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Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in Difficult Scenarios

Lesson 11 from: Wedding Photographer Survival Kit

Susan Stripling

Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in Difficult Scenarios

Lesson 11 from: Wedding Photographer Survival Kit

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

11. Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in Difficult Scenarios


Class Trailer



Class Introduction


The Gear That Will Save You in Tough Situations


How Lenses Shape the Image and Help Tell Your Story


Light Modifiers for Your Survival Kit


Gear to Spice Up Bland Images: Prisms, Mist and More


Walkthrough of a Difficult Venue


Why Each Room Works and Why It Doesn't


Wedding Day Details in a Difficult Situation: Dress


Wedding Day Details in a Difficult Situation: Rings


Wedding Day Details in a Difficult Situation: Shoes


Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in Difficult Scenarios


Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in a Small, Cluttered Room


Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in a Dark Hallway


Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in a Doorway


Portraits of the Bride in a Small Room


Removing the Surrounding Space for a Bridal Portrait


Window Lit Bridal Portrait in a Tough Space


How to Shoot a Quick and Simple Bridal Portrait


Photographing Guys, Complaining Brides and "Helpful" Bridesmaids




Portraits of Bride and Groom: Ideal Situations


Portraits of Bride and Groom: When Things Go Wrong


Bride and Groom Portraits: What to Do If You're Indoors


Bride and Groom Portraits: How to Pose an Awkward Couple


Family Formals: How to Achieve Your Ideal Situations


Family Formals: When Things are Less Than Ideal


Family Formals in an Awful Space


Family Formals Recap and Questions


Photographing the Reception


Reception Q&A


What Can You Do to Safeguard Your Business?


Contracts Q&A


Dealing with Social Media as a Wedding Photographer


What if Advertising Isn't Working?


What to do When Everyone Just Wants More


When Everyone Says I Am Too Expensive


When You Hate Your Job as a Wedding Photographer


Lesson Info

Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in Difficult Scenarios

So we talked about shooting the details in difficult situations and the big theme with that is it's pretty easy to control you bring your light you put your light up where you need to you set up your foreground and background you set your scene and you go to town the on ly person involved in that is you you and the detail which isn't going to talk back to you but what happens when you start involving other human beings into the scenario of your difficult day that's when it starts getting tricky because not only are you a wedding photographer you're also a sort of amateur psychologist a cz well because you have to start dealing with people in their insecurities and their difficulties and asking them to maybe do things and it just becomes ah whole new level of difficulty my personal problem and it's something that I really struggle with all the time on the wedding day is I always look mad it is it's blame my parents for a birthing me like it's I just my resting facial expression is one o...

