6 Ways to Make Your Bride Look Like a Total Knockout with Vanessa Joy
Unless you are in a different business than I am, most of your bridal photography clients aren’t going to be supermodels. They won’t have years of experience giving the camera what it wants. However, every single one of them wants to look like the best version of herself on her wedding day and in all those gorgeous photos you are taking of her. Here are some of the best ways I’ve found to help your bride look like a total knockout in her wedding pictures.
1. Get Her to Breathe During Serious Poses
Working through facial expressions with brides is hard. There are only so many ways to say “smile” or “look serious,” and some of them just . . . don’t yield the best pictures. Through trial and error, I’ve discovered that there is an excellent, super-simple way to get a bride to make their best, most angelic or seductive, or most “them” non-smiling face.
Get them to breathe.
Yeah, tell her to take a breath in through her mouth, lips slightly parted, and just as she is at the fullest part of the breath, snap that photo. It takes practice, clearly, to time it to the right part of the breath, but when it works, you’ll capture that look she wants so badly to have in her gallery without her just looking like she was trying way too hard to look serious, which can easily come across as sad or mad (see “resting bitch face”). Something about loose lips, open eyes, all sultry-like—très magnifique! Add to that the fact that the breath itself does some important work away from the face—there’s tension in the shoulders and the chest is puffed out, which ends up being a flattering shot on a lot of brides.
2. Aim for an S-Curve
“The camera adds 10 pounds,” they say. Well, I say no, the photograph can add 10 pounds by making people stand in fairly regular, straight-up-and-down, flat-footed poses that look stiff. This posture also doesn’t not accentuate the womanly curves that so many bridal gowns are trying to show off. Rather than having your brides stand straight up, try to get them to relax into a hip and trace a curve like an S from head to legs. No straight arms in this pose (that makes them look stiff again); aim for arms that have a bend to them, but at obtuse angles (right angles and acute angles aren’t what you want if your goal is to be graceful and elongating).
3. Chin Out, Not Up or Down
Keep an eye on the chin, since no one likes a double-chin in a photo, but too much over-correcting can angle a bride’s face up in an odd unnatural way. With the chin out, the shoulders naturally go back, the chest comes up and out, and the neck is toward the camera. You want this pose to emphasize a natural silhouette on any bride, and as long as she’s not overdoing any one element of it, this will give her shape and a natural look. For more on this technique and to see how it drastically changes a person’s appearance, check out the video that accompanies this article.
4. Check Those Photos
It’s always good to look back at your own photo decks or the bridal photography of those you most admire to critique what you’re doing and find new inspiration. Start to evaluate what has worked for you in particular, bits of posing guidance and instruction that you gave a bride, and evaluate what very small details make or break a particular portrait. Compare photos to see what worked out and what didn’t. Here are some things to look for:
- Even a gorgeous smile may not overcome a stiff arm that is a focal point of a picture. Look at a comparable picture with those obtuse-angle arms—they look great, right? Obtuse angles on arms appear more relaxed and make the whole photo feel more graceful.
- Arms pushed forward in the forefront of the picture, in general, aren’t going to look as good as arms and elbows pulled back and away from the bride’s waist. Doing this will show that the bride has a waist and slim arms and will emphasize the gown and the bride inside it. They make brides look bigger than they actually are and cover up that great, curvy silhouette.
- Notice pictures where there’s an S-curve to the bride’s body versus a straight, stiff posture. What did you say to the bride that helped her get there? Remember those cues for future brides who need to loosen up a little bit.
- Here’s an extra tip for free: Have the bride lean back on her back leg. It shifts her posture in a way that is often very flattering and can sometimes loosen up a stiff posture just by asking her to shift her weight back and forth.
- When you see a photo that you don’t instantly love, try to diagnose what the bride did in the pose and what you’d tell her to change if you were able to correct it. Practicing with your past photographs can help you to develop that in-the-moment intuition for what will help her give you her best look and will help you capture it at just the right instant.
5. Never Forget the Details
The bride is all caught up trying to do all the things you’ve told her to do, plus trying to stick with whatever pose you’ve just come up with. Still, you should be the one who notices the details in the moment. Are there a bunch of unflattering wrinkles on the front of her dress? Has her hair gotten out of place? Is the train awkward or not perfectly fluffed? Either get in there or get a bridesmaid, mom, or assistant in there to make sure that each detail is absolutely crisp. That’s less to handle later in post-production (who wants to sit behind a computer anyway?), and your bride will look like a million bucks! “I woke up like this…” Except none of us woke up like this, which is why someone has to notice when a flower is out of place in that bouquet!
6. Use a Nice, Long Lens
For almost any photo I take, I try to use a long lens—even for full-body shots. For photographing a bride, I use my Canon 135mm 2.0, 85mm 1.4 and sometimes the 50mm 1.2, depending on the amount of room I have to move around. Your portraits come out like amazing at that compression and your brides look amazing—total knockouts! Carry the lenses you need to get all the kinds of shots you want, but aim for longer lenses when you’re photographing portraits. Plus, then you can tell her, “Yes, I did use my skinny lens.”
Every little thing carries you toward better and better photographs. Accept the things you cannot change, like how nervous your bride is, and change the things you can, by doing things like getting her to take a breath. You have the tools you need to create a wide variety of stunning photographs that will make your bride glad she opted for you as a photographer.
I have so much helpful stuff for you all as you continue your journey toward taking the world’s best bridal photographs. My posing guide, available free at www.BreatheYourPassion.com/poses, will come in handy when you are running out of ideas on a shoot and need a quick jolt of inspiration (like coffee, but for your inventive photographer brain!).