9 Steps to Photographing Large Bridal Parties

Peggy Farren 2014-07-13

by Peggy Farren

Large bridal parties make for really fun photographs but it sure is tough to manage that many people – and in a very limited amount of time!! As the professional photographer, you must quickly pose everyone, get your lighting right and make it fun!

Here are some tips to make the most of the bridal shoot:

  1. Plan your poses ahead of time. This doesn't mean you can't go with the flow if new poses come to you. Do a little research, pin several poses or print off a few to refer to that day. That way if your mind goes blank, you will have a reminder. I personally print off a piece of paper with several poses but you can also keep them on your phone using Pinterest.

  2. Make sure you've set the expectations with the bride ahead of time. If she only gives you 30 minutes for formals, has a large family and large bridal party, make sure she knows it's not enough time to get the fun poses she hopes for. Managing expectations is an important part of your job as a wedding photographer.

  3. Don't try to go it alone. Bring an assistant to help with the lighting and posing. An assistant can look for problems that you may not see while you are busy posing.

  4. Be bossy but fun and friendly! Getting 15 people to listen to you is not easy! But it's a wedding so it's your responsibility to make things as much fun as possible! I have little things I say: To the groom if his fingers are on the bride's waist: “Are you married to this woman? I want your hand right on her rear end!” They laugh and I don't have those little fingers darting out. To the groomsmen, “It's just not the time and place to have your hands on your privates”. To the bridesmaids, “Ladies, lower the bouquets. Soft arms are pretty arms.” If you are new, start writing things down that you might say. Writing things down helps you remember.

  5. Bring a big light or multiple speedlights. To evenly light 15 or more people, one little speedlight is not going to cut it. And don't even get me started on using natural light! You will need to find some really perfect open shade, which is very unlikely at a wedding.

  6. Stagger the heads for pleasing poses.

Large Bridal Parties OReilly

We usually start with traditional poses. Two speedlights, one on each side, pointing in a bit. Camera set for background.

Large bridal parties Prchal3
Large bridal party Prchal1

We do at least two poses here: everyone looking at the camera and then everyone looking at the bride and groom as they kiss. If you can vary the poses slightly without moving the people much, you can give the client more beautiful photographs. Two speedlights, camera set to background for the blue sky.

Large bridal parties meile2
Get in closer! Closer! Closer!! You have to really push the people sometimes. While you are smiling of course!

Photographing large bridal parties Brown jumping

We brought our Alien Bee 1600 with the Vagabond battery for this wedding. The lighting was brutal 3 hours before sunset so we needed a LOT of light power! This isn't the greatest pose since there are people hidden in the back. They were having so much fun and got out of control. I was so far back that they couldn't hear me. But this is a cool shot since that is the GROOM jumping that high!

Large bridal party Perry ladies
The gals all crowded together on this picnic table for a fun pose! One camera speedlight.

 Your assistant can help make sure everyone is posed correctly. It's tough to look at everything at once! One on camera speedlight with no diffuser. On such an overcast day, I could get away with only one light.

Your assistant can help make sure everyone is posed correctly. It's tough to look at everything at once! One on camera speedlight with no diffuser. On such an overcast day, I could get away with only one light.

Large bridal party Perry men2
If you have shade or an overcast day, you may be able to get by with an on camera speedlight. Just make sure you are getting enough ambient light so your background doesn't go too dark.

Large bridal party
Two speedlights on manual, RF trigger, camera metered and set for the background.

Large bridal parties Meile 3
Rain forces you to come up with more ideas.

large bridal party stassen
Pouring rain forced us to look for pretty areas to photograph.

7. Ask the bride and groom if they have anything in mind. The following poses were ideas that came from the clients.

Large bridal parties Jabaay3

The ladies came up with this pose!

Put your own spin on the pose to make it your own. The bride came up with having the ladies stand behind her. I had the bridesmaids put up their bouquets.

Large bridal parties Meile 4
Open poses work really well with large bridal parties.

Large Bridal party Atkinson 5
The groomsmen came up with this pose.

8. Use props and whatever you have around!

Large bridal party Atkinson 3
Use what you've got. This country club had the perfect stairway for this pose.

Large bridal party props
They brought their own props.

Large bridal party Rose
This is an oldie when selective coloring was in style. :) I looked down, saw that huge bouquet and this pose popped into my mind.

Large bridal party Perry men

This porch was awesome for an open pose!

9. Network with other wedding photographers in your area and assist often! Watch how they manage the people and situations. I assisted different photographers at least a couple times a year well into my 11th year in business. I worked for free so they loved it. I made new friends who continue to refer business to me, and I learned first hand by watching them.

Large bridal party Meile 7

This was tough to get all the faces. I measured the light and set my camera settings to the back so the attendants way in the back would not be too dark. We used our Alien Bee 1600 light at the lowest power and pulled back quite a bit to light the couple.

Large bridal party Perry

Stagger the people and have fun! Two speedlights.

Large bridal parties Perry 1
Another porch, another pose!

Mix fun poses with traditional poses.
Mix fun poses with traditional poses.

I was a bit too close so the proportions are off but it's a fun pose!
I was a bit too close so the proportions are off but it's a fun pose!

Encourage the group to be as silly as possible for some poses!

~Peggy Farren has been a wedding and portrait photographer for 16 years. She also runs Southwest Florida's largest photography training center, Understand Photography. This will take you to all three of her websites: www.NaplesPortraits.com

If you have trouble understanding how to set your camera settings to the background, and/or how to use flash on or off camera, we offer an online course called "Four Weeks to Proficiency in Photography". You'll become a very solid photographer at the end of just four weeks by taking this course! Email us at info@understandphotography.com for a discount code.

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