Friday, October 23, 2009

Trash The Dress Or Trash The Photographer Friday

Good Afternoon Everybody,

Well, I spent a little bit of yesterday checking out new laptops with Windows 7 loaded.  I still haven't "pulled the trigger" yet, but I think I'm getting a lot closer to making the jump.

Animoto Video I was also playing around with the new Animoto video feature yesterday and today - way cool.  My quick take - you don't need to learn video editing to incorporate video into your media productions.  Look for something in depth next week about this important business sizzler.

I've mentioned a few times that I'm reviewing a number of wedding sites for a BIG project I'm involved with. It's amazing to me the common denominator for so many of the images on the sites - lots of wide angle lens shots, lots of scene setters, peak action captured, not much off-camera flash, and more.  I'm kind of reflecting out loud, so stay tuned. I see another big blog post on the horizon. 

OK, guys and girls are you ready to “stir the broth” with me today? Here we go with;

Trash The Dress Or Trash The Photographer Friday

You know, I've been discussing this topic briefly in my DWUC tour.  I made a remark in Washington D.C that went something like this. "If my daughter came up to me and told me she had booked a photographer who was going to do a "Trash the Dress" session and have the wedding party throw jelly donuts at her wedding gown, I think I'd be telling her that if that happened, I was going to have my own personal "Trash The Photographer" session right after that!"

That kind of sums up where I was stand on the topic when I hear of photographers dragging the gown through mud and dirt, painting the gown, even setting it on fire!  Stop the presses - that's going overboard for me.

When I hear these kind of stories and see these kinds of images, it disgusts me. What is the point?  Is it just one more indication of the coarsening of our society [link]? Is it a blatantly vulgar statement about wedding photography?

Trash The dress pic1Actually, I think there is some truth in all those statements.  Wait, don't leave yet - hang in here with me a bit longer. Why? Because I believe there is a place for the "Trash the Dress" session as part of our photographic repertoire. Where I disagree, is how we should approach the session.

A few weeks ago, I had one of my DWUC attendees come up to me as ask if I had seen the Today Show on MSNBC featuring "Trash The Dress" sessions in their piece entitled, "Bride's Get Down and Dirty." I admitted I hadn't, but from her tone knew she was disgusted with the story. Here is the story link right here.  You need to click on the “Be sure to watch the 3 minute video” small image on the bottom right side of the screen to see the 3 minute video.

So what do you think about trashing the gown just for the sake of trashing the gown? The four brides riding around on the four wheeler splashing through the water and mud is blatantly vulgar. It's just not how my mother raised me.  The photographer interviewed claimed it was a creative new way to photograph the bride - for what, shock value - YES; but creative - I disagree.

The "creativity" of some of these sessions is akin to the vulgar "creativity" of Don Imus or Howard Stern.  Hey, that may be your gig........ It's certainly not mine.

That said, there are some images from these "Trash The Dress" sessions that I love, for example, the one posted above by Michael Smith. I love the textures of the water, the beauty of the setting, the wonderful way you can just view and enjoy the image.  That's a creative and beautiful TTD image.

I spent a good bit of time yesterday researching the topic. I thought my take might have been a bit restricted. Maybe I need to get a different view on the subject.  I found a great article on the over at Attic Annie's blog right here. It seems Annie has mixed feelings about the trend, too. I think her posts reflects what a lot of people/bride's feel about the subject.

The Fayetteville Observer had another piece on the TTD topic right here.  Read the article if you’d like - I prefer the commenter’s comments following the article. 

Here is another take from the Washington Post right here. I love the paragraph near the end of the article - And in the process, photographers find themselves unshackled from wedding day constraints. "I get to have creative insight for once," says Britton. "And there's no time limitations."

