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Wedding Day Details in a Difficult Situation: Dress

Lesson 8 from: Wedding Photographer Survival Kit

Susan Stripling

Wedding Day Details in a Difficult Situation: Dress

Lesson 8 from: Wedding Photographer Survival Kit

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

8. Wedding Day Details in a Difficult Situation: Dress


Class Trailer



Class Introduction


The Gear That Will Save You in Tough Situations


How Lenses Shape the Image and Help Tell Your Story


Light Modifiers for Your Survival Kit


Gear to Spice Up Bland Images: Prisms, Mist and More


Walkthrough of a Difficult Venue


Why Each Room Works and Why It Doesn't


Wedding Day Details in a Difficult Situation: Dress


Wedding Day Details in a Difficult Situation: Rings


Wedding Day Details in a Difficult Situation: Shoes


Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in Difficult Scenarios


Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in a Small, Cluttered Room


Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in a Dark Hallway


Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in a Doorway


Portraits of the Bride in a Small Room


Removing the Surrounding Space for a Bridal Portrait


Window Lit Bridal Portrait in a Tough Space


How to Shoot a Quick and Simple Bridal Portrait


Photographing Guys, Complaining Brides and "Helpful" Bridesmaids




Portraits of Bride and Groom: Ideal Situations


Portraits of Bride and Groom: When Things Go Wrong


Bride and Groom Portraits: What to Do If You're Indoors


Bride and Groom Portraits: How to Pose an Awkward Couple


Family Formals: How to Achieve Your Ideal Situations


Family Formals: When Things are Less Than Ideal


Family Formals in an Awful Space


Family Formals Recap and Questions


Photographing the Reception


Reception Q&A


What Can You Do to Safeguard Your Business?


Contracts Q&A


Dealing with Social Media as a Wedding Photographer


What if Advertising Isn't Working?


What to do When Everyone Just Wants More


When Everyone Says I Am Too Expensive


When You Hate Your Job as a Wedding Photographer


Lesson Info

Wedding Day Details in a Difficult Situation: Dress

00:00:02.19 --> 00:00:06. Wedding day details how we start the day. So wedding 00:00:06.48 --> 00:00:08. day details. What if? 00:00:10.75 --> 00:00:12. What if you have to shoot the dress and there's no 00:00:12.27 --> 00:00:12. light 00:00:14.19 --> 00:00:16. what if there's a window but it's no good or it's 00:00:16.86 --> 00:00:19. cloudy or it's too crowded to get near how many times 00:00:19.82 --> 00:00:21. have you shot into getting ready room where there's 00:00:21.73 --> 00:00:23. ah great window but someone's getting their makeup 00:00:23.87 --> 00:00:25. done in front of it or somebody set up in front of 00:00:25.54 --> 00:00:27. it or there's junk in front of it or there's furniture 00:00:27.18 --> 00:00:29. in front of it you can't really move it and you just 00:00:29.86 --> 00:00:33. can't get at it what if there's no where to hang the 00:00:33.6 --> 00:00:37. dress that's attractive what if you're in a closet 00:00:38.09 --> 00:00:39. let's see what happens so we've tal...

