Girlfriend's Guide to Wedding Photography: Tips for Perfect Bridal Photos -

Girlfriend’s Guide to Wedding Photography: Tips for Perfect Bridal Photos

May 8, 2019

After all the time you put into planning the perfect hairstyle, finding an amazing make-up artist, THE dress and planning all the perfect details … it just screams for photos to be taken! With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of tips, hints and challenges for bridal portraits.

A quick note: The images contained in this blog post in no way imply an issue with the wedding it represents. They just happen to be some of my favorite images that correspond to the content.

CHALLENGE: Pre-Wedding Timing & Hair and Make-up

One of the first questions I get from my brides is how much time they should allot for hair & make-up. While this is really dependent upon your individual stylist or make-up artist, a good formula to follow is this:

Bridesmaids & MoB/G (Mother of Bride/Groom) – 30-45 mins per person for Make-up
Bridesmaids & MoB/G – 30-45 mins per person for Hair (some hair styles may require longer)
Bride – 60-90 mins each for Hair & Make-up

Hair & Make-up Helpful Hints

  • If you are getting ready at the salon, use the times above (regardless of what the salon says) and double the travel time for each direction. I have never had a bride who gets ready at a salon arrive on time to the getting ready location. There will **always** be a stop you have to make on the way there or back (I mean, vanilla shake and fries or starbucks… amiright?)
  • ┬áIf you do not want to hire multiple stylists, start very early, keep your bridal party small, have MoB/G get their hair done on their own or limit the styles the girls can get (ie complicated braided updos take way more than time than a simple high pony)
  • The bride should be in the make-up chair when I arrive. This gives me a good 45-60 mins to take detail photos and candids. I always recommend make-up first and hair second. This way when I’m taking your getting ready shots, your face looks flawless. We can always fake a good make-up shot. *This is completely dependent on your photographer’s preference and some choose to arrive at different times in the process.
  • Bride should be in the chair at least 4.5 hours before ceremony starts with a first look and no later than 3.5 hours before ceremony with no first look.
  • I suggest you have one hair and one make-up artist for every 4 women utilizing their services. This ensures hair and make-up times in the 2-3 hour range. Make sure to ask your styling team how many they recommend based on your bridal party as they will know the best.
  • Professional Hair and Make-up should last about 12 hours. This is especially important to remember if you only hire one stylist and one make-up artist and are starting before dawn.
  • Do NOT let your stylist leave unless you are 100% happy with your hair & make-up.
  • Don’t stress the timeline… I tell my brides on their big day that it’s “bride time”. A bride is never late to her own wedding!


Bridal Beauty Tips:

Ask your make-up artist if they can use make-up with a lower SPF to avoid flashback. Flashback happens when the fine white powder in SPF reflects the light of the camera flash causing super white areas where it is applied.

Fake lashes make a world of difference in photos.

Consider a manicure. Your hands WILL be photographed a ton.

While you can do your own hair and make-up, 100% I recommend getting them done professionally… mostly because of how long it will last and how absolutely flawless you will look.


CHALLENGE: Time for Bridal Details

I love photographing bridal details. Just being able to be creative to tie them into the rest of the day… my OCD bells are ringing about the cohesive gallery I can deliver. However, there are some weddings that despite writing time into the wedding day timeline and being setup for perfection… I just don’t get the shots I wish I had. And there are three reasons for it…

  1. The Bride that only wants a few photos of the dress but has a lot of details.

    Despite my best effort, this bride only plans time for me to a handful of images of the dress or doesn’t hire me for getting ready at all. I arrive ready to dive head first into bridal portraits to find a bride in a robe. Sitting on a table is a group of bridal details to be photographed and a long request list. Usually a bridesmaid or mom has said she must have these photos. I absolutely agree with that. You invested so much time and money to carefully choose each detail that you SHOULD document them. You also should plan for it. It takes me 30-45 minutes to get semi-styled images of bridal details. If you want highly styled (styling boards, ribbons, flowers), block out an hour.

  2. The “hey can we get this photo” Bridesmaid or Mom

    This is probably my biggest challenge with bridal details… Like all things creative, I get in a groove. I get inspired. I also only have 30-45 minutes to style and photograph all your details in at least three different variations. Now add in being interrupted multiple times to take photos of your little niece because your maid of honor is her mother and she’s doing something super cute… you can see where the time goes fast.

  3. The Minimal Bride.

    Dear Minimal Bride, I admit it. I love details. I can assure you though that I love my minimal brides as much as those with enough details for four weddings. Most minimal brides will think that with less details I need less time to photograph what they have. While that’s true to a certain point, it can take me 5-10 minutes to set up a dress shop so please don’t leave me with 10 minutes to photograph what you do have. My suggestion is to let me know that details aren’t a priority to you. Then, let me take 20 or 30 mins to photograph what you have just in case. It’s always better to plan a few extra minutes in than not. Why? Because… well, see #1.

