February 2, 2016

Bridal Detail Photos • Why You Should Take Them & How To Make Them Magazine Worthy

wedding rings styled on a wedding invitation photo

This has been quite a challenge for me. It was one of my weakest areas of photography, but one I chose to focus on in 2015 to improve. I’m still no where as quick and creative as I want to be, but I’m working on it! I learned a lot in 2015 about styling details, and thought maybe sharing what I’ve learned here will help someone reading this who might struggling with the same issue. Before I get to what I’ve learned, let me give you some back story so you can understand where my mentality was this time last year:

I really thought gorgeous bridal detail photos just happened. With each new wedding, I’d get more and more frustrated that I wasn’t getting the opportunities to photograph bridals details the way other photographers did. I’d show up to a wedding day all excited, walk into the bridal suite, hoping to see her details all prettily laid out for me to photograph, and time after time I was greeted with…wait for it…nothing. No details, no pretty little tray of flowers, or rings staged perfectly on an invitation. Nothing. Instantly, I’d feel deflated. With the wind knocked out of me, I felt like a failure. How was I supposed to take those magazine worthy bridal detail photos when there was nothing to photograph? I’d carry that dark cloud with me all day, the feeling of less than capable, and unfortunately, it would affect the rest of my photography for that wedding.

I’ll be the first to admit details aren’t the most important part of the day. Weddings are about real moments, raw emotions. My photographer’s heart soars when I capture an image you can feel. I mean really, truly feel. The kind that make you stop scrolling through your Instagram feed just so you can stare at it. I want my couples to relive the feelings they had on their wedding day through their images. When I leave a wedding day knowing I’ve captured those types of images, my heart is refreshed in the best way possible.

With all that said, that doesn’t make details unimportant. Quite the contrary. Detail images create emotion too. They remind the bride of all that was pretty behind her day. They capture family heirlooms that have been passed down or will be passed down for generations. They also are the glue that holds the story together and establish a theme for the day. On a personal level for me, they give me an instant boost of confidence at the beginning of a wedding. When the very first photo of the day is a perfectly styled gorgeous one, it’s hard not to get a little skip in your step. On a professional level, details are what publications want to see. Without them you will not get published. Wedding blogs & magazines exist to inspire brides, details provide that inspiration.

So how do you get those feature worthy images? Like I said, by far, I’m not the best detail photographer out there. I still have tons to learn in this arena! I’m going to keep working on it in 2016 and hopefully improve with each new wedding. But the little I know, I’m more than happy to share, so here goes:

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. I do a planning meeting with all of my couples about 4 months before the big day. It’s during that meeting that we talk about photographing her bridal details, how much time it takes, and what I’ll be photographing.
  • During the planning meeting get a feel for the style of the wedding day. Ask about colors, inspiration, or even to see her pinterest board! That way when you show up you’ll know exactly what colors and vibe the rest of the day will hold, which allows you to style the details to match and flow with the rest of the images.
  • Ask the bride to make you a detail bag, so you can grab it as soon as you arrive to photography. I tell them exactly what to put in it: both of their rings, invitations, jewelry, shoes, etc, and will even send them a reminder email a week before the wedding to get their detail bag ready! This not only helps me, but it also helps the bride keep track of where all of her important things are on her wedding day.
  • Plan at least 30 minutes for details. It takes time to think through a set-up to find the best display. If your package doesn’t allow for that much time consider showing up early to give yourself more time. Rushing the details will not produce your best images. Also, the bride will love that you showed up early…brownie points!
  • Have the bride have her bouquet delivered to the bridal suite at least 30 minutes before you’re scheduled to arrive. I ask all of my brides to see if their florist if they can bring scraps for me to use when styling the details. If I know the florist, I’ll send them an email myself. I also remind them of this the week before the wedding when I send them the details email. The 30 minutes is in case it shows up late, then you’re not holding up the day waiting for flowers for the detail images!
  • REMINDER EMAIL, I know I’ve said it twice already, but it’s so important it deserves being said again. Brides have so much going on you can’t possibly expect them to remember a conversation you had with her 4 months prior. I usually send out the reminder email on the Friday of the week before a wedding.
  • Use natural light. Usually I’m around 6ish feet from a window. Every bridal suite is different so don’t hold me to that one. Practice will make perfect in regards to lighting.
  • Reflectors are your best friend when it comes to details!!! I have a mini 12 inch one that I keep in my camera bag. It’s the perfect size for details! If you’re in a hotel suite, white pillows also will do the trick. Yep, I said pillows.
  • Macro lenses, and don’t be afraid to manually focus if needed. I have a Nikkor 105 that rocks for details! Except for full invitation suites, for those I use a 50 because I need a wider field of view.
  • If you lack for a background, use a bridesmaid dress or the wedding gown itself. Thanks Katelyn James for that trick!!!
  • Photograph the details first. I mean literally first, before anything else!!! I said this above, but there are so many reasons I do them first. The main one: the bride has to wear those details and once they’re on her you’re not getting them off! The second: since I prefer natural light I can guarantee by photographing them first I’ll have some daylight to work with.
  • Layer. This one takes practice, but layering invitations with jewelry with a pop of color, so on and so on, will give your detail photos depth.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, it’s ok to give up on a set up and try something new. I’ve been known to photograph all the details completely over again because I found something better than my first attempt! It’s called art, not perfection.

BRIDES: your photographer would love to chat details with you, I guarantee it! You can help them make your images stunning by putting together a detail bag and communicating with your florist. Ask your photographer what will help them in capturing those images. I bet they’ll give you a great big hug for asking!

Well, I hoped that helped someone! Maybe next year I’ll come back with an updated post on everything I’ve learned in 2016!

ONE MORE THING: if you struggle with details like I did, then Darling Wedding Workshop might be for you! We’re going to cover all of this and more!! Think gorgeous styled shoots, natural light and reception light training, new friends, business principles to launch your business to the next level, and getting published! Registration opens in 5 days for the public (or 3 if you sign up for the mailing list on the website)!!!!

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