When we first started photographing wedding we wondered how those famous photographers got gorgeous pictures of their clients getting ready on their wedding day. All the shots seemed to be so in the moment but also so beautifully lit. When we walked into a hotel room, church basement or (gasp!) grandma’s living room we weren’t achieving the same results. Was it the location? Or the subjects? Sometimes. However, often times there were a few little steps to take to get similar results.
Here is our approach to taking amazing Getting Ready pictures…
1. Show up early. Standard start time for us is 1 hour before the bride is in her dress/ groom is in his suit. “Start time” is when we tell clients we’ll arrive. We actually show up 30 minutes prior to start time to park and do a little bit of scouting before we walk into the room. Then with any extra minutes we get to know the people in the room. The trick here is to leave the camera in the bag and introduce yourself around. This will clue you in to which people are super important when it comes time to document the emotional last moments of getting ready.
2. Let the light in. It’s no secret that lots of light makes for beautiful photographs. You don’t just have to accept that dark getting ready room as is. Ask if anyone minds if you open the curtains/blinds/whatever else is blocking the light. In 5 years of weddings I have never had a bridal party say no. Another trick is to turn off any light sources you don’t want casting a weird color (i.e. room lights, lamps, mirror lights). Just ask first, but most of the time no one cares. Natural light makes all the difference in a great picture so do whatever you can to introduce it to a scene without having to use a flash.
3. Wait until make-up for close-ups. Just because we get in the room an hour early doesn’t mean we’re shooting every moment of getting ready. We wait until the make-up artist starts working on the eyes before we do any close-ups. Very few girls like to have a picture taken without make-up on. We stick to overall room shots and detail shots. I’ll only go in for a close-up before make-up if I think it’s an incredibly meaningful moment. As for the groom, we usually wait until he has pants on. Obviously, there are times you can break this rule and you’ll know when that is.
4. Clean up. After the bride finishes make-up there is usually a 10-20 minute break before the bride starts putting on her dress. This is the perfect time to grab your assistant or enlist the help of a few bridesmaids to help tidy the room. We go as far as to hide hotel phones or put away random things on grandmas dresser (with permission, of course). We make beds, throw towels in the bathroom, hide suitcases and remove anything that could be a distraction to the picture. A distraction-free picture is always better!
5. You choose where she puts on her dress. When you go out to photograph client’s portraits you are going to pick the spots with the best light. The same goes for putting on her dress. This is the spot you’ve already scouted and prepared (#4). We tell our brides they can get dressed wherever they are comfortable but we want to finish the zipping/buttoning/tying up of the dress in the spot we have chosen. If it’s a hotel room or home it is usually the sitting area. If it’s at a church or venue you might have to get more creative. When there aren’t any naturally lit rooms we choose the prettiest spot and crank up that ISO!
6. Encourage parents to be involved. I can’t even count how many times a mom has been left out of the getting ready process because she didn’t want to be photographed before she had her hair/makeup done or dress on. We let our clients know in our final consult that if they want their parents or family members involved in the getting ready pictures then they should be dressed beforehand. These are the moments they want to remember and they’re worth getting dressed a little early for. If you’ve ever seen a picture of a dad in his tux seeing his little girl in her white dress for the first time then you know what I’m talking about.
These are the photographs that help your clients feel those important moments for the rest of their lives. By taking just a few extra steps you can create Getting Ready photographs that enhance your portfolio, communicate emotion and most importantly give your clients pictures they will cherish forever!