Monthly Archives: February 2009

How to Hold Your Bouquet (and Flatter Your Arms in the Photos)

02 | 20 | 2009


We love the bouquet because it’s a beautiful (and classic!) bridal accessory.  Some bouquets add a little splash of color and texture to the wedding and wedding photos; others add a lacy softness, particularly if the bouquet is white.  The bouquet also gives you something to do with your hands (lucky you—grooms never know what to do with their hands).

There actually are more flattering ways to hold your bouquet in the photographs. For most standard shaped bouquets, holding them right in front, at about waist level with your arms held out a bit from your hips a bit is most flattering.

A lot of times, brides are tempted to hold the bouquet really high. I don’t like that as much in photographs because it can block essential parts of your anatomy—breasts, neck, even face, depending on how high you’re “choking up” on the bouquet.  It also often blocks exciting parts of your fashion—neckline and detail at the top of the dress, sometimes your necklace, too.

Holding your arms out a bit from your hips is really important, too.  Even if your arms are rail-thin, when you clasp them against your sides, it makes them look fatter.  If you have doubts, try it out in the mirror.  The difference is notable.  I sometimes grab a bouquet and demonstrate this myself to the bridesmaids at weddings and they are always surprised at the difference it makes.

One other note:  Sometimes the bouquets are very heavy.  One of my friends said about her bouquet, “I didn’t know you had to be buff to be a bride!”  Maybe keep that in mind when you order your bouquet.  In any case, I highly recommend you bring your bouquet during (all the) group portraits and (most of) the couple portraits.  You don’t need the bouquet in every single portrait, but they are lovely …

photo credit: Gia Canali


Decoding Wedding Photography Lingo, Part i: Shooting Styles

02 | 18 | 2009

Wedding photography has too much lingo for its own good.  And to make things more complicated, the lingo is changing constantly.  I think it’s unwise to get obsessed with the lingo, but I’m offering this little primer for the uninitiated.

Shooting Styles.

  1. Photojournalistic, documentary, reportage. These words describe photographs that create a record, the official story, a factual representation.  Photographers who herald these styles tend to prefer photographs that capture the actual real moments of your wedding day as they unfold. Kitty and Craig from Twin Lens Images and Josef Isayo are some of the best photojournalists out there, and all come from newspaper backgrounds.
  2. Editorial.  Editorial style describes photographs that a magazine editor, say, might publish.  Magazine editors love photographs that glorify details and show off fashion.  (This is because people buy magazines so they can get ideas for buying other things).  Editorial photography is actually a relatively conservative shooting style. Elizabeth Messina, Liz Banfield, Jose Villa, and Jon Canlas are well-known and wonderful photographers who shoot in an editorial style.
  3. Fine Art.  Like anything else describing itself as fine art, fine art wedding photography is hard to pin down. In my experience, photographers who describe their work as fine art like creating images that work as singular, glorious images. They might use unique cameras or alternative printing processes to create those images.  Lara Porzak is an extraordinary example of a fine art wedding photographer.
  4. Commercial, Faux-Fashion.  This style mimics the poses and bold compositions of fashion and advertising photography.  Because of how much effort goes into contriving the images here,  it’s hard to imagine sustaining this style throughout a wedding.  Some photographers may move into this sort of style for portraits.  I don’t think “faux-fashion” is really enough of a buzz word that photographers would market their styles as such.  But lots of photographers do shoot in this style.

I don’t want to be totally cynical about these (words), but largely, these named shooting styles are fads that come and go—and the words are tossed around for marketing.  So just because a photographer identifies with—or claims to identify with—a certain shooting style does not mean that all their photographs can be described by that style.  And marketing aside, photographing a wedding covers so many types and “styles” of shooting—journalistic photographs of everything happening, editorial details shots, portraits of beauty and fashion.  It is much more important for a client to connect with a photographer’s personal (unnamed) aesthetic, her personal style, the way her photographs, as a group look like they came from one artist.

