How To Photograph Details: No Macro Lens Needed!

You love to photograph details: bow ties and bouquets, tiny shoes and teddy bears… Now learn HOW to photograph details: with bold lens choices, creative scene-setting, and thoughtful storytelling. Photographer Marianne Wiest’s imaginative images will inspire you to view detail photography like never before! 


How To Photograph Details: It’s Not As Easy As You Think!

Everyone knows it takes skill to photograph people. Their moods, personalities, and preferences can cause all sorts of challenges!

Photographing details can be every bit as difficult – especially when done well! The precious knick-knacks and sweeping environments we’re tasked with documenting all have personalities of their own. And while shoes and flowers don’t talk back, they can certainly be uncooperative!

Here’s how to photograph details that enhance your portfolio and bring your storytelling to the next level!


how to photograph wedding invitations
Photo by MARIANNE WIEST

Select A Relevant Backdrop

This adorable wedding invitation suite could have been photographed on any surface; but photographer Marianne Wiest chose to arrange the paper props among vibrant ivy, which perfectly compliments the nature-themed invites!

Pretty is nice. Relevant is better!


how to photograph a bridal bouquet
Photo by MARIANNE WIEST

Size Matters

This bride’s flowers would have looked lovely laying in a chair or presented alone on the pathway; but that setting would have obscured the magnificence of the bouquet. Because Marianne photographed the arrangement in the bride’s hands, we know exactly how wonderfully voluminous it was!

Show off the scale of your details for maximum impact.


how to photograph the wedding processional
Photo by MARIANNE WIEST

“Detail” Doesn’t Always = “Close-Up”

This simple, wide shot beautifully illustrates the down-home intimacy of this couple’s wedding ceremony. A close-up image of the violinist would have been exquisite, but it wouldn’t have told the story that this composition tells. By photographing the musician leading weddings guests through the landscape, Marianne made this “detail” shot so much more!


how to photograph the bride's veil
Photo by MARIANNE WIEST

Find Your “Why”

Before photographing a detail, ask yourself, “Why?” Here, Marianne highlights the bride’s veil on the bride, blowing gracefully in the wind. This veil symbolized romance, and Marianne captured romance when she photographed the veil in motion, framing a tender moment between a couple in love. While the veil would have looked beautiful photographed alone, that shot would have been missing the “why.”

“The detail shots are important for capturing the feeling of the day. The couple puts so much time and effort and MONEY into their wedding; the detail photos are all they’ll have to remember it by!” – Marianne Wiest

how to photograph a wedding ceremony
Photo by MARIANNE WIEST

Layer Your Details

Learn how to photograph details in pairs, clusters, or layers! Individual objects are interesting on their own, but a greater story can be told when you layer your details into a broader scene-setting image. Here we see the garden, the guests, the chairs, the arbor, the lake, and the trees – all in one beautiful frame.


how to photograph a marriage license
Photo by MARIANNE WIEST

Humanize Your Details

A photograph of a marriage license laying on a table is just a picture of a piece of paper. But Marianne’s series of the couple kissing and goofing around with their proof-of-marriage turns a simple legal document into a moment worth savoring!


how to photograph a wedding reception
Photo by MARIANNE WIEST

Set the Scene

When photographing a people-free space, set the scene with wider shots. You can still emphasize specific elements by choosing a shallower depth of field, as Marianne did here. The barn is crisp and clear, while the jewel-toned tablescapes enjoy a soft bokeh in the foreground.

“I feel like beginners often don’t get close enough to the details. Capture a few wide shots of the reception area, then get in close!” – Marianne Wiest

how to photograph wedding details
Photo by MARIANNE WIEST

Vary Your Focal Lengths

The same scene takes a fresh form when photographed from a new perspective! Change lenses, or simply move closer to capture the finer points of a detail display! This is the same approach you’d take to photographing an individual, moving from headshot to half-length to full-length portrait. Remember: if you know how to photograph people, you know how to photograph details.

“I use a nikon 50mm 1.4 for almost all of my detail photos.” – Marianne Wiest 

how to photograph a place setting
Photo by MARIANNE WIEST

Get Close, Then Step Back

Above-left, you see a wonderfully detailed image of the hand-painted river stones laid out as place cards at these nature-lovers’ wedding. But this shot alone doesn’t give us a sense of the place setting. Only Marianne’s pulled-back photo introduces us to the warm wooden tabletop, the jewel-toned goblets, and the vibrant florals.


how to photograph cocktail hour
Photo by MARIANNE WIEST

Create Context

Remember: you’re not merely making pretty pictures. You’re documenting meaningful details of your clients’ story. Create context by photographing the day’s elements as they’re used and enjoyed. Marianne’s cocktail hour image highlights both guests and the fascinating landscape!


how to photograph food details
Photo by MARIANNE WIEST

Go Beyond the Obvious

Some detail shots are a clear must-take – like the wedding cake! But look for the moment in your details, and you may just find more than your run-of-the-mill product shot. Marianne’s photo of the signature cocktails being mixed is an excellent example of a detail image that also contributes to the story!


how to photograph toasts
Photo by MARIANNE WIEST

Light Still Matters

You’re used to finding perfect light for portraits. What about for your details? This detail of a guests toasting is exquisite because Marianne was ready for the decisive moment where the light was right. Albert Einstein didn’t call us “light monkeys” for no reason!


how to photograph wedding details
Photo by MARIANNE WIEST

Dress Up the Awkward Details

If you’re struggling with how to photograph cumbersome details, try these tricks: layer a too-broad tablescape with a beautiful building in the background, or add a kissing couple to the awkward-to-photograph chairs!


how to photograph details
Photo by MARIANNE WIEST

Experiment With Orientation

Most photographers have a preference for either vertical (portrait) or horizontal (landscape) photographs. Which do you tend to make most often? Do you know how to photograph details in either orientation, or are you stuck in a rut? Try a new composition during your next shoot, and see how this enhances (or diminishes) your details!


how to photograph details
Photo by MARIANNE WIEST

Focus On What Matters Most

Sometimes the most meaningful details aren’t the flashiest. Seek out the lone succulent among the moss and roses; and don’t overlook the out-of-the-way armoire of framed photographs, representing decades of beloved family members. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes, and identify which details will hold the most value to them in the years to come.


how to photograph a photo booth
Photo by MARIANNE WIEST

Find the Fun In Your Details

Details don’t have to be delicate, elegant, and demure. They can also be fun, frivolous, and silly! Connect with your clients and the environment around you, and you’ll find playful ways to document the day’s details!


how to photograph buildings at night
Photo by MARIANNE WIEST

Embrace the Nighttime

If you’re photographing an event or lifestyle portrait session that stretches into the evening hours, you’ll see your details evolve as the light changes! Revisit your favorite scenes as the sun sets for an alternate perspective on the day’s details!


how to photograph the first dance
Photo by MARIANNE WIEST

Focus On Faces: The Best Details of All

If people are your passion, make them your priority! Don’t get distracted by inanimate details and miss the fantastic expressions, movements, and moments being experienced by the people in front of you. If Marianne’s clients had to choose, do you think they’d choose another photo of flowers, or this incredible first dance photo?

Yeah, we think the answer is pretty obvious, too!


Get your FREE 30-Day ShootProof Trial!


Get more photo advice when you keep reading!