Photographing Wedding Details

I’ve had quite a few people come to me with questions about photographing wedding details.  This is going to address

e v e r y t h i n g

Wedding details are some of my favorite things to photograph!  They not only help tell the story of the day, but they can help showcase my client’s personalities in ways that portraits cannot.  Every wedding is different, so every approach is different – but I usually like to start the day by getting to know the couple via going through their things.

LOL.  Just kidding!  Sort of.  🙂

Just a heads-up, this post contains affiliate links.  This means if you click one, and end up buying the item from that link, Amazon will know – and will thank me with a small percentage of the sale.  I have zero expectations from you to buy anything while you’re here, so relax and enjoy the free content! 🙂

 

Things You’ll Need to Get Started

 

  • A DSLR camera (I shoot Canon, and if we’re staying with what I know and love – at this moment in time, I would recommend the T6 for beginners, 6DMII for intermediates, and 5DMIV for professional uses)

 

  • A macro lens (I love the Canon 100mm f/2.8 L, but the non-L series works fine too!) OR extension tubes (just make sure that have auto focus capabilities or you’ll find yourself hating life).  You can also use macro lens filters (I used to use these and loved them).  If you can afford to go for the macro lens, though, do it.  You will save yourself SO much time and energy with it!  And the images it can create are AMAZING.

 

  • A secondary lens with a wider angle.  I like to use a 35mm because it allows me to get fairly close to the subject, if need be.  I also sometimes use Canon’s nifty-50!  Both of these lenses let in more light with their wider apertures (1.2 versus 2.8 = huge difference)!  However, a really great all-in-one/zoom option could also be Canon’s 24-70 f/2.8 lens (the version II is definitely worth the difference in price).  They also let in more of the surroundings into the frame of the photo.  I like to pull back a little when doing detail photos – not everything needs to be super tight and close up.

 

 

1. Determine Your Settings for Where You’re Shooting

The image below was shot in the shade on a very bright day.  Had it been darker out, I would have probably bumped up my ISO in order to maintain the fast shutter speed (I tend to have shaky hands with longers lenses!) I don’t use a tripod with my macro work because I feel like it slows me down.  I usually have to churn out all of the details in 15 minutes or less. I LOVE when there’s more time to play – but it just isn’t always possible 🙂 I also experiment with my f-stop.  I love the look of shooting at 2.8 for images like this one – images that are layered with depth, with the main focus on the ring.  If I were shooting a clean shot of JUST the ring, I would probably bump up to f/5.6 or higher (as long as the light was good), just to make sure I can get all the fantastic detail in not only the diamond but the band as well!

 

Iowa Wedding Photographer

Camera: Canon 5DMIV Lens: 100mm macro f/2.8 Settings: f/2.8, 1/800 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100, natural light / no flash.

How to photograph details like a boss

Camera: Canon 5DMIII Lens: Canon 100mm macro f/2.8 Settings: 1/200 sec, f/2.8 and f/5.0, ISO 800 and ISO 1000 (exposure matched in post)

 

 

 

2. Play with Your Angles

I try to shoot from the sides, straight on, and from the top, if space allows.  I love to shoot from bird’s eye view – it’s a great way to showcase the invitation suite! (added bonus – I can sometimes bring the shutter speed down a little when I shoot from the top, because I am much steadier for some reason!)  When shooting from above, sometimes the diamond ring can stand on it’s own, sometimes it needs the support of the larger band, and sometimes I have to use mounting putty or dental wax to stand them up!

 

Destination wedding photographer located in Iowa

Camera: Canon 5DMIII Lens: Canon 100mm macro f/2.8 Settings: 1/250 sec, f/3.2, ISO 125

Photographing the details on a wedding day

Camera: Canon 5DMIV Lens: Tamron 35mm f/1.8 Di VC Settings: 1/200 sec, f/2.5, ISO 2000

 

 

 

3. Have Fun with the Composition

For the top photo below, I probably tried 3 or 4 shots with the ribbon twisted every which way, but ultimately love this composition the most.  The invitation suite. along with the bride’s sparkling belt and rings, are curated enough to look purposeful (like hey, someone put these here for a reason), but they also hold a touch of carelessness & happenstance.  WHICH I REALLY DIG 🙂

 

Iowa wedding and engagement photographer Chelsea Dawn Weddings (10)

Camera: Canon 5DMIII Lens: Tamron 35mm f/1.8 Di VC (canon) Settings: 1/250 sec, f/3.2, ISO 125

Photographing the wedding details in interesting ways

Camera: Canon 5DMIII Lens: Tamron 35mm f/1.8 Di VC (canon) Settings: 1/160 sec, f/2.5, ISO 100

Wedding day details

Camera: Canon 5DMIII Lens: Tamron 35mm f/1.8 Di VC (canon) Settings: 1/200 sec, f/3.2, ISO 100

Photographing wedding day details

Camera: Canon 5DMIII Lens: Tamron 35mm f/1.8 Di VC (canon) Settings: 1/160 sec, f/2.5, ISO 100

 

 

4. In a Bind? Use a Reflective Surface!

This photo below was taken on top of my client’s car!  I’ve also used ipads, microwaves, countertops.  If you feel stuck for inspiration with your ring shots, this is a great go-to that you can make happen just about anywhere.