ked about shooting rings and we've talked about shooting shoes which you can do in really small spaces right you saw that I had about a foot of space to shoot the rings in the new show that I had sort of a piano surface to shoot the shoes what do you do when you have to shoot the dress and there's nowhere to go it's really easy to create a little light box and really little kind of nice scenario when you're shooting tiny things but what about something like this as you can see we're basically in the smallest room of all time I could not lay down going this way and if I laid down going this way my head and feet would touch the opposite walls so I guess it kind of smells like my grandmother's house in here it's very antique for lack of a better word but I was really looking for somewhere that I could just hang the dress and change how the room looked so I talk about looking for light first I've also talked about when you can't find any good natural light you're gonna have to make it yourself so stop thinking about the light and find your background I needed somewhere that I could hang it I don't carry hooks with me I know a lot of photographers will take those three m hooks and just stick him on places I never wanted to do that because to me that looks a little weird why would address just randomly be hanging on a wall somewhere are hanging on a tree outside which is my least favorite why would you take your dress and hang it in a tree? That sort of thing just doesn't make any sense to me however it would be completely plausible that the dress would be hanging in this sort of parlor getting ready room so there were a bunch of things on these shelves I mean random things like this and this isn't really helping me tell the story so I sort of cleared the shelves a little bit hung the dress up their hung the veil up there so that it wasn't up there by itself and this looks pretty bad. I mean, I think we can all agree this looks kind of terrible the lighting is awful so my trusty ice light here on my cheetah stand is what I'm going to use toe light the scene the reason why this is important I've mentioned this before I can pick this up and I can put this down so for everybody out there who's like oh I can't do off camera flash or off camera video light because I don't have an assistant meet your new assistant this is not going to take the place of my assistant because it's a whole lot easier to tell a person hey get up in scoot over five feet than to have to pick this up and move it and put it back down and hope that nobody runs into it and someone's gonna want to touch it and so on and so forth but if you don't have somebody with you you have no excuses now you can definitely do this the barn doors again are really important because they will allow me to control the intensity and the direction of the light so the first thing I'm going to do is I'm going to place the light and it's gonna be really easy there's kind of like a little and let here in the room I guess if it did not have a little inlet and here I would just put it right up against this wall right here the main and most important part to me is that it's hidden away on the other side of this door because I'm not going to shoot from inside this room I'm going to shoot from in the adjacent room so I'm jamming this in as close as I possibly can I want to talk to you about what's going to happen with the light so I turn this on right let's say the barn doors were wide open you can see how the light washes over this entire scene but I don't want that I want the light on just the dress so I start closing this side of the barn door and you could see how the light comes across the room like so you can literally see like a setting sun by close it too far it's gone I opened it up to just cover the dress and then I bring this side in here just on the dress so if you look at the ice light it's barely open but that light comes right around here and hits the dress they're this's okay this doesn't look that bad but here's the real kicker close the door over here so that no light from the hallway is spilling in turn off the overhead lights now all of a sudden we haven't absolutely workable lighting scenario again with the barn doors if you open them up too much there's too much light in the room close down the two sides like so very narrow and then use it toe on lee light your subject. So like so overhead lights go off one I slide on one cheetah stand now I've let the dress I've got my eighty five millimeter still on my d seven fifty and we're going to shoot it from through a bathroom in another room entirely so let's go do it okay so here we are in yet another sort of creepy parlor I would have liked to put the dress in here because this is kind of interesting there's weird stuff on the walls and like it's just strange but there's nowhere to hang it and again I'm not goingto stick a three and hook on the wall and hang a dress in a place that it wouldn't ever plausibly be so we're in this little room bigger than the other room but I can't really put it anywhere here however it adjoins the other room through a bathroom so I get a long shot that way so I don't have to shoot the dress in sixteen to thirty five I don't have to distort it with a wide angle lens I get to be in here I get to shoot longer within eighty five and I've got itl it exactly the way I want what this is also going to do for me compositionally is I get to shoot through two doorways and I'm a huge stickler for compelling composition so it's not just this dress that's obviously lit hanging on this wall somewhere I've deliberately placed the ice light in that other room so that you can't see it and to me that's important because then you don't know where the light is coming from so I shoot through one door to get into the bathroom the night shoot through another door to get into the other room and it just makes it compositionally interesting is the background great really? Is this going to be like a print competition award winner no it's not but it's going to be something different than another photographer would do here and it's going to be well lit and it's going to be in line visually with the rest of the way we shoot so let's do it I've got my eighty five millimeter on mighty seven fifty this is the eighty five one four I'm going to be shooting it at one eight I want a little bit more of the dress to be in focus than it would be at one four so we're doing that keeping my shutter speed around an eightieth of a second because again the dress is not going to get up and run away or move I'm gonna take one shot first with my exposure compensation at absolutely nothing and I'm going to show you how the camera freaks out when I do that so fire this is even worse than the exposure compensation at zero shot of the shoes because the dress is one big arctic white blast in the other room and everything else is straight up dark so if you look at a history ram for something like this if this is your history ram it's going to go like that there is no bell curve to be found here it all so I have to be smarter than my camera we'll take mike so's your compensation I'm going to bring it down three stops thus under exposing the scene by three stops focus fire a perfectly exposed again if I took a vertical and also going to come in here and take a horizontal bearing in mind if you're shooting at one eight or one for you really can't focus and recompose so you have to make sure your focal point is directly on what you want and focus focus and fire and it's nice and clean nice and easy it's lit consistently with the way I like other things it is not overly obviously lit if you look at this if you look at the picture of the light could be coming in through a window off to the side or it could be coming in through an open door off to the side you don't know I don't ever want to create light in a way that makes it look super super fake and it doesn't so in here there were a few other things that I'm going to experiment with off over here to my right I've got a couple of mirrors so I'm going to see if maybe I could find a good angle I love mirrors like this I don't bring them with me this was already existing in the room but if I could take this and I can put this in an interesting location and I can shoot into that and see what's going on in there then