10 Things a Photographer Should Never Do While Photographing a Wedding


With over 2 million weddings taking place each year nationwide, there are over 2 million opportunities to make mistakes-countless pitfalls just waiting for the unsuspecting wedding photographer to stumble into. Sure, they seem harmless, until you realize the danger they impart to you and your business. I don’t want you to be just another wedding photographer statistic, so, I’ve compiled a list of my top ten things a photographer should never do while photographing a wedding. If you recognize yourself in any of these, don’t beat yourself up. Remember, it hurts to grow. Now, let’s begin…

10. Do not dance at the reception.

Yes, we know, you hear the music pumping and you feel the need to prove that you have rhythm, but you were hired to photograph the blissful joining of a couple as they embark on their lifelong journey together, not to get your “freak on” with the wedding party.

9. Guys only tip: Do not refer to the bride, bridesmaid, mother of the bride, grandmother of the bride, or basically ANY female at the wedding as “beautiful.” 

This is not to say that you can not tell them they look beautiful, but when that word is used in lieu of their name over and over again, the lack of sincerity starts to drip faster than my nose during allergy season.

“Move over here, beautiful.”

“Let me fix your hair, beautiful.”

“Lift your chin just a bit, beautiful.”

“Smile, beautiful.”

Oh sure, the first time you hear it, it’s a little flattering. Charming, even. After the twentieth time, it just gets downright creepy.

8. Do not, under any circumstances, kick off your shoes. 

Listen, I know how it feels after standing for hours; your feet hurt; your calves ache. The shoes that were so comfortable 8 hours ago now feel like bear traps on your feet. You long to remove your shoes and let those little piggies roam free. And you can, just as soon as you’re done. Heck, you can even take them off en route to the car, just do not remove them at the reception. This is not the time to chillax, bro. Speaking of chillaxin’…

7. Do not feel the need to recite every entry from the Urban Dictionary to establish a cool wedding photog reputation, yo!

“Fab!” “Duuuude!” “Bro!” “Delish!” “Gorg!” While all wonderful words to use in a high school lunch room, or, like if, OMG-you’re shopping at the mall in the valley, they might not be the best if you want to establish a professional credibility at a wedding. For reals.

6. Do not say “This is only the third wedding I’ve photographed, so I’m a little nervous.”

We all start somewhere. We all have to gain experience. But if you’re going to make a statement like this, you might as well stick a button on your shirt that says, “I have no idea what I’m doing.” A client will have as much confidence in you as you have in yourself. You can let your nerves run the full course of your body. You can use them to  keep you alert and focused and thinking about your next move. But you do NOT have to make a Public Service Announcement at the wedding.

5. Do not share technical problems with the wedding party. 

Let’s face it, stuff is going to happen. Problems will arise. Equipment will break, lenses will lock, lights will refuse to fire, and you will panic. No matter how seasoned of a wedding photographer you are, a lens that locks up in the middle of an event will give you the same sensation as if you swallowed an ice cube. But no matter what the problem, it is YOURS, not the couple’s. The last thing a bride wants to hear on her wedding day is, “WTF? Hold on everybody! My lens locked up and I’ve got to switch everything over now, so it’s gonna be a few minutes. I can not believe this is happening. I mean, come on!” Yeah, brides really love that…not. Just switch to your backup plan and move on. You do have a backup plan, right?

4. Do not drink alcoholic beverages. 

You know that feeling when you’re photographing a wedding reception and the day has been warm and long and you’re now at the reception and everyone is walking around with cold beers and a groomsman walks up to you and says, “Hey, let me get you a drink?” Do not do it, unless you are okay with earning the title, “the tipsy photographer.” I know the temptation is great, and beyond a shadow of a doubt, you deserve a cold one, but not then and not there. Do what everyone else does and hit up Applebee’s on your way home.


3. Do not fuss with the wedding coordinator. 

I have seen many a photographer tangle with the all powerful wedding coordinator and go down in a brilliant bright flame.  Wedding coordinators know people, the same people that will or won’t refer you in the future. Does this mean you should never speak up if something is hindering you from getting what the client wants? No, of course not, but speak in kindness and consider the consequences. On second thought, don’t do it.  When considering arguing with a wedding coordinator, I will tell you what I tell my kids when they feel like being sassy, “Do not start-you will. not. win.”

