Monthly Archives: June 2009

Getting Great Wedding Photos, Tip #6: Allow Room For Spontaneity

06 | 25 | 2009


Most of the time, I say plan, plan, plan. And do that—make an itinerary, give your day some structure, but pad the schedule.  Not just for problems, but also for fun.  All the planning in the world won’t replace the thrill of the unexpected.

photo credit: Gia Canali


R & A’s Los Angeles Wedding

06 | 23 | 2009

4x5 wedding portrait

R & A did a wonderful job conceiving their wedding. It involved lots of peculiarly-LA logistical challenges—a ceremony at the church the groom’s family attends in Downey, a reception on a chilly early-spring evening at a private home in Agoura Hills, getting guests to drive the hour-and-ten-minutes between locations—to name a few. But it came together beautifully under the direction of Heidi Mayne from Red25 (whose new site will launch very soon, so be sure to check back).

This wedding initiated me to {Krislyn} whose delicious designs have me swooning … Krislyn made the bride’s balsa wood and Swarovski bouquet (below and previously featured), the wishing tree, and the A + R vase (also below) that sat beside the tree at the reception. Lucky for me, Krislyn did florals at another wedding I photographed recently so I get to indulge (and share!) my newfound obsession.

{as always, click any image to enlarge}

bride and groom terrace bride and groom kiss on terrace

krislyn balsa wood bouquet krislyn bouquet detail the groom orthodox wedding ceremony orthodox ceremony overview orthodox wedding ceremony

orchid bouquet krislyn initials vase

I have to confess, though, my aesthetic obsessions at Rosalinda and Aris’s wedding were varied. Many are indicative of current and coming trends:

  1. Krislyn (cannot be overemphasized). The design is extraordinary. And I am pro-keepsake. Aren’t we all? It’s not only “green” to double duty pieces from your wedding as home decor, it’s wonderful to have more to hang onto.
  2. The groom’s modern slim fit three piece suit from YSL. May all my grooms be so well-dressed. I love that a vest gives the groom not only a perfectly tailored look, but an “alternate” look. He won’t wear the jacket all night anyway.
  3. The bride’s all-over lace gown by Elizabeth Fillmore. It perfectly accented the bride’s lovely figure. The asymmetrical train was pretty fabulous, too.
  4. Bare wooden dining tables, dressed with manzanita or beechwood branches and orchids.
  5. Greek revival fashion, e.g., the bridesmaid dress.
  6. How the bridesmaid’s bouquet accented the color of her dress. This rarely happens so nicely, and was, apparently, an accident. Katie’s Flowers in Downey had set out to make a “neutral” bouquet because they didn’t know what color the bridesmaid would be wearing.
  7. All the nooks and crannies—and the Moroccan flavor—of their friend’s house, where the reception was held. I am always happy for architectural/environmental portrait opportunities. This house offered myriad.
  8. Little wooden wedding sign.
  9. Stone seating “cards” and table numbers.

A sweet little ceremony getaway in the groom’s brother-in-law’s Rolls Royce.

wedding getaway wedding getaway just hitched sign

Some of the sweet reception details … I loved the variety (as I always love variety) in the centerpieces.  Manzanita or beechwood branches strewn with orchids, or wooden boxes full of them decorated each table.  Presenting old family photographs as they did, in a frame, with strings and clothespins, was quite charming.

wedding chair happy wedding sign reception table wooden wedding sign wedding couple wooden sign giacanali-wedding20 cocktails room family photos reception orchids

The light changed quickly as day turned to night, so we snuck portraits here and there, as we could, amongst dancing and toasting.

first dance escort card table stones toy camera wedding portrait

bride by wooden door

wedding couple bride on terrace kiss by the car

A little nighttime love … As I mentioned earlier, R & A spent most of the night close together. If you want wonderful photographs of you and your beloved late into the night, do this!

