If you are preparing to shoot your first wedding (or have been shooting weddings but lack a standard process) then this post is for you. I encounter many photographers who are just breaking into wedding photography or are simply shooting an upcoming wedding as a favor to a friend, and have no idea what they are getting themselves into.

Considering the many steps involved with the task of successfully documenting a couple’s special day, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I was certainly in their shoes years ago, and have learned that planning is key to ensuring success.

Instead of innocently thinking to yourself, “How hard can it be? I’ll just show up and feel it out,” I suggest you have a set plan that spans from your first conversation with the bride and groom all the way to showing them their photos after the wedding.

This post will focus on that process.

Four crucial steps to include in your process

Here are a few crucial ways you can increase the likelihood that the couple will be thrilled with your work. It will also make your life so much easier.

1. Get to know the couple; their story will be the centerpiece of your work

This process starts from the very first time you sit down and meet with the couple. Ask them how they met. Become a sponge of the details of their lives, their story and their love for one another. Find out what they are most excited about now that they are planning to spend their life together. These details are the ammunition that you will use to create a stunning, personal body of work for them.

Also begin discussing what size prints and wall hangings they would like for their current (or future) living location. Emphasize the importance of physical creations that will last a lifetime on their walls and in albums, as opposed to digital delivery. Keeping in mind that you are offering them a service by providing physical products will help take some of the “salesy” pressure off of you.

The goal is to seek inspiration from the couple before you even start photographing. This gives you an idea about what they expect and how you can meet and even exceed those expectations.

2. A detailed “checklist of shots” can be your best friend

Create a checklist of the shots for the wedding day. Get as specific as you can, and include things such as the key moments in the wedding ceremony, posed family member combinations and specific highlights from the reception. When things get hectic on the wedding day (as they often do), this list will become your lifeline.

3. Get familiar with the location

If you are able, you should scope out the wedding and reception locations well in advance. This will give you an idea of the available space and lighting and help you plan what equipment you will need.

Also, if possible, get to the wedding venue early the day of. Draw inspiration from the scene, the setting and set up some images after the location has been decorated, but before anyone even arrives. This will get you jazzed about the shoot because you are prepared and in your element before anyone else gets there.

4. After the wedding, meet with the couple face-to-face to showcase their images

Your job is not even close to done if you want to create something timeless for the newly-married couple. After you have the images retouched from the wedding, do them a service by meeting with them in person and showing them your work. Pour some Champagne, play some soft music in the background and talk to them about prints, albums and wall hangings so that their precious photos are actually turned into physically preserved memories, as opposed to digital copies that never leave the download folder.

Think of it as a continuation of the initial print discussion you had with them before their wedding.

Cherishing their relationship

The good news about shooting weddings is that it can be fun, even if it’s your first time. However, make sure you make it a point to prepare. It’s a step-by-step process of building a relationship with your wedding clients. I discuss this in depth in a recent episode of my photography business podcast, if you would like to learn more.

When done well, there’s nothing more satisfying than creating timeless art for your clients that they can cherish for years to come.