What It Takes to Be an Intentional Wedding Photographer

bride and groom intentional photography

Image by Eden Xuan Photo

As a wedding photographer, the ability to notice and capture fleeting moments, small details, and the deepest human connections is paramount within our craft. These sometimes insignificant elements hold profound importance for those we serve–our couples. Moments of genuine emotion, like a tearful exchange of vows or a heartfelt embrace between the bride and her lover, encapsulate the most important elements of the day. When documented well, these images serve the couple as timeless reminders of what matters most in life. 

We can better capture these priceless elements through the art of noticing. The art of noticing is intentional looking; it’s peering into a story and pulling out the moments that many overlook. Three ways to improve your wedding photography through intentionality starts with knowing your client, posturing yourself, and always seeking to learn.

Human Connection is Essential

Human connection is the heartbeat of every wedding. Every wedding photographer needs to develop a friendship with the brides we have the honor of working with. For a bride, knowing their wedding photographer is there for them when they need it most creates an unparalleled experience for both parties. When the bride knows you, they feel more at ease in front of the camera, resulting in lots of candid moments and more natural and genuine expressions. It breaks my heart that some wedding photographers in our industry don’t value learning about their couples deeply.

couple rolling and playing in grass together

Image by Eden Xuan Photo

How can we capture someone’s essence, their story, and their romance well if we don’t know a thing about them past their name, venue, and date? Relationships take work. As wedding photographers, it is consequential that we intentionally get to know our clients from an authentic point of view. Not to tell their story better (while that is key), not to make them feel a certain way, or to improve our craft, but to genuinely get to know them. For who they are.

By doing the pre-work, we create a space for our clients to feel safe, seen, and valued. When this happens, we open doors to see into the most intimate pieces of a story and it is there that we capture the true essence of love and connection. Ask them questions. Treat them like a friend. Don’t assume that they’ve done this before and lead them well. Be kind. Break down the barriers of uncomfortableness. Seek to ensure they have a safe space with you. Ultimately, fostering relationships is crucial to intentionally “seeing” others and their stories.

Are You Shooting For Your Couples or For Yourself?

Maybe the hardest part of being a wedding photographer is doing the hard work of posturing ourselves correctly. We know that intentionally “seeing” moments enables us to create a visual narrative; one where we can capture and preserve the emotions, connections, and memories of a day. Don’t do it to go viral on TikTok, for the approval of your peers in the industry, or for self-promotion reasons.

black and white artistic intentional photograph

Image by Eden Xuan Photo

If the reason you’re documenting a romance is for everyone but your couple, you’ll never tell a great story. Not only that, but you’ll find yourself in an unhealthy space of being judgemental and cruel to those around you. You can’t see graciously and kindly if you’re focused on being the best or being everything for everyone. You can either celebrate others for their wins or tear them down. You can either document a romance for its authentic story or photograph a wedding for social media. Learn to stay on your own path and rejoice in your personal successes. Just because others are doing something differently doesn’t mean that it’s better or that you’re failing; it’s just simply different. If you want to reach your full potential, be intentional with posturing yourself in a healthy mindset to receive the world around you.

Being Intentional Takes Work

At the heart of it, the art of noticing is an ability that takes practice. Many of the greatest wedding photographers in our industry have mastered this skill. Practice means doing. Sometimes, that means stripping back to the simplicity of picking up your camera and documenting the world around you. Photograph the way the sun dances on the walls or the way two humans share a love letter with their eyes alone. Everything is a lesson if you allow it to be.

How is it that as time ages us, we forget that we can be learners of the spaces around us? Allow the world to teach you in deep ways. You have permission to be curious, to ask questions, to explore possibilities and new angles. Be creative with how you view the world and it’ll expand how you tell the stories of those around you. You are never too great, too small, too powerful, too educated, too young, or too old to learn.

bride and groom embracing

Image by Eden Xuan Photo

The artists who can cultivate beautiful client relationships, curate a healthy self, and maintain a deep posture of learning are the ones that I’ve found to constantly be evolving. We are wedding photographers. And more than that, we are storytellers. We intentionally look. We notice the world around us. We see what others do not. Never stop honing in on your craft – the world around you deserves that.

To the art of noticing.

Author Bio

Inspired by editorial fashion and film photography, Eden Xuân is a digital wedding photographer that focuses on telling modern love stories and crafting them into cherished heirlooms. She is based in the U.S. and documents worldwide.

Thoughts on Intentionality from Photobug Community 

We’d like to thank Eden for sharing this personal, inside view on intentionality in wedding photography. The question, “Are you shooting for yourself or for your couples?” is such a revealing one. We hope photographers gain a little inspiration for delivering the best experience possible for their couples.

Photographers, if you have opinions or personal tips you’d like to share with the industry, we want to hear them! Read our submission guidelines and then submit your own pitch here

Image by Eden Xuan Photo

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