There are hosts of variables that can increase a photographer’s chances of capturing amazing wedding pictures and these include location, wedding theme, venue set up and pleasant subjects. For instance, a San Diego wedding photographer has a better chance of having sunny outdoor shooting conditions than a photographer in a wedding location that sees mostly overcast and rainy days. A wedding theme and décor can give the pictures character, and obliging subjects can make the photographer’s job easier.

While such variables are helpful, however, seasoned wedding photographers still have a few tricks up their sleeves in case the variables don’t go their way. Here are nine tricks photographers use to boost their chances of capturing amazing wedding photos.

1. Prepare

There is absolutely no way for you to take good pictures if your gear acts up on you, left a filter at home, forgot to clean your lens or forgot to charge your batteries. Being prepared is almost always half the battle won and this goes for both the experts as well the hobbyist with a digital single-lens reflex camera who was recommended by Aunt Edna.

Make a gear checklist way ahead of the wedding date and make sure that they work fine. The checklist should include the cameras, lenses, filters, reflectors, softboxes, tripods, gimbals, harnesses, straps, wireless transmitters, drones and your laptop for same day video and picture edits. Charge your batteries and check if your SD cards are blank. Include extra batteries, chargers and memory cards on your gear checklist.

2. Do Some Recon

Check out the location prior to the wedding day and bring a camera with you. Have your client call the venue to grant you access. Once you are in, take some practice shots in some locations where you think you can get good pictures. Look for angles where you can get good backgrounds, foregrounds, lighting, shadow effects, framing and leading lines. Make a note of the type of shots that you think will make good pictures, and add them to the shot list you want the photographer to use.

3. Have a Shot List

Discuss with your client the shots that they want and those moments that you shouldn’t dare miss capturing. This becomes even more important when taking pictures of the couple along with their family and friends. Imagine forgetting to take a picture of the bride with her great grand nanny who endured great pains to be at her wedding. That will be bad. Take photos of the firsts, such as the first kiss as a couple, first dance with dad as a married woman, first dance as a couple and so on. Of course, you can accomplish your shot list much easier if you followed the next tip on this list.

4. Plan With the Planner

Being chummy with the wedding planner is a good idea. Have him or her clue you in on the flow of the events and give you enough slack to take your pictures. Discuss your shot list with the planner and ask for some help in the composition some of the pictures such as when gathering guests for the mandatory pictures of the newlyweds with family and friends.

5. Work With Your Environment

Use whatever the environment offers to get the best pictures possible. For example, sunsets are always a hit, and you’ll want to take a picture of the couple using the setting to your advantage such as in amber glare shots or orange bokeh effects. If it is windy, a billowing sheer veil or the bride’s windswept hair will add drama to pictures.

Overcast lighting makes for softer pictures and gives you more wriggle room when tweaking RAW images. There are more ways of using the environment to your advantage.

The key is to keep an eye out for whatever opportunities the environment throws at you and capturing such opportunities with your camera.

6. Blend In

The last thing that you want to do during the wedding is to make yourself the center of distraction. While it is true that you have to capture important moments of the wedding, you need to do so without ruining it for your clients. Turn off the sound of the shutter and use only the flash if necessary.

You may also use some off-camera flashes to lessen distractions. Familiarize yourself with the pathways, walkways and aisles to know the routes you need to take to become as unobtrusive as possible. Once you have made the guests nearly oblivious to your presence, you’ll be able to take even more natural-looking and candid pictures.

7. Capture Moments

The wedding “firsts” are must-capture pictures for a wedding photographer. Apart from the mandatory couple, friends and family shots, you’ll also need to capture “moments.” For instance, you can take a picture of the bride at the right moment when she takes a loving glance at her new husband or snap a picture when the groom’s mother touches the bride’s cheek.

Composing “moment” pictures are also important. Framing a candid picture of the couple with an out-of-focus foreground and background is a far better picture than one when everything is in focus. This shallow depth of field trick also comes in drawing the attention to your subjects and away from any distracting elements within the frame. Children are also a good subject during weddings as their innocence lends a refreshing contrast to the “grown-up people” event.

8. Capture Motion

High shutter speed settings are great for capturing motion. A sharp snapshot of a pigeon in midflight with the children behind it giving a chase, a bridesmaid in full stride to catch the bouquet or the couple sprinting in the midst of well-wishers are pictures that will command attention.

9. Capture Everything

Even with a shot list, it will still be a good idea to try to capture as many pictures of the wedding as you can. Resist the urge to delete photos that you may deem as useless to free up space on your SD cards as some may still be useful and may surprisingly be good with proper cropping and post-processing.

One more dependable “trick” that wedding photographers use is having an assistant or two. These assistants can do a host of things for you including carrying around some of your gear, ticking off entries on your shot list, maneuvering your reflectors and flash, and subbing for you whenever you need to feed, which can be especially vital in events that can last the entire day.

Weddings are an essential part of most professional photographers’ business, so following their lead is a good way to get the photos you want. The best way to learn tricks to use to take amazing wedding photos is to build up your experience. It is such a very useful variable that even a wedding photographer will likely choose it over sunny shooting conditions.