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The Ultimate Wedding Photo Must-Have List

The ultimate wedding photo must-have list to ensure you don’t miss any special moments on your big day! Find a free printable at the bottom of this post.

Like everything in the wedding planning process, you’ve put a lot of effort into researching and selecting the right wedding photographer for your big day.

While your professional wedding photographer is likely to have their own special moments list of “must-have” wedding photos, it’s still important that you consider your own list of images you can’t do without.

Bride holds a wedding bouquet, wedding dress, wedding details

The Essential Wedding Photo Must-Have List

Most experienced wedding photographers will discuss the types of photos you would like in the lead-up to your wedding. Be prepared with a wedding photo checklist of your absolutely must-haves to ensure that all the beautiful moments you want are captured.

Usually, this involves photos with specific friends and family but could also be specific shots of important moments you want to have at specific venues or of family heirlooms. The last thing you want is regrets six months down the road that you didn’t get them.

Brides wedding shoes with a bouquet with roses and other flowers on tha arm chair

Wedding shot list opportunities to consider:

  • Getting ready – if you are taking the traditional route, you’ll be getting ready separately. Take photos of this special time, to see what your fiancé was doing in the lead-up to the ceremony.
  • Detail photos – the lace on your gown, your wedding ring, and even your tiara are important small details that make up your day. Be sure to capture photos of these details!
  • Wedding ceremony photos –the most captured moments of the ceremony are the arrival of the bride, the exchange of rings, and the first kiss. 
  • Display photos – if you know you are wanting to have a wedding album printed, you are going to need a great photo for the cover. Plan this one in advance, as well as any photos you want to be put onto canvas or framed.
  • Natural photos – there’ll be plenty of spontaneous and natural moments on your wedding day. The trick is to capture them! 
  • Formal poses – do you want the traditional bridal party line-up photo? Or the entire group shot of wedding guests with you both at the front? 
  • Final photo – every great day comes to an end, as will your wedding photos. One you can add at the very end of your album?

Formal family photos

Your photographer may give you a wedding photo must-have list to refer to, of potential formal wedding photographs you might like to have taken. These are often taken during cocktail hour which is after the ceremony and before the reception. They include photos of the immediate family members with the couple in all sorts of orders. For example –

  • A photo of the couple with one set of parents
  • A photo of the couple with the other set of parents
  • One of the couples with an individual parent
  • The couple with one side of siblings
  • The couple with both sets of parents

Not to mention photos with the step-parents, grandparents, nieces, nephews, cousins, uncles and aunts, and so forth!

Even though it might seem like a good idea to get as many wedding shots as you can with everyone, bear in mind that they do take a while! If you only have your photographer for a set number of hours, or you have a tight wedding timeline, there won’t be much time for all the photos and it’s best to nail down some specific formal photos.

Set aside about 30 minutes of time for the formal family photos, if you limit them to close family.  

First look photo

The first look photo means the couple sees each other before the ceremony. This is easy for the photographer because it means many of the photos of the happy couple can be taken before the guests arrive and it gets busy.

This is stepping away from tradition but it will free up a lot more time during cocktail hour.

Set aside about 30 minutes of time for the first look photos.

Wedding party photos

Indian groom dressed in white Sherwani and red hat with stunning bride in red lehenga stand and hold each hands walking outside

If you choose to go down the first look route, then photos of the bridal party, groomsmen, and the couple can be taken before the ceremony. This will again free up time during cocktail hour. Set aside 30-60 minutes of time for wedding party photos, depending on the location of the photos. If you’re traveling away from the wedding venue for the photos you will need to factor in this time.

If you’re not doing the first look, then wedding party group portraits and couple portraits can be taken during cocktail hour. Set aside 30-45 minutes for these photos.

Location

Buy wedding cufflinks

Think about where the best spot is to take your photos. Ideally, it will be at the venue so that travel time doesn’t need to be added to the timeline. If you are traveling, make sure to add on extra time for this.

List of wedding photo opportunities

THE DETAILS

  • Invitations
  • Wedding rings, cufflinks, and other special jewelry
  • Wedding dress(es) and suits laid out, wedding shoes
  • Bouquet, corsages, boutonnieres

GET READY PHOTOS

  • Bride(s) and bridal party hair and makeup in the bridal suite
  • Groomsmen attaching cufflinks, tying shoes
  • Bride(s) putting on a wedding dress, with help from bridesmaid or Mother of the bride
  • Shots of the bride(s), bridal party, groom(s), and groomsmen having fun while getting ready
  • Mother and bride portrait
  • Father and bride portrait
  • Family photos
  • Bridal party leaving the house to go to the reception

PRE-CEREMONY (FIRST LOOK)

  • The first look
  • A photo of the bride (s) and bridal party
  • Groom(s) and groomsmen
a wedding photographer takes pictures of the bride and groom in nature, the photographer in action

CEREMONY

  • The Ceremony site – Venue shots including the altar, flowers, interior, and exterior details
  • Groom and groomsmen waiting inside the venue
  • Guests
  • Bridal party entrance
  • Flower girl and ring bearer photos
  • Bride(s) walking down the aisle
  • Groom’s reaction to the bride
  • Father/mother giving the bride away
  • Exchanging of vows and rings
  • The first kiss
  • Signing the marriage certificate
  • Couple walking back up the aisle
  • Newlywed photo
  • Confetti throwing

COCKTAIL HOUR – FORMAL FAMILY PHOTOS

  • Couple with bridesmaids/groomsmen
  • Bride(s) with bridesmaids/maid of honor
  • Groom(s) and groomsmen/best man
  • Couple with their entire wedding party
  • The couple with any children
  • A photo of the couple with each set of parents
  • One with the couple and both sets of parents
  • The couple with siblings
  • Couple with grandparents
  • Couple with any other close family

COCKTAIL HOUR – FORMAL FAMILY PHOTOS

  • Couple with bridesmaids/groomsmen
  • Bride(s) with best friend / bridesmaids/maid of honor
  • Groom(s) and groomsmen/best man
  • Couple with their entire wedding party
  • The couple with any children
  • A photo of the couple with each set of parents
  • One with the couple and both sets of parents
  • The couple with siblings
  • Couple with grandparents
  • Couple with any other close family

INFORMAL PHOTOS/ CANDID SHOTS

  • Photos of guests chatting, eating, and drinking
  • Photos of friends
  • Guests hugging and congratulating the couple

RECEPTION

  • Details and room decor, table settings, place cards…etc
  • Wedding cake details
  • Couples entrance
  • Toasts and speeches
  • Dinner
  • Cake cutting
  • The first dance
  • Bride(s) dancing with father/groom (s) dancing with mother
  • Dance floor photos
  • Musicians, singers, DJ

Wedding photo timeline example

Here’s an example of a wedding photography timeline. This one features the first look.

Wedding photo opportunities PDF

Here is a handy pdf to download with all the wedding photo opportunities you might like on your wedding day!

Now you know what photos you want, here’s a list of questions you should ask your wedding photographer!

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