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Taylor Nicole Photography is a fine art wedding photography team based out of Denver, Colorado. We specialize in providing bright, classic and refined wedding imagery for our couples. 

We capture a mix of posed and candid imagery that couples will cherish for all the years to come.

Owner & Photographer


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Episode 018. Everything Wedding Portraits

April 26, 2022



Weddings & Life Podcast with Taylor Nicole, a podcast by Denver Wedding Photographer,
Taylor Nicole Photography

wedding podcast, wedding planning advice, wedding planning podcast

Listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

Intro: Welcome back to the Everything series. The previous two episodes, this one, and the one to come is my attempt at talking you through your entire wedding day! To back up, I am a wedding photographer based in Denver, CO and I have photographed 195 weddings now! Ahh that’s Crazy to believe! So I have seen a lot of weddings from a behind the scenes perspective as a vendor and want to take some of the stress out of your wedding planning and preparation by sharing ALL the details about the wedding day with you. I will share all the helpful tips and advice I can, as well as sharing behind the scenes details that are often overlooked or forgotten. You should listen to the rest of this episode if you’d like to hear what a photographer has to say about all of the portraits on a wedding day- couples formals, bridal party and family all lumped into one episode! Thanks for joining me this week!

So the last two episodes covered getting ready and ceremony. Today we are diving into quite literally my specialty- the portraits! I am going to talk you through family, bridal party and couple’s portraits in this episode. Every photographer is different and will have different orders, thoughts and preferences about portraits but I will share my tips and tricks to getting great portraits on your wedding day! I hope you enjoy this episode!

Let’s start with my best general advice- Trust your photographer, relax, be happy and present.

If you can do these things on your wedding day I can actually guarantee that you will get better portraits. And you will absolutely have better memories of your portraits if you are relaxed, happy and present on such a happy day. 

If you’re a planner having a solid plan for the portraits throughout the day should help you be able to have fun in the moment, and an engagement session with your photographer might also help you feel better about this time of day as that will allow you to work with your photographer beforehand to feel more comfortable in front of the camera.

So I am going to work through my three main sections of portraits starting with family portraits, then bridal party then your couples formals.

Family Portraits

So family portraits, these typically happen right after the ceremony. Bonus- you’re already married at this point, you’ve seen each other and you’re probably through the most nerve wracking part of the day (standing in front of all of your guests). But family portraits can be one of the more stressful times of day, do you know why? Because family photos are repetitive for you as the bride & groom, and because HUNGER. Yes you heard that right, usually this point is about 2-5 hours into your wedding day and you’ve probably got another 1+ hours until you eat. So my first advice before you start your family portraits- have a snack and a drink. This is a match made from heaven if you have a caterer on site because those geniuses usually will set aside an appetizer platter and drinks for you. If not even just packing a quick granola bar and bottle of water could help in this moment. My ideal setting- right after the ceremony you go sneak away to sign your marriage license anyways, so why not have a quick snack (also do a teeth check before you go on haha nothing like granola seeds in your teeth for family portraits)

Next on the reasons these family portraits can feel stressful- not being prepared. For me and my clients this means having a family portrait list created. Imagine gathering family members after your ceremony and your photographer just stands there and is like okay what do you want?… And then you proceed to pick and choose groups and people in and out for photos. Chances are after its all said and done you will probably miss something important like a photo of just you and your mom. 