f great dismay and displeasure like I just I can't help it so a lot of times when I'll be standing around and I'll be surveying a scene I look like I'm really unhappy with it even when I'm not even when I'm just thinking so I have to be very conscious when things kind of go bad and there are no people around I can do whatever I want my face conduce whatever insane things that needs to but when I start to get frustrated and there are people around I have to really watch my face because you can see it on my face and that goes back to what we said at the very beginning about you can't let it personally frustrate you and listen like I said I've been doing this for fifteen years I can stand up in front of you and talk to you all day long about doing this I still get flustered I still get frustrated I still get angry when I'm standing in a hallway and it's taking forty five extra minutes for her to get ready for no good reason whatsoever I just want a wave my arms in the air and scream what are you people doing we're wasting all this time but I highly recommend that you not do that that's fairly terrible customer 00:01:57.136 --> 00:02:00. support s so what do we do instead so shooting the 00:02:00.9 --> 00:02:04. bridal preparation after the details and this is universal 00:02:04.75 --> 00:02:06. whether it's bride getting ready whether it's groom 00:02:06.58 --> 00:02:09. getting ready it's the same sort of scenarios so let's 00:02:09.56 --> 00:02:13. talk about what they are what do you do if the room 00:02:13.09 --> 00:02:16. has no light at all now you saw as I walked through 00:02:16.28 --> 00:02:19. each of these kind of getting ready rooms and small 00:02:19.67 --> 00:02:22. hallways in dark spaces you saw that there are a lot 00:02:22.69 --> 00:02:24. of places that we're going to encounter that have 00:02:25.02 --> 00:02:28. very little toe absolutely no natural light it all 00:02:28.37 --> 00:02:33. what do you do what if the room is really small again 00:02:33.34 --> 00:02:35. some of the rooms that we saw in this venue are really 00:02:35.28 --> 00:02:38. small you also saw what I was talking about my eighty 00:02:38.11 --> 00:02:41. five one four what it could do in small rooms to really 00:02:41.31 --> 00:02:44. help you out what if the room is really cluttered 00:02:44.48 --> 00:02:47. that's uh there's that what if what if what if what 00:02:47.91 --> 00:02:51. if now on the wedding day there are a million zillion 00:02:51.25 --> 00:02:53. different what ifs some of them are what ifs that 00:02:53.9 --> 00:02:57. you can control so if the room has no light maybe 00:02:57.17 --> 00:02:59. you have the opportunity to take the bride and have 00:02:59.1 --> 00:03:02. her get ready somewhere else that will always be my 00:03:02.1 --> 00:03:06. first suggestion so if she's in a venue and the venue 00:03:06.68 --> 00:03:09. has done what they think is being super helpful which 00:03:09.81 --> 00:03:11. is giving her the big conference room to get ready 00:03:11.93 --> 00:03:14. in and I don't want that because it's a big conference 00:03:14.62 --> 00:03:17. room and it's super ugly and her tiny hotel room actually 00:03:17.73 --> 00:03:20. has amazing light then maybe I'll say hey when you're 00:03:20.32 --> 00:03:22. done with hair and makeup here in this conference 00:03:22.09 --> 00:03:24. room can we actually go into your room or your mom's 00:03:24.81 --> 00:03:27. room or your bridesmaids room and get you dressed 00:03:27.05 --> 00:03:30. in there great we can get her out of the situation 00:03:30.42 --> 00:03:32. what if you can't get her out of this situation then 00:03:32.57 --> 00:03:34. what do you do then you have to start looking to survive 00:03:35.32 --> 00:03:37. so first and foremost if you're in a really bad situation 00:03:37.94 --> 00:03:40. try to get yourself out of it look around is there 00:03:40.52 --> 00:03:42. another room you can go to is there another place 00:03:42.3 --> 00:03:44. you can be that would be step one before I started 00:03:44.81 --> 00:03:47. exploring all of these different alternatives don't 00:03:47.74 --> 00:03:50. be afraid to ask her to move you're going to see in 00:03:50.93 --> 00:03:54. two different times for these getting ready scenarios 00:03:54.1 --> 00:03:58. we go in we shoot in the hallway and I asked her you 00:03:58.21 --> 00:04:00. know, on a wedding day I would say hey when you go 00:04:00.86 --> 00:04:02. to get dressed once we pull your dress up in your 00:04:02.73 --> 00:04:05. decent can be finished getting dressed in the hallway 00:04:05.84 --> 00:04:08. and because during the entire relationship with I've 00:04:08.01 --> 00:04:10. had that I've had with my client I have got them to 00:04:10.06 --> 00:04:12. trust me when I asked him to go into a hallway they 00:04:12.75 --> 00:04:15. don't think I'm crazy they just think that they know 00:04:15.72 --> 00:04:18. that I'm taking them somewhere cool for a cool reason 00:04:18.26 --> 00:04:21. right um what if the room is really cluttered? Well 00:04:21.56 --> 00:04:25. I will need it up as best I can but to a certain point 00:04:25.45 --> 00:04:28. there's only so much you can remove from a room when 00:04:28.04 --> 00:04:31. there's nowhere else to put it. So what if? What if? 00:04:31.27 --> 00:04:34. What if? What if let's watch this video instead of 00:04:34.86 --> 00:04:36. breaking it into multiple videos, you're going to 00:04:36.76 --> 00:04:39. see me shoot getting ready in three different scenarios 00:04:40.0 --> 00:04:42. in one video after that we're gonna break it down 00:04:42.73 --> 00:04:44. and talk about