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What are the must-have wedding photos? A complete guide

Candid wedding dance floor photography by Portland wedding photographer
Portland wedding photography for micro weddings

The complete wedding photo shot list can go on and on - from getting ready photos to group shots to newlywed portraits - the list of must-have wedding photos can be endless. But in order to achieve the perfect balance between fully enjoying your wedding day and getting photos you’ll cherish forever, you’ll need a curated shot list that fits your specific photo needs for your wedding day.

You’ll find endless lists and wedding blogs that will try to convince you that you need to spend your entire wedding day capturing every photo under the sun. But I am here to tell you it’s not true! In fact, there are really only a handful of wedding photos that the couple should have on their radar. Other than those few images, the newlyweds should be focused solely on enjoying the day while the photographer works on capturing the event in the background. Prioritizing the candid wedding photos is key IMO.

The first step to ending up with wedding photos you’ll always love is to work out a specific shot list with your photographer. Even this task can feeling overwhelming and it can be daunting to figure out where to start and how to decide what you want. Below I’ll help break down the must-have wedding photos for any newlyweds, plus the photos you can skip.

The classic, non-negotiable, must-have wedding photos:

The Bride and Groom Together: Otherwise known as newlywed portraits. The couple should have several posed and candid shots together throughout the day, including during the ceremony, reception, and any formal portraits. These can happen before or after a ceremony - it’s up to the couple to decide if they want to share a personal moment before the ceremony (something I would recommend if they are exchanging private vows or interested in doing a first look). After the ceremony, couples often want to spend time with their guests and enjoy the party but it can also be nice to step away for a quick 20-30 minute portrait session while your guests enjoy some refreshments and mingle.

The First Kiss: The first kiss as a married couple is a momentous occasion that should be captured on camera. Talk to your photographer about how you want this moment captured - a traditional wide shot from down the aisle? Or maybe you want your photographer to capture it from behind the altar with the guests in the frame. You could opt for a more creative first kiss portrait that has a soft focus and the couple is blurred but the background is in focus. Regardless of the style of imagery - the first kiss is a must-have photo for most newlyweds. Make sure you discuss the plan for capturing that crucial moment with your wedding photographer.

Newlyweds kiss in creative candid wedding portrait | Portland micro wedding photographer
Portland wedding photography

The Bridal Party: The bridal party should be photographed together in various settings, including during preparation, before the ceremony, and during the reception.

The Wedding Dress: The wedding dress is often the centerpiece of the wedding and should be captured in detail.

The Rings: Photographs of the wedding rings are an essential part of any wedding album.

The Ceremony: The ceremony itself should be documented, including the exchange of vows, the ring exchange, and the signing of the marriage certificate.

The Reception: The reception is a time for celebration and should be documented with photographs of the decor, the food, the guests, and the couple's first dance.

The Family: Family photographs should be taken throughout the day, including formal portraits and candid shots.

Creative group wedding photos for micro weddings in Portland OR
Creative groomsmen portrait

The Venue: The venue and its surroundings should be documented, including the architecture, the landscaping, and any special details or decorations.

The Send-Off: The couple's exit from the reception is a moment that should be captured, whether it's a traditional send-off or a modern departure.

The wedding photos you can skip (and some creative alternatives)

First look photos between the bride and groom on their wedding day is a wedding photo tradition as old as time. They are an undeniably gorgeous candid moment to capture on a wedding day. But in my experience as a wedding photographer those first look photos can often be more stress than they’re worth. Let’s break down the pros and cons of taking first look photos on your wedding day.

Some pros:

First look photos can be a very intimate and emotional moment shared between the bride and groom. It allows them to have a private moment together before the ceremony begins, which can help to ease nerves and create a sense of calm. By having the first look before the ceremony, the couple can take more time for photos without feeling rushed. This can result in more creative and unique photos that capture the couple's personality and style.

Now let's take a look at some of the cons:

For one thing, spending time on first look photos takes away from precious getting ready time — which always ends up taking longer than originally anticipated. The first look typically requires the help and coordination of at least one groomsmen and one bridesmaids. In order to successfully pull off first look photos the groom needs to be in place before the bride gets there and positioned so there’s no risk of catching an early glimpse. If first look photos are a top priority for your wedding day, your photographer can and should make sure to organize those photos in a way that’s as stress free as possible for the couple.

If first look photos aren’t a top priority for a couples list of wedding photos, allow me to suggest a few alternative but still fun creative and meaningful first look photos.

First looking wedding photos with the bridal party. That first moment when a bride comes out in her wedding dress to her awaiting room of her closest friends and family is an extremely special but often underrated moment. Catching those candid wedding moments of a bride and her family can make for some beautiful yet untraditional “first look wedding photos.”

First look wedding photos with the bride and groomsmen. This is one of the most fun alternatives to the traditional first look photos. The groom can stay tucked away out of sight while the groomsmen get to share a sweet moment with the bride to be. These wedding photos can be sweet and or funny but are often some of the most memorable snaps of the day.

Creative wedding photography for micro weddings | Portland OR photographer
First look photos with groomsmen

First look wedding photos with the parents. Candid moments of parents crying on their children’s wedding day are some of my favorite moments to capture as a documentary style wedding photographer. I love to capture all of the happy tears and intimate moments that happen between parents and newlyweds.

At the end of the day, the perfect wedding photography list is whatever works best for you and your partner. It's up to each couple to discuss the ins and outs of their shot list with their wedding photographer.


Looking for wedding photography in the Portland area for the 2023 and 2024 wedding seasons? Yeticorn Portland wedding photography specializes in candid and documentary style micro weddings and elopement packages. My style is all about capturing the fun and creative moments that make your wedding unique. Whether you're looking for a mix of digital and film photos for your intimate backyard wedding or a wedding video of your Oregon waterfall elopement, we'll work together to create a wedding photography package that meets your specific needs.


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