From planning to posing to keeping your sanity, here’s everything you need to know about taking wedding party photos. (Featuring EASTERDAY CREATIVE, LOVE IS GREATER PHOTOGRAPHY, and SARAH JAY PHOTOGRAPHY)
Everything You Need to Know About Wedding Party Photo Ideas
The wedding party photos are some of the most challenging images you’ll make at a wedding. In a wedding, it’s not uncommon to have ten minutes to wrangle twenty semi-sober adults into some semblance of order. Oh! And keep it fun, and make sure everyone is smiling, and catch everyone’s eyes open, and show off the flowers, and watch the bride’s train, the flower girls, and… well, there’s a ton of stuff to remember in a wedding, and you now have 38 seconds to actually take the bridal party shot.
Because the wedding party pictures are such an important part of most wedding celebrations, we put together this guide to making great bridal party portraits.
Part One: Plan and Prepare
These bridal party planning hints and tips help to ensure fun, stress-free wedding party photo ideas – for your clients and you!
#1: You’re Literally Photographing Strangers
“You’ve probably developed a relationship with the bride and groom, but you’re technically just a stranger to their friends and family,” says Las Vegas photographer Sarah Jay – which is pretty weird when you think about the importance of the wedding day. That’s why you need to have your game face on at bridal party portrait time. You have mere minutes to warm everyone up, convince them to pay attention to you, and make album-worthy photos of the wedding party. You’ve got this!
#2: Get Your Plan in Place
If you want the wedding photos to go smoothly, you have to plan your bridal party ahead. “We talk with our couples before the wedding day to let them know how long photos should take and when will work best in their timeline,” shares Ohio photographer Stacey Carter of Love is Greater Photography. This means communicating about:
- how many people are in the wedding party
- which groupings and / or poses matter to the bride and groom for the photos of the wedding party
- where the wedding photos will take place
- how long your clients can reasonably expect these wedding photos to take
Our FREE Wedding Timeline Planner can help you get the details you need!
#3: Big Parties Require Even Bigger Planning
Be honest: your ideal bridal party only has two bridesmaids, two groomsmen, a flower girl and a ring bearer, no kids, and *maybe* a couple of llamas. Alas, wedding photographers don’t get to pick the bridal party. We simply swallow our panic when our clients tell us how a mere 48 of their “closest friends” will stand with them at their wedding. (Oh, and 11 nieces and nephews, none of whom are old enough to arrive without grape juice on their faces. It’s gonna be great.)
When you have a huge bridal party to contend with, you have to invest extra planning your wedding party photo ideas, because this throng of besties won’t all fit on the church dais, let alone in one limo. When discussing wedding party photo ideas, find out:
- Who are the best man/woman and maid/man of honor? You’ll want to pose them close to the bride and groom on the big day.
- Are there any siblings or other relatives in the bridal party?
- Any couples among the wedding crew?
Take tons of notes, and take the time to consider posing possibilities and your wedding party photo ideas well-before photo time.
#4: Know Everyone’s Names
“Learn their names!” advises Sarah. “Knowing names will make the wedding party feel important, too.”
It’s easy to make note of names and relationships during the planning phase of your wedding party photo ideas. Then, during the wedding, strive to call people by name as much as possible. If you’re especially bad at remembering names, nicknames can do the trick; just take Sarah’s advice to “know your audience.” Some people love being called “sweetie;” others might find it awkward or offensive. However you handle your bridal party, show each person in the wedding respect, and have fun!
#5: Photograph the Kids First
Kids – especially young kids – have approximately no attention span when it comes time for family and photos on a bridal party. Arguably, it’s harder to get a drunk groomsman to look at the camera than it is to wrangle a toddler at a wedding, but that’s not the point. In a bridal party session, what matters is that you get the kids in and out as quickly as possible so they can take a bathroom break and squeeze in a much-needed nap.
Prioritize which wedding photos of the bridal party must include the kiddos, and take those bridal party pictures first!
#6: Are Your Clients Formal or Fun?
In a wedding, some of the fanciest folks you ever photograph will be the most irreverent, while your laid-back, salt-of-the-earth clients may surprise you with their formality. But the way someone behaves isn’t always a great indicator of how they’d like to be seen. Have conversations ahead of time about what your clients want their photos on their bridal party to look like.
