Pre-wedding photos

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by derrick_morin___fallon__nevada, Mar 10, 2004.

  1. I have been photographing weddings for a couple of years now and
    feel comfortable with most aspects of what I do, but I have been
    hired to do something new (to me) for a wedding job this May. Much
    of my time shooting (at least three hours) will be spent documenting
    the bride's preparation for the wedding. I'm scheduling a detailed
    consultation with the bride and groom next month and expect to work
    out the details about what they both expect from me, but I would
    like some advice from those with experience.

    What is the best way to approach photographing the bride getting
    ready? I assume this 'prep coverage' will include dressing, hair,
    and makeup. What should I look out for? What techniques have you
    used to make good images of the bride getting ready? What questions
    should I be asking here? Any help will be greatly appreciated.
  2. Three hours is a lot. Are you sure she isn't thinking of part of that time for a portrait and photos of the bride with parents, siblings and bridesmaids? <p> I have spent two hours for "getting ready shots". It was for a super high end wedding in Lenox, MA. I shot all black and white. I spent time shooting the dress in the window, the boys getting ready, the groom receiving his gift from his bride to be, the bride receiving her gift, the bride having hair and makup done, guests arriving, kids getting ready and a bridal portrait. I used both wide angle and zoom lenses. Wide angle for the "story" of the bride getting ready and close-ups for expression and/or to crop of blurr out "uglies" like boxes, strewn clothes, coke bottles the room. I like the idea of doing these shots in black and white and then I switch to color for the ceremony.. Looks great in an album.
  3. I worked for a wedding photographer doing exactly this job for three years. I enjoyed it tremendously. I tried to use natural light as much as I could. There are 'pictures' everywhere! Dresses laid over chairs, flower girls looking admiringly at bridesmaids,-all sorts of wonderful things for light to hit. At this point, bridesmaids are really great to shoot-the women are usually dressed alike, or close enough, and I look at them as a cloud floating in the sky, changing shapes, and compositions together. In some rooms it can get a little crowded, but there is always shooting into the mirror to get a shot you otherwise could not. I also shoot these photos in black and white.
    I imagine, by your name, that your are male, so you will have to be a little more careful about when you are in the dressing room, but let how well you know the bride be your judge. The photographer I worked with usually knew the bride very well, and was allowed to photograph her in her bridal underskirts while she put on her wedding dress.
    My other chore during the wedding was to get in a position to photograph the bride from the front during the ceremony without being too visible myself. In that situation, you are forced to use natural light. I took the natural light photographs on this page-the church was very low lit...but I enjoyed that opportunity with light.
    Amy Jone's Wedding
    There are many websites by "wedding photojournalists" you can look over to get a better picture of what they do. Some are fantastic, and some are, well, just there-but the good ones really excite you about that part of the job.
    You might find some things here. I haven't kept up with the site lately, don't remember what's there, but there maybe a shot or two that will jog your imagination.
    Maroski Photography
  4. Thanks for your responses.

    Mary - I say three hours because the ceremony is scheduled for 4:30 PM, and the bride asked me to start with her at 10 AM - I estimated three hours of 'gettting ready' photography. She may only want me for an hour or so, then a big gap before the ceremony. Hopefully I'll be able to use this time for some nice bridal formals as well.

    Belle - yes, I am male, and this does concern me a little. I do not know the bride. I met her only briefly when she hired me (she chose me on recommendation from a friend). I plan to be very up-front and very specific when we meet for our consultation about exactly how intimate she wants the photos to be.

    I'll be shooting digital (very good results thus far) and this cleint seems to like black and white, so I'll make those adjustments after the shoot. Thanks for the tips. I love PN forums. Any further ideas - again - will be greatly appreciated.
  5. aha... If she wants you at 10am and the wedding is not until 4:30 AND didn't tell you specifically that she wants a few hours of getting ready photos...It could be that she is planning to do all the family shots and wedding party shots with her and her husband to be before hand. Or, it is an Indian wedding at 11am and a traditional wedding later. Question....How long does she want you for after the 4:30 wedding? Jeez, you could end up with a 12-14 hour day!
  6. The pre-wedding shots are a time for photojournalism. You will be using wide angle
    lenses to create "near and far" pictures. You will be bouncing light alot if you are wise.
    Photographers of old made sure he photographed the bride looking into a mirror with an
    admiring mother at her side. Time to clean the mirror!

    As a rule, I photograph any time of affection or interest that the bridesmaids or other
    persons give to the Bride or anyone else. I am "on a stage set" where any action is part of
    the story. Therefore, I am very much like a newspaper photographer at this time.

