Use mirrors to tell both sides of the story
Hotel rooms, no matter how ugly they are, always have a big mirror on the wall. You can often use a mirror to show the bride in her dress and the reaction of her parent.
Sometimes this happens by chance (such as in the photo above), while at other times, you can instruct the parent to wait in the right place to capture their reflection.
Using the mirrors and the reflections in the photos is nothing new, but they are perfect for trying to tell two stories in one frame, and during the slow pace of the wedding prep, it's a great opportunity to practice the technique.
Making connections using hands Posing a group of girls is not an easy task, but one thing that can raise a mediocre bridesmaid's shot is to make sure that everyone is connected in some way, using their hands as 'links.'
Unless the girls are super touchy-feely, they're unlikely to naturally touch each other's shoulders, hips, or even hands. This is where your direction is coming in!
Be ready with your camera, because as soon as you start directing one girl to put her hand on the next one, you're guaranteed laughter, and some lovely natural photos, no matter if you get the right hand-connected thing!
Bride & Mom.You're going to take pictures of the bride with her mom later, but it's always nice to get a shot of these two together sometime during the wedding prep, because the nervous energy is more palpable and comes across beautifully in a photo.
For bonus points, you can 'slim' the bride's mom by partially hiding her body behind the bride – see the photo above, although it was obviously not necessary here. Thanks to Bambi Cantrell for the tip.
Shoot the 'side photo' This is something I always need to remind myself to do, but I'm always thankful when I see the final picture.
It's as simple as asking your bride to face the direction of the window light, then take a few steps back, and shoot her from the side (i.e. her 'profile').
Something about the side profile of the bride looking out of the frame is mysterious, romantic and alluring.
It is also flattering by facing it towards some soft window light, and if you can underexpose enough (or use a gradient in a post), you can create some lovely shadows to hire the rest of the room.
When you take a picture of the bride's head, always have your camera above the eye level.
Being tall, I'm pretty much always above the eye level of my brides, so I don't need to think about it! However, with shorter grooms, I need to do the opposite, crouch down so that my lens is slightly below the eye level.
If you get it right, it won't be obvious to the viewer that you're actually shooting down, but the bride's features will be shown in a more flattering way.
Combine with a shallow depth of field, and nothing more than 35 mm, unless you step back a bit.
It's good to have a basic understanding of what looks unflattering when it comes to photographing females, so you can guide your brides away from the way most women naturally stand or sit.
If it bends, bend it down. Soft fingers. Shift weight to the back of the leg. Push your hip away from the camera. Crop above the elbow when cropping, or show the whole arm. Sit on the front edge of the chair, etc. You need to train your eye to notice the 'mistakes' so that you can avoid them next time.
This book is the best I've ever found on the subject of posing – I highly recommend it. Posing females well is definitely a work in progress for me. It's common for the father of the bride to hang around with very little to do during the bride's preparation.
I recommend that you take the opportunity to take a 'cool dad' photo, just as you would have done for your groom.
Just find some light from the window, and get him to look at it (out of the frame) for some intrigue.
Expose the highlights, and let the shadows create the mood of the shot. Editing is expected to be minimal due to the naturally increased contrast of the shot.
Since I've had children of my own, I've realized how important it is to capture every moment of their life with a photo.
If your bride has her son or daughter at the prep, make sure you take a lot of photos of them, but also remember to take things from their point of view.
Imagine the child watching their mom's wedding album in years to come – try and bring your photos back to that day by capturing moments through their perspective.
3. Groom's Preparations Sidelight for males is working well Men look great when lit from the side, even if the light is harsh. An easy way to do this is to find a window with light streaming through it, and then expose it to the highlights.
When I've found an interesting composition with my camera settings dialed in, I'm going to get the groom in place, and either get them to look out the window, or if the sun is too harsh, fiddle with their pocket square, watch, or whatever else they feel natural.
Similar to the tip above, I'm going to take the groomsmen into the harsh morning light and place them all so that the sun hits some of their faces.
Then it's just a case of underexposing so that the highlights are preserved and the shadows are black, and instructing the groomsmen to pretend they're bouncers at the nightclub door!
It's also a handy way to cover up whatever ugly background they're standing near, because without the sun hitting it, everything falls into complete darkness.
I realized that Lauren Belknapp was doing something similar long before I attended a seminar. And her version was a lot cooler than my own!
* I need to make this name a trademark!!
Get the groom used to your proximity This also applies to the bride, but if you're an up-and-down photographer with a 35 mm or 24 mm lens, it's a good idea to get the client used to your proximity early and nicely.
Since grooms won't be sitting still having make-up applied, you may feel uncomfortable trying to get close to him for a shot.
Just like you did with the bride, you can explain that "often I'm not even going to be photographing you, but I'm going to shoot the person in the background." When the groom is used to being close to you, the rest of the day is going to be much more comfortable for both you and him, and you're going to be able to get those candid, real moments you're aiming for.
4. Ceremony I don't tend to do many first-looking brides / grooms – probably since I don't show them on my site – but, when I shoot one, I aim to have one photo show as much tension or anticipation as possible.
The simple way is to stand in front of the groom, shoot a small opening over his shoulder, so you get both his anticipation face and the bride's excitement face in one frame.
Photo details: Dix Hills Long Island New YorkRemember to turn your camera on a silent shutter if you're shooting mirrorless, so as not to spoil the surprise!
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