Folks, taking pictures of the bride and groom other than on the wedding day was a concept started by Rocky Gunn in the 70's. Yes, I said, those 1970's.  After starting my business we started incorporating the TTD sessions into our own studio offerings.  We just called it something different.  It was called a Bridal Pictorial session.  In fact , we still shoot them for our clients today.  Like they say, "What goes around, comes around." Like Mr. Britton says above - no wedding day constraints at all - yes, plenty of time to be creative. has another article on the subject entitled, "Embracing a "Trash-the-Dress" Shoot." [link] They've come to the same conclusion Rocky did years ago - do an additional bridal shoot (call it whatever you want - TTD, Bridal Pictorial, etc.) on a different day in a cool location and, as this article points out, "... the images can create an amazing addition to any album or wedding collection."  I agree - and this article illustrates the point wonderfully.

So what's my final take on these types of bridal sessions? You know there are some beautiful images created in these non-wedding day sessions.  Whether they are called "Trash The Dress", "Rockin' With The Dress", or "Bridal Pictorials", the imagery can be striking (like the image below by Sean and Mel Mclellan), and striking for all the right reasons - no wedding day constraints, perfect weather, fabulous locations, not as much concern for the dress, and most of all - a wonderful way to let your creativity reach new limits!TTD pic2So yes, I am thrilled that photographers are finding their way back to what so many of us have been doing for so many years.  I love the fact that the new brides and grooms are being informed of the range of creative possibilities awaiting them if they take the photographer up on his/her non-wedding shoot date. The images produced by those embracing the non-wedding day shoot can be a great addition to any wedding collection.

On the negative side though, too many of these sessions are in such bad taste, they are not creative, and simply represent wedding photography at it's vulgar worst. But, you say, "It's my right to have bad taste."  You're right, but I don't need to appreciate or enjoy it. I'd rather be on the classy side of these sessions all the time.

Food For Thought-

Hey gang, that's it for me today. We are putting finishing touches on my Master Class beginning on Monday.  I'm meeting with my "coaches" in just a few minutes, so I'm out of here.  See ya' Monday, -David


  1. Hey, If it's ok with the bride, so what? I would think most brides would keep thier dress but who knows. I like the idea (as long as the mud stays off my camera).

  2. You could also include "Trashing The Bride" ;)

  3. Hey there David,
    Greetings from Australia.

    I have to agree 100% with the sentiments stated re TTD sessions. I have had that discussion so often with photographers and aspiring photographers that frankly it is tiring.

    Just because something is allegedly different and theoretically creative, does not make it worthwhile or in good taste.

    Oft times it is actually a poor excuse made to cover lack of true creativity and originality!

    So - well done on stating it in a lovely balanced manner. Keep up the great work.

    - Willie

  4. I agree 100%. Throwing jelly doughnut's at a dress is in poor taste and MESSY.
    To me they are not being creative. A bridal pictorial makes a lot of sense.

  5. I agree, whats the point just because you are doing something that makes no sense does not mean it's creative.

    I call my "TTD" sessions an "Aftershoot" I tell the bride we will "push the dress" i.e. do things that we would never have dared on the day... getting it wet walking into the middle of a field that's bound to pickup all kinds of debris that kind of thing.

    I love the fact that we have time to work magic :)


  6. I find the trend to be in poor taste. I think that the dresses could be donated to brides who cannot afford them. Let's start a Donate The Dress (DTD) movement.

  7. Trash the dress is for a trashy bride. I like Anoymous' comment about donating it to a worthy bride in need. Stupid is as stupid does - and that goes for bad taste too. Keep the standards!

  8. The trash the dress idea seems to be alive amongst those people who have a few more checks in their checkbooks than most average people. This is a way of saying, "I can afford to throw away money".
    While a few Artful photos might be taken, this is mostly a self indulgent activity with some of the proceeds going to the photographer who made the suggestion in the first place.
    Maybe the same photographers should just dontae their share of the proceeds to some suitable charity. Then something positive will come about from otherwise pointless destruction.