moroccan lantern nighttime decor nighttime portrait

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This couple did an amazing job of designing a gorgeous wedding without it feeling like they were over-producing it. (I think that’s a weird diagnosis of some weddings, but probably true, now that I think about it.) They prioritized having a great party … and it paid off. They danced with each other and their guests into the wee hours of the night. For my own part, I was very happy that they made time, even as the sun set, for me to get out the clunky old 4×5 camera (see top image). I’m looking forward to seeing how these images become themselves, later on …

photo credit: Gia Canali floral centerpieces: Malibu Market & Design lighting: Images By Lighting


Getting Great Wedding Photos, Tip #5: Stick Together

06 | 20 | 2009

happy couple

I have been working on putting together a feature on R & A’s wedding.  It’s hard for me, though: I usually like to mull over images for (sometimes) as long as a year (or more) before I display them.  It takes a long time for images to become their best selves.  Maybe I will make a Polaroid lift or transfer after many months.  Maybe I will try a dark sepia-tone, scratch it, and start over in color.  I feel too close to the images at first, and it’s hard to be objective about what’s really good.

Blogging, however, is all about the unfinished thought, the (visual) journaling, the diary.  It is by its very nature supposed to be spontaneous and decidedly unrefined.  So I am trying to learn that.  But in the meantime, I can’t help but fuss a little.  So, I thought I’d share a quick photo tip.

One of the things that helped R & A, and that other couples should definitely learn from is this: that with few exceptions, they stuck by one another’s side all evening.  It’s not as easy to do as it sounds, particularly if your guests are diverse or if only one of you likes to dance.  But your photos and memories will thank you if you make a point to enjoy (much of) your reception together. Congratulations, you guys!


Some Lovely Finds From Etsy

06 | 18 | 2009

I spend untold hours scouring the internet for things I can ♥.  I say ♥ because I like to like them, even when I don’t need them myself.  Here are some delicious vintage items from 13 Bees’ shop via etsy.

vintage wedding dress vintage wedding dress 2 vintage wedding dress 3



Well … I might need that black dress … In any case, there are zillions more finds on etsy, and lots more on 13 Bees.  Happy shopping …

photos via: 13bees


On Being Photographed & What To Do If You Are Camera Shy

06 | 11 | 2009


I can’t tell you how often I hear couples say to me before their weddings—or even at their weddings—that they are uncomfortable in front of the camera, or even that they are (supposedly) un-photogenic.   It’s difficult for me (as the photographer) because I have mixed feelings on this topic.  I simultaneously understand completely, as I generally do not welcome being photographed myself,¹ but also feel that the portrait process is collaborative one, and therefore not only the responsibility of the subject.   It’s important to note that I felt differently about being photographed at my wedding, though—I wanted great photographs of myself and my husband, and I was willing to stomach being in front of the camera in order to get them.

Fortunately, there are several really doable strategies for improving your wedding-day camera presence:

I.  The best place to start is with a good mindset. 

You already want amazing photographs of yourself at your wedding. (Or perhaps your spouse wants them, but you are at least willing to go along.  A groom once told me he thought getting photographed was a lot like going to the dentist, and was only doing it to please his bride).  Wedding photographs become family heirlooms.  And for most people, portraits are particularly important—those are the images that must be worked for.  Richard Avedon said, “A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he’s being photographed, and what he does with that knowledge is as much a part of the photograph as what he’s wearing or how he looks. He’s implicated in what’s happening, and he has a certain real power over the result.” And your photographer is there to collaborate with you, to coach you through the process.  Sometimes, I think it’s a bit strange how we photographers are there coaxing out of people convincing performances of their own real lives.  But that’s the job.  Or the art of it.  My point is that you have a lot of power over how you present yourself … and that you don’t have to go it alone.  Hire a photographer you trust.  And then trust her.  Work with her.