So creating a family portrait list ahead of time serves multiple purposes:

  1. It get’s you familiar with the groupings you would like to have (because let’s face it, you know your family best)
  2. It allows your photographer to play a role in moving people in and out and keeping the photos going efficiently (pro tip- don’t just list names and expect that your photographer will know who Jim, Larry and Susan are… list their family relationship. Brother, uncle and cousin whatever works) Truthfully your photographer will never be a complete expert in your family so we will do our best and default to you for help with specifics. So don’t assume the list takes your responsibility away 100% we will still need your help here.
  3. And finally the list allows your photographer to catch any potential timeline issues! Example, a fake example thankfully- you have 30 minutes set aside for family portraits after your ceremony, your family picture list includes combinations with your immediate families, then four extended family groupings of 20 people each, then a picture with you and your aunts and uncles, then an individual picture with you and each of your 22 cousins… I am not here to say any of these groupings or combinations are bad ideas, but I am here to say that can’t all happen in 30 minutes. Literally not possible you can believe me haha. So as the photographer if I look over a list and see that there are potentially too many combinations I go and ask the clients if they would like to add more time to this portion of the day to accommodate these portraits, or if they would like to bump a section of these groupings to later in the day- like a down moment during the reception or cocktail hour.

So those are reasons to create a family picture list.

The next reason family portraits can be stressful- not everyone who we need in the portraits is there/ready to go. This especially happens when there is a change in venues- ex. Church ceremony then venue reception. We tend to lose an aunt/uncle or parts of the extended family. So to prevent this please communicate with each family member that you would like to have involved in portraits when and where to be. Yes you can have your officiant announce for the family members of the bride and groom to stay behind, but guess what that won’t stop your uncle from thinking of I don’t need to do that since i’m not an immediate family member. So truly the best way to accomplish getting your family members on the same page is personal communication. Maybe texts to certain key family members? I’ve also seen a note left on specific invitations like ‘your presence is requested for family portraits immediately following the ceremony’ now personally I love the formality and intention behind a note like that, but I also don’t trust guests/family members to remember something like this at all. I am a bit of a skeptic. So a text or putting parents in charge of keeping the family members present will go a long ways.

Pro tip- sometimes I have clients who like to take the family portraits early on in the day before the ceremony. So in this case if I am planning to start taking the family portraits at 3pm, I have the couple tell their family members to arrive at 2:45pm, sometimes even 2:30. Usually there is a nice comfy place for them to wait a bit and it keeps us moving on time with the portraits even if they run late, because late is actually early.

Also this is a tip for anyone with siblings that are also in the bridal party- you might want to give them a warning that they will be in the majority of photos. They will be there for getting ready coverage, any before ceremony portraits and then yes they still have to stick around for family portraits. 

Whew I have a lot of pro tips here- next is for the brides- watch out for your veil. Basically if someone ever stands next to you on your wedding day they might put their arm around behind you, especially in group photos. Well guess what their arm will do? Yank at your veil and pull your hair. Well if you don’t have a veil then you can ignore this advice. So- for anyone who starts to put their arm around you quickly ask them to put their arm UNDER your veil. Not over but under the veil between the veil and your back. It’s close and not as easy to maneuver but it will prevent an early headache. Grooms especially need to know this as they will be the most repeat offenders standing next to you the majority of the day. 

In all reality- if your veil is easy to put in and out I would recommend removing the veil for family photos and then putting it back on later if you have extra/couples photos after. The veil isn’t super noticeable in family portraits and with all of those combinations/groupings someone is going to accidentally yank on it and it might hurt.

Last piece of advice for family photos, this podcast is my way of wishing I could get this advice out to the masses. When lining up for a family photo guess what isn’t helpful… forming a cancan line facing straight toward the camera with each arms around the person on either side of you. First of all for any guys in jackets or suits this will pull horribly at your jacket and distort the folds. It never looks good. Next, standing straight on will increase the amount of space the group takes up in the picture so your photographer will have to back up and that leaves each person in the picture smaller in the frame. My goal and best piece of advice for family photos is becoming relaxed sardines. Yep that’s right. I don’t want squished sardines but I do want you all packed in there. Unless there are steps easily accessible I don’t rely on rows of family members because it never fails that one person will stand just enough behind someone else’s head that it will block them from my camera (when you have groups of 20-30 people arranged in front of you it’s hard to actually check everyone and then assume they won’t shift before you actually take the picture) 