it just gives me other compositional scenarios to play with and try to tell a clearer story I've got a couple of mirrors were going to shoot into them we're going to see what happens but I know that I've got my safe shot and if this is all that I had the time to shoot just one nice and quick shot in here I could run in their hang it up turn off the lights throw down the ice light turn it on and be ready to go in less than a minute and be completely done with this scenario in less than three minutes so that I could move on so we've shot a bunch of details this was pretty entertaining and incredibly difficult and the most important thing is this is exactly what wedding day's air like for me walking into situations sometimes I've seen these spots before sometimes I haven't but trying to find places to make compelling photographs when you don't have immediately compelling light or immediately compelling backgrounds really means you have to sort of dig deep into the technical archives of your brain and you can see that none of this is crazy trickery, it's one I slights and barn doors, a cheetah stand and a whole lot of panic. So there you go. So that was fun um I wanted to talk about something really quickly and it was the continuity we shot some of these a little out of order I got a little better as the day went on to not refer to things that I'd shot already we shot dread our rings than shoes then dress so when I say as I've got my eighty five still on here you'll see me talk about that as we get up to here there are not segments that you have been missing so the first thing I want to talk about before we go on any further is my lighting setup I have a nice flight pretty obvious um I'm using an adapter which again if you're just joining us the dynamic range dot com has the creative live resource list so you can see the light I'm using the adaptor that I'm using to connect it to my light stand and the exact light stand that I'm using I'm using a cheetah stand and the reason why that is amazing is you saw you can pick it up and put it down you don't have to scroll the legs back up or the legs back down you literally just pick it up and put it down so if your excuse for not using off camera light is oh I don't have an assistant oh I don't have any way to stand it up you can carry it around and you can put it down so talking about the images that were shot in this room this is the first one and we're gonna talk really quickly about the settings because that's also important quiet is exposure compensation important when you're shooting an aperture priority now if you want to hear a lot more about my thoughts about aperture priority versus manual you khun grab my first class which is creative composition most importantly you can grab thirty days I go into great depth on when I use aperture priority when I use manual but a really quick note about it if I am going to be controlling everything such as if I'm going to put a flash on my camera I'm going to be using manual most of the time for the rest of the day if I'm working with a nice light or if I'm working with natural light I'm going to be on aperture priority why it is just how my brain works there is no technical explanation as to why there is nothing wrong with shooting manual there is nothing wrong with shooting operative priority I do not shoot opera priority because I don't know how to shoot manual that's my favorite misconception as well if you were a real photographer you would shoot in manual it's just it's mac versus pc it's kanan versus an icon it's however your brain approaches the scene and my brain sees in aperture priority with exposure compensation now if you look at a scene like this this was shot with exposure compensation at zero what is your camera trying to do here your camera is first of all flipping out it's looking at this scene well it is it's looking at the senior internal camera meter and it's saying okay I want to give you a perfect bell shaped history ram right I don't know how to do that because you've got something that's very bright and white and then you have something that is very black if you're looking at a history ram for this it's gonna look like that but your camera wants it to look like this so what it's going to try to do is it's going to try to make everything equal so it's going to think well we've got to sort of exposed the room correctly and the address correctly and everything correctly and then you're going to end up with bright spots that are super blown out and dark spots that are a little bit too bright and you just have to be smarter than your camera so I know when I look at a scenario like this I have something very very very bright in a dark situation I don't want to equalize it I want the dark spaces to get darker and I want the bright thing whatever it is a face or a dress or a detail I wanted to be correctly exposed now I shouldn't matrix metering but honestly, that's just because it's, the setting that it's on I made her in my head, I don't really look at what my camera is doing, but that's. Not to say that I'm like super awesome magic meter in my head person. I've just been doing this for a really long time, so I have taught myself how to meet her in my head. If you're struggling with lighting scenarios like this, where it's, maybe trickier, where you've got bright brights and dark darks, give spot me during a try, it'll help you get a little bit closer. But above all of that, you need to learn how to trust the meter in your head more than any meter in your camera, because when you're making a snap decision about an exposure, you need to do it yourself instead of letting your camera do it for you. So correct exposure when I brought my exposure compensation down to almost three stops under exposed I actually ended up with the exposure that I was looking for so I have my eighty five millimeter one for at eighty five and one four I went back and forth between one four and one eight trying to figure out which one was going to be just right this one was that one for my focal point is directly on the bodice of the dress because that's the most important part my exposure compensation is dialed down minus two point three two really equalize that exposure my eyes so is only one hundred ten and that's not a typo was one hundred ten now why is my eyes so weird and you'll see as were in here shooting sometimes my eyes so it gets a little weird my s o is weird because I am on auto eso and I've mentioned this before if you go to my dynamic range and you look for auto I s so I wrote a huge post on what it is and why but basically what you're doing is you're telling your camera parameters that you wanted to work within on I only do this when I'm on aperture priority so I'll say hey what I want you to dio the lowest s so that I want you to go to is as low as possible whatever my lowest eso is on whatever camera I'm shooting, the highest s so I wanted to go to is ten thousand now I can go to twelve eight aiken goto crazy high ay esos but I want to be very careful and not push my eyes so too high in case I have to tweak the exposure later in post I don't want to see a ton of noise or in case I have to crop or realign I don't do it a lot but if I do have two cropper realign the image I don't want to lose part of an image that's already pushed pretty hard anyhow so I can't myself in about ten thousand then I tell it what is my minimum shutter speed? So for an eighty five millimeter lens for subjects that might be moving, my minimum shutter speed is going to be one hundred sixty eighth of a second I know that if my camera shoots with e eighty five millimeter on it at one hundred sixteenth of a second if I've got a bride getting ready if people are moving around, I'm not going to get any motion blur or camera shake now if I'm shooting a detail, you can see that it's at an eightieth of a second that details not goingto start moving around so I'm comfortable handholding at a slower shutter speed also knowing that I can hold it steady so camera shake will be gone but there won't be any motion blur because there will be no motion that will be blurring so what it does from there? So I said it at one four with my aperture priority, I've set my minimum shutter speed at an eightieth of a second. What it does from there is it starts adjusting my I s o based on the