The One Location Technique for Wedding Photography

The One Location Technique for Wedding Photography


This post by Photographer Christina N Dickson is a continuation of her Wedding Photography Survival Tips series. ALSO view Part 1 where she covered Preparation.

You’ve done your homework. You’ve gathered your research. You’ve scouted out your locations.

The big day is here, and the pressure is on.

What now?

Above all else, make it your goal to pace yourself. Your mind will be whirling a million miles an hour thinking through every piece of information you’ve gathered into your mind. How do you perform with intensity and keep yourself from going crazy?

I am going to walk you through one system that will eliminate stress and give you the confidence you need to produce a remarkable “first wedding” portfolio.

Write this down:

One window = Multiple shots

Too often novice wedding photographers operate on the idea that varied shots are captured only by varied locations. This is simply not true! Don’t fall into this trap! One well-lit window can provide a plethora of beautifully varied shots to satisfy both you and the bride.

How can one window be the key to your wedding photography success? One simple word: Light. At the center of a great wedding photographer’s work is his or her ability to find and work with the available light in each venue. With Church’s or community centers being the venue of choice for soft and romantic wedding ceremonies, these locations are also infamous for low lighting challenges. Window light can offer a superb solution to even the worst lit wedding venues.

5 Steps to Lots of Great Shots from One Window Location

Step 1 … The Location

Find a window of choice. You’re looking for a window that is relatively large, preferably with curtains, and has an outlook to a grassy area. If you are deliberate in your selection, you can create up to 8 dynamic and fresh shots with minimal set up.

Step 2 … The Details


Inside, set up your detail shots. You will want a table near the window, and different cloth textures for your background; you can use toile, lace, bridesmaid’s dresses etc. At this time, you can photograph the shoes, the ring, and any other important details on your shot list. Consider a few variables that will affect the outcome of your shots: 1) The available light from the window; 2) The distance your object is from the window, and 3) The angle of your camera to the object. Adjust any of these changeable and your shot will change as well.

Step 3 … The Dress


One of the most important shots you must capture is the special dress of the bride. After you’ve taken appropriate time photographing the bride as she does her hair and makeup, borrow the brides dress. Carefully affix the hanger at the top of the window. If the lip of the window is not wide enough, find a tack to place at the top of the window, suspend the ribbon from the tack, and hang the dress from the ribbon. The window light will create a luminous glow around the dress for beautiful highlighting.

Step 4 … The Portraits Inside


There is nothing more perfect for wedding portraits than window light. A window will provide several options for dynamic portrait backgrounds. Inside you can get a wide-angle shot of the bride in her dress with the window in the background. You can also get a few close up shots of the brides face.

Step 5 … The Portraits Outside


If your window has a lot of variety (ie, panes, curtains, sheers) you can take some beautiful shots from inside the window looking outside. This will ad a lot of artistic interest – just be sure to watch your backgrounds! Also, from the outside, you can use your window as a background for more shots of the bride or bride and groom together.


Take my advice: With the “One window = Stellar shots” equation, you will never again worry about having wedding location define your images. Ready to start shooting? Go!

Look forward to our dynamic conclusion to this Wedding Photography Tips Series with Part III: The Office Work of legalities and post processing!

Read more from our category

Christina N Dickson is a visionary artist and philanthropist in Portland Oregon. Her work includes wedding photography and leadership with

Some Older Comments

  • Naomi July 31, 2013 06:20 pm mother always taught me if you have nothing nice to say, don't say nothing at all........

  • Wedding planning Cape Town September 28, 2012 12:54 pm

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  • Jackie February 15, 2012 05:32 pm

    David: Are you kidding? We give clients the option of getting "crap" for a cheap price?

    Well, we know you are not a Professional Photographer!!! A professional does not do a crappy job for a client whether it is low price or even for free! Your reputation is in all of your photos.

