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Elyssa Explains

September 18, 2017

Bridal Portraits | Elyssa Explains

Bridal Portraits – what even are they?

We did some bridal portraits last weekend and I can’t wait to share them after Courtney & Ben’s wedding. Since I can’t share them yet, I thought I’d explain a little bit about the purpose of bridal portraits.
When people notice bridal portraits in our offerings, the responses we get are pretty fascinating. There is a subset of brides (especially in the South) who come to us knowing they want bridal portraits, and a few who know what they are, but don’t want them. Most people though, see “Bridal Portraits” and go, “huh?”

So, what are bridal portraits?

Bridal Portraits
There was a point in time, not thaaaat long ago, when bridal portraits were a studio production. Bride in her dress in front of a painted backdrop with hot lights burning down on her to get that one full length classic pose. While some photographers still do that, our approach to bridal portraits is more similar to the approach we take with engagement sessions: we want the bridal portrait session to suit you. We’ll pick a location together, make sure you’re comfortable, and the end result will be a variety of images of you looking AMAZING. Everything from full length classic portraits to details of your dress to dramatic jaw-dropper fine-art images.
But Elyssa, aren’t you going to take pictures of me on the wedding day? 
Yes, we always suggest time for solo portraits on the wedding day.
Then Elyssa, why do I need a separate session for bridal portraits? 
Well you don’t *need* it at all, but you may *want* a bridal portrait session because of the possibilities it opens up. The images in this post are all from bridal portrait sessions, and not all of them would have been possible on the wedding day. These are the main reasons I see for having bridal portraits made:
  1. Time
  2. Comfort
  3. Perfecting your look
  4. Location control
  5. Images on the wedding day
Let’s break these down —>


This is the most compelling reason in my opinion. I pride myself on being a fantastic timeline manager on the wedding day, but even I face weddings where the time crunch requires cutting things from the timeline. Inevitably the thing that gets cut is portrait time. That means we may only have 5 minutes for solo portraits of the bride, and it may be 5 minutes when the sun is incredibly harsh and guests are arriving so we are limited to one location. We can and will make a beautiful portrait in those circumstances, but wouldn’t it be nice to have more options/locations/looks?
Simply put, bridal portraits give us more time. More time for photos is always a good thing in my book, and a bridal portrait session provides that extra time, including time to get a little more dramatic and detailed than we can with the time crunch of a wedding day.
Dramatic bridal portraits


Do you feel awkward in front of the camera? I know I do, and that’s part of why I stay behind it! (shhh)
Okay, do you think Chrissy Teigen feels awkward in front of the camera? I’d be willing to bet that it’s pretty routine for her by now, so she just rolls with it most days, but I’d also bet that she feels most comfortable when she’s working with a photographer she’s worked with before.
The first chunk of the bridal portrait session is all about establishing that sort of comfort. It will feel awkward at first (you’re in a wedding dress and having your picture taken), but after a little while you’ll start to relax. I’ll also be coaching you on techniques to make sure that you’re looking your best. We’re trying things out a little and seeing what fits, so that you can end up with photos you love. We can take that “getting comfortable” time at a bridal portrait session because we have a couple of hours. On the wedding day, you’re thrown into it. There isn’t always time for 15 minutes of relaxing, posing tips, getting comfortable, etc.
Haywood Hall Wedding Photographer

Perfecting your look.

Are you going to have a final dress fitting before the wedding? What about a hair and makeup trial? Trial bouquet? I definitely recommend those to make sure you have the look you want for your wedding. If you’re doing all those trials anyway, why not schedule them to line up with bridal portraits? That way you’ll know exactly how your wedding day style photographs, how easy it is to move around in your dress, how long it takes to button up, etc. Also, if you’re not 100% in love with any style components (maybe the eye makeup is a teeny bit too dark, the flowers not quite right), you still have time to make adjustments. We had a bride do two hairstyles during her bridal portraits so she could decide which she preferred in photos.
Durham Bridal Portraits

Location Control

Some brides have their bridal portrait session at their wedding venue, but you don’t have to. Maybe you’re in love with another location but they don’t do weddings, or it’s too small to accommodate your guests. We can even do more than one location in some circumstances. Another note about control: bridal portraits can be rescheduled, weddings typically can’t. So if you aren’t the type to run out in the pouring rain, the bridal portrait session gives you a little more control over the weather conditions for images.
What's a bridal portrait session?
Reasons to get bridal portraits

Images on the wedding day:

This is probably the most common reason given for having bridal portraits, but to me it’s one of the least compelling. (It’s probably just my own insecurity speaking, but I didn’t want a photo of just me at our wedding (we had some of both of us though)) Most of my brides are more confident than I am however, and several of them had their gorgeous faces on display. Everyone could ooh and aah and talk about how gorgeous the bride looked. It will probably make you feel like a movie star. It’s your wedding day, you deserve to be ooohed and ahhhed over.
But, even if you don’t want a big canvas on display at the reception, there are still opportunities to incorporate your bridal portraits at the wedding. You could mix them in with engagement photos in the guest book. Another idea, which is my personal favorite, is to give your brand new spouse a framed picture of you in your wedding dress as a wedding gift. That way they’ll have a gorgeous keepsake even before I get you the sneak peek images from the wedding itself.
Do I need bridal portraits?
There you have it – some great reasons to have bridal portraits. I hope you understand a little more about the purpose of bridal portraits now, even if you still don’t want them (and that’s obviously okay too!!!!).
– E
One more pretty bridal portrait to wrap things up: Raleigh Bridal Portrait
  1. […] looks ahead to the ceremony, let’s take a quick jump back for some of my favorites from her bridal portraits at the Bicentennial Gardens in Greensboro and the Biltmore Greensboro…   Back […]