So for an extended family portrait for example I ask everyone involved to stay with their immediate family grouping (aka your aunt, uncle and cousins all in one section instead of dad and kids on one side and mom on the other by herself) So staying with their immediate family groupings then standing on either side of the bride and groom. Then to everyone on the bride’s side I will have them angle themselves slight in toward the bride. NOT ARMS AROUND, because if you’re open to the camera with your arms locked around people and you try to angle your shoulders will work against you. So with arms to their sides each side will angle into the middle. Now to make it more relaxed I have husbands put their hands on the outside of their wives arms, or the wives to hug on to their husbands outside arm or their kiddos (I will stack children in front as long as they’re clearly shorter than the parents) Also side note- angling slightly is more flattering than a front on pose for most people.

Last thing to mention again about family portraits is the dreaded transitions lens glasses. I’ve mentioned this on episode 8 about parents in wedding days because sadly parents are the most affected by transition lenses. So a recap- transition lenses photograph EXACTLY like sunglasses. Yes they are comfortable for your eyes but no your photographer CANNOT photoshop that. Like seriously, the exposure of your lenses will distort your skin color/tone so we actually cannot fix it. So for any brides and grooms out there, if your parent or a loved one has transition glasses it’s never too early to mention it to them that to see their eyes in the portraits they will either need to take their glasses off (which most people hate the idea of because their glasses are normal to their faces!) Or they need to bring a pair of glasses that are non transitioning to the wedding. They can consider it an investment for great family portraits, also watch out for glare. If you purchase the cheapest lens your photographer will need to adjust your head angle to avoid a glare over your eyes. Usually the next step of lens up will completely fix the glare so even if these are just an extra pair sadly skipping on lens quality will make the pictures just about as difficult. I will forever stand on this soap box about transition lenses.

I wanted to end this family portrait section by sharing why family photos are so darn important, even more important than they are stressful. First, these are the most printed photos from your whole wedding day. Probably rivaled with one of the two of you looking at the camera, but also because moms are great at printing out immediate family portraits for their homes. I hope I’m like that one day too. 

Next, it’s not that often that you get everyone in your family together. So be gracious with your sweet mom or mother in law for wanting that extended family grouping or a photo of her and her siblings. It has probably been a long time since they’ve had the chance to take a group photo like that and I don’t doubt that they will cherish it either. Also a note- extended family photos that don’t involve the bride and groom could be easily delegated to the second photographer or saved for the reception/cocktail hour timing. 

As I’ve looked through my own wedding album my absolute favorite pages are actually our family portraits. I love seeing everyone I loves faces together and it was fun to look through with my husband and see resemblances between family members too. This could be because I am extremely family-centric, my family members are some of my only friends truthfully haha, but I value taking these moments for clients because I have experienced how important they are! 

Here are family photos outside of the obvious immediate family grouping, that I think should always make the list- one of the bride with her parents, the groom with his parents, bride with siblings and groom with his siblings. The couple with grandparents if that’s an option.

And combinations that are sometimes overlooked- an individual portrait of the person with each sibling (if the relationship is close like that), a portrait of just the parents, if they’re still married ect. 

Bridal Party Portraits

Okay let’s move on from family and start talking about bridal party portraits. These are usually high energy times of the day, and unlike family portraits you don’t really need to make your photographer a list for these. I’d say the exception to that is if you’re a planner (no shame there I obviously am too!) And you wanted out of the box combos like you and two bridesmaids and one groomsman from college in a photo. Like I would never just pick the four of you out for that haha. But in general when it comes to bridal party we photograph the whole group, just the girls together, just the guys together, then the bride with each bridesmaid and the groom with each groomsman. Maybe make a note to tell us if you want a fun photo of bride with groomsmen and then the groom with the bridesmaids, that is a trend that comes and goes from what I’ve seen and depends more on the friend group.

