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a formal introduction

December 30, 2010

I look at a lot of wedding portraits: magazines & websites are a constant source of inspiration for shooting. All photographers do this, it’s nothing to be ashamed of (and if your photographer says they don’t get inspiration from other people’s work they’re fibbing). I mean, come on…there are only so many original ideas out there. In order to keep my style fresh and constantly moving forward, I need to see what others are doing.

That doesn’t mean that I’ll take a portrait that someone else has shot and meticulously recreate it for my own client. But I’m not above doing a variation of something I’ve seen that’s caught my eye. And I fully expect that other photographers may do it with my shots, and that’s ok. Flattery, sincerity, imitation and all that.

One thing that is conspicuously lacking in the portraits I’ve seen is the formal portrait, in a formal setting, like a studio. Everyone wants to be jumping or kicking their heels up or hidden behind brightly colored umbrellas. That’s ok too; they’re fun pictures and if my client wants something like that I’ll definitely give it to them. But I would love to bring back the studio portrait; not the stuffy “you sit here and you stand behind her and put your hand on her shoulder” kind of portrait. Formal doesn’t have to equal boring. And to prove my point, I decided to take another “be the bride” shot in my studio. (Oh, and by the way, I’m clearly way too excited over this project and this dress to do just one a month, so I’ll go out on a limb here and declare that I’ll be shooting these self-portraits all year long.)

So, ok: I’m standing in my studio, in my dress, and I want to make a formal portrait. And this is what I come up with. This is my interpretation of the formal studio portrait. Look at it: even with the chalkboard, the lack of bouquet (and groom), there’s something…classic about a studio portrait. I love mixing the classic with the new. Now, if there were a groom there, it would be great, but Mr. Susan is at his “real” job and so this turns into a formal bride’s portrait. Still, I imagine how much fun it would be to get a just-married couple into my studio for some of these, and I decide that I’m going to try to get as many clients into my studio as possible. The day of, the day after, the week after: doesn’t matter. I think that 2011 is going to be my year of the formal portrait, so I’m going to offer this option to all my clients.

I think it’ll be a kick, and I hope that all my clients take me up on this.

If you’re getting married this year and I’m not shooting you, ask your photographer to shoot you in her studio. Mix it up a little; find something like a chalkboard, a chair, a cane…the possibilities are endless. And they’re fun. And that, bride-to-be, is what your portrait should be.


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I can’t possibly convey how happy these make me. I love these. 🙂

Nicole Harlow

December 30, 2010

What a wonderful idea! Formal doesn’t have to be boring at all and having a carefully controlled – and lit – environment could make for a lot of fun!

Jolene Oldham

December 30, 2010

U look adorable!


December 30, 2010

oh, Nicole, you are so sweet ❤

Jolene, totally! I want to do lots of these in the coming year.

Eva, thanks 🙂 I wish I could have shot you guys in the studio while you were all dressed up.

susan sabo

December 30, 2010

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