Weddings fall squarely within Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. As the photographer, you will be spending more time with the bride and groom than anyone else, so you are pretty likely to be in the epicenter of any and all hiccups that come along.
Take a page from the Boy Scouts and be prepared. Both mentally, and with a rockin’ essentials kit. When you’re able to step in and save the day with a pair of scissors or a Tide-to-Go pen, you’ll immediately win 100 awesome points in your clients’ eyes.
Putting together your own kit is super easy, and you don’t have to restock it every wedding. Head to your local box store once a year, load up on all these goodies, and look like a hero for the rest of the season.
We whipped up this checklist for you to print off with all the essentials!
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The Essentials Kit
Important Phone Numbers/Wedding Timeline/Venue Addresses (multiple copies)
Hold a pre-wedding meeting with the couple, a week or so before the big day, to finalize the entire wedding day timeline. Do this close to the wedding, since details are always changing up until the end. Once you have the timeline, make sure you know it, and have copies for all shooters! Don’t be the photographer who takes an extra hour with portraits, and causes the reception to start late. No one likes that photographer.
Also confirm all venue addresses, and have multiple contact numbers to reach the bride and groom. They probably won’t have their cell phones with them, so it will likely be the numbers for the maid of honor and best man. Confirm that they’ll actually have their phones on them that day.
Make sure this information is easily accesible at any time, and not stored solely online in emails or a client management service. The one time you’ll really need that info is when you can’t find an internet signal!
Family Formals Shot List
Do not rely on memory, or “We’ll just figure it out on the day of” when it comes to family formals. Have a list. A physical list. On real paper. Or hand carved into a slab of marble that matches the wedding colours. Whatever. Just make sure you actually have a list.
It might be cool and high tech to have it on your iPhone, but someone will invariably want to see it, and then it’s awkward if they have to try to scroll through your phone. Use paper. You can even cross groupings off if you want to be fancy.
The list will make sure you get photos with everyone who was supposed to be photographed, at the designated family formal time. If you have to wait for someone who didn’t know they needed to be there (because there wasn’t a list!!!), you’ll lose a lot of time. And if you forget a grouping, you fail.
Being able to just rocket down the list shot by shot let’s you get through the formals mega quick, which everyone appreciates. More awesome points for you.
How to get the list? Create a shortlist that you normally shoot for every wedding, and give it to the bride and groom in advance. Have them fill out any additional groupings they’d like. Let them know that each additional grouping will take roughly 5 minutes (or however long it takes you). They’ll be able to figure out how much time they want to spend on formals, and figure out the number of groups. Have them complete it, and bring it to your pre-wedding meeting.
At the meeting, chat about when and where to do the formals. Pro Tip: If possible, do them at the church, immediately after the ceremony. Everyone is there, and you won’t have to worry about folks getting lost, deciding to stop for food, or having too much fun at the reception to step out for formals.
Then, make sure to actually have the list on you when it comes time for family formals, instead of in the car.
You need to be able to contact the bride and groom in case of emergency, and vice versa. Make sure your cell phone is charged up, and on silent during the ceremony. Double check that. Don’t be that person.
Absolute life saver. You can’t shoot a wedding without one of these. Just think: huge white dress = lots of potential for stains.
We’ve used these on make-up, dirt, and even blood…Yeah. Weddings are intense. Ok, it was from a squished mosquito, but either way, we got our 100 extra awesome points that day.
Pick up a bunch at Costco, and put them in all of your camera bags.
Swiss Card / Folding Scissors
It’s pretty much a law that tiny scissors will be needed at some point at every single wedding. You can get yourself a Swiss Card, which is a neat credit card sized gadget that has scissors, a knife, an LED, and a magnifying glass. Or, if you aren’t into nerdy gadgets, just a pair of folding scissors will work.
Sticky Roller Brush
The sticky roller brushes work really well—better than the traditional lint brushes that just don’t seem to hold up well on suit and dress material. The mini roller brushes from Ikea are the perfect size for your camera bag, and help to ensure you don’t have to Photoshop out a ton of distrating lint!
