Wedding & Portraiture
Cheat Sheet For Bride & Groom Portraits

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Photos © 1999, Monte Zucker, All Rights Reserved

What I wouldn't have given for something like this when I was new to the business. Here's a quickie shot list of portraits that you can take the next time you're photographing a wedding.

Of course, these are a lot easier to look at than they are to set up--unless you've had a lot of practice and the time in which to do them. But that's not the issue. Right now, I just want to give you something to keep by your side when you're stuck for what to do next. Nothing wrong with taking these pictures out and copying them. Pretty soon you'll find yourself developing your own routine and your own series of portraits.

But for the moment, let's take a look at a selection of pictures that I made my first day of class in Las Vegas. Hopefully, you'll get some great, simple ideas.

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Photo 1. A 3/4 length seated bride is one of my most popular portraits. It shows great detail in the gown, and shows the bride off at the same time. Notice how it's cropped--below her knees. Cropping it up higher loses the balance of the composition and is much less effective.

Notice, too, how I've pulled out the base of her gown and veil at the bottom of the portrait. This adds a great pyramid base to the picture, giving the image plenty of support. The camera height is around the middle of her chest. Her head was positioned while looking through the lens of my camera. I knew exactly what I was getting when I took the photograph. Her body is turned at almost a 45° angle to the lens and her head is turned back toward the camera for a full face view. Undoubt-edly, the light coming back through the veil is essential to have it look transparent. She's sitting on a posing stool that's been adjusted in height, so that when she crosses her front leg over the back, her legs slope slightly downward. Her right arm is pulled back to show her waist line. Her left arm is extended to form a nice connection with the upright section of her body to her lap. The bouquet is held low enough, so that it does not block her body.

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Photo 2. I've changed practically nothing except to turn her head slightly so that the camera sees her right eye going almost to the edge of her facial outline (the 2/3 view of her face). Of course, I've moved my main light, too, so that I retain the same light pattern on her face that I had in Photo 1. This "modified loop light pattern" is pretty standard in most of my portraits, because I feel that it is the most flattering. At the same time, it creates a nice three-dimensional effect of her face and body.

Photo 3. Exactly the same, except she's looking down. Notice that her eyes do not appear to be closed, because I've directed her focus on a spot far enough away so that you can still see the pupils of her eyes.

Photo 4. After the first series, I move in closer and do this next series of portraits. I bring a posing table up, so that when she rests her arms on it, her hands end up just below her bust line. I usually pose her so that you can see the engagement ring. Of course, the position of the camera is higher now. More like shoulder height. Notice that the basic pose and lighting are the same, except that when I come in this close, I turn her body straight into the camera for the 2/3 view of her face.

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Photo 5. While she's in that position, I raise the posing table slightly and bring her hands up to her face. For this picture I've raised the camera, so that the lens is above her eyes. Notice how her fingers are flowing upward, not sideways. Hand posing is precise.

Photo 6. Here's the same picture with her looking downward again. You can still see her eyes, even though she's looking down. Also, notice that when her head and eyes are lowered, you have to lower your main light, so that you still get light into her eyes.

Photo 7. Normally I wouldn't do all of these, but this can be a cute picture with the right person, couldn't it? Notice how the pictures flow from one to another without having to make a lot of changes in posing and lighting. That's what makes this series so easy to follow.

Photo 8. There is very little change from one portrait to the next. In this photograph the bride is holding her flowers close to her face, yet her face still dominates the picture. Look closely at her hand, too, her fingers are still pointing upward.

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Photo 9. You have to turn her body to a 45° angle for a profile. Also, lower the camera, so that you see space between her chin and her shoulder. I usually tuck the veil and hair behind her profile, so that nothing breaks the outline of her face. Or I bring the veil forward, so that it begins above her eye, I like this look, too.

Photo 10. Time for the groom's portraits. Here's an easy one, resting his hands on the edge of a posing table, or whatever is available. The camera is back down to the middle of his chest for this one.

Photo 11. Then, just raise the camera up a bit for a close-up. Pretty easy and quick, huh?

Photo 12. For a little change, you can bring his hand up to his chin and create a nice base for this simple composition. Notice, too, the perfect 2/3 angle of his face.

Photo 13. Why not move the light around to profile position again and have him looking at the bride's ring? Don't forget to lower the camera again for the profile. Also, have a gobo close on hand to keep the profile light from flaring into the camera's lens.

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Photo 14. It's natural to bring the bride behind the groom for this picture. No change in lighting or camera position. Be sure to keep her face turned toward the light. Most photographers turn the second person toward the profile, lighting the back of the head and keeping the face in dark shadow.

Photo 15. Why not switch them around for a matching portrait. Try to keep their lips at the same level so that their heads form almost a heart shape together. That's what really "makes" this picture.

Photo 16. With only a slight turn of his head, you have an entirely new portrait. I keep their faces very close together and watch to keep the bridge of their noses parallel.

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If one portrait is the most popular of them all, this is it. His mouth is at about the level of her eyes and her left shoulder is pulled back (under his arm). Their heads are parallel but her arm is not around him it's resting on his left hand. Believe me, this is the most popular portrait of a bride and groom together.

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Photo 18. Here's the exact same portrait with a stronger soft focus filter. Up until now most of my portraits were with a No. 2 soft focus. For this one I shifted up to a stronger one. You can't do soft focus, unless your lighting is direct--no diffusion. If the light is soft to begin with, this filter will make the picture seem to be either too mushy or out of focus.

Photo 19. Why not raise the camera up above their eye level and do a close-up of the same pose?

Photo 20. Place his profile directly over the 2/3 view of her face and bring their hands up. It's as simple as that.

Photo 21. Without changing the pose, back up and get a great picture of the couple looking at their rings. Keep their hands just below the level of her bust.

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Photo 22. Then, come in close for a really great picture of their hands. Pretty simple, huh?

Photo 23. When he brings her hand up and "touches his lips to her fingers," you're ready.

Photo 24. Or, if he puts his arm around her and she rests her cheek on the back of his hand, you get this.

Photo 25. Something like this is often seen in the movies. Since this is every brides fantasy why not keep up her dreams. This one (and the bride over his shoulder) certainly performs that task.

Photo 26. If you're venturesome, this one is beautiful, but it requires two main lights. One lighting each profile. You'll also need two reflector/gobos to prevent the profile lights from flaring into your lens.

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Photo 27. By simply turning off all your lighting, except for a single light on the background, you can come up with a perfect double profile. A great way to end the wedding story, don't you think?

So, what kind of equipment am I using for all of these portraits? My flashes are all Photogenic, coming out of a single 800w power supply, PM08. I have two main lights that are pointing straight through Westcott Mini Apollos. I also use two Monte Illuminators (silver/black reflector-gobo). My soft focus filters are Tiffen Soft/FX, No. 2 and No. 3--used individually, or sometimes stacked together. They're used in a Lindahl shade. My camera is the Hasselblad. My favorite portrait lens is the 150mm, although I have a complete assortment of other lenses. Believe it or not, one of my favorite portrait lenses is the 40mm. I use that when I want to come in close to my subject, keeping the people large and prominent in the photograph, while showing a lot of background far behind them. The posing table I use is from Photogenic, too. The only posing stool I use is the AIM stool (sometimes referred to as the "Monte" stool). North Amer-ican Photo is my lab of choice. There is no other, as far as I'm concerned.

To see more images like these, check out the following web site:

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