We’re all familiar with the classic wedding photo ideas: kissing at the altar, the first dance, the full bridal party, etc. But great wedding photographers distinguish themselves with special shots that stand out. Granted, great wedding photography is a highly subjective subject! So, we sought out some wedding photographers who typically go well beyond the expected, and asked them to share their all-time favorite shots. We’ve collected them for you below.
What do you think? Do these break the mold? Share a link to your must-have shots below.
Also be sure to check out our free guide How To Grow A Wedding Photography Business to hear firsthand from successful wedding photographers and learn how set your services apart from the pack.
“Sometimes there are impromptu moments like a group of groomsmen hoisting the groom above their heads triumphantly, but often, there are great photos to be found during the quieter, in-between moments… This other image come from the formal portrait sessions after the ceremony – the bride and groom goof around with another before posing together.” -Brendan Bullock
“The bridal party can be one of the more creative shot of the day and reminds me of when I used to shoot bands.” -Lisa Devlin
“The spontaneous kiss by the groom is one of my go-to shots and must-haves whenever I do a wedding because I think it really shows what I’m all about in wedding photography. I’m constantly looking to capture the most intimate moments.” -Marlon Richardson
“This wasn’t staged. There’s this one venue in North Augusta, South Carolina that has a gigantic spiral staircase running up the middle of the building. The bride and groom were on their way out the door and I hung around up above to wait for this shot. It was taken a few years ago, but still remains one of my favs.” -Andy Donnan
“While I am doing the conventional posed shots, the 2nd shooter is working the scene with a tilt-shift lens. Though I’ve seen amazing t/s shots done by other primary photographers, for me it’s better to leave it to a specialist. Having someone dedicated to the t/s during the posed shots gives them the time and space to get their concepts and settings together while I shoot the same group of people in a conventional portrait shot. After I’ve gotten the main shot that will make the majority of people happy, I then step out of the way to get the cooler t/s shot done by the 2nd shooter.” -Andrew Collings
“An image I always want to get is one that showcases personality. I’m not there to just capture what the couple looks like; I’m there to capture who they are. When a couple hires me, they don’t hire me to shoot any wedding – they hire me to shoot theirs. This is not about providing stock images to a client – it’s about creating a family heirloom so that their children and grandchildren will always know who they were. Getting to know your clients before the wedding can help you know what to look for to create a meaningful personality image.” -Josie Liming
“Must-have shots are the ones that connect directly and emotionally with the couple, are the ones that tell a story, tell their story, and express feelings, excitement and passion about the people, places and things they love. But keep in mind that all weddings are different and you must get to know each couple well before the big day. It is key to understand their wishes, what is important to them, like people, places and accessories. If you do your homework the task of finding a clever shot will be so much easier. What is important for you might not necessarily be important for the couple, and the other way round. So keep asking all these important questions and get to know them well!” -Christine Drescher
“Don’t be afraid to keep your lens fixed on the couple or a guest or family member when the tears start to flow, not just when they’re smiling and laughing. It might feel awkward at the time, but the images are powerful and really bring you back to what it was like to experience the day.” -David Zentz
“It sounds silly but I actually look for the birth of a memory…you can kind of see it coming if you’re paying attention. Say a bridesmaid comes over with a picture of the bride as a baby, or the best man touches his friend on the shoulder as the bride is coming down the aisle and you see them both in awe.” -Andrew Thomas Clifton
“When the bride is about to come down the aisle for the ceremony, I am in position up front to photograph that moment when she first sees the groom. But often there are also great shots of her with her family/bridesmaids before the ceremony as well as a guaranteed solid shot of her from behind as she walks down the aisle.” -Andrew Collings
“I want to capture natural love most between the bride and groom, but I’ll take honest emotion however it comes. I typically advise my clients to consider a ‘first look’ before the ceremony if they are willing. The moment of first sight is a great time to simply step back and wait for the photo to come to you. A first look really makes capturing real interaction and love between a couple easy.” -Hunter Harrison
“A wedding is one of the most emotional times in a person’s life. It’s my goal to create images that will always be able to transport a couple back to that moment, whether that’s a week or twenty years later. The wedding only happens once, so the images need to allow them to experience it again and again. I’m documenting not just what the day looked like, but how the couple felt during their wedding. I’m looking for images that will bring back all of the emotions of a wedding day every time a couple sees them.” -Josie Liming
