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Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

If you think that bridal portraits are a thing of the past, you are greatly mistaken. Bridal portraits have taken on new life in the wedding photography industry and are every bit as important as they were before.

bride in three poses - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

What are Bridal Portraits?

Bridal portraits were once taken in a studio, and subsequently when faster and lighter cameras were made available, on location. This is where the bride dresses up in her day-of wedding dress and poses alone. Sometimes the groom would join her.

The photographer would then take several poses of her with her bouquet and veil. So basically, it’s a chance for the photographer to take their time and photograph the bride in many different poses.

Tips for Better Bridal Portraits - two photos of brides in a pink room

This bride was in her home next to a big sliding glass door that let in light even though it was raining.

Now, bridal portraits are taken during the wedding day, thanks to digital photography. Usually right after the bride is done getting ready or during the bride and groom portraits.

It’s a good idea to take portraits during both times to get a more diverse set of bridal portraits, especially if each location is different than the other.

bride on location - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

Same bride as the one above, this time at the location we photographed the bride and groom photos. It provides a different feeling and look than the ones taken in her home.

Ask the bride to have a little more time during the getting ready and bride and groom portraits so that you can focus on her. She will appreciate the gesture, knowing that you are going to capture her as a beautiful bride on one of the happiest days of her life.

Why are they important?

Bridal portraits are such an important part of the photographic timeline because each bride takes a lot of time to find the right dress, the right look, and choose just the right bouquet for her wedding day. As the photographer, it’s your job to photograph these details with a lot of attention if they hold a particular meaning to the bride.

bride near a window - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

I used window light through sheer curtains in a hotel room to create a soft light on the bride’s face.

For example, her something blue might be a ring that her mother wore and gave to her on her wedding day. There might be something special on the bottom of her shoes or tied to her bouquet. All of these details are important during bridal portraits and you need to get detail photos of each.

bride by a window, her shoes and bouquet - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

Bridal portraits are also a great time to get the bride completely alone so that she can have some breathing room before the big day starts.

It’s a great way to quiet the nerves and focus on her and how happy she looks.

bride reading a letter b/w - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

A special moment in between posed portraits. The bride reads a letter the groom wrote for her.

Bridal portraits aren’t just for the bride alone, though, sometimes the groom will join in as well. This gives you the opportunity to create really solid portraits of the couple together on their wedding day without anyone else present.

bride details - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

bride holding her veil - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

When you take bridal portraits on the day of the wedding, be sure to ask your clients for extra time so that you can make sure that you get enough of the bride alone, the bride and groom together, and all of the important details the bride and groom will be wearing.

Bridal portraits inside

Brides usually get ready inside a hotel or in their home. If this is the case, carve out some time before she has to leave to get the bride alone.

Take her to another room where there is sufficient window light. Window light is the best, in my opinion, because it gives you enough light but also casts off into the room allowing for shadows to define silhouettes.

Sit the bride down on the edge of a chair and have her face the window. Change it up and have her stand full frontal toward the window. The poses and variations are endless and you’ll have beautiful soft light to give her a glow.

bride 3 photos - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

Use window light and if need be, fill flash bounced off the ceiling to create a soft light on the bride’s face.

In some cases, especially in the home, you can take the bride to other rooms or locations within the home that offer more options. Like the photo above, where I took photos of the bride in her living room in her house. I did use flash to bounce light since it was raining that day, however, she is calm and relaxed.

getting ready - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

Here we see a detail photo of her dress as well as the bride sitting below her grandparent’s wedding photo.

Don’t be afraid to move furniture if you have too. It’s best to move furniture than working around it and missing the opportunity for a great photo. Just make sure that you put it back as you found it.

On location

When you’re out photographing the couple’s portraits, don’t forget to get individual portraits of each, especially the bride. On location may offer better opportunities to get the full dress from both front and behind.

Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

Take individual portraits of the bride and groom if they opt to have the bridal portrait session together.

If the bride has a long veil, you can play with lifting it into the air and dropping it to get some really interesting photos. Having her hold her bouquet and getting up close makes for a great photo.  Capture her shoes in action as well, especially if she has put something special on the soles.

outdoor bride - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

Being on location gives you more room as well to have the bride walk, turn, spin, and have fun. Photograph her in different types of lighting and backgrounds. Experiment with close up photos as well as full-length photos.

Try lifting and having the veil blowing in the wind. Letting the bride move around a bit can loosen nerves and get the bride comfortable in front of the camera.

Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

Bridal portraits before or after the event

As important as bridal portraits are on the day of the wedding, sometimes you’ll have the opportunity to photograph the bride before or after the wedding. Many photographers call this a “day after session” or “trash the dress”.

Tips for Better Bridal Portraits - hawaii

These two photos were taken during the wedding day.

couple on the beach - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

The same couple as the previous photo but the day after their wedding. The photos are more relaxed at a different location, and with different styling.

Bridal portraits are important on the day-of because of all that day’s details, however, portraits taken either before or after the day of the event can offer clients a chance to have a more relaxed look.

The bride may wear her hair differently and use perhaps a different dress altogether. Giving you more opportunities to pose her differently and add to the photos taken on the wedding day.

Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

Photos were taken the day before the event.

Taking the bridal portraits before or after the wedding can also give you the opportunity to photograph in an entirely different setting than that of the wedding day. Giving you more creative freedom while the couple is more relaxed.

sunset beach photos - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

Two photos were taken the day after the event.

It’s not just about the bride

More often than not, the groom may join the session as it gives you more time to create more portraits of the couple as well as individually. Focus on taking details of both the groom and the bride.

couple kissing - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

When the couple poses together, you have more time to allow them to just be themselves, especially if you are doing a before or a day after session.

couple with antique classic car - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

Try offering the couple something more of a stylized photo session so that you can use props to tell more of the story. This will give them an entirely contrasted look compared to the one that they are going to have on their actual wedding day.

couple near lily pond - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

In conclusion

Bridal portraits are growing in popularity both on the actual wedding day and before or after the event. Having this extra time to photograph the bride alone can add to the collection of photos that you will deliver to her allowing her to remember how she felt that day.

couple by Hard Rock cafe - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

In addition, bridal portraits offer the opportunity to capture all of the important details that the bride took so much time to choose. Bridal portraits let you capture the bride in a more intimate way both individually or with her groom.

couple on the beach - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

Take advantage of this time and allow your creativity to flow so that get some really amazing photos of the bride either before, on, or after her wedding day.

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Jackie Lamas
Jackie Lamas

is a destination wedding and portrait photographer based on the beautiful beaches of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. She earned her degree in photography from California State University, Fullerton. Jackie has over 10 years of experience as a professional photographer and teacher. When she’s not on the beach, you can find her writing on her blog and spending time with her baby and husband. See more of her work on Instagram.