For many brides-to-be, it’s tradition to have a bridal portrait session in the dress before the wedding. I love these sessions because you get to photograph her when she is feeling perhaps the most beautiful she’s ever felt, without all the stress of the actual wedding day going on around you. You can take your time, be thoughtful about light and posing, choose the time of day and location, and usually, the bride is a lot more relaxed than she is on her wedding day.
An added perk is that the bride gets a chance to get to know the quirks of her dress and veil. It’s kind of a dress rehearsal for the actual wedding day, and she may realize that some things about her dress, veil, hair, or makeup, need a bit of fine-tuning after spending some time moving around in them.
I’ve done many a session with a beautiful bride, and have learned a few things along the way that have helped the sessions go much smoother. Maybe you’d like to give them a try with your next bridal portrait session.
1. Try the white sheet trick
Some brides aren’t really worried about it, but many are extremely concerned about keeping their dress pristine for the wedding. Lots of dresses have long trains, and can very easily pick up dirt and debris.
One trick that I use with most brides is to put a white sheet down on the ground where I’d like them to pose. I have them stand on the sheet, we arrange the dress, and then carefully tuck the sheet right under the edges. If a bit of it happens to peek out, it usually isn’t detectable, since it matches the dress. You could keep your own dedicated “bridal session sheet” for these occasions, or just ask the bride to bring one along with her.
2. Avoid moving the bride
Once you’ve set the bride up in one spot, get every shot you can without moving her.
- Get the whole dress from afar
- Shoot closer up with the entire dress
- Do both vertical and horizontal orientation
- Get a headshot, a close up of her face, smiling, serious, looking away, and looking down
- Do some with the bouquet and without
- Shoot from every angle that works with that background and lighting
The more you move her and the dress, the bigger chance you have of getting it dirty, tearing it, or ruining it in some way. I usually set the bride up in three or four spots for an entire session, and still have at least 30 images for her to choose from.
3. Feature the dress
Make sure to get photos that show off the details of the dress. This is most likely the most important dress your subject has ever worn, and she’ll want those details documented. Ask your bride what her favorite part of the dress is, and make sure you feature it. Get shots from behind, so you can see the intricate buttons or fancy train. Find ways to showcase the lace, or bows, or any other unique details. Pay attention to what shoes she is wearing, and if she might like them featured in a photo. If she has a beautiful veil or crown, get photos that show those off too.
4. Add a groom
It used to be a strict tradition that the groom could never see the bride before the wedding. Some people still want to follow that traditional rule, but many are setting it aside and getting formals before the wedding instead of just bridal portraits. (I have no problem with a bride and groom waiting to reveal the dress until the wedding. I think it’s sweet! This is just another option.)
I love adding a groom into the photos because you can get an added level of emotion to the session. The photos become more than just a girl in a gorgeous dress; they become a record of the love and excitement that surrounds that time right before tying the knot. You can also get great “first look” shots of the groom’s face the first time he sees his beautiful bride in her dress.
5. Bring an assistant
Bridal sessions are so much easier with an assistant. Usually, the bride brings her mom or sister or a friend along, and they can work perfectly as an assistant. Ask the bride beforehand if she will be bringing anyone with her to the session. If she isn’t, consider asking one of your friends to come along to help.
It helps to have someone to hold the bouquet, carry the dress train, arrange the dress on the sheet, fix a bunched up veil or stray hairs. There are so many things that can be bumped out of place with a bridal session, and it’s a lifesaver to have extra eyes watching for these things, and someone to fix them, so you don’t have to run back and forth.
6. Get “The Shot” first
My favorite photos are always the ones with the bride and groom interacting, looking at each other, kissing, etc. However, I know that brides, grooms, and their moms always want a photo where they are both looking at the camera and smiling, with everything in place.
Each location that you arrange the bride, whether it’s just the bride, or the couple together, get that traditional photo first, then have fun and be creative afterward. You don’t want to get to the editing process at the end and realize that you don’t have any good photos of them looking at the camera and smiling.
7. Make your photos useful for the bride
I love it when my brides and grooms bring thank you signs for a few quick snaps at the end of the session. These make perfect cards to send to all of their guests who attend the wedding. Ask before the session if that is something they’d be interested in doing. I like the clients to bring their own thank you signs, because then it fits their style and personality perfectly.
I have also had many clients order small prints of their favorite photos and use them as part of their table centerpieces at the dinner or reception. This is a great way to make good use of all of those beautiful photos and to let the guests see more than just the very few that you print large.
Most of all, have fun with the session and enjoy getting those perfect captures for the married couple to treasure always.
Do you photograph bridal sessions?