Best Tips for a Beautiful Bridal Portrait

After getting every hair into place, slipping on the dress that was truly "the one", and matching it with the perfect shoes, you want to take a few minutes on your wedding day to let your photographer capture some stunning bridal portraits of you. 

Gone are the days of stuffy poses and dead stares.  Today's bridal portraits are fresh, romantic, and sometimes even a little sexy.  So before the tears start rolling, here are a few tips on how to look your best in your bridal portrait. 

1) Kick everyone out.

Yes....everyone.  You're already nervous, watching the clock, trying to remember your vows, and keeping your emotions in check.  The last thing you need is everyone staring at you.  

Unless you're a professional model and accustomed to someone pointing a giant lens in your direction, having your portrait taken is a little intimidating.  This is likely the first moment that you and your photographer will be interacting in a more direct way, as they will have spent the morning quietly documenting the behind-the-scenes of all the preparations as it unfolded without much direction.  Now, they'll be asking you to adjust "just so", turn your head this way, move your shoulder that way, and you want to be able to focus without feeling self-conscious.

2) Beauty Inside and Out

Plan to capture some of your bridal portraits in the comfort and air-conditioning of your suite, but also get a little adventurous and go outside as well.  A good photographer can find amazing images in the most unlikely of places.  Parking garage?  Outhouse?  Rusted bridge?  Street graffiti?  Patch of woods on the side of the road?  All of these can be potential portraits.  Trust that your photographer sees something, even if you don't quite get the vision yet.   


3) Get ready for a little interior re-decorating

When your photographer walked into the room for the first time, they looked around and their mind lit up with possibilities.  Wedding photographers are unique in that they have to create beauty in any space, no matter the size, lighting, or decor.


Fashion photographers can build a scene from scratch; portrait photographers have a studio space dedicated to its purpose; outdoor photographers have wide expanses of space to work with.  But wedding photographers get a 12x15 foot room complete with suitcases, furniture, half-eaten food trays, and what always seem to be the most gigantic lamp shades the hoteliers can possibly find in every corner of the room.  [can you tell I have a love/hate relationship with lamp shades?].  So don't be alarmed when your photographer starts hauling in adirondack chairs from the balcony, moving entire tables, and unplugging things so the cords don't show in the background.

4) Where There's a Window, there's a Way

The best lighting for portraits is soft, directional window light.  Most windows are big and have some sort of diffusion material (sheers, blinds, etc) that can be used to modify the quality of the light.  


In the studio, your photographer could set up a giant soft box to emulate this effect, but working on location means working with what's there, so wherever the window is, that's where we'll be starting.  If it's a full length sliding door, it can be used for full length dramatic backlit silhouette photos.  If it's a smaller window, it can be used in a more directional pattern to stream light onto the face and bodice of the dress.  If it's an overhead skylight, the options are more limited but it can be used to create a dynamic "fashion-esque" type portrait.  

5) Flowers are your Friend

Ever been to a party and felt awkward not having a drink in your hand yet?  We are hard wired to want some form of comfort with us when we are in uncomfortable situations.  And let's face it, when are your nerves more on "high alert" than on your wedding day?  While it's not absolutely necessary to have a bouquet to take great bridal portraits, it definitely helps give your hands something to do, gives you something to "hide" those troublesome areas (we ALL have them!), and of course, they look beautiful and accent the dress perfectly!


6) Embrace a Little Mystery

In addition to the classic softly lit portraits, don't be afraid to get a little more edgy with your portraits.  A low-key, dimly lit room with just a single light source can make for a very dramatic look.  Looking at the camera for some portraits is a great way to connect with the viewer of the portrait, but looking away invokes a sense of mystery and gets the viewer thinking and imagining what thoughts you were thinking and what emotions you were experiencing, and can make for a very powerful portrait as well.


7) Do What I Do

If you're not naturally accustomed to striking poses for photos (most people aren't!), then you'll want to look to your photographer for direction.  The easiest way to do this is to mirror them as they demonstrate the pose and look they are going for.  For starters, always have your weight on the foot that is farthest from the camera.  This shifts your hips back and away, and makes you look slimmer.

Second, always have a slight bend in the elbow.  Straight arms look limp and unengaged.  The best way to fix this is to rest your palm on your upper thigh and draw your elbow along your waist almost as if you were tucking it behind you.  It gives a slight bend without looking forced.


8) Let it Shine

Try to put everything else out of your head for just five minutes and focus on feeling gorgeous.  This will naturally allow your forehead, eyes, mouth, and cheeks to relax and generate a more genuine smile that allows the real glow to shine through.  Don't like the way you smile in photos?  The best remedy is to think of something funny.  We all have inside jokes or things that amuse us.  Have a store of those thoughts ready to bring forward, and you'll get a "real smile" every time.  A little bad photographer-provided humor doesn't hurt, either.  :D


And remember, your real smile doesn't have to be a big gregarious grin.  Some people naturally smile more demurely, and that's okay too!

9) Let's See A Show of Hands

In professional photography circles, there is a comment often given during critiques that revolves around the placement of the hands.  You know you've nailed a great portrait when everything comes together and the hands are the icing on the cake that finishes the whole look off.


So, let's give your hands some "go-to's".  Hold your flowers, play with the back of your hair (underneath the hair if it's all down), trace your decollatage with your fingertips, wrap one arm across your body to create a "resting spot" for your other elbow and bring your hands gently to your cheek or chin, place one hand softly over the other one on a knee or across your waist, and if you're feeling fierce, go ahead and pop both hands up onto the hips with a full "wonder woman" stance! 

As you can see, there isn't much required to get great bridal portraits.  

Whether the photographer puts the window behind you and shoots into it, to the side and uses it in a Rembrandt effect, or puts it behind her and creates a soft milky flat source that evens out the skin tones beautifully, and whether it's a standing, seated, camera-aware, or more distant thoughtful expression, there are so many ways one can create multiple looks during your Key West wedding bridal portrait session.

As long as you have time to take some photos without rushing and a little creativity on the photographer's part, you can create gorgeous photos of you in your wedding dress before the day gets underway.