How to Photograph Bridesmaids

Make no mistake: wedding photography is hard work. Every job we show up to requires us to produce beautiful work, regardless if the day is running late, if the light is horrible, and/or if the odds are stacked against us. And through it all, we still manage to show up to each wedding with a smile and the hope of capturing gorgeous moments.

Today I'll be sharing a few tips on How to Photograph Bridesmaids that I've learned over the past decade of being a photographer. I'll be using a recent wedding I photographed in Sonoma, California as an example of my approach (in the order I work).

Find the Best Light
The bride, Kristen, prepared in a ranch house located on the vineyard. In addition to 12 bridesmaids, two flower girls, and a string of family members, the bride graciously hosted videographers, makeup artists, planners, and a photographer the morning of the wedding. As a result, the house was packed and there was very little room to photograph everyone at the same time indoors.

I immediately set out to find the best light, which happened to be outdoors. It was 12:30p.m. and the sun was brightly shining, but the trees diffused the light in a beautiful way. This was–hands down–the best place to shoot…now I just had to convince the bride.

Scout in Advance
Once I found the best light, I needed to know every angle I could shoot from. The things I want to avoid is dappled light (spotted light that makes people look like they have leopard spots), lots of over-exposed parts of the photo, and distracting environmental elements (like a tool shed I needed to avoid just 10-feet from where the bride dressed).

Once I knew my angles, I instructed my second shooter where I needed him to stand to ensure we captured two different perspectives of the same moment, adhering to my light preferences.

Offer Suggestions
When it came time for the bride to get dressed, I pulled her aside and explained that the indoor locations wouldn't be able to fit everyone in the frame and the light would be very dark. I then told her I had scouted the area and found two great options (under the trees, and in the shade of an outdoor courtyard). I explained that the trees would be truly reflective of her Sonoma wedding and she happily agreed. Lesson of the story: tell the bride what the best options are and then let her decide what she wants.

(Sharing a prayer before the ceremony)

Photographing the Bridesmaids and Bride
Now that I had laid the foundation for pretty photos, it was just a matter of instructing the girls to do what I asked. Because I worked in light I loved, knew what angles worked best, and worked in an inspiring location, I simply let the moments unfold naturally in the beginning. While the sun seeped through the trees, I captured this photo of the bride…all while my second shooter was prepping the bridesmaids for the group photo, just a few feet away from where I captured this photo…

The bridesmaids were mostly arranged for a traditional photo when I placed the bride in the center and made a few adjustments (aligning the bouquets, positioning shoulders, relaxing the back leg, etc.)…

While I shot the relaxed photo on the left with my 35mm lens, my second shooter shot the candid photo on the right with his 85mm lens. The key to maximizing a short amount of time for photos is to work as quickly as possible, in the most organized way, and have a second shooter who captures the moment completely different.

Just a few positional tweaks to a traditional bridesmaids photo made this photo more a little more edgy, with a side of sass…

While I shot portraits of the bride with each bridesmaid, my second shooter captured candid photos of the bridesmaids waiting for their turn, as well as detail photos, like the one on the left… (if I haven't said it a thousand times before, my second shooter {and husband!} is so darn good at what he does…he's my secret weapon, true story.)

The main thing to do when shooting large bridal parties is to the hard work in advance. Have a plan and instruct everyone in a way that makes them trust your expertise. Don't hesitate to ask for what you need to capture photos that'll make the bride and her bridesmaids thrilled with the results. When I first started as a wedding photographer, I was so worried about posing and organizing photos…years later, I now know what's most important: make a plan based on light and location, educate the bride, and ask for what you need.

Once this happens, the photos unfold naturally and quick posing comes easily because you're inspired to do your best. If you have tips, please feel free to share them in the comment box!