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33 Tips for Taking Beautiful Bridal Portraits

If you're camera-shy, you may find that classic bridal portraits are more nerve-wracking to shoot than action shots or candids. Especially when you're featured solo, sans groom to lean on (literally). What do you do with your hands? Should you smile or act serious? How do you pick the perfect location?

Here, photographers answer all that and more, sharing their best advice for capturing wedding portraits you'll still love 50 years from now.

By: Stefania Sainato

Enter Slideshow
  • Have a range of facial expressions.

    Have a range of facial expressions.

    "It's one of the happiest days of your life, so you should definitely smile! But having a serious or serene expression can result in incredibly timeless photos for your wedding day," says Angie Candell Brandon from La Candella Weddings.

    "If you are worried and angry about something, it will show in your photos. Just have fun and enjoy the day! Consider hiring a day-of coordinator to do the worrying for you," says Tammy Toung from Memoire Studios.

    Photo Credit: La Candella Weddings

  • Get Your Beauty Rest

    Get Your Beauty Rest

    One of the best ways a bride can prepare for her wedding photos is to be well-rested. "No one looks or feels their best if they are tired. Make sure you have all the wedding details taken care of well in advance of the wedding day so that you are not stressed out with last-minute craziness," says Debrah Tess Woods from Inspiration & Design Photography.

  • Schedule Enough Prep Time

    Schedule Enough Prep Time

    "You'd be surprised how long it takes to get ready and photograph your big day! Double the amount of time you think it would take to get photos of your wedding dress, accessories, bridal portraits, and you with your bridesmaids," says Lauren Agresti from New Love Photography.

    She suggests having your "wearables" (dress, garter, jewelry, shoes, etc.) all in one place so the photographer can take detailed shots of them before you get dressed.

    Photo Credit: New Love Photography

  • Or Book a Separate Session Altogether

    Or Book a Separate Session Altogether

    More brides are scheduling photo sessions apart from the wedding day to ensure lovely portraits — this tradition originated in the South. "A bridal session gives the gift of time. I shoot for a minimum of two hours whereas, at a wedding, I'm fortunate to get 20 minutes with the couple and maybe five minutes for bridal photos. Each image can be carefully crafted, and poses are tweaked to perfection," says Priscilla Thomas from Priscilla Thomas Photography.

    Scheduling a post-wedding session is also a great option for couples who are unable to get the picturesque photos they envisioned for their big day due to inclement weather.

  • Get Ready in a Gorgeous, Well-Lit Space

    Get Ready in a Gorgeous, Well-Lit Space

    "De-clutter your 'getting ready' room before your photographer arrives. Find a beautiful space to get dressed in with available natural light, so you and your surroundings look their best," Agresti says.

    Photo Credit: New Love Photography

  • Capitalize on The Golden Hour

    Capitalize on The Golden Hour

    Schedule your portrait sessions around the "golden hour" at sunset. "Any photographer should be able to take good images regardless of the lighting, but if you schedule the photo session when the light is best, you will end up with better pictures," says Tammy Toung from Memoire Studios. (Light is harshest from noon to 1 p.m. so keep that in mind when creating your wedding-day timeline.)

    If it's very sunny out, look for shade to stand under and turn your back to the sun to avoid squinting and harsh shadows on your face.

    Photo Credit: Memoire Studios

  • Comfort is Key

    Comfort is Key

    "Make sure you wear a dress you feel comfortable sitting in because your photographer will be with you all night. You want to look natural in all of your photographs, including the candid ones!" Agresti says.

    Photo Credit: New Love Photography

  • Test-Drive Your Accessories, Too

    Test-Drive Your Accessories, Too

    "One of the most common mistakes I've seen over the years is the bride discovering that something about her ensemble doesn't work on the wedding day. One bride discovered the bra she chose didn't work with the dress. Another realized her ruffled slip was too long. Another had shoes that were not the right height for her dress length. So try everything on in advance," Woods says.

  • Make the Most of Your Wardrobe

    Make the Most of Your Wardrobe

    "It's not every day that you get to wear a big fluffy dress or a cathedral-length veil, so have fun with it!" says Angie Candell Brandon from La Candella Weddings.

