How to Photograph the Wedding Preparation

The photographs of the bride and groom getting ready for the wedding are the introduction to the wedding story you’re documenting as wedding photographer. In this scene, the different characters are revealed and the plot begins. Following are a few reasons why this scene is so important and what your photos should accomplish:

  • Advancing the plot: This scene lays the groundwork for the rest of the wedding story. The preparation starts to build some of the tension as the bride and groom get ready in their separate quarters.

  • Creating a mood: During the preparation, the air crackles with excitement. You can show this by capturing key expressions from the bride and the groom as they get ready and interact with their friends and families.

  • Forging a connection between the character and viewer: Seeing a beautiful bride being all made up and looking like a modern-day princess, or the groom looking snazzy in his tux, communicates excitement to the viewer, especially if you grab a photo of each person looking straight at the camera. The look of sheer joy in the bride’s eyes communicates a lot about how she’s feeling.

    [Credit: 50mm, 1/60 sec., f/1.8, 500]
    Credit: 50mm, 1/60 sec., f/1.8, 500
  • Showing action: In this scene, you want to document all the little things that go into getting ready for a wedding, from the bride being laced up in her dress to the groom tying his shoes. Each phase should be captured, step by step, from when the preparation starts until the moment they stand ready to see their intended.

    [Credit: 35mm, 1/50 sec., f/2.8, 400]
    Credit: 35mm, 1/50 sec., f/2.8, 400

Take a few logistics into consideration when shooting the preparation scene:

  • Lighting: Lighting the preparation scene can be a bit tricky because it usually takes place indoors. If the room where they’re getting ready has a large window, consider asking them to do everything near the window so you have a good amount of natural lighting to work with. If there isn’t a large window, make sure you have your flash with you.

  • Taking pictures of both the bride and groom: Both the bride and groom are main characters in this story, so try to get pictures of both of them as they get ready

    If they’re getting ready in the same building, the logistics shouldn’t be a problem. However, if your couple is getting ready in separate locations and you don’t have the superpower of being in two places at once, you have the following options:

    • Bring along a second shooter and divvy up the preparation photos between the two of you.

    • If the two locations are fairly close together, you may be able to drive over to where the groom is getting ready, grab a few shots of him and his groomsmen, and then head over to the bride’s location.

    • If the two locations are too far apart, the last option you should consider is staying with the bride the whole time she’s getting ready and grabbing a few pictures of the groom putting on his tux jacket when you meet up with him at the wedding venue.

  • Cutting out irrelevant details: A wedding photographer should make sure to keep unnecessary details out of the pictures. Though you want to document what is happening on a wedding day, telling a story is part truth, part crafting the story the way you want to tell it. This includes the ability to determine what to leave out.

    The room where a bride and her bridesmaids get ready can often be messy, with plastic garment bags hanging over the furniture, shoes tossed every which way, and a lot of other items strewn about the room.

    To capture beautiful photos of the wedding preparation scene, consider cleaning up the background of your photos before you start taking pictures. You may even ask a bridesmaid to help you tidy up before you start snapping away. This ensures that a pile of clothing or random clutter in the background won’t detract from the images of your lovely bride getting her makeup done.

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