Just for kicks here are a few full bridal party photos that I love to take- the couple popping a bottle of champagne with the bridal party, walking together aka group candid walk, and a huge group hug. Other ones that are high energy are creating a tunnel for the couple to walk through, but instead of an arms closed tunnel it’s like a dance party tunnel where they have to cheer the couple through. Anyways lots of cute ideas for the whole group.

Since every photographer will handle this differently let’s just talk about general tips like timing, location and what’s necessary.

First, before your bridal party photos you need the florals. So boutonnieres pinned and bouquets dried and ready. Quick summary- bridesmaids especially need to dry the stem of their bouquets off before photos when they remove their flowers from the vases because it will leave water spots on their dresses during photos. And water spots can actually leave stains too, it doesn’t always dry perfectly.

Next my pro tip on timing of the bridal party photos- if you’re finishing any photos before the ceremony my vote is to finish bridal party photos as you can. Why? Because it will save you time in your cocktail hour, and your bridal party probably has plus ones in attendance that they would actually love to hang out with during the cocktail hour. I’ve only attended a couple weddings as a guest and each of them were when my husband was a groomsman. It’s a lonely sort of cocktail hour until he got back and we could greet people and have fun together. This obviously isn’t a huge deal, but it can help! Sometimes when given the option I choose to finish the whole group bridal party photos first thing then dismiss the bridal party before family photos. Unless they are family of course haha. It’s just an extra thing you can do to help them enjoy the day too. 

Lastly location and timing needs will change based on your group size. So if you just have one bridesmaid and one groomsman then we can get those portraits taken in an archway if that were fun. But when you have 12 & 12 we need something much more open for those group portraits like an open field or wide street ect. Doesn’t mean I won’t try to cram 26 people into a small space for a ridiculously large group hug haha but in general you need space to spread out for those. This isn’t something that the couple always needs to decide on for location purposes, but the photographer will usually have an idea for that with the space and lighting the day of. The timing of the bridal party photos will change with the group size. If there are 4 people total as in the couple with a maid of honor and best man, then I can get those combos done in about 5 minutes myself. When there are 12 & 12 I will be scheduling a solid 45 minutes for myself and my second photographer to be tag teaming through all of the bridal party combinations.

Wow I love bridal party photos so much, but I realized I don’t have a ton of advice about that section of portraits. I guess most of my opinions are guiding my team of photographers to capture the moments I look for from bridal parties. I did make an episode just a few weeks ago all about the bridal party so check out episode 15 if you’re interested. Now moving on!

Couple’s Formal Portraits

Wohoo one of my favorite parts of the day. As a photographer I obviously love creating art for my couples in their wedding day locations. So my big secret here, I hardly ever take all of the couple’s portraits on the wedding day in one setting. I split portraits up into 2 sometimes 3 parts spread throughout the day. This varies with each couple and what they want from their timeline too, but there are some benefits to splitting these up-

  1. the couple isn’t away from their guests for too long at a time
  2. We can capture different light during the day for portraits (aka give me golden hour lighting even just for 5 minutes it’s worth it!)
  3. The portraits tell more of a story throughout the day, you can see the couple before the ceremony, maybe some right after, and then some after dinner in the golden light
  4. It can capture two different dress styles- the train down with veil at the beginning of the day, and then the dress bustled and usually without veil at the golden hour timing.
  5. If the weather is poor for one section of the day’s portraits it evens out to cut that section a bit shorter and get more during the next section (you can tell I work in CO where weather patterns seem to change almost every 15 minutes, that won’t change as much over on the east coast ect) 

So here are some sections of the day where I fit in the couple’s formal portraits-

  • Before the ceremony if not doing a first look we will probably take bride and groom individual photos, this is a great set aside time for those.
  • Then right after the ceremony or during cocktail hour we will take together part one, with train down and veil in
  • Then at golden hour we will take part two with dress bustled and veil out

If they are doing a first look then we can finish part one before the ceremony too and save the cocktail hour for guests mostly and then go out at golden hour again in the evening.

