The Definitive Guide to Wedding Photo Shoots including pre-wedding and post-wedding sessions

What Makes a Perfect Wedding Photoshoot?

As a savvy bride, groom, or mother of the bride/groom, you probably know about many of the important photos that make up your pre-wedding, wedding day & post-wedding photoshoots, Nevertheless, I've assembled over 50  in this definitive guide to capturing your favorite memories from your special day.

Some are obvious.

Others are surprisingly intimate.

And others are designed to let your personality shine.

But they're all here.

The Pre-Wedding Photo Shoot

In one of the hottest trends sweeping the wedding world, pre-wedding photoshoots are, in some ways, an evolution of the engagement photoshoot. It was popularized by Chinese and other Asian couples looking for a fantastical element to augment the more intimate and family-focused traditional wedding.

It can definitely include an engagement photo session, but the real difference between engagement photos and pre-wedding photos is the fantasy.

Your engagement photos are like a glimpse behind the curtain. They highlight you and your partner in natural or casual settings. They capture the hope and love of two humans about to build their lives together.

Pre-Wedding photography is about being the hero of your own story. Skip the comfy sweater and where your favorite pinup outfit as you flag a drag race in vegas. Where your gown and tux as you take shots around a private jet. From James Bond to James Dean and every hero or heroine in between, your pre-wedding photos are about living your wildest dreams with your partner and sharing your exploits with your friends.

Helping your photographer make pre-wedding magic.

Hopefully, before you start your pre-wedding shoot, you have already hired a world-class photographer. If you are not sure how to find an outstanding wedding photographer for your budget and location, check out my guide here for assistance.

Once you have your wedding photographer, meet with them in advance to discuss the stories you want to tell in your pre-wedding shoot.

Looking to be superheroes, spies or star crossed lovers? Is your story an action movie, thriller or romantic epic? Your answers to these questions will help you choose what set pieces fit into your vision and your budget.

Location, wardrobe and props: tips for the perfect shot

  • Pre-Wedding photos tend to have lots of high-end wardrobe options. It's very common to wear your wedding dress or tuxedo while dancing in front of the Eiffel Tower or kicking ass in a simulated Vegas casino brawl.
  • Costumes and cosplay are also very popular right now so feel free to let your geek out. It's your fantasy photo-shoot - make it your own.
  • Props can range from the simple (flowers, candy,), the intimate (family heirlooms), or the extravagant (yachts, jets, industrial equipment, buildings, etc.) If you are prioritizing your list, start by listing everything in your wildest dreams and work with a professional photographer to make adjustments that align with your budget and travel schedule.
  • Locations can vary wildly from couple to couple, but here is a shortlist of popular locations to get your brain juices flowing.
    • Parks and Gardens
    • Buildings and Hotels
    • Churches & temples (as appropriate)
    • City Streets
    • Industrial Areas
    • Famous locations (Empire State Building, Golden Gate Bridge, etc)
    • Ancient Ruins
    • Your Hobbies - Take your shots doing your favorite activities
    • Natural Events and Locations:
      • Rain
      • Fog
      • Wind
      • Mountains
      • Valleys
      • Waterfalls
      • Beaches
    • Restaurants (especially if you are foodies)
    • Nostalgic locations (where you first met, kissed, etc)
    • Vintage Traditional - Dressing up in traditional garb for vintage style photos (increasingly popular for Indian weddings, but the principle is universal)
    • With your best friends
    • With your favorite family members
    • With your best furry friends
    • Under the stars
    • Sunrise/Sunset

Ultimately, your pre-wedding photos (like all wedding photos) should be a reflection of you, your partner and your story together. They make for amazing photos to share with friends, family and for use on your wedding website and invitations. They also serve as an important reminder to relax, have fun and love boldly. Good advice to remember for your wedding day.

The Wedding Photography Process

In case this isn't obvious, photos are only one part of your wedding. If you are faced with the choice to take a simple shot and keep your wedding day silky smooth or breaking your brain trying to pull off something complex, keep it simple.

You deserve to have your wedding day be a time of bliss and joy because the camera will capture your truest emotions.

By wedding photoshoots, I am referring to the series of photo sessions that cover the time from the rehearsal dinner to preparation, hair, makeup, the ceremony, and the reception. They are the part of the process that engaged couples are the most familiar with.


What to expect from your wedding photographer

As a wedding photographer, I know that one of my jobs is to reduce the stress of the bride, groom, bridal party, and occasionally the wedding planner. I accomplish this by being extremely organized, constantly communicating, and staying just invisible enough that you and your big day are always in focus.

But since you may not be working with me, here are some of the basic tasks that your photographer should be handling for you. You shouldn't be paying someone tens of thousands unless they can carry their own weight.


A professional wedding photographer will work closely with you to prepare for your event. If it feels like your photographer knows your wedding plans as well or better than you do, you are on the right track. This is an in-depth process that includes lots of moving parts, including:

  • A timeline of your wedding day, often drafted by you or your wedding planner.
  • Important locations :
    • Where the wedding couple is individually getting ready?
    • Where is the ceremony venue?
    • Where is the reception venue?
    • What opportunities or challenges does the wedding venue give us for shooting? A chapel on the lake has wholly different shot opportunities than a New York rooftop wedding.
  • Traditions that are important to you, your family or heritage.
  • Any unique surprises, or elements you plan on using to personalize your wedding day.
  • Things or themes that are important to you as the wedding couple. Anything that helps you and your photographer feel more comfortable with the process will generally help create better shots.
  • The family formal list. This is really important. This category contains all of those posed family photos that you see in favorite wedding albums. Preparing this list in advance helps you and the photographer stay organized. Additionally, your photographer will use this information to allocate enough time to take all of these photos without disrupting your special day.

