How to Capture Wedding Photos You Can't Plan For

Every engaged couple has seen the lists. You know, lists like “Ten Must-Have Wedding Photos” or “The Checklist for Perfect Wedding Photos”. A lot of magazines and blogs offer tips like these, and while these tips can be helpful, if you focus solely on photos that fit perfectly into a checklist, you will miss the photos you can’t plan for.

How can you make sure the quiet moments- the unexpected, emotional events- are captured? These moments happen between the obligatory ones; they’re not the cake cutting, the first dance, or the toasts. They’re the unscripted moments we want to make sure you get from your wedding; a hug before your father walks you down the aisle, or a laugh shared with your best man. They’re the ones we love, the ones we’ve worked years training our eyes to capture. And they’re the ones that are often the most magical. 

Here are our tips for capturing the photos you can’t plan for at your wedding:

  1. Empower your photographer to get a unique vantage point.

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Where will your photographer be during your ceremony or during dances at the reception? Often, the best photos are captured from unique vantage points. Consider whether your photographer will be able to photograph from the front of your ceremony. Or whether they’ll be able to photograph from the stage during your reception. Make sure there are options for gaining unique perspectives on key events at your wedding.

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There is an old saying in the photography profession, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough”. An amazing photographer, Robert Capa, shared this advice many years ago, but it still resonates today. Your wedding will be filled with real, emotional moments. Make sure your photographer is positioned close enough to capture them.

2. Choose a photographer who is trained to anticipate.


That may sound philosophical, but it’s actually fairly straightforward. When you talk to photographers, ask them to share a bit about anticipation. What does that term mean to them? How patient are they about waiting for quiet, unscripted moments to reveal themselves? Nobody knows exactly when your grandmother will walk up and give you a huge hug. Or when your maid of honor will grab you and shed tears as she celebrates her best friend getting married. 


How many years has a particular photographer worked documenting weddings, or perhaps even news events? Many former newspaper and magazine photographers (there are some on our team!) have specialized skill sets that train them to watch carefully for unscripted moments. After all, they’re used to being on the front lines, documenting history. In this case, they’re documenting your family history. So, it’s vital that they’re ready to anticipate and capture key moments without much notice. 

3. Build buffer time into your timeline for spontaneity.

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Between all of the traditional “must-have” moments (cake cutting, first dance, toasts, etc), there are a myriad of incredible, spontaneous things happening during your wedding: your father squeezing your hand as he stands at the front of the ceremony with you, moments before you say your vows; or perhaps after portraits, you discover a secluded spot to talk to your spouse, away from the high-energy events of the wedding day. That’s why you shouldn’t over-schedule your day. Leave room for fun opportunities; create space for them to happen. These are the moments you’ll want to share with future generations of your family. 

4. Choose a photographer who offers the option to add on a second photographer.


Weddings are fun- sometimes frenzied- events. With everything happening during your day, there’s bound to be many moments occurring simultaneously. That’s why it’s important to choose a photographer who offers the option to hire a second photographer. Think about toasts that happen during your wedding. Not only is it important to capture the person toasting, it’s also important to capture the classic reactions happening around the room. Nobody can be in two places at once, but by having two photographers document your wedding, you’ll be able to capture more of those unscripted moments.

5. Resist the urge to choreograph everything.

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There’s no magic formula for capturing meaningful photographs, no top ten photos that guarantee you capture everything. There is, however, a greater chance you’ll get creative, storytelling photos from your wedding if you let your photographer play. By giving them the freedom to be creative, to experiment, you’ll let their skills shine. Perhaps they are adept at using creative lighting to capture your first dance- let them add supplemental lighting when they feel it’s a key ingredient to capturing those magical moments. 

6. Ask yourself, is your photographer crazy?


Of course you don’t want a truly crazy photographer! But you do want one who is willing to get right in the middle of the dance floor with you and your friends. The photographs that happen out there aren’t just fun, they’re awesome! So make sure you find a photographer who isn’t afraid to get a little crazy and get in the middle of the action. They’re the ones who will capture the most hilarious, spontaneous, and unscripted moments.

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7. Consider chemistry.

Don’t worry, we aren’t talking about science. This kind of chemistry is all about the connection and trust you have with your photographer. They are one of the people who will be closest to you- all day long- during your wedding. Even if you can’t meet them in person before the actual wedding day, make sure you get along great over the phone and in emails. Make sure you have fun with them, that you enjoy their personality, and their approach to you wedding. Your photos will reflect your genuine connection.