How to Look Amazing in Bridal Portraits

Lets talk how to look amazing in bridal portraits. Yeah! I know what you’re thinking. Stand, smile, shoot. Wrong! I get the same reaction so frequently from brides who think its just that simple. It’s so much more then that so I thought I would take a few minutes to talk about what goes in to a well composed bridal portrait. In addition we need to consider creativity and uniqueness but that is for another day. Today is all about how to move your body to create dynamic and interesting images. I often think I should just make flash cards and then have them at the ready for a session but then that might just stifle our creative energy. For now it’s enough for us to talk about the basics and to look at some incredible examples.

To begin let me talk about the portrait itself. Portraits are flat, one dimensional images and in that one shot it has to reflect a lot; your personality, your personal taste, your creativity. Granted there are many brides who say they just want a lovely portrait of themselves in their wedding gown. I get it. Some of us are not models…many of us don’t even like to get our picture taken. But if you have gone to a lot of trouble to get in your dress, get your hair done, get a bouquet, schedule a location and you have me standing there with incredible ideas for you, then why not educate yourself a little before you are standing in front of the camera?

Because a picture is one dimensional you have to work your body so that your image is engaging with the viewer. Its not a bad idea to watch a few episodes of America’s Next Top Model…honestly! And yes I’m serious. You get to see first hand what works and what doesn’t and its not you being criticized. Its a great learning tool. Next, its a good idea to take those tips and practice them in front of the mirror to build your comfort level. I’m surprised how many young women don’t feel comfortable in their own skins. That discomfort only shows, magnified in a bridal portrait. Get used to moving your shoulders and your hips; practice making eye contact that is engaging. You’d be surprised how many brides just stand in front of the camera with a vacant stare in their eyes.

We work hard to keep you engaged and laughing during the session but practicing subtle emotional changes that reflect in your eyes help to create stunning images. Think of something sweet, something provocative, something endearing, something sexy…if you are thinking it…make it reflect in your eyes!

Next, stand in front of the mirror and move your hands. So many women have never taken dance or have ever practiced moving their hands and body gracefully. I think its a great idea to determine before hand by looking at images of brides so that you can go in to your session and re-create those poses that you gravitate toward. Do you like standing poses, leaning poses, lying down poses? All of those questions should have been thought about before you arrived at your session. Photography is a 50/50 proposition. You can not rely on your photographer to do it all for you. You have to bring something to the table too or else you are just a standing bride in a pretty dress.

Lastly, you should consider your dress. What will the dress allow? You can’t imagine how many times we get to a session and the bride has an idea in her mind about what she wants for her portrait only to find the dress too tight, too big, too long or fear strikes her or her Mother that it might actually get a little dirty if she actually lays down on the hillside. Many a wonderfully creative bride becomes paralyzed by the dress.

So lets look at some examples:


Take note of all the things we’ve talked about so far. Notice first the eyes! The models have a soft nearly ethereal look in their eyes which is perfect for bridal portraiture. Unless we are doing a grunge shoot or an edgy or whimsical shoot…practice making those soft doe eyes in the mirror. Finally, notice the subtle leans and angles of the body that illicit movement. The softly bent angle of the hands can make or break a great portrait. Remember you wouldn’t go take a test without studying a little first, right? So a little afore thought will go a long way on portrait day!!!


About the Author:
Chris Marsh, Photoplay Photography – Charlotte, North Carolina

Chris offers candid, spontaneous and timeless wedding day photography. A wonderful mix of documentary, photojournalism and traditional portraiture that captures every nuance, detail and emotion of your wedding day.
You can check out more from Chris on her blog or website.

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