it but we're going to go to that creepy 00:04:44.61 --> 00:04:48. little grandmother's parlor then we're going to go 00:04:48.0 --> 00:04:50. down a hallway with a window then we're going to go 00:04:50.52 --> 00:04:54. down the hallway with not a window so let's see what 00:04:54.41 --> 00:04:57. happens when that happens so when you're shooting a bride getting ready you know any of you have ever heard me teach before you know that I'm looking for a window but there are often times you find yourself in situations where there are no windows and what you're going to see us to today is we're going to shoot three different scenarios for getting ready we're going to shoot in a room where there's no window at all we're going to find a window in an unconventional place and then we're going to use existing light the way I would use a window and so all three are going to be different none of those three you're going to be in ideal locations and they're all very true to life so what I would actually see on a wedding day so we're in basically a little parlor room there is a skylight but it isn't really doing much because it's really dark outside it's really rainy it's not going to give me any sort of quality of light is there an okay quantity of light in here? I mean there is there's light in here. It's kind of coming in from out there some spilling in from the bathroom you got a little from the skylight but it's not good light it doesn't matter to me if there's a lot of light if I can't use it in the way that I want teo so if there's no light in the getting ready room I'm going 00:05:59.543 --> 00:06:03. to make it now I have to bear in mind that if I'm 00:06:03.05 --> 00:06:05. going to make light in this room I don't want it to 00:06:05.15 --> 00:06:08. look dramatically different from how it actually is 00:06:08.97 --> 00:06:11. in here I don't want to light it up with four strobes 00:06:11.9 --> 00:06:13. in every single corner and have the bride look at 00:06:13.58 --> 00:06:15. the pictures later and say oh well I mean these air 00:06:15.93 --> 00:06:18. pretty but this doesn't look anything like the room 00:06:18.72 --> 00:06:21. that I got ready in what did you d'oh? This isn't 00:06:21.05 --> 00:06:23. a commercial shoot this isn't a fashion shoot this 00:06:23.09 --> 00:06:26. isn't for an editorial magazine there does have to 00:06:26.05 --> 00:06:29. be a level of realism in here so I'm shooting with 00:06:29.11 --> 00:06:32. my d seven fifty I have two lenses normally on a wedding 00:06:32.47 --> 00:06:35. day I shoot two cameras so these lenses would be on 00:06:35.7 --> 00:06:38. each of the cameras for today's teaching purposes 00:06:38.04 --> 00:06:40. I have one camera two lenses it's my eighty five millimeter 00:06:40.9 --> 00:06:43. one four and I also have my twenty four to seventy 00:06:43.93 --> 00:06:46. two eight those would be exactly the two lenses that 00:06:46.51 --> 00:06:48. I would be shooting during it getting ready so now 00:06:48.53 --> 00:06:50. let's talk about the lighting when you're looking 00:06:50.21 --> 00:06:52. at this room and I'm trying to choose a background 00:06:52.37 --> 00:06:54. because I'm going to be adding the light I can really 00:06:54.32 --> 00:06:57. pick any background I'm shooting over here into this 00:06:57.47 --> 00:07:00. corner because it gives me the longest throw in the 00:07:00.83 --> 00:07:03. room going from one side to the other gives me an 00:07:03.54 --> 00:07:06. okay amount of space but going corner to corner gives 00:07:06.54 --> 00:07:08. me a little bit more space to get back and squish 00:07:08.92 --> 00:07:11. back in that corner so I can shoot with a little bit 00:07:11.29 --> 00:07:14. longer of the lynns again I don't like lynn's distortion 00:07:14.34 --> 00:07:16. I don't want to be right up in her face with a twenty 00:07:16.21 --> 00:07:18. for twenty eight or thirty five I want to be a ce 00:07:18.84 --> 00:07:22. far back as possible so I decided to shoot into this 00:07:22.46 --> 00:07:25. space over here simply because I just like the background 00:07:25.97 --> 00:07:28. I like the mirrors back here I like sort of the antique 00:07:29.08 --> 00:07:32. dressing table going on it is the least offensive 00:07:32.2 --> 00:07:34. of all of my backgrounds but how am I going to make 00:07:34.64 --> 00:07:37. my client stand off of the background? Well when they're 00:07:37.78 --> 00:07:40. getting ready if there is a window, I'm going to tell 00:07:40.53 --> 00:07:42. them where to stand I'm going to say hey, when you 00:07:42.07 --> 00:07:44. get ready come over here and stand here I'm going 00:07:44.45 --> 00:07:46. to do exactly the same thing here, but I'm going to 00:07:46.96 --> 00:07:50. make my window so I've got my eye slight it's on my 00:07:50.54 --> 00:07:53. cheetah stand I just dropped it right there it's got 00:07:53.61 --> 00:07:57. the barn doors on it the barn doors air on it mostly 00:07:57.86 --> 00:08:00. to keep the light from hitting the wall too hard so 00:08:00.61 --> 00:08:03. if you see when I turned the light on wanna step a little bit out of the way here if you see the shadows on the wall you can see the light's hitting it it's making these shadows it's kind of obnoxious I'm going to close this down a little bit so that it hits the subject but it doesn't hit the wall it does hit the wall further in the room but where the bride is going to be standing I don't want this I want this so I closed down the barn door what that's going to dio is when the bride is standing right here and she goes to get ready and she turns this way the light is