Need help with your wedding photography planning? We give you our top tips for preparing to photography a wedding.

Wedding photography planning: The agreement

Just saying yes to bringing your camera along to a friend’s wedding is one thing, but if they are relying on you for the main photos it’s probably best to draw up something a bit more formal. This doesn’t have to be a long legal agreement; it can be a simple letter declaring that you agree to take the photos.

Of course, if you are looking to do this professionally, you will want to draw up terms and conditions, a formal contract, etc.

Wedding photography planning: Money

Unless you are taking photos for a family member or a close friend, there may be talk of payment involved for your time and photos.

If you’re not sure how much to ask for, consider the costs to you – they’ll be your travel and any accommodation to consider, plus your working time, not just on the day but for the planning and, more important, the collating and editing time after. You might want to check out what ‘the competition’ are charging as a starting point.

Also remember that any money you earn will need to be declared to the taxman and you may need to pay tax on this earning.

Wedding photography planning: Insurance

There are two parts to this: first, camera insurance is a very good idea, as dropping, damaging or having equipment stolen can prove expensive – especially if it’s just before your shoot; and second, if you’re working as a photographer you should have some sort of public liability insurance.

Many people presume their camera will be covered on home insurance but if you use it to earn money, the chances are it isn’t. Specialist camera insurance companies such as offer a range of packages, including versions aimed at professionals, and public liability and indemnity options.

Wedding photography planning: Type of shots/style

Before you jump straight into the job in hand, you need to consider the look and style of the images both you and the couple are after. Take a look at as many wedding photography books and websites as possible to get a feel of the type of shots you like and ones you feel are achievable.

Wedding photography planning: Equipment

On the day you’ll be putting all of your faith in your gear, so you need to know it is all working correctly and is in good condition.

Make sure you know your camera inside out – it’s not a good idea to swap to something new just days before – as you may need to think on your feet and swap modes or functions at the very last minute.

If you need to borrow or buy anything new for the shoot, try to do it enough in advance that you can try it out properly first.

Wedding photography planning: Locations

Do some research into where you will be taking the photos and try to visit them to have a look around beforehand. This will give you a chance to work out the best places to take group or more intimate shots.

Trevor Yerbury on… Location scouting

Personally we never scout any locations. Why? Well, first it will never be the same on the day of the wedding: the light will be different, backgrounds may have changed (scaffolding just erected, etc) and we believe it adds to the creative spirit if you have to think on your feet and seek out the locations that will work for that bride and groom on that particular day and all that it brings.

One thing we do ask is: ‘Are there any surprises planned for the day?’ It may seem obvious but brides can neglect to tell you what they have up their sleeves in the way of surprises, anything from arriving on horseback to a flight of doves or firework displays.

One way to make sure you have an image of everybody is to set up a small studio somewhere at the reception and do a portrait session of every guest. However, this is only suitable for smaller weddings as the numbers and logistics can become overwhelming.

In the past we have had brides arrive for their interview with a folder stuffed full of the wedding details including a fully detailed itinerary of the day, in some cases down to five-minute time frames. We know, as will any wedding photographer who has covered a few weddings, that the likelihood of this schedule running to plan are so remote that it will never happen.

Wedding photography planning: Shot list

Even if you are given a vague brief to just take pictures of everyone there, the couple will have at least some idea of specific images they want.

Work with them to create a shot list of the main events they want images of, plus the formal shots. This will make life much easier on the day and will allow you to tick them off as you’ve done them.

Wedding photography planning: Weather

If your wedding is based in the UK it’s best to anticipate bad weather. That way, anything else is a blessing. Have a plan for alternative locations under cover, should it start to rain, or bring some nice umbrellas with you that will go with the shot.

If you plan to shoot inside, bring a studio light and stand to brighten things up.

Wedding photography planning: Back-up plan

The chances are that if there is one day when your memory card corrupts or your shutter jams, it will be on the day of the wedding. So, rather than leave anything to chance, plan to take a second camera body, and back up your files as you go, with a storage device.

The same goes for batteries – some DSLR batteries may only be good for 300 shots and you may be looking to take at least double that, so carry a spare.

Wedding photography planning: Schedule

No matter how big or small the wedding, there will be some form of schedule kicking around for the day’s events. Try to get hold of this in advance so you can plan where you need to be and when. Things rarely stick to the schedule but at least you’ll be able to stay one step ahead, rather than dashing between events.

Wedding photography planning: Pre shoot

Before the big day it is common to arrange for a pre-wedding shoot, to get the couple used to the photographer, and to some poses together.

This can take place in a studio, outdoors or even in the couple’s home and though it is primarily a getting to know each other session, can sometimes produce some great shots.