Bride and Groom Portrait Photography
The Best Location, Equipment and Settings For Shooting the Happy Couple
Bride and Groom Portrait Photography - The crowds have dispersed. You should have normally at this point, pre-arranged some time alone with the Bride and Groom. This can vary from between 20 minutes to one hour. Any longer and you are starting to encroach on their time.
This really is quality time and you should have pre-arranged this long before the day itself. You really need to book yourself in for these photos and push the couple to go with you. Regardless of how distracted they become.
Normally this isn’t a problem as the couple look forward to a “breather” too.
Bride and Groom Portrait Photography and Location
Take them to a nice, well lit and pre-determined area. Get the shots that you discussed or had in your mind before the wedding. Take your time and get this right. These photos will usually be the focal point of their wedding album, slideshow and large prints. Click images below for larger version.
Long before the wedding day you should have looked for;
Whatever you do this time goes quickly so I will stress again, plan ahead.
Bride and Groom Portrait Photography and Characters
Hopefully you followed my advice earlier and made the effort to visit the couple regularly before the wedding. You should have got to know their characters pretty well, as a couple and individually.
Try and incorporate this into your shots:
Take your time. Learn what to shoot and how far to push any boundaries without getting over personal. Wedding photography could be described as 90% people and 10% technique. Therefore, never be afraid to simply ask outright what the couple are like and how they see themselves.
Whatever mannerisms, expressions, moods and behaviour comes across will be recorded forever more as their memories of that day. Try and get it right.
Suggested Equipment and Settings
The equipment and settings that you use for the bride and groom portrait photos will depend entirely where you go.
Outside - Daytime/Sunny
If you are lucky enough to be shooting on a bright sunny day outdoors with some nice surroundings, you really should make the most of the natural light.
If you visited this venue before at the same time, you should know what the light is doing. you should know where is best to place the couple for your shots:
Sun behind camera directly on couple - You may need to use a reflector or fill in flash top lose the shadows a bit. Beware that this generally causes the couple to squint and isn’t the most flattering pose.
Sun behind the couple but shining into your lens - This can be quite effective. Only if you have the effect of a beautiful day but the couple aren’t bothered by the sunshine. Please note here that when shooting into the sun, your camera will meter for the brightness of the sun behind. therefore, your couple may be underexposed.
Don't Blow It
If you meter for the couple only, you will then have a blown out background. Some people love this effect (including me) and some don’t. Experiment and try different angles. An alternative would be to expose for the background and use fill in flash or a reflector to expose the couple correctly. This will help to “level out” the shot.
Shaded areas - Look for a nice shaded area such as a canopy of trees or a bandstand in the park for example. Diffused sunlight is very flattering when used correctly. A good reflector can also throw in some nice golden light from the sun’s rays.
Again, beware of your cameras metering setting. If you are in evaluative mode, the camera may well meter for the brighter areas in the background. This is where the sun is prominent so watch this, meter from the couple using spot metering if you have it.
Outside - Daytime/Sunny - Equipment
You could need or use anything here depending on your setting. However, a reflector, speedlight and even a hand held light meter would all be advantageous. Always carry a grey card for metering. It is particularly useful if you have constant light outside. this is because you can take a general reading for all shots and using flash or the reflector to add light here and there.
If possible, try and use lenses with 50mm focal length and above. 85mm is perfect for portraits as it won’t distort peoples appearance like a wide angle lens would. Of course, you may be going for some really different shots where a super wide angle lens would be very useful.
As time goes on, use some of your earnings to build up your props and equipment. These are some of the extras I use or at least take to every daytime/sunny wedding;
Polarising filter - Great for beach photography or water shots as this filter will kill the reflections. It will also add some real “punch” to your colour saturation.
Lastolite Reflector - Easy to carry and use and adds beautiful, flattering light to your subject.
Speedlight and Softbox - Great for fill-in flash on bright sunny days. The additional Softbox helps to diffuse the light even more.
Large diffusers - If you are shooting a very expensive wedding and have an assistant, these large diffusers are fantastic for controlling the strength of the sunlight.
50mm, 100mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm lenses - I like to cover all bases in case any situation crops up or if I see a shot that I want to try.
