Bridal Photography

March 20, 2014

I am somewhat reluctant to post this latest instalment, because the standard of photography is about to sky rocket and swiftly put my all the previous images to shame.

Oh well, here goes…

Photography forms an essential part of preparing for an exhibition, and we try to ensure that the objects included in every exhibition have been well photographed. The images taken are then available for use in V&A publications, for record keeping, and on Search the Collections.

Jaron James, one of the Photographers here at the V&A, has recently been capturing stunning images of the incredible gowns about to go on display in Wedding Dresses 1775-2014. Here he explains a bit more about his work on the project.

The Photographer at work. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

I’ve photographed weddings before and I’ve photographed many dresses too, but taking pictures of actual wedding dresses can still fill photographers like me with dread, since the usually white and often highly-detailed fabrics can prove to be a real challenge to capture. Shape, texture, flow and to a certain degree, movement, all need to be visible in one image.

All Photographers work differently and have varying methods and tricks – but for this project I strove to keep it simple, using as few lights as possible and avoiding obstructive shadows which might detract from the garments. This way the viewer can concentrate on the cut, fluidity and style of the wedding dress.

I shoot various angles of each dress; one full length, one slightly turned three quarter, the back and then close-ups of any interesting details or embellishments. These can be details that just stand out to me creatively and aesthetically, or important features that a curator has asked me to highlight, like a section of lace that has particular significance or a dressmaker’s label.

Getting the lighting right for a Hardy Amis gown. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

A typical three quarter turn shot of T.198-1997. Worn by Lisa Butcher in 1992. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

For the most part, I’ve photographed the wedding dresses on a ‘storm grey’ background. This neutral shade doesn’t distract the viewer from the gowns, while the dark tones allow the light dresses to really stand out. As you can see in the photograph above, I can create a kind of graduated backdrop (black through to light grey) just with lighting.

Wedding dress designed by Pam Hogg for Lady Mary Chateris. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Occasionally (and often quite by accident) I’ll take a photograph that looks and feels really different, a little bit special. This dress, designed by Pam Hogg, is one such example. Two honeycombed lights and one large reflector were all it took to create the illusion of this wedding dress emerging from the darkness. Dresses like this are a pleasure to photograph; the tulle illustrating texture and weight, with just enough light on the bodice to show a shine on the satin and the panels in the fit.

I photograph a lot of objects for the museum, and I often think that the more beautiful they are, the easier it is to photograph them. This dress demonstrates a great example of that sentiment.

About the author

March 20, 2014

I work as a Costume Mounting Specialist in the Textile Conservation Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum. I spent the whole of 2009 preparing the first phase of Wedding...

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