I almost forgot to mention that by splitting this up each section only needs to be about 10-15 minutes to truly get quite a few portraits. Obviously I would love more time with each section but wedding day timelines go quickly. Sometimes I get the couple together for just 15 minutes during the day for portraits and that’s it. I usually work for about 30 minutes total if possible, that’s just my comfort level and I’ve worked with a lot less before too. And this timing is just referring to the couple’s formal portraits, definitely not including bridal party and family in this timing here.

Also I’ve mentioned having the dress bustled for sunset photos, that is because usually I think bustling the dress is a fun almost bonus style for the night. If for some reason you absolutely hated the look of your dress bustled you could schedule in time to take the bustle down and then put it back up again after these photos. Or just leave the dress down until those are taken. Sometimes first dances are hard without a bustle but just something to consider.

Let’s talk location of couple’s portraits. If you’re planning to use your venue then you can listen past this section, but if your wedding is close to another epic location and you want to go off site here are general things to consider-

You have to double your drive time- a 15 minute drive doesn’t sound bad for an epic location right? Well that turns into 30 minutes spent only driving during your wedding day, and if you’re sneaking off site during cocktail hour that only gives your photographer probably about 15 minutes at that location to leave enough time for you to be back and ready to enter the reception so there better not be too much walking involved to/from the portrait location either.

It sounds silly but I try to keep any off site portrait locations to a 5 minute drive from the venue and 15 minutes is my max cap, and I heavily warn couples about how long that will take them out from their guests for the day. Timing is a bit different if your ceremony and reception are in two different locations, and you could also plan an extended cocktail hour so closer to 90 minutes instead of an hour that would give you more time to go off site too. So really you can make just about any location work as long as you pad the timeline with wiggle room for traffic, parking, walking and such. There is no bad decision here, and thinking back I have worked with a couple where we planned their first look at a location that was 45 minutes from their venue before. It was gorgeous and they were very happy about their images in this location that meant so much to them, we just planned in a lot of drive time and made it back in plenty of time for the ceremony. So really there are no wrong answers for where to take your portraits just understanding how it will affect your timeline is helpful.

Let’s chat about golden hour or sunset photos- for years I’ve loved getting photos during the actual sunset, and I still do because in Colorado these are pretty epic. However, a lot of venues or locations really don’t have the biggest sky view for sunset and something about the pre-sunset hour also known as golden hour where the light literally becomes this gorgeous golden color has been more appealing to me lately. This is also better for videographers to capture footage during the golden light since they don’t utilize flash the same way as a photographer would at actual sunset which takes place at almost dark to get the epic colors. And setting aside 15 minutes for golden hour portraits is actually more relaxing than using the color of the sunset as that can fade quickly depending on the day.

Now let’s rewind to earlier in the day when a lot of your other portraits needed to take place. A lot of weddings I photograph we are outside taking portraits in the noon-3pm window. This is the harshest light of the day where there is the least directional light to use. If you’re taking portraits at mid day know two things, it’s possible to get gorgeous images, but you need to be flexible with the direction your photographer needs to have you face. Basically the goal for midday portraits is to put the sunlight behind you, so any direction we have we want the sun as behind you as possible to give even lighting on your face. So if you have a dream portrait location in mind you can definitely tell your photographer where it is, but please be flexible as we might know that the location would suit us much better for the evening portrait timing and earlier in the day would be best for a different location whether near some trees or at the venue building. In general the lighting is changing constantly on wedding days, and the locations we need to use for your portraits might vary between cloudy weather and sunny.

Okay so here are some of my favorite portraits to get during the formals section-


The bride- facing away, showing off the train of her dress, then looking over her shoulder toward the camera. Then facing straight on. Also if the dress has layers that are flowy I love getting the bride to softly wave the layers around her, maybe even twirl. I also like to get some with and without the bouquet.