Check back later for photographs that illustrate these styles … and for album and contract jargon!


Interview: Jennifer Parsons from Tiny Pine Press Chats About Letterpress

02 | 17 | 2009


Jennifer Parsons is the creative force behind Tiny Pine Press, a boutique letterpress design studio based in Los Angeles.  She prizes handmade elements and gorgeous papers. Her exquisite craftwomanship has earned her a discerning clientele over the last four years and she routinely prints for celebrities, including Mariska Hargitay, Jerry Ryan, Kevin Costner, Charlie Sheen, Katherine Heigl, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Joely Fisher, and Will Oldham … just to name a few.  Her work appears regularly in magazines. Today, she’s taking a little time to chat with us about her letterpress practice.


How did you get started in letterpress?

“Well, really it started because a friend of mine got engaged on her birthday. On that day, I gave her a ‘sewn’ birthday card, with a painting and some stitching on paper. She called me that day and thanked me for the birthday card and said, ‘Will you do my wedding invitations?’  I said yes, but I didn’t know what it meant. So I did research. I became a real paper detective – I found all these sources, learned all I could. Her invitations were actually off-set printing because I didn’t know about letterpress then.  After that, I got a job at Soolip where I learned about designing for letterpress and type-setting. Then I got more interested in doing it on my own, so I took a secret letterpress class. It was secret because it was at nighttime. My friend Joel Larson taught me letterpress basics in Donna Columby’s garage.  When I learned enough to get started,  I bought my own Chandler & Price press and started Tiny Pine.”


Tiny Pine Press is such sweet name.  Where did that come from?

“There are two stories. The romantic part of the story and why I’m attached to pines is that I’m from Sugar Grove, V.A., and when I was in the 4H Club, they’d give you free pines to plant in your yard.  So my dad and I planted the little trees all around our yard. The second part of the story is that when I was working in the belt buckle factory, someone gave me a little circle belt buckle.  She said it was the perfect belt buckle for me.  It’s vintage, probably from the 60s, and all it has on it is a tiny pine and a sunset in the background. I decided that was me, so I named the company Tiny Pine.”

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Your Chandler & Price Press has a pretty great name, too: Verdie.  Where did that come from?

“Verdie has personality. She’s named after my great-aunt who I never met who received lots of postcards from sailors. She lived in a port city and had lots of boyfriends. She was really independent, never married, worked at GE. I like her name. It reminds me of a bird and the color green, even though Verdie [the press] is gray.  She’s my friend. She helps me get things done around here.  I don’t think of her as an employee, though. She’s a partner.”


Do all letterpressers name their presses?

“No. But I think some people name their presses because they spend so much time with them. They have arms, faces.”


What do you wish you could tell brides about their stationery?

“A lot of times I really wish I could tell everybody that what they want is something timeless. They want to have a piece of paper they could hold in their hands, that their family could look at it in a hundred years and say, “That was their wedding invitation!”   Stationery that’s elegant, simple, beautiful.  There are some people who get that, of course. I wish I could tell them they don’t want something that’s current and cutesy.  Not fashion-based. Not all the complicated stuff you get in the mail nowadays. You want something that you’re going to be proud of when you’re 80. When you get married, you’re not thinking about [just] now, you’re thinking about the future.  That’s why brides and grooms hire photographers and all that, for the present and the future. You have to think about that.”


Why do you think stationery is an important visual / design aspect of the wedding?

“I think it really sets the tone. The save-the-date and wedding invite tells everybody way ahead of time what to expect. I really believe that it should be coming from not just the bride.  There should be a masculine twist, at least a little bit.  A lot of times men get lost in weddings … and that’s sad.  The stationery can also tell us if the wedding is going to be playful or formal. It’s pretty much the only clue (unless you know the couple really well).

“The guests shouldn’t be surprised when they receive the invitation, they should think, ‘oh, that makes sense.’ I’m doing an invite for a wedding in Jackson hole, Wyoming – you think of Jackson Hole as a wintery place. This is a wedding in summer. I would never put a fall leaf on an invite.  That sets the opposite tone.

