The not-so-secret to beautiful bridal prep photos

February 29, 2020

It’s the morning of your wedding day! Hopefully everything is taken care of and you can now relax, enjoy, and delegate any remaining tasks to someone else! Anything you could have done was done before this moment. I’m there to capture it all happening while you enjoy. But it may be helpful to know how I work during this time, and that there are a few things you can do in advance to impact the aesthetic of your bridal prep photos. If you want to control the outcome a bit (which you can), definitely read on.

How I work and think when I capture morning bridal prep photos

It’s such a great time to get exciting and poignant images as the morning is usually filled with everything from fun and laughter to intense emotion and nerves. Sometimes it’s just a bunch of people running around like headless chickens! Either way, if you enjoy this time with your closest friends, your whole family or alone, I’ll be there to capture it. Don’t mind me too much, but I’m also happy to chat or help (and you’d be surprised how many times I’ve helped attach those button holes).

I arrive around two hours before you need to leave for the wedding ceremony. By the time I arrive, you may have already started your hair and makeup, but that’s OK. If you look at any of my galleries, they usually only cover the finishing touches of this part anyways. I’ll start to capture everything that happens as soon as I’m ready, and sometimes you’ll find me tidying a little, or photographing your hands, the texture of your dressing gown and other details. I spend most of the time taking photos of people, but I also try to make time for photographing the details you’ve organised for this day in a meaningful way.

Jess getting ready at Drumtochty Castle

Where to get ready in the morning of your wedding day?

Have your make-up artist come to you instead of going to a salon. This will give you more space and freedom, you won’t be interrupted by random people coming into the salon. AirBNB (click for my selection of Edinburgh flats – the list is in progress!) is a great source if your home isn’t nearby your venue, or you’d just want something really pretty for your bridal prep photos.

Theresa getting ready at Aikwood Tower

Getting the detail shots

I usually begin the day with some venue atmosphere and details photography. It puts me in the right mindset for the rest of your day as I’ll get a feel for your style, and it will kick-start my creative mind. If you want your shoes, rings, stationery, perfume and attire photographed – make sure they are there with you. I will organise everything myself, and I will ask if I need anything. You just enjoy being pampered and ready for your big day.

Dreamy autumnal Jimmy Choo velvet wedding shoes

Making sure you get photos with your bridesmaids

This is something my brides always forget about on the day, but a photo they always end up loving. So I just wanted to emphasise that there are times I will suggest photos to you because I know you’ll love them later! I know I say I work “candidly” and “unobtrusively”, and I do that the majority of the time. But very few things like this just happen naturally. I’ll never force you to do something, but will casually mention it when I feel the time is right!

Jen and her bridesmaids at their AirBnB bridal prep

Making sure you get those “getting dressed” photographs

I recommend getting in the wedding dress at least 30 minutes before you intend to leave. It gives me time to photograph you, and your bridesmaids time to button you up and cut off those tags! If there’s a 5 minute window, why not take a few gorgeous bridal portraits before we head off? This also gives me time as a single shooter on your day, to arrive at the ceremony venue and get some photos of guests arriving, and the lead-up to your anticipated arrival.

Rebecca getting ready at Auchen Castle
Bridal prep photo of Guro and her mum in Norway
Jess getting her dress on at Drumtochty Castle

The bride and father/family/bridesmaids “first look”

This is another moment that often requires just a tiny bit of direction. In the photos below, I’ve simply just made everyone aware of what’s happening next and controlled the bride’s arrival into the next room. Some brides don’t want their whole family or bridesmaids to greet them like this, which is completely understandable (it can be a bit overwhelming and some are just not that kind of people). I will ask you if you want to do this on the day, and I hope you will!

Ruth’s bridal reveal at Hawkswood Country Estate
Jess’s dad seeing her before the ceremony at Drumtochty Castle
Bridesmaids seeing Jess at their AirBnB prep location

Fascilitating emotional moments during bridal preparations

All bridal prep mornings are different. Some are high-energy, some a low energy. Some er nervous or excited, some are calm and collected. But there’s a lovely way of adding another layer of emotions to your morning, and it’s the morning gifts/cards that you write for each other. If you choose to do this, let me know and I’ll find a lovely space and a good time to read that personal card (out loud, or not is up to you).

You can also give your parents something in the morning of your wedding day to express how grateful you are to them. I absolutely love these moments (below) from Laura’s wedding morning!

Bridal prep photos and the “window effect”

By having just a single window in your getting ready area I’m able to create beautiful portraits with soft light. The more windows the better! Try to face the window when getting your make-up done, as it’s the most flattering light. I sometimes make suggestions as we go along if it feels right. If possible, get dressed in the room with most light (and the least amount of clutter!).

Ingrid having a wee moment at Dunglass Estate
Sue having a few minutes to spare before the ceremony at Edinburgh Zoo
Jess not posing for the camera ?

If you don’t have the space or budget for a beautiful, window lit bridal prep venue, then don’t panic. I work in all kinds of conditions! You just have to know how it will affect your photographs. I always take more candid style photos as well as bridal portraits, but in locations where I can’t control the clutter or space, you may get fewer “tidy, clutter free and editorial looking” photos. I love photos like the imperfect ones below.

But is it possible to get beautiful photos despite a small space and no windows? The short answer is YES! Even though your prep area is small or messy, I try my best to get some of my “signature” tidy portrait shots using people and things to hide away clutter and create a sense of calm. Just bear in mind, I can only work with what I’ve got available to me!

Hairspray bottles, bobby pins, towels and make-up brushes tend to flow freely. I’m allergic to clutter, and I always try to frame accordingly – but the more mess, the more restricted I am. Don’t stress it, but consider at least putting your outerwear, wash bags and overnight cases away!

Close-ups can tidy up bridal prep photos
Using stairs and walls to remove clutter
Theresa getting ready at a dark Aikwood Tower

Grooms getting ready

Why not go to the barber in the morning, or rent an AirBNB for the groom too? If you stay in a hotel, you can get ready in different rooms. If you want to capture both of you, consider booking a second shooter.

If you’re getting ready far apart, maybe you should consider a second photographer? My second photographer can either meet them at their prep location, a pub, the barber’s or outside the ceremony location for some portraits and group shots. I’ve written an extensive blog post about why (and when not) to book a second shooter here!

I love this bright and modern mezzanine at Aikwood Tower

I hope that was helpful! Let me know if you want some advise or to hear my opinion about your own choices for prep locations ?