home Creative Process Style Planning Tips Photography Tips

How To: Beauty Tips for Beautiful Bridal Portraits


Bridal Beauty: Our Tips for Beautiful Bridal Portraits

One of the best times to photograph a bride is earlier on in the day when she is getting ready with her bridesmaids, her mother, and other loved ones. It is an energetic, once-in-a-lifetime window of time where the bride feels truly the focus on her and is (hopefully!) entirely relaxed. This calm energy, combined with great light and a beautiful environment, can make for incredible opportunities to capture bridal portraits. To illustrate some of our top tips to creating a beautiful bridal portrait, we photographed model Danielle Knudson with hair and makeup by Melissa Formica in collaboration with stylist Shane Clark, wearing gowns by Chana Marelus, Lee Grebenau, Liz Martinez, and Cucculelli Shaheen, photographed at our Studio in New York City.

The secret to success? It’s all about time management:

Step one to creating a beautiful bridal portrait is time, and more time is always better. While a good photographer can always get a good photo in a short amount of time, if you want a truly great photo we need to put you in different situations, move around a bit, try different lighting, scenarios. We’re not posing you per say, but rather creating a series of images in a variety of locations and moods.

Typically, a bridal portrait takes half an hour - uninterrupted, sometimes more. Wedding day planning sometimes underestimates this time, and when things run late it tends to be the photographer’s time that gets compromised. I recommend building in a buffer of 30 to 60 minutes, and in that buffer you can relax and chill and have a glass of champagne and if that doesn’t happen, then you will go straight into photos. Running late can happen for a variety of reasons: changing the bride’s hair look, a makeup artist runs late, someone has a breakdown, someone oversleeps—anything can happen, and it’s key to be prepared.

A Note on Bridal Hair and Makeup:

One of the unique elements of a bridal portrait session is of course the dramatic shot with a wedding dress in its full glory, but close-up portraits are also something to prioritize. Therefore, we recommend planning ahead with your makeup artist to make sure that your makeup is perfect for the camera and intimate close-up shots. Wedding day makeup is a tour de force of creativity and lasting application, and that can require an occasionally necessary heavy hand. Make sure your team knows in advance that you’ll be shooting up close and personal, which can mean that your makeup is applied in a slightly lighter manner for the shoot, and then amped up after we wrap and before you depart for your ceremony. You can always add more, but it can be tough to tone it down for your portrait moment.

There are a few steps for brides to take to make sure that your skin and hair are in their best shape before the wedding, which of course sets the canvas for your makeup artist’s beautiful work. Melissa, who worked with me to create the hair and makeup looks for this blog post, explains, “When I sit down with a bride-to-be on the morning of her wedding, I strive to give her the most relaxing and pampered experience before she walks down the aisle. A makeup artist, more often than not, is the first vendor she sees, so we play an essential role in setting the tone and mood of the day before her photographer arrives to capture her portrait. Once I get started, the most important part of my beauty routine with a bride is undoubtedly the skin and hair prep – then everything else follows easily.” Melissa recommends making sure that you focus on hydration, cleansing, exfoliation and rest in the months leading up to your wedding. For hair, if you need a full-on cut/color appointment, schedule 3-4 weeks ahead of your wedding. Consider a trim a week or two before, which will freshen up your ends and help greatly with styling on your wedding day. Add in a gloss or deep conditioning treatment for shine.

In addition, we believe that your bridal makeup should focus on your personal style – it’s not the time to experiment with a red lip and a high pony if your natural style lends itself to a slick of nude gloss and your hair down in natural waves. Melissa notes, “When you are consulting with a hair and makeup artist to create your own dream look, I recommend bringing in photos of yourself, with makeup and hair you feel good in. This will give the artist an idea of your comfort zone. Then look for pictures references with models who have similar skin tone, eye shape and hair color with a look that you are drawn to. Finding a model that has similar features to your own, will help give you a better idea on what to expect and help the artist create a practical result. Showing the artist pictures of your dress will also guide the mood of hair and makeup. Lastly, don’t be afraid to build from the original look! After all the photos are only an inspiration, what is important is making the look your own. A trial should be about exploring options until you have created a look that best amplifies your style and natural beauty.” Trust me - that natural beauty will shine through in stunning bridal portraits that you will cherish forever.


Photographed by Christian Oth

Hair and Makeup by Melissa Formica

Styled by Shane Clark for Spina Bride

Look 1: A natural bridal beauty look paired with a mini-dress by Cucculelli Shaheen with earrings by Al.tru.ist.

Look 2: An elevated statement look for a fashion-forward bride. Featuring a gown by Chana Merelus with earrings by Mateo New York.

Look 3: A modern bridal twist on a smoky eye, featuring shades of golden bronze. Featuring a gown by Cucculelli Shaheen, with earrings by Al.tru.ist.

View Exclusive Content


Sign up for our Newsletter

    I want to know about:

    We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.