The groom- facing the camera one hand in pocket looking off, then walking toward the camera. Sitting if the location allows (I probably wouldn’t have a groom sit for photos on anything that might be dirty or get the tux dirty) I also love getting some with his jacket hung over his arm

Then together- my hope is that the couple’s portraits together is a time to both get beautiful  and artistic portraits because that’s why I was hired, but also that there is enough movement and time together not looking at a camera or being completely posed that there are fun memories from that time of the day too. 

If you’re a client of mine you know that I will always start out with a classic smile at the camera shot first. To me the look at the camera picture is actually the most important portrait of the whole day. First, it is the most printed picture (maybe rivaled by immediate family photos printed for parents and grandparents ect) your family members don’t care if you are on a mountain side or in a shed they just want to see the faces of the people they love. Second, it shows exactly who you are in that moment. This is silly but the picture of my husband and I smiling at the camera means so much to me. It has only been 4.5 years and I can already look back and see how young we were. I don’t want to age haha but I know these changes will be more pronounced over the years and somehow I’m excited for that. That photo specifically doesn’t focus on any certain wedding trend it truly just shows you as you. I hope I was able to share my heart well in that, something about those photos resonates deeply with me.

So photos together of the couple- looking at the camera, walking just about anywhere, to, to the side, away. Walking creates so many great candid and genuine feeling moments. Twirling, dip and kiss. For whimsy pick up. Also close huggy type pictures that really showcase the emotion of the two of them together. Oh and veil pictures! Barring hurricane winds I will be getting the couple both under the veil and then usually joining them under myself to get dreamy veil pictures! 

There is so much that goes into telling the couples story during their portraits on the wedding day. Wide open pictures that showcase the environment, full body pictures that showcase their attire and expressions and interactions, and then the tight detail photos of their hands holding or feet walking or cropped hugs and laughs together. 

So I am going to try to think of this from a couple’s perspective and see if I can give you advice about what to expect during your portrait time but also how to relax and get the most from this time with your photographer. I do have to start with my number one tip which was the first piece of advice I shared in this podcast and that is trusting your photographer. First, I hope you’ve hired a photographer that you sincerely trust and are actually excited about their work. If you’re in the hiring stage I’d go back and listen to episode 5 I explained how to choose your wedding photographer, and then in episode 14 I explained why trusting your vendors is so so important so I’ve actually already touched on this topic and I don’t want to bore anyone but if there’s anything I’ve learned in the last several years of photographing weddings is that trust makes the whole day and process better for both the couple and the photographer. And trust needs to be earned by the photographer for sure. I’m not saying that you should blindly trust a vendor if they don’t show up for you in the process like your had hoped or the communication has been broken or slow or just not what was promised. So whether that means having a phone call or a detailed email thread with your photographer beforehand or maybe they have been amazing through your whole process and you’re just excited to work with them.

I think out of all the portraits the portraits of the wedding day couple are the most quiet moments and it’s key to be able to open up, be yourself and relax with your photographer there with you.

So tips to relax while you’re taking your formal couple’s portraits- first just take a breath. Your day has probably been fast paced up to this point, and you might have not gotten too much time with your person alone just yet. So take a breath and let that be a reminder to yourself of how far you’ve made it from your relationship and just the wedding day to this point. Taking a moment to feel grateful will lighten the mood and ease your nerves if you have any.

Next, take a second to look at your spouse (or spouse to be if your portraits are pre-ceremony) and be grateful to be standing by their side and experiencing this together. If you want to feel sappy realize that this is the first day of your new chapter and this is the hand you’ll hold for years and years to come. 

Okay, so you’ve taken a moment and you trust your photographer. That’s a pretty darn good start. The next is just about cliche too, but try to have fun. Keep the grateful heart going and put aside any fears of running behind or the weather or anyone’s expectations. Work to stay present in that moment and let it be fun! Enjoy being taken around a beautiful location and helped into poses that make you feel gorgeous/handsome. Enjoy looking into the eyes of the person you love when the photographer directs you to.

