June 1, 2016

Pancake Session: 5 Steps to ROCK Your Detail Shots!!

Happy Wednesday!!

Photographing the bridal details is one of those parts of the wedding day (in mine & Justin’s division of labor) where I take the lead! I love styling them up, I love documenting heirlooms, and it fits so much with our Why because I believe that the fashions of the day become so much a part of the nostalgia & iconic nature of photographs in years to come. Just think of Grace Kelly in her long sleeve lace wedding dress or Jackie O in that pill box hat, or I also think of my own grandma in her wedding day suit at City Hall. Overtime, I have come up with some go-to tricks on making the most of the detail shots & so today I wanted to share them with you! Here they are, 5 Steps to Make the Most of Your Detail Shots!


1. Ask for the bride to provide some styling elements. I know a lot of photographers & planners who carry a styling kit with them (full of awesome things like ribbon and vintage stamps and fabrics to shoot on) and that is such a genius idea that we are definitely going to be doing as well! But in addition to that, remember to also ask the bride to provide some styling elements that are personal to her. One of our favorite series of detail shots ever happened when the bride included this gorgeous gold hand mirror that belonged to her Grandma!


2. Make more use of your macro. I know pretty much all of us will break out the macro to shoot details of the rings or inscriptions. But the next time you shoot details, try keeping that lens on longer! I LOVE to use it to shoot medium details like the perfume or even sometimes the shoes. I just back way up to choose my composition & then I put that macro to work to get gorgeous creamy & compressed backgrounds!


3. Simplify your background. There is a reason why DaVinci said “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” (followed up by Coco Chanel with “simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance”). Our brains are trained to be attracted to those things it doesn’t have to spend too much time making sense of. When your background is cluttered or noisy, people will be repelled from it on a basic subconscious level without ever really knowing why. That’s why I always love to use the chair or surface I’m shooting on to fill the frame and simplify what the viewer is seeing.


4. Make your details feel larger than life. I love to shoot either straight across or sometimes even slightly up at my details. This makes them feel larger than life in the image. We believe that even small details can tell a BIG story (like the bottle of perfume that was passed down for three generations from the bride’s grandmother) and the best part is now our HOW backs up our WHY.


5. If you want the details to feel softer, make sure you are minding your fill. We love to travel with a small Profoto pop up reflector (which we can prop up on a chair next to our detail set up) to keep those shadows nice and soft (i.e. our contrast low). It also works great in a pinch as a scrim if you are getting hard dappled light from the window, that you can block by using the reflector.

Ok, that’s it for now!! Happy Pancake Day friends! Feel free to leave any questions in the comments below!

**PS: if you need MORE help with things like managing contrast, lighting your details, drawing your angles of light, and knowing how to deal with difficult, terribly lit rooms and still get soft gorgeous detail shots, then definitely check out our Lighting the Bridal Details Guide which is on special for $20 off in our J&M Store TODAY! 

The Lighting Guide - Bridal Detailsf copy

  1. michael and carina

    Great tips guys. I’ll build on that and add if I might: make it make SENSE. You mentioned the kits with ribbons, etc. GREAT IDEA – we’ve had a styling bag (I call it the Barney bag, our assistant calls it the Mary Poppins bag) for years. But don’t just reach in the bag and pull out a ribbon to add just to add a ribbon. Why is the ribbon there? Is it framing something? Does it match the color pallette of the other details? Is it framing something? If you take it away, does the image become stronger? Step One towards weaker images is adding something just for the sake of adding something. Direct, confident detail images, ribbons or not, make for the strongest storytelling set-pieces. Again, good tips!

  2. michael and carina

    Sorry stepping off of the soapbox! Haha. You guys rock.

  3. Elle Golden

    “…ask the bride to provide some styling elements that are personal to her.”

    THIS and what Michael and Carina said. Styling kits are great if you don’t overdo it and change the actual look of a couple’s wedding day.

    As a wedding photographer planning her own wedding, I think about how I could possibly become upset if I received images back from my wedding day that looked less like MY wedding vision and more like the photographer’s vision of getting published. Of course, I will be choosing my photographer carefully and likely won’t select someone who only cares about publications, but I do see it on the photography message boards quite a lot. I think the key is trying to shoot organically with what is provided, then maybe adding in from your own kit 1 item or two to enhance what you’re already working with, not to create something completely false that wouldn’t have been there otherwise, if that makes sense?

    This was a wonderful post and I just had to lend my own opinion from both a photographer and bride perspective!

  4. jenny

    I have been thinking about taking more items for styling lately so this was a good read-I have always relied on what it around in the past, and most of the time it’s challenging especially in a dark boring hotel room-thanks so much for sharing! i love the idea of being specific with the bride about bringing along a few special elements!

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