Part THREE of my 5 part behind the scenes series! I discussed on how I manage the hectic wedding day timeline in part 1 of the series, and in part 2, I discussed how I shoot the DREADED FAMILY FORMALS at weddings.  In part 3, I am going to discuss how I shoot the all important wedding dress!

Most brides I know, dream of the day when they walk down the aisle in the perfect dress. There are even TV shows that documents what brides go through in order to pick out the perfect wedding dress (such as TLC’s Say Yes To The Dress)!  I don’t care if my clients have the budget for a wedding gown from Vera Wang, Badgley Mischka, Armani, or David’s Bridal. I approach it all the same way. It is perhaps the most important piece of clothing a woman will ever purchase in her entire life!  As a wedding photographer, my job is to document everything my clients either pay for, or put effort in. And the wedding dress is definitely something that my clients will remember for the rest of their lives.

Here are three times that I always keep in mind while I shoot the dress;

1. find a flattering/interesting background that tell the story.

2. make sure to get a full length wedding gown shot.

3. Perhaps the most important one, DON”T BLOW OUT ANY DETAILS ON THE DRESS.

In the first photo, the wedding took place at Wiens Winery in Temecula, California. The bride & groom chose the venue for multiple reasons, and I really wanted to highlight the venue. I found the tasting room with wine barrels stacked from floor to ceiling. I thought it made a cool backdrop for the dress, and it also tells a story.

In the above photo, the wedding ceremony took place at Villa Del Sol d’Oro in Sierra Madre, CA. The venue is a Mediterranean styled mansion and it had many architectural features that I was drooling over. The room where the bride was getting ready in had this really cool, dark teal wall that contrasted nicely with the white dress. The wall sconce and the shape of the window frame made for a nice framing element for the dress. The natural light coming through the window made a nice soft backlight that really accentuated the details on the dress.

I love customized wedding dress hangers! This has become popular the last few years (Thanks to Etsy!). This particular bride had a custom hanger made for each of her bridesmaid, and I also loved the different colors, yet coordinated, dresses for the bridesmaids. This particular bride got ready at a hotel room that didn’t offer a lot of options. But I thought the way I positioned the wedding gown and the bridesmaids dresses made for a nice composition.

This is why you DON”T BLOW OUT THE DETAILS on a wedding gown. Brides pay hundreds, if not thousands of extra dollars on dresses that have hand made details. And since a dress is white (typically), it’s very easy to blow out details on the dress if the photographer is not careful. For my close up dress shots, I typically will underexpose (according to in-camera meter) by 1/3 of a stop. Just to make sure my image preserves all the details. In Lightroom 4, Adobe conveniently introduced an extra “Whites” slider under Basic Module. It will help you bring back MOST of the lost details if they weren’t completely blown. But still, get it as close straight out of camera as possible to save you the headache later!


Another shot of a dress in a cool vintage library. Really love the contrast of old vs. new in this shot.


This bride’s custom made dress had a ton of details, and she also had a very nice necklace on. I really wanted to capture these two things together, and it wasn’t possible to do it while the dress was still on a hanger.

Being an architecture nerd, it’s always fun to incorporate the environment into my shot. I thought the winding staircase really provided a dramatic background for the dress!

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this shot. The bridesmaids were just hanging out before the bride put the dress on. I hung the dress in the background to provide a context for the story. Without the dress, it would just look like 5 girls having a slumber party. But with the wedding dress hung in the background, we got a good story. 🙂

I hope you guys find this post useful; feel free to leave a comment with your best tip!

Keep in mind the 2013 KICKSTART WORKSHOP registration is now open! It’s a two day intensive workshop that help you KICKSTART your business in 2013! Iwill be covering this specific topic and many many more!

1. Managing wedding day timeline
2. How I shoot family formals
3. Finding inspiration for the all important dress shot!
4. Managing relationships with other vendors on the day of the wedding.
5. How to deal with Uncle Bob… AKA ‘my friend who just bought a nice camera.”


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