  9. Hi David, Annie of the Attic here! Thanks for the reference. I'm new at blogging and am always curious when one of my blogs starts getting a lot of attention. After I wrote that piece I thought of a perfect time to trash the dress. If it has been kept in storage and still fits, a divorce photography session might be very cathartic. What do you think about that? As I said in my blog, some of the images in the photography are gorgeous, like the ones you've posted, but personally I'd still rather see most of them in a bridal rental or consignment shop. My dad pinched pennies until Abe moaned but some of it rubbed off on me. I'm new to your site but I'll check back. AA

  10. Hi David,

    A different spin on TTD is cherish the dress by Chris Hanley in the UK.

  11. How very cool to be quoted on your blog too. I so enjoyed hanging out with the Washington Post for the trash the dress session they featured. It is so true to have creative freedom with your clients is priceless.

  12. Thanks for expressing a strong opinion that many might find surprising. Too many photograghy leaders seem afraid to share their opinions that are contrary to current trends.

    I did one session with a Prom dress. Been there, did it once... That's enough. Next.

  13. I stand in the middle on these sessions. A lot of brides I have done these sessions for are really looking for another excuse/reason to wear their very expensive wedding gown and also want to do something fun and creative. I've never tossed jelly donuts on a dress or had the bride four wheeling through the mud, and would never dream of encouraging this sort of shoot.

    There is one circumstance where I think trashing a dress might be a bit more palatable....divorcees or those getting married for a second time. I've heard of a number of women wanting to put the old life behind them and one tangible symbol of this old life is this wedding dress that they've held on to.

    On one of the last of these sessions that I did, an older woman walked by while my bride stood on a beautiful forest trail. The dress was not noticeably ruined or damaged, this woman thought it was an utter disgrace that this dress was being "ruined" by being out in a forest.

    I concur "Cherish the Dress" is a lot more palatable and knowing why Hanley called it that (it was easier to market to brides and THEIR MOMS) may also say something about differing generations.

  14. I agree, I don't think it is about destroying a dress. I think it is about getting ultra creative and without the stress of the fast moving timeline of a wedding day.

  15. David, I couldn't agree more. I think a shoot like this can provide a photog with some great opportunities to make spectacular images, and can be done well. However, more often than not, it is really just some male photographers poor excuse to stick a woman in the mud or water and take pictures for his own personal pleasure. Furthermore, a wedding is a sacred event, and a bride and groom are a sacred metaphor. I want to tread lightly on holy ground.

  16. The institution of marriage is a sacred event and should be treated as such. So many people in America and around the world live lifestyles that mock and dishonor this basic establishment. It's easy to point out one thing like TTD and criticize it as vulgar or tasteless, but how is it. Although the dress does have symbolism, merely getting it wet or dirty does not remove it's worth by any means. The root of vulgarity lies within the specific client and photographer. I feel that many brides use this new trend as a fun way to remember the transition from being one individual to having a lifelong partnership. It can be a very creative marker in life. This just depends on the person. Trashy people do trashy things, but I don't think a style in itself should be targeted. Obviously people can exploit specific movements within any art to display their own depravity, but most just like the look. As much as you don't have to like a specific style, you don't have to assume that others are just morally and creatively bankrupt in order to embrace and promote TTD. It's not my favorite, but it has it's place. So what if it's not a brand new idea.....there's nothing new under the sun. Everything new is a variation of everything old. We just do our best and let everyone else love, hate, or act indifferent about it.

  17. I think your article reads as extremely stuck up and incredibly snobbish. Looking down your nose at others because they think outside the box and want some actual personality to shine through, how closed minded. Not everyone is straight-laced and rigid, some people like to get dirty for fun. What's wrong with that? Taking action shots while "mudding" on a fourwheeler may illustrate how the couple met. Or the jelly donuts may be an inside joke between the bride and groom. Art is art. If the technical aspects are on point, does the subject really matter? Who are you to decide what is vulgar? I find it vulgar to spend $250,000 on a wedding, including a $5-$10,000 photographer, when there are starving people all over the world. "Donating the dress" for charity you say? Why spend that much on a dress at all when you can just donate the cash? It's all personal choices and viewpoints. So please, do not sit on your high horse and put other's down when you are preaching open minded ideas in the same breath. Pretty hypocritical.
    Bless your heart darlin'
    Jessica in Texas