3 tips for capturing gorgeous wedding details in any space

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Part of our job as wedding photographers is to make everything look like the best possible version of itself. This includes our couples, their families and friends, their details, their venue – everything about their day!  At the same time, we have to remain true to our own style and aesthetic, and create images that we’re proud to deliver. Sometimes though, especially for people who are having very large weddings, there are serious limitations on venue options. As soon as your guest list surpasses 200, the pool of venues you have to choose from shrinks dramatically. There are really only a handful of locations in Buffalo that can comfortably hold more than 200 people, so sometimes our couples have to choose between style and function, and function usually wins.

So, what can you do as a bride if you end up having to be in a space that isn’t a good fit for your style? Hire an excellent photographer who can make a place you feel “meh” about look like the venue of your dreams. And, what can you do as a photographer who has to work in a space that isn’t really a good fit for your overall vibe and style? Get creative and make it your own. I love the challenge of taking a space that I’m not wild about and creating images that are a perfect fit for my style and brand aesthetic.

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These are beautiful detail shots that look like they were taken in a bright, white, clean space with perfectly diffused lighting and lots of room to work. Some of those things are true, but overall, it was a space that wasn’t a good fit for my style and our couple didn’t love the style of it either. I took an iPhone photo that day to show you what I had to work with. Check out that gorgeous brass railing, dark wood, 80’s wall paper, and fabulous casino carpeting:

Shooting details in hotels that aren’t a good fit for your style is a common challenge for wedding photographers, so here are three tips to help you conquer the cheesy carpeting and emerge victorious:

1. Find ANYTHING white to use as a backdrop and/or reflector. In the above situation, I was short on time and wasn’t able to go on a quest to find white things, so I grabbed the only white things I could find: the bride’s veil and the white plastic dust bag it came in. Yep, that’s right; the background of these detail photos is a white plastic bag. In the past, I have used white table cloths, white bedspreads, sheets, and even the bride’s dress or a bridesmaid’s dress – all of those things will work to give you a nice clean backdrop for your details. Using a white background is a great idea because it will make the details pop and reflect beautiful light throughout the frame. Pro tip: don’t use a dress as a backdrop to style details if any part of it will touch the floor.

2. Bring your own bag of tricks. I started doing this a few years ago, and it really made a huge difference in the end result of my images. To every wedding, I bring a giant piece of poster board that is white on one side and black on the other. I bring various ribbons, vintage stamps, and other little accents that I use to style photos. I also bring a piece of blush fabric and a piece of lace that can be worked in if I need something extra. There’s no need to walk away from a situation feeling like it wasn’t everything you wanted it to be when you can just bring your own bag of styling goodies!

3. Shoot close, tight, and manual. There are times when I shoot details to include the environment I’m in, and there are times (like this hotel situation) when I choose to shoot close and tight to avoid an environment that doesn’t mesh with my aesthetic. For these photos, I used a very shallow depth of field and a macro lens to highlight the beautiful items and take attention away from the background. Using the veil or other textured items in the foreground creates a beautiful creaminess (bokeh) that draws the eye to the main subject in the photo and away from the background.  Tulle and sparkly things are especially great to use!  Also, using manual focus when shooting details close and tight allows YOU to choose what’s in focus rather than letting the camera choose for you, and that can create some really unique, stunning images. Manual focus takes practice, but it’s worth the time investment!

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So, if you’ve ever been in a situation where you struggled to capture the details in a way that represented your style and brand aesthetic, I hope these tips were helpful to you! If you have questions, please feel free to ask!  You can comment below or shoot me an email at info@ayresphoto.com. :) 

allison + mike // pearl street

Filed in weddings shot by on at

I first met Allison back in 2012 when we photographed her sister Stacy’s beautiful winter wedding. (I almost fell off my chair when I looked back at the date and saw that it was 2012. Where has the time gone?!) Every wedding that we get to be a part of is special, and to be honest, most of the friends I’ve made in the last 10 years have been people that we’ve photographed and I love them all dearly; but, there’s something extra special about being asked to return for another wedding within the same family. It’s such an honor to be trusted and valued enough to be invited back.

Allison and Mike’s first official date was at Pearl Street, so that made choosing a wedding venue quick and easy. One of their requests was to take some photos at the table where they sat on their first date, and I love the way those turned out (you can see them toward the bottom of this post)!! These two are pretty special people. They value relationships with family and friends above all else, and it was so obvious throughout the day what their priorities were. It was a perfect celebration from start to finish. :)

Allison: “My best friend worked with Mike briefly and during that time decided that we should meet. She had made many attempts to ‘set me up’ in the past and promised me that this was the last time she would try – and she was right! :) We met for happy hour and totally hit it off. After being able to discuss a wide range of topics that first night we met (politics, religion, family, you name it!) and still wanting to see each other again, I knew it was something special.

Mike: “I woke up very early to go pick up flowers and drop them off at the salon for Allison when she arrived. I thought that would help ease any stress she might be feeling that morning.

