by Anita Martin
I shoot weddings for the emotion and incredible moments that show themselves in all their laughter and tear-filled glory. These moments matter and are my “WHY” when I arrive at a wedding.
I am also a girl that appreciates an awesome pair of shoes and some seriously gorgeous flowers. I understand that weddings are steeped in tradition and the flowers, cake, and the white dress, all mean more to us than we realize.
I feel that the details deserve attention simply because they are part of the couple’s celebration.
Shooting details for me is more than putting objects in nice light and clicking my shutter.
Do I shoot details alone, in pretty light? Yes.
Do I shoot details a certain way to possibly have the wedding published? Of course!
Do I also shoot details with the goal to create art, add context, and attempt to evoke emotion? Absolutely.
I have learned that I need to stay mentally and physically present in my client’s day. Walking away to shoot details means I might be missing an incredible moment, relationships, and part of the story of my client’s day. Because of my personal philosophy on weddings, I have developed a few tricks for myself to stay involved in the day and also provide my clients with beautiful and sentimental detail images.
#1: Show up early
This past year I booked shorter wedding packages and found myself rushed to photograph the details while I was surrounded by candid moments, which trumped the detail shots at my weddings. I started arriving before my scheduled start time to take advantage of the half hour before my bride starts her make-up. I can take my time on these shots and start bridal preparation and candids after the make-up artist begins their work. I am now offering longer wedding packages to allow myself the time to accomplish details shots.
#2: Add context
Using the architecture or nuances of the venue is a wonderful way to add context. Not only will you give your client memories of their venue and location of their wedding, you can use your environment to spark your creativity and be inspired. Often time inspiration comes from what is right in front of you.
I photographed a wedding that took place after dark and took advantage of that darkness in this image of the bride’s dress. I consciously chose to use the city skyline, keeping with the overall feel of her wedding. I could have taken the dress into a well-lit area, however that would not have been consistent with her wedding experience.
Here I was able to incorporate in the lovely stone accents and provide my bride an image of her dress that will help her remember the beautiful villa where she was married.
When photographing a wedding in the mountains, I made sure to incorporate pine needles from the towering pines that surrounded the couple during their vows.
At this wedding on a golf course, I used a golf ball for the ring shot. It might normally be cliché, but this couple met while working at a golf club and they live, breathe, and love golf. Since this sport means so much to them, using the ball adds incredible context to their ring shot.
#3: Use “candid” moments to capture details
I used to ask the bride to stand and hold her bouquet out so I could photograph her holding her flowers. Then my documentary side began taking over this, and I realized this type of staged photograph is unnecessary. There are plenty of opportunities throughout the day to photograph the personal details of the bridal party without making them aware of the capture. A quiet moment, with a sweet bride being laced into her dress, becomes an opportunity for a detail shot of the beading on this gorgeous gown.
The best part about using candid moments to create a photograph of a detail is the natural movement that shows itself in the final image. Not only am I creating detail shots, I am giving my client back a moment from their day.
I can sit in the corner of the bridal suite and capture a soft smile, showing off the bride’s make-up and jewelry. In another moment, I can capture the bride holding her bouquet before she walks to her fiancée for their first look. In both of these examples I never had to ask the bride to perform for my camera. She was always just “in her moment” in the time before her ceremony.
Here the bridal party left their flowers and hand-made handkerchiefs on the bed in the groom’s mother’s guest room and on her bookshelf in her room. These images are special because of where the flowers are, and not only because they are images of the bridal flowers.
#4: Move your feet
If my client or a member of the bridal party is holding a detail that may not be in the best light I always move myself around them to find the best angle to capture that particular detail. If I am unable to get the shot I want, I will wait until my client moves. I resort to asking them to stand and hold details only if I have no other options and I use this tactic sparingly.
If the bride is walking I can take advantage of that great movement, running around her to a location that allows me to capture the detail appropriately. I find that being close to my clients helps me get images like this, using a wide angle lens such as my favorite wedding lens the 35 f/1.4.
#5: Use light creatively
There is always excitement when you use light to your advantage in a photograph. Shadowing and highlights draw your eye to the important elements, and the same holds true for detail shots. This cake was sitting near an open window that faced into the lobby of my client’s venue. I decided to use the light from the reception room to highlight their desert table.
Good light is needed for the ring shot especially! If I am working with the rings during the day, I have sunlight as my natural light source. I have discovered the value of having a video light at a wedding. Just like any pretty lady, these precious gems want to look their best, and a video light gives you instant sun for those shots.
#6: Make portraits do double time!
I often take advantage of posed portraits to get detail images. There is plenty of context (since my clients are in the photograph), great light, and this is one of the few moments in a wedding day where I am in control.
I posed the bride and her bridesmaids sitting on the bed, and by kneeling down and shooting the flowers, dresses, and shoes, I created a lovely detail shot of their details. The bride also received the images of her and her best friends laughing together, and I have a wonderful image that was used in submitting this wedding to a wedding blog.
and last but not least …
#7: Have fun!
Detail shots do not have to be traditional unless you want them to be. I came out of my first wedding season and decided to give myself permission to love taking detail shots in tandem with focusing on documenting my client’s wedding day. Although I find myself drawn to the moments and the stories of a wedding day, I thoroughly enjoy taking a few moments to capture the lovely gowns, shoes, rings, décor, and flowers that my brides lovingly select for their wedding celebration.
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I am a documentary style wedding photographer located in Northern California. I absolutely love photographing couples, engagements, and weddings. Wedding photography fuels me, and I love capturing the relationships and stories of a couple’s celebration.