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Taking stunning bridal portraits is easy when you know how. Here are some of the best tips for bridal portraits. Use these to get beautiful images every time!
Just recently I've been working with a wedding photographer who wanted to change his current business model. He wanted to shift from a low-end, unprofitable business to a higher-end model, where he can feel proud of the work he is creating and also attract higher-paying clients.
I know some photographers want to shoot a ton of clients and are happy to take lower-end price points, but this client didn't want to work like that.
He wants some weekends free to spend with his daughter and didn't want to get caught up on the treadmill of shooting for money. He wanted to shoot less and make sure that he retained his love for his craft and creativity by doing so. This means, shooting fewer weddings, but at a higher price point.
So we are shifting his current business model and client base! Right now, we are currently going through all of his processes and business. This evaluation helps us to see what is working and what could be improved.
Right from the beginning, I noticed that he didn't seem to have many bridal shots in his portfolio, so I asked how long he allocated at each wedding to shoot the bridal session.
I'm not surprised he said zero – I could tell by the limited number of bridal shots in his profile.
A bridal session is essential! The bride frequently spends a lot of time and money planning her dress (and spending a lot of money on a dress she is most likely only going to wear once). She also spends time and effort and money on her beautiful details. Of course, she wants shots of herself!
In today's image-conscious society, where photography is currency, brides want beautiful images of themselves – they've seen others have their portraits all over Instagram, Pinterest, and so on, and she will frequently want the same.
After all, this is one day in her life where a woman gets to look and feel her radiant best – why would this warrant just a few snaps here and there!?
Finally – the bridal portrait session usually takes place before the wedding. This time is the last time she will be single, alone. She is entering a new world of marriage – the bridal portrait sessions reflect these last, beautiful, still moments of peace and reflection.
Well, sometimes the bridal mornings can be a huge rush, and not at all tranquil!
However, you taking control and insisting on some quiet time can really help her to find calm in her day. It seriously helps her, bridal portraits aren't just ‘money shots'!
I'm writing this because I didn't make time for my own bridal portraits on my wedding day. I've only got one half-body shot of me taken during the group/couple shot session after the ceremony. I wish so much I just had one image of me for my daughters (well, also for me actually, if I'm being honest)!
A memory of how I looked back then, before I had daughters, while I was still young and beautiful! 🙂
I always insisted in my contract with my clients that there was time deliberately set aside in the day for the bridal portrait session and that the bride emailed me over her schedule at least a week before.
Insisting on the bridal portrait session means that your client gets the shots she wants and loves. She also gets time to herself on her day to just be in the moment. To slow down and reflect.
As a bonus, you get to feel even more confident as the day goes on knowing you've got some incredibly beautiful, thoughtful shots before the day has even fully begun.
So here's how to work with your bride during her session.
Taking beautiful images of brides can be more difficult than you think! The bride is often surrounded by other people, time can be short as the bride goes through her wedding schedule, and she can also feel nervous at the start of the day.
Not to mention you don’t always have control over the background or lighting conditions!
Read these top tips and learn how to photograph stunning bridal portraits.
Of course, during this time you want to make sure the area is private and away from anywhere the groom might see her. Brides often want their entire appearance to be a surprise so during your location recce or preview make sure you find a spot where she can have her portraits unseen.
Ideally, this should be somewhere beautiful outside, for optimum lighting conditions, although of course, you can gain beautiful images indoors too. This also helps if it's raining on the day!
Your goal immediately is to get your bride to relax, which isn't always easy particularly if she is feeling pressure from family, or just the event itself. You're also going to have to be mindful of time, as she is going to be feeling even more stressed if there is time pressure involved.
So there are a few choice words you can use to help her relax and get gorgeous portraits straight away.
Get your client to sit or stand somewhere beautiful and clutter-free. Then get her to hold something to start with – her flowers, or play with her ring, or a piece of jewellery, perhaps her beautiful bag or another accessory.
Get her to look down at what she is holding in her hands and then ask her to just think about what this day means to her, or you can ask her to picture her husband-to-be, (or wife), and think of the reasons she loves them.
In a second she will be relaxing thinking about something else other than ‘look into the camera! right a bit left a bit!' and that kind of direction that stresses out most people and ends up with uncomfortable portraits, and you end up with natural-looking, romantic portraits. Let her sit like this for five minutes or so, while she completely relaxes.
Here you can move back for full-body shots, a half-body portrait, and some close-up detail shots – you can capture your bride's makeup and eyelashes perfectly here.
Next, you just need to ask her to look in your direction – especially if you have light behind your subject, and ideally a small, non-obtrusive reflector behind you – you're going to still get the relaxed, soft feel, except now she is going to be looking straight into the camera and you'll have your chance to get a beautiful portrait.
Natural light coming in through a window can be one of the best ways to gain stunning bridal portraits – it can give a soft, diffused feel to your images.
If you are shooting indoors, look for big, beautiful windows, particularly ones with wooden frames, and the larger the better. Don't worry, this will become second nature after a few sessions of shooting your portraits. You will naturally start to seek the most beautiful locations for your bridal sessions.
Guide your bride close to the window, using a reflector on the bride’s other side to bounce some of the window light back onto the side of her face that is in shadow. Otherwise, your bridal portraits might come up a bit too contrasty.
You’ll want to make sure the light coming through the window isn’t too strong, or it will create too much contrast on the face, which is unflattering. Avoid shooting with full sunlight streaming through the window, and instead, look for clouds outside or shoot when the sun is higher.
A cluttered background in your image distracts attention from the bride. Look for plain walls to use as a simple background, or at the very least clear away clutter from where your bride is standing. It's so easy for a background to get cluttered on a wedding day, with people, makeup artists and their kits, and outfits everywhere.
