Photography: Trash the Dress, Rock the Frock

Northern Art Photography

Whether called trash the dress or rock the frock photography shoots, local photographers say these unconventional bridal sessions can generate some beautiful images and spectacular memories.

Michigan brides have long taken advantage of the beautiful vistas, rolling sand dunes and sparkling waters as a backdrop for lovely landscape-style portraits. But some are getting a bit more into it, literally.

More and more brides are being photographed wading into Lake Michigan or lying on the beach in their wedding gown, typically the day after the wedding or even weeks later. But a dip in the big lake isn’t the only option with the state’s abundant hiking trails, streams, inland lakes and other wild places.

Tatum Photo and Design“I like them because they really give the couple a chance to relax. They don’t have to worry about dirt or grass stains for trash the dress,” said Andrea Bogard, photographer and owner of Northern Art Photography, of Traverse City.

Bogard said the beach is perhaps the most popular place for couples to have trash the dress photo shoots. But whether that’s at a Great Lake beach or an inland lake, it’s important to at least be in clean, clear water free from muck and gunk. You should be able to see the sand on the bottom, she said.

“We prefer to use cleaner water, like Lake Michigan,” Bogard said. “But there are lots of options. We’ve done lots of rocks or boulders left behind by the glaciers. It gives you a very different look, not a soft bridal portrait by any means.”

Photographer Tatum Criner, of Tatum Photo and Design in East Jordan, said she recently photographed a downstate Michigan couple in a trash the dress session during their Mackinac Island honeymoon. She met and photographed the newlyweds on the island so they could immortalize the dress and create lasting memories during their honeymoon.

“Not only are they my favorite thing to do, they add so much to a couple’s album. Sessions like this are when you can capture the couple being truly relaxed and together. Their personalities shine, the romance is there and it’s always so much fun,” she said. “I’ve done some where we’re just walking through the woods in the fall and I’ve done others that went four-wheeling through a mud bog. I really encourage brides and grooms to consider these sessions because I guarantee their favorite shots will come from this experience together.”

Lauren Pethers PhotographyCriner said she also believes trash the dress photos often turn out the best because wedding day pressure is off.

“There’s no worrying about being back in time for the reception, or the pressure from all the guests. It’s just the two of them, in love, enjoying each other and getting some awesome photos,” she said.

Bogard agreed wedding day pressure can impact day-of photographs, but knowing a rock the frock session is upcoming can help relieve wedding day tension. Some of the most fascinating images come out of these special photo shoots because it’s all about the couple, she said.

“What they want and where they want it,” Bogard said. “I always offer it as an option. Some brides come to you knowing they want to do it. Some have never heard of it. I think it enriches a wedding album in a very unique way.”

But not every bride is keen to, well, trash their dress. That doesn’t mean they can’t have these atypical bridal portraits, though.

A less expensive off-the-rack gown can be used in the rock the frock session, especially if the bride wants to keep the one she wore down the aisle.

Some brides already buy a second dress to wear during the reception celebration, typically a shorter style or at least a less cumbersome one. That second dress intended for the after-wedding party is another possible choice for a trash the dress session.

The secret to magical trash the dress photos is in the planning, Bogard said. The bride or both the bride and groom can be photographed in multiple spots, but should be planned in an order to allow for the messiest poses to come last, she said.

Finally, something brides should remember during these abnormal photo shoots is safety. A 30-year-old Montreal bride drowned this summer during a trash the dress photo session, a tragedy that happened after she swam into a deep river and the saturated dress weighed her down.

Photo sessions at waterfalls, rivers or any body of water, for that matter, should be carefully considered. If entering the water, remember the dress will become much heavier and make it more difficult to move around. Swimming into water deeper than your height is potentially dangerous, regardless of swimming ability. But if not wading in and instead simply posing nearby water, be mindful of wet surfaces and maintain sure footing. Awesome photos aren’t worth losing an awesome, newly married life.

Northern Art Photography


Up North Bride Home » Fall 2012 Edition » Photography: Trash the Dress