4 Simple Steps to great Wedding Day Portraits + Video

Have you ever been on a shoot, and just KNOW that your client is feeling uncomfortable? Then you start to feel uncomfortable and things just go downhill from there? We have felt that way before and it is not a fun experience for anyone!


(image from Daniel & Stacia’s super fun non-awkward wedding!)

Because we know that clients are not always sure what might happen at a shoot, and there is a chance that they might feel awkward and not know what to do, a number of years ago we decided to create a system that gave us a great chance to combat the very beginning of the shoot and get our clients feeling calm and comfortable in no time!

Making your client feel calm and relaxed is SUPER important.  The more calm and comfortable they are feeling the better chance you have to get amazing, natural shots of them (and of course, they then feel better their whole experience with you because they felt so comfortable!).


Now we want to share with you our 4 steps to awesome wedding day portraits!

1. Encourage

Clients always have a fear going into their portrait sessions that they won’t look as good as what they saw in your portfolio. We realize that our number one job is to make our clients FEEL good about the shoot, and when we they feel good, they loosen up and we get great pics every time!

Most of what we do and say to our clients is for the sole purpose of encouraging them in everything that they are doing. If a client moves in a way that does not work for a shot, we tell them, “That looks great! Now let’s try a few like this!” We never say, “no” or, “that does not look right” or, “turn left and not right, you block head!” :) Everything the client does on the wedding day is exactly what they should be doing, even if it isn’t! Encouragement is key! Even when we bring out a piece of gear like a reflector, we let them know what it is (in simple terms) and that it’s purpose is to make them look even more awesome! They love it!

You would be shocked on how effective a simple smile can be while you are shooting. Just smiling lets the client know that you are enjoying yourself and that helps them do the same.


(Craig & Nicholle at the Palms Hotel in Miami Beach in 2010)

2. K.I.S.S. ‘Em! 

K.I.S.S. stands for Keep it Simple Stupid and we always strive to make whatever we ask our client to do, is the easiest thing possible. When we first start photographing, say, the bride and groom together, the last thing we want is to have our camera up their nose and have them hold super still while turning their head 4.456 degrees to the left and holding their arms 2.565 degrees to the right. Ouch! That is too complicated! :)

You will see in  the video that more than once we were demonstrating posing for our clients. We figure that if we have to touch a client to get them in position, then we have done a really poor job of communicating the pose we want to shoot them in.

We spend a lot of time acting like mirrors for our clients which make things super easy for them. We put them in an area with great light and shoot the interaction, and we don’t get up close to them until we have had one or two scenarios where they feel like we are giving them space and shooting from a distance. Then, as we move closer to them, we will start adding reflectors and lights if need be as they get more comfortable with us.


(Rhett & Nicole from Two Rivers Mansion Nashville, bride simply walking down the steps, 2010)

3. Create Scenarios

We love giving our clients something very natural to do, like walk while holding hands and looking at each other. We almost always try to start out with something anyone can do (walk, look at each other and make each other smile) so that the first shots feel like there was no work involved. Then, later on, they are more willing to do something a little more difficult (like stand on their heads while holding hands and hopping ;o).

Every time we do some simple scenarios, our clients feel more relaxed and we have a better session. We are also sure to keep the encouragement coming for the first few images and let them know that they look great and all the shots are turning out just like we thought they would.


(Ryan & Sara who actually hired us because their first photographer made them feel uncomfortable!)

4. Be Ready

Back in the day, we would have such a fun time with clients that while we were interacting with them, we would forget to grab the amazing expression they were having during the in-between moments! It is so important to always be ready to snap a shot when a client is making those genuine expressions. What they are going to really remember when they look back on your images is not how good your lighting and bokeh were, but how they FELT when they were being photographed.

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(Bret & Jillian – we were walking out into a field to shoot some portraits right after they said their vows, and before we even left I – Zach – was prepared to shoot. As we walked out he instinctively grabbed Jillian and picked her up and I was ready to capture this image of them with the reception, altar and their family blurred into the background, and this genuine expression of love on their faces).

Back in January of 2012, Al & Kim Kozak flew in to do a full day mentoring session with us and work on some of these exact topics.  Then, that weekend, they came out with us to a wedding that we had.  As a surprise for us, they took video footage of us at the wedding and sent it to us!


Click below to see us in action at this real wedding with Matthew & Taylor!

Click on the below image or the link to view a highlight of the above  wedding day on our blog or click HERE to see Taylor’s bridal shoot!


Do you have some ideas to get your clients comfortable in front of YOUR camera? Share them with us in the comments below!

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