One of my essential tips for bridal portraits that are beautiful is to make sure the room or background is clear. Even if you're more of a reportage photographer than a fine art one, nobody wants half-used toilet rolls and hairdryers in their shots!
If the room you are photographing in is cluttered, dark, or generally unattractive, ask the bride to move to a less cluttered area, or even take her to another room or outside area.
If this isn’t possible, you could try changing your composition – cropping in tighter to the bride will eliminate the background and ensure you create a beautiful bridal portrait.
I always make a note when talking to my bride during our initial conversations to make sure she has a beautiful space for her bridal images / where she is getting ready, as a little tip for bridal portraits. Unsurprisingly, most of my bridal clients choose beautiful locations and rooms to get ready in! 🙂
There will be lots of emotional moments on a wedding day, and memorable bridal portraits will definitely include a few of these, even if they don't take place during the official bridal portrait session, they're still essential shots for your bride.
Stay alert for particular moments, such as when the Father of the bride enters the room where the bride is getting ready, or when the flowers arrive in the morning, or when the bride opens a gift.
It can be easy when you are photographing a bride to just photograph what is in front of you – after all, brides always look beautiful – but try experimenting with unique compositions to make your portraits feel original.
To get started with this, you could try unusual crops for your images.
You could also try shooting from different angles to give the same feeling in your portraits. Have you ever photographed a bride while you were lying on the floor? or from standing on a stool?
This might sound strange, but the result is original and unforgettable portraits. I am always on chairs to make sure I get those beautiful eyelash and makeup shots, as well as a more unique perspective!
Using directional light is one of the top tips for bridal portraits. It really helps to create create stunning images! Here I used window light directly behind my bride, which would usually place her face in shadow.
So I used a large reflector to bounce some of that light back and light up her face. You can see from the angle of her face that some of the light is falling onto one side of it – she is at an angle to the window, not directly standing with her back to it.
This helps the light to fall around her face, rather than cast her face into shadow.
Practice working with window light at home until you feel confident, as it can be tricky to light and meter for, especially if you are using film.
A camera in auto will automatically read the light over the entire image but strong light and shadow as you will have from a window lit portrait can cause a flat image as the camera attempts to balance out the extremes of light and dark. So really allow yourself time to work on personal projects that develop your technique, ability, and creative eye.
Occasionally, a bridal portrait can end up looking washed out, or just a bit flat or uninteresting. If you have a typically classical bride who adores simplicity, this will work beautifully. But perhaps you have a bride who adores colour and vibrancy, in which case you might want to reflect that in your images.
This can also be bad advice though! Because photographers can sometimes go so far to accommodate a bride's wishes ( I love graffiti/street art! Can you do all of my shots in front of street art)
I don't advise compromising your natural style for a client, your client comes to you because they love your style. It's why they were drawn to book you in the first place.
A gentle pop of colour can work beautifully. Though if you go overboard and you compromise your natural style and your brand, this can be off-putting to future clients.
It's not that you can't take the shots your bride requests – it's up to you how much you're prepared to compromise your natural style and vision for someone else.
I would always advise NOT playing for an audience but being unique enough that the audience will come to you.
But playing with colour and photographing for colour, like this in this bridal portrait session image above, can enable your images to have a unique look and feel.
You might love the look so so much you start experimenting with all sorts of colouring techniques. Your style might evolve in another way altogether.
Weddings are busy affairs, with people being shuffled from one part to the next. During the day you're probably not going to think to capture the smaller details, like a vintage brooch for example.
These details matter to your bride, she probably spent a lot of time, effort, and money choosing them, and so this is also a powerful tip for bridal images your client will love. She might not even notice you taking the shots and so she will be amazed to find you captured the details that matter. Photographing details is also key to obtaining that fine art look.
Beautiful shots here of course include the dress details (lace, belts, sleeves, collar, bows, any other details featured on the actual dress) accessories (rings, jewellery, lingerie, shoes, hair accessories).
You can shoot these somewhere simple. Try the bed in the room the bride is getting ready in, hung over a dresser or beautiful old oak door handle.
If you're photographing them on the bride, make them more interesting and precious images by including your bride using them.
Perhaps you could photograph her putting on her earrings, tying up her shoes, putting in a hairpin or flower. Lowering her veil or putting on lipstick.
This is one of the best tips for bridal portraits – particularly if your bride is using sentimental accessories or details. Her grandmother's brooch, or mother's dress, for example. You'll want to make sure you capture those in their full detail, not as a rushed shot!
Often when asked to pose, most brides don't really know what to do without a little direction from you.
That doesn't mean you do the whole this way that way just turn towards the light a bit BEAUUUUTIFUL awkward photographer patter. Silence can be beautiful 🙂
Instead, keep working with your bride's eyes and hands to gently guide her into relaxed and natural photos. Direct her hands and eyes with your own body. Never be afraid to move in and touch your bride!
Your bride can't see the image you have in your head, and we can't always convey the picture in our head with words.
Plus, it adds a sense of intimacy. It also helps your bride to know she is in safe, confident hands – literally. Your bride will start to trust you as the leader and guide of her day.
Fine art photographers often credit their love of art as inspiration for their bridal portraits and stunning work. What do you love that can inspire your visual imagery? Maybe it's your love of colour, or print, or yoga and peace! Whatever it is, can you use it to inspire your photographic work? Creating personal projects can really help develop this and evolve your visual style.
So, those are my best tips for bridal portraits!
Do you have any tips for bridal portraits?
I'd love to make this a really valuable resource for other photographers – leave your best tip for bridal portraits below.
A post by Charlie
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