Honestly if you can breathe, be grateful and present in the moment and embrace the joy or fun you’re probably already set up for amazing portraits. 

I know some of you out there are practical like me so here is the tangible advice (even though I think breathing is pretty darn tangible too haha)

Stand tall, not stiff there’s no need to over arch anything to strain to be taller than you are, but stand tall in a confident way. 

For the guy- standing tall at a relaxed stance so feet hip width apart, not feet stuffed together side by side like we didn’t give you enough space to stand. Standing feet comfortably apart, breathe in to open up your chest which will pull your shoulders back (not exaggerated like like let me puff out my chest here) but just a comfortable open stance. The photographer will tell you what to do with hands (My own personal preference – I hate hate hate the soccer stance of hands folded in front. I don’t see men standing like that in any other circumstance it just feels unnatural. So I prefer one or both hands in pockets, or a hand that hooks right above where the suit jacket buttons. Also, when putting a hand in pocket you only want to put it in the pocket slightly to where your elbow is still bent and not smashed to your side. We never want to create a boxy formless figure so having your elbow slightly bent from your side creates shape and helps you take up space and have form. Basically if you can’t tell by standing with your feet apart and arms not smashed to your sides we just want to give you room to stand tall and relaxed. Basically confident. And lastly leaning slightly on to one leg more than the other to promote the relaxed stance. Not the crazy girly lean on one leg and push a hip out, but if you think about it you probably don’t stand 100% evenly all the time. 

So to recap for the guys:

  • feet comfortably apart
  • hand lightly in pocket keeping elbow bent
  • taking a breath in to increase your posture
  • slightly pull back your shoulders and opening your chest

For the girl- stand comfortably, if it’s a fitted dress I would probably say feet close together and leaning on one hip/leg will help your figure pop in your dress. Here is where a more dramatic hip out will compliment your dress choice! And if it’s a flowy dress stand comfy whatever that looks like for you. You will stand up tall, also not over doing it but just like a string is pulling you straight up from your middle section along your backbone to your head stretching up but not straining or over doing it. No stiff angles needed. 

Now one of the best kept secrets for brides and posing, we want to also use your arms to create space and line in the portrait. So whether you’re holding your bouquet or not don’t smash your arms to your sides. Open up your elbows slightly to the camera, but hold on we aren’t going to power hand on hip angles either. To me a strong hand on hip and elbow straight out to side actually distracts from the image creating harsh lines that lead away from the face. So imagine that your elbow is pointing toward something 45 degrees behind you. Not straight back losing your arm, and not a wing straight out to your side, but a relaxed angle. If you aren’t holding a bouquet relax your arms to your side then bring your hands up several inches to where they are gently resting on your thigh. This will still create space between your arms and your waist but isn’t as dramatic as a hand on hip. (If you can’t tell I will basically never direct a bride to put her hand on her hip. It’s too dramatic feeling for me personally) 

Now for angle I always try to remember to ask the bride if she has a preferred side, sometimes you just know you have a side you like to use for pictures more than the other. No pressure to, but if a bride does have a preferred side I will angle her just slightly to where that side is favoring the camera and then for a few of the closer shots I will have the bride lean at her hip just slightly toward the camera. What that does is pulls her face closer and her waist farther from the image and creates more interest.

Last piece of practical posing advice for the bride is about holding your bouquet. The goal is for your bouquet to add to your look, not block the entire front section and neckline of your dress. So if you’re ordering the oversized messy style bouquet, yes it will be beautiful, and yes you are going to get a good arm workout in for the day. Depending on the size of the bouquet you will want to hold it right around your belly button or lower. Bouquets have this magical power of creeping up to where the flowers can end up right under your chin haha but you chose your dress probably partially for the neckline and we don’t want to block that the whole day either. I am constantly asking brides and bridesmaids to lower their bouquets, it’s not to be annoying but to keep the flowers from blocking their dress and faces in the portraits. Also a tip to really show off the flowers, angle your bouquet slightly out toward the camera, just slightly not straight out, but this will emphasize the blooms more than the stems.

