Whether you shoot the couple portraits before the ceremony or after, this is a moment your couple will remember as they look back at their wedding photos. This means it’s important to create stunning photos you can deliver to them after they are color corrected by a wedding photo editing company. Since various challenges can occur during the couple portraits (harsh lighting, unflattering backgrounds, cluttered areas, etc.), you should know how to work with the bride and groom through any situation that occurs. Today, Zach and Jody Gray are sharing 3 keys to help you master the couple portraits every time.


1. Understand Lighting

The best time of day to shoot is 1 hour before sunset, and the first hour of the sun rising because the sun is going through more atmosphere which disperses it wider and makes the light softer. The one and only thing that makes light soft and pretty is the size of the light source. You can diffuse light all you want from any light source, but if the light is not BIG, then it will still be harsh.


Image Compliments of Zach and Jody Gray

2. Use a Reflector


If the light is harsh, which it oftentimes is, try using a reflector. We have a 5-in-1 reflector that we use, and by taking off the outer portion of the reflector, we can turn it into a scrim. A scrim simply lets light pass through it, but disperses it out so it gets soft and pretty (and if your couple is standing under a tree then it gets rid of nasty speckled lighting!). Then, here is the big tip, we move that big diffuser of ours as close as we can possibly get it without it being in the frame to get the light source as big as we can which makes the light soft.

Related: We’ve pulled 26 key tips from Roberto Valenzuela’s Picture Perfect Lighting – use them to advance your lighting knowledge!

3. Utilize a Second Shooter/Assistant

We often use our assistant to help us light the couple portraits. A great example of what we do is we have our assistant off to camera right holding the big diffuser. We then have our couple turn about 35 degrees away from the light source (which gives us a loop lighting pattern, or a pattern of light where there are highlights on their camera right side, and some soft shadows on their camera left side). This, in turn, gives our couple some dimension and helps the shot to not look flat.


Image Compliments of Zach and Jody Gray

Related: Uncomfortable using off-camera flash? Zach and Jody have 3 simple steps to get you started!

A couple other elements to consider when shooting portraits:

  • Posing: In guiding our couples during their portraits, we often tell them to move into each other REALLY close (because close is good for married people and looks great in the shot).
  • Composition: We position the couple outside of the dead center whenever possible (which many times makes the shots look compositionally dull). We move the couple off to one side a bit, so their eyes are in the top third of the frame, which is the dominant part and helps bring your eye right to them.
  • Lens Choice: We often choose a long lens, such as a 70-200mm, which compresses the image and helps the shot to feel close and intimate, and also helps throw the background out of focus to keep the attention on our bride and groom.

Want to learn more amazing lighting tips and tricks from Zach and Jody? Download their free eBook, The Quick Start Guide to Off-Camera Flash!


When you discover how to shoot in any location, through all conditions, you can be a more versatile photographer that clients will want to book to shoot their wedding photos. The couple portraits are only one part of the wedding shoot. Discover every image you need to take with our Guide, The Wedding Photographer’s Playbook for the Wedding Day!


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published