by Scott Johnson

Very rarely is there ever a piece of clothing that garners the amount of attention than the wedding dress of a bride-to-be.  Shows like Say Yes to the Dress and I Found the Gown peer into the amount of work and research that goes into designing, crafting and ultimately deciding on the dress you’ll choose to wear on your wedding day. To say that the decision is huge is only a minor understatement–as shows like Bridezillas detail the more intense sides of the decision-making process.

Popularized by Queen Victoria and earning its traction over the last century or so, the white wedding dress actually dates back as far as the 14th and 15th centuries as white transitioned from a mourning color to a celebratory one. Following the trends of royalty, commoners began adopting similar traditions which led to the rise in popularity of the white wedding dress.  Almost 200 years later, the wedding dress has evolved just as much as the wedding ceremony itself, though one thing remains–it still holds the same significance.

Over the past few years, we have seen hundreds of dresses in all shapes and forms–ball gown, mermaid, or even sheath, each representing the person wearing it. So when it comes to setting up the perfect “Dress Shot,” videographer and founder of Best Made Videos, Reid Johnson, does so with the care and expertise to truly capture the dress as it best represents the bride to be.

I sat down with Reid to discuss dresses, his favorite and most challenging shots of the year and why he puts so much effort and care into such a brief moment.

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Scott: Let’s begin with a simple question, why the dress shot?

Reid: To me the dress shot is really our chance during the day to flex a little creative muscle. When it comes to wedding videography, a lot of our day consists of capturing moments as they occur. Your wedding ceremony, the reception, wedding toasts, things like that.  We don’t like to stage a whole lot of shots, we just like to let the day unfold as it goes, and doing the dress shot and other detail shots like your shoes or your wedding bands or even the groom’s details, really gives us a chance to show a little flair. Whether that’s hanging a dress from a tree or a picture frame or a window, all of our dress shots are unique and different ways to showcase not only our client’s personality, but the venues they choose as well.  Your wedding details are a tremendously important part of your day, not only because of the money that you spend but also because of what they represent.  I always try to find the best and most creative way to showcase my client’s particular wedding details, just as a wedding photographer would.

Scott: Great. How many dress shots are in this year’s dress shot video?

Reid: In total there’s 55 wedding dress shots in the video this year from slightly less than 55 different wedding venues. We were at Newcastle Golf Club five or six times this year, and I think there might be a couple other repeated venues for some of our other clients. There’s 55 dresses from probably 47 or 48 venues across the area. Sometimes you lose track at the end of the wedding season, haha!

Scott: Sweet. Did I see a purple dress in the video? What’s the story with that?

Reid: Haha, that was actually from this summer. We had a client that was having her 18th debutante ball.  When we got there she had a beautiful purple dress on a mannequin in the window where she was getting ready at. Basically the whole day was like a wedding, there was a reception with toasts and dancing. She even had her own cake cutting, and so I felt it was appropriate to include her dress in the video as well.

Scott: What is your favorite dress shot of the year and why?

Reid: I always really like the Newcastle Golf Club window in the bridal suite. That’s probably one of my favorite places to hang a dress because the client can watch you work while you work. They can see you go up there and hang it up and then when you show them the final product they are always really excited!  Newcastle is such an iconic wedding venue, it’s always really fun to go back there and reinvent what you did the last time you were there.  

Outside of Newcastle, down in Cedar Springs by Port Orchard, our bride Kaleena had probably the longest train of any wedding dress this year. We actually struggled to find a place that was tall enough to hang her dress, and you can see in one of the photos associated with the blog that we climbed up on a chair and tried to use the side of the shed.  We ultimately ended up finding this huge arbor swing set in front of the lagoon there that we finally used, and it still wasn’t even tall enough to adequately showcase the train, but as tall as it was, it was the best we could do.  It was such a beautiful venue, we could have hung the dress from every tree on the property and it still wouldn’t have gotten old!

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Scott: Alright. What was the best client reaction of a dress shot?

Reid: We were over at Novelty Hill this summer in Woodinville, Washington, which is another one of our favorite venues. Our bride Sally was a smaller, petite girl, and her dress was more manageable to work with and hang. This allowed us to hang it on the iconic red wall at Novelty Hill, along with a couple of trees on the property. We always try to find 2 or 3 places to shoot our wedding dress detail shots.

Over by the main entrance of Novelty Hill fixed on the cement side there is the sign for the Novelty Hill Winery. There’s a ledge that protrudes out that you can’t even really reach, it’s so tall. I actually bought a shepherd’s crook or a hook that you would use in a retail store to hang clothes. I’ve bought a couple of those off Amazon that allows us six feet of extra hanging reach to be able to hang the dress wherever we need to. And me being six foot tall with another six feet of hanging reach really allows us to get up in there and get it hung. After I got the dress up there by the sign I was so excited I took a picture of it on my phone and ran back in to show Sally while she was getting her makeup done. She was so excited, and it was really cool because it instantly shows them, the client, that we know what we’re doing, we’re getting cool stuff. It really represents our creativity and I thought that was really neat.

When we were at the Sorrento Hotel this summer as well, we did a similar thing outside the front of the hotel with the hotel sign. We were able to frame it where you were able to see the hotel up above and the sign and dress down below, I really like the composition of the shot. One of the bellhops or somebody that was walking by that worked at the hotel said, “I’ve worked here 20 years, and I’ve never seen anybody hang a dress up there like that.” To me that was really cool because that meant that we were doing something different and new.

Scott: Cool. What was the most challenging dress shots?

Reid: Without a doubt, the hardest dress shot we did all year was at the Rosehill Community Center in Mukilteo with one of our favorite wedding photography teams, Kate and Josh with GSquared Weddings. You’ll see from one of the other pictures in the blog that we had to borrow this huge ladder from the venue. The reason that I bought the shepherd’s hook to hang the dresses was because of how difficult this particular dress shot was.  At the Community Center there, the whole side of the building is this huge picturesque window that looks out over the sound, and you see the ferry coming and going and we knew we had to use it for our dress shot.

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There’s ledges at six feet, and then I don’t know how high it is, 12 or 15 feet in the air. I actually had to get on the top or near the top of that 10 or 12 foot ladder to get it hung up, and you see my assistant, Jeff in the photo holding the ladder and then Kate’s husband, Josh, is helping as well. That was really challenging, but it was really cool because I don’t know if all types of vendors would go to that kind of trouble to do that. But it was great because they (Kate and Josh) got their photos and then we got video of the dress as well. She was really happy, the bride Rachel was ecstatic.

Scott: Alrighty. Final question. What song did you use for the video and why?

Reid: This year we used the song, “White Dress” by Ben Rector, which I think in years past has gotten used a lot in wedding highlight videos almost to the point of over-saturation, but it is a really classic song. The title “White Dress” is obviously pretty appropriate in terms of talking about the white dress of the wedding. I just thought it was too perfect of a match to not include it in our first ever white dress compilation wedding video. So that was why I did that and I hope that my fellow wedding videographers will forgive me, haha!

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It’s crazy to think there’s this much effort that goes into just a dress that is going to be worn on but one single day. Yet the dress represents so much more than most people could ever imagine, so it is the duty of people like Reid to encapsulate that meaning. We hope you enjoyed the interview and all of our dress shots that we captured over the year, let us know your favorites below!