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The wedding industry is more competitive than ever and differentiating yourself from others in your market is crucial. In my latest blog post I’ll share with you my approach to modern bridal portraiture as originally demonstrated at WPPI earlier this year.

Introduction

If you open up any bridal magazine, you’ll see page after page of ads from various dress makers, jewelers, etc. Those ads are often times what brides will use as inspiration to go out and buy a particular dress or product. Imagine if you can easily craft high quality portraits, similar to what they are seeing in magazines? This is my inspiration when crafting a modern bridal portrait, making brides look like they stepped off the pages of a magazine!

Making Modern Bridal PortraitsPhoto Courtesy of Miguel Quiles

In my own studio this is a “top shelf” product, meaning that it’s one of the more expensive portrait options. It’s not for everyone, as it can require lots of studio prep as well as extensive post processing of the images. With that said, let’s go through the various elements I use to create these portraits.

Equipment

For the purposes of this article I will give you my most versatile, simple setups. They require what I believe to be the least amount of gear possible to attain the look we’re going for. You can definitely add different lights/modifiers/etc to add your own unique touch but you may be surprised to see that you can get great images using only one light! Here is a list and explanation of what you’ll need.

Background

To begin, you need a backdrop. I love using Black, White, and Fashion Gray seamless paper in studio. Using seamless paper goes a long way in creating that magazine look we’re going for. 

Making Modern Bridal PortraitsPhoto Courtesy of Miguel Quiles 

Background Stand

I use the multiple polevault stand from Savage in my own studio and have it already loaded up with my 3 favorite colors of seamless so I can quickly change colors when necessary. 

Light Stand

I prefer using a C-stand with a boom arm so I can place my light in front of and above my subject. In all of the example images in this article this was my setup.

Strobe

There are a variety of lights you can use to complete this look, but I typically use either an AB800 from Paul C Buff or an Einstein.

Modifiers

Depending on how clear the subjects skin is, I go between using a beauty dish (if they have very clear skin) or an octobox (for “problem” skin). Using the appropriate light given your subjects skin condition will make your job so much easier in post processing. The larger modifiers give you a softer quality of light that gives you that Photoshopped look straight out of camera!

Making Modern Bridal PortraitsPhoto Courtesy of Miguel Quiles

Triggers

You will need triggers to fire your strobes. I use the Pocket Wizard Plus III and X units currently but just about any system out there will do. 

Setup & Settings

Once you have everything set up and your bride ready to be photographed it’s time to get to shooting! I tend to place my subject 6 feet or more away from the background with my light source in front and slightly above them. In camera, my settings usually start out the same: F11, 1/125-1/200, ISO 100. After firing a test shot or two I will make the decision of whether I need more or less light and make adjustments to my aperture and strobe power until I get the look I want. If you want more light on the background you can simply move your subject and lighting closer to it, or just light the background separately.

Cropping

It’s very important to employ a variety of different crops in your shoot. I always shoot a full body shot so you can see the entire dress (usually shot while I’m sitting on the ground to make the subject look taller and more elegant), and then mix in some ¾ length and closeup shots to show off details.

Making Modern Bridal PortraitsPhoto Courtesy of Miguel Quiles

Finding Inspiration

I typically draw my inspiration from seeing ads in bridal & fashion magazines. If I come across one that has an element that I really like (pose, lighting, etc) I’ll usually save it on my tablet and use it as reference during my photo shoot since it’s often easier to show a bride the pose you’re going for rather than explaining it. As you do more of these types of shoots you’ll find yourself becoming more creative and finding that inspiration within.

Be Creative

While the approach I detailed above may work best in a studio environment, you can craft this style of portrait just about anywhere with the right gear. For example, you can use a collapsible background and set it up in a hotel room to create beautiful portraits on the go!

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