One of my goals as an invitation designer and just in life is to be a really good ’emotional translator’ — understanding people quickly and translating it to a piece of paper. So I think being sensitive to [a client] is really important. That’s why they hire people—they don’t know how to do it themselves, so they pick people who can.

Also the invite is a memory.”


How green is letterpress?

“Well, it’s pretty green. It’s not ultra green, but you can be really pretty green.”


What do you do to make it as green as possible?

“I print with soy ink, which is as green as ink can be. I saw a tv show, I think it was Ugly Betty, and they were talking about not liking soy inks because they rub off. But it’s not true. Soy ink sticks really well. It dries fastest. That’s one of the reasons people don’t like it (but I like it).  There aren’t as many VOCs (fume things).

“I mix really small amounts of ink. I can do a whole job with maybe a tablespoon or two of ink. I keep and reuse ink if possible. So I was pretty upset to see it put down on a tv show.

“I do use wood-backed magnesium plates. So there’s some wood. But I can’t really get around it right now.

“I also don’t print a lot of overage. A lot of times with offset printing, they use so much extra paper that there’s a lot of waste. I actually only print about 15% over, and most of those are samples for me. The process is slow and I hand-feed and hand-print. I see everything and I’m watching it so I don’t make lots of mistakes.  If I do make a mistake, I catch it right away. I save scraps and use them as make-ready. I use scraps for crafty projects, too.  In the end, I really don’t throw a lot away.”


What trends would you like to see happen in wedding stationery?

“I think that it’s getting more organic. I’d like to see it keep going that way. I think it already is. People want more natural stuff. That’s my style.”


Jennifer Parsons ♥s:

  1. Printing photos on paper and making it look good
  2. Photoshop skills
  3. Scotch quick-dry adhesive glue
  4. Epson printers
  5. I don’t have to say I heart my little letterpress because everybody already knows I do.
  6. Lori D (and the ability to illustrate like Lori D).
  7. Dirty Byrd Paper, which is hand made by my friend Jocelyn Todd.
  8. Fabriano paper because it’s Italian and hand-torn.
  9. Vintage stamps


For more inspiration and to see more of Jennifer’s work, visit her site, and take a read at her blog, which is full of paper-crafty goodness.


Collaborating With Your Photographer 101: Plan a Wedding Day Itinerary That (Really) Works For You, iii. Sample Portrait Session

02 | 16 | 2009
Or “Getting The Most of Your Portrait Time!”

giacanali-081There’s no need to tell nice people to be nice or smart people to be smart (of course!), so let’s just say I’m stating the obvious: We all work harder and perform better when we feel appreciated. On your wedding day, you want what I’ll call “inspired” performances from your photographer—and all your vendors.  The running-to-get-more-portraits couple from last week’s post is a good model.  We didn’t have a ton of time together, but Dara and Dan really wanted to take advantage of whatever time we could get.  Their enthusiasm made me want to go out of my way to make their portrait time even better.  We had a great time together, and are happy to share a few of the images from their sessions.

Click on any photograph to enlarge.

At Dara and Dan’s welcome party, we took about fifteen minutes to take photographs on the beach …

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At the wedding, Dara and Dan decided not to see each other before the ceremony.  So we photographed them each separately before the ceremony, and then took about thirty minutes—just before dark—to take photographs on the beach, in lounging huts, on the wooden paths that led to the beach and the reception. Taking a few minutes here and there in a variety of different locations can make a big impact.

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Here are some in the last pink light before the sun set …

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We were running in the sweltering heat to get these photographs, and the sun had just set as we took the last few frames.  Even so, I couldn’t resist getting one more image on a toy camera:


It proved logistically impossible to schedule the photographs they wanted in this “domino hut” on their wedding day, but because their enthusiasm to work for good pictures was so contagious, I volunteered to meet them the morning after the wedding for a few more portraits.

