You can't have a wedding without the guests receiving an invitation to the day, and unless that guest is being invited by email alone (relatively uncommon), the bride will likely have a paper copy of her invitation suite. A photographer should always make sure to photograph those details and the bride should always make sure to provide her paper goods to her photographer. The paper ephemera associated with a wedding can be as important as (and even as expensive as) a wedding dress or a wedding band. If you're shelling out for gorgeous scripting and pretty papers, it'd be a shame if a photographer missed this part of your big day. Invitations also set the tone for your event. To include the paper as book-ends to your wedding album and coverage is only natural.
But so often, an invitation suite is captured sloppily, or even worse, not captured at all. So here are a few tips on how to style invitation suites and how to make sure you get those pretty paper details captured!
Tools you'll need:
- A camera (iPhone works fine for social media shares, but for any professional photographs you'll need a DSLR or film camera). I personally use a Canon T-series DSLR.
- Styling board or neutral surface without a distracting background. My favorite styling board is the Heirloom Bindery 2-Color Styling board. I chose French Blue and Light Linen.
- Vintage stamps or pretty Forever stamps. I love Verde Studio on Etsy.
- Props! Silk ribbon, florals, greenery, or wax seals make lovely additions to an invitation suite.
- Natural lighting. Photograph in natural lighting, but not direct sunlight. Minimize shadows and deliver as much light as possible using reflectors or simply a white sheet of poster board/cardboard/or large white sheet of paper. No need to use flash!
Mistake #1: Crowding your image with too pieces
Don't fall prey to the idea that you need to capture every single piece in one photo. Simplicity helps draw the eye to individual pieces and can create an emotive image. A crowded image, like the one above, is so busy, that the eye doesn't know where to look.
Mistake #2: Using too many props or props that don't make sense
This is similar to mistake number 1 (overcrowding), but applies specifically to prop usage. In the image above the following props were used: silk ribbon spool; vintage stamps; rings; petals, flowers, wax seal stick, wax sealer. Using each of these props doesn't make a lot of sense for the narrative of the image. A wax sealer is pretty, but the invite doesn't have any wax added to it so the wax seal feels out of place. The ribbon would be better used alone or tied around a piece. Vintage stamps make a lot of sense as the envelopes do feature vintage stamps. A flower always makes sense and is lovely but has more impact alone.
Mistake #3: Crooked paper goods
This is a big pet peeve of any OCD and Type A bride and calligrapher out there. Crooked pieces in the image makes everything look sloppy and unprofessional. use a ruler or a sheet of paper with a straight edge to make sure you're styling everything straight across the board. With your camera parallel to the styling board (held above it and held straight) you'll avoid a lot of angle issues that make paper appear crooked when it isn't.
Mistake #4: Covering up script or design with items like petals or rings
A bride's wedding dress is commonly hung and photographed on a beautiful hanger with gorgeous lighting for her wedding album. When a photographer photographs an invitation suite, often they lay rings over the invitation suite and petals and obscure the art. Calligraphy and invitation design are as much art as a wedding dress. Don't cover them up with other pieces! Let them shine.
Tip #1: Keep it simple
Using less props and props that make sense makes everything stand out more! Make sure you're thinking about the flat lay as a story rather than just a last minute shot. Everything in the image should contribute to the story of the wedding and the invitation suite.
Tip #2: Evenly space out your styled goods
Evenly spaced goods makes each piece stand out (can you sense a theme). With the image above, my eye is drawn immediately to the invitation and pretty envelope addressing rather than scanning an overcrowded image, trying to find something to visually focus on.
Tip #3: Capture texture
Be sure to capture texture if the paper goods are textural. A lot of decision making, cost, and thought goes into the feel of a paper suite. Not capturing the texture is ignoring an entire piece of the invitation suite that was likely very important to the bride!
Tip #4: Capture all of the day-of goods in addition to the invitation suite
Don't forget to photograph: vow books, vows, place cards, programs and more! Each paper good contributes to the beautiful day and deserves to be photographed!
Want to practice? I sell practice suites in the shop!