    We have the option to do a shoot for low price, or even free, if we like, perhaps it can be a good promotional thing occasionally and then sell the prints - or not! But in no case does a photographer ever do a crappy job.

    How crass! This forum is sadly an example of the misperceptions of the NON Pro Photographers and willingness to compromise and not realize that they are NOT ready to be charging for their services, or simply not recognize professional work from amateur or worse.

    Many of you need to realize that just "liking" something - in this case photography - does not make one an expert at whatever that "liking" is! Being able to have a website and post photos does not make one a professional, it ALLOWS you to charge for your work, but that does not qualify you. Unknowing couples may hire you for your price, some may even be happy with your work, simply because they don't know any better. Lucky for you! In a world of iPhones and photo walls on Facebook, many people only have such shots to compare to and don't have a developed eye to separate the snapshot "AUTO" shooters from the Professionals that have to charge more because they have taken the time to be trained, have the proper equipment, have INSURANCE, work with professional print labs and other vendors, have access to professional albums, etc. etc.

    I hope many of you will stop and learn to "know what you don't know!" Then learn those things, develop an eye for what is good vs. bad composition, lighting, exposures, etc. Learn to use your camera settings, not rely on Auto or "P" - work with an off camera flash, understand reflectors and diffusers, and know how to be Producer on any Bride and Groom's wedding day that you shoot. You are in charge of what winds up being their only lasting record of that day, other than the snapshots of guests. Your work is supposed to stand far above that of the guests!!

    That's the first step to getting where you want to be, finally getting there because you qualified to be there.

  • Jackie February 15, 2012 05:20 pm

    To SLC: This is "supposed" to be a professional forum. Nicole's (and my) comments are truthful and not said in a mean-spirited way.

    This forum is for people to learn from, if all of the writer/contributers showed such poor photos, and if only some or one show such poor photos, that is a disservice to the many readers and even worse for those who have not yet developed an eye and/or the skill to be a professional photographer and therefore not REALIZE the difference!!! That is not teaching, but misleading those who are trying to learn and perfect their craft.

    There is no knocking anyone who is self-taught here. People just need to know when they are qualified to give guidance and if their photos are of a level that is something for readers to aspire to as opposed to being examples of what any of us should NOT DO!

    There is no justifiable reason for anyone to "coddle" someone who is so unaware and who is wasting the time and/or misleading those who come to this forum to learn and advance in the field of Photography.

  • Jackie February 15, 2012 05:12 pm

    Nicole is clearly a professional and was not rude.

    No Professional Photographer would defend the poor photos here, taken by someone who has no "eye" for work that is worthy of a client paying for it.

    These photos are amateur at best and some of them are just a disgrace to have been posted as examples of good work. How bad could the photos edited out be!? Scary!

    And yes, as so many of you have said, the photo of the dress on the window, curtains discheveled, uneven, not pulled entirely to the left, bunched at the right, and the tacky table - dreadful, in every sense of the word - screaming "dirty, seedy motel." The writer is not a professional if that is the best example of a bride's dress hanging at a window that she has, not to mention having taken such a dreadful composition and exposure in the first place - it's just wrong - nothing about subjective criticism, anyone who disagrees does not know photography.

    It is a sad that with the ease of getting a website that unknowing bride and grooms can wind up hiring what they can afford at what "seems" to be a good price but is really a total rip off when charged by someone without experience who is using his clients as his guinea pigs!

    If a price seems too good to be true, it usually is - there is no free lunch as they say, and you DO get what you pay for.

    The other example that stands out is the bride against the dirty wall with the gross woodwork - and what is she standing on, a drop cloth? Was that to cover an even uglier carpet or flooring?

    These are just BAD, it's not about many of us being critical, actually the comments are quite professional. It's just factual, again, not subjective, these are just NOT WORTHY of someone paying for them OR posting as examples for other photographers. They are bad examples if they were snapshots taken by amateurs.

  • Ernest Smith January 1, 2012 03:38 am

    I think im going to try this im alway moving around, when i can.I guest less is better sometime.