 

How to photograph awesome wedding detail shots

Camera: Canon 5DMIII Lens: Canon 100mm macro f/2.8 Settings: 1/500 sec, f/4.5, ISO 100

Wedding details and the best way to photograph them

Camera: Canon 5DMIII Lens 100mm macro f/2.8L Settings: 1/160 sec, f/7.1, ISO 500

 

 

 

5. Embrace Real, Authentic Happenings If They Come

This little bee below decided to crash the party, and you know what?  I let him hang out.

Also, I’m deathly scared of bees (for no logical reason other than I don’t want to get poked, Idk, but this was a big step for me!)

 

Documentary styled wedding details

Camera: Canon 5DMIII Lens: Canon 100mm macro f/2.8L Settings: 1/320 sec, f/5.0, ISO 1250

 

6. Add Depth with Layers & Shoot Through Things

“What do you mean, layers?”

Easy! I mean, add stuff to either the foreground, the background, or both!  I love to do this with bouquets, curtains, dresses, and veils!  All fairly accessible things on a wedding day 🙂

“What do you mean, shoot through things?”

Anything. A piece of tulle. A copper pipe. A chandelier ring (my faaaav, see second photo below). Wine glasses. A ziplock bag.  All of these times give different distortions to an image and are a ton of fun to play with!  However, beware, beware, beware: get your SAFE (i.e. we know what’ll happen) shots FIRST.  Don’t make me say “I told you so”.  Just do it 🙂

 

Photographing wedding details and using macro lenses

Camera: Canon 5DMIII Lens: Canon 50mm f/1.2L Settings: 1/250, f/2.2, ISO 100

Photographing details

Camera: Canon 5DMIII Lens: Tamron 35mm f/1.8 Di VC (canon) Settings: 1/160 sec, f/1.8 ISO 2000

 

 

7. Find a spot with amazing light

A beautiful ring cannot sparkle without it 🙂 Sometimes I’ll narrow the curtains to give a small patch of harsh light to the details, other times I might bring out a flash to add a little extra oomph to a diamond (or to backlight the subjects).

 

How to photograph wedding day details

Settings: 1/500, f/3.5, ISO 320

 

 

8. Do an “Everything” Shot, Even If It’s Imperfect!

I rarely feel like I “nail” this one. The first photo below was just one example of an instance where I NEEDED to hurry and hand the details back to the bride so we wouldn’t run behind.  I had just photographed things individually, so everything was still handy. I spent the most time (maybe 30 seconds) on arranging the invitation suite and the rings.  The rest had to pretty much stay where they were.  I took 2 quick snaps of the setup and the details were on their way back to their owner.

(When I say it’s a time crunch sometimes, I’m not kidding!)

 

How to photograph wedding details like a pro

Camera: Canon 5DMIII Lens: Canon 50mm f/1.2L Settings: 1/250, f/1.8, ISO 400

Photographing wedding details

Camera: Canon 5DMIV Lens: Tamron 35mm f/1.8 Di VC Settings: 1/200 sec, f/2.5, ISO 2000

How to photograph wedding day details

Camera: Canon 5DMIV Lens: Tamron 35mm f/1.8 Di VC Settings: 1/320 sec, f/5.0, ISO 2000

 

9. Don’t Forget the Grooms

I’m not going to lie to you – I sometimes have to remind myself to get the groom’s details, because it isn’t second nature.  And most of the time, there’s either only a couple of things to photograph, or they’re already wearing whatever details I might want to document (cuff links, tie, shoes, etc.).  But their photos matter – just as much as the brides.  If you have the time, take photos of his details while they’re on him if you need to.  Just don’t forget them 🙂

 

Photographing the wedding details

Camera: Canon 5DMIII Lens: Tamron 35mm f/1.8 Di VC (canon) Settings: 1/160 sec, f/2.0 ISO 2000 and Canon 5DMIV, 50mm 1.2L, 1/2000 sec, f/1.8, ISO 100

 

 

 

Q: What Styling Aids Do You Bring to Weddings?

Aside from lighting tools (flashlights, reflectors), I don’t bring props, styling boards, ribbons, or any decorative pieces for the detail shots.  Nothing against those who use them, I know it’s kind of a popular thing to do.  But I just prefer the challenge of using what’s already around me – even if it’s plain old cement with raindrops (because, hey, it actually *did* rain that day):

 

Photographing the details

Settings: 1/250 sec, f/2.5, ISO 500

 

Working without props is freeing, for me.  It’s less for me to pack and keep track of and it feels more authentic to the day.  Now, I’m totally guilty of hanging dresses in places where they probably would never otherwise be, and I’ve brought sparkly backdrops, sprayed hairspray for extra bokeh sparkles, etc.  I’ve done it all – but I’ve really found I can enjoy the process more when I’m not overdoing it and adding 500 extra steps that don’t make much sense, to begin with.

 

 

Q: How Many Different Shot Combos Are You Taking?

When I’m photographing wedding details, I try to get 2 different set-ups of everything, and 3-5 photos from each setup.  For example, if one set up is say, on a chair by the window, I’ll take a couple vertical, a couple horizontal, a birds-eye view, and an angled photo.

I like to photograph every element alone, if possible, but will settle for an “everything” set up, if we’re on a time crunch.  I’ll still try to get close-ups of each detail in that setup, though (usually using a macro lens)

That’s pretty much it! I truly, TRULY hope this helps someone (even a little).  If you have a question about anything, please feel free to let me know!

Chelsea 🙂

 

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