scenario, if there's more light it adjust theis so accordingly, if there's less light, it raises the so what it's trying to do is is trying to keep me at that shutter speed or faster. Now, if I got up to here and my eyes, so we're ten thousand, I'm maxed out. The only choice it has is to start lowering the shutter speed, so I do use auto. So when I am on africa priority, I find it to be very, very, very reliable. It's not because I'm dumb and I don't know how to set my eyes so it's. Not that it's just because it's a little automation that my camera can do that I really trust. So if you're curious about what that is, I go into it a lot in thirty days. I write about it on my blawg read about it for your camera, but it's kind of another fun little tool to try. So quiet is this work well it works because the light is good because I was able to put in light that was decent because it was graphically interesting because I managed to make it not look like a closet why do I wish it were better I mean y'all him in a closet like why do I wish it was better dot I wish I were in a room with windows I wish that I wish that the dress wasn't flat I wish it had more shape if it were an actual wedding day and it had come stuffed with all of the tissue paper and cardboard I would have probably left a lot of that in the body of the dress so that it didn't like hang flat against the wall but I didn't could it have been much better in that space? Not really. I thought this would be like amazing why is it just okay? You know I gave you a lot of buildup I showed you a closet I said we're going to make a dress picture in it I don't want there to ever be any misconception that when the situation's air very difficult I'm going to make like a w p p I print competition award winner in there that's not how this works that's not how weddings work had all all I'm trying to do in some situations is survive and make something compelling is that way better than just hanging it on a door in a random room with no interesting light whatsoever it isthe is it amazing really it's good and when you're trying to survive what you're looking for is good sometimes you get great but if you get good good is better than really bad so don't beat yourself up if you're in a situation like this and you make you know an image that's good don't berate yourself thinking I could have made some I'm gonna make the best image of my career in here that's not always how that goes that's why okay is sometimes excellent because it is much more excellent than my other options and the hangar question this is I cannot believe how often I get asked this question which is really funny because to me it's just not a thing if you do not have a pretty hanger on the wedding day will you bring a hangar with you I get asked that a lot no I'm not going to bring a hangar with me I you know it's interesting sidebar for a second I've been doing this for fifteen years I am thirty seven years old um I understand I don't think hangers are like important maybe when I was twenty two and I was getting started and all of the details and all of this and I was obsessing about every single little thing I look back at my own wedding pictures. I care what my hangar looks like. It's a hanger it's it's just a hanger so if there is a better option like if it's hanging on a plastic hanger and there's like a good wooden hanger or something that doesn't look a little less like dry cleaner I'm going to switch it but I'm not going to bring a hangar with me I'm not goingto overly stress out about the hanger situation because to me it's just not important if the hangar is super ugly on my ass my client's hey do you have a different hanger for your dress and if they say no if all it has is a plastic hanger all it has is a plastic hanger it's just not to me it just isn't that urgent really? So could I have made that room look like this or could I have made that room look like this no that's ridiculous like there's no way I could have made that look like this this is my ideal for what I'm looking for ah country club where I can hang the dress from a phenomenal chandelier with a window coming from an amazing direction or a synagogue with like this florida ceiling amazing window and I can put the dress in it I can't make a closet look like that, but that looks a whole lot better than what the alternative wass so don't beat yourself up too much if you're looking for what I just showed you and what you're getting is this this to me is on award winner in that situation. Questions about photographing the dress before we move on to rings. Yeah, they're all smiling at me. So internet, how the internet feeling alright, internet is great. And a question from scalia han, are you adjusting the ice lights? Brightness, or is it just one setting? In the scenario, you can adjust the ice lights, brightness in this scenario, I had it turned on pretty strong. Usually, if I'm going to use it it's pretty much at max power, if I'm gonna get really, really, really close to my subjects, sometimes I could dial it back a little bit. But on the ice light where the barn doors, if you're going by that ice light by those barn doors, because then you can really control everyone's like, yeah, you saw I mean, and you'll see it, maurin. In further examples, you can really shape exactly where that light is going, but for the most part, I do put it on pretty much at full power. Great, yeah, question. Just wanted to ask how much is the ice light how much are the barn doors if you remember the ice light that's on the resource is page I think the eyesight is close to five hundred the barn doors air forty forty close to forty yes so you can go I slight barn doors umbrella adapter during the adapter and the cheetah stand for like heard six hundred five six six, forty six hundred and sixty dollars and you can have the whole thing I'm gonna put it together later I'm gonna show you how it all puts together it's fun yes ma'am don't know if you want to talk about this now but we do have several people asking about what do you do if there's no place tio put a hanger well surely the venue has a door I mean I hung it on shelves but I mean unless you're in some weird super modern menu that doesn't have doors that close a door jamb on the area around the door all crack adore and jam the hangar over the top of the door and then slammed the door shut again that's great yes I mean I just don't I don't like bringing three m hooks because I don't I don't like to put the dress somewhere that it might not normally be to me it looks odd there are plenty of people who do it and do it incredibly well it just doesn't look right to me same with taking the dress outside or putting the dress in a tree or something like that I can't make that look good to me it just doesn't jibe with the rest of my work but there are plenty of people who do so you know do with that whatever you will if you like to take your dress and hanging in trees and it worked for you by all means go to town seriously it's just not the way my brain wants to do all right one more dress question and this one is about strapless dresses do you hang them from the little helper straps or do you lay them out what is your general okay helper shops I mean that's how it's hanging on the hanger anyhow I just leave it on the helper straps and then it usually like cames in so if it does kevin sometimes I will leave like I said the body of that packing stuff inside of it and sometimes it just falls flat and all you can do is all you can do I find sometimes if you go to like the bosom part of the dress and you sort of push it in like if you've got the dress where it comes around this part of the dress if you literally karate chop either side of the dress and kind of push it in a little bit it pushes it out a little bit and gives it a little bit more shape, but there's, not a lot that you can do in the dress is just hanging on a hanger, and the worst are like those silky slip dresses. But it just looks like a nightgown hanging on a hanger. It just is what it is. The end. And for all of these different scenarios, it's address shot it's, a handful of images out of the gallery. Don't make yourself crazy, get in, get it to look good, get out and keep going.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Wedding Photographer Survival Kit Slides