Underwater Housing - Well, I did live in Spain at the time of writing and shot a lot of beach/pool weddings and I am still waiting for the day when the Bride and Groom agree to get wet.
Outside - Daytime/Sunny - Settings
On a bright, sunny day you may find that your cameras meter readings vary quite drastically. As you move from direct sunlight to shade the light levels can fluctuate greatly.
I may have mentioned before that I have been caught out in the past whilst using aperture priority. this was due to the camera adjusting the shutter speed dangerously low as I moved into the shade.
You can fix this by practising using Tv or shutter priority. You set the shutter speed to say 125th or 200th/sec and stay safe in the knowledge that camera shake won’t be an issue. If the light does decrease so much that even f2.8 won’t suffice for your set shutter speed, you can always increase the ISO to compensate and get you back on track.
Maybe try a couple of slow shutter speed shots for effect by “panning” with the couple as they run along a beach or something. There is nothing wrong with experimenting as the cost of digital is minimal.
Play with different aperture settings to vary the depth of field. Use f2.8 or f1.4 if you have it, to blow out the background entirely, leaving the summer colours and shades a simple blur to enhance the wedding photography portraits of the Bride and Groom.
Inside - Daytime/Overcast or Dark
Having shot weddings in England for many years, I know only too well that much of the time you have dull, overcast and sometimes rainy days.
The thing to do here is expect it! When we started out, I remember hoping and praying for a “wet wedding” as soon as possible. This would "get it out of the way". We learnt what to do and how to handle the situation before each and every wedding.
This is why it is so very important to visit all venues before the wedding. As well as everything else I have mentioned, you need to suss out where to shoot the groups and couples portraits in the event of poor weather.
Note: You may even be shooting an entire wedding ceremony from getting ready to the evening reception indoors. Look for nice places within the reception venue itself. Is there an area of particular interest such as a library, drawing room or spa/treatment area?
Make sure that you have the right equipment, especially lighting, so that you don’t miss any shots. What lighting do you want to use?
Inside - Daytime/Overcast or Dark - Lighting
This turned out to be quite lucrative. In these “speedy” digital times, and if you have the right equipment, it is quite possible to have these proofs or prints ready before everyone leaves. This potentially means more coins in your coffers.
We used one or more studio lights, with a Softbox, for formals/group shots and some special shots of the Bride and Groom.
Inside - Daytime/Overcast or Dark - Equipment
Your budget for equipment will be stretched at this point which is why it takes more than just a Digital SLR and decent zoom lens to become a respectable and professional wedding photographer.
This day happens just once and you want to be prepared for anything. You can do most of this on a low-ish budget with some skills in Photoshop to start with. You are though, better to be safe than sorry.
A tripod is also handy to be able to set up a group shot for example. You can leave the camera set up to adjust dresses, remove handbags etc, and go back to your camera without having to re-frame the shot.
Inside - Daytime/Overcast or Dark - Settings
Unless you are using powerful studio lights in a controlled environment, you will need to be aware of what camera settings you have at all times. Even when using flash indoors, you will still probably need a higher ISO for example.
Depending on what style you are trying to achieve, just remember the basic rules. Depth of field, exposure and composition.
If you want to blow out the background completely due to it being quite ugly, use the widest aperture possible. If you want to include as much as possible do the opposite and use a small aperture of say F11.
To get a shot that is somewhere in between, giving a hint of what is behind but not to the point where it is distracting, use F4 or F5.6. Again, remember that the longer the focal length of your lens, the more powerful the effect of depth of field.
If you are faced with these conditions, it can be quite a gloomy outlook. However, with the correct settings and use of light, you should do ok. Remember that the couple are quite aware of the conditions and are not expecting miracles. Although they do expect the clearest and best images they can expect in these circumstances.
You will almost certainly need extra light. You can usually find this from all manner of sources depending on your resourcefulness and its availability.
I have seen photographers use:
Again, fast lenses, high ISO’s and preferably a tripod are the order of the day under these circumstances.
Remember, your Bride and Groom portrait photography images will most likely be the ones they cherish the most. They are also the shots that the guests and family shouldn’t see being taken so make the most of it, get some great shots and hopefully some big orders!