2. Do not wear low rise pants. 

Do I really even need to explain this one?

1. Do not try to be the life of the party. 

Unless you are up on the altar marrying the person you love most in the world, this day is not about you. Not even close. You are not the court jester or the stand up comedian-you are a professional wedding photographer who, although fun and enthusiastic, is not there to entertain the masses. You are there to create compelling, emotional, beautiful images. If the spotlight is on YOU, you’re doing it wrong.


Now, remember what I told you and go have fun.

Image credits: Photo illustration created with Gun Barrel Proof House, Banbury Street, Digbeth – 10 mph sign by ell brown and first dance ever by grenade, Champagne with cassis by andybullock77, Spotlight on Michael Buble’s second stage at Rod Laver arena. by smjbk

  • Jeremy Lawrence
  • Silvia Constantin

    Awww, c’mon, no photographer ruined a set of wedding photos after just a few beers and a champagne flute. Plus, no one ever kicked out the photographer for actually enjoying the event if it’s a nice one. For real, you teach us to look and act like we have a stick up our arse – and that’s certainly not the case.

  • Shelly Mantovani

    I always dance. I am clearly not a professional.

  • Amber Gregory

    I totally disagree with a couple of these! I dance at every wedding I shoot — it helps EVERYONE feel more comfortable dancing for photos. That said, it’s not prolonged dancing because I’m exhausted by the time we get to the reception. Second — I always drink at weddings I shoot. I don’t get DRUNK, but I do have a couple of glasses of wine with dinner. I seem to have An Ability to still take great photos while I’m drinking, though, so maybe that one is good … as a general rule. I don’t have a reputation as “the tipsy photographer,” either.

  • brob

    this could have been posted without the cheesy animated gifs

  • dennispike

    I frequently dance at receptions, while shooting the dance floor. People love it, makes them feel more at ease around me. And it makes people feel that I enjoy what I’m doing. It works for me and I have no plan on stopping.

  • Paul Clapperton

    What a crock of s*@t!!!

    Dancing at weddings works for me.
    If a bride is beautiful I’ll tell her so, but maybe not every 5 seconds.
    Nothing wrong with one drink at a wedding.
    I am cool so therefore I am allowed to use the word ‘dude’.
    Sometimes I have to be the life of the party in order to get the shots I want.

    Come back when you are in the 21st century of wedding photography ‘dude’.


  • Roberto Inetti

    11-Never use animated gifs on a professionals oriented post.

  • Christopher Miller

    quick note: He specifically said, telling her she is beautiful is ok. Using “Beautiful” repeatedly as in, “Hey, Beautiful, come here” is not.

  • Zamfirescu Vladimir-Alexandru

    #9: You DEFINITELY haven’t heard the way Jerry Ghionis works with his models.

  • Dick Fabulous

    Surprised these comments need to be said. What’s going on out there? Maybe you should put down do not try to bed the bridesmaids, just in case it hadn’t occurred to someone.

  • Ray

    Cliff Mautner talks at length about how men should and should not address the bride on his Kelby Training video and he suggests saying “you look amazing” and leave it that. But, he only shoots about 50 weddings a year for big money and holds three-day seminars for $1,900 a person so what does he know?

  • lidocaineus

    My thoughts exactly. You’re a supposed professional but you write an article like its a post on 4chan? You can be light in your writing and joke around without looking resorting to childish devices that make you look like a 14 year old.

  • Ray

    There is “professional = you get paid for a service” and their is “professional = you don’t act like a moron” so I think that this article appeals to the former.

  • Jaye Cole

    How to write a professional blog post-
    1) Ditch the cheezy animated gifs.
    2) Don’t talk down to your audience.
    3) Make sure your mindset is firmly placed in the 21st century.

    I dance at weddings – puts people at ease to know I am not ‘stalking’ them, but rather enjoying the music with them. I say ‘dude’ because it is a natural part of the same personality I had when they hired me. Being enthusiastic is part of what helps me achieve the photos I want and is the same enthusiasm I show during the consultation, eshoot, etc.

    Should I stop having a good time and start practicing putting brides in teapot poses?