Ratings and Reviews


I found this course extremely helpful. I own Susan's 30 day bootcamp class and I think that this course is a great supplement to that course. I don't work with an assistant so it was very helpful to see how she would approach a scenario without an assistant. It was also great to see her point of view and thought process when scouting locations for portraits and witness her ability to make something beautiful out of "not so pretty" or difficult locations. It helped me to take a better approach to finding the light, and really paying attention to all of the different details throughout a room. Her business tips were awesome too. I could go on and on but maybe you should just get the course. It's worth it.


Good and useful course as typical of Susan Stripling; I also own Creative Wedding Photography. However, all the class materials should reside on the Creative Live website -- not just the Power Point presentation. I understand Susan's desire to drive people to her website to increase visibility and sales of her own products, but the strategy isn't very customer-centric for CreativeLive customers. People shouldn't have to "google" the name of her company to find the information that she references in this course; and then once on the website scroll through outdated or unwanted information to find, as she states at her website, "Below is the list of gear (as promised) that I've mentioned on Creative Live." If people are smart enough to find CreativeLive, they'll be smart enough to find on the web any presenter that they like or want to know more about. The folks at CreativeLive ought to address this type of behavior before it sets a bad precedent for future presenters.


I love Susan. She will give it to you straight! I own her "30 days" class and it's amazing but one thing I took away from this course was when she said something along the lines of, "Those photographers who tell you they hand pick their clients are lying to you!" Haha. There are TOO MANY young and arrogant wedding photographers who think they are rock stars. They really get me down. And that's why I like Susan. She's honest.

Student Work