There’s so much to remember when shooting a wedding and so many important moments to capture. It’s sometimes easy to miss the wedding detail shots. These more minor details are often things that the couple has painstakingly chosen in the run-up to their big day.
You may also find yourself with very little time to shoot many tiny details on a hectic wedding day. But this article will help.
Like any event photographer, most of my wedding shots are of people, i.e. the bride, groom, and guests. This, after all, is what a wedding is all about and what people mainly want to see when they open a wedding photo album. Weddings, though, are always packed full of other visual details besides the people. So much time is spent preparing to make a wedding look beautiful that it would be a shame not to preserve some of this in the album. Sometimes, the best way to achieve this is to make these details the subjects of some of my photographs, even if this means leaving people out of some shots completely.
Efficient time management is a significant factor in a successful wedding shoot, and it can be challenging to capture all the shots you require across the day. That’s why I constantly endeavour to turn up early. I do this partly because it allows me to walk around the venue – both inside and outside – and assess the day’s lighting conditions. However, it also gives me the chance to get some photos of the building itself and perhaps some of the decorations, flower arrangements and so on before any of the guests have arrived. Check out our extensive list of Wedding Photographers in Melbourne to help capture your special moments.
Of course, often we are asked to take photos of the bride, groom or both getting ready for the wedding. If this is in a hotel or other location far from the venue, it may be challenging to find time to turn up early and capture these detailed shots. If so, don’t worry, there will be plenty of other opportunities. Try to spot details and photograph them across the day, and perhaps steal a bit of time at an opportune moment. An ideal option is usually during the meal; most people don’t want to be photographed when they’re eating, so I take the chance to have a walk around the building and its exterior to grab some extra shots.
Shooting Wedding Day Details Tips
The details on a wedding day (shoes, rings, dress, etc.) are essential elements of the couple’s story, and each piece is significant because it was specially chosen. Photographing the details is typically my first task upon arriving on the wedding day and is one of my favourite parts of a day. It’s a little like the calm before the storm. Are you ready to dive in? These are my steps for getting it all done.
Educate your bride.
This might be the most vital tip I can give you, honestly. To have everything I need to do my job well on a wedding day, I have to prepare my client in the weeks leading up to the event. I explain to them that I need their details (I provide a list of required) gathered together in one place for me before I arrive. And since my brides are like me and they LOVE details, they are more than willing to do what it takes to have excellent photographs. There is not time on a wedding day to run around gathering up the details from many different locations and people. If planning is left to the day of, details will be missed. Another thing I do is have my brides mail me a copy of their invitation. I get to see their wedding colours in person, which helps me know what ribbons to bring for styling.
Find the best light.
This is my number one priority after I have the details in hand. Even if there are some great background options, the lighting needs to come first! I look for open shade or window light. In a pinch, I can use flash or video light, but this is not my preference.
Find a good background.
I look for clean and straightforward fabrics or furniture that will flow with the day’s details for backgrounds. Sometimes I can use what’s available to me wherever the bride is getting ready, and other times I use a styling board. A styling board is a stretched canvas wrapped in fabric that I use as a background when there are no other options I like. This grants me the ability to be picky about my light while not sacrificing the image’s background.
Work large to small.
Starting with the complete stationery suite, I style a vertical and horizontal set up and then begin paring back. I will also photograph any other combinations of multiple item pairings at this time. This allows me to get the most detailed photos out of the way first. I then move on to precise details like the rings or shoes.
Wedding Details Shot List: The Must-Haves
Having a specific wedding details shot list will help hugely. Here are ‘must-have’ image types to include in approximate wedding day chronological order.
Shoes and Accessories
As soon as you get to either the bride or groom prep venue, you should shoot the shoes and accessories. Yes, bride and groom. A lot of guys will buy new shoes specifically for the day. While you might think they wouldn’t be interested in photos of their shoes, a nice shot of the footwear in pristine condition (with the logo emblazoned box if they’re an expensive brand or make) will always be appreciated.
For the bride, it’s a no-brainer. Take wedding jewellery shots with the shoes and other items like a garter or any gifts that the groom has given.
The best lens for this would be anything with a wide enough aperture to throw the background out of focus. This keeps the attention on the shoes.