  • ananthu fotosnaps May 4, 2011 02:50 am

    great advice for wedding photographers

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  • Cape Town Wedding Photographer September 2, 2010 06:10 pm

    Thanks for all the information!

  • SLC May 9, 2010 01:28 am

    @ Nicole - Anything can be said nicely. So, you don't like the shots, was it worth your time and effort to be so extremely rude? Constructive criticism is just that, constructive. Consider if someone had said of your work the thinks you said. Would it help you to improve? I think you had some good advice, but that most people aren't going to get past your arrogant remarks in order to see it. I have also had a photography education, and have had the privilege of learning at the feet of some of the most fabulous professional photographers around. I think you know, if you are what you say you are, that many great professionals did not go to photography school and that there are many mediocre photographers who did. One thing that I have learned from the real pros is that you should always have class and tact when criticizing an others work, and that you never need to rip someone to shreds in order to show them areas to improve. I think it may hinder many beginners from sharing their work, and actually getting helpful hints, from posting if they fear being on the receiving end of similar critiques. If you can't be helpful without being hurtful, then may I humbly suggest you find another forum for your remarks.

  • Tracie March 24, 2010 01:52 pm

    I liked the photos above. I am just starting out and feel inspired to get out there and a go anythiing....There is always good and bad in photography....Its like a pair of jeans really.....Sometimes it takes twenty pairs of jeans to try on before you hit that right one..that you know looks good and feels good...and that you are proud of....My niece is getting married in October of this year and I love searching for new and fresh ideas....I liked the pictures...

  • David Burnett December 31, 2009 11:03 pm

    Oh dear, what a can of worms. I have shot quite a few wedding in my time, and to be honest I have taken some great shots, some real crap shots and a lot of average shots. The important thing is to talk to the bride & Groom and find out what THEY want. If they want cheese, FINE. They pay you to do what THEY want, not for you to sod around and do the arty farty bit for you to put in your portfolio.

  • acierman October 23, 2009 07:51 am

    i so agree with Julie ...this so called pro photographer ..well ...lets see your portfolio ...if your a photography God ...why not post your link sure you are a great photographer ...but at least have the balls to give us your link ...and like Julie said ...this is a site for learning what the hell are you doing here bashing the amatures ..we all start at the bottom ...and work our way up ...did you forget your first cheesy wedding ...the stupid fake poses ....that cheesy bridal pose with the bouquet ...and shes looking at the husband with love in her eyes ...while hes thinking ...crap broke after all the crap i just paid what the hell is your problem ...if you fell like bashing people ...start up a site for just that reason ...not here

  • julie October 23, 2009 02:20 am

    I usually like to look at these help articles and either take the info or leave it, but seeing these comments above I just had to post. Seriously, everyone here on this site is here to LEARN. And, um, to the "mega professional" above with all this education from a top-notch school, etc, why are YOU here? This is Digital Photography School. Didn't you already learn everything you need to know about photography??? And, I sure as heck wouldn't hire an arrogant photographer like you if I were needing one. Are the photographs for this article stunning? Maybe not to some, maybe very much to others. Who gives a damn. I just hate to see a person dedicate their time and love for photography to this site and then get it ripped to shreds by people that are supposed to be here learning, not signing up to put other's work down so they can feel better about their own. I'd like to see any of you jerks post an article or two if you are such gods of photography. It seems to me that the ones that are quick to put another down in such a distasteful way are photographers because of the love of money, NOT the love of photography. ??? I love these articles, and I take what I can from each one written. And it just makes me proud to be such a PROFESSIONAL photographer with a professional attitude for the fact that if I don't like another's work in my area, then maybe more clients my way, or that someone else probably loves the person's work. Good for them. Moving on with life now........

