We’ve all been to weddings before where the photographer plants themself at the front of the aisle for the entire ceremony… then they become the topic of discussion at dinner because of how distracting they were!
We never want that to be you.
As important as it is to get those key shots during the ceremony like the exchange of rings and the first kiss, it’s also just as important that you photograph it respectfully for the couple and the guests. After photographing over 200 weddings, we’ve mastered our ceremony setup and are excited to share it with you!
First thing’s first though. Our system starts even before the wedding day! In your questionnaire for the bride to fill out about her wedding, we recommend asking her to confirm if there are photography restrictions at her ceremony venue (ps if you don’t have a questionnaire, we recommend that you do!).
Asking this question before the wedding day will allow you to plan ahead if necessary. Some churches don’t allow you to photograph near the altar, while others won’t let you any closer than the last row of guests. If you don’t already have a longer lens (we recommend the 70-200mm 2.8), you have the chance to rent one if you’re going to need it based on the photography restrictions!
Once we arrive to the ceremony on the wedding day, we make a point to find the officiant to confirm the ceremony order. We always ask them where & when the first kiss will happen because (spoiler alert) it isn’t always announced and it’s not always at the front of the altar! This also gives the officiant a chance to reiterate any restrictions so that you don’t accidentally go somewhere you aren’t supposed to.
Now, here at the Second Shooter Society, we always have second shooters with us on wedding days! This way we can be capturing the ceremony at the same time from different angles.
As the primary photographers, we always start the ceremony at the front of the ceremony space. We stand at the end of the aisle, in front of the mother of the bride. We do this for a few reasons. By standing on the bride’s side of the aisle, we’re able to capture the processional and the groom’s reaction as his bride is coming down the aisle without being in anyone’s way. Our second shooters are typically with the bride, photographing any moments that she may be sharing with the person walking her down the aisle.
As the bride walks down the aisle, the primary photographer is capturing both the groom’s reaction as well as the bride walking down the aisle. As a second shooter, you’ll be photographing the bride walking down the aisle from behind. It’s important to remember to get your shot and then get out of the way so you’re not in the primary photographers frame!
Once the bride reaches the end of the aisle, a few things can happen depending on the layout of the ceremony. Most often, we try to slide back to the middle aisle so that we can photograph the giving away of the bride from the middle. This is especially important if there are no aisle ways along the side! However, if we’re not able to get back to the middle, the primary will photograph the giving away of the bride from the side, and the second shooter will capture it from the middle aisle.
Throughout the ceremony, we prefer to stay in the back of the ceremony space out of the way. Our goal is to photograph the ceremony with minimal distractions for the guests. To do this, we use longer focal lengths like the 70-200mm or the 135mm.
We’ll stay in the back middle aisle, or walk around to the sides to get some different angles. If it’s possible to walk along the sides closer to the front of the ceremony, we try to so that we can capture a few photos of the parents and family members. Those are always some really precious photos!
Pro Tip: Wear shoes that have soft soles! You don’t want to be clinking around during the ceremony with hard heels or dinging zippers.
The rest of the ceremony is really dependent on what the primary photographer prefers. Most often one of us will be in the middle aisle capturing the exchange of rings, while the other one is at an angle capturing the reactions of the bride and groom to the vows.
For the first kiss, we like to both be in the middle aisle. We do this mainly because it’s the most important part and we don’t want to miss it for any reason! Your batteries may die, you may run out of memory on your cards (we’ve been a second shooter when this happened to the primary photographer), or the kiss may be so quick that you don’t catch it. Either way, we recommend communicating with each other so that one person is photographing the kiss horizontally and the other vertically, as well as using different focal lengths.
Finally, the last part of the ceremony to photograph is the recessional. We like to have one photographer follow our couple after the ceremony to capture some of those “just married” moments if possible. It’s important to communicate with each other about who is going to photograph the entire bridal party during the recessional, and who is going to photograph the bride and groom before everyone starts walking down the aisle.
The key to photographing a ceremony successfully is communication. Make sure you know what the other person is doing, where they plan to stand, what lenses they plan to use, etc. If you go in with a plan, then you’ll do amazing!