How to make your wedding couple feel relaxed for their portraits.

July 14th, 2023
wedding couple portrait in a grassy field near sunset

As a photographer, capturing the perfect moment is a symphony of creativity, excitement, and beauty. When it comes to wedding portraits, it’s a chance for artists to blend their creative photography style with the newlywed’s unique vision. Sometimes it’s a harmonious blend of all the perfect elements; stunning decor, breathtaking landscapes, and unforgettable venues. Other weddings may be more modest and represent the couple’s nearest and dearest coming together for vows in an intimate backyard celebration. Whatever style the wedding falls under, the photographer holds the most important position of capturing the meaningful human expression of love and connection.

As the wedding day approaches, the couple often experiences a flurry of nerves, feeling overwhelmed and anxious with every little detail that needs to be covered. The weight of the occasion can feel heavy on their shoulders, and the pressure to look and feel their best can be daunting.

With a touch of humor, gentle reassurance, and confidence, an adept photographer can transform this experience into an indulgent moment to themselves in the midst of a chaotic day. It’s a moment for the couple to shine, bask in the glow of their happiness, and let their personality radiate while the photographer immortalizes the magical moment. 

In this article, we’ll walk you through the significance of wedding portraits and offer valuable insights into making the couple feel relaxed and comfortable during their wedding portrait session. You’ll also find essential wedding portrait tips to ensure the resulting images can be turned into a unique keepsake album your clients will find irresistible.

wedding couple portrait walking and laughing

What are wedding portraits?

Wedding portraits are photos of the couple taken before the wedding during the first look, or after the ceremony as part of a more traditional timeline. Depending on the wedding timeline the couple prefers, the photoshoot may be in a special location the newlyweds choose, apart from the venues. They can also be taken in a picturesque part of the ceremony or reception location. During the wedding portraits, photographers have the opportunity to capture the beauty of these brief moments; with creativity, attention to light, and simple direction of their clients, a wedding photographer can capture the tenderness, joy, and entire range of emotions the couple experiences on their special day.  

On the day of this shoot, the photographer will have many tasks other than taking the photos. Wedding photographers need to have the ability to adapt and think quickly while capturing details, wardrobe changes, changing locations, managing the schedule, and creating a fun and relaxed atmosphere with their clients, among many other things. The couple must be comfortable with you for the photo shoot to be spectacular; for that to happen, it’s important to build their trust in you during initial meetings, the booking, and your interactions up to and during the wedding day. A combination of confidence in your own skills and the ability to be a good listener goes a long way toward building this trust. 

black and white two bride wedding couple hugging

Why is taking wedding portraits important?

Wedding portraits require good posing and directing skills, flexibility, and attention to light and location. These portraits will often be the ones that are most widely shared on the couple’s social media, included in their albums, and gifted as photo prints to their loved ones. 

The portraits can be one of the greatest challenges for a wedding photographer, as there is not typically a lot of time built into the wedding day schedule for the couple’s portraits, and the time set aside may not be in your desired daylight hours. However, with planning, practice, and flexibility, you can apply your creativity and make magical portraits quickly at any time of day. 

When planning the newlywed’s portraits, consider the following:

  • Whenever possible, ask the couple to have the portrait time scheduled before the ceremony starts.
  • Calculate the amount of time needed to capture all images desired, and do your best to have the couple or their wedding planner build this time into the schedule.
  • Discuss the wedding location, theme, and surroundings in detail with the couple to best understand any hopes they may have for the backdrop of their portraits. Whenever possible, visit the location beforehand or arrive early to familiarize yourself with the landscape.
  • Think of which poses come first, as figuring out the right flow of poses saves time and effort for both you and the couple.

While capturing these portraits can sometimes be stressful, keep your voice and body language calm, friendly, and direct. Don’t be afraid to compliment them or be a little silly; your mood directly affects their level of comfort in front of the camera.  

bride and groom portrait under veil

Wedding portrait tips.

We’ve pulled together some fundamental wedding photography tips to help photographers get the best out of the couple for magnificent wedding photos.

Get to know the married couple well before the session.

To help the couple feel at ease and confident during the portrait session, getting to know them is crucial. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. If you have not already done so before booking the wedding, introduce yourself to the couple. Schedule a short time to chat face to face or in a video call so you can get to know one another; in the long run, building a relationship with them saves time and gives you a better understanding of what is needed for the shoot.
  2. Send your couple a pre-shoot survey to get a sense of their style. Or you can have them send you a Pinterest board of images they love and would like to emulate.
  3. Ask the couple about their preferences, plan the type and form of portraits you want to take, discuss favorite positions, and make a vision board for the photoshoot day. Depending on your portfolio, this may include going over some of the client’s favorite examples from your body of work or pulling together inspiration from Pinterest. 
  4. Create a friendly dialogue with the couple; learn about their favorite features, what side they like to be photographed from, and discuss any concerns or insecurities they may have related to being photographed during their big day. An awareness of these can help you highlight the parts of themselves they love and reduce self-consciousness during the wedding day.  
  5. Gain the couple’s trust by including engagement sessions with your wedding packages. These sessions are a great opportunity to show what it is like to work with you and how amazing they look through your lens. 

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Capture the details and emotions.

In your wedding couple questionnaire, be sure to ask the couple about the dress, veil, tuxedo, accessories, and wedding rings they will wear, as well as any other unique details they may be incorporating into their day. This will allow you to plan the appropriate amount of time for capturing their details. If necessary, explain how these details help highlight their personalities and how you can include them within the wedding portraits, such as their unique bespoke wedding rings, their something blue, and their custom bouquet. It can be helpful to share example wedding photo albums to highlight the additional depth and emotional value these beautiful and elegant details will lend to their final images. 

two grooms holding hands and a wedding bouquet

Creating the moment.

Whether visiting the locations in advance or arriving early to scout, familiarize yourself with the venue and create a mental checklist of some locations where the shoot could take place. When you are unfamiliar with a location and the available lighting, it is important to have a few options and then make judgment calls in the moment using your knowledge of light and posing to create the perfect moment for the couple.

Communicate with them, relax, and have fun. 

Nothing makes a subject uncomfortable faster than stretches of silence. Always communicate with the couple in a friendly and complimentary way; make small conversations, make them laugh, and capture their genuine emotions shown throughout the conversation. Give the couple clear directions and prompts and create a fun atmosphere, allowing small moments of time for the couple to move naturally and show their personalities.

Move and work from every angle.

Study the venue’s space; if the couple had any preferences regarding where to take the portraits, do your best to include this spot or communicate why it won’t work in the current moment. Try out multiple angles; you may find the light is better or simply give your clients more variety by photographing from several vantage points. In this time-sensitive portrait session, it is best to search for the perfect picture rather than wait for it to come and to take advantage of any moments when the couple is interacting in a natural way, without paying attention to the camera.

black and white wedding portrait of bride and groom laughing and hugging on a mountain

When is the right time to take wedding portraits?

This highly depends on the type of photos the couple asks for and the overall effect they want them to have. As a photographer, it’s important to understand how natural lighting can impact wedding portraits thoroughly. Knowing how to utilize light and open shade throughout the day can help you choose the perfect location for stunning portraits. 

While it can simplify the wedding timeline to shoot the couple portraits and some of the family photos before the wedding ceremony, your couple may also want portraits taken during the golden hour, which is the period just before sunset. During this time, the sun is closer to the horizon, casting warm and directional light that creates longer shadows and a warmer color temperature. These conditions can help you create a dreamy or dramatic glow very different from images earlier in the day. 

For sunset portraits, discuss ahead of time and have the couple or their planner help you set aside 15-30 minutes with your couple to slip away from their friends and family to a part of the venue where you can utilize the golden hour light.

Here are a few practical tips to remember when choosing the time to take wedding portraits:

  1. Take into account the location and surroundings of the shoot and how they will affect the lighting. Venues on a mountaintop, oceanside, or forest will all have very different lighting situations to wrangle.
  2. Check the weather forecast beforehand; an overcast day provides great diffuse light but will also mean it becomes dark earlier in the evening compared to a sunny or partly cloudy day, and generally rules out golden hour portraits.
  3. Keep in mind that photographing on a wedding timeline means you’ll be shooting through all kinds of natural light; utilize open shade, fill flash, and reflective items such as sand or light-colored pavement to help even out harsh lighting situations.
  4. Whenever possible, take advantage of the golden hour for portraits with a warm and dreamy atmosphere.
  5. Consider using artificial lighting, such as an on or off-camera flash, to obtain proper exposure and cut down on post-processing time. 

wedding couple floating in ocean photographed by drone camera

Create scroll-stopping wedding portraits.

Confidence with posing, lighting, and giving directions to clients will help you create magic no matter what gets thrown your way on the wedding day. Practicing your couple portrait skills will take you from “getting through” this part of the day to “getting creative.”  Developing a kinship between you and the soon-to-be newlyweds always makes the day go more smoothly. By establishing a good foundation of understating, communication, and rehearsal guarantees a smooth process and happy results for you and your wedding clients.

Contributor

  • Amanda W

    Amanda is the Content Marketing Specialist at Zenfolio and the Owner/Photographer of Wild Orchard Studios photography. A BFA graduate from Maine College of Art and Design and professional Portrait, Family, and Branding photographer for nearly 20 years, she thoroughly enjoys drawing from her experiences to guide new photographers as they are starting out. Amanda lives in the wilds of Maine with her husband and two imaginative daughters. If there’s such a thing as too much dark chocolate, she hasn’t heard about it.

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