So a recap for the girls-

  • stand tall
  • If the dress is fitted accent leaning on one hip, if it’s flowy just stand comfortably tall
  • Keep arms slightly relaxed away from body
  • Hold the bouquet low enough to show the neckline of your dress

Okay so now on to my final practical posing advice for the couple’s portraits of the day- 

You are going to do everything slowly. Not because our cameras can’t capture motion or handle movement, we actually want you all to move for your images where the pose allows because movement creates genuine interaction and moments, but doing things slowly allows the photographer as an artist to capture multiple angles of a pose and dive in to being creative. So when your photographer tells you to look at each other or talk and laugh together take your time doing so, maybe even sneak in some forehead or cheek kisses while you’re at it. It’s easy to not relax into that moment and then you end up looking back to the photographer in 15 seconds and surprise we ask you to look back at each other for a while longer. 

I’ve been trying to think of fun ways to help couples relax and enjoy these moments and I think a little game like see who can keep eye contact the longest, but not like an intense staring contest because we want your eyes to look normal and happy not strained in the pictures haha. Basically if we ask you to look at each other relax into that moment as much as possible with eye contact and laughs, as the photographer we would rather interrupt the moment of eye contact to move you into the next pose rather than ask you to do that again if you break eye contact too soon.

Also, if we ask you to talk together think short and happy phrases that will make you laugh and smile. I love creating moments for my couples to have actual conversations but if they turn low key serious faces they can look upset toward each other. I think a fun challenge when you’re looking toward each other would be to whisper sweet compliments toward each other to get the other person to smile and just have a compliment exchanging competition. 

Also any time your photographer asks you to kiss think of a long peck. This isn’t the time to test our camera shutter speed and speed kiss, because yes we will probably miss the actual kiss moment and ask you to do that again, but on the other side this also isn’t the time for a deep make out session. To put it memorably, tongues don’t photograph well friends. There I said it, we can awkward laugh and move on haha. Thankfully even though it’s your wedding day not all of your portraits will be kissing photos so don’t put pressure on yourselves there! Also I love some good cheek and forehead kisses as fun alternatives or variations to actual kiss photos too.

Your photographer will direct the finer details, the little things like when you do give a kiss having one or both arms around each other instead of hands In pockets ect. 

Also, try to remember if you do feel odd or awkward in a pose that the photographer is the one who directed you there so it’s not your fault!

Ahh I almost forgot the MOST important couple posing detail! If you are giving a kiss, either on the lips or a cheek kiss or forehead kiss and you are the kisser- close your eyes. There’s no need for you to turn your head and give your partner a cheek kiss while making side eye contact at the camera. And real kisses with open eyes look creepy. Yes creepy. Please close your eyes.

So a recap of the couple’s posing advice:

  • Do everything slowly, your photographer will direct you from place to place enjoy the moments together
  • Do everything happily (laughs and smiles)
  • Kisses become long pecks, or repeat smiley kisses work well too
  • Close your eyes when kissing

So that’s my advice on wedding portraits! Whew. I imagine that this will have been my longest podcast episode to date, which isn’t that surprising as I am a photographer who has a lot of advice to give about portraits. I am sure one day I will do a follow up episode about posing and portraits. I do have an episode planned for later this year to talk about engagement portraits too. I can’t believe I’ve talked you through over half of the wedding day now. These episodes have been so fun to write and think through myself as I prepare to dive into another beautiful and full wedding season here in the next month. (Shout out to my 2022 clients I am ready for you!) So thanks for listening to another episode, as always if this was helpful to you I’d love to know, and share this with a friend if you think they’d like this too. If you ever have a minute to leave a rating and review (I think you can review on apple podcasts and rate on Spotify) I would so appreciate it.


Taylor Nicole

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