Pancake Session: 5 Steps to Better Bridal Detail Shots
One of my favorite parts of the day is shooting the getting ready. I love all of the anticipation, I love when things get emotional, I love that we're photographing a part of the day when the bride & groom aren't together so that through our pictures they can still see what the other was doing as they were getting ready to promise forever.
And I also love it because I really do just love shooting all of the pretty details that a girl will put on as she gets ready to become a bride. Her grandma's locket, that beaded belt she spent months searching for the perfect one, her perfume that will remind her of the day every time she smells it, that amazing pair of shoes.
As anyone who has ever heard Justin & I teach on pretty much anything can tell you....we're big on starting with Why. On doing everything with purpose. And letting every choice you make as a photographer flow from that place
And for me, getting amazing shots of the shoes, the jewelry, the dress....this all fits with our own Why because we believe that the fashions of the day can be as much a part of the nostalgia of images as what's happening in them. Think about Jackie Kennedy in a pink Chanel suit or Grace Kelly in long lace sleeves, I think about my own parents on their wedding day with my mom's lace flower child dress and my dad's powder blue suit. Or my grandparents at City Hall, and my grandma's suit and pillbox hat. When I see those pictures, when I see what they were wearing...it makes me feel like I was there. We love giving that gift to the future kids and grandkids yet to be.
And, over time, we've figured out a few things to make those shots even better.
1. Shoot the details where they feel natural. In keeping with part of our Why which includes the phrase "exercise the restraint to tell those stories through the veil of authenticity," it is very important for us that, even if we are styling the details and changing where we found them, they should still be placed somewhere that it's reasonable that they might have actually been found. So for example, shooting the shoes on a chair or side table, which is normally where we find them anyway...we just move them to some good light. Or hanging the dress on an armoire or on a door, where a bride would most likely hang her dress. So in keeping with our own Why (and we know that our Why is not the same as everybody's out there! and if it's not yours that's ok!), for us we would never want to hang the dress in a tree or put it in the bath tub or do anything with it that a bride might not actually herself do. Because when she gets those pictures we want her to remember how excited she was to put on the dress.....not wonder "hmm...when did my dress go outside!" :)
2. Create simplicity of background. If you're shooting something like the dress full length, remove as many distracting elements as you can out of frame. Either crop them out or actually move them. Simple is beautiful. And nothing will ruin a beautiful shot like having a plant in the corner of the frame or random things sitting on top of the armoire. In the same vein, when you are shooting the small details, try going closer. For example, when I'm shooting the shoes on a chair, I almost always try to have the background of the chair fill the frame. It gives me a nice clean background and makes the eye focus in on the subject!
3. Try to shoot across the subject rather slightly down at it. When I'm shooting those smaller details like the shoes & jewelry, I'll sit down right on the floor so that I can bring my lens to be able to shoot right straight across it at an even height as the subject. What happens when I do that, is that by shooting at a wider aperture I am able to keep the subject tack sharp but then use that shallow depth of field to make the background fall off really quickly which makes it soft & pretty. I'll even make sure I enhance that effect by moving the subject toward the front of the chair & even further off the background. If I were instead shooting slightly down on the subject then the subject would be in focus, but so would a good bit of the "seat" of the chair because it's not that far from the subject and the planes of focus wouldn't fall off fast enough. The result is that it looks like I'm shooting at much more stopped down aperture, which tends to have more of a point & shoot look. Also, because we now see so much more of the detail & fabric of the chair, it becomes a lot busier (i.e. not as simple) of a background! I will say though that sometimes shooting straight down on the subjects can make for a really interesting shot...just stay aware of your background!
4. Keep your lens parallel. In addition to shooting straight across the subject, we also take care to make sure we're holding our lens in a way that it is staying parallel to the subject. What I mean by that is that even if you are low enough to shoot across the subject but you are tilting your lens up or down, then it will distort the parallels in the background of the image (like the lines or edges of the chair). Our eye is really attracted to images with very little distortion because we understand them more. They make more sense/look how they should look in real life. So just that simple change can create a much more simple, beautiful image.
5. Try to make it feel like they were found that way. Now obviously this rule has kind of a gray area, because the truth is that we often find the shoes still in the box or the dress still wrapped in plastic. But I guess what I mean is to try to shy away from setting up the details in an overly staged/too perfect/shot in every combination possible way that makes the viewer feels like "oh look what photographer did" and instead feels more like someone is just getting a behind the scenes glimpse into what that morning really felt like. What the dress looked like hanging there waiting to be put on. What the perfume bottle looked like that she was about to spray on. Which is really what we're trying to capture! So allow in some of what we call "benign neglect" where it's pretty but not necessarily perfect, to make it feel more like real life. And so sometimes, the best way to get details shots is to simply shoot them as the bride is actually about to put them on!
As always, we hope that helped!! And if you would like to receive even more free tips & tricks, be sure to get signed up for our newsletter below! We are going to be sending out one next week about "5 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Portfolio" and it's going to be a GOOD one! :) You don't want to miss it! We have been really loving our newsletter community so far & we've had thousands of people sign up in just the past few weeks! We would love for you to join 'em so you don't miss out on a single one!
We walked into the bridal suite and we were instantly greeted with hugs & "Justin & Mary are here!!!" That's when we knew it was going to be an amazing day!
