Of all of the images we capture on a wedding day, one of my all-time favorite ones to shoot is what we call "The Iconic Bridal Portrait."
What we mean by "iconic," is that we want every single one of our brides to have that one picture of just them by themselves on their wedding day that their family can pass down for generations to come. I kind of secretly have these visions of grand-children and great-grandchildren going through pictures in an old shoe box or flipping through their grandparents' wedding album, and coming across that one image of their grandmother in her wedding dress. Seeing just how beautiful, young and in love she really was. And knowing that this was where their family started.
We typically want the iconic bridal portrait to be a quieter portrait. Something that exudes grace, and is perhaps a little more on the serious side. The problem is, though, that just like you guys....we shoot weddings. :) And what we know, is that wedding days can be crrrrazy. Here we are trying to get these very calm, quiet, graceful portraits on a wedding day when, as any of you who have ever shot a wedding before can attest, the second that dress goes on the nerves tend to go through the roof. And the first thing most brides want to do the second that dress is zipped, is to get out the door and off to the ceremony.
So how do you go about getting them to slow down long enough & calm down long enough to get an iconic bridal portrait? We've come up with 5 tips and we hope they help!
1. Ask for 5 minutes & then clear the room. One of the things that can make the idea of delaying the leaving for the ceremony to take more pictures more stressful, is that they don't know how long it's going to take. So I always try to manage expectations right from the beginning. As soon as that final earring goes in I'll jump in and say, "Ok Steph, so what we're going to do now is I'm going to take about 5 minutes of just you & me time so I can get some really great bridal portraits of just you. And then we'll get you off to the ceremony!" Because it's such a small amount of time, it doesn't seem stressful. Anyone can spare five minutes of time. And we have a clear beginning and end point. The second part of that, is that I include the "just you & me time" part so that it clears the room. It's very hard to channel quiet and grace when you have a room full of people staring at you and cracking jokes. So I'll just suggest that maybe the bridesmaids can go gather all their stuff up, and as soon as they're done we'll be ready to go. Of course if her mom or sister want to stay in the room to watch, that's totally fine. I know they've waited a long time for this day. I'll just ask for a little "quiet on the set" :) while we take a few shots. And I think it turns into this really great thing where they just get to soak in this moment before running out the door.
2. Take a deep breath and listen to your heart. If I want them to be calm, *I* have to be calm. If my heart is racing or I'm feeling all scattered, that's going to come across in the pictures. So before we get started, I'll take a second to take my camera away from my face, take a deep breath, and think about the image I'm going for. Also, when I take a deep breath, she usually takes a deep breath. And now we're all breathing a little easier. Along the same lines, during this time I try to remind myself not to shoot faster than the pace of a heartbeat. That speed helps to set a more calm, quiet tone in the image. It's very difficult to get a quiet image if you are firing off the shutter like crazy because that constant speed is going to make their hearts start racing too. An added bonus to this is that by slowing down, I force myself to think about the shot I'm going for and how I can then "bump" it to make it better.
3. Have them look at their elbow....and then your camera. I'm a huge fan of the soft, quiet looking down shot. And I used to always have them look at their shoulder to get that angle. But I've since realized that an even more natural pose, is to have them look at their elbow. It's softer angle than looking at the neck, it creates a longer gaze, and it has them looking a little further down which is a little more introspective. But then I will alternate that between them looking down and then looking straight at me into the camera for a more engaging portrait. By alternating it, they're not in either pose too long so it doesn't become stiff, and that moment when they do look up is one of the most natural stares you'll ever get.
4. Give them something to do. I'll often have my brides run their fingers along the edge of the veil or fluff their dress. Sometimes I'll just have them hold their hands out and look down at them. But by giving them something to do, I'm taking their mind off of the fact that they are having their picture taken. And any time I can add movement (even just a very small movement) into a pose, it instantly makes it feel more organic and creates more natural gesture.
5. Get Higher I'll often end with my brides in a seated position because it allows me to be higher than them and shoot down. Using that stance and shooting at 1.4, I can focus on her eyelashes when she's looking down (eye when she's looking up) and it creates a lot of fall off on everything else. Which makes for a very flattering, soft shot. Finally, I will do a few shots where I focus on the veil or an earring/necklace where my bride is not actually in focus at all. This, of course, creates a ton of fall off on her and makes for some really soft, romantic shots that just sort of give the idea of what she was doing without actually being able to see everything.
I hope this helped at least a little! And if nothing else, maybe it just inspired you to start creating your own iconic bridal portraits at each wedding you do.
The grandchildren & the shoe boxes of the future will thank you! :)
Happy Monday y'all!