I’m not a wedding dress expert, but I’m going to present some tips on how to photograph a wedding dress in ways your clients will love. A very popular shot among current brides is to get the dress hanging before she puts it on. It's a request you will be sure to get at some point in your wedding photography work. I’m always seeing new and creative ways of doing this. It can be moody, playful, romantic or just a plain documentation of what that white dress looked like before it got worn on a very busy day.
First, do not touch the dress without first getting approval from the bride. Second, make sure she knows what you are doing with it and is comfortable with that. You do not want to give the bride a heart attack when she can’t find her dress or finds it hanging in a tree over a mud puddle. I always assume that the bride spent a ton of money on her dress and loves it dearly.
Speaking of mud puddles, don’t ever put a wedding dress near a mud puddle or in any situation that it could get damaged. You don’t want to be responsible for that—even if it’s “a really cool shot.” It’s not worth it.
Moving the dress
It’s always good to have an assistant or second shooter when you get the dress shot. A wedding dress can be long, large and heavy. You may need to hold it with two hands and have an assistant open doors or help with hanging. The assistant can also help with getting it on a hanger or holding it from swaying in the wind.
It’s helpful to bring a nice looking hanger with you, just in case the bride only has the plastic one that the dress came on. An ugly hanger can ruin your shot. Also, make sure to take out or hide any of the paper used for forming inside the dress. And it may go without saying, but make sure your hands are clean when you touch the dress.
Solid dress shots to try
If I can’t quickly think of an interesting or unique shot wherever the bride is getting ready, here are a couple standard shots that you can get in most places.
1. The silhouette
Hang the dress on a windowsill or curtain rod in front of a bright window. If you expose somewhere between the back of the dress and the outside light you should get a nice silhouette with some detail toward the edges of the dress.
2. Hanging from a doorway or a cabinet
This is the shot that shows the dress from top to bottom. With the train, this may hit the floor even if you hang it pretty high. Do your best to keep it off the ground.
Sometimes I will get closeups of the dress details, like a colored sash or pin, or of the intricate beadwork and lace in some dresses.
4. Hanging on porch
Many times, the front or back porch of a house or country club will have hooks already built in (for hanging plants) and make for a nice safe backdrop for the dress.
5. Hanging from a tree
This is cool if the venue you are shooting at has a nice garden or a natural setting. As long as the tree/birds will not drop anything on the dress and you feel good about hanging it from a branch, try hanging it in a tree.
6. If none of these options are available, I will use a light stand to hang the dress from.
It gives it an almost “floating in midair” look, which is not ideal for my style, but at least is a shot and it allows me to place the dress in whatever lighting or location I desire.