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Trash The Dress Photo Shoot

Updated on March 21, 2016
LuisEGonzalez profile image

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years.

Trash the Dress on the beach

CC BY 2.0
CC BY 2.0 | Source

"Trash the dress", also known as "fearless bridal" or "rock the frock", is a style of wedding photography that contrasts elegant clothing with an environment in which it is out of place. It is generally shot in the style of fashion or glamour photography. Such photography often takes place on a beach, but other locations include city streets, rooftops, garbage dumps, fields, and abandoned buildings. The woman often wears a ball gown, prom dress or wedding dress, and may effectively ruin the dress in the process by getting it wet, dirty, or, in extreme circumstances, tearing or destroying the garment.

Some sources claim that the trend was originally started in 2001 by Las Vegas wedding photographer John Michael Cooper,[1] however, the idea of destroying a wedding dress has been used in Hollywood symbolically since at least October 1998 when Meg Cummings of the show Sunset Beach ran into the ocean in her wedding dress after her wedding was interrupted.: Wikipedia

I am sure that by now some of you have heard the expression "thrash the dress", although this photographic techniques has been around for a few years it is not as known as other more traditional wedding photography.

Simply put, and this should not be a surprise, trash the dress means taking traditional wedding photographs in very unusual locations that by the characteristics of the location, will more than likely cause irreparable damage to the wedding dress thus it will not survive the ordeal; it will probably get trashed!

This is not an accidental style of wedding photography. A few years back some innovative photographers started doing this style in order to satisfy the need of clients for photographs that did not resemble any others.

They wanted their wedding pictures to be uniquely originals and voila, trash the dress weeding photography was born.

So what does it take to do this unusual wedding photography?

First the bride and often the groom along with maybe the bridesmaids, need to completely understand that the photos will be highly unusual, and probably unique in their own way and that is great.

After all what bride does not want her wedding photos to be talk of the town?

Second everyone needs to be completely aware that the outfits, especially the wedding gown, will probably not be usable after the photographs, nor anything else for that matter.

This technique does not simply mean going to the beach and having the bride sit at the surf's edge so that the dress gets a little wet. It usually involves getting completely drenched by the waves, rolling in the sand, getting muddy and so on. Everything is quite dependent on the location and what it has to offer.

Great locations can be dessert type ones, the beach ,off course, rivers, mountains, abandoned buildings, a farmer's field, the woods, lakes and the list goes on.

So long as the location offers some interesting element that will serve to complement the shots, it will basically serve to be used. Just remember to keep safety in mind at all times. Wedding gowns have a lot of fabric and can quickly become quite heavy, especially if introducing it to water.

Never,ever, do this project if using a water location like a river,beach,lake or even a pool, without the assistance of several people and after having taken all the precautions necessary.

I did one such shoot several years ago off Miami Beach and I had two male and two female assistants as well as one off duty lifeguard ready, just in case, not to mention at least a dozen by standers, the bride's parents, the groom's parents, a few brothers and sisters and lots and lots of fun, although I can really remember if the fun came after or before the shoot.

Trash the dress on mud flats & river

(CC BY 3.0
(CC BY 3.0 | Source
CC BY-SA 2.0
CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

The gear should include a variety of lenses each for a particular situation; wide angle to include shots of the location, zooms to isolate the bride, groom etc and get close ups, regular for medium shots, flash to highlight shadows or if doing the shoot at night or dusk, a tripod to stabilize the camera, and reflectors to add highlights.

Silver reflectors cast a stronger light and gold is used to add soft golden highlights.

You should also count with the assistance of a good makeup artist, although the shoot is taking place in an unusual location and water is probably present, the bride should still look like she would were the shoot taking place in a more traditional atmosphere.

The only thing that can be done without are the wedding shoes since they will make the process more difficult, I mean it's hard enough to walk with high heels so imagine walking in the sand, mud, rocks etc.

Everything should be handled as if doing a traditional wedding photo shoot.

The only thing that is different is the location, but everything remains the same. Remember to advise participants to carry extra garments to change into after the conclusion of the shooting.

After wedding gown for a thrash the dress shoot

CC BY-SA 2.0
CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

As a bride, would you do this?

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This technique is mostly non commercial; it is not intended to create images that will be used by any publication.

It is mainly used for wedding photography where the clients want images that are unique, non traditional and they are willing to sacrifice garments for the sake of the photographs.

This style is usually done right after the actual wedding or in some cases, if two wedding gowns are available, right before.

Some brides use a less expensive gown that resembles the more expensive one that will be used in the ceremony but due to their cost, the more "traditional" way is to do the shoot after the church ceremony and sometimes after the honeymoon.

These and other details should be discussed with all the participants and planned accordingly so that everyone is fully aware of the proceedings.

The wedding gown is not the only garment that can be used. More and more brides are choosing to conduct this type of photography with an after wedding dress instead of the actual wedding gown.

This is off course due to how expensive gowns can be and often due to time constraints and other wedding plans.

Regardless of which garments are used, a variety of poses and set ups should be used. It is much better to take many more photographs than you would actually need rather than having too few.

The expenses mostly prohibit doing the shoot twice if anything goes wrong. Checking the location ahead of time, the weather, the restrictions, if any, the permits if any and planning parking, transportation, and many other details is not only wise but necessary.

This is mostly a once in a lifetime photo session and everything has to go accordingly to plan the first time.

Trash the dress in the river

Edited to comply with TOS CC BY-SA 2.0
Edited to comply with TOS CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

A simpler trash the dress shoot


© 2013 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 4 years ago from Miami, Florida

      cat on a soapbox: I have to admit that not many photographers like this theme so much exactly because the ruining of the dress which you never know what it can be used for later.

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 4 years ago from Los Angeles

      Hi Luis,

      I agree that some of the photography is interesting, and I like the juxtaposition of the white dress in the midst of some rough natural elements. I do have a hard time, however, with the deliberate trashing of a perfectly beautiful gown. It is sadly wasteful to me. One of my best friends was asked by her film school husband in 1972 to put on her wedding dress and roll around in a muddy creek bed for a photo shoot. At the time, everyone thought he was out of his mind!! I guess he was ahead of his time. Interesting hub. Thanks!

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 4 years ago from Miami, Florida

      moonlake: Thanks

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      Just my opinion but I think it is awful. A waste of a good dress someone could use. Thousands of dollars put into dresses that get trashed not to mention how dangerous it is. I saw one story of a bride that died while doing this. Your right to have lots of people while taking the photos in water. The dresses are so heavy they could easily pull a person down. Your hub was very interesting and I have to admitt the photos are beautiful.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I can only hope this trend leads to longer marriages! If it means, no going back, I'm all for it. If it means, I'm a spoiled girl who doesn't appreciate the sacrifices that were made to provide me with this lovely dress, then it's too bad. Interesting topic!