Someone always needs Tylenol at a wedding. Always. Forget the bottle, and put it into some small ziploc bags to save space. Keep them in your camera bag and your glove compartment.
Bug Spray and Sunscreen
You can offer it to the bride, groom, and bridal party, but they’ll usually decline. Make sure you wear it, though! Don’t get burned, and be uncomfortable and distracted. And don’t let mosquitos distract you incessantly. No distractions, basically.
An essential piece of equipment for every wedding photographer! Pro Tip: Pre-program in the locations you need to visit (hotels, churches, photography location, reception location) the night before the wedding, so that on the day you just need to select from recent locations. Saves time, and ensures that the GPS knows the spot!
Your bride and groom will usually forget to eat, and if they get really hungry, the portraits might be a bit stressful. Make sure you have some snacks for them so they can keep up their energy too!
Take at least enough bottled water for yourself and the bride and groom. Stick it in a lunch bag cooler with an icepack, and it will even be cold! Hydration is insanely important on a wedding day—the well known “hangover” that many photographers feel the next day is often caused by dehydration, so drink lots of water! Make sure the bride and groom do as well. If you can bring enough for the entire bridal party, you’ll definitely get on their good side too!
Energy Bars/Energy Beverages
Weddings often mean early breakfasts, no lunch, and late dinners for photographers, so you’re going to need some serious fuel to keep busting your butt all day. Energy bars are great, and energy beverages are useful if you like caffeine. Yum.
Keep some in your back pocket or in your camera bag at all times. You look silly when you don’t have one, and have to say “Just Google me”. Trust us.
Face Wipes / Blotting Papers
Having a pack of face wipes is great for freshening up before the reception, especially after a couple hours out in the sun shooting the portraits. And blotting papers are great for your subjects. They can really help deal with oily skin, especially on hot sunny days. Oily skin really doesn’t look good in photos.
These little buggers do a great job at removing dust and smudges from lenses.
If you’re shooting a wedding, you absolutely positively need a solid backup camera. We’ve had cameras go down on multiple occasions during weddings (broken shutters, detached mirrors, and the always fun “Err 99” message!). You cannot be caught without a backup—no excuses.
You’ll want to keep enough umbrellas in your car to cover you, and the bridal party (at least a medium sized party). You never know when it might pour down rain, and those umbrellas will be pure gold.
Try to pick ones that will work well for photos. We have 8 black ones, which aren’t the greatest to shoot with (they really darken things up) but at least they work out ok with whatever the bridal party is wearing.
The ultimate are the clear umbrellas, which let through light, and you can shoot through and around them a lot easier.
If you have an extra pair of these kicking around, throw them in your kit. The groom or a groomsman will need them at some point, and you’ll look like a hero.
Pen / Paper
It’s worth having a nice pen at hand for the times when the couple is about to sign their marriage certificate with a Bic. You also might need to write down addresses and phone numbers throughout the day.
A small sewing kit, safety pins, bobby pins, bandaids, breath mints, hair spray, hand sanitizer, Kleenex, and a small mirror are all super useful. They’re small and portable, and can really save the day! Pack them all in a toiletry bag, and keep them in your main camera bag.
In Your Bag/In The Car
Obviously there is a LOT of stuff on the list, and you’re not going to want to lug it around with you all day. Here’s some suggestions for what’s important enough to be in your bag at all times, and what can be kept in the car, just in case. Obviously, adjust to taste.
In Your Bag
- Wedding day timeline, contact information, venue addresses
- Family formals shot list
- Tide-To-Go pen
- Swiss card/Folding scissors
- Safety pins and bobby pins
- Business cards
- Lens pen
- Cell Phone
In The Car
- Sticky roller brush
- Bug spray and sunscreen
- Granola bars
- Bottled water
- Energy bars/Energy beverages
- Face wipes and blotting papers
- Backup camera
- Sewing kit
- Breath mints
- Hair spray
- Hand sanitizer
- Small mirror
Do you have any additions for a wedding essentials kit? Any time you’ve been a hero because of your kit? Share it in the comments!
Oh, and don’t forget your towel.