Three Ways to Handle Detail Photos on a Busy Wedding Day

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Natalie Cheng is a California based wedding photographer who got her start documenting her life with her husband as newlyweds. Now in her 5th year as a professional photographer, Nathalie shares how she manages to photograph so many detail photos on a busy wedding day, and how she uses florals to accentuate and style her images.

Have you always included flat lay images in your work? How did you develop that sensibility?

I didn’t always include flat lay images in my work. Quite honestly, I didn’t see the need for them and felt like my time could be better used photographing the bride & groom. However, I started noticing a pattern in my couples asking me to photograph special details from their wedding day so that they could remember them in the days and years to come. More times than not those images would make it into their wedding album. From then on, I realized how meaningful and moving these images can be and I began investing more time and creativity to make them happen at each wedding day.

It can challenging to photograph so many details on a busy wedding day. Is there any advice you have to getting it all done?

Yes! Every time it always feels like I’m running a marathon! Here a few tips that have worked for me over the years:

  • Setting a hard time limit: It’s so easy for me to lose track of time when photographing flat lays. I can get distracted by one detail or overwhelmed by the amount of details to photograph! I like to set a five-minute alarm each time I photograph a detail to help pace myself and keep me on track with our wedding day timeline.

  • Having an organized shot list: I like to write down every detail that I’ll be photographing and sketch out a plan of how I would ideally style it on the day of the wedding. It also helps me prepare which additional styling props I may need to pack the night before.

  • One box for all the details: Typically, I ask my bride to organize all the details she and her groom would like to have photographed into one box the day before their wedding so that it is ready for me to photograph once I arrive. It also makes for an easy clean up because everything just goes straight back into the box!

“I love creating contrast when selecting a backdrop color to use for photographing the floral details.” A bold  black styling board  is featured in this photo.

“I love creating contrast when selecting a backdrop color to use for photographing the floral details.” A bold black styling board is featured in this photo.

There are so many beautiful floral details in your work, but not every wedding has a floral designer. How can photographers include botanical/floral details in their photos, if their wedding doesn't have a huge budget, or many floral details? Is there still a way to create editorial worthy details?

Absolutely! I love touching based with my brides and their planners to get a general sense of their color story and feel for their wedding day. During the week of their wedding day, I’ll pay attention to what’s in bloom in my neighborhood and forage a few botanical and floral details that I feel will complement their wedding details artistically yet beautifully. I also love deconstructing a bouquet or boutonniere with leftover flowers to showcase the elements individually that went into creating their unique pieces.

What is the most challenging about photographing floral details? How do you overcome that challenge?

Floral details usually have many beautiful, unique angles to them and one thing I run into is the danger of making these details look overly flat. To overcome that challenge, I love creating contrast when selecting a backdrop color to use for photographing the floral details. I also love utilizing my silk runners to place underneath a bouquet to create a bit more dimension.

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What do you do to make sure your floral detail photos are unique to you, but also stay true to the style of the bride and groom?

I love for my photos to be heartfelt yet simple and romantic. I find that pulling in elements from the bride & groom’s wedding day when styling floral detail photos, whether that be draping my bride’s veil over her bouquet or finding a beautiful corner in their venue to photograph it against strikes that perfect balance for me and my couple’s style.

What are your favorite styling tools to use when photographing flowers?

I love using my Heirloom Bindery boards! I have a slight obsession with them and own ten different colors at this point, but honestly they were the first styling pieces I ever invested in early on in my business and year after year they prove to be the perfect backdrop for styling my couple’s wedding details. In addition, I like sourcing dishes from local shops and events near me, like Heath Ceramics and West Coast Craft, to add dimension and visual interest to my floral details.

“I love using my  Heirloom Bindery boards ! I have a slight obsession with them and own ten different colors at this point, but honestly they were the first styling pieces I ever invested in early on in my business and year after year they prove to be the perfect backdrop for styling my couple’s wedding details.”

“I love using my Heirloom Bindery boards! I have a slight obsession with them and own ten different colors at this point, but honestly they were the first styling pieces I ever invested in early on in my business and year after year they prove to be the perfect backdrop for styling my couple’s wedding details.”

Are there any compositional rules that you use when you style flowers? How do you begin, and what steps do you take? How do you know when you're done?

I like to check in with the florist and ask them to share their design process with me of the pieces they created. Some bouquets are designed to face forward and when placed flat, you’ll be photographing a lot of the stems instead of the florist’s beautiful work. In those cases, I like placing the bouquet on top of my styling board and a folded hand towel to prop up the bouquet. It adds a unique point of view without sacrificing the bouquet’s design!

To see more of Nathalie’s work, visit NathalieChengPhotography.com

Jen Huang