    Photo Credit: La Candella Weddings

  • Get By With a Little Help From Your Friends

    Get By With a Little Help From Your Friends

    If your photographer doesn't have an assistant, ask a friend to lend a hand. "They can help fluff your beautiful wedding dress and keep an eye out for stray hairs or smudged eyeliner. It'll help streamline the images and allow for more variety within your designated time frame as the photographer will be able to focus on their craft," says Paula Comerlato-Medley from Soft Elegance Photography.

  • Browse Photo Inspiration

    Browse Photo Inspiration

    "I will go on Pinterest before all of my shoots to get inspiration for poses and show the bride what look I am trying to capture," says Beverly Pye from Snappy Shots by Bev. Just keep in mind that while it's great to get ideas, your photos will ultimately turn out differently due to a myriad of factors including location, wardrobe, lighting, and more. Work together with your photographer to come up with a customized approach rather than asking them to replicate poses exactly.

    Photo Credit: Snappy Shots by Bev

  • Bridal Beauty: Working With a Pro

    Bridal Beauty: Working With a Pro

    "A professional hair and makeup artist can do wonders! Not only will you look stunning, but you'll feel incredible and this confidence will yield beautiful smiles and images," Comerlato-Medley says.

    "There are professional makeup and hair 'secrets' to assist brides in looking their best. It can be heartbreaking to see a bride react to photos when she doesn’t feel she looks the way she wanted to," Oth adds.

  • Stick to Your Tried-and-True Skincare Regimen

    Stick to Your Tried-and-True Skincare Regimen

    If you've never gone spray tanning, don't try it for the first time on your wedding. "Although it's developed by leaps and bounds, you can still come out looking like an Oompa-Loompa or a Dalmatian," Comerlato-Medley says. You may also want to avoid undergoing any other new-to-you beauty rituals the week before, such as microdermabrasion, facials, or eyelash extensions.

  • Use Your Location to Your Advantage

    Use Your Location to Your Advantage

    "A happy couple in front of a gorgeous backdrop makes for showstopping photos. Tall rooms with loads of light, beautiful venues, lush gardens or even a grand staircase will look stunning in pictures," says Christian Oth from Christian Oth Studio.

    Photo Credit: Christian Oth Studio

  • Choose a Meaningful Location

    Choose a Meaningful Location

    "I ask my brides to pick a location that is special to them or something that goes with their theme. For example, the bride featured here chose to take portraits at her family's ranch, and I think they turned out perfectly! She remained the focus throughout the session," Reynolds-Roberts says.

  • Or Include a Sentimental Object

    Or Include a Sentimental Object

    Consider including a family heirloom in your shoot. "This bride used the same settee from her mother's bridal portrait," Pye says.

    Photo Credit: Snappy Shots by Bev

  • Keep it Simple

    Keep it Simple

    Don’t overcomplicate — bridal portraits are meant to highlight you, not a multitude of settings. "Pick a setting for your portraits that best represents you and your personality and then stick to it. Moving from location to location can be stressful as you are trying not to dirty your dress and mess it up," says Ashley Beasley from Luke & Ashley Photography.

  • Allow Your Personality to Shine

    Allow Your Personality to Shine

    "Bridal portraits should play off the bride's personality," says Jocelyn Voo from Everly Studios. For example, the graffiti backdrop and leopard sunglasses perfectly complement this bride's fun, free-spirited style.

    Photo Credit: Everly Studios

  • Let it Go

    Let it Go

    "If you are worried and angry about something, it will show in your photos. Just have fun and enjoy the day! Consider hiring a day-of coordinator to do the worrying for you," Toung says.

    Photo Credit: Memoire Studios

  • Play Fun, Upbeat Tunes to Put You at Ease

    Play Fun, Upbeat Tunes to Put You at Ease

    "I have found Pandora to be a great resource because most clients already have the app downloaded on their phones, and they can stream songs from their favorite genre that they've selected. The more comfortable the bride feels, the better her images will turn out. Just make sure you can still hear the directions from the photographer," Comerlato-Medley says.

  • Be Fully Present

    Be Fully Present

    "Too often, brides get so caught up in the details that they forget to relax and be fully present on their wedding day. You’ve planned, hired the vendors and assigned the tasks; now it's time to relax and truly enjoy the moment. That said, most brides are self-conscious, and that’s okay. A good photographer will help you feel at ease and capture you in your most natural state," Oth says.