If you don’t have a wide aperture lens, then another trick is to throw some light on the shoes and expose them for the highlights. This makes everything else in the frame go dark.
When lighting wedding details this way, there’s no need for anything fancy. A simple desk lamp directed towards your subject can work here.
If you have an off-camera flash, though (even a cheap Yongnuo YN560-III and the trigger will do), now is a great time to put it to work.
Say you’re shooting the bride’s preparation in the morning (which you really should be if you can). You’ll often find that the florist will deliver the bouquets and buttonholes a short time before you leave for the ceremony venue.
It’s best to grab these as soon as they arrive for two reasons:
- Firstly, stems, petals, and other foliage can quickly get snapped or drop off when handled for any amount of time. Whilst you can often fix stray stalks in the post, aim for shooting them in perfect condition.
- Secondly, it’s straightforward for time to run away with you when shooting the wedding details shots in the morning.
Once you’ve photographed the shoes and wedding jewellery shots, you’ll want to shoot the bride’s hair, and make-up is done. Also, some fun pictures of the bridesmaids with the bride, the mocked up ‘bridesmaids helping with the dress and accessories’ shots, and so on.
Before you know it, the bridal car will be outside, and you’ll need some shots of that too. As such, it’s always best to shoot the flowers as soon as you can so they aren’t forgotten.
Shoot the flowers against a neutral or plain background. Preferably with them standing up on their end (this will depend on the bouquet, though).
As with the shoes, some angled, off-camera light or some diffused natural light from a window just out of shot will make the image come alive.
Later on, you’ll want to shoot the gents’ buttonholes while they’re wearing them. There’s no need to include faces here.
Flower arrangements are an essential component of any wedding. These are probably some of the most expensive and time-consuming preparations the happy couple will make. It’s always worth making sure some photographs are taken for posterity, then, and they can help brighten up any wedding album.
Wedding Photographer Pro Tip
Shoot the flowers with the florist’s business card, compliment slip, or logo. Supply these shots to them after the couple has their images. Any time you can shoot and share some product shots of services supplied by external vendors (the hair and make-up artist, the cake, the DJ, a Master of Ceremonies, or even the venue building itself, etc.), then you should. This can be a great way to build up working relationships. And it will encourage the vendors to suggest your services to any of their future clients. Looking for a Wedding Photo Company? Look no further. Boutique events group has compiled an ultimate list of wedding photo companies to help you choose.
Of course, catching all the requisite full-length shots of the bride and groom at the altar is a given. But you’ll also want to look around for any personal touches the couple have added or asked for in the ceremony venue.
Think floral arrangements matching the bride’s bouquet, the pianist’s sheet music (as the couple are likely to have requested these songs themselves), or any other creative items added that depict the couples’ interests or hobbies.
All these little details matter to the couple, and you’ll impress them if they feel you’ve realised their importance.
You will more than likely be forbidden from using flash during this part of the day. A wide aperture lens of any focal length will allow lots of available light to expose your shot without raising your ISO too much correctly.
Wedding party detail shots are one of the more manageable tasks of the day. You can usually capture them by just wandering around during the canapés after the ceremony.
Images of the bride’s hair brooch that belonged to her grandmother, or maybe the groomsmen’s novelty cuff-links, are the sort of things you’re looking for, along with any parts of the bridesmaids’ dresses or groomsmen’s suits that are unique or stand out.
Getting these wedding detail shots is more about constantly keeping one eye on potential opportunities than it is about lens choice.
Spontaneous Intimate Moments
These moments can happen at any point throughout the day due to them being, well, spontaneous. Like the wedding party detail shots, a lot of this relies on having a keen eye.
These shots could be anything from the bride giving her parents a small, personal gift before the ceremony to the bride’s elderly grandfather delicately looking at his granddaughter’s ring after the ceremony. Or even something as simple as the groom holding up the bride’s dress as she walks, with his wedding ring showing.
Once again, this is less about the lens choice than it is about judging when something like this might happen. Any lens you happen to be using will work.
Of all the Wedding details shots, this is probably the most time-critical. You need to gauge this perfectly between the venue staff finishing their setup and guests starting to filter in and move things.
Most likely, you’ll find time to sneak away during the canapés just after the wedding ceremony or shortly after you arrive at the reception venue.
