I am not a photographer, but I am an avid consumer of photographs. On Instagram, on blogs, on Facebook – on a daily basis we observe, take in and internalise other people’s lives through photographs; and none more so than those of the special events which mark pivotal moments in our lives. I don’t know if there is a proper styling term for this but there are certain events where a lot of pictures are taken and it makes such a difference to those pictures if a space has been deliberately put together to create a gorgeous backdrop. Christenings, naming days, 1st birthdays, weddings etc are all occasions that family and friends want to mark with pictures of, and with, the guest/s of honour – and the idea of what is happening around the photo’s subjects during these pictures being an important part of the scene really struck me while planning my own wedding.
Over the last few years a lot of my friends have been getting married – I am at that age – so my news feed is usually pretty full of wedding pictures. Last year I was planning my own wedding, so I paid extra attention to these, going through them and making mental notes of what I did and didn’t like (as many brides-to-be do). One wedding in particular stuck with me, and unfortunately for the wrong reasons. There had been little thought of creating a “photographic area” when decorating their reception hall. While the hall was beautifully decorated – with swathes of fabric and fairy lights and an abundance of flowers, the problem arose with the stage. In a few pictures taken in the right direction the hall looked like a wonderland, but the hall had a stage which had been left empty and looked exactly like a school hall stage does during assemblies. At a wedding there are certain moments that are more heavily photographed than others; speeches, first dance, parent dances, cake cutting, perhaps the “shoe game”, etc. And many if not all of these are taken facing towards the front of the venue, towards the people everyone is there to see and celebrate with – which means that the majority of the pictures for this wedding were taken pointing at the only area in the hall not decorated.
As I was also getting married in a hall with a stage I was determined for it to be a feature rather than just another blank space. I styled my own wedding and had also decided to DIY many of our details. Deciding to create this “photographic space” and make a feature of the stage had rather increased my workload. At first I was lost, I had no idea how to turn this empty hole into a striking and beautiful backdrop. I think that every bride picks an (often random) detail of her wedding to just become fixated on and for me it was this stage. I knew that the way we were setting up our reception would place this stage in the background of not just the normal speeches, cake cutting and formal dances but most of the night, including pictures of the head table and the dance floor, so I wanted it to be photo-worthy. Around this time I found my answer in a post on polkadot bride, where a couple had a similar idea to make their stage a feature and in my opinion, had done so beautifully!
Credit: Polkadot Bride (an awesome Australian wedding blog)
I absolutely fell in love with this stage and the gorgeous “photographic space” that it created. Rather than the same pictures most people have in front of a white wall, or the bare stage this space has allowed interesting and beautiful pictures of the moments when loved ones passed on heart felt sentiments. For our own wedding I took the basic idea of the above stage area and altered it to suit my gold and luxe vintage theme. Our stage had rich red curtains, which paired with our gold confetti balloons and light up “Love” sign, looked beautifully “old hollywood” and were perfect as the back drop for so many of our pictures. This stage and its styling is shown in so many of the incredible moments from our wedding.
I loved our wedding, it was absolutely perfect. And I loved our photographs. We had the incredibly talented and amazing photographers of ‘Daisy and the Duke‘ and the pictures they captured of our night are a true testament to their incredible eye as photographers and their amazing ability. We have caught up with Daisy and the Duke a number of times since our wedding (as we’ve come to learn they are incredible people both on and off the job!) and on a few of these occasions we have discussed the stage set up from a photographer’s point of view –spoiler– they loved it! In the words of Sid (aka Duke) as a photographer you want these pictures to be memorable and gorgeous, you want them to stand out. But sometimes the visual space they are given simply does not allow for this. There are a number of ways the speeches can make for boring photographs. More often than not they are in front of a blank wall which is very difficult to do anything interesting with as a photographer (that is not to say that Daisy and the Duke don’t do amazing things with the material they are given!) Sometimes they are somewhere that in person is stunning but doesn’t work for photographs, for example in front of a window. For day time weddings this is lovely, at night in person this is lovely, while night in photographs the window becomes a black featureless void. As with the stage example earlier, much like the window, the stage with its curtains open became a blank, undecorated void. A lot of your reception events will happen in front of this spot – the speeches, the cake cutting, the start of your first dance so you are already fighting against the boredom of a repeated background without the added problem of it being just plain boring to start with.
Many people don’t think about what the speech pictures will look like, this is an important part of the day, but when they are done in front of a blank wall the pictures are visually uninteresting and you will flick through them. If more of your wedding moments happen in front of an empty space, it may mean more pictures that you just browse past. This is absolutely not the case with our pictures, I adore them and adore them all. It was so difficult for me to pick just the the 12 I shared here as there are dozens of equally gorgeous pictures for me to choose from. For photographers, having a background like the stage shown above makes otherwise difficult-to-take pictures something truely spectacular. My stage set up was just one way of creating a space like this for your photographs. Depending on your venue there are an infinite number of ways to create spaces that lend themselves to incredible pictures of your event. For example below, this “photographic space” was created in a completely different way to mine. It is so simple and so gorgeous and just shows how different these spaces can be from each other while still equally visually impactful.
Credit: Daisy and the Duke (Karyn & Chris’s wedding)
And wedding are not the only events that these “photographic spaces” are useful. There are so many occasions where speeches are made, friends are gathered, babies are held, etc which can and do benefit from a thought out and styled “photographic space”. A dear friend and client of mine recently held a Naming Day for her son, Alexander. As part of the ceremony decor she asked me to create a blackboard sign with his name and its meaning. The sign turned out beautifully, and was a lovely addition to the ceremony space. I even tried my hand at some flower arranging which I think turned out rather well!
Credit: Alex’s Mum
While the blackboard was the perfect touch for Alex’s naming ceremony, it really proved its worth afterwards. People can often be hesitant to get a board such as this made for events that aren’t weddings. The cost seems too much for a relatively “small” event. But they can add untold worth to the pictures and memories you have of the day and are well worth their cost for this alone. At events such as the naming day, and any other with a guest of honour (especially one as cute as Alex), everybody wanted pictures with him. The sign set up next to an armchair created the perfect “photographic space” for these special friends and family moments. These pictures are now keepsakes and family portraits for those in them as well as Alex’s mum who has a collection of gorgeous pictures of her families loved ones with darling baby Alex on his naming day.
Credit: Alex’s mum
So how can you create spaces like these at your event? The answer to that really is that this is only limited by your imagination (and the time you have to search on Pinterest). I have shown you just two “photographic spaces” that I have helped create and a couple of examples from other people but there are countless ways to do this. I have seen the most gorgeous flowered walls, doily backdrops, huge hand-lettered rolls of fabric and life size, double wide blackboards with gorgeous hand-lettering all over them. Someone I follow on Instagram created a gorgeous hand painted floral back drop that is simply beautiful and adds the most wonderful touch to the photographs it is a part of. Speak with your vendors, your photographers can help you find these spaces and guide you on where to set up decor in areas that will lend themselves to memorable and impactful pictures of the amazing moments in your special day. If you have one, your stylist may already have the props needed to create the amazing space you are picturing or should be able to help guide you to finding the perfect look for your photographs. You could also work with a calligrapher (hint, hint) to create a backdrop that is truly unique and captures your look and your story.
Credit: Pop Calligraphy
I would love to help you create your perfect “photographic space” for your next event using hand-lettering and calligraphy. I can work with you (and your Pinterest board) to come up with the perfect idea for your event.