One of the most overlooked aspects of wedding photography takes place right at the start of busy wedding days: bride and groom prep. These “sessions” are often captured under tight timelines and involve multiple genres of photography, from product (shoes, rings, dresses, and suits) to fashion and portrait photography (the bride in her dress, or hugging her family, etc.). Because there’s so much to cover in so little time, it’s easy to skip over important details.

Fortunately, there are steps we can take to help make the morning prep session go smoothly. One of the most important steps is to clearly communicate with your bride and groom, right from the start, which will determine how smooth the rest of the prep session (and wedding day) will go.

As you prepare for the coming wedding season, here are seven tips for photographing wedding prep.

1. Understand What Is Important To The Bride Or Groom

During the early stages of communicating with the couple, long before the wedding day, you’ll need to find out what the bride and groom value most most so that you can plan accordingly and capture all of the important details. This is true for prep as well as the entire day and includes everything from friends and family to other traditional details (the wedding dress, jewelry, shoes, flowers, gifts, decor, etc.).

2. Gather the details ahead of time

Depending on the collection of details the bride and groom would like photographed, it could take a significant amount of time to gather them together if it’s not done beforehand. Communicate with the bride and groom to have all of the details that they’d like photographed ready for you at the start of the day.

3. Involve The VIPS

If VIPs such as close friends and family members are present, be sure to get them involved in prep activities. This includes capturing the groom’s father or best man helping him put on his jacket, or the bride’s mother or bridesmaids putting the final touches on her dress. Doing so works twofold in that it adds dynamic action to the image and also captures people that the bride and groom care about most.

4. Find out if there are activities (gift exchanges, games, Champagne Toasts, etc.)

The more you can anticipate any activities that might unfold during prep, the more likely you will be to adequately setup and capture them. The easiest way to do this is communicating with the bride and groom beforehand, as we mentioned earlier, so that you can plan accordingly. These photos will add natural, photojournalistic moments to the overall collection and help tell a more complete story in a style you’re proud of.

5. Have the room cleaned or reset

You’ll need a clean backdrop to up the value of the images, and if the room is a mess, which is often the case, you’ll need to either ask the hotel staff to reset the room (if applicable) or clean it yourself, at least any areas you intend to include in your photos. Otherwise, a cluttered background can distract from your subject and it lowers the overall production value of the images.

6. Turn off the room lights (unless used creatively)

If a make-up artist is present, or if the bride or groom are still getting ready, ask if you can turn off the lights in the room. Ideally, you’ll want to use light coming in from windows to avoid any mixed lighting issues, unless you’re using the mixed lighting creatively.

If you forget to do this, you can find tips on how to fix mixed lighting in Lightroom here.

7. Observe and capture like a photojournalist

Avoid the tendency to be too hands-on with directing every action and instead make time to move around the room and observe the action as it unfolds. Capture the key and in-between moments that the bride and groom will appreciate looking back on later after they’ve recovered from the whirlwind of the wedding day.

Conclusion

Wedding prep often seems to end as quickly as it begins, which can make photographing it (well) all the more challenging. However, proper planning and plenty of communication up front can spare you some stress and make it easier—even enjoyable—to get through.

Here’s a recap of the seven tips we included above for photographing wedding prep:

  • Include anything important to the bride and groom
  • Gather the details ahead of time
  • Involve the VIPs
  • Find out if there are activities planned
  • Have the room cleaned or reset
  • Turn off the room lights
  • Observe and capture like a photojournalist
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You can find more in-depth information regarding bride and groom prep in Wedding Workshop 2: Photographing The Groom and Wedding Workshop 3: Photographing The Bride, or check out our Complete Wedding Photography Training System for the ultimate series in wedding photography education.