SOS: How to Photograph My Bestie’s Small Wedding

There are lots of reasons couples may choose DIY wedding photography, like budget or time constraints, or maybe just plain old preference.

But if you’re the bestie tasked with taking some of the photos, it doesn’t matter how laid-back the couple of honor is — you’re probably nervous. Your Insta feed is aesthetically pleasing, sure (if you do say so yourself), but capturing someone’s wedding day? Totally different story.

Let me put your mind at ease: You can do this. I’m going to tell you how. 

With a little preparation and a decent eye, you can take shots that your BFFs will cherish forever.

Quick Takeaways

  • Prepare for the big day by practicing with your equipment and doing a test run on location whenever possible.
  • A few lists to have ready for the big day: must-have photos, wedding day VIPs, and the full day’s itinerary.
  • Use natural light to your advantage — it can make any photographer look like a pro.
  • Always bring enough photo storage (and then add backup).
  • If you can, enlist a friend or fellow wedding guest to be your assistant for the day.

Practice With Your Equipment

Whether you’re taking on DIY wedding photography with professional camera equipment or using your trusty iPhone, you need to practice — trust me.

Taking photos with a purpose — in this case, capturing your bestie’s big day — is totally different from taking a selfie, photos of your friends, or any kind of photo where the takes are unlimited. You want to be calm and confident as you do it.

Start by considering the types of photos you’ll be taking that day, such as group photos, portrait shots, candids, photos of stationary items (flowers, rings, gowns, etc.). You’ll be taking photos in natural light and indoor spaces with various lighting, as well as in the daytime sun and at night.

Photo of a bride’s wedding-day jewelry: her engagement ring, pearl earrings, and a pearl necklace.

List out every type of photo and setting you can think of that you might encounter that day, and practice them all.

Do a Test Run On Location

Whenever possible, it’s best to do a test run at the actual location(s) where you’ll be on the wedding day. This includes the church or ceremony venue, outdoor photo locations, reception venues, and people’s homes.

Try to visit each location at the actual time when you’ll be taking photos there. This is important so you can get to know the lighting you’ll be dealing with.

An added benefit is that you can scope out the landscape and take notes about cool spaces to use for photos, types of shots you want to get at certain times and in certain places, and even do a little photo rehearsing with the soon-to-be-married couple.

Make a List of Must-Have Photos

This is a step you definitely want to do in collaboration with your besties. Do it after you visit the wedding day locations so you can make the most comprehensive list possible. Beforehand, ask them to make a list of every must-have photo they want taken on their day. Be sure to include:

  • Specific people and groups of people that should be photographed together
  • Special landmarks and locations
  • Items they want photographed, such as rings, cake, dresses, decor, flowers, etc.
  • Inspo photos they want to mimic
  • Candid shots they want you to get when they’re not paying attention

Definitely write this list out and keep it somewhere you can easily access it during the wedding day — this can be as easy as a note in your phone. Be sure to format it like a checklist you can cross items off from to be sure you don’t miss a single important photo for your couple.

Create a Day-Of Plan

Next, create a photo itinerary for the day. Ask your besties to share exact times when everything will take place, including:

  • Getting ready before the wedding
  • First look (if they choose to do one)
  • The ceremony
  • Times allotted specifically for photos
  • Cocktail hour
  • Wedding party introductions
  • First dances
  • Cake cutting

These are some of the most common and important things to include, but many couples also have unique plans personal to them. Be sure to know them inside and out and record them all in an actual itinerary format so that you’re always in the right place at the right time.

Know the Wedding Day VIPs

Hate it to break it to you, but as the wedding day photographer, you’ll have to do a lot of people handling — especially with VIPs. While mostly everyone feels happy and joyful on wedding days, they aren’t always (read: almost never) laser-focused on their photo cameo responsibilities.

You can totally make your life easier by knowing the VIPs before the wedding. Who is in which group photos? Where will they be during each part of the day? Does anyone have any special requirements or preferences for photo taking?

If you really want to go the extra mile (you definitely should!) ask to see photos of all the VIPs so you can refer to everyone by name and make them feel totally comfortable.

Use Natural Light

When it comes to DIY wedding photography, this is your most important tip: Natural light is your friend. It makes every photo better, and it can make anyone behind the camera look like a total pro.

Some natural light tips to keep in mind:

  • When you’re indoors, photograph near windows to optimize natural light
  • Natural light can change quickly with cloud cover, so note changes as you shoot
  • During harsh light hours (midday), shoot in the shade

Here’s a helpful guide for shooting in different types of natural light throughout the day:

Graphic shows the best times to photograph in natural light throughout the day, which is helpful knowledge for DIY wedding photography.

Image Source

Make Sure You Have Enough Storage

Running out of storage in the middle of someone’s wedding day — it’s the stuff of photographer nightmares.

If you’re using a smartphone to take photos throughout the day, take time to clear up plenty of storage in the phone you’ll use to take photos throughout the day. Ideally, pay for the next-level storage plan for a month so you absolutely don’t have to worry about it.

If you’re using a camera, empty your SD card completely before the big day and, if you really want to be safe (I always do) bring a backup with you just in case. I recommend a 128 SD for a long day of shooting.

Enlist Helpers

There’s a reason many wedding photographers bring assistants or second shooters — it’s helpful to have an extra set of eyes, pair of hands, and brain full of ideas as you shoot throughout the big day. For DIY wedding photographers, this can be even more valuable. 

If you can, enlist someone you — and your besties — trust to help you with photography on the wedding day. Even if you’re the one taking all the photos, having someone to help wrangle family and friends for photos, check items off the list, stage photos, and stick to the schedule can make the day run more smoothly.

Go With the Flow

No matter how much planning goes into a wedding day, some things inevitably don’t go exactly as planned. As the day unfolds, allow yourself to go with the flow. Jump in and help when you’re needed, and encourage a positive spin on every surprise as it arises.

Couple laughing and walking under umbrellas on their rainy wedding day.

The beauty of wedding photography is capturing the day not as it was envisioned, but as it actually is in its truest form. Most of the time, those unexpected and candid moments (and the photos capturing them) are the couple’s favorites from the day.

More DIY Wedding Photography Advice

Okay bestie — you’re ready to do this. Go out there and be the best DIY wedding photographer the world (or at least the happy couple) has ever known. And if you’re looking for resources to get you ready, check out the Perennial blog for more tips.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *