wedding day portraits – bride & bridesmaids

photographing the bride and bridesmaids – location and direction

One of the series of photographs that I like to “have in my pocket” are the individual photos of the bride with each bridesmaid.  This is the kind of photograph you can hammer out very quickly, one after the other. The bride with a bridesmaid, hugging each other.  I always make time for this. One stumbling block might be a lack of place to do this.  But there is usually somewhere to do this, by isolating your subject with a long lens against an out-of-focus background.

Still at the bride’s house, we had a few minutes before the limo had to leave. Inside the house there wasn’t really space to do this. So I looked outside.  It was the usual New Jersey suburban clutter – cars and utility poles and houses and just things!  Looking around me outside the house, I saw one direction I can shoot in that would give me a backlit image, with just out-of-focus trees in the background. Perfect!

Here is the pull-back shot to show what it looked like …

.. and with carefully selecting my background, I get the typical on-location portrait with an out-of-focus background.

By considering where I place my subject(s), and moving myself and my subject(s) in relation to the background .. and carefully framing with a long lens … I can get photographs where the viewer’s attention isn’t distracted by unnecessary elements within the frame.


related articles

There is a repeatable method here that works every time! Even in a pinch.  Actually, especially when you’re in a pinch to get the job done quickly.

With these images here, there was no editing in Photoshop.  I just changed the WB slightly before processing to JPGs.  With wedding photography, a fast workflow becomes necessary.


recommended lenses for wedding portraits

The lens that is essential here, is a fast 70-200mm zoom. I can’t be without this lens.  Here it was my go-to lens to work at a wide-ish aperture (f4 in these examples), and a long focal length to help separate your subject(s) from the background.  Both the Nikon and Canon lenses here are outstanding.

19 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 1Eric - Spécialiste Abdominoplastie says

    Hi Neil,
    Just a quick question : when you shoot people like in photos 1,2,3, are they in the shadow in order to use your fill-in flash?

  2. 2Neil vN says

    Eric … I very specifically positioned in shade with their backs to the sun. This gives open light on their faces, and a little bit of rim lighting on their hair and shoulders.

    Neil vN

  3. 3Eric - Spécialiste Abdominoplastie says

    Thx for your reply.
    So you shoot in front of the sun to create a particular shade on the face and shoulders. OK!
    How do you avoid the flare ? Are you in the shade too, to avoid it ?

  4. 5 says

    Hi, Neil, thanks for this one. I find it great to see what can be done in an area that looks initially uninspiring. Those kind of shots inspire me so much because I know that when I have an awful location there is still hope!

  5. 6Grayden Provis says

    Hi Neil
    I’m a newcomer to your blog and a relative newcomer to photography but am enjoying the clear way you teach and answer questions. Thankyou. I like very much the simple, foolproof technique you describe above. Its great “bread and butter” photography. I have a Nikon D40 and just leave the Nikon 18-200mm VR lens on it all the time for now while I’m learning. It seems pretty good at getting the sort of shots you show here. Thanks again for the wonderful resource that is this web site. I’m hoping to be in NYC God-willing later this year so might have to join in one of your classes! I’ve ordered your book so looking forward to that too.Best regards from Perth, Western Australia.

  6. 8Bret Linford says

    Hi, Neil.

    Just asking (not critiquing): Would you normally correct your finals for the blue-ish hair highlights from the shade? Thanks!

  7. 9Neil vN says

    Bret … definitely not for proofing, and most likely not for the final images. I would for a blue tint in the wedding dress.

    Neil vN

  8. 12Neil vN says

    Fred … I’m not sure I understand you. You’re suggesting adding a different background? And then spending time in post-production masking the bridesmaids (and their hair styles), and adding it over a different background?

    Aside from the ‘why do it in the first place?’, this would just slow down the post-production even more. Honestly, this is not a consideration. Ever.

    Neil vN

  9. 13Pat Reynolds says

    Commenting on Bret’s question about color correcting the blue-ish highlights on the hair – I used to spend hours editing for that sort of thing – I now realize that only other photographers notice it, the clients ‘never’ do!! As Neil said, I stick to removing tints from white dresses in any final images the client chooses. Apparently some wedding dresses are sprayed with some sort of protective fabric coating, which can sometimes have a reaction with UV light and particularly with flash light – ever noticed a bizarre color cast on the bride’s dress but not on other white objects in the same shot? That’s it!

  10. 15mona says

    great lessons and wonderful pointers and examples!
    just a quick question, are the above shot with a handheld camera?


  11. 16Neil vN says

    I very rarely use a tripod, so these photos and pretty much nearly everything on this site are hand-held photographs. But I do use vibration reduction / stabilized lenses. And I also take care to steady myself and the camera when I take a photograph.

    Neil vN

  12. 19Artur Ocubaro says

    Hi Neil!

    Beautiful photos! Inspiring, as always! And I think that the real touch of your teaching way is the simplicity and the pull-back shots! Thanks!

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