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How to Capture Bride and Groom Portraits

As you begin taking the formal portraits as a wedding photographer, have fun. This part of the day is where you have the most interaction with your clients. Talk and laugh with the couple while you’re setting up poses, and share their excitement to be joining their lives together. The portraits also allow you to show off your artistry, so let your creativity shine!

Remember depth of field when shooting portraits. You need to consider which apertures you should use to ensure that all your subjects are in focus and to create the look you want.

Bridal portraits

The bridal portraits are usually the first of the day, done shortly after the bride is finished getting ready. You want to use a portrait lens, such as the 50mm f/1.4 or the 85mm f/1.8. You also want to use wider apertures, f/2 to f/2.8, to create a feminine effect with a soft and dreamy look. A few key bridal shots are as follows:

  • A portrait from the shoulders up

  • A shot from behind of her hair and veil

  • A mid-length portrait (shot from the waist or mid-thigh up)

    [Credit: 28mm, 1/320 sec., f/2.8, 100]
    Credit: 28mm, 1/320 sec., f/2.8, 100
  • A full-length portrait from the front and back to show off her dress

  • A close-up of her hands holding her bouquet

Play around with different actions or angles to get these shots; you shouldn’t take all the portraits straight on. For example, for the shoulders-up picture, have the bride look at you from over her shoulder or sweep her hair behind her ear. You can also stand on a chair and have her looking up at you or out in front of her.

Look around for interesting elements in the area and incorporate them into poses. Does the room have a large window? Try silhouetting the bride in the backlighting. Perhaps you see a vintage chair or bench nearby. Pose the bride on the chair and shoot from a couple of different angles.

[Credit: 17mm, 1/80 sec., f/2.8, 125]
Credit: 17mm, 1/80 sec., f/2.8, 125

When photographing the bride, take her personality into account. If she’s sweet and shy, you want to use poses to accentuate that part of who she is. If she’s a fashionista who loves being in front of the camera, you can try poses that are more glamorous.

Groom portraits

For the groom’s portraits, you want to use a 50mm or 85mm lens, like you do for the bride’s portraits. Make the apertures a little narrower, say f/2.8 to f/4; doing so still gives you a blurred background but has a more masculine, less dreamy feel. Here are a few key shots for the groom:

  • A portrait from the shoulders up

  • A mid-length portrait

  • A full-length portrait

  • A close-up of the boutonniere pinned to his jacket

    [Credit: 50mm, 1/50 sec., f/4.0, 100]
    Credit: 50mm, 1/50 sec., f/4.0, 100

As with the bride’s portraits, look around for elements to incorporate to make your poses for the groom more interesting. Consider having the groom lean against a wall with his arms crossed or having him hold his jacket over his shoulder with his other hand in his pocket. You can also use an attractive bench or chair when you pose the groom.

[Credit: 22mm, 1/100 sec., f/2.8, 125]
Credit: 22mm, 1/100 sec., f/2.8, 125

The couple’s portraits

When you shoot the couple together, you can play around with different apertures based on the desired effect. If you want both to be in focus, f/4 to f/5.6 is a good place to start. However, if you decide to stagger the couple and want only the person in the foreground to be in focus, feel free to open up the apertures a little wider.

As with the bridal and groom’s portraits, you can use the 50mm or 85mm portrait lens to shoot the couple’s pictures. You can also use a 24mm–70mm f/2.8 if you decide you want the flexibility of a wider angle.

You can pose the bride and groom a million different ways for the couple’s portraits, but there are always a few staples:

  • A close-up of the couple, both smiling at the camera.

  • Standing side by side, holding hands.

  • Holding hands while walking toward the camera. This pose provides some great movement in the shot.

    [Credit: 32mm, 1/100 sec., f/4.0, 800]
    Credit: 32mm, 1/100 sec., f/4.0, 800
  • Bride and groom facing each other, groom leaning in for a kiss.

  • The kiss.

    [Credit: 28mm, 1/250 sec., f/6.3, 100]
    Credit: 28mm, 1/250 sec., f/6.3, 100

Like the bridal portraits and groom’s portraits, try to look around for interesting elements or props that you can use to add some spice and variety to your photos.

[Credit: 17mm, 1/400 sec., f/5.0, 125]
Credit: 17mm, 1/400 sec., f/5.0, 125

As you set up the poses, keep your camera on Continuous Shutter Mode and watch for spontaneous actions. You can get some sweet informal pictures of the couple interacting, and you get the most natural expressions when the couple isn’t paying attention to you.

[Credit: 46mm, 1/200 sec, f/5.0, 100]
Credit: 46mm, 1/200 sec, f/5.0, 100
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