Bridal Details Helpful Hints

  • What can I say? If we’re waiting on one detail to photograph, it’s usually the flowers. While a majority of florists are amazing, the most common issues are: bouquets and bouts delivered to the reception area (because they are dropping off reception flowers), they arrive late or they can be missing something. Make sure you let your florist know exactly what time they should arrive and where. Designate someone to look over the order (if you don’t have a planner) before you let them leave. Always have paper towels on hand to dry the stems before photos or you may have wet spots on your gowns.
  • If I only could choose one styling item it would be a wooden hanger for the gown and each bridesmaid’s dress. You don’t have to get them engraved! You can get a pack of 10 plain wood hangers for $10 on amazon. It just looks so much nicer than wire or plastic (and make sure the head swivels or I may not be able to hang the dresses evenly).
  • Ask your florist for cuttings or ribbon that they would otherwise throw away to be used in your detail photos. Even a rose blossom without a stem can be used to jazz up an invitation photo!
  • Make sure to clean your engagement ring.

Pre-Wedding Candids

While not much affects the pre-wedding candids, here are some tips that can help the look and feel of your images.

  • Save bridesmaid and groom gifts for when I’m doing your getting ready candids. It’s a great opportunity for some amazing, emotional shots.
  • Let me know ahead of time what’s important to you so I can ensure that it’s captured (or not captured) during this time!
  • Keep all bags, purses, etc on one side of the getting-ready room (preferably the side with the TV) so all of the clutter doesn’t show in your photos. Phones should be plugged in on this side as well.
  • Make sure the bed has been made.
  • Turn the TV off. Since candids happen fast… you don’t want an amazingly sweet photo of you with your grandmother as she adjusts her veil that she just gifted to you side-by-side with a frame of Judge Judy scowling caught on the TV screen.
  • Make sure your bridesmaids all wear underwear …
  • Smile! Have fun! Be goofy! Pull out the bubbly and make a toast! This is your bride tribe… I want to capture who you are with them! This is the moment you go from Miss to Mrs… it’s a time that should DEFINITELY be documented!

CHALLENGE: The Bridal Portrait

On my top 10 list of wedding day decisions my couples, and in this case my brides, say they regret after the fact is the choice to limit the time for bridal portraits. Believe it or not, these are the first photos to go if we are running late. This makes me weep on the inside a little bit each time it happens. We do take a few photos later on during the bridal party formals but it’s just not the same as having 20 mins or so dedicated to just the bride.

    1. Let your bridal party know that bridal portraits will just be you and I.

      I’m going to get very real for second. There is always one member of the bridal party who is a “photographer” or thinks they can pose better than I can. And while I love a great suggestion, having someone direct my posing is tough to break free from. My best photos come when my couples 100% trust me to do my thing. Plus it’s really hard to get you to relax as long as your sister is telling you the way you are holding your shoulders makes you look like quasimodo (As a mom of four girls, I know some of you are nodding in agreement on this one).

    2. I wish I could take a second for every bride and just look them in the eye and say “Trust me”.

      Because when your client truly trusts you… that’s when you get photo magic. This is one reason why the engagement session is so very important to your wedding day photography. I’m no longer just a stranger with a camera and you know you will love your photos. That trial run has put many a bride at ease on their wedding day. Let me help all the other experienced professionals out there and say this… we have faced every situation, body type, location and lighting issue you can imagine. A true professional will never make you look silly or accentuate a body part that you feel uncomfortable about. Let us know if you feel you have a “problem” area before the wedding day. Most of all, trust that our number one goal is to showcase how beautiful you are (see how I brought that full circle).

    3. Along the lines of trust with posing, trust our location choices because what looks beautiful to the naked eye may not translate when you put a person into the frame.

      It may be too bright out or there isn’t enough variation with the background to ensure that you really stand out in the photo. This is a tough one. Couples pick venues because of how beautiful they are. However, sometimes the weather just doesn’t cooperate to make it happen the way they envisioned. Or while you see a beautiful lake view, we see a marina with gas tanks and a bright orange swimming platform. So when we say “Hey, I saw this really great spot!” or “We’ll take a few here but let’s try this other location too”… Trust us even if it’s not what you 100% had in mind. You will not regret a perfectly lit photo over one that may have faults because the location wasn’t ideal.

Here’s a secret about our location choices…

I truly feel that a lot of photographers see the world in a different way than others. We can look at an ugly hotel wall in between a trash can and a fire extinguisher and realize that the wallpaper pattern and light in that one spot is just perfect enough to give you an incredible editorial look for your bridals. I have photographed a bride or two at a location my facebook fans ooh and ahhh over… which happens to be a 6 foot space… next to a dumpster… in a smoke aea and no one is the wiser.

So there you have it. My top tips, hints and challenges for pre-wedding bridal photos.

Are you a wedding professional or a past bride? Have some tips to add? Leave a comment below to pass on your wisdom! | YM Photography | Saratoga Springs, NY Wedding Photographer

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