Our Favorite Candid Wedding Photos, Along With Expert Tips on How to Make Them Come to Life

Capture authenticity and true joy with a candid shot.
lauren nowack headshot
Lauren Nowack
lauren nowack headshot
Lauren Nowack
The Knot Contributor
  • Lauren is a freelance writer for The Knot Worldwide.
  • While Lauren has been writing her whole life, she began her career by travel writing and reviewing outdoor gear.
  • Lauren is passionate about encouraging people planning a wedding to make it exactly what they want and need it to be.
Updated Feb 06, 2024

The best moments of a wedding day are often the quiet ones: a kiss before the ceremony, a final hug from mom or a surprising move on the dance floor. Candid wedding photos memorialize these subtly perfect moments forever. By finding the right photographer, you set yourself up for a gallery full of gorgeous candid photos. To help this search, the top photographers in the business are on The Knot Vendor Marketplace to help make your wedding photography and candid shots the best they can be.

In order to delve into how to make candid wedding photos incredible, we spoke with Jill Meriwether of Jill Meriwether Photography to hear an expert's tips and tricks. Here's what she had to share with us.

In this article:

What Is a Candid Photo?

A candid photo is one where the subjects have not been staged or posed. Instead, it captures the subject as they naturally are. Jill describes these shots as "a found photo, not a directed one."

Jill shared that at a wedding, this could look like "watching a grandmother tear up as a bride walks down the aisle, seeing a groom admire his new wedding ring after the ceremony or catching a bride eating pizza late-night on the dance floor." Whatever it is, "a good candid wedding photo makes you feel like you are back to that moment. It tells a story."

Candid Wedding Photo Ideas

Candid wedding photos are often some of the most beloved images, as they capture real interactions between the to-be-weds and their friends and family. If one of these candid wedding photo ideas catches your attention, save it to Pinterest to show your photographer later.

Capturing the Joy

Everyone loves a good dance party photo, but this candid silent disco shot takes the cake. The joy on this groom's face is practically palpable.

Little Moments During the Ceremony

Many people incorporate various trends and small rituals into their wedding ceremony, like lighting a candle, tying a knot or taking communion. These small moments make excellent candid wedding images, as couples usually forget the photographer is even there.

The Littles Helping to Get Ready

When there are kids in your life, it is often the shortest moments with them that you'll remember forever. This shot is one of our favorite pre-wedding candid photos, as it captures the groom's little helper in a beautiful light.

The "We Did It" Moment

From the first date to the proposal, the journey to the wedding is a long one, and sometimes there are picture-perfect celebrations during the ceremony. Thankfully, this one was captured as the groom shares his excitement with the crowd.

That First Look Awe

This candid wedding photographer caught the moment these brides saw each other for the first time. The colors and textures here let the photo pop, making their delight contagious.

She Needs a Snack

Every wedding blog will tell you to make sure to eat on your wedding day, and this candid photo caught the groom making sure the bride did just that. Lunchable and water in hand, this shot is pure love.

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Finding the Laughter from Afar

Grooms Share a Smile and Laugh with Guests
Photo: RM Digital Photography

If you watch long enough, there are plenty of times where newlyweds share a heartfelt smile, laugh or a kiss. The best candid wedding photos will preserve these moments.

Priceless Expressions During Cake Cutting

The moment where a newlywed isn't quite sure whether they will be pleasantly fed cake or have it smashed all over their face can be quite humorous, making this one of our favorite candid wedding reception photos. Just try and convince us this groom's face isn't priceless.

Sneaking a Moment to Themselves

Many couples try to sneak away from the wedding reception to share a moment to themselves, often to eat. This calm, quiet moment shared between the pair is one to capture. Jill shared that she loves to "watch the newly married couple hold hands and touch throughout the night after they're married. I'm a total sap, so these are some of my favorite moments to catch."