This is also a great time to ask for example bridal party images. Remind your clients that you don’t ever duplicate another wedding party photographer’s work, but that seeing the kinds of wedding party photos ideas they’re attracted to will help you create the right wedding party vibe with your own wedding party images on that day.
#7: Watch Out for Awkward Pairings
If you’ve never accidentally posed a divorced couple side-by-side for a group wedding photo, you haven’t lived.
But really: posing faux pas are easy to encounter when you’re wrangling a mob of strangers at a wedding. The rule of thumb: never assume to know who anyone is. That young lady may actually be the groom’s new stepmom. And those howling hyenas may, in fact, be the bride’s nephews. You just never know.
Before the day of the wedding, ask preemptively if there are any couples among your bridal party so you can pose partners together. And, in your wedding party planning phase, ask the couple:
- “Are there any people who should not be posed together?”
- “Do I need to be sensitive to any deaths or divorces among the portrait groupings?”
These simple questions will help you avoid any embarrassment or discomfort in the wedding party.
#8: Explain What’s Going On
Let the group in on your wedding photo idea, and show them the results! “If you know you just got some ‘group magic’ in your camera, share it with the wedding party,” Sarah recommends. “This will develop trust between you and the group, and they will be even more responsive to your direction as you proceed.”
#9: Take Charge
During the bridal party photos is no time to blend in and be a fly on the wall. You have to take charge!
“Being a Las Vegas wedding photographer, I get my fair share of drunken groomsmen and selfie queens for bridesmaids!” laughs Sarah. “Find a balance between being a playful photographer and one who can reign them in when time is of the essence or attitudes are not their best.”
Sarah also advises wedding photographers to communicate with both honesty and humor. “Don’t be afraid to call them out and remind them, ‘I can fix a lot in Photoshop, but I can’t fix your facial expression!’ ” As long as you know your audience and can laugh at the situation, people will respond in kind.
#10: Stay On Top of the Details
“It will only take a minute or two to make sure the little things are perfect, but that effort will truly make your images stand out!” says Sarah.
She recommends keeping an eye out for errant hairs, backwards necklaces, crooked ties, falling boutonnieres, off-kilter bouquets, and those pesky black hair ties so many women wear on their wrists. Most imperfections will go unnoticed in the final photo, but the wedding party will appreciate your effort!
#11: Keep the Energy Flowing
“We want to show personalities in the images – and we want the wedding party to have a blast!” shares Stacey. “We’ve been known to bring along a portable speaker and put on some jams to give the group something to dance to. Of course we deliver some traditional, ‘everyone smile at the camera’ images, but we always encourage the party to have a little fun too!”
Part Two: Wedding Party Poses
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You just have to get some great wedding photos of your clients’ best friends looking fabulous! Here are some tried-and-true setups to inspire you.
#1: Mix and Match
Instead of posing all the dress-wearers on one side and all the suit-wearers on the other, mix and match your wedding party people for a more interesting look. Be sure to ask if there are any couples among the crew so you can pose partners together.
#2: Keep ’em Moving
Who says wedding party portraits have to be stiff and formal? Get your wedding party to walk, skip, jump, or just snuggle “close-close-CLOSER!” until you get great photographs of huge smiles and authentic connection.
#3: Posing with Stairs
Ask any non-photographer and they’ll say, “Oh, this huge staircase will be perfect for photographing the wedding party!” But most staircases actually aren’t a great spot for portraits. Uneven light, close quarters, and a diminishing perspective are the major challenges. If you simply must photograph on stairs, try to obtain a small ladder so you can mitigate the perspective issues, and come prepared to add a bit of light to the folks near the back.
One exception is wide, outdoor staircases. If you can pose your group on no more than three steps, you’ll avoid the perspective issues, and the natural light should highlight everyone’s faces evenly. Or, as shown in the photograph below, shooting down the stairs can be a great solution when working in a smaller space!
#4: Have a Seat
You’ll have way more posing options if you include some seating. If you’re inside, you can usually locate a cool sofa or bench. If you’re outside, snag a few folding chairs or seek out a low garden wall. Just be sure no one sits in pollen or dirt – especially not anyone wearing a white wedding dress!
#5: Find the Story
If you’re shooting in a crowded city, let the natural activity and energy inform your images. Unplanned-for moments and surprise photo bombers can enhance the story and provide your clients with a wonderful collection of memories!
