Destination Weddings – Your Camera Gear Checklist

By Geoff Harris

5 Top Tips on How to Shoot a Wedding

Keith Appleby's 4 week online wedding photography course

Spring is not too far away now, so you may get asked to shoot a wedding for a friend or relation, or you might fancy doing one to earn a bit of extra cash.

While shooting a wedding is a big responsibility, there is no reason why any half-decent photographer with some experience can't get good results. As with so much to do with weddings, it comes down to planning and preparation, and anticipating the worst to ensure you deliver the best.

For expert tips, check out Keith Appleby's 4 week online wedding photography course here.


1) Scout the venue and meet the couple

Keith Appleby's 4 week online wedding photography course
While not every couple wants to have a pre-wedding shoot, it's important to meet them beforehand for a chat so everyone is (relatively) relaxed on the day.

You can also get a sense of how they look. It may sound obvious, but you want to emphasise their features; if the couple are a bit overweight, you might want to leave the wide-angle lens at home, too, or at least avoid shooting from low down.

Meeting the couple also gives you a sense of how they are with each other; not everyone is touchy feely and into romantic gestures. Meanwhile scouting the venue for nice spots that get lots of light will also save you precious time on the day.

2) Get backups – and watch out for big memory cards

Keith Appleby's 4 week online wedding photography course
Cameras do fail, so you absolutely want to make sure you have a spare in the car. Broken-down kit will be no excuse on the day, and you could get sued if you are charging for your work.

Even a compact camera is better than nothing. Also, be careful about relying on big memory cards. It's safer to use a string of smaller cards and store them in a belt when full, rather than chancing on a single, very big card that could get lost or corrupted.

3) Get fast lenses

Keith Appleby's 4 week online wedding photography course
By fast, we mean lenses with a constant wide aperture of at least f/2.8. As well as making it easier to blur out backgrounds for pro-looking, romantic effects, faster lenses let in more light, which comes in very handy in dim churches or at the reception.

If you are going to shoot with 'wide open' apertures, make sure you know how to set the autofocus points over critical areas, as very wide apertures can increase the risk of softer shots.

For weddings, I always take fast 50mm, 85mm, and 24-70mm lenses (see

4) Be careful with flash

Keith Appleby's 4 week online wedding photography course

It's ok to use flash indoors to lift colours and perk up skin but you may not be allowed to use it in the church (in which case you will have to get by with a fast lens and higher ISO).

If you do use it, try to avoid 'full-on' flash as it can give an amateurish, 'deer in headlights' look. Try bouncing it off a white or pale coloured wall or ceiling by angling the flashgun head.

At the reception, try using rear curtain sync, where the flash fires at the end of the exposure – you can get great effects. Make sure you practice beforehand, however, as a wedding day is not the time to be making rookie errors.

5) Be careful with specialist lenses

Keith Appleby's 4 week online wedding photography course
All of us want to be creative, but always put yourself in the client's shoes. Funky fisheye-lens shots might look weird to them, and extreme wide-angle lenses will certainly get in more of the scene, but can also cause distortion on portraits.

Make sure you get the 'money' shots in the bag, e.g. the couple, the group shots, and the reception speeches, before getting clever with fancy lenses and 'creative' effects. Some non-photographers think they look like mistakes!

Further Study

An Introduction to Professional Wedding Photography A 4 week online photography course with international wedding photographer Keith Appleby

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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