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7 Things I Learned from Shooting My First Wedding

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My name is Oliver Ruffus, and recently I had the experience of shooting my very first wedding. I’d like to give back to the photography community by talking about the experience so that first-timers know what to be aware of. A lot of this will be redundant with other sources but hopefully something new will catch someone’s eye.

Here is the gear I used when I shot the wedding this past weekend:

Nikon D3200 with 35mm f/1.8 and Speedlight SB-300 (mine)

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Nikon D300 with 70-200 f/2.8 and Speedlight SB-910 (rented from Glass and Gear)

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Here are some tips that I’ve compiled from a few different sources, along with some that I came up with:

1. Bring multiple copies of everything

Batteries, memory cards, cameras, clothes, picture lists. Bring battery chargers, too. I got pretty lucky in that nothing went wrong, but there were several occasions when I found myself thinking “Oh god, what if that drink had been spilled two seconds earlier?” or something along those lines.

2. Scout the area before the day of the wedding

I can’t stress this enough. If possible, do this with someone who knows the ceremony. The day of the wedding will be hectic and the last thing you want is unfamiliar territory. Get to know the lighting, outlets, and most importantly find some good shots that you would like to take on the wedding day.

3. Get a picture list

Ask the couple for a list containing each subset of the guests with which they would like a picture. Make sure to do this days before the wedding so that it can be edited.

What I mean by “picture list” is a list of people that the couples want pictures with directly after the ceremony. These are the pictures that are framed and hung around the house most often and you want to be sure the client gets what they want.

I’m not talking about micro-managing horrors like “I would love a picture of this chair at this time of day with my grandmother’s picture next to it”. Sorry, I’m too busy shooting your wedding.

4. Know the ceremony like the back of your hand

Where will the partner be entering from? Any religious/spiritual traditions that need to be captured? What time of day is the ceremony? Don’t try to wing it!

5. A crop sensor-only tip

Bring a lens that can go in the range of 18-24mm. I wish I had a smaller focal length to capture large group shots on the dance floor and during the actual ceremony. Because I was shooting DX the effective focal length of the 35mm was around 50mm.

6. Prepare for rain

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New Englanders, you know what I mean. Some plastic shopping bags and rubber bands will serve in a pinch, but you can find commercial products that will serve you multiple times.

7. Relax

A wedding is supposed to be a fun time and you are there to capture everything. Smile, talk to people if they talk to you, and in general don’t be a stranger to the guests. People are more likely to let down their guard and enjoy themselves if they know you aren’t just some person with a camera.


This list is by no means exhaustive. It is simply what I think were the most important aspects of shooting my first wedding, and a low-key wedding at that.

Some people have WPPSTD (wedding photographer’s post-traumatic stress disorder). This having been my first wedding, I can see how this would happen. Luckily this was a pretty relaxed wedding. I wouldn’t let a wedding photographer veteran snub your dreams of doing it. You might love it, or you might end up with WPPTSD. You’ll never know if you don’t try.


About the author: Oliver Ruffus is an amateur photographer who survived his first wedding and wants to share what he has learned along the way.


Image credits: Rings photograph by SimonShaw, rain photograph by Brian Ambrozy

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