Allison: “While spending the morning getting ready with my bridal party and my Mom I was so relaxed because nothing in my life has felt more right than marrying Mike. I was able to laugh and have fun with some of the most important people in my life. Watching our niece, Bella, dance around the salon, so excited to get her hair and makeup done, seeing our niece Paisley in her flower girls dresses (yes, plural), having our nephew, JJ, on the limo with us girls and having so much fun – it was the perfect start to the perfect day!

Mike: “I proposed at Allison’s family cabin in Ellicottville. She had no idea it was coming. I was so excited and nervous I couldn’t sleep all night. At around 6am we were both awake and I asked her if she wanted to go for a walk. As soon as she said yes I quietly tried to get out of the cabin as fast as I could so no one else in her family would wake up and ask to come along for the walk. I had to grab the ring out of my bag next to our bed without her seeing and slipped it into my coat pocket. As we were walking around the land, I was trying to pick the perfect spot to stop and ask the question. We stopped at a ravine, I turned to her and told her I loved her and couldn’t imagine life without her. I got down on my knee and asked her to marry me. She said yes even before she looked at the ring. We rushed back to the cabin to tell her family. Little did Allison know that I invited my family and our friends to come down to celebrate the engagement together. Allison’s mom was still asleep so we decided not to tell when she woke up but wanted to see if she would notice. Allison kept shoving her hand in her mom’s face until 5 minutes later she noticed. My dad and our friends arrived and we celebrated all day. It was the perfect day.

Mike: “I wasn’t able to sleep the night before the wedding because I didn’t want to ruin the made bed that was going to be in the background of photos.

Mike: “I love spending time with my friends at our house before the ceremony. It was a beautiful day out so we spent it in the sun-room watching college football until the ceremony. I felt anxious to marry Allie but was never nervous. Nothing ever felt as right. The only panic of the morning was when Steve lost his shorts. After spending 5 minutes searching the house for them, he realized that he had put his suit pants on over them and the crisis was averted.

Allison: “I am the youngest of three girls, and the last to get married, so I was convinced that both my Dad and I would be crying as we walked down the aisle. But the comfort of having him by my side as I walked down the aisle was all I needed. We were in perfect stride the whole way!

Mike: “Seeing Allie walk down the aisle… she never looked more beautiful than in that moment. I spent all my energy trying not to cry the whole time she was walking down and I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. I knew in my heart that I was making the right decision marrying her.

Allison: “Seeing Mike at the altar I was not able to do anything but smile! Knowing that I was walking towards my best friend that I very shortly would be able to call my husband was the best feeling in the entire world. Seeing the emotion in his face I thought for sure I would start crying, but all I could do was smile at him, trying to tell him how much I loved him! When I reached the altar, our Pastor told everyone how he has never seen both a bride and groom as calm as the two of us leading up to the ceremony – and I was not surprised at all. We both shared in the feeling that this was exactly where we were meant to be.

Mike: “Allison is the most beautiful, caring, smart, and strong woman I have met in my entire life. There was never a doubt I wanted to spend my life with her and have her be the mother to my children.

Allison + Mike: “What we value most in life is family and friends – these relationships last a lifetime and are so important to both of us.

Allison: “It was great taking time to walk around Pearl Street together before the reception started to take in everything we had been working so hard on for the past year and a half. So many of our decorations were made by us, our family and our friends, as well as a lot of personal touches we incorporated, that it was amazing to see how everything came together. It was everything I had hoped for and so much more! – – – I highly recommend that all couples take the time to do this – stand back and take it all in – a few times throughout the night. Seeing everything come together, seeing all of the people you love there supporting you – it is a truly amazing feeling!

Mike: “Walking out on the balcony of Pearl Street during cocktail hour it felt like time stood still as we just hugged each other and gazed out into the city. It was the perfect moment.

Allison: “Our first dance as husband and wife included a special guest appearance from our niece and flower girl, Paisley. We started dancing and within seconds Paisley ran up to us – hugging the back of my legs. She ran back to my sister, then a few seconds later, she was back! She wanted to dance with her Uncle Mike and Aunt Allie – it didn’t matter to her that it was our first dance, and it didn’t matter to us either. It made it extra special and a memory we will have forever!

Mike: “I remember sharing our first dance with our niece Paisley. She was so excited to share our dance with us and we couldn’t say no.

Allison: “I remember dancing the night away with our family and friends! We wanted the dance floor to be full the entire night – and it certainly was! We had so much fun dancing and celebrating with the most important people in our lives. We had a blast twirling around with our nieces and nephew, singing at the top of our lungs with our friends, and dancing to Mustang Sally with my family!

Mike: “I loved dancing all night with our family and closest friends. Looking back at our pictures is the perfect reminder of all the people that love us and wanted to spend our special day with us.

Allison: “For our first official date, we had dinner and drinks at Pearl Street (where we would later celebrate our wedding – see wedding picture from restaurant – that is where we sat!). We finished the night by watching Christmas Vacation – Mike’s favorite Christmas movie that I had never seen until that night!


Wedding Vendors Include:

Ceremony: St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
Hair + Makeup: Bliss Salon
Dress Shop: Francesca’s Bridal
Dress Designer: Enzoani
Bridesmaids Dresses: Bridals by D
Groom’s Look: Men’s Wearhouse
Florist: Hock’s Flower Shop
DJ: Toy Bros