Huge nerd alert, but I will admit, I get so excited to shoot a bride’s details at the beginning of her wedding day. I love the challenge… yes, I say challenge because that is exactly what it can be sometimes. It can be difficult to think outside the box, be creative, and shoot in a way that best showcases the shoes, jewelry, and earrings, etc.
When I first started shooting weddings, I would shoot the details pretty much where the bride left them, adjusting them slightly and just clicking away. There was nothing necessarily wrong with the photos but I felt they were lacking something and were just average. So I decided to I look through magazines and high end window store displays that I loved and study how they showcased the items.
That is when I realized the importance of stylizing – the importance of arranging the items purposefully to display them in the best way. It was then I gave myself the permission and challenge to MOVE the bride’s details that I was photographing and pull in props if need be. Whether it’s moving her gown closer to the window, placing her stilettos on a chair with fabulous texture, or laying her earrings on a bright pillow for a splash of color, your bride hired you to shoot her important details beautifully with your creative eye. For me, it’s important to style them in such a way that 1) best showcases the item AND that 2) the bride will be proud of. To do this I sometimes ask myself if I were the shoe designer, for example. how would I shoot these shoes for a print ad to best show its detail and what makes them unique?
Learning how to stylize has taken me practice, trying new things, and looking at how the designers stylize. Because I don’t have all the time in the world to stylize the bride’s items I used to actually practice at home stylizing and photographing my own shoes, jewelry, even invitations. I would explore what window light hitting shoes from different angles looked like. I would shoot pearls with multiple lenses and would try shooting from varying angles. It was just like anything else with photography…. practice, practice, practice.
I am still constantly learning as I stylize things in different ways and love the challenge to push the creative envelope!! Whew, now that I said all that, here are a few examples of what I mean…
I recently photographed bridal prep in a hotel that had limited interesting surfaces to shoot on and one natural light source. I had already used the red couch to shoot her stillettos and wanted to change it up to photograph her jewelry. I noticed that the sheer curtains were a soft white and so I pushed the couch a little closer to the window, grabbed her invitation, and placed the earrings. The photo on the left is where I shot them and the right photo was the resulting photo.
When photographing the items below, I found a really cool wooden trunk in between two windows that provided natural light on both sides. I carefully draped the bride’s veil over the trunk and placed the items. It was nothing complicated but adding the veil provided soft framing and added a whole new level of dimension to the image.
When looking for a place to hang the bride’s dress below the bridal party was in the bedrooms and there were limited places in the living room to hang the dress near a natural light source. But when I walked in the kitchen I noticed the beautiful blue walls and a plant hook in a corner of the room. The videographer, who needed to take video of the dress, was on board with hanging the dress there and we quickly cleared a little area. The photo on the left is the setting (sliding glass door to the right provided beautiful soft light) and photo on the right was one of the resulting images.
(As a side note, if you are not sure whether your bride would be comfortable with you, for example, moving her gown to another room, just ask her. When I have asked, I have never had a bride say she does not want me to because she is trusting me and my expertise.)
Using a prop like a book or small flower can be a great way to showcase the smaller items and at the same time incorporate color, texture, and a feeling of movement. One thing to note is when you are shooting bridal details make sure you do a walk through of your setting when you first arrive so you know your options in terms of spaces, props, and light. This book and amazing leather chair happened to be a study which was not in the same room the bride was getting ready in.