goingto light her face but it isn't goingto light the wall behind her and it's going to give me that ring of that rim of light that I really like around the face the same way if she were standing in front of a window it would light her in the same scenario so I am going to have to be precise I'm going to have to tell her hey listen stand right here but that's no different than telling her hey stand right here in front of a window so let's see what it looks like so we've got our bride we've got her bridesmaid here and we're working in a scenario like this we don't want a million people in the room so if you've got like twelve bridesmaids they can't all come in here so I would get the maid of honor I would get her mom this is not the time in the place for every single bride's maid to be in the room there's just not that kind of room so I'm going to turn the light on I'm gonna close these barn doors down like so fixing the light and then I'm going to tell her you can look anywhere except in here don't blind yourself you're gonna look kind of far out and just enjoy so I've set them in this scenario I've lit it the way it is but now they're just going to do what they have to do they don't have to look at me they don't have to put their hands any specific way the only thing she can't d'oh start facing out that way because when she's like this and she starts turning then light if you turn and face that way just a little bit turn your whole body keep going now the light is not what I want so sometimes I'll have to just come in and like bring her back around and listen it's a little bit easy for me I'm female I'm still relatively young so I can relate pretty well two brides and I don't mind coming in and being like hamza, sorry, do you mind turning it's a little tougher? I see my husband struggle with it a little bit. Being a male photographer, you don't want to come in and, like, put your hands on your client's. So this is sort of one of the parts of the day where I definitely feel I have a little bit of an unfair advantage, but I'm always careful, like I'm never going to come in and touch a bride who's, like super stressed out, but I do need to keep her, especially when you're working with the video light. She can't wander too far off from the lighting. Girls is going to start looking super bad, so let's, shoot and look. So turner had just half an inch to the left. Yeah right there that is flawless flawless flawless looks amazing so I'm here smushed in the corner next to a floor fan yeah this is great the first thing that I would make sure is if any of these lamps were on in the room I've got to shut him off I've got to kill any ambient light that's going on in here other than the way I'm lighting her so I'm going to get us far back as I can eighty five one four at one eight focal point directly on the bride's face and shoot one with my exposure compensation at zero and you can see that that is really over exposed so I'm gonna bring it down to exposure compensation minus two and that looks amazing turn your head just a hair to the left there you go and is that something I would ask my client sure would also be very very very clear with my clients that listen I'm using an external light we've got to be sort of specific with it it's going to look really cool but I might need to make you move or stand a little more specifically than I would if we were by a window and clients generally don't mind so switch over in twenty four to seventy just to get a different view I don't change my exposure compensation at all and they're still fussing I'm shooting vertically I shoot some horizontal zx it looks really great and we are solid and it is amazing and we can move on so when you think getting a bride ready I'm sure you think hallway and stairs downstairs too creepy horror movie basement I mean I know I d'oh but we've already showed you what we can do in a small room with a video light and talked about how those rooms maybe don't have windows what to do in a room without a window but what do you do if you find a window in an unconventional place and I wanted to show you this getting ready scenario to show you that just because there's not a window in the room that she's getting ready in that doesn't mean that you might not find a window somewhere else that you want to use and that you can use to great effect when I was walking through this venue for the first time today this is actually my favorite lighting scenario that I found and it's beautiful isn't it it's concrete steps and some I'm like rotting pumpkin colored wall and at the bottom there's a window and it's kind of a basement window and how is that in any way pretty but I'm going to show you that just by turning the lights off we completely changed the look of this scenario now I would think absolutely nothing of asking a bride to get ready in a hallway like this now I wouldn't ask her to go all the way from being in her robe to being in her dress down here but I might say hey you know pull up your dress get it to where it's decent zip it up just a little bit or hooked the little hook at the top and then come with me I found this really amazing lighting sorry and I'd really like to put you out here I think it would be really beautiful now most brides are going to look at you like you're completely crazy when you suggest having them finished getting ready in the corner of the basement but if you've shown them beautiful work if they have come to trust you and your ability and you've pre warned them hey I might ask you to go to some kind of weird places for pictures yeah then they're going to think you're