This past Saturday we had the absolute honor of shooting our second Mulrane girl's wedding!! We shot Erin's sister, Kristin's wedding when she married an amazing man in Bill a few years ago. And this weekend we got to watch Erin do the same thing with an absolutely amazing man in Christian. AND Kristin & Bill's absolutely adorable little girl Madeline was the flower girl (who you guys might remember as baby Carlos at our Halloween party!) So it was pretty much a Mulrane reunion love fest for all of us! :)
There are days that a photographer could order up as their perfect scenario for shooting a wedding....and this day was IT! During the first look (which we absolutely LOVE that Erin & Chris opted to do! It was such a stress free day because of it!) we had soft gray clouds, a cool breeze, and gorgeous light! That doesn't always happen in mid-July so we were over the moon about it! And then when we went back out for their evening portraits (have I mentioned how much I LOVE these guys....they gave us so much time to shoot & all of these beautiful portraits are the result of it!) the clouds broke away and golden light poured in across the water. It was perfect!
Erin & Chris got married at the Wilton Library, so I just LOVED how they carried that theme through all of their details from the card catalogue program holder to the book centerpieces (which Erin hand painted herself!) to the book mark place cards to the dictionary guest book. SO awesome! Even their cake had book rosettes on it! I just love when a couple takes their day and makes it so personal & their own!
But maybe my favorite part of the day would have to be when Chris said his vows to Erin. We have been shooting weddings for a long time now (8 years for me, 11 years for Justin) and these were hands down some of my favorite vows EVER. They were heartfelt, poetic, honest, and in that moment there wasn't a doubt in my mind that Chris is going to love Erin forever. And I love my Mulrane girls....so this made my heart very very happy indeed.
If that was my favorite part, then coming in at a very very close second would have to be when Kristin stood to give her Maid of Honor speech....and ended up rapping it to Eminem's 8 Mile song instead! AMAZING!
I told you I love these girls! AND the incredible men that have stolen both of their hearts!
To Erin & Chris (and the whole Mulrane & Qualey crew!) thank you for letting us feel like the luckiest photographers ever to get to be a part of your lives. And thank you for making us feel like just part of the family. We love you all! Love like this always.
While we were out in Chicago last week, we actually got to do two engagement shoots with our J&M couples...both who are getting married later this Fall. But a love of autumn wedding dates isn't all these two couples have in common! You see, Sheila (who you will remember from our University of Chicago engagement shoot we just posted) was a former classmate of Justin's in the photo program at RIT, and Nicole is a former classmate of mine at Yale Law. She was actually a year ahead of me, and my first year she was my "Big Sis" in the Yale Law Women's group! So we dubbed this the week of alumni shoots!! :)
Nicole was also the director of the Yale Law Revue -our year end comedy show (think Saturday Night Live, but with law jokes!)- my first year & passed the director title down to me the following year. So basically what that means is that she's super funny AND super smart, not to mention beautiful! She is now off in Chicago taking the legal field by storm & that's where she met Jeff! These two share a love of their bulldog Basil, their super cute Chicago neighborhood, and sushi....all of which we got to enjoy with them while we were out there! Here are just a few favorites from our shoot & we can't wait to head back out that way at the end of September for the BIG day!
Our J&M Summer Bucket List adventures continued out west with our trips to Seattle & Portland! Specifically, we had on the list: go sailing in Seattle & get VooDoo Donuts in Portland. But we were able to do SO much more! We kicked off the trip by hopping right off a plane and on to a sailboat to cruise around the harbor with our new amazing friends Ike & Tash (and baby Wisdom!). And what a way it was to be welcomed out to Seattle! We had perfect weather, golden light, Mt. Rainier off in the distance, and a warm salt air breeze. It was amazing!
But besides that, we also got to grab brunch at Skillet with our recent J&M Couple Michelle & Matt, walk around the Public Market, stop off at the original Starbucks (of course!), go check out a lavender field with fellow photographer & friend Laura Marchbanks, grab dinner with our past J&M Couple Malika & Arjun (who also modeled for both of our workshops!), grab brunch (brunch is my love language!) with designer extraordinaire Jeffrey Shipley, and ride a ferry boat over to Bainbridge Island (while channeling my inner Meredith Grey) with the wonderful Candice Hackett.
From there we hopped in a car & drove down to Portland, where we kicked off that part of the trip right with an adventure to VooDoo Donuts. I had the maple bacon one and it was INCREDIBLE! Most of our time in Portland was taken up with the World Domination Summit, but we did get to drive past Powell's Books and eat dinner (complete with one amazing view from the 30th floor Portland City Grill) with our favorites Karen & Isaac Stott!
Whew! It was definitely a whirlwind, but I am so SO grateful for every minute of it! Here are a few of our favorite shots from the trip!
Wow, this is definitely the week of features!! First Indhu & Greg in The Knot magazine, then Walk Through on Style Me Pretty, and now Kayla & Brendon's absolutely stunning Wadsworth Mansion wedding has been picked up by Well Wed as one of their "national real weddings" which means it was featured in not one, but all FIVE of their regional publications!! We are just so excited because Kayla & Brendon (and Kayla's mom!) worked so SO hard on putting together all of the amazing details of this day, it was definitely a labor of love for them. So that just makes me all the happier that so many different people are going to get to see it! Such awesome news to kick this weekend off right!
We are off for a productive weekend full of getting caught up from our trip out west, adjusting back to East Coast time, and gearing up for Erin & Christian's big day tomorrow!! Whatever you're doing this weekend, we hope it makes you happy and is full of the things you love!