Zach Ashcraft’s Guide to Great Bridal Prep Photos

julius motal the phoblographer guide bridal 01

This post first appeared on Zach Ashcraft’s blog, and is being syndicated by The Phoblographer. All photographs are copyrighted Zach Ashcraft, and are being used with permisison.

Bridal Prep is one of my favorite parts of the wedding day to capture. You can see and feel the excitement in the bridal party and families as they start to arrive at the venue. There are also a wealth of details and candid moments to capture, and usually a fantastic or easily controllable lighting environment.

There are a few things that I always like to accomplish and look for during Bridal Prep.

Details

julius motal the phoblographer guide bridal 02

Between shoes, hair, makeup, wedding rings, dresses, and more, there are dozens of detail shots to photograph during prep time. I love to look for interesting light sources such as the vanity mirror above, or highly reflective surfaces such as the table below.

julius motal the phoblographer guide bridal 03

Mirrors

Most bridal suites will have mirrors on hand so that bridesmaids can work on hair and makeup. Mirrors provide a great way to add depth and dimension to your photos.

julius motal the phoblographer guide bridal 04

julius motal the phoblographer guide bridal 05

julius motal the phoblographer guide bridal 06

Window Light

Another thing I’m always on the lookout for is window light. Windows provide an incredibly beautiful and versatile light source, and they are present in most hotel rooms or bridal suites. Windows provide a great soft light source for general portraiture, but can also be used to create interesting silhouettes.

julius motal the phoblographer guide bridal 07

julius motal the phoblographer guide bridal 08

Candid Moments

While small details and carefully crafted portraits are very important, photographers can often loose sight of whats happening around them throughout the day. There are so many people involved in a wedding, from the bridal party, to the parents, to flower girls, and more. These people are all at the wedding because they are important to the Bride and Groom. It is so important to capture their interactions with each other throughout the day.

The Brides parents praying with her before the ceremony.

The Brides parents praying with her before the ceremony.

The Bridesmaids praying around the Bride. Its important to capture these moments, while remaining unobtrusive.

The Bridesmaids praying around the Bride. Its important to capture these moments, while remaining unobtrusive.

The Mother of the Bride seeing her Daughter in her wedding dress for the first time.

The Mother of the Bride seeing her Daughter in her wedding dress for the first time.

Tell a Story

When time permits, I really like to challenge myself to become not just a photographer, but a storyteller. Combining as many of the elements listed above, I try to create a compelling scene that is capable of telling the entire story of the day in a single frame.

julius motal the phoblographer guide bridal 13

In the above shot, I used the windows as an element to frame and light both the dress and the Bride. Having the Bride look out the window helped to convey a sense of anticipation for the coming ceremony. As a bonus, I placed my camera directly atop a reflective granite counter, which helped hide the clutter throughout the room and focus the eyes of the viewer directly onto the Bride and her dress.

When there is not a great light source already available, I typically cut the overhead lights and get creative with off camera lighting. In the following shot, I lit the groomsmen and the whiskey bottle with an Ice Light, and used a trigger to fire a flash behind them. Again I used a table to set my camera on top of, creating a reflected image of the scene, hiding the less interesting carpet below.

julius motal the phoblographer guide bridal 14

Sometimes focusing on the small details can help tell a story. The entrance to the Groom’s suite in the photograph below had a welcome sign hanging on the door. By cracking the door and focusing on the sign, I was able to include the groom in the background, a much more compelling story than had I just photographed the sign with the door shut. julius motal the phoblographer guide bridal 15

The Reveal

One last thing to consider is doing a first look with just the bridesmaids. At the last wedding I shot, the Bridesmaids left the room before the Bride put her dress on, while the Mother of the Bride helped with the dress and veil. Once she was ready, the Bride stepped into the hallway where the bridesmaids were waiting. I love the reaction every time!

julius motal the phoblographer guide bridal 16