The Photographer’s Wedding Planner for Photoshop

Wedding photography

The Photographer’s Wedding Planner for Photoshop

My good friend Peter Ellis describes wedding photography as “an all day portrait session at 100mph” and he is not wrong. Following on from the Location Scouting for Photographers post last week.

I thought I would talk about how I plan for a wedding. my basic shooting list, and my thought process in relation to the post production and the Photoshop side of things, whilst I am shooting the wedding.

© Paul Hackett 2010

I shoot weddings, but I don’t class myself as a wedding photographer because I am more of an all rounder who likes try a bit of of everything! “Don’t ever invite me to a buffet dinner! There would be nothing left” I digress.

Quite frankly, it would drive me nuts if I had to shoot weddings all season. I have great admiration for full-time wedding photographers but me, I like a little variety.

It is my thoughts on planning that I want to share with you today and more importantly the relationship between the images you are making and how you process them in Photoshop after the wedding. (Now, when I say Photoshop, today that means Bridge, Lightroom & Photoshop as an umbrella word, Just so you know…)

© Peter Ellis 2010

There are three parts to what I am going to talk about. Where you are? What you are doing? and What you should be thinking about from a Photoshop point of view? So lets begin…

Arrive at the first location

This tends to be the brides parents house or a hotel room, but obviously every wedding is different so lets just say the first venue is where the bride is at…

Ok, so what should you be doing here?

– Detailed shots of the veil, tiara, shoes, dress, flowers, jewellery etc.
– The Bride and Bridesmaids getting ready.
– Bride ready and looking perfect, Full Length, 3/4 length, Head & Shoulders.
– Group Shot – Bride and her family.
– Bridesmaids looking perfect.

Now, lets think about this from the photography/photoshop side of things?

You should be using a zoom lens, either a 24-105 F4 L series Canon Lens or the 24-70 F2.8 G series Nikon. This gives you the flexibility to shoot without having to change up your lens and I would also suggest a full frame camera like the Canon EOS5D MKII,  EOS1Ds MKIII or the Nikon D700 or the D3. All are full frame and they allow you to make the most of the suggested lenses without compromising on the focal length.

A lot of thought goes into the colour of the dresses and the flowers etc. So anything that is what I call “Colour Critical” should remain in colour. In post processing all you want to do is make sure the colour is true to what was taken and then enhance it with vibrance, saturation, and clarity etc. Using techniques like “Popping Colour” is fine later on, but not so cool at the front end of the album.

© Peter Ellis 2010

Formal shots like the Bride, Bride and Family, Bridesmaids, traditionally were shot on a medium format camera and personally, I still like to think along those lines from a creative stand point. So bear in mind  that medium format camera were square, so when you are making an image to take into account the crop in camera and not as an after thought in the computer.

If you are going to crop square, then leave enough room for the crop and also think about the size of the image at the other end. If Its going to be a small part of the album then don’t worry too much about the amount of space you leave around your subjects, but if its going to be used big then this is a critical consideration because you do not want to have to resize the image by interpolating the pixels larger than they actually are! (Shooting RAW is a must for this kind of shot)

© Paul Hackett 2010

“Candid” “Fly On The Wall” “Reportage” style shots were made for black & white. So when shooting these shots think in black & White. Make sure you are aware of the tonal range of your shot and try not to mix black with black or white with white… What I mean is if you are photographing the bride in her beautiful white dress be conscious of the background and don’t place her against another light surface, otherwise you may lose detail in the dress due to the exposure.

Think about the contrast within your shot for black & white side of things and then when you get the images on the screen. You can use a good Black & White Technique or an action from the Creative Color Lab to stamp your own style of black & white into the wedding. This will help you to create more consistent results from wedding to wedding and also add to your own style as a photographer.

© Paul Hackett 2010

If the Groom is at the Same Location

Then you don’t have to think about travel. But if he is at a different location then remember to build in the travel time between locations. Also take a camera in the car just incase something happens on the way or you see something thats worthy of a shot or two! Ya never know…

Ok, so what should you be doing here?

– Detail shots, of the kilt, waistcoat, button hole flower, rings.
– Groom and Best Man, Family getting ready.
– Groom ready, looking handsome, Full Length, 3/4 length, Head & Shoulders.

You can use the same techniques in post to link the venues via colour, tone and of course a consistent black & white for the candid shots. This will help you to tie together the look and feel of what will eventually be in the album.

Paul Hackett 2018

Arriving at the Ceremony

Not everyone gets married in a church these days, so if you are photographing civil ceremony, it pays to scout the location before hand and check out the lighting as this can help determine all manner of post-processing decisions.

