I’ve been a wedding photographer for 8 years. Here are 13 tips for getting the best pictures on the big day.

Cameron dever taking a photo of a couple on their wedding day
I’ve been photographing weddings for years. Cameron Dever

Long after the ceremony and reception have passed, your wedding photos will live on.

I’ve been working as a wedding photographer for eight years, so I’ve learned a number of tricks for getting the best shots to capture the day.

Read on for some of my best tips for great wedding photos.

Make sure your photographer shoots in a style you love

If you like photos that are cleaner and cool-toned, don’t hire someone who photographs with grain and warmer tones.

One is not better than the other, it’s all art and preference, but it’s not the photographer’s responsibility to adjust their style. It’s your job to hire someone whose style resonates with you.

When I feel that a couple loves my style and trusts me, it gives me that validation and space to truly create and put my entire heart into it.

The end result is always better when I’m creatively excited about a project.

Communicate your wants and needs with your photographer

Groom being tossed in the air by the crowd at a wedding reception
Candid shots can be a lot of fun. Cameron Dever

Getting great photos isn’t just up to the photographer. You have to communicate your vision with whoever you hire before the wedding day so they can translate your vision into the final product.

You’ll want to specify the theme or inspiration for your wedding, the vibe you’re trying to convey (casual, formal, a party, etc.), which family members are important to highlight, and any other specific wants or needs your photographer should be aware of to create the wedding pictures of your dreams.

You should also point out whether you care more about decoration and detail shots, candid moments, or both.

Photography is a creative collaboration between the client and photographer. The more you let your photographer into the Pinterest board inside your head, the more magical the photos will be.

Have the photographer send you a full wedding gallery before booking

Don’t book a photographer based only on their social media. Those are their hand-picked, very best photos.

It’s important to ask your photographer for a full wedding gallery (or even multiple galleries) they’ve shot. This allows you to see how they capture a full event, which will be a better indicator of if their style is a good fit for your vision.

Anyone can take one really good picture, but a truly great photographer will capture the entire wedding day in a tapestry of creative moments.

Take the time to develop a relationship with your photographer

Cameron dever posing for a photo with a couple
I’ve gotten really close with some of my clients. Cameron Dever

I’ve done my best work at weddings where I had a great relationship with the couple. There are countless clients that I now consider close friends.

From the first point of contact, I always try to start cultivating a positive relationship through friendly emails, personal questions, video calls, and usually a portrait photoshoot to meet in person, if possible.

As the client, you can help further this friendship by being open and trusting. Tell your photographer all about yourself – your love, your story, your favorite songs – and ask them the same questions.

The more your photographer knows you, the better they can capture the things that are important to you. Plus, when these relationships develop, you then have someone you love and trust to document the next big moments in your life.

Create a schedule of the day and give it to your photographer

Nothing is more stressful on the day of a wedding than when I don’t have a schedule of what’s coming next.

I always ask my clients to put together a plan for the day about two weeks ahead of time so I know when the big moments are coming.

Removing the external stress of not knowing what’s happening gives me more room on the creative side of my brain to make sure I’m present in the moment and getting the best shots.

Schedule more time than you think you’ll need for posed pictures

Wedding-day pictures usually take longer than expected, and the wedding schedule usually runs late at some point or another.

If you want the best wedding pictures possible, you need to give your photographer enough time to create them. I recommend talking to your photographer when you’re scheduling the day to get their insight on how much time they think they’ll need.

This both allows you to make a more accurate schedule for the day – which your guests will appreciate – and gives you some time to create that good relationship with your photographer.

Make a list of all the photo combinations you want of your family and loved ones

Couple taking a group photo with their extended families on their wedding day
Family photos can be hard to wrangle. Cameron Dever

No matter how well you plan ahead, family photos are usually the most stressful part of the wedding day. They always take longer than expected and end up being a hectic game of wrangling playful youngsters, scattered adults, talkative cousins, and stubborn uncles.

It’s important to make a list of the family-photo combinations you want. And if you really want to be on top of things, put someone in charge of directing everyone on the day.

I don’t even ask for the list anymore, I just tell the couple to give it to mom, dad, brother, sister, etc. to assemble the proper combinations for me. It’s much harder for me to do it when I don’t know most of the people in the room.

The best family-photo “coordinator” is the type of relative who’s respected by all and feared by some, and they’ll make everything go a lot smoother.

On your wedding day, pretend I’m not there

When you’re getting ready, saying your vows, or dancing, try not to look around for the camera.

In the hands of a talented wedding photographer, it will find you, so stay in the moment. A few smiling shots straight at the lens are never a bad thing, but most people end up cherishing the candid moments they didn’t know were captured the most.

Channel your inner celebrity for the day and resist the urge, unless otherwise directed, to acknowledge the camera.

Ask your guests to put away their cell phones

I can’t stand when a beautiful, magic moment is tarnished by dozens of cell phones blocking my shot.

This happens a lot during ceremonies. The aisle creates a straight shot right to the couple, but it’s often so crowded by friends and family trying to get their smartphone pictures that I can’t properly capture “I do.”

One of the best decisions I made at my wedding was having the officiant kindly announce that cell phones should be put away during the ceremony. They also clarified that we hired a professional to capture this moment, so there’s no need for anyone else to.

Have the officiant move to the side for the first kiss

A bride and groom kissing at their wedding
It can make the shot a little more special. Cameron Dever

The first kiss is one of the biggest ceremony moments, and not having the officiant awkwardly standing in the back of the photo makes it 10 times better.

Since the officiant usually stands right behind the couple, in pictures, it can look like the newlyweds have some extra appendages when they lean in for their first kiss.

It’s not the end of the world if this happens, but if you want a clear shot of the moment, just ask them ahead of time to step all the way to the side before announcing the kiss.

Try not to book venues with lots of harsh shadows

A great photographer can work in just about any lighting condition, but harsh shadows are sometimes an exception. They’re hard to edit away, and they aren’t very flattering.

During a wedding ceremony, you don’t want any faces getting cut off.

When you’re scouting a wedding venue, go at the time of day the event will be held, have people stand where you’ll stand, and make sure there aren’t weird shadows falling on anyone.

If you can, take a few photos and send them to your photographer in advance for their opinion. Sometimes you can just change the time slightly or add a little artificial lighting to fix the problem.

Have someone looking out for any wardrobe, hair, or makeup malfunctions

Bride using a mirror to get ready for her wedding day
You don’t have to be worrying about every little detail on the day. Cameron Dever

It’s nearly impossible to remember every detail on a wedding day, which is why you should assign friends and family you trust to watch out for certain things, like wardrobe, makeup, and hair mishaps.

When you get your pictures back, you want to feel as beautiful as possible. If a loose curl will ruin that for you, this is an easy way to help avoid that.

Depending on what’s important to you, tell someone to be on alert for fading lipstick, flyaway hairs, crooked ties, and food in teeth.

Remember to feed and water your photographer throughout the day

Your photographer is on-site from the time everyone is getting ready to the moment you drive off from the reception – which is usually anywhere from six to 10 hours, sometimes longer.

Like any human, photographers still need to eat and stay hydrated to survive and capture beautiful moments.

I highly recommend that couples welcome their vendors to eat and drink throughout the festivities. If you have some extra room on your seating chart, you can even put them at a proper table.

We know we’re still there to do our job. There have been countless times when I’ve jumped up mid-chew to get a shot of a cute candid moment. Sitting down and enjoying a nice meal is always a great moment to refuel and rest, which then allows me to do my job even better.