Shooting the Details
Most wedding photographers have become accustomed to the inclusion of detail shots as a part of their wedding photo checklist. More and more brides and grooms are also beginning to expect those photos. However, sometimes you will still run into someone who wonders why they would ever want to have photos of their shoes or jewelry. It makes sense that they might not have thought of this, after all they probably haven’t been to as many weddings as you have and they definitely haven’t spent as much time thinking about documenting them. What you want, however, is for your images of their details to be striking enough that just seeing them answers all their questions.
Taking photos of perfect details
It’s more than “just” a picture of the ring or the shoes, it’s got to be beautifully composed, perfectly lighted, and crystal clear. In other words, it’s a work of art that also captures a memory. This is the kind of shot that might go on the first page of a wedding album.
So how do you create this perfect image? While there are many things that you can do to create unique detail images, here are the top three tips to get you started.
The wedding details are on a different scale than the people and in order to create their ‘portrait’ so to speak you have to use gear that is appropriate to their size. If you think about the guidelines for good portraiture, much of the same technique is valuable here. You will want to fill your frame with the subject and if you are shooting with a 70-200 you won’t be able to get that without cropping the image down to a thumbnail. A great way to get as close as you’d like is by including in your kit a macro lens with a relatively long focal length such as the Nikon 105mm macro or the Canon 100mm macro. With this lens you will be able to capture amazing details at a larger than life scale and it will provide you with the versatility you need to let your creativity make your photos distinct.
There’s more to composing a detail shot than just making sure that you get the object within the frame. It’s tempting to center the subject and in some cases that may be the perfect decision. However, placing an object off center – keeping in mind the rule of thirds – can turn a static image of a ‘thing’ into a dynamic capture of a memory.
In addition to thinking about how you compose the shot, think about the ways in which you can compose the objects that you are shooting. After all, these an inanimate objects and so you can move them a dozen times and not worry that they are becoming exhausted or impatient. Try pairing objects together so that the shapes create an interesting two-dimensional composition.
Finally, don’t be tempted to over-include. One thing that differentiates the photographs taken by a professional and the snapshots that the guests capture is our understanding of implied form. The first level of exclusion is to make sure that there is nothing unnecessary in your photo. The second level is to determine whether even an entire object needs to be included or whether its continuation can be implied. In other words, is any vital information lost if the object is cropped? In the case of a perfectly repeating strand of pearls, maybe not – the viewer will understand that the necklace doesn’t simply cease to exist midway but rather they will fill in the rest in their minds, making viewing the photo a more interesting experience all together.
Depth of Field
A really shallow depth of field allows you to focus on just the details that you are trying to capture but more than that, it fills out the image with a texture that draws the eye toward the subject. When there is softness in an image, our eye searches for a point upon which to focus – with a shallow depth of field and a crisp subject, the viewer will feel as though they just can’t take their eyes off of it. A shallow depth of field is also part of the composition, after all, you are deciding what information there is in the object that needs to be in focus and what can be soft. Don’t think that just because you are photographing a detail that the entire object need be sharply focused. Let it go soft and become almost a 2 dimensional pattern if there is nothing that isn’t already shown in the sharp area of the image. This both focuses the viewer and gives your images an emotional charge.