But its still nice to have a church wedding and I will base my thoughts on a traditional arrival because it a good point to remind you to touch base with vicar, minister, priest, etc… Flash photography is not welcomed in church so it pays to ask the right questions and reassure the man or woman from the church that you are not going to be a nuisance and a distraction from the ceremony.

Ok, so what should you be doing here?

– Photograph the arrival of the Groom, Best Man, Ushers.
– Candid shots of Family and Friends.
– Capture the Atmosphere, Flowers, and other Details.
– Arrival of Bridesmaids and Brides Mother.

This is the time where a 2nd shooter comes into their own and I find mine to be invaluable for capturing all the little details that I do not have time to get in the camera. At this point I still keep the images to a mixture of colour and black & white by consistently applying the same effects.

If you are going to be creating a Storybook style album, then these moments are the glue that binds the album together. Remember to capture skinny panoramic shots and also if the weather is on your side low angles with plenty of cloud detail. Stonework for texture and any little other details that can be used for background texture etc…

© Paul Hackett 2010

The Bride’s Arrival

This is where things get up to 100mph, but you still have to be on your game and as well as shooting, thinking about the end result. Its from this point onwards that I will look to mix in a bit of cross processing which is still very popular amongst brides.

Remember the formal shots of the dress are done. You can have a bit of fun with the colour and push it a little more. This is why I developed the Creative Color Lab Actions for a quick, easy and consistent way of getting colour effects on to your wedding images without stressing over loads of Photoshop.

Ok, so what should you be doing here?

– Shoot the bride arriving in the wedding car.
– Candid shots as it happens (2nd Shooter).
– Shots of the Bride and Father of the Bride walking to the wedding venue (Church).
– Bride and Father of the Bride in doorway of venue (Church).
– Bridesmaids arranging dress.
– Back view of Bride and Bridesmaids, Flower Girl etc..

© Paul Hackett 2010

Church Service

This is where that important chat with the man or woman of the cloth pays off… I like to position myself to side of the minister and use a long lens as well as an ultra wide angle lens.

So a fast Nikon 70-200VR F2.8 G series or Canon 70-200IS F2.8 L series lens is essential and one of the main reason for me going back to black with Nikon was its High ISO capabilities. Canon is catching up though with the EOS 7D. These are great tools of the trade for a dark church interior with a mixture of bad lighting for good measure.

Ok, so what should you be doing here?

– Shots inside of the church and ceremony.
– Exchanging of the rings.
– Candid shots of the guests.
– The Kiss.
– Register Shot and Walking Down the Aisle.

The last wedding I did, I over shot the ceremony. It went on a little too long and I had over 500 shots in bag by the the time they said “I Do” and that did not include the signing of the register.

Shooting RAW indoors is essential, but I would also balance up for the warm tungsten rather than for any florescent lights that maybe on inside the church. Remember you can always adjust things later on…

I personally prefer the warm orange glow of tungsten, but it also depends on the amount of ambient light coming in the windows. Speaking of windows, stained glass church windows make for great album fillers and I have been known to use shots from other weddings that have been done at the same church because they are already prepared in the computer. Sneaky I know… But lets face it a stained glass window does not change much unless it rains… I have got those as well

This is also the time to mixed up some black & white but consultant with your bride and groom before hand on this one, because again the church is where the bride envisioned the full colour and glory of the dress and flowers… And if you are returning your Bride and Groom to the inside for some intimate shoots of them, before moving onto the next location.

Then if its a pretty church that you compose some of you shots to include the splendour of the surroundings. All too often I see close-up couples shots that could have been taken in the studio. Use your environment, they will thank you for it later.

© Paul Hackett 2010

Church Doorway after the Ceremony

In my view its at this point that you make up the bulk of candids that are mostly likely to end up in the album but it also depends on what the Bride & Groom have in mind.

Traditionally this is the time for the groups. Which I hate with a passion, not that I can’t do them I am actually pretty good at creating group compositions but to me it just kills the flow of the day and guests don’t take kindly to getting directed into shot. But you cannot help doing the Bridal party and a few pre-arranged shots at this stage.

So look to keep it all pretty colourful so that you show off everyone’s outfits rather than turning everything to Black & White, which is what you will be doing if you forget to adjust the ISO back to something a little more manageable.

Ok, so what should you be doing here?

– (Safety shots) of the Bride & Groom in the Doorway.
– Full Length and Close-Ups.
– Shot Candids. (2nd Shooter)
– Give the Guests a chance to Chat and Bride & Groom whilst you do more Candids.
– Shoot the pre-arranged Groups with as little fuss as possible.