  • Ruben Martinez

    i dance in every wedding, it help. In the other side, i never drink alcohol, never know when a potenital client its looking. i try to remember im not a guest, im working

  • pixelbombmedia

    Why are some people here such pompous assholes? If the animated .gif offends you so much, close the story. The author is just trying to add a little fun to his post.

  • Oneisneverenoughtwotoomany

    I like your use of capital letters, “An Ability…” AA, perhaps a Freudian slip?

  • Bhavna Pandya-Barratt

    Dude, I always dance at weddings, there’s no reason you can’t be yourself at a wedding you’re photographing, the couple booked you because they like you and your persona, not so you can be a boring s**t. Some of my most creative dance shots have come from being on the dance floor myself. Just because you’re getting paid to shoot a wedding, doesn’t mean you stop having fun. I don’t plan to stop dancing at weddings.

    Oh and the animated gifs, so not cool.

  • Roberto Inetti

    Pompous assholes? You are so classy. Do you want a hug?

  • TedCrunch

    Was it really necessary to shove those bloody awful GIF files into the article? They are so distracting and add nothing. A good article marred with fast, distracting GIFS!

  • Ray

    I attended a wedding as a guest and the photographer was drinking a glass of wine while they were having the Best Man’s toast and the mother of the bride had to come up to him and say “what are you doing drinking wine? You’re supposed to go out there and take pictures!”. Pretty funny and it was an older photographer too.

  • Ray

    BTW, I don’t think that any of you caught on that inserting the GIFs and pictures is a tongue-in-cheek joke about unprofessionalism. It’s too meta.

  • Mars Simons

    thought this might have been actual advice about what NOT to shoot.. not how to behave…

  • Antonomy

    Number 8… Clearly not done many ethnic wedding… Many cultures the home and the temple you can not wear shoes… And myself and the rest of our team have a celebratory drink at the end of the night an hour or so before we go, I have also been dragged to the dancefloor by couple and bridal parties and they love when we ” getting down”

  • alex

    Do we really need those .gif’s? It gives me the vibe of a bad tumblr post.

  • Scott M

    Agree with most commenters on here. Who cares if we dance for a sec toward the back of the crowd while chimping that bad ass shot we just grabbed? Or kicking off our shoes for a bit while we eat a stale vendor’s meal in a back closet? Who cares if we say someone is beautiful more than once? Or, if we relate to the group of guys that continue to use words like “dude” and “bro” and “fab” and “totes”?

    Being successful in this biz is 99% personality and skills. There is nothing wrong with lwetting both shine through.

  • Boris Bransby

    I saw the photographer at my sister’s wedding trying to dance (flirting) with one of the pretty girls… he got a slap in the face :)

  • Larissa

    I am a wedding coordinator and Rule #1 with my firm is no one who is hired is drinking alcohol. We’re professionals, not guests. Save the beer for after you’re done. If you had another job, you wouldn’t be chugging back a beer or a champagne whilst sitting at your desk.

  • Scott M

    Actually at Nike and a design agency i worked at we had beer taps in the conference room and Nike has a pub on campus. It was not uncommon to see people enjoying a beer responsibly at their desk.

  • Boris Bransby

    I liked the animated gifs. Specially the one of Alicia Silverstone hehe

  • Boris Bransby

    The beer available at the office is common practice in advertising agencies.. sure they need to be drunk to be ‘creative’ (?) .. anyway, you are comparing apples to oranges IMHO. Cheers

  • MikeAlgar42

    This post wouldn’t have garnered so much attention if it was called
    “10 Suggestions on being a good wedding photographer” and featured no ridiculous gifs.
    Whilst some of the points are interesting, it depends on the person as some people can sell the ‘beautiful’ thing whereas others it seems awkward.

  • Roberto Inetti

    There is nothing wrong with gifs, the problem is the context.

  • Renee

    Interesting. Recently watched a webinar with 4 masters of photography, all males. The question i posed was ‘how do you possibly remember the extended family’s names?’ and every one of them would call them ‘mum’ or ‘dad’, ‘beautiful’ ‘darling’. Absolutely nothing wrong with this. I’m a female and wouldn’t mind my photographer calling me that all day :)

    Jerry Ghionis is known for his unique sense of humor and if that means speaking like Borat and throwing in some dorky urban dictionary puns and then it works, so be it! :)

  • Kevin Newsome

    Wow, I have to say I’m amazed at all the commenters/photographers who think the reception was thrown for them. Moving with the music while doing your job is one thing, putting your camera down to bust a move on the dance floor is another. If the bride or her mother drags you out there, you go. If not, then stick with the job you’re being paid to do – document. As for not drinking on the job, I didn’t realize that even needed to be said, but evidently an awful lot of you feel perfectly comfortable with the idea of indulging while shooting. What other professions were you run out of before you found this one?