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The nice thing about a day-after-the-wedding session, or a respect-the-dress-post-nuptial-portrait-session, as one of my clients calls them, is that the session can be both more intimate and less formal. I love the balance between sexy and playful.  Both bride and groom are much more relaxed.

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To view more of Dara and Dan’s wedding, please feel free to visit their gallery on my website {here}.

sources: Monique Lhuillier for both gowns.  The one Dara wore to the welcome party and post-nuptial portraits was a shortened version of that lovely gray tulle one from Lhuillier’s spring 2008 collection. Venue was Parrot Cay Resort.  Thanks to Yifat Oren and her fantastic crew for helping Dara and Dan make so much time for portraits!

photo credit: Gia Canali


Collaborating With Your Photographer 101: Plan a Wedding Day Itinerary That (Really) Works For You, ii. Some Sample Itineraries

02 | 11 | 2009

Here are some sample itineraries and guidelines. There are, of course, many variations on each.  This is just meant to be a starting point for considering the kind of flow you’d like your day to have. One thing to keep in mind—if at all possible, plan to take the most important photographs during the best light of the day (theoretically the portraits of you and your beloved and likely just before sunset for an evening wedding).

Option 1. Not seeing each other before the ceremony.
  • Getting ready. I like to photograph the last hour or hour and a half of this process, including the putting on of the dress. Photographs are generally much better after the makeup goes on … and there’s not too much to photograph when you are in a chair. I also recommend scheduling the bride to go first for hair and makeup.
  • Ceremony.
  • Family and Wedding Party Photographs.
  • Intimate Portraits (you’ll be skipping your cocktail hour to do this).
  • Reception.  If you are trying save money on photography, plan to do the “events” of the reception at the beginning, including toasts, first dances, and cake cutting.  The reception also usually lasts for hours, so after dinner is served, you can catch up on time if you’re running behind.

Pros – Things flow very quickly, and if well-planned can feel very spontaneous. This is also a good schedule for morning or noontime weddings with lunch receptions.
Cons – You spend a good part of your wedding day (maybe until 6pm) away from your husband.  Things may go by too quickly, or you’ll feel rushed.

Option 2. Seeing each other (but nobody else) before the ceremony.
  • Getting ready.
  • First Sight. (A quick meeting for the first time.  It’s nice to have the first time you see each other not be a production … it’s fun, memorable, and usually a good photo op.)
  • Intimate portraits.
  • Ceremony.
  • Family and Wedding Party Photographs
  • You go to the last part of your cocktail hour.
  • Reception

Pros – You might enjoy a little more peaceful time with your spouse. And you might be more present for your reception.
Cons – You may not be getting your portraits in the best light of the day.

Option 3. Seeing each other and just doing group photos before the ceremony.
  • Getting ready.
  • First Sight. (A quick meeting for the first time.  It’s nice to have the first time you see each other not be a production … it’s fun, memorable, and usually a good photo op. We’ll talk more about this soon in a future post.)
  • Family and Wedding Party Photographs
  • Ceremony.
  • Intimate portraits.
  • You go to the last part of your cocktail hour.
  • Reception

Pros – You might get to enjoy a little more time with your guests or more portraits, depending on your preference, and those un-rushed portraits might be during the best light.
Cons – It’s possible that things could feel a little slower and more staged if you do group photographs beforehand.

Option 4. Seeing each other beforehand and doing all the “organized” photographs before the ceremony.
  • Getting ready.
  • First sight.
  • Intimate portraits and wedding party and family photographs.
  • Ceremony.
  • Cocktail hour.
  • Reception.

Pros – You don’t miss any of the party, so you have lots of time with your guests.
Cons – You might miss the best light of the day.  And it’s possible things could feel a little slower and more staged.

