Today I will answer the question that burns in your heart. What should I wear to photograph a wedding? It’s a bigger question than you think, but not for the reasons you think.
Of course, you’re going to a formal event, so you’ll want to dress to impress. It’s your business, so you want to be pleasant and professional. But do you want the truth?
Feel free to say no, because some of you might not want to hear the truth. Most couples who hire a wedding photographer care more about how the photos look than how their photographer looks. I know, I’m sorry to burst your bubble.
That being said, I think it’s important to look professional and fit in with the formal event, if only because it will give you confidence. You represent your business, so you want to look as good and intentionally composed as your photographs. But I’m going to be honest with you and tell you about what you really should wear on the wedding day.
I know, I know, this might not be the wardrobe list you were expecting. You might have expected a list of Pinterest-worthy fashion tips. But asking what you should wear as a wedding photographer is like asking what you should wear as a tree cutter or a plumber – wear something that helps you get the job done while also looking professional as possible.
Appropriate footwear for a wedding photographer
I’ve been a wedding photographer for over a decade, so trust me when I tell you this job can be physically demanding. One minute you’re in a squat and another you’re lying on your stomach, then the next you’re shoving your way through a crowd trying to get where you need to go. After 10+ years of standing on concrete for 10+ hours a day, I’ve learned a lot of things, but one of them is that your shoes are important.
My top wardrobe tip for wedding photographers is to invest in good shoes. Unfortunately, the choices that fit my requirements are quite limited, but I promise it’s worth it. Find a pair of fashionable, comfortable and supportive shoes that you can run, walk, squat and jump in all day.
If you resist my plea for good shoes, I hope you have good arches and strong calf muscles. Here’s the question I ask, would you rather look cute in a pair of unnecessary briefs but end up with tendonitis that leaves you paralyzed the day after the wedding? Luckily, there are some pretty shoe options (or even boots if you’re in a wedding venue like Colorado) that don’t cause foot problems down the road.
Depending on where and how you shoot, you could find yourself standing on concrete for 10 hours or wandering through a wet field or rock hoping to get that epic portrait shot. Either way, you’ll want shoes that are functional, but don’t look like you’re headed to the senior center’s aerobics class.
Mobile and breathable clothing
The next factor in what to wear as a wedding photographer is to find clothes that are moveable and breathable. You might even opt for layers if you know you’ll be indoors and then outdoors, running around a hotel and then a venue. I find that if something restricts my movements, it’s harder for me to do my job.
The last thing you want to do is shy away from taking an epic shot because you can’t raise your hands above your head or crouch down as deeply as necessary. If you are at a formal wedding, you can wear that bow tie or sports coat during the ceremony so as not to be disrespectful, but then feel free to adjust if necessary to continue doing your job.
You can be sure you have a rain jacket or warm layers, you must be prepared to be self-sufficient so you can concentrate on photography. And because your clothes move and breathe and allow you to do your job, you need to make sure they also stay put where they need to be. Which brings us to the next tip.
Clothes that won’t end up where they belong in the worst possible way
Feel free to wear a skirt or dress as long as you won’t show anyone when doing a deep lunge to get the hit on the dance floor. There’s not much to say here other than that you might want to test out your clothes during a yoga class so you’re prepared for any potential wardrobe malfunctions.
A pre-planned outfit
This advice is less about what to wear and more about preparing for the big day. The bride and groom don’t always sleep the night before a wedding and a little known fact is that sometimes neither does the photographer. It’s an exaggeration, but even after doing this for a long time, I’m still a little nervous on the morning of the wedding day.
There’s something about the pre-creative state where you visualize all the great photos you’re about to take and hope the day goes well. You pack your gear while making sure you have backup batteries and the calendar for the wedding day, then head into the wedding with a calm frame of mind. Or, you freak out trying to figure out what to wear, fearing your shirt might match the colors of the wedding, then in your haste forget about your lens filters.
Thus, I present to you my tip for treating your wedding day clothes like a uniform. Choose an outfit or several outfits that you plan to wear on the wedding day and make that decision on the wedding day so that you can focus on getting creative with your photography. Unless, for some reason, choosing your outfit for the day helps you get into the zone, then, after all, that’s what this tip is for.
Your camera, batteries, radio and everything you need to do your job
I hate to tell you, but what a photographer wears often includes the equivalent of a tool belt. Now notice I used the word tool belt instead of fanny pack because even though fanny packs seem to go in and out of style, the point is to find a way to carry all your gear without looking too nerd . Or whatever, embrace the nerd, after all those guys with the pocket protectors are now designing the apps we can’t live without.
You’re going to want to think about how you’re going to carry your camera or cameras and anything you might need immediate access to. You can have a lot in your camera bag, but there are a few things you need to have on you. Spare batteries, for example, are a crucial thing to have quick access to, as is a copy of the timeline so you can anticipate what photos to take next.
The good news is that there are designers who have solved such problems with cases, straps or harnesses to help us carry our camera gear. Personally, I wear a Peak Design Field Pouch and a Spider Holster on a regular belt. I know people who swear by the camera harness.
The goal is to find something that works for you to help you carry your gear in a functional and ergonomic way. Just as I’ve highlighted the importance of good footwear, you’ll be surprised at the strain wearing a camera on a standard neck strap all day can cause.
Again, this tip isn’t about wardrobe or style, but for some reason I feel the need to spread it out to the world. Don’t forget your sunscreen so you don’t end up with a red forehead and swollen ankles the day after the wedding.
A Different Approach to What to Wear to Photograph a Wedding
Scroll the internet and you’ll find tips on wearing black so you don’t stand out too much and look professional. Yes, sure, that’s great advice, but in this article, I strive to give you the real deal on wedding photography uniform. From my perspective, my clients care more about how my photos look than how I look.
It is important for those of us who have physically demanding jobs to take care of our bodies. My goal when dressing for work is to be as comfortable as possible while looking chic enough to fit into a wedding. Keep in mind that guests are not squatting on the ground or climbing on a rock and standing for as many hours as we are.
Depending on the region you work in and the fashion in that region, what you wear may vary a bit. Colorado wedding photographers can get away with wearing dressy boots with great arch support, while beach wedding photographers in California would struggle.
Either way, I hope these tips help you think about what you really need to wear to a wedding to do your job, and then you can make it look as fashionable as possible.
About the Author: Brenda Bergreen is a Colorado wedding photographer, videographer, yoga instructor and writer who works alongside her husband at Bergreen Photography. With their mission and mantra “Love. Adventurous. They are dedicated to telling stories of adventures in beautiful places.
Picture credits: Photographs by Brenda Bergreen.