5 Tips for Styling Detail Photos
If you couldn't tell by the looks of my instagram, bright and lively details are my jam. The love for styling up small vignettes has always been in my blood ever since days as an interior designer/freelance photographer taking shots of beautifully styled food. So when it comes to pretty wedding details the girlie girl in me loves to let her imagination run wild. I adore them so much so that photographing them has become a trademark of mine and has remained one of my favorite parts of a wedding day. I truly enjoy piecing together the baubles and bits that curate a wedding and take great pride in producing bright, eclectic images of celebratory trinkets for couples to treasure. Typically tucked away into a small, well-lit corner of a hotel room, Brides often peek over to take a look at the behind-the-scenes, declaring they had to see the set-up in action. Below are my Five Tips for Styling Detail Photos:
Educate Your Client
Setting up fabulously coiffed images takes time, and for a detail oriented perfectionist such as myself, lots of it. Getting a ring to balance inside a flower petal is no easy feat, and the smallest breeze of wind can send your entire invitation set-up scattering across the room. Well before the timeline planning stages of their wedding day inform your Bride or their coordinator exactly how much time you need for detail shots. When I arrive on a wedding day I immediately get to work photographing these meaningful elements: rings, shoes, jewelry, flowers, etc. and require a minimum of an hour; totally uninterrupted (as my client's have fabulous taste to document, an hour and a half is preferred). I explain to them while they are getting their hair and make-up done I will be close by photographing their details, emerging for "getting ready" shots when their make-up is nearly complete. Prior to the wedding day I also request these special elements be gathered and ready to be styled upon my arrival and suggest they bring along any extras they'd like to include (i.e. Invitation suite, any ribbon used in arrangements, guest favors, wedding day stamps, etc.). Having those additional accoutrement makes sure the pieces of their well-thought out day are fully documented. Plus, all those tidbits add some extra styling umph.
Set Up in Good Light
The key to visually appealing images is the right light. Before getting started I find a well-lit area to "set-up shop", typically in front of a sliding glass door or large hotel window. In this small 4x4 space is where I curate most of my detail shots in even, diffused light. Bonus points if it's on a white bed or neutral ottoman! If lighting is scarce this is where an assistant holding a video light (still by a window if possible) is clutch. I've been known a time or 10 to fling open every curtain in a room like Cinderella to her stepssters. Let in the light, baby! In the photo below (shot in film) the room was very dark with one small window. I placed the shoes on a white bedspread and asked my assistant to hold a small but mighty video light to my left side. bonus tip: Having a piece of white foam core board on hand is versatile, great for a simple background or in a pinch as a reflector.
Knowing the couple's style I look around my location for colors, textures or elements that compliment the feel of the day. For a vintage farm wedding I'll head into the kitchen to use a wooden table to photograph a boutonnière on, snag a Bridesmaid's glitter gold clutch as a backdrop for rings, or even add touches of "partly in the frame" styling extras. My assistants are forever out picking leaves and foraging for berries (literally!) that I can incorporate (don't worry, they don't mind...) or borrowing decor from the reception site (that we put back, of course). In the ring photo below the hula dancer print is actually a photo I took off the wall at the Billabong House. Open your eyes, get creative, and see the possibilities! bonus tip: If you have a good relationship with the florist, email ahead of time and ask to include a few loose flowers when they deliver the bouquets to the room. This way you have some on hand for styling!
Study What's Around You.
I know it sounds ridiculous but details have always come naturally to me, it just takes time and practice to hone your eye and continue to define a signature look. I credit my passion for curating to my affinity for eye candy, I am always ooh-ing and ahh-ing over perfectly placed things. If you don't know where to begin, start absorbing the way things are around you (not just photographs). When thinking of a scene I consider a lot of things: colors, composition, textures and elements that add an extra thoughtful touch and dimension in framing (I love to have pieces on the edges of a photo), but most of all how items would lay naturally. As a girl I pay close attention to how my shoes drop onto the floor, how my bangles stack up when I strip them off onto the counter, and how artfully my laundry draps over my chair (truly!). Then I try to recreate those realistic settings and often times take pictures of details at events simply as they lay instead of putting one grubby finger on it. As much as crafting to perfection can be an art, so can shooting something just as it is. bonus tip: Anthropologie is a GREAT store for styling inspiration and their catalogs are always impeccably done.
Practice at Home
Walk around your house and collect things to pair together. Dig into your jewelry box and find some bling to photograph. Take your time and test what works and what doesn't on your own time so when you arrive on a wedding day you are comfortable, confident, and ready to make it fabulous. Bonus tip: You'll wind up with some fun "stock" instagram + blog post photos. I mean, really, you don' t think I get boxes of donuts THIS often do you?!?! Okay, maybe I do, I'll never tell.