“They will remember this night forever. Give them more that they may have overlooked and will be able to tell a more full story to their kids. What was the weather like? Were there some unbelievable views? You best be sure that the bride and groom selected their venues because of the details – so do them justice!” -Chris Chowaniec
“This time is very special for the bride as we are capturing the last moments of her as a single woman. In this shoot I try to capture the time during make-up, hair and dressing up as well as taking images of important items or accessories of the bride, like her shoes, the wedding dress, jewellery, etc. On one wedding I had, a bride was so into her shoes that she asked me to make the cover page of her album her shoes. I tried to convince her not to choose this shot, but she then said to me: ’Christine, I want to tell my story.’ And from this day on, I have a different understanding of what a clever shot really means.” -Christine Drescher
“The dress – somewhere more interesting than a wardrobe door.” -Lisa Devlin
“Feet — the ultimate headless portrait.” -Missy McLamb
“Every single noun at a wedding has its own vantage point, and hence a story to tell. The cake, bride, and chairs all have perspectives to the story. So I tend to focus on the stories of individual nouns to provide a broad view later on. I’m a more tight shooter — I like 50mm and 35mm lenses at low apertures to really get in with an almost natural frame of view and show people the intimate connections of all the perspectives. That intersection point, where they all meet, is the wedding.” -Andrew Thomas Clifton
“Show not just the main action, but the reactions of the guests – particularly close family members. I often shoot through the couple to the faces of the parents in the front row when I’m allowed to be behind the ceremony. There’s often a lot of pride and emotion evident on their faces and getting the couple in the foreground ties the image together.” -David Zentz
“It happens at nearly every wedding, but you never know when. At some point the parents of the bride or groom will look on with loving admiration. You just have to be in the right place to capture it. Again, there is no trick with this one. You just need to be aware and watch for it.” -Hunter Harrison
“My favorite moment to photograph the bride and her father is right before he gives her away…the light hitting a bride when she waits in a car is usually quite lovely. If possible, riding with the bride and her father is very sweet. Just don’t talk to them, unless Dad is nervous — he wants to focus on his daughter. ” -Missy McLamb
“The bride with her Dad (or Mom), just before walking down the isle. A lot of photographers miss this moment because, if you’re working alone, you probably have positioned yourself up near the altar to catch the procession. I much prefer to stay with the bride because she often tears up and hugs her Dad realizing that she’s about to get married. It’s often a very sweet moment. The procession pictures, by comparison, are often stiff and boring.” -Matthew Cavanaugh
“A must-have is the KIDS! Kids grow up fast, and you don’t get to see them dressed up very often. Capturing the kids at a wedding is very important and you’ll get many kudos for doing so…and most kids love being in front of the camera!” -Brian James
“The ring-bearer and flower girls will often steal the show on the dance floor at the reception, but I try to get a nice portrait before that. The dance floor pictures are fine too, but the kids often don’t look as put- together by the time they’re out there dancing.” -Matthew Cavanaugh
“I know photographing kids at a wedding can easily grab the ‘aw-that’s cute’ factor, but as it turns out, at this beach wedding these two caught the bouquet and garter. The fact that the kid is shirtless, along with the Mr. & Mrs. balloons has always made this one a fun favorite of mine.” -Andy Donnan
“Of course, you must-have party pics! That is what a wedding is! A celebration with all of their friends and family…and the reception is where they all let loose! I always enjoy getting out on the dance floor with a wide-angle lens, getting in close and capturing fun, sometimes hilarious dance moves.” -Brian James
“I love taking action shots at the reception to show the energy of the day. These kind of opportunities usually happen in the last hour of a wedding so you have to be on your toes.” -Marlon Richardson
”For me, it is about capitalizing on the unexpected moments that produces the most compelling imagery. I approach weddings with a documentary style, and just like making a picture story about any event, the challenge to me is always to take a moment where there is a lot going on, and distill all of the visual information in that moment into an organized, well-composed frame. When it’s done well it should look elegant and effortless, and the relationships between the characters or elements in the photograph should express an emotion or a larger statement, serious or humorous, that goes beyond that moment and gives you something lasting, something timeless. ” -Brendan Bullock
“While the up close and personal dance shot is necessary for Mom, giving your couple a little instruction as to where you will be toward the end of the dance and to at least have their faces in the direction makes for a much more natural shot (they may even do something fun at the end if they know where you will be). You also capture the mood of the guests and it gives a great perspective.” -Chris Chowaniec
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