One of the most fun things about photographing weddings is getting to document how beautiful everything looks. The food, the decor, flower arrangements, but most importantly, the people. Brides, in particular, get the royal treatment on their wedding day, with the glamorous addition of on-site hair and makeup being a wedding standard. There’s a good chance the bride looks fancier on that day usual, possibly more so than she ever has in her life. You’ll want to take full advantage of this to capture how spectacular she looks on this most important day so that she, her groom, and their family can look back on that moment for generations in awe.
To do this, you’ll want to have some solid beauty portrait techniques in your back pocket going into a wedding; ones that you can figure out how to apply when you survey the scene and see what you’re working with. You need to be able to size up a wedding venue’s potential and work from there. Let’s look at how we can move through a bridal beauty portrait session with diffused window light from a large window.
Modify A Reflector
Window light is generally abundant, and can even be used as a clean backdrop should you be faced with an otherwise unattractive space. Or, even if the space itself is gorgeous, you can use a window backdrop for variety.
One simple way to do this that can have some really nice, high-key results is to cut a rectangle out of the center of a collapsible silver reflector, pose the bride in front of the window facing away from it, and shoot through that rectangle. You’ll need to be mindful of catchlights when you do this – watch the subject’s eyes as you position the reflector to make sure the catchlights look good. The window light will wrap around the subject, adding lovely, sculpting accents on their face and body.
We recommend a telephoto lens for this – 85mm or more.
Use Side Lighting
A lot of the details look good with a little more dimension, and though flat light can look lovely on a subject, side lighting can be more dynamic and in having more shadow area it sculpts more shape. We can achieve this by changing the subject’s orientation to the light source, in this case, the window.
In our first shot, the subject had her back against the window, but if we have her turn about 90 degrees, the light will have a different look and feel. This lighting is excellent for bouquets and all the little bits that benefit from shadow to enhance details.
Details, Details, Details!
Speaking of all the little details, it’s important to photograph as many details as you can so you can use them in an album spread. After you’ve reoriented your subject to the light, pop on your macro lens to get even closer to the small parts that make up the whole.
Earrings and any other jewelry, any beading or other embellishments on the bridal gown, an eyelash shot (have the bride look down to accentuate her lashes,) the bouquet, anything that catches your eye or looks like it is important to the bride. Did she try on 50 dresses to find the one with that perfect little ‘something?’ Are the flowers meticulously and artfully arranged? If care was taken to make it look the way it does on a wedding day, photograph it.
Plan Ahead And Shoot For The Finished Product
You will likely be working with tight time constraints, so going into your bridal portrait session with a game plan will take you a long way. Scope out the room beforehand and see what light you’re working with and if you’ll need to add any light of your own. Think of the shots you want to capture beforehand so you can be ready to make something beautiful happen in front of your lens, fast.
As you plan and shoot, remember to keep a cohesive look that will look good when you place the photos into the album together (plan for print). They don’t have to all look homogenous, but the photos should be able to be broken into groups that work together and the groups should be able to flow and look like the belong together. As you group photos, consider the lighting, contrast, and color palette to keep images in groups that make sense.
For more tips like this and in more detail with video demonstration, be sure to check out our Wedding Workshop Three | Photographing The Bride and if you’d like access to our full collection of Premium workshops, become a subscriber!