Pretty Pictures Part One: The Dressing Room

Feb 9, 2008 | Weddings

Part of the series: The Bride’s Guide to Pretty Pictures.

I love the getting ready photos. It’s the most relaxed part of the day for me, and it provides a great opportunity to bond a little more with the bride and her closest friends and family. Not only that, but if the conditions are right I can also get some of my favorite photos during the first few hours on a wedding day, before the bride and groom even see each other!

So, what are the ideal conditions for great dressing room photography? It basically boils down to three things: light, looks and space. Light is generally the single most important factor for getting great photos – if there isn’t enough of it, things can start to get ugly, fast. So your first priority is finding somewhere with lots of natural light. Large windows, and plenty of them, usually bring in great light. I say usually – because you also need to peek outside and see if there’s a huge tree or ugly office building stopping that gorgeous light from getting into the room! A little tip here – if you’re staying at a downtown hotel, try to reserve a room on a higher floor. And it goes without saying that corner rooms almost always have more windows then regular rooms. One last little note about light: it doesn’t have to be direct sunlight. Sunshine is nice, but it can actually be a lot easier to work in a room that’s not in direct sunlight, and of course this changes according to the time of day, so you might want to visit your getting ready space at the time of day you’ll actually be getting ready!

Next up: somewhere pretty. I don’t mean cutesy – just attractive. Modern, classic, romantic, opulent, new or funky – whatever you think looks good and fits your style. My current favorite getting ready shots were taken at the W Hotel. It’s certainly not cutesy, but it does have cool textures, funky fixtures, interesting surfaces and a ton of natural light – and the photos I took there are a great match for the couple: funky, modern and fabulous!

If you’ve ticked the ‘light’ and ‘pretty’ boxes and still have cash to spare, get a suite. Yup, that’s right, a full sized suite. If you have bridesmaids and hair stylists and makeup artists sharing your room, you can run out of space pretty fast. And we photographers need to be able to move around and find cool angles without getting in everyone’s way. It’s also really nice if I can set up a little corner – a window ledge is even better – for taking the detail shots (the rings, your bouquet, etc.)

Enough about the room – here are some general tips for getting the most out of your getting ready photos. First off, allocate enough time. I like to allow at least an hour for this session, so that I can take lots of candids, a few bridal portraits, lots of detail shots and anything else fun that comes up. Two: try to have me there for at least the beginning of your makeup session (otherwise you’ll end up with lots of photos of your bridesmaids getting their makeup done but not you!) Three: get hold of the rings! This is by far the best time for me to get those signature ring shots – and one of your bridesmaids can pass the rings to the best man before the ceremony. It’s either that or I chase down the newly married couple during the reception and beg for their wedding bands … not nearly as fun. Finally: relax! It’s the last chance to enjoy some “me time” before the craziness of the ceremony and reception, and if you’re looking relaxed and happy you’ll get a ton of gorgeous pre-wedding photos.

Taken at the W Hotel, which has some of the coolest rooms in Seattle!

The Priory at Blessed Sacrament Church has fantastic light streaming in.

Above: bouquet on a window ledge at the W Hotel. Below: the Mayflower Park Hotel – look for pretty windows for hanging up your dress.

Lots of mirrors can help bounce the light around, like in the shot above. Below: the balconies at Willows Lodge in Woodinville are perfect for portraits and detail shots!

Some more natural light detail shots.



  1. Kate! Thank you for doing this series! I already learned so much from reading this entry! I can’t wait for the rest in the series. Also, I love the new look of the site/blog! 🙂

  2. Love the new design. And the series is great, dead on…

  3. Wow, great idea for a series, Kate! I will definitely have to go check out my potential getting ready site in person now. And the new site looks great! 🙂

  4. Great new blog design & colors AND wonderful new series! I LOVE it! It’s exactly what Fred said, “Dead on.” : )

  5. Great article! 🙂

  6. This is great Kate! I will be reading up before the big day…in less than 2 weeks!



  1. The Bride’s Guide to Pretty Pictures « Kate McElwee Photography - [...] Fine Art Photographer « Adrienne & Jon: A Winter Wedding at Willow’s Lodge Pretty Pictures Part One: The Dressing Room [...]

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