How To: Photographing Wedding Details, Part I | San Antonio Wedding Photographer

Part I - The When and Where

My favorite part of wedding photography, hands down, are the detail shots. I love being able to focus on the small, beautiful touches that are making your wedding day truly unique. To photograph wedding details during a wedding is a lot more challenging than a lot of people realize. You need a lot of experience, a few tricks up your sleeve, and the ability to manipulate lighting in virtually any scenario. In Part I of this How To we'll focus on the planning how to capture the detail shots, the when and where. If you don't have any time to shoot it doesn't matter how creative and/or skilled you are at lighting details! If you're a wedding photographer, you know that these challenges aren't just exclusive to San Antonio wedding photographers! Part II, covering The What and How, also applies to wedding photographers everywhere!

Wedding and Engagement Rings photographed on the Bride's Bouquet during the Wedding Reception Dinner.

Wedding and Engagement Rings photographed on the Bride's Bouquet during the Wedding Reception Dinner.

Bride's Engagement Ring photographed using a groomsman's boutineer during the reception dinner.

Bride's Engagement Ring photographed using a groomsman's boutineer during the reception dinner.

Wedding and Engagement Rings, along with the Bride's perfume and bracelet, photographed during Bridal Prep.

Wedding and Engagement Rings, along with the Bride's perfume and bracelet, photographed during Bridal Prep.

The Challenges of Photographing Wedding Details

  1. Time is not on your side. You might have 5 minutes in a room you've never seen before to photograph the wedding dress, shoes, rings, bouquet, other jewelry, and who knows what else. Meanwhile the bride and bridesmaids are having their makeup done, getting changed, children are running around, no one can find the bobby pins, it's a very chaotic environment. Maybe the flowers haven't even arrived yet, will you have time to get a photo of the bouquet before the ceremony? To be able to pull away enough from the activity to focus on creating creative images, while still being aware of what is going on around you so you don't miss any moments, is a huge challenge.
  2. You have never been to this hotel room / venue bridal suite before and have no idea what the place looks like! There might not be any space for you to set up to do shots of the rings, the lighting might be horrible, you have to be prepared for anything. There are purses, clothes, makeup, shoes, and likely food wrappers scattered around the room, and the room may not even be very photogenic when clean. Combine this with the potential time crunch, and it's stressful trying to get good images. The worst is when you have a hard time finding a good place to put the dress and all your options are poorly lit, and you're out of time! You have about 10 seconds to figure out how to light it, get the shots from various angles, and get it back to the bride so she can start getting dressed!
  3. You have little control over when ceremony / reception details are set up. As a general rule you don't want to get guests or venue staff in the images of the details, but sometimes they're putting flowers on the aisle when guests are already sitting in the seats! Maybe portraits took more time after the ceremony than was budgeted and by the time you get to the reception the area is filled with guests.

Preparation + Flexibility = Your BFFs

I communicate with my couples before the wedding day what I need, and we plan a timeline that allows for this. For example, I ask my couples up front to have all the rings together while they're getting ready so I can photograph them then. Someone forgot the rings at home? No problem, that was just Plan A. Plan B is to photograph the rings during the reception, typically during dinner when there is nothing else for me to photograph.

Have a Plan A and Plan B for everything. 

My Plan A is to photograph bridal details / grooms details during getting ready (think bouquet, rings, etc.).This way I can photograph the ceremony area absent of people and all decorated prior to the ceremony. Sometimes the flowers don't arrive until right before the ceremony and I have to Plan B the bridal bouquet, or sometimes hair/makeup is running behind and there is not going to be time to photograph the wedding/engagement rings before the ceremony. 

My Plan B is to photograph all details during dinner at the reception. Sometimes we'll get done with portraits early so I can shoot details then, but the official Plan B is during reception. Why during dinner? Because there is rarely anything else going on that needs to be photographed. Usually, even if I was able to get ring shots during bridal prep I still try to sneak a few in here because I can use the reception decor in the images. 

The other main batch of details that need to be captured are the reception decor. Now this can be tricky depending on timelines as often the guests are at the reception venue while I'm photographing portraits post-ceremony. Plan A is focused on getting a few images of the overall area as free of guests as possible, and that's the first shot I go for upon arrival. After that I can focus on individual parts of the room, just photographing around any wedding guests. Unfortunately there really is no Plan B when it comes to getting that decorated-yet-empty shot of the reception area. Once guests arrive there are phones, purses, jackets and so on in the images. The only option at that point is to be selective in the parts of the room you photograph, and the angles you photograph from to try and hide most of that while still showing the beauty, atmosphere, and decorations.

Ceremony area at Gruene Hall.

Ceremony area at Gruene Hall.

Decorated reception are at Lost Missions

Decorated reception are at Lost Missions

Decorated Ceremony area at Saint Peter's Catholic Church

Decorated Ceremony area at Saint Peter's Catholic Church

Decorated reception area at Gruene Hall

Decorated reception area at Gruene Hall

 

A few other tricks I've picked up include:

  • Show up early and spend at least 15 minutes scouting out the area. I get the feel of how set-up everything is, take any quick detail shots in the reception / ceremony areas I can, and start making plans of when, based on the couple's timeline, I'll be able to capture the rest of the details.
  • Ask the couple prior to the wedding day what details are the most important to them. The groom might be wearing heirloom cuff-links, maybe the bride's dress was handmade by her grandmother, etc. It's vital to capture these details and if you end up in a time crunch situation where you can't capture everything you need to know what to focus on.
  • If a timeline is super tight and details are important to the client we then discuss adding a second shooter for part of the day.
  • San Antonio wedding photographers know that outdoor summer weddings can cause cakes to melt and flowers to wilt, and details have to be captured prior to that happening!