distance.
The 85 1.8 from Sony is also a great lens and not so big and
heavy as this one, if I could afford both I’d probably just used the
1.8 for weddings, but I can’t justify having both. The
1.4 does, like the 35mm, have a certain look to the images that I
The other two lenses I have in the bag are the 70-200 f2.8 GM from
Sony and the 28mm f2 from Sony.
This thing is big, heavy and very expensive, but it’s sometimes
absolutely essential for weddings. There have been weddings
where I’m only allowed to stand at the back of the church for
example, and then I need this zoom. There was also a wedding
last year where the bride and her dad walked down a long slope to get
to the outdoors ceremony, and the zoom came in very handy then.
It’s superbly sharp and renders the background beautifully. I
also use it to shoot sports, and its a very fast to focus lens.
But it is heavy, so it doesn’t get used at every wedding ( I know
some wedding photographers use this lens all the time for weddings )
Those are the main bits of gear but of course there are a few
other lenses that are more situational, and one more camera, the Fuji
This is my main backup camera and I have two lenses for it, a 35mm
f2 and the amazing 16mm 1.4. This latter lens I use for close
ups and wide shots, as it is a lens that can focus very closely to an
object and act as a sort of macro lens, but with more context.
It’s great for wedding details. I also use the Fuji for family
photography ( my family, not other people’s! ), which is very
important to me. It’s a bit more fun to use than the Sonys, but still
a very serious bit of kit.
Obviously I have loads of spare batteries and memory cards to go
with all these cameras, but I won’t list them here. I tend to
use memory cards with a very high write speed as the A9 writes a lot
of images, and the A7R3 writes very large images, so they both need
very good memory cards, which, as you would expect, are not cheap!
Now, onto the lighting! Some people may claim to be natural
light photographers and not to need flash, but in my experience that
usually means they don’t know how to use it. I have gone
through many flash systems over the years in an attempt to find one
that works for me, and I’ve finally settled on the Godox system.
It’s relatively cheap, and the flashes mostly use lithium batteries
which last all day, so I don’t have to charge up 30 AA batteries
before a wedding anymore. For speedlights I use two of these…
They last all day and are great either on or off camera, providing
TTL and HSS should I need them, although I mostly shoot flash
manually as I prefer to have more control over the light. I
have a couple of wireless triggers for these, and an AD200, for
bigger venues and for when I want to use off camera flash ( generally
the dancing ).
I also have a Westcott
Icelight in the bag, as there have been a few weddings where
someone with epilepsy has asked for no flash to be used ( that never
seems to stop people using their phones with flashes though!! ).
This was shot with an Icelight outside in the snow last year…I love
this thing, it’s like a mini lightsaber!
have some more heavy duty lighting, both continuous and flash, for
when I need to light group shots indoors. Luckily that has not
happened much recently, but if it is needed, it’s there ( those
lights usually stay in the car ). I’m sure I’ve missed a
few things out, like tripods and monopods, but I don’t use them very
much. I hope some of you found this interesting, all this gear
has been put together over many years, gradually evolving until it’s
now at a state where I don’t need anything else, and feel quite
confident going into any wedding scenario that it won’t be my gear
letting me down!