    Photo Credit: Christian Oth Studio

  • Don

    Don't Forget to Hydrate

    "Most brides don't realize this, but you will get hot in your dress, no matter how light it is. Before you put it on, apply some baby powder or Monistat Chafing Relief Powder Gel to your thighs to help you stay cool and prevent uncomfortable chafing. And don't forget to bring water!" says Monica Reynolds-Roberts from Monica Roberts Photography. You may also want to pack light snacks such as pretzels and fruit just in case you start feeling faint.

  • Posing Pointers: Watch Those Hands

    Posing Pointers: Watch Those Hands

    "When we are getting our pictures taken, the first thing we usually struggle with is what do we do with our hands. You can keep your hands occupied by holding your bouquet or dress. Also, remember to curl your fingers just a bit and keep your hands soft when touching anything," Beasley says.

  • Posing Pointers: Holding the Bouquet

    Posing Pointers: Holding the Bouquet

    "Try to hold your bouquet at belly button level to prevent it from obscuring your dress details and parts of your face," says Michele Graves from Michele Graves Photography.

  • Posing Pointers: Have a Range of Facial Expressions

    Posing Pointers: Have a Range of Facial Expressions

    "It's one of the happiest days of your life, so you should definitely smile! But having a serious or serene expression can result in incredibly timeless photos for your wedding day," Brandon says.

    Photo Credit: La Candella Weddings

  • Posing Pointers: Don

    Posing Pointers: Don't Be Afraid to Get Silly

    "Your photos don't all have to be serious or even chic. Let the inner laughter come out. A variety of emotions is beautiful for portraits," says Nicki Metcalf from Nicki Metcalf Photography.

  • Posing Pointers: It

    Posing Pointers: It's All in the Eyes

    "Always try to smile with your eyes as well as your mouth. Do this by thinking of a special moment between you and your fiancé," Graves says.

  • Posing Pointers: Props

    Posing Pointers: Props

    Play off available props, whether it be an umbrella or your bridal party.

    Photo Credit: Everly Studios

  • Posing Pointers: Find Your Most Flattering Angles

    Posing Pointers: Find Your Most Flattering Angles

    "Women come in different sizes and shapes, and that's awesome! Do your research before getting in front of the camera and tell your photographer what your 'best side' is," Metcalf says.

  • Posing Pointers: Pop Your Hip Slightly

    Posing Pointers: Pop Your Hip Slightly

    "When standing, the most flattering stance for women is to have one leg slightly bent and the other straight so that your hips 'pop' gently," Agresti says.

    Photo Credit: New Love Photography

  • Be Spontaneous

    Be Spontaneous

    "Portraits don't have to be planned or static. Oftentimes the best portraits are the shot taken right after or before you expect it, or when you're not even paying attention to us," Voo says.

    Photo Credit: Everly Studios

  • Your Gown May Get Slightly Soiled, Despite Taking the Utmost Care

    Your Gown May Get Slightly Soiled, Despite Taking the Utmost Care

    "I will never ask a bride to trek through mud or run into the ocean (though some have requested it during wedding sessions, and I happily obliged). However, getting lovely photos sometimes means getting that hem a little dirty for the sake of a timeless image. This bridal portrait is a great example of what a photographer can achieve when fear of the dress getting dirty isn't dominating the session," Thomas says.

    Gowns can be spot-cleaned easily at bridal boutiques. Some photographers have the bride stand on a sheet; however, Thomas doesn't personally recommend it since she finds that it impedes creativity and affects the quality of the images.

  • Trust Their Vision

    Trust Their Vision

    "Hire a photographer whose photos you can imagine yourself in; everyone has their own unique shooting style. It is so important to be able to trust them to pose and direct you," says Angie Candell Brandon from La Candella Weddings.

    Photo Credit: La Candella Weddings

  • Get a Sneak Peek of the Finished Product

    Get a Sneak Peek of the Finished Product

    Ask to see the back of the camera during the session. "The photographer might instruct you to do something that will seem silly or awkward but seeing the pictures will show you just how amazing you look and give you the confidence to continue," Beasley says.

33 Tips for Taking Beautiful Bridal Portraits

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