    Phillopino brides want a picture of their dress displayed on the bed. The Bride will handle
    this herself. You, the photographer do not have to touch this dress at this time.

    Photograph "messengers" who will peek into the dressing door. There is an expectation
    that some guy will fool around and try to peek. Be ready for any foolhardiness.

    I wouldn't photograph the bride in 1/2 make-up. Wait until she is done and re-pose the
    shot with the make-up artist working. Don't go so far as to compromise her look just to
    be a "photojournalist". You are really a portrait photographer looking for a story. You
    must ask yourself if you are displaying the features of the person before you well. Don't
    compromise anyone's "look" just to get a story shot in this dressing situation. At the
    reception when people get crazy and start to drink, well, OK. Therefore, you need to think
    of the direction of their noses, chin, and ears when you shoot. You would use t he
    discipline of a portrait photographer in "seeing", but you shoot the story. This means you
    may pass up on many photographs, or do what I do, you give directions when you really
    need the shot and the people are not aligned well. Generally, I don't give instructions 80%
    of the time. But I am not the least shy of about moving people around to "make me" a
    better shot and to make the people look good doing what ever they are doing.

    Therefore, you need to be careful with wide angle lenses. You could easily distort noses
    and chins. Newspaper photographers are usually not sensitive to this distortion. They
    aren't concerned with making people look good, they just want the story. You need to
    think about and accomplish greater perfection than the newspaper photographer. You
    need to be a servant that will flatter every person's look. You are the Best Friend of every
    woman at the wedding. You are on the side of making them all look their best, given the
    time constraints that you are under.

    When a person sits down, you could have another person stand alittle to the side and
    behind the seated person. Have the standing person look down at whatever the seated
    person is doing. In this way, you are "telling the story" but you are also displaying the
    people well. You are therefore, not photographing the side of their face alot. They may
    have a long nose. So, you want to photograph longer nosed people from the front or at a
    slight angle, not from the side. I mean it.

    This may seem like alot of discipline to get involved with. But after 50 weddings, you will
    simply add this discipline to all your other disciplines and it will become as easy as typing
    on a computer.

    I was definitely an innovator in wedding photojounalism in 1973. No one did it then in my
    area but me. (San Francisco Bay Area) Photographers were limited to about 60 shots back
    then with their Hasselblads and Rollei TLRs. So, i made the rules as I went along having
    been a newspaper type photographer. I was not influenced by other wedding
    photographer's styles. I was the maverick.

    Timber Borcherding timberborcherding
  7. Mary - All of that is possible (except the Indian wedding part, I think). I do expect a long day - I just don't know how long. Here's what I know: 10AM show time for getting ready photos, 4:30 ceremony at a local park, reception 'to follow' at a local hall for 'about an hour and a half' (I suspect that will go longer). The bride was in a great hurry when we talked (stressed about getting things done so late in the game) and all I got from her was the info above, a check, and gratitude for booking two months out. No problem - we'll work out details later and maybe I'll re-post. The one thing she was clear about was that she wants photos of her getting ready that morning, which is the only part I have no specific experience with.
  8. Timber - thanks for the great tips. I hadn't considered the thing about 1/2 make-up. I appreciate your perspective. People seem to agree on lenses; I'll be using a 17-35mm and 50mm primarily (if not exclusively) for the getting ready photos on a 10D, and possibly 1DmkII. I prefer natural light when possible, but I'll remember to bounce my flash when needed.
  9. Timber, you are always so forthcoming and helpful with your advice... Much of what you say is true and will help Derrick in his assignment. Bouncing is essential...just make sure if you are using color that the ceiling is white or off white. A red or green ceiling could be a disaster.
    I just want debate your statement, Timber, that "you will be using wide angle lenses to get the near and far pictures". I respectfully disagree. My personal opinion is that in addition to a wide angle... a zoom lens is super! I can stay out of the way and zoom in. I'm not on top of people that way and can "get" the shot without jumping all over the room. Things are happening frantically and quickly and I can just stand back and grab the "moments" quietly in the corner. I also don't have to worry about distortion. Naturally I have two cameras loaded and one of them is a wide angle. I do a bit of both. However, any wedding photographer should use what feels right and comfortable for them at the time.
    About the 1/2 makeup... Well, I just got married myself... My photographer took pictures before and during makeup. I don't happen to think I'm beautiful without makeup but I loved those shots! The images of the transition were great. I have to say that it is surprising to me sometimes the photos that brides choose for their albums. I've learned not to hold back what I might perceive as unflattering. For instance, I have a photo of a bride laughing so hard you can see her back fillings. Well, guess what? Four family members and the bride herself ordered 8x10's of Ann laughing. To think I almost tossed it! Most of my brides want all the prep shots. Best advice would actually be to get the bride's feedback on what "she" wants...
  10. PS - The zoom I'm talking about is 70-200 2.8L IS. I realize Derrick that you are using a zoom... I have a 17-35 as well.. I've got one 17-35 and a 28-70 and the 70-200 all loaded and ready to go. I use all three. My favorite - if the room is big enough is the 70-200.
  11. On the practical side: you might consider quoting a price for the time before the wedding. You could end up with a ton of printed images that the bride's mom considers them nice, but not quite what she wants in the album. Generally, one hour 'show time' before the ceremony will get you a couple of dozen shots of the bride, the bride-and-her mom, and the bride's side of the group getting ready, plus a few shots of the groom and his party. Three hours of shooting before the ceremony is a lot of your time and equipment wear-and-tear. (Plus you'll be expected to keep on ticking through the ceremony and into the
  12. Gerald - My time is accounted for in the contract my client and I signed. I charge a base price for three hours of work, and an hourly rate after that. I carefully explain my terms to all my clients as well as spelling it out in the contract. And I never expect to know exactly what the final charge will be until after the job.

