Getting the Shot ~ The Art of Originality

If I had a dollar for every time a client showed me a photo on Pinterest and wanted it duplicated, I could buy that pivoting lens thingy I want so bad but can’t afford.

Pinterest does have its place. It’s great for creating mood boards, planning stylized shoots, showing clients what to wear to photo shoots, and collecting an infinite number of recipes I’ll never make. However, there are great downfalls. The biggest beef I have with the Pinterest movement is that it’s creating a lot of “cookie cutter” photographers and sucking the life out of original photography. You can read about my cheers and jeers about Pinterest HERE.


That having been said, I still find inspiration on Pinterest, and I don’t automatically shoot down Pinterest requests from clients. However… Last Saturday during Ruby and John’s wedding, Ruby said she saw a picture on Pinterest of the ring on the heel of the shoe. I said, “No.” She laughed, as I knew she would. Then I said, “I got some killer, unique ring photos earlier. Everyone does the ring on the heel of the shoe. I want your photos to be original.” She was very excited to hear this and put her ring back on. I recently had another bride send me a photo of rings on the heel of a shoe, saying she wants that when we shoot her wedding. Again, I explained how important it is that I create unique photos for her. I agreed to do a ring shot on a shoe heel, promising I’d find a way to “make it my own,” but I would also do my own thaaang with the rings so she has very unique photos.



The Hair Flip

I do a lot of Trash the Dress shoots, primarily in the water. Most of my clients come to me because they want me to have creative control. They trust me, they love my unique style of photography, and they aren’t sure exactly what they want. They know I will guide them without completely squashing their ideas.

So how many times have we seen the “Hair Flip”? You know, that photo of the girl in the water flipping her hair and making an arc of water. About a million times on Pinterest and almost every Trash the Dress blog.

When McKenzie and I were doing Atour’s Couture Trash the Dress shoot a few weeks back, I felt I had everything I wanted except “The hair… no… Should I do the…? Nah… Well I kind of want to…” I turned to McKenzie and said, “I kind of want to do the hair flip photo but EVERYONE does that photo.” McKenzie said the same thing to me that I’ve said to her over the past year: “So make it your own.”

Yes, I have taught her well.

“Oooo!” I said. “I can do it from farther away and catch the sun flare.”

“Expose for the background and do a silhouette.”

“I like it!”

I explained to Atour what I needed her to do and what we were trying to accomplish. I exposed off a highlight area, not off the sky, because I didn’t want a black silhouette, I wanted a photo that was moody and as unique as possible. Here is what came out of the camera, captured on film, with the FIRST frame I took of the famous “Hair Flip.” BA-BAM! Poor Atour got dizzy flipping her hair six times and I ended up using the first frame. Figures…




The Flower Sniff

How many times have we seen photos of brides sniffing their bouquets? About a trillion. 99.9% of the ones I’ve seen have been taken outdoors or inside with full light, the bride sniffing her bouquet like it smells like Justin Timberlake. I’m not a fan of that shot. I’m a photojournalistic photographer, and it just doesn’t fit my style. However, I saw a really cute photo on Pinterest (yes, I Pin!) of a bride sitting on the edge of a bed barefoot, in her silk robe, sniffing her bouquet. I thought, “I like that. I’m going to have to do my own twist on this.” I pinned it and went about my day.

When I arrived at Tracy and Tom’s wedding at Wine & Roses, I immediately fell in love with the bridal suite they had rented. It was fabulous for photos – full of interesting light and angles. I did some photos of her gorgeous gown hanging on the French doors, then hanging on the canopy above the bed. It dawned on me (ha… “Dawned”) that if I inserted Tracy into the photograph, I could turn a good photo into a truly special photo.

I knew Tracy had received a special soft-pink silk robe the day before from her mother and grandmother (I had photographed her pre-wedding brunch), and I was drooling over her sexy pink heels. I sat her on the bed facing me, window light coming in from the right and exposed for the highlights. Below is the photo, taken with film, straight out of the camera with no adjustments.


Tom flipped when he saw it. He made it the screen photo on his phone. Tracy said, “Dawn! He made it the screen-saver on his phone! Two years and I FINALLY made the phone! Thank you!” He loves the photo because it’s sexy, elegant, timeless, and has interest.

Hanging the gown behind her and having her wear the robe her matriarchs gave her, I personalized the photo. By having her wear her shoes, I elevated the photo to something sexier. The light coming in from the window on the right of the frame creates drama. This photo has been the most talked about photo I’ve taken in the past year.

The Bottom Line

When planning your wedding or other important photo shoot, choose a photographer you trust. Make a decision based on quality and creativity of work, then TRUST your photographer to capture the photos in their own unique way. If you give them Pinterest boards full of “cookie cutter” images, you may end up with an album full of “cookie cutter” images. Be unique. There is only one YOU.

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