Hi, we are Lia and Stu! As Fiji based as photographers, we are spoilt with beautiful beaches, highlands and waterfalls to take newly wed couples to shoot, however our favourite spots by far are all underwater! Fiji drinking water is touted as one of the best bottled waters on the market and we would argue that the clarity of the water and beauty of the reefs make Fiji the best place on the earth for a trash the dress session.
We are in our 7th year now here in Fiji and wanted to offer some tips that will help those contemplating booking a trash the dress session while in Fiji after their wedding or while in Fiji on honeymoon. Here they are in no certain order of importance.
1 – Bring A Second Dress
We have all heard someone say it, maybe even you have said it! “I would never “trash” my wedding dress!” Some brides will cherish their wedding dress for the amazing symbol and keepsake that it is and can’t fathom doing intentional harm to the gown. If you are a bride who feels this way, but still want amazing pictures underwater, we have a simple solution. Get a second dress specifically for this shoot! You can find it online, second-hand, or at your favourite retail location, but don’t fret about it being designer anything. Find a dress that will flow underwater and allow you the most freedom to unlock your inner mermaid. PS. Most dresses are not destroyed by taking them underwater, in fact, dresses are so filthy by the end of a wedding day that the salt water gives them a nice prewash so if you don’t get a second dress, one dress will do just fine! The term trash the dress is a bit misleading sometimes!
2 – Wear A Dress With Shoulder Straps
We have done many trash the dress sessions with brides wearing strapless dresses, but it is a struggle keeping that top up! You don’t want to be spending 10-15 seconds before each photo pulling and readjusting your bust. Many otherwise perfect shots are spoiled by a scene that might be appropriate in the privacy of your bedroom, or on a beach in the South of France, but not so much when hanging on a canvas print on your wall! That time in between shots is a time to take a breather, get some pointers on how to improve the pose and adjust facial expression. Generally strapless gowns make the bride tire quickly, resulting in a shorter session and fewer opportunities to nail that hero shot you came to get.
3 – Communicate Your Ability And Comfort Level Underwater With Your Photographer
When chatting with your Fiji photographer about booking a trash the dress session make sure to explain you and your partners experience in the water. Are you avid pool and beach swimmers? Are either of you avid surfers? Did you swim heaps growing up and now live in a urban area with little opportunity to swim? Knowing this information helps us plan for the best locations that best suit our couples. We have also found that some couples benefit from a bit of practice at home before coming to Fiji. Believe it or not, The Bride in the next image below actually could not swim prior to booking the shoot and was motivated to train up in order to get underwater images. With that information prior to the shoot date we were able to plan for the ideal location that would give her maximum opportunity to get the shot she dreamed of. For that reason, Mel and her new husband Andrew’s session remains one of our favourite trash the dress shoots ever.
4 – Consider Your Safety
Our couples’ safety is our 1# priority. There are horror stories associated with trash the dress sessions which are results of poor planning and lack of safety protocols. We are both trained and certified ocean lifesavers, and along with our captain, we bring a level of care that the even novice swimmers can find comfort in. We also bring along a floatation device, usually a surfboard, for couples to rest on in between shoots. We are both in the water with the couple: Lia is behind the camera with a mask and fins directing, and Stu is holding the surfboard, often propelling the couple along through currents as they hold on to the board. As we prepare for a take, we discuss the pose the couple will attempt, give a few tips, pull the board from the couple so they are treading water and then count them into the dive: 1-2-3! The couple then take a deep breath and dive into the pose. Some people get anxious that they can’t hold their breath for very long but you will be surprised that most poses only need 3-5 seconds of underwater time to nail the moment! Once the couple breaks the surface, Stu comes in from behind the camera with the surfboard and invites the couple to grab on for a break and we discuss if the shot was a keeper or what we need to do on the next attempt in order to make it better. It is also important let your photographer know if you have any existing health condition (diabetic, epilepsy, recovering from recent surgery etc) so the captain can drive the boat in a way to not aggravate the pain.
5 – Bring A Jacket!
In Fiji, we can plan for sunny weather and calm seas, but Mother Nature calls the shots on the day of a session, so be prepared! We would recommend a bag with a towel for each of you and a lightweight jacket. Sometimes we have more wind and sea spray on the boat than others. We want you to be comfortable and enjoy the experience all the way. Oh, bring a plastic garbage bag to put your dress in for the taxi ride back to your hotel.
6 – Have Fun
Included in our trash the dress session is a chartered 24 foot speed boat that whisks us around the beautiful Mamanuca island group. Sometimes our clients are anxious as well as excited for these sessions. Let us reassure you that you have no reason to be nervous! No one comes into these shoots already expert at swimming in a dress. We think you will be relieved to find that the dress does not make you sink to the bottom but rather you float like a cork!
If you are a water baby like us and you want that special memento to hang on your wall, show off to your friends, and remember for the rest of your life, then we would love to chat with you more about scheduling your trash the dress session in Fiji.
For more info on our underwater portrait sessions click here.