Bridal Portraits – How to shoot in a crunched timeline

Tips for shooting bridal portraits when you have just under five minutes

If you’ve shot even one Indian wedding, you know how chaotic and unpredictable they are. And if there’s anything we have learned in a decade of shooting weddings, it’s that anything can happen on a wedding day. Even the best-planned timelines can run late. The sweet one hour that your bride promised you for her portraits, could very well change to only 5 minutes. Now you can complain and blame the next person you see for putting a dent in your plans, or you can buck up and plan ahead so that you deliver the amazing bridal portraits you promised your bride. After all, that’s what we’re here for right? Creating beautiful images from the wedding that our couples and their families will cherish years from now, no matter what happens.
We’ve broken down our game plan into four simple tips to follow. Follow them calmly and we promise you will nail those portraits even if you have five minutes to get it done!

#1 Prepare beforehand and recce the location thoroughly

This one has a lot of moving parts, so we’ll get right to it. The basic is of course, while you’re waiting for the bride to get ready – and you know this is a LOT of time – move around and recce the location for good spots. Keep in mind that the location you finalise should NOT be too far from where the bride is because if you have just five minutes, you don’t want to spend all of them walking over to the location and then getting only a minute for one shot.
The next thing to figure out is your lightmap based on your location. Are you shooting in the bride’s room, outside, in the dark at night, in early or harsh daylight? Whatever the situation is, keep your light set-up ready beforehand. Place one of your team members as the subject, test the shot and have it ready before the bride is. Remember, you have only 5-10 minutes to get some amazing bridal portraits, so don’t waste the time by setting up your light after the bride comes.

#2 Keep a few go-to poses in your mind

When you know you don’t have much time in hand, you know it’s also definitely not the time to experiment with poses. Don’t waste the time you do have to get your bride into some complicated set-up. With time running out and stress levels running high, your job is to keep things simple and worry-free for your bride. You also don’t want to draw up a blank on directing her when she’s ready for her portraits. A photographer who doesn’t know what to do doesn’t really inspire confidence. So have a basic list of 4-5 easy-to-do poses burned in your mind. Of course, if you get your safety shots and are still left with a few minutes, go ahead and experiment a little. But do get your basics done first.

#3 Be clear and direct with your instructions

We know we keep emphasising about time, but that’s exactly what this post is about. If you only have a few minutes, know that the bride will also be in a hurry. So be clear and precise with your instructions. Tell your bride exactly how to want her to stand, where to place her hand, which direction to look in and what facial expression to go for. Be direct, but keep your tone relaxed and friendly. Your bride will be stressed enough as it is, and you don’t want to add to her tension. Now if you have #2 from above sorted, you will know how to guide the bride as well.

#4 When in trouble, keep your bag of tricks handy

If after going on a recce, you find out that the location is not that gorgeous, then it’s time to pull some tricks out of your bag. First, see if there are any of the usual techniques that you can use for a portrait. Are there any trees, tall plants or flowers around for a shoot-through image? Have you been lucky with time and there’s an amazing sunset you can use for a silhouette shot? Any water fountain or reflective body around for a reflection shot? If it’s the middle of the day and the light is harsh, can you think of an interesting contrast image? Or how about playing with shadows, or planning high-key shots with a large blank wall? If nothing in your surroundings inspire you, then fall back on your bag of trinkets. We have always suggested that photographers keep a few things handy to add an element into a photograph if the location is not encouraging. Anything from battery powered fairy lights and shiny pom-poms to mirrors, lens balls, and prisms can do the trick. Our bag of these little devices has always saved the day in a hot spot.
So there you go! Our two cents about shooting a bride when you have just 5 minutes. Remember to keep a calm exterior first and foremost, even if you’re panicking on the inside. Your demeanor and calmness will help the bride stay positive and the session will go much smoother and be more rewarding. Tell us what you think about our tips and if you think there’s anything else we can add to the list, do let us know!

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