January 25, 2016

5 Steps to Your Best Bridal Portraits Ever


The dress goes on. The shoes are fastened. The bridesmaids clap. And now you have only 5-10 minutes to pose that iconic shot of the bride (or what we have dubbed The Iconic Bridal Portrait) that will stand the test of time and be passed down for generations to come, all before the limo has to leave. Noooo pressure! :) In those moments, it’s so easy to panic, or freeze up, or forget every pose you ever knew.

But that’s where we come in to help & there is good news!! That’s because we believe the real secret to getting those amazing, iconic, stunning images of the bride by herself – those images that reflect grace and elegance, love and anticipation, and are the ones her granddaughter will look at one day- it has so much less to do with “posing” the bride into some pretty, perfect, Pinterest version of what a bride’s portrait are supposed to look like. And it has everything to do with finding ways to evoke natural gesture- those organic movements that breathe life into a photo, and bring candidness and honesty to images in a way that make them feel like they could be an actual portal in time to who this bride really was on Day 1 of her marriage….rather than just a carbon copy of every other bridal portrait ever taken.

That’s because when it comes to posing, what we believe is simple: when you get people moving, when you give them something to think about other than having their photo taken, when you give them projects and things to do with their hands….that honest, natural, spontaneous, imperfect, but it shows-who-they-actually-are result will ALWAYS be far more beautiful than something overly posed to stiff, static, often-duplicated perfection. Because simply put, we believe honest will always trump perfect.

Ok, so if movement and natural gesture is where it’s at, then how do we as the photographers go about pulling that out in our brides? I’m so glad you asked! Because here are our Top 5 Tips for Creating Gesture & Your Best Bridal Portraits Ever!



1. Have Her Count the Layers of Her Dress. I have them count the layers up. I have them count the layers down. I have them count them fast. I have them count them in slow motion. And in doing so we create all of this natural reach, natural bends of the arm, angles of the chin, expressions, and honest moments. And it’s a beautiful thing. Plus I can either bring the energy of the portrait up or down (from quiet grace to infectious joy) just based on how fast I have her count & the energy of my voice as I’m coaching her.



2. Have Her Trace the Edge of the Neckline or Hemline of Her Dress. It gives her something to do with her hands, creates a very soft, intimate portrait, and is much more authentic than just having her rest a hand on a shoulder & stare off in the distance. That movement, even if you can’t see it…you can feel it. And if you ask her to count the number of scallops or beads on the neckline, it gives her one more thing to think about other than having her picture taken.



3. Have Her Put Her Earrings In, Play With An Earring, Or Trace the Back of Her Neck. Again it’s all about giving her something to do with her hands, and the action in these prompts keeps infusing that movement that you can feel when you look at the image.



4. Have Her Lift and Place Her Veil a Few Times. Ohhhh this one is SO great for creating movement, natural reach of the arm, and SO much energy & anticipation in the image. We always just keep a rule not to ask her to do it more than three or so times, so that the repetition of taking her veil on & off doesn’t become the thing that she remembers, but rather what it felt like as she was about to go get married.



5. Have Her Adjust the Strap on Her Shoe. Have her reach to adjust the strap, have her take it off and put it back on once (if it’s an easy slip on shoe), have her cross one leg over the other as she reaches for the toes. In all of these, we will get some beautiful reaches, some gorgeous angles of the chin, some stunning slices of life. Again, just like above, we really limit this to usually only one-two times so the memory doesn’t become “that time I had to take my shoe off a hundred times!” :)


And the best part about all of these is that they allow ROOM for each bride to interpret them a little differently, and in doing so to show us who she really is. This means 1) that the outcomes & results are limitless rather than every portrait looking exactly the same and 2) we are using our “posing” to create honest glimpses of who this person really was and to preserve that in photos for a lifetime to come.

Ok that’s it!! I hope you found these helpful….give them a try at your next wedding & in the mean time, practice on a friend! :)


**PS: If this approach to posing, the one that believes in 1) creating opportunities for people to show who they really are, 2) that movement & gesture & candidness are so much better than stiff, static posing and 3) that imperfect, honest & beautiful will always TRUMP pretty, posed & perfect then our Art of Authentic Posing Course is probably for YOU! 

This is over 4 HOURS of teaching from us on everything that goes into posing the bride alone, groom alone, couple together, wedding party & even our approach to the family photos. You first get to see us teach all of the principles (including our 10 core poses that can turn into literally hundreds of different authentic results) and then you get to watch as we put them into practice ourselves with a real couple & wedding party. **AND, when you sign up today it’s $100 off in our J&M Store!! 


  1. Nicki

    thankyou, Thankyou THANKYOU! Always love more ways to get that beautiful image. You guys rock!

  2. Nicole

    Love, love, love these tips. Doing a wedding next week and love getting ideas for beautiful, graceful, not posed-poses

  3. Abby Grace

    Mary this is SUCH a helpful blog post!! I love that you all push for gesture above posing- that makes all the difference in the world. And I am TOTALLY using the “trace the neckline or hem with your fingers” thing- that’s genius! Thank you so much for sharing such valuable information for FREE!

  4. Allison

    How lovely! I am storing these tips away for my next portrait session! Love what you said about the results being different with each bride’s interpretation :) Thank you!

  5. Rebecca Nash-Emerson

    Ok, Justin & Mary – you guys are doing it again. Being just amazing.
    These tips are so simple and actionable but make so much sense in making a real impact on the results of the bridal portrait. Thank you for continuing to share with us!

  6. Tricia

    This was very straightforward and helpful! Great tips–thank you!!

  7. Tanya Greene

    Thank you so much for this! Your blog is beautiful and the information inside is wonderful :)

  8. Brittany

    Great tips!

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