a little bit less nuts when they ask you to do this I'm going to be shooting from all the way at the top of the stairs which you'll see in just a second and I'm going to be back and forth between my eighty five millimeter one four and my twenty four two seventy millimeter linds I'm probably going to be shooting my eighty five somewhere around about one eight and my twenty four to seventy somewhere around about two eight I'm going to keep my shutter speed above one hundred sixty eighth of a second so I don't have any motion blur let's, take a look at what that looks like so I've got the bride out here and I've got her bridesmaid out here and I think that we can all agree that this looks pretty terrible so the important thing to note here is the actual lighting that I'm dealing with we've got one overhead light here we've got an overhead light here we've got light coming down the hallway we've got light coming in through this window and the on ly light that I actually want in this scenario is that light coming from this window so the first thing I'm gonna do is I'm gonna cut the hallway light it starts to get a little bit better here now you can start seeing the prominent light from the window coming through and lighting her face but we're not all the way there yet we still have all these lights in this hallway in this horrible light over our heads now it's amazing now this is my absolute ideal I love this but you've got to be open minded and you've got to look around so instead of just looking for a window in her getting ready room instead of just looking for an obvious window in the lobby or some beautiful ornate area don't be afraid to really walk around because you never know what you might find the difference between what we saw before with the overhead in the hall lights on and this is a whole world of difference. And I'm gonna shoot it and it's going to be awesome. So let's, do that. All right, of that looks amazing. So, aperture, priority one point eight. Cc's. I really want to make sure she's in focus. I'm going to shoot this with exposure compensation at zero, and you can see. That looks horrible. I'm actually gonna take this down to minus two point three and fire again. Take a look much better, good, just like that. Now there are signs on the wall behind her head that say, office and private. If I could easily take them off of the wall, I would, but I can't, so I'm not going to. Someone's. I've got a couple with my eighty five minutes switch over. Like I said, normally, I would have two cameras, but only have one today. But the twenty four to seventy on change, nothing. Shoot it two point eight, and then I can get a lot wider and shoot the whole scene. But when I get a lot wider, I realized that minus two point three is not enough, because the camera mood camera meter is fooled by all of the darkness. So I roll it down to minus three focal point on her face. And get several really nice, really wide angle shots. Go with maybe a nice wide angle. Vertical, beautiful. Being very careful with the wide angle vertical to not distort her. And then I go super wide, like so good. And we're done and it's beautiful so this is our last getting ready scenario and after this you will have no excuses about shooting getting ready because you've seen me shoot in a pretty okay room lighting it with the video light you see me find a weird light down the hallway into a basement speakeasy and now the ultimate which is just through an open door so you can see she's standing here in the hallway this is basically a really creepy windowless popcorn ceiling getting ready room the same one that you would see it and even you where your heart sort of sinks down into your stomach and you think there's nothing I can do in here but you can so I have her out in the hallway and I can see you guys are probably already looking at that window saying oh she's going to light it with that window but I'm not I'm going to turn off the holy light I'm gonna turn on the light in this room and I'm going to have her stand facing into this room and it's gonna look a little bit like this the first thing I'm gonna do is turn the lights on in this room there's no trickery to the lights in this room it's just lights on in a dark room so the lights are on and they're shining out into the hallway the next thing I'm going to do is turn off the hall lights no magic here at all. I don't have any ice light in here shining out of the door, it's just a getting ready room with all of the lights on and a hallway with all of the lights off. So here is yet another way in a difficult location. You can light a bride getting ready. Are people going to think you're totally nuts for putting her in the hallway? They will. Well, all of the bridesmaids immediately go in the hallway and go. Oh, my wedding photographer didn't put me in the hallway. Of course they will because they don't know. And you have to remember that your clients aren't photographers and sometimes when you make some of these strange decisions, they're not going to understand what you're doing. You're going to turn the lights off, they're going to turn them back on, you're gonna turn them off, they're going to turn them back on because everyone who isn't a photographer thinks that more light is better like and you know, when I know that more light is not always better light. So we've got a hallway with the lights off and the door open with the lights on, and I'm going to show you what it looks like. I love it. I love it. This is great. Perfect.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Wedding Photographer Survival Kit Slides