  • acierman September 25, 2009 07:07 am

    sorry if i pissed some of you off ...but its what people tell me also they regret paying so much for a photographer ...then they dont even look at there pics ya ...go out and spend a few thousand on a photographer .....keep a few shots in a book ...then a few years later look at them ....was it really worth a few thousand dollars ....tell me the truth ...i dare ya

  • paul saulnier September 14, 2009 03:00 am

    well....all i can say is that i know so many people that paid 5-8000$ for a photographer ...a so called pro that has done beautiful pictures ...but one thing ...all cheesy ....all over rated ...looked at once or twice ,,,then the pics are put away and never looked at again ....when i got married ...i took a couple that where cheap...but i loved there style ...they where photo buffs ...but not pros ....and i loved the pics ...they dont look cheesy ...they are natural ....people around here loved the result...we got most of them done in black and white ,,,even some are sepia ....the thing is ...who the hell cares ...its the client that counts ...i find that wedding photographers are over priced ...over rated ...and also ...most but not all ...are full of themselves ...thinking school helps ...ahhh maybe ...but ....rules are made to be broken ...some photographers use one studio light ...some up to 6 lights ...who is the one to judge ...not me ...i do what i think is nice ...and dont care what others think about it ...some like my style ...some dont cant please everybody all the time before bashing pics ....think of this.....if i like a picture ...who the hell are you to tell me its wrong ...i like one style like another what ...good for you ....if i where to say ...a photoshoped picture is not photography ...well ...some would say yes ...some no ...i like organic myself ...simple ...crisp clear ...but some times a bit modified and cropped ...but if other photographers dont ...oh well doesnt do anything different to my life .i and others i know would say the same as me ...simple ...natural ...not cheesy ...some others would say ...traditional ...cheesy depends one the way you look at life what ...its just my way of thinking ...i may be wrong ...but photography is about what makes you happy ...get it.

  • Nicole September 13, 2009 09:10 pm

    All photographers are critics ... artists analyze other artist's work, take from it what works and what doesn't. Unfortunately the wedding industry has been over run by amateurs with cheap DSLR cameras trying to fund their hobby off ignorant bride and grooms looking to save money. Photography is an art {period} you need to have natural ability and proper education. This article serves as a prime example how you can have the knowledge but not the ability. This is packed with great advice but the photographs are second rate at best. As a profession wedding photographer and someone, has studied photography at one of the top art schools and exhibited extensively these photos make me sad. The detail shots are stock standard and poorly executed and do not actually convey any significant detail - how many of you didn't even notice the 1st photograph contained rings?! Everything looks heavily altered in photoshop. Every rule of composition is ignored. The step 3 photograph of the dress in the window is an embarrassment - the lighting is wretched, the curtains are haphazard, the table with the shoes in the foreground is unnecessary clutter. Here are some of my professional tricks - one always have a prop bag with you ... invest in a nice wood or silk padded hanger {you wouldn't believe how many gowns are on plastic} always have a hook with you those pull and release ones are fab. Use a window with Northern exposure since the light will be more diffused. Then you can even leave the curtains open so the dress isn't directly against the curtains - remember that depth and light add interest flat and monotone light is boring. I always bring a nice piece of satin ribbon in white and ivory so that if need be I can hang the dress lower so you don't get that alien high in the sky dress look. If you want to have the shoes in the photo don't put them on a table that you can't fit in the frame like was done here, arrange them nicely on the floor or perhaps there is a nice chair you can move into the frame then you can drape the veil over the back of the chair and arrange the shoes on the seat. Here are some other great places to hang a dress ... back of an antique door on hook, from a canopy bed, doorway, etc. be creative! If you are desperate and there is no where to hang the dress arrange the dress nicely on a bed or draped on a chaise lounge and then get up high and take a photo at a downward angle. But never ever ever skip this shot!!!
    to address Tyler's comment - blown out dresses are common. First, thanks to places like David's Bridal that only use cheap poly fabrics that are over-bleached and often taffeta if you exposed for the dress specifically your photos would be so dark. The best you can do is minimize the light hitting the dress with keeping the light source on the brides face - an assistant with an umbrella works wonders or just a piece of black foam core to shade the light on the gown. You can also use reflectors to light the face to balance out the difference and then expose for the dress - that works well in gardens and outside.
    If you are lucky to have a bride with a gown that is made of silk your job will be much easier since it radiates not shines. Also pay VERY close attention to any reflections from jewelry or beading on dresses that cast on the face ... the "bling" brides can be a challenge especially outside in direct light.
    The blogger is right ... you do not need multiple locations or fancy studio lighting to obtain a quality, professional and artistic look. Being a photographer, especially a wedding one, mean being resourceful! Always remember that you are documenting their day ... it is a story of one man and one woman becoming one and celebrating that with their family and friends. Don't get too caught up in trying to photograph everything and everyone ... you will not like your results in the end.

