Today I’m going to answer the question that’s been burning on your heart. What oh what should I wear when photographing a wedding? It’s a more important question than you might realize but not for the reasons you think.
Feel free to say no, because some of you might not actually want to hear the truth. Most couples that hire a wedding photographer care more about what the photos look like than what their photographer looks like. I know, I’m sorry to burst your bubble.
That being said, I do think it’s important to look professional and fit into the formal event if only because it will give you confidence. You are representing your business so you want to look as nicely and intentionally composed as your photographs. But I’m going to be real with you and talk to you about what you really need to wear on a wedding day.
I know, I know, this may not be the wardrobe list that you expected. Perhaps you expected a list of fashionable Pinterest-worthy fashion tips. But asking what you should wear as a wedding photographer is like asking what you should wear as a tree trimmer or a plumber — wear something that helps you get the job done while looking as professional as possible.
Table of Contents
Proper Footwear for a Wedding Photographer
I’ve been a wedding photographer for over a decade so trust me when I tell you that this job can be physically demanding. One minute you’re in a squat and another you’re lying on your belly and then the next you’re weaving your way through a crowd trying to get where you need to go. After over 10 years of standing on concrete for over 10 hours a day, I’ve learned a lot of things but one of them is that your footwear matters.
My main wardrobe advice for wedding photographers is to invest in good footwear. Sadly, the choices that fall into my requirements are fairly limited but I promise it’s worth it. Find a pair of fashionable, comfortable, supportive shoes that you can run, walk, squat, and jump in all day long.
If you’re resisting my plea for good footwear, I hope you have good arches and strong calf muscles. Here’s the question I ask, would you rather look cute in a pair of useless slip-ons but find yourself with tendonitis that leaves you crippled the day after the wedding? Luckily, there are some cute options out there for shoes (or even boots if you’re in a wedding locale like Colorado) that don’t cause foot problems down the road.
Depending on where or how you shoot, you might find yourself standing on concrete for 10 hours or wandering around in a damp field or rock hoping to get that epic portrait. One way or another you’re going to want shoes that are functional but that don’t look like you’re headed to the senior center aerobics class.
Moveable and Breathable Clothing
The next factor in what to wear as a wedding photographer is to find movable and breathable clothing. You might even go for layers if you know you’ll be inside and then outside, running around a hotel and then a venue. I find that if something restricts my movement it makes it harder for me to do my job.
The last thing you want to do is hesitate to take an epic shot because you can’t lift your hands over your head or squat as deep as you need to. If you’re at a formal wedding you might wear that bowtie or sport coat during the ceremony in order to not be disrespectful but then, feel free to adjust as needed to continue to do your job.
You might be sure to have a rain jacket or warm layers, you need to be prepared to be self-sufficient so that you can focus on photography. And as your clothes are moving and breathing and allowing you to do your job, you need to make sure that they also stay put where they need to. Which brings us to the next tip.
Clothing That Won’t End Up Out of Place in the Worst of Ways
Feel free to wear a skirt or dress as long as you won’t be flashing anyone when you do a deep lunge to get the shot on the dance floor. There’s not much to say here other than you might want to test your clothes out during a yoga class so that you are prepared for any potential wardrobe malfunctions.
A Pre-Planned Outfit
This tip is less about what to wear and more about getting ready for the big day. Brides and Grooms don’t always sleep the night before a wedding and a little-known fact is that sometimes the photographer doesn’t either. That’s an exaggeration but even after doing this a long time, I still get a little nervous the morning of the wedding day.
There’s something about the pre-creative state where you’re visualizing all the great photos you’re about to take and hoping the day goes well. You pack up your gear while making sure you have backup batteries and the timeline for the wedding day and then head to the wedding in a calm state of mind. Or, you panic trying to figure out what to wear worrying that your shirt won’t match the wedding colors and then in your haste forget your lens filters.
Thus, I introduce my tip to treat your wedding day clothes like a uniform. Pick out an outfit or several outfits that you plan to wear on the wedding day and take that decision away on the wedding day so that you can focus on being creative with your photography. Unless for some reason picking out your outfit for the day helps you get in the zone, then by all means, after all, that’s the goal of this tip.
Your Camera, Batteries, Radio, and Anything Else You Need to Do Your Job
I hate to break it to you but what a photographer wears often includes an equivalent of a toolbelt. Now, notice I used the word toolbelt instead of fanny pack because even though fanny packs seem to go in and out of style, the point is to find a way to carry all your gear without looking like too much of a nerd. Or, whatever, embrace the nerd, after all those guys with the pocket protectors now design the apps that we can’t live without.
You’re going to want to think about how you’re going to carry your camera or cameras and anything else you might need immediate access to. You can have a lot of stuff in your camera bag but there are a few things you need to have on your person. Spare batteries for example are a crucial thing to have quick access to as is a copy of the timeline so that you can anticipate what photos to shoot next.
The good news is that there are designers that have solved such problems with holsters, straps, or harnesses to help us carry our camera equipment. I personally wear a Peak Design Field Pouch and a Spider Holster on a regular belt. I know people who swear by the camera harness.
The point is to find something that works for you to help you carry your gear in a functional and ergonomic way. Just like I emphasized the importance of good footwear, you’ll be surprised at the strain wearing a camera on a standard neck strap all day can cause
Again, this tip is not about wardrobe or style but for some reason, I feel the need to put it out there into the world. Don’t forget your sunscreen so that you don’t end up with a red forehead along with your swollen ankles the day after the wedding.
A Different Take on What to Wear When Photographing a Wedding
Scroll the internet and you’ll find tips on wearing black so that you don’t stand out too much and look professional. Yes, sure, those are great tips but in this article, I’m striving to give you the real deal on the wedding photography uniform. From my perspective, my clients care more about how my photos look than how I look.
It’s important that those of us with a physically demanding job take care of our bodies. My goal when dressing for work is to be as comfortable as possible while still looking fancy enough to fit in at a wedding. Keep in mind that the guests aren’t squatting on the floor or climbing up on a rock and they aren’t on their feet as many hours as we are.
Depending on the region you work in and the fashion in that area, what you wear might vary a little. Colorado wedding photographers can get away with wearing dress boots with ample arch support while beach wedding photographers in California would have a hard time pulling that off.
Regardless, hopefully these tips will help you think about what you actually need to wear at a wedding to get your job done, and then you can go about making it look as fashionable as possible.
About the author: Brenda Bergreen is a Colorado wedding photographer, videographer, yoga teacher, and writer who works alongside her husband at Bergreen Photography. With their mission and mantra “love. adventurously.” they are dedicated to telling adventurous stories in beautiful places.
Image credits: Photographs by Brenda Bergreen.