Wedding photo shoot tips for smart brides and grooms

  • Expect the unexpected.#dontsweatthesmallstuff Modern weddings are some of the most complex events you will ever participate in. Even if every person involved in your wedding executes perfectly, a million other things can change or go wrong. Bridesmaids or groomsmen could take too long to get ready. Babies may cry. And don't get me started on the sudden gusts of wind that blow through New York buildings at the worst times. Just remember: When it seems a little chaotic, check with your wedding team and choose to #idgaf and enjoy your day.
  • Lighting is the secret ingredient to epic photos. If your reception is indoors, try to include lots of uplighting to add height and depth to those grand shots. If your wedding is outdoors, go wild and include as much lighting as possible. Light strings, lanterns, candles are great sources of lighting for a romantic atmosphere.
  • Pin It! Seriously, Pinterest is your friend. Make a board of your favorite wedding photos and share them with your photographer. A good Pinterest board will go miles to making sure your wedding photos look just like you dreamed.
  • Have lots of time buffers.
  • No seriously... more time buffers - see tip #1 but delays are so common this bears repeating. It may sound crazy, but it often takes 2 hours to prepare and shoot the bride, groom and wedding party. And this is AFTER hair and makeup are already complete.
  • For those with long hair, if you plan to wear it down for the ceremony, pull it to the side the rest of the time so it won't cover your face when your photographer is trying to capture that perfect candid.
  • Shoot in the golden hour - There are two times that are ideal for capturing that perfect shot. The first is the hour before sunset or the golden hour. Golden hour photos often incorporate those gold, yellow, orange, red, pink and purple colors that we so often associate with the sky during sunset.
  • and twilight hour - Opposite the golden hour, but just as beautiful, is the twilight hour. The twilight hour is the hour just after sunset. This is when the sky turns an intense shade of blue, but it's still light enough to capture stark silhouettes of people, buildings and nature in the background.
  • Pick a large room for bridal preparation. Large rooms give your photographer more room to shoot from various angles and use different lenses that capture these special moments in flattering ways.
  • Have your makeup done near a window. Natural light will ensure that your makeup looks the same in your photos as it does in the mirror.
  • Stage important objects. To save time and hassle, make sure that all of the objects you want to be photographed separately are set aside early for your photographer. This includes things like your wedding dress, tuxedo, rings, shoes, boutonniere, bouquet, etc.
  • Walk slowly and keep your head up. This is especially important when walking down the aisle.
  • Look at your spouse - Most of us are used to looking at someone when they are speaking to us. This is the exception. Ignore the official and feel free to get lost in the eyes of your one true love.
  • Stretch out that first kiss - People have lots of feelings about public displays of affection. But if your conscience allows, please try to make that first kiss last at least 5-8 seconds so you can get lots of great shots.
  • Be aware of your hand position during the ring exchange. Be careful not to cover the ring with your hand or body during the exchange. Your photographer can't capture the ring as it slides over your finger if his hand is covering yours.
  • Consider including a first look/unveiling. While unveilings come from some older traditions, setting aside time for a first look can result in some beautiful photos while giving you and your love some time to relax with each other before the ceremony.

Post-Wedding Photography

Let's be honest. Some of you are going to have small intimate weddings and some of you will have a good crowd to celebrate your special day with.

But some of you are going to have an event! I have personally photographed weddings with over 200 attendees and that's not an extreme number in a city like New York.

If you find your wedding is really large or really complex or full of venue restrictions. You may find it hard to find the time to capture all of your dream shots. This is what a post-wedding photoshoot is for.

A post-wedding shoot is simply a photo shoot that takes place after the wedding. While it does add additional expenses, the freedom to adapt to weather restrictions, shoot in multiple locations and really put your original spin on your wedding photos can be worth the investment.

By planning a Post-wedding photo in advance, you can save you and your spouse a lot of time and stress on your wedding day. You can focus your energy on taking those important shots with friends and family as well as all of those special candid moments, knowing that you have an entire day dedicated to getting the perfect shot for just the two of you. Plus, with extra time to get the perfect shot, you will love sharing your post-wedding photos all over social media.

This is also popular for destination weddings, as the photographer is already on-site, and it's not usually that much more expensive to convince them to stay a few extra days in your honeymoon location to take some post-wedding photos.

At the end of your special day...

Once you are done with the wedding, here is the fun part. You now have the fruit of all of your planning and hard work. A collection of wedding portraits and photos that documents your unique love story in a way that will keep you coming back again and again for years to come. It's not always simple to capture the magic, but that's why photographers do what we do. There is a surreal type of honor that comes with documenting someone's most precious dreams and memories and giving it back to them. 

I hope these tips help you get the most out of your wedding photos. All newlyweds have their own unique story and when you add in the perfect wedding photo session, you can save and savor these moments forever. So, what are you waiting for?