There are quite a few other wedding detail shots besides the room itself. This is likely where the bride and groom spent most of their decorative efforts.
Make sure to capture any personalised items on the top/sweetheart table. And don’t forget the bride and groom’s place settings together (especially if using their names as Mr. and Mrs.).
Get some longer shots along with the top table. These should show all or most of the settings, guests’ place setting cards (or objects if personalised or unusual), wedding favours left for the guests, and floral arrangements and centrepieces.
Photograph each table in total, showing the table name if personalised, the cake, and then a whole room shot from at least two angles.
If you shoot it in this order, from smallest to largest, it matters less if a guest wanders in and moves something on the table. You’re much less likely to see it in a wide shot of the whole room than you would take a close up of the table.
Shooting this way should also take you no more than five minutes.
For lens choice, there are a couple of options here. Consider using a 35mm or 50mm prime for close-ups and table centres. This is, again, to maximise sharpness and details with a wide aperture.
For the full room shots, anything from 16mm to 24mm would work well, depending on room size.
Remember that with wide-angle shots, aperture size matters less as pretty much everything will be in focus.
Unquestionably, these are the most important of all wedding details shots.
The best time to shoot wedding ring photographs is when the reception meal is happening. You’ll have around an hour or so between the guests taking their seats to eat and the speeches starting. I’d recommend not shooting the guests during this time. Photographing people while they’re eating never results in great pictures. And it tends to put people on edge at best and annoy them at worst.
It’s always an excellent idea to include something from the venue’s surroundings. Or something the couple have specifically arranged when shooting the rings.
For example, think about hanging them from a small twig on a tree branch if you’re out in the countryside. You can use a grand mantelpiece, a piano or maybe an ornate vase if you’re in a large stately manor, or simply using the wedding car.
Little touches like this will bring memories of the venue flooding back to the couple every time they view the pictures. Always be on the lookout for backdrops or props that are indicative of where you are.
After this, you have the opportunity to get creative. You can add things like gelled flashes and droplets of paling water to create something incredible.
Your imagination is the only limit here. It would help if you always aimed to shoot the rings on their own and in the box(es). If there are any engravings on the rings’ insides, it’s imperative to capture that as well.
A solid five or six differing wedding ring photographs will suffice, with maybe a few more if they or the box are particularly unusual. Wedding detail shots: Ring shot collage
Given the intricate nature and size of most rings, a macro lens of around 100mm works best here, but if you don’t have one of those, a reversing call will work well for extreme close-ups, which will help for maximum sharpness and details.
The Venue and Location
What was the weather like on the day? What did the venue look like? Where did the wedding take place? These questions can be answered by taking some photos from outside the venue. Wide-angle landscape shots that bring in the whole scene can undoubtedly play a role here, mainly if the wedding is in an incredibly picturesque setting. However, don’t just restrict yourself to landscapes. This is all about capturing the fine details of the day, so try to photograph some of these with a standard or telephoto lens too.
Try to consider: is there anything unusual about the location; any distinguishing features worth capturing? Remember that it’s often possible to have some fun with these photos, especially if the wedding is in a quirky location.
Like flowers, the decorations help make a wedding and album look beautiful, and again they will have taken a lot of time and energy to prepare. Often people will include some handmade (and even homemade) items, which can help to personalise a wedding, and by extension, the album.
There are always lots of other small details worth capturing across the day. As mentioned above, the key is to be alert and ready for them. The advent of digital photography means that it costs nothing to take some extra photos, so my tip would be to capture as much of what happens and what you see as possible. You can decide what to include in the album at a later stage. Take your time, keep a steady hand, and allow your imagination to come to the fore.
And finally, the cake!
Wedding cakes are often visually stunning and sometimes even used to reflect the bride and groom’s personalities. They are also a vital element of any wedding, and as such, are always worth photographing. Don’t limit yourself to the finished cake – often, the cake will arrive in pieces and be assembled at the venue. Sometimes capturing it in its unfinished state can make for a more interesting shot.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive. Looking for a wedding photographer in Melbourne? Look no further. Boutique events group has compiled an ultimate list of wedding photo companies to help you choose.
There could be a whole host of other small details to capture on the day but with these essential images in the bag, along with all the other shots taken, you will help keep the couple’s memories of the day alive for years to come.