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Wedding Reception

Where is the best spot for the photographer during the wedding ceremony? 

Published 16 October 2018

A lot of couples have asked me this question: where will you be during the wedding ceremony? Will you be walking around taking photos from different angles? Will yo be using flash? What if there is no space? Are you allowed taking photographs during the wedding ceremony?

These are valid questions, and I am hoping to shed some light on them. I can of course only speak for myself, about my experience at different venues and how I work, but I have heard stories from couples about photographers walking around during the ceremony, using excessive flash, even knocking things over… 

Where will the photographer be during the ceremony?

The most important people to ask first is….. you guys! Where do you want me? If it’s just myself taking the photographs, I would normally suggest that I am at the front of the ceremony so I see the bride walking down the aisle and I can also take photographs of your sweeter half waiting for you. I get both reactions and it makes for amazing and sometimes very emotional photographs. 

Wedding Photographer Dalhousie Castle
I am hiding behind the big flower stand here. I didn't really have much space, but managed to capture some lovely photographs during this wedding ceremony at Dalhousie Castle.

The alternative would be for me to be behind the congregation, at the back of the ceremony. And if there are two photographers, one can be at the front, one at the back. 

Balmoral Wedding Photographer
This is me taking photographs from behind the bride walking down the aisle. I also managed to take photographs at the front of the ceremony, as there was lots of room in the wedding ceremony room in the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh.

Here’s how I plan this

A few days before your wedding, I would be in touch with your wedding coordinator at your wedding venue. I will find out exactly where the ceremony takes place. I will have a good look around the location too - this might be indoors, or outdoors. 

On the day of the wedding, I will then speak with your celebrant and make sure that they are ok with my suggestions of where I will be during the ceremony. Sometimes - but this only happens very rarely - the celebrant (meaning the humanist, or minister or priest) - might object to me taking photographs during the ceremony, and I just have to respect their wishes.

For me, it’s important to work as unobtrusively as possible. I do not want to draw any attention to me taking photographs. I will therefore avoid using flash as much as possible, and - with your and the celebrant’s permission, I would only use flash during the “big” moments, such as exchanging of the wedding rings, the kiss, the signing of the register, and your exit. 

Every ceremony location is different, and every celebrant has different requirements. 

Dalhousie Wedding photographer
I took this photo with just available / natural light coming in through the big windows at Dalhousie Castle. It's fabulous to see the bride and her dad walking down the aisle.

Your wedding ceremony is in a large ceremony room

If the room you are getting married in is very large, and there is ample room for me to move around, I would quietly step away from the front of the ceremony and take photographs of the guests, as well as the ceremony from behind. I will wait for certain moments during the ceremony where it will be easy for me to move from one space to the next. This might be during the hymns, or when someone walks to the front to read a poem. I will use this time to quickly change locations, without drawing any attention to myself.

Your wedding ceremony room has limited space

If the space is very tight, I will not move during the ceremony, just quietly taking photographs from the same spot. I can still move my camera around and get different angles, and because I use a zoom lens, I can take photos of the full room, as well as closer in - the happy glances between the couple, a tearful moment of mum, and cheeky smile from a bridesmaid. 

If possible, as above I will wait for certain moments during the ceremony where it will be easy for me to move from one space to the next: during the hymns, or when someone walks to the front to read a poem.

Houston House Hotel Wedding Photographer
I usually try to position myself opposite the bride. And if I can, at a strategic moment - without drawing attention to myself - I might move across to be opposite the groom for a little while during the ceremony too.

Working with the videographer

I always ask my couples if they have a videographer present at the wedding. We usually meet at the wedding morning, or at the latest just before the ceremony. I always make sure to say “hi” and have a chat so that we both are in a good location for capturing the important moments during your wedding ceremony and we don’t walk in front of each others’ equipment. 