  • brimadtor August 4, 2009 05:43 am

    Thank You for the information. I really like this Post.

  • Paul Saulnier April 3, 2009 09:13 pm

    thanks ...big c#^ck ha ha ....i like it ..ha ha ...its a great comment

  • MeiTeng April 3, 2009 04:39 pm

    I have to say I don't quite like step 3 of the dress on hanger up in the window. Definitely could have been composed better. Photo in step 5 is a nice one!

  • MemoriesbyJenn March 27, 2009 01:08 pm

    I have never shot from the inside to the bride waiting outside, but often do the reverse. I like to capture the bride looking out the window as she is waiting for her groom. The #1 request of lately is the dress hanging, so being only 5'3" I stand on a chair to be at mid-bust level of the dress.
    Thanks for all the great tips!

  • acierman February 12, 2009 09:44 pm

    and for God sakes.....shoot in RAW people will be able to adjust everything later

  • Janet February 12, 2009 03:17 pm

    wow. such negative comments. I'm not a professional photographer, but as an artist, i look at these and say well done!

  • Rochelle February 9, 2009 01:35 am

    Great advice...too often we are all wasting time looking for the perfect location shot. It really is all about great lighting and emotional content. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Pat January 4, 2009 10:17 am

    Great article with excellent tips and lovely photos.

  • spikey24 October 23, 2008 07:42 pm

    Nice tips and photo's. Suppose on all the critique luckily beauty is in the eye of the beholder :-)

    I am shooting my first wedding on Saturday and thank you for all the advice.


  • Biggcaulk Johannson October 16, 2008 05:11 am

    @paul saulnier: make it clear up front (in a loud, firm voice) that you will let them get their point & shoot shots once you are done with the posed shots. Give the reason that their flashes interfere with your's. Once you get your shots, then hold the party and announce that everyone else can get a shot or two. Do this a couple times to keep them happy.

    If they constantly ruin your ability to shoot, tell the maid of honor or the bride that the guests are being obtrusive and if it continues, you will be forced to pack up and leave. She will handle it.

  • paul saulnier September 26, 2008 08:01 am

    well i did the wedding ...omg ...night mare ...location location location all i can say ...and to inform over the mike who the photographer is soon as i had an open shot ...old farts jumping in front of me ...with there disposable cameras trying to focus ...out of about 400 shots ...i was lucky to get 40 good ones ..but i finaly got them outside alone a few minutes ...till it started to rain cats and dogs was a mess ...but they said they loved my pics thanks everyone for all the tips you posted here ...i did my best ...

  • photographik September 25, 2008 12:57 am

    Good suggestions. I do agree that the dress looks blown out in Step 4. And the coloration looks a bit off too. And while one "prop" can be used to take a variety of shots, why not use many others! There's always different backdrops to utilize at a wedding.

  • paul saulnier September 4, 2008 09:01 pm

    thanks for the tips ...same here first wedding on saturday ...i need all the help i can get ...anymore tips to save my butt ...thanks

  • Ryan July 15, 2008 03:29 am

    I'd love to see the amazing portfolios of these critiquing trolls. No wait, they won't post them because they are A) cowardly and B) know their port probably sucks if even have one.

