When you look around at the wedding photography featured on bridal blogs, you see a lot of detail shots. Photos of the aesthetic sinews of the wedding day; rings, dresses, flowers, shoes, crafty-bits and edible ornamentation, among other things. The number of detail images you see online might lead you to believe that photographers put a lot of time on the wedding day toward those elements. But they usually don’t.

Photographers love detail shots because they’re valuable in two directions. They’re valuable to you because you thoughtfully chose them or created them. And, they’re valuable to other vendors in the wedding space as potential marketing material. They afford an opportunity to not only make the couple happy, but also extend their reputation within the industry.

While most couples welcome their photographer’s best attempts at making their details pop, I have spoken to couples who see this as a conflict of interest. They imagine that more precious moments are being eschewed in favor of creating images of disproportionately personal value to the photographer. I believe that this is a misplaced concern, so I thought I should share some things about detail images that you may not have considered.

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Detail Images are often captured right where they are, or very close by

Sometimes detail images defy understanding.  Through a dense lens blur, dramatic lighting or even warped perspectives, it’s easy to imagine that a photographer must trek all over the place looking for the perfect stage for details. A wedding dress hanging in the middle of nowhere might conjure images of the photographer braving a harsh landscape to get the dress there safely.

But, in actuality, the details are usually captured pretty close to wherever they happened to be when they arrived. The bizarre texture behind the wedding rings might just be a forced perspective on an abstract painting. The middle-of-nowhere the dress is hanging in might be just a few feet behind the bride’s house.

The point is, part of the reason the detail images pop so much for you is that you don’t see the context as clearly and it’s very easy to imagine that context is more dramatic than it really is.

Detail images shouldn’t take more than about 25 minutes out of the entire day

When you look through bridal blogs, you see a disproportionate number of detail images. Unless you’re actively hiring a wedding photographer, you probably never look through an entire wedding. It’s easy to assume that the photographer must have put a lot of time into creating those images.

But, as I said before, those images are usually captured very near by. Sometimes they’re created right in the middle of doing other things. For example, a ring photo might be captured very close up on the bride and groom’s fingers. The flowers may be photographed right where they were set down during the formals.

The creation of a full set of detail images is likely to only take about 25 minutes across the entire wedding day.

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You’re putting a lot of thought into the details, the images make it easier to let go of them when they’re not needed anymore

Here’s something most couples don’t consider before they put together their most perfect wedding: What do they do with all those crafty-bits after the wedding day is done?

No one needs 88 mason jars full of foil pendants. 600 feet of rustic cotton sheer just isn’t a mainstay of the young married couple. Oragami flowers was a great way to save money, but it’s almost soul crushing to dispose of the 22 hours that went into making them.

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The point is, whether you’re making stuff or buying it, you’re putting a lot of time and energy into the process. Making something takes hours of tedious work and a lot of discipline and follow through. Making aesthetic choices from a marketplace with a bagillion options isn’t too much easier. When all is said and done, doing away with all this probably isn’t going to feel good. I suspect it will be bittersweet at best.

Having nice detail images can provide an escape hatch from those feelings. By using the images to give those choices and that effort a kind of permanence, you can let go of all the extra stuff without necessarily feeling that you’ve given up something you worked hard on.

pre-wedding-refreshmentsDetail images will matter to you in some unexpected ways

The personal value of detail images may take some time to show up. They are not the images that you’re going to look at and be filled with gooey wedding-day memories. At least not right away. At first, those images will simply be ‘facts’ about the wedding day.

But, in time, the meaning will start to change.

First, in some practical ways, the detail images will help to contain the themes and moods you intentionally wanted to create. They’re not mixed up with the real circumstances of the wedding. Perhaps you wanted a beachy wedding, but a massive rain storm forced you inside. Most of the images from your wedding will represent the real unfolding of events–a fun, cozy wedding under a tent. But the detail images will still document your intention–a classy beach vibe.

Second, the majority of the images from your wedding day will call to mind memories of your wedding day itself. They’ll help you remember the people, the conversations, the feelings, and a lot of other things. But almost entirely from your wedding day. The detail images on the other hand, which are not being forced to exist within your wedding’s truest context, will call to mind the moments leading up to your wedding. They help store memories about what it was like to make the choices you made, who helped you with them and how you felt about them before and after your wedding.