#6: Know Your Power Poses
“We’re not afraid to incorporate different angles and movements into the images,” says Stacey. “It’s not uncommon for us to pose guys in more powerful stances with a lower camera angle.”
Photographing someone from a low angle makes them appear large and looming – thus, more powerful. This is a strong pose, well-suited to any confident wedding party.
#7: Cheek to Cheek
Bring your subjects cheek-to-cheek and focus on their smiling faces for a sweet, simple portrait. “We often have the bridesmaids cuddle in close and show off their pretty florals,” Stacey describes. The florist will also love any images that shows off their hard work!
Consider photographing from above for a look that’s more focused on the faces. To show off the wedding party’s wardrobe, use a longer lens and photograph at a less dramatic angle.
#8: Catch the Reaction
The Love is Greater Photography team loves to give their wedding parties a task. Sometimes they’ll ask them to strike a pose on the count of three, bust out their favorite dance move, or walk from point A to point B. “We’re not necessarily looking to deliver an image of that dance move,” admits Stacey, “but rather the genuine reactions and laughs that happen after!”
When a wedding party is willing to be extra-silly, take extra photos so you don’t miss a moment of the hilarity!
#9: Fake Laughs can be Real Fun
You know that adorable laughing wedding photo you see in magazines? You don’t have to wait for that to happen naturally! On the big day, position your wedding party as desired, then instruct them to laugh – ridiculously, loudly, and with total abandon. They’ll feel silly at first, but those fake laughs will quickly turn genuine, giving you ample opportunity to score some sweet, silly moments.
If you’re photographing a particularly stoic crowd, follow Sarah’s lead and show the wedding party one of the wedding photos on the back of your camera. Once they see how fantastic they look, they won’t question you again!
#10: Baby Got Back
Everyone loves a cute tushy – especially if it’s draped in a gorgeous gown or dapper tuxedo! In your wedding photos, show off flowing trains, gorgeous updos, elaborate veils, and stylish silhouettes with this over-the-shoulder pose.
A sweet kiss from your wedding couple on their big day will add a center of focus to your from-behind group wedding photos. Also look for lovely landscape or architectural elements to enhance your composition.
#11: Get Super Serious
Have fun with super-serious expressions and comically stiff poses. Tell your clients to “think: Wes Anderson,” and they’ll probably get what you’re going for: a fun, modern portrait that won’t look like anyone else’s.
Solid colored walls make great backdrops for your wedding photos if you don’t have access to beautiful natural scenery. Make the most of shape and color to build bold wedding photos.
#12: All About the Landscape
Put the landscape front-and-center with party photos that are big on atmosphere. Keep the poses simple so you can focus on capturing (or creating) the incredible environment.
When photographing tiny people in a large landscape, watch the horizon line, and try to keep your subjects’ heads in a clear spot.
Don’t forget to move closer-in for a few shots so your clients can actually see who’s who!
#13: The Action Shot
Not all party photos have to be perfect portraits! Incorporate some action into whatever grouping you’re photographing, and you’ll get pictures that show off the brilliant personalities in front of your camera.
#14: Rock Band Poses
Tell any group that you need them to strike an “album cover pose,” and they’ll probably immediately fall into a cool, casual stance. This is a great way to guide a party into a more relaxed look that won’t feel boring.
You can achieve that same “album cover” vibe with a large group by individually posing each person on different levels. You’ll want to carefully instruct each person on how to stand, hold their flowers, and tilt their heads for photos that are totally magazine-worthy.
#15: Casual Line-up
If you have space, the simplest wedding party photo ideas are made using a straightforward line-up pose. On the big day, get everyone standing in a line, slightly apart, and look at the camera… then at each other… then back at the camera… then IT’S FAKE LAUGH TIME! You’ll get a variety of expressions and plenty of styles.
On the big day, create a bit more connection in your line-up pose by encouraging everyone to link arms or lean an arm on their neighbor’s shoulder. This will keep everyone close without them looking like one big bridal party blob.
#16: Photos that are All About the Couple
Put your wedding couple in the middle of their friends and make those lovebirds your only focus. Tell the party to cheer as the couple kisses, or have the couple lead their party on a short walk toward the camera.
Walking photos don’t usually capture everyone’s faces perfectly, so be sure to make a few traditional shots at the end of this pose!