How to get the best getting ready wedding photos

Getting ready or bride and groom preparation photos have been a popular addition to a wedding photography timeline for many years now. They can involve many types and styles of photography including portraits, close up detail photos and candid photography.

Here are some tips for couples to help prepare and ensure getting ready photos are the best they can be…

Get Ready Near a Large Soft Light Source

Your makeup artist will often place the bride near a large and natural light source such as a window for the best light. Or they might use their own artificial lights. Small artificial lights will not likely produce soft and flattering light, so window light is always the best option for photography.

If the room has sheer curtains and a direct bright light source, this is nirvana for a photographer as the curtains will act as a large soft-box softening and diffusing the light through the curtains. If the outside light is not facing the sun, then the sheer curtains may take away too much light.

Make Sure You Have Texted Your Room Number And…

If you are getting ready in a hotel room, make sure the photographer knows your room number the day before when you check-in. Don’t leave it until the wedding day when there will be 101 other things to do, otherwise your photographer might be left waiting in the foyer!

If the hotel requires keycard access to the hotel room then one option is for the photographer to have reception call your room on arrival (as a backup in case your phone is switched off).

However you communicate your room number, make sure you receive a reply back confirming the message has been received ;)

Agree A Timeline For Getting Ready

It’s your wedding and you can do what you like when it comes down to it. But if the photographer arrives to find the grooms are eating breakfast then there won’t be much to photograph! Agree a time with your photographer when everyone will be ready and what this actually means (e.g. fully dressed or partially dressed, or dressed by no ties and cuff links etc).

Larger is Better … Sort of

Utilising a large and open space for getting ready photos provides more options for the photographer, including the possibility to shoot some bridal party or group photos as well.

But a large room does mean more care has to be taken cleaning and tidying it well before the photographer arrives.

Access to Garden Areas or Patios

If the getting ready location has access to outdoor patios or garden areas, these can provide great spaces for quick bridal party and family photos providing they are not in direct sunshine in the middle of the day. Your photographer will be looking for shaded areas that still provide some bounce light from nearby walls, pavements and buildings for the softest light.

Make the Main Getting Ready Room is 100% Clean and Tidy

This is perhaps the most overlooked aspect of creating great getting ready photos. Close family and the bridal party may all have their own bags they have placed somewhere in the room. These should ideally be placed in a side room such as single bedroom or cupboard well before the photographer arrives.

To take the pressure of the bride and groom, I recommend asking a family member or friend (and not the bridal party) to concentrate on tidying and cleaning the getting ready room 60 minutes before the photographer is scheduled to arrive. That’s because in most cases, a good photographer will always be early!

Another tip is to simply limit the number of people at the getting ready location. More people simply means more disruptions and unless you specifically want them in photos, then they are probably going to get in the way at some stage.

Probably one of the most time consuming but important tasks is to clean mirrors and other reflective surfaces such as glass tables. If these are streaky or have spots these will definitely show up in the high resolution photos and suffer as a result. The best tool for this job is some glass cleaner and lots of lint free cotton towels.

In much the same way you prepare a house for sale, you want a clean, minimalistic look and definitely no clutter. Everything that is left in the room and visible in the background should add to the story of the wedding day, rather than take away or distract from it.

Simplicity

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
— Leonardo Da Vinci

Try to keep the requested photos (must have shots) as short as possible for getting ready photos. This will allow the photographer to capture more genuinely candid moments rather than spending 15 minutes trying to capture a creative shot of the rings for their portfolio.

Only ask your photographer to capture the type of photos that you really want, so they can offer the most value rather than just ‘ticking the boxes’ or following a prescription. If you don’t want or need something shot (like the rings) then tell the photographer before the wedding so they don’t waste time on unimportant stuff.

If you don’t really know what you want, then by all means let the professional (and hopefully experienced) photographer decide how to spend the time wisely.

All of your important expectations should be clearly communicated during your pre-wedding consultation or at some other stage before the wedding day.

Choose Your Own Favourite Dress Hanger

This is often something that gets forgotten about before getting ready photos. While your photographer may have a few hangers in their kit somewhere (maybe) it is always much nicer if you can choose a dress hanger that appeals to your tastes.

I recommend a classic wooden hanger and not something too complicated.

Remind the Photographer To Get Both Sides of the Dress

You may want to politely remind the photographer to capture both sides of the dress if this is important to you, just in case this gets overlooked ;)

The Dress Doesn’t Always Need to Be Hung Up

While it seems to be the done thing, you don’t actually have to capture photos of the dress hanging up somewhere. In most cases, it will take 15 minutes or more to capture this properly (much longer than if simply capture on the person).

Like everything, discuss this with your photographer before the wedding day so you are very clear about your expectations.

Allow Plenty of Buffer Time

I recommend allowing at least 60 minutes (at the minimum) and preferably 90 minutes for getting ready photos for the bride, and a shorter period of time for the groom.

This will really allow the photographer to get familiar with the environment, work out who is important to you, and capture a wide range of photos. It will allow enough time to do this in a relaxed way and inject some creativity into the shots without rushing things.

Bear in mind your photographer will also need to park their car, take out their gear, get into the hotel, apartment or house and setup all their equipment (and do it all in reverse and possibly twice!).

So there is probably 15 minutes of downtime involved with each getting ready location (plus the travel between locations).

Give your Photographer Time to Leave Before You

The photographer will normally shoot the groom getting ready before the bride. Therefore, you will both be travelling to the wedding ceremony directly afterwards.

Where possible, the photographer should try to leave at least 30 minutes before you to ensure they can find a park, get their gear ready, and start capturing guests and other things way before you arrive.

Also allow some time for wedding car arrival photos if these have been planned.

Think About Props

Champagne glasses and champagne bottles make for great props (and drinking!) and work really well for getting ready photos. Mirrors also work really well, so try to choose a getting ready location that has mirrors that can be incorporated into shots.

Most importantly, remember a dress hanger for the hanging dress shot!

A Note About Setup Shots

I recommend discussing with your photographer how much time you will have for posed or setup “creative” photos. Having a photographer pose or setup shots throughout getting ready may affect your getting ready timeline, so allow plenty of time depending on how candid or “posed” you would like it to be.

Chris Jack