“A portrait must get beyond the almost universal self-consciousness that people have before the camera. If some moment of reality in the personality of the sitter did not happen, you had to provoke it in order to produce a portrait that had an identity with the person. The essential thing was to awaken a genius response.”      Edward Steichen, A Life In Photography

II. Relieve stress—relax.

This cannot be overstated.  People who are dwelling happily in the moment photograph marvelously.  If you are stressed about the wedding or the wedding photographs, it will quite likely show on camera.  Many of my clients have a glass of wine or champagne before we start.  I swear by herbal therapies, including Rescue Remedy, which I think is probably something most soon-to-be-wed couples could benefit from, whether or not they are shy in front of the camera.  Other folks do yoga, or get acupuncture, or go on a long walk the morning of the wedding.  Figure out something that works for you, and actively pursue relaxation.

III.  Be distracted.

God help me, if I could have an invisibility cloak and a pair of wings when I photograph weddings, all my photographs would be blissfully unaware.  But that’s really just not how it works.  If you don’t naturally ignore the camera, do so on purpose.²  Most of the time on your wedding day, there will be so much happening you’d be hard-pressed to pay too much attention to your photographer.  Really, you just need to focus on ignoring your photographer during portraits.  One easy way to do that is to look at your beloved—laugh, nuzzle, dance, gaze into each other’s eyes, go for a walk—and don’t look into the lens unless your photographer asks you to do so.


¹ Translation: If I can’t do a thumbs-up sign in the photo, I think the photo will probably be terrible.

² I think I just told you that “what you do with that knowledge” of being photographed is an essential part of the photograph.  Now, I am indeed telling you to ignore the camera.


Black & White Done Right: Sonya & Kevin’s Wedding

06 | 05 | 2009


I was just getting ready to post about why color is so important in wedding design.  For one thing, it gives the finished wedding album a certain otherwise-unattainable pizazz.  (I would like to suggest that it logically also gives the real live wedding that same bit of glamour.)  But I got side-tracked thinking about Sonya and Kevin’s wedding.   Their wedding was black-and-white (and therefore sort of non-colored) but had both important benchmarks of good “color” design: the scheme was unified (black-and-white with apple green accents) and was carried out across all design elements (florals, fashion, linens, furniture, stationery, etc.).

Rebecca Feeney of Custom Event Group set her careful eye to the details of this wedding.  The floral design was one of my favorite of those details.  The arrangements were formal, but still very dreamy. Below are Sonya’s bouquet, centerpieces from the reception, floating floral balls from the reception, and shade tents from near the ceremony area.  Florals by Michael Holmes Design, Napa.

{click any photo to enlarge}

95giacanali-009 black and white florals

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The bride wore a dress by Rivini.  It was perfectly suited for her—and was so perfectly, sweetly sexy. Below, note the bridesmaid’s dresses with a black-and-white floral pattern.  Their bouquets reversed the color scheme.

bride 07giacanali-5152 17giacanali-5555 boutonniere black and white flower girl 11giacanali-5378

Love their happy recessional …


Sonya and Kevin really wanted a wedding that was fun and truly memorable for their guests, and so prioritized good food, dancing, and the making of an amazing party.

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Elaine Bell Catering created a food station buffet, complete with mini mac ‘n cheese, sliders, sushi, salads, and other yummy treats.

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The venue was a private estate in Calistoga, CA, and provided a beautiful backdrop for the party that followed dinner.  Their coaster-shaped save-the-dates by Milkfed Press displayed a favorite drink recipe!

wedding chair path

91giacanali-3978 reception overview nighttime flowers


Steal these ideas:

  1. Use a cohesive color scheme! Carry it out across all the design elements.
  2. Remember your guests!  Sonya says, “Stick to the basics and do them really, really well!  Think of your guests and what makes a wedding memorable to them.”  Another way of thinking about this is to not get hung up on your idea of what makes a wedding fancy or formal, but rather what makes a wedding a wonderful experience to share with your friends and family.  And if that means serving mac ‘n cheese, serve mac ‘n cheese.

photo credit: Gia Canali