    Trolls.... Grimm would be happy to see they came back alive in the age of the internet.

  • Connie May 29, 2008 03:48 am

    These tips are great and I think the photos are great as well. After reading the comments here one things is clear....everyone has their own taste in photography and it will vary widely!!!

  • Will May 26, 2008 07:54 am

    That one in the window sucks bad! Reminds me if we were in the soviet union taking pictures for a wedding. The rest are Stellar! but yuck... do something about that example. It's terrible and the flas made it even worse. I would have used a long exposure instead.

  • athol barry May 24, 2008 03:44 pm

    Can anyone offer advice on achieving the golden tones seen above? Would this be done in PS curves?? Or perhaps the colour balance settings?

  • Jeff & Candace Painter May 24, 2008 10:38 am

    Wow! I guess all photographers become critics! Unfortunately I have found myself doing the same thing. I didn't realize how self centered it sounded until I read it for myself. Thank you for the shots, and the much needed attitude adjustment! I will work harder on my shots and professionalism.

  • jayxhankins May 23, 2008 10:49 pm

    Not a huge fan of the contrasty pictures, but I love the rest. Really want to go out there and work on this now!

  • Gregge Brown May 23, 2008 09:59 pm

    thanks alot. I have my first wedding this weekend, so I will definitely print these tips out. Your tips have been really helpful

  • d4n131m3j14 May 23, 2008 10:21 am

    Why won't the dress appear like a silhouette? or dark? because it's white? or do you need a big window?

  • isaac benjamin May 22, 2008 02:21 am

    I'm not sure what people are talking bout. I love he shot of the dress hanging on in front of the window. I took a shot that was very similar to this one myself. I think the photos are nice and that you did a nice job. And also every location is different and there for each wedding is not going to look the same. (that goes to the dress the window and your clients)

  • Jim Bagwell May 21, 2008 11:51 pm

    Great ideas when there is a window available. I am not impressed with the exposure on the shots. Also the wedding dress could have been compsed better. As one who has done many, many wedding shoots in the past, I would hope I produced better results than these.

  • hfng May 21, 2008 11:32 pm

    Great tips. I enjoyed reading the article. The only thing that disturbs me is the shot of the off colored dress with the blurred shoes on a table in the motel. Other than that fantastic shots.

  • Aaron Snyder May 21, 2008 09:55 pm

    Dress details matter in many wedding shots, but I feel like there is always an exception to photography rules (all rules). I think he did a good job focusing exposure and details in the bride's face, the blown out dress is okay-- as long as there are other shots with a properly exposed dress. It's about balance. Anyways, as always another wonderful article. Thanks for taking the time to share a bit of your expertise with us!
    -Aaron Snyder

  • tyler May 21, 2008 09:27 am

    nice compositions on those shots, but her dress is blown out in a few, is that ok? I guess I'm not a wedding expert but highlight details matter to me.

  • xlt May 21, 2008 06:39 am

    I was at wedding last weekend. made some nice shots.

  • WhatDoIKnow May 21, 2008 06:31 am

    Your step 4 picture I wouldn't be happy with, as a photographer or a client. I mean, the sheet on the floor looks bad, as does the patched hole job on the wall. Maybe you cloned that out and cleaned it up though. Also the white balance on #1 isn't to my taste, I feel the dress should be...white. :)

    Good article though, you're right about the one area providing a lot of different shots. ;-)

  • Raymond Chan May 21, 2008 02:35 am

    Great tips, but unfortunately, the windows tip doesn't necessarily apply to all situations. The wedding that I covered last month just didn't have the sort of windows that was needed =(

    Raymond Chan

  • David May 21, 2008 01:43 am

    Great incite. Also good advice for any object or portrait shooting.

  • Dexter May 21, 2008 12:23 am

    Nice tips. Thanks for providing this information it will help a lot to those learning how to shoot