A couple of scenarios I have experienced

Mansfield Traquair: The room is HUGE (and super gorgeous!)! If I am on my own, taking the photographs, I would be at the front of the ceremony, taking photographs of the bride walking down the aisle. I can then easily slip off the “stage” area and take photographs from the side, and walk behind the congregation and take photographs of the beautiful room and the ceremony from behind. No-one ever notices me walking around the people.

Mansfield Traquair Wedding Photographer
I was just standing behind the groom as the bride walked down the aisle to capture her big smile and the happiness as she approached her groom.
Wedding photographer mansfield traquair
As the room is so big, I could easily slip off to the side and then make my way behind the congregation to take photographs of the big room in all its beauty.
Edinburgh wedding photographer
I loved this wedding at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh! Lots of space to walk around, the minister was so lovely and the couple were totally relaxed and keen to have photos during the ceremony.

Tiny church

At one wedding, the minister told me in no uncertain terms I was to take no photographs during the ceremony. The couple were keen for me to take photographs, but the minister did not allow it, unfortunately. Even when I sneaked a photograph during the kiss, I was “told off” with a stern look and a head-shake by the minister.

There is no law in Scotland that forbids it to take photographs of the wedding ceremony, or any element of the ceremony, such as the signing. There are still some celebrants around that do not allow photographers to take photographs during the actual signing of the register and insist on having a setup pretend-sign after the official signing. But I only ever see this in maybe 1 in 20 weddings now.

wedding photographer edinburgh
I usually take photos during the actual signing of the register, and if the couple want, I would then take a formal photograph after, together with the witnesses, as well as the couple themselves.
wedding photographers edinburgh
Once I am finished with the formal photographs of the couple, quite often the celebrant then invites friends and family to take photos too.

Why would a celebrant not allow photographs to be taken during the ceremony? Personally, I think this all stems from overly keen photographers who have taken advantage during the ceremony and walked around, possibly annoyed the celebrant. It’s understandable that they are hesitant to permit an enthusiastic photographer dancing around the front of the ceremony.

Example - St Mary's Church at the Dalmahoy - Very limited space at the front

The space at the front of the St Mary's Church is very limited. So it’s best to discuss with the celebrant where to stand during the ceremony. St Mary's Church is also very dark, and when I was there the minister was actually the brother of the groom who was only too happy for me to take photographs during the ceremony, flash or no flash, anything was possible. 

Dalmahoy Wedding photographer
At this wedding, I only took photos of the bride walking down the aisle, and then I remained at the back during the rest of the ceremony.

Outdoor ceremony

They are bliss for photographers!! Tons of natural light, lots of space, you can walk around without anyone noticing. Scotland is not the greatest place for outdoor wedding ceremonies because of the spontaneous weather changes, but when you get a good day, the photographs can be amazing!! I have photographed numerous outdoor ceremonies, such as Linlithgow Palace, Prestonfield House, Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, to name a few.

prestonfield house wedding photographer
This was an outdoor ceremony at Prestonfield.

So where is the best spot for the wedding photographer during the wedding ceremony? 

If I am on my own and if it is possible without drawing any attention to myself, I would spend the majority of the ceremony at the front, near the couple, to capture the intimate moments. Usually, after the signing of the register I have the chance to move to the back of the congregation, to capture a few big room shots while the celebrant is bringing the ceremony to a close, and of course to capture the couple's grand exit from the ceremony.

So I hope this has give you a little bit more insight into where I would be during the ceremony. 

You might also want to have a look at this article where I explain a little more about how photographer and videographer work together

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Who is Nadin Dunnigan - Wedding Photographer in Edinburgh

Hey, I am Nadin! (same as "Nadine" - just without the "e"). I am a wedding photographer in Edinburgh, Scotland, specialising in big family weddings in Edinburgh, Scotland, and internationally. I have photographed so many weddings, and it is my mission to help future brides with planning their dream wedding. Any questions I come across repeatedly - either in person or online, I will pop in here and provide more insight.

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