Happy Wednesday, friends! Okay, today’s post is nitty gritty and practical, but oh-so important and something you can implement at your next wedding to get killer ceremony detail photos!

Our brides, their planners and their floral designers spend months dreaming up the perfect ceremony decor, which is why we’re committed to capturing killer images to show off all their hard work! These photos always make it into our couple’s album, and frequently end up being featured on the websites of the creative team AND on national inspiration blogs, so we have lots of reasons to make sure we’re proud of them!

Four Seasons Scottsdale Wedding Ceremony Arch

Most wedding ceremonies in Arizona take place outdoors about 60-90 minutes before the scheduled sunset. So, unless it’s a downtown venue with big buildings shading the ceremony site (a rare occasion out here since there are only a few city venues) it’s most likely that before the guests arrive, we’ve still got some pretty intense, direct sunlight hitting part of the altar decor, either straight on or at an angle that leaves part of the altar in extreme highlights and the other part in extreme shadows — which isn’t the most flattering light on humans or decor. Unless you like that 1950s police thriller interrogation lamp look, of course. Tell us everything you know! And tell us now! 

Four Seasons Scottsdale Wedding Ceremony

Take Two Sets:
A Safety Set & A Golden Hour Set

So… how do we get killer ceremony detail photos of the complete set-up without guests in it when the light isn’t ideal before the guests arrive? Answer: we take two sets of ceremony detail shots. A “safety set” and a golden hour set. In the 30-minute window before the ceremony, just before guests arrive, we take detail shots of the aisle and altar decor just to make sure we have it covered in case something runs late or goes wrong during or after the ceremony. You never know, right? Then, right before the ceremony starts, we communicate with the on-site coordinator or

wedding planner and ask this simple question, “Will the ceremony decor be re-purposed for the reception immediately following the ceremony?” If the answer is “yes,” (which it almost always is) then we just kindly and politely ask if the event producers can hold on removing and re-purposing the decor until about fifteen minutes after the ceremony so we can get detail photos in better light. Remember: we take the first set of ceremony detail shots about 15-30 minutes before the ceremony, so by the time the ceremony is over, the light’s dropped another 45 – 60 minutes, which makes a huge difference.


El Chorro Wedding Ceremony Arch

Make it work! That’s what being
a wedding photographer is all about!

Now, here’s the thing: sometimes it’s not possible for the event producers to wait fifteen minutes after the ceremony, because the vignette is massive and complicated to move. But that’s not been our experience. From what we’ve seen, if we communicate in advance to the person in charge (and offer to send them beautiful photos of their gorgeous work for free!), they almost always agree! It’s a win for everybody. In the event they don’t, though, don’t sweat it! Just do the best you can with the light you’ve got and, like Tim Gunn says, “Make it work!” That’s what being a wedding photographer is all about!

El Chorro Wedding Ceremony

Final Tip: If you have two photographers, the best way to make the most use of your time in the fifteen minutes following the ceremony is to have one photographer (the lead photographer) photograph the ceremony details in golden light while the second photographer does the marriage license and grabs some fun cocktail hour shots. That way, you still leave yourself with twenty minutes of husband and wife golden hour portraits and your couple gets to enjoy cocktail hour for twenty minutes while you set up for the reception.

Four Seasons Scottsdale Wedding Ceremony Chuppah

Wedding Ceremony Inspiration

Check out more posts about how to shoot weddings here:

3 Tips for Shooting Your First Wedding • 5 Steps to Nailing Ring Shots • 1 Quick Fix to • Get Great Getting Ready Shots • 3 Steps to Photographing the Groom Portraits • How to Master Focus During Group Portraits • How to Photograph a Big Bridal Party • 3 Quick Tips for Shooting Ceremonies in Harsh Light • How to Get Killer Ceremony Detail Photos • How to Manage Rain on a Wedding Day • 3 Tips for Better Toast Shots • How to Get Sharp Focus During Dark Receptions

Did this post help you? We have A LOT more where that came from! Join thousands of photographers in our exclusive email community and get a FREE one-year membership to The Monday Minute, our photography and business tips and tricks that aren’t published on the blog but are delivered straight to your inbox every single week!


filed in: Education


    Oh I'm so in love with the work you guys did in these photos! Absolutely stunning!

    Amy & Jordan

    That just means so much to us! Thank you!