    As far as I'm concerned, she can have me all day - I'll be ready!
  13. I give myself a rule to try to include 2 people when I use a wide angle lens. This will
    usually put me at a distance of 4-5 feet and I will get little distortion. But I am not an
    advocate of using 17mm or 21mm or even 24mm unless it is an overall shot of the interior
    of the dressing room. I do photograph closely. I do make the pictures look intimate by
    being right in there. A "near and far" picture might be a photo of someone sitting in a
    chair while the bride is looking at herself in the mirror. This is really simple
    photojournalism, not meant to be highly personal at this time. I am not shy about
    directing people, but I do it in a special way after the person(s) have done whatever they
    want to do. If they want to start make-up; they do that. However, if the make-up set-up
    does not give me a good set-up, I will direct them like a film director to 'block' their
    positions on my "set". This does not place me in a position to "run" the wedding, but
    rather to "perfect it". The Bride completely understands all the time.

    I bounce from walls, too.

    Since the dressing room may be small, I will use a variable 21-35mm wide angle in this
    special situation. I use a white card bolted to my reflector to allow me to fill while
    bounceing from the ceiling.

    But as i said, I am wary of distortion, and I use 35mm lenses nearly at all other times,
    except for portraits. The 35mm on a 35mm camera is a very standard focal length lens
    for news photographers, too. A 60mm on Hasselblad is comparable.

    I am aware of complaints that other wedding photographers have earned by running the
    wedding and making their picture taking too important. I found a manner that lets me
    insert myself at a critical time in the scene to get the best shot, but without giving the
    family the feeling I am running the show. You need to really follow their every action to
    know when you can insert yourself into the 'scene'.

    You should be photographing the bride with the little flower girl. You can also photograph
    each bridesmaid individually as a momento for themselves with the Bride, or/also alone.

    Bring a reflector, such as a Flexfill in case you should be called upon to do a photograph in
    the window.

    You should assume that the Bride will not come near any ground area that will even
    possibly soil her dress in the slightest way. I bring a green material to place down on the
    earth so that she can walk on it like a rug.
  14. Derrick, shooting the preparation is half the fun of PJ style wedding photography. Lots of magic moments happen then if you stay alert every minute. I often start at 8 or 9AM and go to the hair salon because it is a source of funny shots and is often when the veil is placed on the bride's head. Then on to the makeup parlor where I shoot the progress. Then on to capture all the hubbub of getting dressed... whether at the Bride's parent's home or in a room at the church. Plus I try to squeeze in the guys getting dressed, or send my partner there if the wedding warrants a second photographer. Maybe only three to five of these shots may make the album, but I haven't completed an album in the past three years that didn't have some getting ready shots. Beside, even if they go unused formally in the album, everyone delights in seeing the whole story afterwards, if only in proof form. Be especially prepared to capture spontaneous gestures that are iconic in their symbolism. One usually happens in every wedding prep session. Here's one where the Bride just picked up her childhood stuffed teddy bear and symbolically gave it a smooch goodbye... which I luckily was in position to catch with a 16-35/2.8L zoom @ 35mm
  15. Marc - WONDERFUL SHOT!! I agree with you about the getting ready shots... Same here. All my albums have 2 to 6 shots of getting ready..

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