Itinerary tips:
  1. If you have a big family and are doing group photos before the ceremony, consider making “call-times” for your family for the photographs.  It helps keep things moving without the total chaos of having 40 or more people standing around while you get your photographs taken.
  2. Be open to slipping away from your reception as the light changes for more portraits. We love to take a few nighttime portraits when the schedule permits.
  3. Be flexible.  Weddings are full of unpredictable moments.  Just try to enjoy whatever is actually happening with whoever is around you. Happiness always photographs well.

Collaborating with Your Photographer 101: Plan a Wedding Day Itinerary That (Really) Works For You

02 | 11 | 2009

Your photographer wants you to have a wonderful wedding—the kind of seamless experience that works with the kind of wedding day you want to have, rather than fights against it. That is, we want you to have both the wedding you want and the beautiful photographs to remember it by. And all of us photographers know that it is much easier to make flattering photographs of people who are truly enjoying themselves. People who are not stressed out.

A healthy dose of realism goes a long way in preventing stress.  So a lot of what Pursuing the Picture Perfect Wedding will deal with is what I like to call the pre-wedding reality check—reconciling your expectations (for the wedding, not just for photography) with the reality of time constraints.  The wedding is only one day, after all.

There are a few misconceptions photographers deal with that affect the wedding day plans (and therefore, the itinerary, the “time constraints”) directly.  The first misconception is that hiring a hiring a wedding “photojournalist” means that you do not need to take time to make photographs. Or that making great photographs—from any style photographer—requires no effort on the part of the subject (i.e., the bride and groom).

This is simply not true.  If you want beautiful portraits of you and your husband (posed, unposed, candid, relaxed), you’ll want to get away from the busy-ness of the rest of the wedding so you can interact with each other. Alone.  And ideally, you’ll get to do this in a beautiful, uncluttered environment, during the day’s best light. You’d be surprised to see how, if you’re not vigilant, your “intimate portrait” time can get whittled down with other distractions and obligations.  So it’s smart to allow at least 30 minutes for portraits of you and your husband.

If you want photographs with your family and bridal party (and you probably do—they are an important part of your family history), then you’ll need to make time for those, too. We suggest limiting the group photographs to the most essential combinations—extended and immediate family, parents, grandparents (if present), and siblings (if applicable) on both sides; whole bridal party, bride and her attendants, groom and his.  Not everybody even elects to have a photograph with the extended families.  Depending on the number of people involved in the photos, a streamlined series of group photographs can take about 30 minutes. *

(An aside: if you want lots of photographs with your friends, family, and guests, ask your photographer if she can do a photo booth.  It’s really fun for absolutely everybody and it doesn’t take away any time from other wedding day festivities).


(I took the above photograph at a wedding at St. Andrew’s in Scotland. A neighbor saw the wedding ceremony and offered their garden for portraits afterwards.  Because we had all planned time to take a long walk and make portraits, we were able to jump at the opportunity. It was a happy detour and the garden photographs added a welcome spot of color to their wedding album.)

The other misconception, which is nearly related to the first, is that you can get away with not planning time for the things that are going to have to happen on your wedding day. For instance, a lot of couples think they can skip seeing each other beforehand and not miss any of their cocktail hour/reception—and still come away with great photographs.  This, too, simply isn’t true. There are a several different ways to plan your itinerary, but planning it without time for the things that need to happen—like getting your hair and makeup done, like getting yourself to your venues, like taking some photographs—spells disaster, or at least disappointment and lots of stress. Let me say again, stressed out people look stressed out in photographs.  And even I had to submit to getting my hair and makeup done and taking posed family photographs at my own wedding.

So, allow time for everything you are planning to do: get your hair done, get your makeup done (these things often run upwards of 45 minutes behind, so I suggest padding your itinerary early in the day), get dressed (allow more time for a complicated gown), get to your venues, get married, take photographs, make toasts, eat dinner, etc., etc.  If you want anything special or unusual, for instance, a vintage process photograph that may require a little extra time to set up and take … allow time for that, too.

