Wedding Photography 101

A little help from a friend

Are you worried about the photography part of your wedding day? You do not know what to keep in mind to get the best wedding photos? Planning a wedding is not for the faint-hearted, but with professional help, your day will be everything you are dreaming it to be!

Sonja Kilian Art and Photography, Sonja Kilian Photography, Wedding, Namibia, Lifestyle, Creative Photography

Plan your timeline well

Ask the venue and photographer for advice on planning your timeline. Sunset time plays a big role in what time your ceremony should start. The quality of the light has a big influence on your wedding pictures. Make sure that you leave enough time for the couple photo shoot before it gets dark. After finalising your timeline, be sure to send it to all the service providers who would need it, including me!

Before you get ready and forget about the rest of the world, please have all the details ready for your photographer to photograph. The details include - rings, dress, shoes, jewellery, invite etc. Do not forget the groom! Have his suit, shoes, tie, socks, perfume etc ready for the photographer to take a few detailed photos.

Make sure you start getting ready early enough to avoid a rush in the end. Bride to be - spend time with your girls, have fun, leave some room for having photos taken when you are all dressed and ready, a few portraits of just you, the bride and with your bridesmaids. Please ensure, the getting-ready areas are need and tidy, and free of clutter. And remember, a beautiful room adds to the beauty of the photos. Preferably sit in front of a window for your hair & make-up. Try to get ready in a room big enough for you, your bridesmaids, mom, stylist, and everyone else to move freely. This will help your photographer to capture all the giggles and fun without everyone feeling squashed.

Groom! I know most men are not so keen to be the centre of attention but trust me: having a few snapshots of you getting ready, putting on your tie and maybe having a whiskey with your best buddies will be worth it. So please include me into your schedule of getting ready! I promise I will do it quick, easy, and painless!

Sonja Kilian Art and Photography, Sonja Kilian Photography, Wedding, Namibia, Lifestyle, Creative Photography


Your decor will be set up the day before or the morning of the wedding (it depends on your venue and if you are doing the decor yourself). If possible, have your decor (or most of it) set up at least 3 hours before your ceremony starts. Otherwise, time has to be set out to photograph the decor before the guests enter the reception area, which can be done, but it does get a little hectic, if we are a little out of sync with the timing. BIG SIDE NOTE: Do not have a big (tall) centrepiece or tall candle holders on the main table (where you will be seated), this will make taking photos tricky.

So, no that we have the decor and reception area covered as well as the details of getting ready, we can finally move to the ceremony part!

Your bridesmaids need to each take their turn to walk down the aisle. Then do you and your father make your way down the aisle or whoever has the privilege of walking you down the aisle. Take your time walking down the aisle. Ask your wedding officiant, if your photographer has permission to take photos during the ceremony – some churches have strict rules, and some officiants prefer for the photographer to also sit down during this time. If this is the case, please ask the officiant whether I can take a few photos while you exchange rings and of your first kiss which is the most important part of the ceremony. Please inform me beforehand. ALSO: Put on the rings and do the first kiss – slooowly– or kiss twice, why not?

3 more notes

  • Ask your guests to take photos before or after the ceremony. Let me wow you with professional photos of the ceremony, without having Aunt Nancy jump in front of the camera to get the perfect shot of your first kiss. This also applies during speeches and your first dance.
  • Let your bridesmaids and groomsmen sit down during the ceremony if the space in front is limited. This allows the photographer to move around freely.
  • Do you want beautiful confetti photos? Then remember to SMILE and LOOK UP. I know the thought of people throwing things at you is scary, but the photos will be beautiful if you enjoy it.
Sonja Kilian Art and Photography, Sonja Kilian Photography, Wedding, Namibia, Lifestyle, Creative Photography

Group Photos

What, How, When, Who! - The best time for the family photos is right after the ceremony. Get help – ask your MC (master of ceremony) or a family member to help get everyone together in one place. Each photo, depends on the size of the group, takes less than 1 minute to capture. Eyes HERE and SMILE - remember to look at your photographer’s camera (especially if there are family members or guests also taking photos from a different angle).

Bridal Party Photos - If your family photos are taken after the ceremony, the bridal party photos (you two with your bridesmaids & groomsmen) will follow thereafter. This is a great time to share the joy of your day with your closest friends and family. Important: please listen to the guidance your photographer gives regarding ‘posing’ – this will really help to have the best photos taken within the given time frame.

The "Everybody" Photo - Photographs that include all guests requires setting aside 10 -15 minutes in your schedule. To make sure you can see everyone in the photo, a tall ladder or balcony is typically required. If a balcony or higher vantage is not available, please plan to provide a 2m ladder at a minimum. The best time to take this photo is immediately after the ceremony and before the family photos.

Family Portrait List - I always ask my clients to make a list of the family photos they want with the names and different combinations. This way, everyone is prepared and included, and it is done quickly (as everyone is just thinking about food and celebrating after the ceremony). Making a list, also helps to avoid awkward moments, especially if there are divorced family members/ divorcees. Send them the list beforehand, so that they can prepare themselves emotionally for the photos as well.

