Never leave a wedding without a good selection of wonderful images of the bride. There are typically many requirements placed upon a wedding photographer's shoulders, but none is more important than good pictures of the bride. Bridal portraits can be created before, during or after the wedding day, but in many cases the only opportunities will be at the bride's home as she prepares to leave for the ceremony or between the ceremony and the wedding breakfast. Studio portraits are normally only possible at a dedicated appointment and in an appropriate studio-type location.
This type of image is all about style and elegance, and it is easy to be distracted by the beauty of a bride's wedding gown and accessories. However, the photographer should never lose sight of the real subject - the natural beauty of the bride in her magnificent wedding gown. It is generally good practice to create a variety of different shots from a number of angles and distances. Try to include full length, three-quarter length, half-length and head-and-shoulders images both with and without the bridal bouquet. If possible, ask the bride to step outside into an appropriately shaded location in her garden, or capture her back-lit so that her hair glows with golden light. In full-length shots, ensure that the wedding gown flows in a natural manner, and do not hesitate to pick up the train or lower areas and let them fall naturally in to place. If necessary, ask the bride to take a step or two forward to achieve a graceful position for the folds of the gown. Under no circumstances should the lower part of the gown, or the train, be cut out of the image. This can be done later by cropping where required, but missing sections are more or less impossible to replace.
Since wedding gowns are often white, or off-white, a photographer must always be aware of the possibility of over-exposing the whites - or "blowing out the highlights". This is most likely to occur when the bride is standing in direct sunlight. Light meters can be fooled into over-exposing a bride's dress, so check histograms and be prepared to compensate where necessary. Soft lighting is the safest option, and therefore the one commonly chosen by wedding photographers. Look for shaded areas or soft window light where net curtains may act as diffusers. Contrast must be controlled and limited to a range that the camera can handle, but do not let this get in the way of trying more adventurous shots where the bride is in the full sun. In the latter case, it may even be possible to take a second shot exposed exclusively for the dress, and then use Photoshop to sort it all out. The result, effectively a simple high-dynamic range image, may be stunning and much more appealing than a shade picture.