    This post is dead on because it sheds light on the lack of professionalism running rampant in our industry. So many photographers wanting to become the rockstar photographer they’ve been taught to idolize – photographers that don’t even SHOOT weddings anymore.

    Kudos to the writer for having the guts to REMIND the industry that professionalism is still a very coveted and valuable attribute to possess. Oh, and it pays a lot higher too… maybe some of you should try it.

  • Max

    I have drank at every wedding I have ever shot… They insist on it. No problems. Funerals too.

  • Paul Clapperton

    Did I not say that in my reply that every 5 seconds is kinda creepy? I think I did…

    Still doesnt get away from the fact that this post is crap.

  • Radek Moryc

    I tangled with the wedding coordinator before. When you have very little time to accomplish what you need to accomplish and she just keeps on yapping her mouth and distracting the couple, you got to do what you got to do. In a nice way of course I ask her to leave because she is not contributing to the positive outcome of the photo shoot. When the final product is delivered, what is more important; good photos or the fact that you did not want to hurt coordinator’s feeling and the results are not so great. There hasn’t been a single wedding coordinator to date that hasn’t managed to piss me off at least once during the wedding day.

    Drinking, yes of course if I am asked for drink with the groom I will not refuse. I know how much I can handle

  • lidocaineus

    It has nothing to do with being pompous. It’s about choosing the right content for the right situation.

  • Burnin Biomass

    This is an excellent post!

    Most of these fall under my rule… You never act like a wedding guest (or worse like part of the wedding party).

    Nothing is more embarrassing than the photographer dancing. You might think you all people are ok with it, they are not. If you think everyone loves that you dance, you need to get over yourself.

    Drinking at a wedding (for a paid photographer) is always a no no.

  • Christopher Miller

    I did see that, but the way you phrased your comment sounded (to me) like you were using it as an adjective, rather than as a nickname. No internet hate going on here, just a thought.

  • Burnin Biomass

    *stands and claps*

  • Kyle

    because photography isn’t a ‘creative’ job right ;)

    I think it’s an interesting subject on drinking at weddings…probably depends on the culture of the wedding. if it’s a conservative family I would tend to stay away, but if its a younger crowd that’s partying, I don’t see anything wrong with having a beer or 2 after the main photography responsibilities are over. figure dinner and later….

  • Chris N.

    Indeed, but he does it in a way that is intentionally cheesy and funny to get reactions. Some photogs may not get that.

  • Larissa

    Really? Every wedding coordinator has pissed you off? Maybe you need to look at what you’re doing as that’s a pretty bad track record to have managed to upset every coordinator. I’m not sure what they are doing but I’m too busy to be ‘standing around yapping’. Usually, I’m helping corral guests for the photo session before we lose the light, telling guests to not take photos whilst the photographer is doing portraits and trying to HELP the photographer. Or I’m off doing other things to ensure everything is running smoothly. Some photographers seem to think the day is all about them and forget that there are a lot of other vendors/guests/moving parts involved. Yes, we want great photos as great shots help my business via blogs, etc. The day, and photos, turn out a lot better if the vendors work together as a team as we all have the same goal in mind – a smooth event with happy clients. Maybe you need to try to work with your coordinator so you’re all on the same page.

  • Leo

    2 million weddings worldwide? something very wrong with this info. China has 8 million weddings per year. Brazil 1 million.

  • Michael Zhang

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention. It was a typo, and should read: “nationwide.” We’ve made the edit :)

  • Amber Gregory

    Ha, I didn’t notice that! Very funny.

  • Gregor_Albrecht

    This is such an amazing list.
    However you forgot some things:
    1. Don’t forget your camera.
    2. Don’t stab people. Especially not the bride.
    3. Don’t try to sell drugs.
    4. Don’t make lists about OBVIOUS stuff.
    5. Don’t eat kids.