In the next post, we are going to show several different, workable itineraries.  If you have questions about how long things typically take, ask your photographer and other vendors.  Chances are, they’ve worked at hundreds of weddings and have a very reliable sense of how things go and what works in a wedding day itinerary.

photo credit: Gia Canali


*Note: A disproportionate amount of time goes into planning what amounts to about eight family photos and three bridal party photographs—it’s only because there are so many people involved and your photographer wants to make sure it goes as efficiently as possible  … Don’t get stressed out that you somehow got tricked into hiring a so-called “traditional” photographer.  Your photographer is just trying to help you make the most of your time. You don’t want to be away from your guests and party for an hour … maybe an hour and ten minutes.


Wedding Design & Aesthetics: Variations on a Theme

02 | 10 | 2009

I’m really so happy—aren’t we all?!—that brides everywhere are freeing themselves from the tyranny of the matchy-matchy wedding.  It’s a wedding design aesthetic that reigned uncontested for far too long.  Variations-on-a-theme isn’t just the different-bridesmaid-dresses-in-the-same-color thing, but I do think it was a small first step in the direction of freedom.  And in the last year or two, I have seen “variations on a theme” spread to all sorts of design elements, including florals and decór.

Honestly, even though I think they were just a starting place, I love seeing bridesmaid dresses that don’t match at all, or follow some broad color scheme—chocolate, saffron, and turquoise, with some patterns thrown in. Just really flattering dresses for each bridesmaid (which, naturally, makes the photographs that include the bridesmaids much better).  It also photographs very well when the families dress on a loose color scheme, with all different outfits in, say, khaki and blue, or all jewel tones.

Personal flowers are a lovely—and logical—opportunity for variation.  Below is a bride with her bridesmaids, who all wore different cream-colored dresses.  Floracopia created unique bouquets to match each bridesmaid’s dress.


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(Clearly!) I have a soft spot for flowers.  So, what’s more exciting than having more to photograph / more to look at?  Here is another example of variation of personal flowers. All the bridesmaids bouquets were white (and green), but each bouquet featured a different bloom.  The corresponding groomsman wore a boutonnière made with a small arrangement of the same flowers.  The photographs below are not matched bridesmaid-to-groomsman, but I think they give a sense of the overall feel.  Florals by GD Designers.

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Centerpieces are another high-profile, attention-grabbing opportunity to show off your creativity.  Using a few tall arrangements of unique blooms at some tables can add visual interest … and save you money over using tall arrangements at every table. Or, you could have a florist create different arrangements on every table.  The possibilities here are endless, too—different containers (e.g., vases), different flowers in the same color group, different colors of the same blooms, different everythings.  Below, a simple illustration of different containers.  This bride also alternated the patterned linens with solid black ones for more variety. Florals by Michael Holmes Designs.

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If you are on a shoe-string budget, get your green-thumbed friends to grow and arrange flowers that are native to your area—or just raid your local farmer’s market.  Some of my clients did this with a wedding at the Mill Valley Outdoor Art Club in Mill Valley, CA.  The centerpieces for the reception were all loose—and different—flower arrangements of local flowers in Mason jars.  The result was pleasing; it struck a happy balance between the unique and the united.

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Cohesion, or the theme itself, is what “pulls it all together” visually, and the variety what adds interest. Couples are freeing their florists (and other vendors!) to do something they’ve never been encouraged to do before … create something unique.  This generous spirit is coming from celebrity clients and Joe & Jane couples alike.  I realize that I’m probably preaching to the choir, so I’d love to hear how other brides are making their own variations.  We’ll revisit this design aesthetic point from time to time.

My new hope?  For variations in stationery.  Now that the environmentally-conscious weddings are becoming more of a social standard, I’m looking for some crafty innovations with paper goods.  I’d like to see couples get a letterpress plate, but print their invites and other paper goods on vintage/re-purposed or scrap paper. (You have got to believe those letter-pressers have some wicked scraps stashed away, right?).  Escort cards made from … vintage playing cards, maybe.  Does anybody know someone out there doing this?