Getting Awesome Preparation Shots!

We are out on the Pass Premier Tour bringing this to you LIVE from the good ‘ol state of Mississippi en route to Atlanta! We are having a blast getting to meet so many cool photographers and sharing stories of how we are all navigating this business together!

For this week’s tips and tricks blog, we wanted to focus on a key area of shooting the wedding day – nailing great candid getting-ready images. So, on to the post!

First things first: When we show up to shoot the final preparations, the first thing we do is start looking for where the good light is in the space we have to work with. If we can get our clients into the good light, then we are guaranteed to get great images of them doing their thing. We usually look for indirect window light and try and place our clients around 4 to 6 feet away from that light facing toward the window. We also try and make sure that the center of the window is around the height of their heads so that we get more light on the face and less light on the body and legs. This helps the dress of the bride to not get blown out and also helps the focus be on their cute little mugs as that becomes the brightest part of our shots.

Second: We try and turn off all the lights in the room. This helps avoid mixed lighting where there is one color of light coming through the window, and another color light coming from a lamp or overhead light. We don’t want orange colored tungsten light in the background and cooler blue light coming from the window on their face. We want all the light to be the same color.

Third: We instruct our clients to put on the make-up and dress or throw on their jacket and tie in that good light! Now sometimes this can feel really awkward… you’re supposed to be capturing the moments as they happen right? But then you can feel like you’re messing up the groove if you’re telling them where to stand… right? I (Jody) had trouble with this at first. I almost felt like I was intruding when I asked for them to stand by this window, or say, “Kelsey, turn towards the window as you’re putting on your earring. But the fact of the matter is – we are the experts! They are relying on us to know what is best and communicate that to them! We promise, our clients have never had a problem doing what you ask, and then everyone is happy with the end result.

Fourth: Clean up the room! We either clean up the room if we have time, remove certain things we know are going to be in our shot, or shoot in a way where you can’t see all the junk laying around. Most clients don’t think about the stuff they have lying the room making it in the shots. They are just trying to get ready and we need to be the ones to think about how this will look visually. So we do our best to get rid of anything that may not add to the shots or anything that might be distracting.

Fifth: We stand back, cameras in hang and wait for the magic to happen! Let’s look at a few examples and break down the scenario to show what we did from our couple Mark & Kelsey.


As you can see from the above shot of Mark getting his cufflinks on, he was in some great light (coming from behind the camera) and was in a nice clean room with no lamps or other lights but the window lighting him. When we showed up to this hotel in Nashville, all the guys were in one small room that was a bit of a mess, so I asked the groom if they had another room and sure enough they did. So we left the room that had 8 guys in it, and I asked the groom if he wouldn’t mind getting ready in the nice, empty clean room down the hall. His fiancés dad came with us to help with the tie and cufflinks and this made for a much easier set up for us.

I (Zach) scoped out the room and opened up the big window to let light in the room. I had the groom get ready next to the door (which I swung shut because it looked cool and plain and made a nice backdrop) which gave me enough space to shoot him.

You can see in this above shot of Mark getting his tie on that he has a great laughing expression on his face. As he was putting on his tie, he had sort of a blank expression, so since I knew him and had built a relationship with him, I was able to crack a quick joke, and he perked up and gave me this great smile! Magic!

Then, as he put on his coat, I jumped into the bathroom and swung the doors partly shut to give these images a very photojournalistic look. The lights were still on in the bathroom and in this case, it worked really well since none of the tungsten colored light was on the groom, just on the doors. Again, as he put on his coat, I said something to make him smile and that is why he had that expression on his face.

On to the ladies!

As I (Jody) headed over to shoot the ladies, I was faced with a bit different scenario. I found some good light in the upstairs bedroom, but I wanted the focus of her getting dressed and ready to be more about her and the few people around her and not necessarily the whole room. What I did was purposely put the ladies a little bit closer to the window, around 3 feet or so and adjusted my camera settings to get a great exposure for her face. A good rule of thumb to remember is, light in close falls off fast. Meaning, that the close you are to a light source (in this case it was the window) the faster the light will get dark behind your subject. So by bringing Kelsey closer the window, where the light was brighter, it made the rest of the room darker. If the bride had been 5 or 6 feet from the window, then the light would have fallen off slower and made more of the room visible in the shot. This is called the Inverse Square Law, and you can read more about his by clicking HERE.


So as you can see in the above images, the light on the bride looks great, and the area behind them gets dark very fast so as not to take attention away from the subject.

I also love to grab a quick portrait of the bride just after getting the dress on because she is feeling good, looking great and standing in some awesome light!

Everything else I did was similar to how Zach shot the guys and that is how we end up getting great getting ready shots every shoot!

Thanks for tuning in this week!

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