Portraits With Soul

Portraits With Soul

Paying attention to how guests fit into their surroundings is key. In this shot, the natural beauty of the young woman, the soft backlighting and the gentle breeze contributed to create a romantic photograph.

Weddings are a wonderful setting to explore portraiture. While the wedding photographer’s job is to capture the bride and groom (as well as the guests) during all the different aspects of the ceremony or celebration, there’s always opportunity to step out of the norm and capture unexpected moments and soulful expressions.

It’s tempting to shoot an event frenetically, capturing every occurrence without ever going deeper to explore the more complex aspects of human connection. For that reason, the photographer should always allow himself or herself some unhurried moments to notice what’s happening around him or her. The photographer should notice the smells, sounds, details and the people surrounding him or her. It’s important for the photographer to find a sincere bond with his or her subjects, in order to capture images that are meaningful and moving.

For this exercise, I invite you to find a moment of reflection during an event you’re shooting. Challenge yourself to pause, feel and visualize some portraits with soul. There’s a saying that “a portrait is a window into the soul.” Aim to capture a glimpse into your subject’s heart and soul.


Find the appropriate time to pause and immerse yourself in the moment.

There are many stories within the “main story” you’re shooting. Look around and notice what are some of the other stories that captivate your attention.

Portraits With Soul
In this portrait of the “flower girl,” the angle from above guides the viewer to look deep into her eyes, creating a stronger connection between the viewer and the subject.

Decide on a subject that you want to photograph. Observe him or her and decide on the angle you’d like to shoot from. If you need to approach your subject, you can politely request a pose. Be prepared to accept a negative response, but most people will happily comply. Work fast.


Connection. A true connection with your subjects will contribute to stronger photographs. Since it’s not appropriate for the wedding photographer to mingle with guests, in this situation, you’ll need to make a quick assessment of your subject from afar. Make a decision about your preferred angle and point of view for the shot. If you decide to approach your subject to request a pose, always be respectful and fast, and as nonintrusive as possible.

Study the shot in advance. Always work fast and study your lighting and composition before you start working with the subject. Adjustments on the spot will contribute to a contrived portrait. Plan ahead and be decisive when you take the shot.

You’re a mirror.Remember that the camera looks both ways. In picturing the subject, you are also picturing a part of yourself.”—Rick Sammon. Reflect on how your own presence and feelings can contribute to capturing a great photo.


  • Photograph the bride and groom during a quiet moment.
  • Capture children being spontaneous.
  • Take a photo of any guest during a moment of solitude.

ALESSANDRA CAVE is a commercial and editorial photographer living in San Francisco. She’s also a writer, teacher, and the author of “Shooting with Soul” (Quarry Books, 2013, quarrybooks.com), an inspiration and technique book with 44 photography exercises exploring life, beauty an self-expression, and upon which this column is inspired. Learn more about Alessandra and follow her work at alessandracave.com.

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