By Manvi Gandotra

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The Bride in her wedding dress, shy and tense, beautiful and alluring. She provides quite a conundrum for a wedding photographer. How does one work towards capturing the emotions that often rush over the bride as she prepares for holy matrimony?

Over the years that I’ve shot weddings in India, I’ve come to appreciate the Bridal getting ready session. This is the calm before the storm when the bride will look her best, and it is the least interrupted time the photographer has with the bride. Below are a few tips and tricks I’ve honed that help me capture my brides at their best in some pre-wedding getting ready photos:

1. Work with the most important person in the room.

The bride typically gets ready in a room in the presence of the make-up artist and supportive sister(s) and friend(s). In this group, the most important person is the make-up artist. Work with him or her to understand their work flow. Is she left handed or right handed? What is the order in which she does her stuff? Does she schedule her breaks??
All this information is critical for you to capture the best angles, and moments, in the getting ready process. You don’t want to interrupt another wedding professional when she is in her zone. Respect her and together you can make the bride look her best and capture the process.

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2.The Three Perspective Rule

Every wedding photographer has been taught to capture the subject from multiple perspectives. While I agree with this, I believe there are three specific perspectives that are critical for capturing the bride getting ready. They are:

The Top Down

These shots provide a god view of the process and often help focus the viewer’s eye on a specific aspect of the process. Below is a top-down of the eye liner getting done. A lot of clutter in the room (weddings are messy !) can be worked around and simple moments like the addition of lipstick or the adjustment of a dress can be shown with a certain dramatic flourish.

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The Bride’s View

Do not forget that the most important person after the make-up artist is the bride. It’s important to capture this session from her perspective too. Get down to her level if she is sitting. Imagine what she is going through. Follow her eyes to see what is capturing her precious attention. Make use of a mirror to capture her in a moment of self-reflection. Below is a picture of bride when she is just looking at herself while her friends are helping her with her earrings.

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The Fly on the Wall

Remember that clutter I mentioned? That is part of weddings. They are like the handwritings of the bride and her sisters. Try going to the corner of the room with a wide angle lens and capture the confusion and chaos in all its glory. Get on a chair and view the room from above and try to spot what is adding color and personality to the room. Maybe it’s the jewellery spread carelessly on the bed. It could be the mother happily putting bangles on the bride’s arm, or maybe the groom trying to look through the window (it’s happened!).

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3. Expect the Unexpected

Wedding photographers should approach the weddings with the attitude of a journalist looking for a scoop. Still, during the getting ready time, it’s easy to let your guard down as everything seems pre-planned, and in motion. Some of my most candid pictures have been taken in moments of delightful serendipity. Below are pictures from different weddings.

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A sister-in-law feeding the bride minutes before she stepped out

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The bride’s aunt reminding her that she has just five minutes to go

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And then sometimes the pet just walks in to say the final goodbye!

4. The Trousseau and Trinkets

There are brides that wear a simple white silver bracelet, and others that wear elaborate gold chains, adorned with peacock and mango motifs, that were made nearly a century ago for their grandmother’s wedding. The Wedding Trousseau and the accompanying trinkets say a lot about the personal choice of the bride and her traditions. It is important to capture them with respect, and a certain sensitivity, as these hold meaning for a family more that what we as a person viewing in from outside can appreciate.

These items could simply be the Wedding Trousseau itself, which the bride, her sister, and friends would have spent weeks agonizing over, and probably spent many woman-hours putting together.

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5. Lights, Camera, Action!

Light – what else is there for a photographer to contemplate? The challenge doing portraiture for a bride getting ready is that the event sometimes occurs in a small compact bedroom, studio, or dressing room at the temple, church, or hotel where the wedding is taking place.

It’s important to understand what the sources of lights in the room are, and perfectly professional to ask the make-up artist and bride to reorient themselves, or the way they face to make the pictures look better.

Be prepared to use white curtains to bounce of light from your flash or shoot from outside the room through a window to get light right!

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I hope you find these tips helpful, whether you are doing wedding photography as a professional, or at a friend or relative’s wedding. Please share your own tips and comments below, as well as your images.

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