The Silly Send-Off

Whenever someone is engaged in an activity, like the send-off, it is easier for them to forget about the photographer and just enjoy the moment. This silly send-off photo did that as the couple said goodnight to their guests.

Intimate Ceremony Tears

Oftentimes, tears of joy are shed at a wedding, and it takes an expert wedding photographer to capture them just right. Thankfully, that's exactly what happened here.

Family Group Hug

While the wedding day is about the couple getting married, it is often a major milestone for parents as well. Candid wedding photos can capture the love of a parent and child in the best of ways.

Snapping the Mother-Son Dance

For those wondering how to take good candid photos, it is often about being in the right place at the right time. When you master this, you get rewarded with photos like this: a mother and son sharing a laugh during their dance. Jill shared that she particularly loves "getting the parents', grandparents' or siblings' reactions to seeing the couple at their first dance. It's 100% pure admiration and joy and always makes my heart sing."

Recessional Smiles

You'll only walk back down the aisle once, making that first stroll together as newlyweds one for the books. This one was frozen in time in this photo, complete with furry friends and flower petals.

That Romantic Embrace

This candid wedding photo captured the peaceful love shared between this couple. Full of playful romance, we would love to see more smiles like this on our feeds.

Let Loose Together

Doing over an hour of posed portraits can be exhausting, especially with lots of family around. By escaping to a secluded location for a few minutes, the couple can let loose for a few, showing off their chemistry at its finest for a photo like this.

Groomsmen Bonding

It is often difficult to get a group of groomsmen to all feel comfortable enough for a candid group photo, so giving them something to do is often your best shot at snapping the right moment. In this case, the groomsmen were performing a traditional Indian dance on their way to greet the bride.

How to Take Candid Wedding Photos

The very definition of a candid wedding photo means you cannot be fully prepared for it. Rather, the best candid wedding photos are ones where the couple, their friends and family are fully present in the moment. But, here are the best ways to maximize the potential that you get a gallery full of candid photos from your wedding.

Take Time Alone After the Ceremony

One of Jill's top tips is to take "time alone after the ceremony before doing anything else (cocktail hour, family photos). It might feel unnecessary when you're planning, but making time to be alone together and having your photographer trail along with you leads to super romantic, sweet photos as you celebrate being married with just the two of you!"

Share Your Timeline With Your Photographer

Jill emphasized that photographers "use timelines as our guides for the day so we know where to be when and we don't miss anything. A solid timeline will help your photographer(s) be prepared for what's to come day-of." This will allow your photographer to know when they need to be ready for an event, such as the first dance, and when they can fall back and look for the perfect candid shot.

Get Comfortable With Your Photographer

If your photographer is the best in the business but you don't feel comfortable around them, you won't get good candid shots. This is one of the biggest wedding photography mistakes you could make. Jill emphasized that couples need to "find a photographer you feel comfortable with. That way, you can have a blast celebrating on your wedding day and trust that your wedding photos will be beautiful." This is truly one of the most important things to consider when hiring a wedding photographer.

Photograph Guests As They Arrive

Receptions are quite busy between the dancing, food and festivities, so if having photos of all your guests are important to you, ask your photographer to take photos of them arriving. Jill notes that as they come in "everyone is so excited and happy, and it's a fun way to document all the lovely people that come to your wedding!"

Hire a Second Photographer

To the best of our knowledge, it's still impossible to be in two places at once. If you're hoping for a whole gallery of candid images, consider hiring a second photographer. This will give more opportunities for photographers to see and capture the special moments that make the candid photos stand out.

Ask Potential Photographers for Full Galleries, Not Just Samples

When asking for a wedding photographer quote, Jill encourages couples to "ask to see their full wedding galleries." When looking at the photos, ask questions like: "What do their photos look like? How do they feel? Are folks smiling into the camera in all the photos? Do they feel fun and natural? Sometimes couples get too focused on an editing style they see on Instagram and book without looking at the photographer's full galleries, so checking those out before you sign any contracts will help you feel confident you're making the right decision."

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