The List - Obviously, each family looks a bit different but pick and choose to make it suit your family! Try to keep your formal portraits to a minimum and include only your wedding party (groomsmen and bridesmaids), immediate family members, and perhaps a few special relatives. Please include your relationship and the first name of every person in each photograph. Here is an example of the preferred format:

in English: Couple with (Bride's Name,e.g. Anne) Parents (e.g. Jane, John) & Siblings (e.g. Sally, Peter)

in German: Brautpaar mit (Braut's Name, zb. Anne) Eltern (z.b Jane, John) & Geschwister (z.b Sally, Peter)

I specify this format for reasons of efficiency. With the relationships, I am better able to organise the list order. With the names, it is easier for us to call on people to make sure they are ready for and included in their photo. Every desired combination should be listed on a separate line. Only the combinations provided, will be called forward for portraits. With each combination, best is to start with the largest group to the smallest group. Some couples would also like to include their aunts and uncles, others like to keep it to close family only. To keep it small and intimate can be of efficiency, especially if time is a hurdle. If you include aunts and uncles, please plan in an extra 30 minutes.

Here is a full example of a family list (at first it looks confusing, but once you substitute the names with your family members names, it all makes sense!):


1. Bride + Groom + Bride’s Parents + Bride’s Siblings + Bride’s Grandparents + and Groom’s Parents + Groom’s Siblings + Groom’s Grandparents 


2. Bride + Groom + Bride’s Parents + Bride’s Siblings + Bride’s Grandparents 

3. Bride + Groom + Bride’s Grandparents

4. Bride + Bride’s Grandparents

5. Bride + Groom + Groom’s Parents + Groom’s Siblings + Groom’s Grandparents

6. Bride + Groom + Groom’s Grandparents

7. Groom + Grooms's Grandparents 


8. Bride + Groom + Bride’s Parents

9. Bride + Bride’s Parents

10. Bride + Bride’s Mom

11. Bride + Bride’s Dad

12. Bride + Groom + Groom’s Parents

13. Groom + Groom’s Parents

14. Groom + Groom’s Mom

15. Groom + Groom’s Dad


16. Bride + Groom + Bride’s Parents + Bride’s Siblings

17. Bride + Groom + Bride’s Siblings

18. Bride + Bride’s Siblings

19. Bride + Groom + Groom’s Parents + Groom’s Siblings

20. Bride + Groom + Groom’s Siblings

21. Groom + Groom’s Siblings


22. Bride + Groom + bridal party (bridesmaids, best men)

23. Bride + Groom + bridesmaids, flower girls

24. Bride + bridesmaids, flower girls

25. Bride + Groom + best men

26. Groom + best men

This is an example that can be changed and altered to your preferences/family dynamic! Budget 3 minutes for each family portrait grouping. And trust me, this list is a real timesaver, and lifesaver in this matter! Just imagine, there is not a single photo of you and your mom! This list will make sure that that would NEVER happen.

Couple Photos

Just relax - I will guide and direct you into ‘poses’. No need to stress - I will make sure it all looks natural. My number one priority is that you are at ease, to help you enjoy this precious part of the wedding day. Treasure this time alone, the day will go by too quickly!

Best time - Preferably one hour before sunset, but it all depends on where your venue is situated or if you get married in summer/winter. So, let us talk about the details and plan it together.

Let your dress and hair be - Bride, I know you paid A LOT of money for your dress, but do not stress too much about the edges getting dirty while you walk. It can be cleaned after your wedding. Also, do not stress about the wind blowing your hair in 10 different directions. A professional photographer will advise on what the best angle is – the wind also adds a different and beautiful element to the photos.

Groom, you will forever be grateful that you seized this opportunity. My advice to you will be, to just look into your bride’s eyes and tell her how much you love her. Interact with each other, just be YOU.

Sonja Kilian Art and Photography, Sonja Kilian Photography, Wedding, Namibia, Lifestyle, Creative Photography


Have a schedule – Be sure to stick to your schedule, as photographers are booked for a certain time and they want to capture all your special moments. A reception that runs smoothly, also helps the guests to know what to expect. Finish all the formalities early, that way you can get the party started.

Make sure there is enough light in the reception area, especially during the speeches, games, first dance, etc. Even though photographers are magicians when it comes to low light, taking photos of the first dance with only a few candles as a light source will limit the attributes of the photos.

Keep the speeches short and sweet. Also keep the backdrop in mind. You do not want your speeches in front of a fire extinguisher or the entrance to the kitchen/bathroom. Try not to have tall candle holders or flower arrangements on the main table, as this obscures the view of the photographer trying to capture you two laughing and looking at each other during speeches.

You do not have to be traditional. So many couples nowadays decide to not have the garter and bouquet toss, some of them do not like dancing, others do not want to cut the cake. Do what will make you two happy.

Provide seating and dinner for your service providers, photographer, the DJ. And remember to include them in your guest total. My seating does not need to be at the guest tables but close enough for me to be able to see what is happening.

Sonja Kilian Art and Photography, Sonja Kilian Photography, Wedding, Namibia, Lifestyle, Creative Photography

Have Fun!

With the help of these little guidelines, we will be able to capture your special day as beautiful and professional as you have imagined. Having this part sorted, you can plan the rest of your wedding with a broader smile on your face!

Sonja Kilian Art and Photography, Sonja Kilian Photography, Wedding, Namibia, Lifestyle, Creative Photography

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