Ratings and Reviews


I found this course extremely helpful. I own Susan's 30 day bootcamp class and I think that this course is a great supplement to that course. I don't work with an assistant so it was very helpful to see how she would approach a scenario without an assistant. It was also great to see her point of view and thought process when scouting locations for portraits and witness her ability to make something beautiful out of "not so pretty" or difficult locations. It helped me to take a better approach to finding the light, and really paying attention to all of the different details throughout a room. Her business tips were awesome too. I could go on and on but maybe you should just get the course. It's worth it.


Good and useful course as typical of Susan Stripling; I also own Creative Wedding Photography. However, all the class materials should reside on the Creative Live website -- not just the Power Point presentation. I understand Susan's desire to drive people to her website to increase visibility and sales of her own products, but the strategy isn't very customer-centric for CreativeLive customers. People shouldn't have to "google" the name of her company to find the information that she references in this course; and then once on the website scroll through outdated or unwanted information to find, as she states at her website, "Below is the list of gear (as promised) that I've mentioned on Creative Live." If people are smart enough to find CreativeLive, they'll be smart enough to find on the web any presenter that they like or want to know more about. The folks at CreativeLive ought to address this type of behavior before it sets a bad precedent for future presenters.


I love Susan. She will give it to you straight! I own her "30 days" class and it's amazing but one thing I took away from this course was when she said something along the lines of, "Those photographers who tell you they hand pick their clients are lying to you!" Haha. There are TOO MANY young and arrogant wedding photographers who think they are rock stars. They really get me down. And that's why I like Susan. She's honest.

Student Work