Normally at this point, pre-arranged groups should be shot so that they maybe used for reprint orders as well as for the album. So remember to compose the groups allow for a 3:2 or 5:4 crop ratio. Don’t forget to tell your 2nd shooter to do candids of the groups as these can look much more better than the posed shots and are great for the book.

© Paul Hackett 2010

Confetti Shots

We all love a Confetti Shot! and these are natural home of the popping colour effect. Many a time I have popped the confetti out and made the rest of the image black & white. Nowadays I am more interested in creating a colour shift as in the image above and introduce a bit of color cast.

Its worthwhile contacting the florist to get a big bag full of loose flower petals. Give them to the bridesmaids and ask them to throw the petals which record much bigger and better in the Confetti Shot.

If you want to be really clever about it. Make sure the petals compliment the brides flowers and the bridesmaids dresses. If you are charging £1500 Plus for a wedding shoot, then budget for some super sized confetti Trust me you will make your money back on a large wall mounted print for the mum’s.

© Peter Ellis 2010

On Location

This is where you can really go to town with the effects and flourishes that will make the album so very different for your client. This is where modern technology makes our job easier. You can run through a set of of action effects quickly to try out different looks with the bride and groom. The main thing to remember when you get the Bride & Groom on their own is “VARIETY”. Its your time to take full control and shoot as much as you can in the time you have with the couple. I also like to give them a few minutes together their thoughts and it in that time I shoot candids.

Ok, so what should you be doing here?

– Intimate, Romantic Close-Up’s.
– Full Lengths.
– Shot Candids.
– Include Fashion Style Shots

Creative use of the location as well as maybe a little “Off Camera Flash” will help you to give you the variety you need for the album. Make sure you shoot for skinny and as well as wide shaped apertures. Sequences are also a favourite, so look out for potential image sequences.

© Paul Hackett 2010

Wedding Reception

I always send my 2nd shooter ahead of me to capture candids of the guests and maybe a few more informal groups. But once I get to the reception just ahead of the Bridge and Groom, my roll is to capture the Bride & Groom arriving. These kind of shots I tend to make black & white with a mixture of colour shots. So once again you need to think “tones” as well as for colour.

Ok, so what should you be doing here?

– Arrival of the Bride & Groom getting out of the car.
– Guests Arriving. (2nd Shooter)
– Candid Shots of guests chatting. (2nd Shooter)

© Michael Sewell

Don’t Forget the Details

When it comes to creating contemporary Storybook Albums Designs the details from the wedding day make for great fillers. A lot of time effort and money goes into items like the favours, Champagne cake, table decorations etc. So I like to spend plenty of time throughout the evening reception capturing the details and they work really well cross-processed.

Ok, so what should you be doing here?

– Cake, and the Cutting of the Cake.
– Table Decorations, Detail Shots of the Venue Inside and Outside.
– Flowers, Champagne, Additional Details.
– Speeches

© Paul Hackett 2010

© Paul Hackett 2010 – LPS Workflow Essentials Action #22 Levels

Evening Celebration

I am probably one of the few photographers who covers the evening celebration as part of the day. The only time it does not get covered is when the Bride & Groom request that I am not there and to honest that has never happened. This gives me the chance to capture guests relaxing because they are used to my presence or the bubbly has worked its magic!

Ok, so what should you be doing here?

– Party Atmosphere
– First Dance.
– Guests Dancing.
– The Band.
– Fireworks.

In summertime its also great to get the Bride & Groom outside for a sunset shot together. I also take the time to photograph the venue at night.

So there you go! thats my go to shooting list. Obviously, every wedding is different and things like pre-wedding shoots, planning and good location scouting make all the difference. My best bit of advice is “Never Assume Anything”. The minute you do it will always come back to bite you in the butt!

Check all the arrangements and timing prior to the wedding. If its a new location get the “Sat Nav” programmed in before the big day. Make sure you have contact telephone numbers of all the key people involved.


Pack your gear the night before and double check it before leaving the studio for the first location.

All my shoots start off in Lightroom for editing and a first pass colour correction. After the images are choosen by the client. I then process a set of high-res PSD’s that get treated with actions from the LPS Actions Collection and of course all my albums are designed with Storybook Album Designer.

As you can see from the captions underneath the images. I great number of the effects I do come from the Free LPS Workflow Essential Actions. These give you fast, consistent, high quality image effects, and each set of actions is available for immediate download.

About the author: Sam Masel

I'm Sam Masel a guy from United Kingdom, I'm a photography enthusiast and had own my photography studio. Here in this site, I'm sharing some of my work and tips for Photography. Hope you like it.

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