The Essential Guide to Incredible Bride Getting Ready Photos

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 though) 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 Worth it

As a wedding photographer I want the couples I work with to look at their wedding photographs and really be able to relive the entire day.

I feel the getting ready portion is an essential part of that wedding story.

Though it might not be as glamorous as other parts of your wedding, there’s still a lot to document and 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 in ensuring you can enjoy the day and your photographer is able to capture the best photographs possible.

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

To avoid common pitfalls and make sure you don’t end up with images that don’t fit your wedding vision, here are a few of my top tips.

Wedding Timeline Flowers

Bride Getting Ready Photos: Finding the Perfect Location

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

While some hotels are gorgeous and work great, 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).

Not to mention the morning of your wedding you might want some privacy. That’s hard to achieve if everyone’s going to be crammed in your hotel room!

Hotel Alternatives

One alternative is to get ready at your venue instead of a hotel.

This is a great solution—this means less driving around, a lot more space (most venues will have multiple rooms you can use to get ready) and an aesthetic that will match the rest of your wedding (it’s much easier for your pictures will look cohesive if everything is captured at the same location).

However, this isn’t always possible.

Some venues might have multiple events per day, and might have an event before yours. (As a side-note, be careful of venues that will have other events going on the same time as yours. Oftentimes you and your guests will be limited with how you can use their property).

Other venues don’t have a space to get ready, or might need time beforehand to setup, asking 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. Here’s why:

Double exposure Bride getting ready

Why an Airbnb is a Great Alternative for Bride Getting Ready Photos

Less Money

An airbnb is are often much cheaper than a hotel room.

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

More Space

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

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

Less Chaos

Airbnb’s can also be more intimate than a hotel.

You, your family and friends are the only ones there, and don’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 family and friends.

More Control

Finally, with an Airbnb, you have more control over how the space will look.

With a wide variety and photographs of the location available online, it’s easy (especially with some input from your wedding photographer) to see if it provides great conditions for fantastic photos.

bride getting ready walking down stairs

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 space.

Not only will your friends and family thank you, but with a bigger room, 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.

Oftentimes furniture can be moved around to make the most of the space and to capture a variety of different poses (in fact, I almost always spend some time at the beginning of the wedding day moving furniture around to make the space as photogenic as possible. Most homes have rooms that look amazing for getting ready photos if I spend a few minutes optimizing them).

Some hotels have common areas that can work well. Oftentimes this can often be a big challenge when photographing in a hotel though, so be sure to keep that in mind when choosing your location!

Bride getting ready hannah

Choose a Location with Soft, Neutral Wall Colors

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

In general rooms with soft pastel neutral colors will work best.

If possible, avoid darker colored rooms or rooms that have distracting patterns or wallpaper.

If you’re wondering why that is, when light comes in through a window, it bounces around inside the room.

This 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 and neutral bright colors to ensure this does not 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, (like a screen door) but any large window that faces outdoors will almost always work great.

Bride Getting Ready Window

By having just a simple window in the bridal prep area, your photographer can create beautiful portraits like this one of Lindsay with soft light. 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 to 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 it’s shell open) and is my favorite type of light for getting ready 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:

Here’s an incredibly detailed photoshop sketch I made to demonstrate the best window positioning for getting ready photographs. Each of those lines would be a window, while the circle would be you. If your getting ready location has a room with windows like this, use 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 that has 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 you can block out much of 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 their way.

What can you do to prepare?

Turks and Caicos Destination Wedding

Starting the bride getting ready photos with details

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

This is one of my personal 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 entire wedding day.

If you can, try to have all of the details you would like captured gathered together and in one central location. This makes it easy for your photographer to start right away and saves time.

Here’s a list of the most bridal common details that are captured on a wedding day. Keep in mind you don’t need them all—just the items you feel have meaning to you:

  • Dress
  • Veil / hair pieces
  • Rings (all three)
  • Shoes
  • Bouquets & boutonnieres
  • Jewelry
  • Perfume
  • Invitation suite
  • Family heirlooms

Extra Elements

Here’s a fun little tip to add some personality to these images.

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 having a rustic-themed wedding 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.


Keep the Rings

On the topic of details, don’t forget 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.

Flower Delivery

Don’t forget your bouquet!

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.

Arleny looks at her mom

Hair and Makeup

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.

The number one reason wedding schedules end up running late?

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

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

This will assure you have plenty of time for all the portraits you want to take before the wedding and that there’s no time pressure.

Groomsmen Prep

We can’t forget about the guys!

Depending on where the groom is getting ready, your photographer may be able to cover it themselves.

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

Oftentimes there are separate locations that can be used for each person.

Your photographer can then jump back and forth while your getting into your dress, or while hair and makeup is finishing up.

Daniel with his mom

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.

Final Thoughts

Starting your wedding day on the right foot will have a positive impact on the rest of the day.

Not to mention, great bride getting ready photos are going to start with proper preparation.

By following these advice above, you will not only ensure that your getting ready photographs will look incredible, but also that you can focus on enjoying the beginning of your wedding day with those closest to you.


P.S. I hope you enjoyed this article to help you take incredible bride getting ready photos! Here are more free tips and resources on all things wedding planning, from 3 tips to look amazing in your wedding photos to how to create the perfect wedding timeline for you & more.

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I'm a destination wedding photographer based in New York City who specializes in creating elegant and romantic imagery for adventurous couples like you.