Bridal preparation is now a key part of wedding photography coverage.
Thirty-five years ago when my Mum and Dad celebrated their wedding day, they didn’t have any photographs of the bridal preparations at all. Not a single one. In fact, they didn’t have any official photographs of the wedding at all, because my grandfather in his wisdom decided to get a friend from work to cover the wedd
ing photography, and not one of his photos turned out!
But even if they had, there still wouldn’t have been any bridal preparation photos because they just weren’t heard of then. The thought of someone taking photographs during the morning, before the bride was even dressed in her wedding gown, wasn’t even contemplated. But jump forward 35 years to 2014, and they are some of the key images in your wedding photography coverage. Those last few hours before the wedding; the nerves, the fun, the laughter. The bridal prep photographs should complete the story of the wedding day.
I’m going to tell you how to make the most of them.
1. Plan Ahead
I find myself writing those two words A LOT when it comes to offering advice to both brides and photographers. But, in my years of experience as a professional wedding photographer it’s definitely the best tip I could ever give. In this case, planning ahead means thinking about the details. You’ll probably want photographs of these things as a minimum:
- The dress – where can it hang? It needs to be somewhere that showcases the full length of the wedding gown. If it’s a nice day and you’re not the victim of a nervous disposition then you might want to take the dress outside and hang it from a tree, or another feature in the garden. Brides who get ready at home tend to have more options when it comes to photographing the wedding dress, but a good photographer should be able to make the best of any situation. Sometimes, just a plain wall can create a striking image. It’s worth thinking about in advance though, if possible.
- The shoes – again, there needs to be somewhere to photograph these. Easier than the dress though, the best place is often on an interesting chair, or on something wooden (could be a dressing table, exposed floorboards, even a window sill).
- The jewellery – I always ask that this is left out ready for me, so that I don’t have to pester people to try and find it from the bottom of a bag!
- The bridesmaid’s dresses
- Engagement/Wedding Rings – if they’ve not been entrusted to the Best Man by this point!
- The flowers – they should arrive in plenty of time for some creative shots to be taken.
There may be other things that you would like photographs of, and a good wedding photographer will often spot little details as they work with the other accessory shots. I always ask that my brides have anything they want photographing out and ready, and that if possible a bridesmaid knows where everything is. The last thing I want to be doing is interrupting the bride to find out where her shoes are, and whether she wants photographs of them. She has more important things to worry about, like drinking champagne!
A lot of STUFF is involved in preparing for a wedding. Often bridesmaids have arrived with their own bags, and accessories that have been carefully wrapped and hidden away from the groom’s eyes have finally found their way out of the tissue paper and plastic bags which have kept them safe for months. Then there’s make-up bags, clothes, and all sorts of other paraphernalia lying around. Where possible, a wedding photographer will want to move these out of the shot. This is easy for the staged ‘product’ shots mentioned above, but potentially more tricky with the spur-of-the-moment reportage style photos.
It becomes especially important to think about for the key photos of the bride putting on her dress and accessories. The last thing that should be in a beautiful portrait of a bride’s mother helping her daughter to button up the back of her dress is a pair of jeans on the floor next to her, or worse – her soon-to-be-husband’s boxer shorts lying next to the laundry basket after he missed that tricky three-point shot the day before.
Assess the scene, clear the clutter.
3. Let there be light
Not just any light though! Harsh downward light from an overhead spotlight is definitely one to avoid! Ideally a wedding photographer will want some soft, directional light, as from a nice big window. The make-up artist will also be grateful for this! Yay!
Top Tip – Often I will close other curtains in the room to make sure that the light is really directional and focussed on the bride.
4. Smile and Relax
The bridal preparation photos should show the last few emotional, funny and fun hours before the wedding. This is quite hard to achieve if the bride is not emotional, funny or having fun. As a Derby wedding photographer I always advise my brides to try and relax and enjoy the time. Provided that everyone has planned ahead (see above!) then there shouldn’t be any need to feel uptight or stressful. Instead, relax and enjoy the pampering!
Some photographers say that they try to blend into the background so that the bridal party don’t know that they’re having their photographs taken. Those photographers must be ninjas.
I am not a ninja (despite watching a lot of episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in my youth). I cannot and will not blend seamlessly into the flock wallpaper. I’m a part of the day, and thanks to the meetings and engagement shoots, I know the bride. I know how to make her laugh, relax and smile. In this way she and the guests can just accept that I’m part of the furniture, and everyone lets their guards down. Which is when I strike (ironically, like a ninja) and capture those wonderful moments. This only happens for me because I take the time to get to know my clients, which is the greatest part of my job! I get to go to dozens of weddings to see my friends getting married!
5. Bridal Portraits
I could write a whole article on bridal portraits. In fact, I probably will do! But this is one of the MOST IMPORTANT shots that the wedding photographer will take during the morning. Once the hair and make-up is styled, the dress is on and the shoes have been slipped into, there is a sense of everyone that we must hurry and set off now! After all, everyone is ready, so lets get this show on the road!
Well, again, relax for a moment. This is an opportunity to get one or two gorgeous portraits of the bride at her most graceful and serene. The calm before the storm if you will. Hair and make-up is perfect, the dress and shoes immaculate. At this point, I want to get a full length shot of the bride, a head and shoulders shot, a behind-the-veil photo if a veil is involved, and maybe one seated if possible in the dress! Bring in the bouquet too at this point.
These photos need to be quick and simple, because that desire to get on with the day will be strong! I’ll go through some various settings and lens choices for the wedding photographers in another post, but brides – these photos will DEFINITELY be in your album! They always are! So don’t feel rushed or flustered. It’s your day.
I hope these quick tips on bridal preparation photography have been useful. If they’ve made sense to you, or if you have further advice to offer, I would love it if you left a comment below! Thank you. Also, don’t forget to check out my other articles packed full of great wedding photography tips!