The Essential Guide to Incredible Bride Getting Ready Photos

Your wedding photographer will often begin the day with bride getting-ready photos.

This is the part of the day where it all starts to sink in. You’re getting married!

You might feel a little nervous (don’t worry, that’s totally normal) and ready to get the day moving. Try to soak it all in though—your wedding day will fly by so fast!

Why bride getting-ready photos are important

As a wedding photographer, my goal is for the couples I work with to look at their wedding photographs and really be able to relive the entire day.

The getting-ready portion is an essential part of your wedding story.

Though it might not be as glamorous as other parts of your wedding, there’s still a lot to document and a whole lot of love from those closest to you that can be captured.

Getting the most out of your bride getting-ready photos

Just like the other parts of your wedding, a little bit of planning beforehand will go a long way to ensure you can enjoy this portion of the day—and your photographer is able to capture the best photographs possible.

For example, the location you choose to get ready at can have a dramatic impact on the way those images look.

To avoid common pitfalls and make sure you end up with images that fit your wedding vision, here are a few of my top tips.

How to find the perfect location

Many people choose to get ready at a hotel that’s near their wedding venue.

While some hotels are gorgeous, many will force you and your bridesmaids into tiny rooms with limited (or sometimes even no) windows (a big no-no for photography).

Depending on the size of your family and bridal party, this can be a bit of a nightmare (think the beginning of Home Alone, when everyone’s running around the morning they’re supposed to leave for Paris).

Plus, the morning of your wedding you might want some privacy. That’s hard to achieve if everyone’s crammed into your hotel room!

Hotel alternatives

Another option is to get ready at your venue instead of a hotel.

This means less driving around, more space (most venues will have multiple rooms you can use to get ready) and an aesthetic that’ll match the rest of your wedding (your pictures will look more cohesive if everything is captured at the same location).

However, this isn’t always possible.

Some venues might have multiple events per day or even an event before yours. (As a side note, be careful of venues that have other events going on at the same time as your wedding. That often means you and your guests will be limited to how you can use the property).

Other venues don’t have a getting-ready space or might need time beforehand to setup, so they’ll ask you to arrive later in the day.

If you’re unable to get ready at your venue and you’re looking for an alternative, I always recommend using an Airbnb instead of a hotel.

Double exposure Bride getting ready

Why an Airbnb is a great place for bride getting-ready photos

It’s less expensive

A quality Airbnb can sometimes cost less than half that of a fancy hotel, and they have better elements for taking getting-ready photographs.

You’ll have more space

With an Airbnb, you can rent out an entire home, which gives you access to many rooms.

This’ll give you the space your family and friends need to get ready while still being together.

There’ll be less chaos

Airbnbs can also be more intimate than a hotel.

You, your family and friends are the only ones there, and you won’t have to deal with other hotel guests.

Especially during popular wedding weekends, there may be four or five wedding parties using the same hotel.

This can be chaotic and stressful when trying to coordinate with family and friends.

You’ll have more control

Thanks to the pictures and reviews, you’ll have a good idea of what each room looks like in an Airbnb before you stay there. If you’re unsure of what to look for before you book, just check in with your photographer!

Make sure there’s plenty of space

If you’re unable to secure an Airbnb, just make sure the location you choose has plenty of room.

Not only will your friends and family thank you, but with a bigger space you’ll get more variety when taking pictures.

Smaller rooms also make it challenging to capture images that show off your full dress, since there’s little space to move around.

Finding the right room

If you’re getting ready at a home or an Airbnb, the best room for this is usually the living room.

Often furniture can be moved around to make the most of the space and to capture a variety of different poses.

Some hotels have common areas that can work well. This can be a challenge when photographing in a hotel though, so be sure to keep that in mind when choosing your getting-ready spot!

Back of brides Alexandra Grecco dress at the 1 Hotel NYC.

Choose a location with soft, neutral wall colors

Believe it or not, the color of the furniture and walls can have a dramatic effect on the color of your skin in pictures.

In general, rooms with soft pastel or neutral colors work best.

If possible, avoid darker-colored rooms with distracting patterns or wallpaper.

Here’s why: When light comes in through a window, it bounces around inside the room, which causes the colored walls to reflect light back onto anything or anyone inside the room, making skin color shifts that may not look natural.

Seek out rooms with white or neutral, bright colors to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Big windows are a must

Taking amazing photographs begins with having amazing light.

The quality (which is often different than the quantity) of the light in the room will make or break your getting-ready photographs.

Here are a few things you can do to make sure your room has great light.

Bigger is better

When it comes to window light, the bigger the window the better.

Windows that stretch all the way to the ground are the best-case scenario, but any large window that faces outdoors will almost always work great.

