Photographing Brides – Twelve Tips For Succeeding at This Privilege

If you’re a photographer of any kind, you’ll be asked to do someone’s wedding someday. Don’t take it lightly. It’s a special privilege. Often, the bride will be decked out in a fresh hairdo and fashionable gorgeous gown. Yet, she is much more than a beautiful model to take pictures of. She embodies the meaning of married and family happiness together. It’s natural for her to be both thoughtfully pensive and radiantly happy on her wedding day. Her future is wrapped up in this one occasion. She will shed tears, laugh out loud, and show emotions unexpectedly. That’s part of her wedding story. You must capture it the best you can.

During the shooting sessions, you’ll photograph her alone, and with the groom and her family and friends. You’ll shoot her up close, full length, and from afar. You’ll see and capture her personal energy and mood. Most importantly, you’ll capture her happiness both as a person and a bride. You’ll succeed at it with advanced preparation. However, this preparation can be rigorous the first time around. Here’s 12 tips for achieving that success.

1. Talk to the bride. Spend time discussing the wedding-day photo-sessions with her. Also, if possible, take a few pictures of her and the groom before the wedding day to help form this relationship. This combined effort will produce dependable scheduling and poses on the big day.

2. Clean, triple check, and know your equipment. Equipment failure is the biggest killer of wedding pictures. A shutter can stick or a battery go bad instantly without warning. Have backup equipment handy and ready. Also, know your equipment’s best combined settings (e.g., aperture size, shutter speed, and strobe brightness) for all the conditions you’ll encounter during these sessions. Stick with these settings so you can focus on the bride herself. Additionally, use camera and lighting equipment that loads and fires easily.

3. Use available lighting. Natural light gives strong mood dimensions to bridal pictures. If the outside temperature is cool enough, take her to a covered porch or shade tree where soft natural lighting is available. Conversely, if these shots must be done inside only, then use an atrium, a window or glass door, or a chandelier or candle opera for available lighting. Most professional photographers are masters at blending available lighting with strobe lighting. This skill pleases brides when they see the pictures.

4. Keep it simple. This tip applies to all the other tips above and below. By nature, photography is complicated with many technical and artistic details to consider. Do not go beyond what you or your equipment can do easily.

5. Use few props. It’s okay to get the grand shot, that is, the big church altar or outdoor vista with the bride and her dress posed in it. However, such shots can diminish the bride to a degree. Simpler shots are just as compelling. Photograph her next to a nice piece of furniture, a wooden railing or staircase, a brick or marble column, or an exotic shrub or flower garden. Try placing her hand on or near certain props while explaining to her what you’re doing. If necessary take a few practice shots to relax her. Then, as she assumes her wedding-day self, click; take the picture fast.

6. Try controlled humor. Few weddings are totally serious. Light humor is well received, and will often relax the subjects. But don’t make yourself the brunt of a joke unless necessary, although this ploy does work well. For example, you might try something similar to the following trick if your session gets tense. While aiming your camera at the bride or her group, let your pants suddenly drop to your ankles, exposing a large pair of white baggy bloomers with lip-shaped lipstick prints all over them. Be sure to have an assistant with you if you try this one.

7. Be yourself. If you’re not a humorist, be pleasant and sincere. Brides are understanding. They’ll respond to your sincerity with sincere poses.

8. Expect interruptions. The bride is never alone on her wedding day. She is the star. Everyone talks to her, including the hired help and the photographer. Interruptions may breakup your shooting schedule slightly, but they relax hers. Keep smiling.

9. Look for natural characteristics. If the bride is a farmer or rancher, take a few shots near a barn, tractor, wooden fence, or with her horse. If she is a body builder, have her project her strength in a shot or two. No biceps please, nor boudoir.

10. Never omit a favorite relative or friend. Sometimes a favorite aunt, uncle, grandparent, or friend will not arrive until midway through the reception following the ceremony. Be sure to photograph this guest with the bride even if she’s slightly disheveled from celebrating. If, for any reason, the bride cannot be photographed at that time, take a photo of the special guest alone against a plain background. Then, later, have the lab digitally insert this image into another photograph of the bride or her group.

11. Make a shot-list ahead of time. Before the wedding, write out a proposed list of shots. If possible, study someone’s wedding album to learn what shots are important. Include the bride’s suggestions from your previous discussions with her. Take all the shots on the list. Also, be ready to add new ones, or to change the order in which the list is actually taken. Such a list could include the following.

Bride Alone

– At the church/facility/park/structure entrance and/or altar/gateway steps: full train (from back, side, and front), up close; do differing poses of her holding her bouquet of flowers

– Inside: near a window (natural light); up close, looking into the bouquet or looking out of the window

– Outside: near a photographic prop; an ornamental tree or flower garden, near a railing or stone/wooden structure

Bride and Groom

– Same as above

– Add mood/romance shots of their hands and rings and the two of them looking into each others eyes, almost kissing, or in a relaxed mood together in or near a nice scene

Bride with Others

– With the maid of honor, flower girl, ring bearer, bridesmaids, all bridesmaids and flower girl (two fun shots, e.g., showing her garter with everyone sitting down and laughing); with her mom, dad, mom and dad (add sisters,brothers, and close relatives); with sisters and/or brothers, with grandparents and other relatives

– With the minister, friends, and special guests/people

Bride’s Requests (select shots she wants at any time; not always prearranged)

12. Rehearse the sessions in your mind. To map-out your shooting ideas more vividly, visit the home, church/building, reception area, or anyplace where the pictures will be taken on the wedding day. This mental process becomes instinctive with practice. Look for nice props and background scenes, but don’t try to use them all during the sessions. Just have them noted in your mind for when an opportunity comes along. Develop a feel for the potential timing needed to photograph the bride at some of these places.

In summary, taking bridal pictures is as serious as the wedding ceremony itself. Humor and fun can aid this tightly scheduled, sometimes tense, private personal session. Because all brides are special, taking their wedding-day pictures requires discipline, sincerity, and preparation. Then, as you go about taking these highly privileged photographs, do so with caring, faithfulness, and obedience.

Satria Permadi

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