I get asked a lot about my approach to shooting the details on the day of. I think it’s easy for us to view the rings, the shoes, the flowers etc. as singular objects that the bride and groom pay for or use to “pretty things up”. And while that may be true to some extent, it could also be that they are key elements that they use to tell a greater story.
Mark Twain once described the ability to tell a story as an art, both “high and delicate”. And I totally agree. The details of the day of are describing a resounding character or quality our couples possess that can be easily overlooked as we plow through our damned shot lists. And when we do that, we miss the point and purpose of what we are doing. So here are a few things that I try to consider each wedding day, that may help you as well;
1. Stop and Explore - The first thing I do when I get to a wedding is drop my camera bags (with my cameras left in them), and go explore. I look at the venue, and the reception site. I look for what is setup. I look for colors, and I try to determine some kind of theme that will help me better understand my bride and groom. Is it rustic? Is it Classic? What is that one theme and how does it fit?
2. Don’t ignore the small - I don’t mean this in the sense that "there are small objects, so go photograph them too”. I mean thematically don’t ignore the small! If you have a bride a groom, and you have them in a field and you have the sun setting behind them and you have this incredibly beautiful image, yes take it. Use all of the environmental imagery to create that once in a lifetime image. Those are details too! But there are also smaller details you can work down to. Their hands, how her hair is moving when the wind picks up, the detail in his suit. It helps me to think big, and work my way down.
(Images like this are as much a portrait as they are a detail shot! His and her shoes, her earrings, and dress!)
3. Be present without being present - I am going to admit a HUGE mistake I have made in the past 2 years and it pains me to say it. I place a HUGE amount of weight on the relationship I have with my bride and groom. I have for so long preached that you are what makes them comfortable so play that card. I have though, at times, used that to my detriment. There is a comfort level or relationship that exists that allows me to interact with them in a way maybe another vendor can't. And then I will see a beautiful moment unfolding between the bride and groom, or the bride and her father, only to recognize quickly that they know I am there and are in some small way still interacting with me. So this year I have had to pull that back a little. And when it comes to viewing these moments as little details in a bigger story, its paramount that you are seen without being noticed.
4. Stop being objective - Journalists and news photographers have to be objective. And to some degree we are too. We shoot what we see. However, put yourself in that moment or in their shoes when viewing the details. It changes how important photographing something really becomes when you personalize it. I have had some strange requests to photograph some strange details. But the reality is, what becomes absolutely strange and odd to me means the world to someone else.
So what do you do when you approach the details? What can you change? Remember the details are a bunch of small pieces that by themselves just seem unimportant. But when you begin to put it all together, the begin to give us context and help us tell a bigger, more greater story about the people we get to photograph!