Bride in Alexandra Grecco gown at 1 Hotel NYC before The Central Park Boathouse Wedding.

By having a window in the bridal prep area, your photographer can create beautiful portraits, like this one of Lindsay. These photographs often look better with natural light than with flash, so the more windows the better!

More than one window

I’m going to get a little technical here for a second, so bear with me.

If you prefer that light-and-airy look in your photographs, it helps to have at least two windows at a 90-degree angle to one another.

This is called clamshell lighting (as the positioning of the lights looks like a clam with its shell open) and it’s my favorite type of light for bridal-prep pictures.

Most of the getting-ready pictures you see in this post were taken with this type of lighting.

Here’s an example of how the windows would be positioned in a room:

I created this incredibly detailed drawing (haha) to demonstrate the best window positioning for getting-ready photographs. Each of those lines would be a window and the circle would be you. If your getting-ready location has a room with windows like this, that means your photographs will have a gorgeous light-and-airy look to them!

Hotel tips: facing east

If you do plan on getting ready at a hotel, here’s a trick to make sure you get the best light: Ask for a room with windows that face east.

This is the direction that the sun rises, which often means more light will come through in the early morning.

Another thing to keep in mind, especially in hotels—try to avoid first-floor rooms, as sometimes the buildings that surround them can block out the light.

The wedding day

Ok, so you’ve chosen a getting-ready location and followed the tips above.

Now it’s your wedding day and your photographer is on the way.

Here are a few things you can do to prepare.

Getting your details ready

For many photographers (myself included), the day often begins with bridal details.

This is one of my favorite parts of the wedding day because it allows me to prepare and get my creative side warmed up. I try to photograph details in a way that matches and showcases the style of the wedding day.

If you can, try to have all of the details you’d like your photographer to capture gathered in one spot. This makes it easy for him or her to start right away.

Here’s a list of the most common bridal details. (Keep in mind you don’t need them all—just the ones that have meaning to you.)

  • dress
  • veil/hair pieces
  • rings (all three)
  • shoes
  • bouquets & boutonnieres
  • jewelry
  • perfume
  • invitation suite
  • family heirlooms

How to add more personality & meaning to your bridal details

Depending on the theme and look of your wedding day, keep an eye out for extra elements that you could include with your details.

For example, if you’re going for a rustic theme that includes wood elements, maybe save a small piece of wood for your photographer to use when they’re capturing your rings and jewelry.

If you’re having a beach wedding, some shells and sand can be really photogenic.

This ties together your theme and makes for beautiful, consistent wedding album spreads.

Don’t forget to hold on to the rings!

The most common detail missing when I arrive are the rings—often they’re already with the best man.

However, it’s actually better to hand them over to the best man during the bridal party portraits later in the day, so that your photographer can capture some great ring images with your other details.

A flower delivery tip

If you can, have the bouquets and boutonnieres delivered to the same location (even if the guys won’t be there) at the same time your photographer arrives.

This way your photographer can incorporate them into your detail and portrait photographs.

The number one reason weddings run behind

It’s often because hair and makeup take longer than expected.

Schedule your makeup and hair early enough so that there’s plenty of time for you to be ready (or nearly ready) by the time your photographer arrives.

My tip is to double the time you think you’ll need for hair, makeup and travel.

This way you’ll be able to take portraits before the wedding without any time pressure.

Groomsmen prep

Depending on where the groom is getting ready, your photographer may be able to cover it on his/her own.

This often works great if you’re getting ready at your venue.

If there are separate locations at the venue for the bride and groom to get ready, it’s easy for your photographer to jump back and forth while you’re getting into your dress, or while hair and makeup is finishing up.

When to book a second photographer

If you’re planning on getting ready at separate locations and it’s not possible for your photographer to cover both, it might make sense to have a second photographer cover it separately.

Cheers to the most gorgeous bridal-prep photos!

I hope these tips help you to enjoy every moment as you get ready on your wedding day—rest easy knowing that, with a little planning and preparation, you’re going to have incredible getting-ready photographs.

P.S. Here are more free tips and resources on all things wedding planning, from 3 tips to look amazing in your wedding photographs to how to create the perfect wedding timeline & more.

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We're wedding photographers who believe how you feel on your wedding day is just as important as taking incredible pictures.

As a wedding photographer & filmmaker based in both New York City & Southern California, Tom has captured close to 200 weddings. Together, we love to celebrate with you and your friends on one of the most exciting days of your lives. It brings us such joy to capture your wedding in an artistic way, not only telling your wedding story, but also making sure to bring warmth and friendliness (and a few laughs!) to the day.