Cherish the Dress ~ What’s it all about?

Jan 30, 2009 | Business | 14 comments

The concept of Cherish the dress™ came about from a brainstorming session between Chris Hanley and I. We wanted to put a thoroughly British twist on the very American ‘Trash the Dress’ concept. Many brides… hate the idea of ruining a dress that they have paid many thousands of pounds for. It’s not just the money either, respect for the dress designer is a key factor too. After all, they have carefully sculpted and worked the fabric of the dress to create a uniquely beautiful garment. And what about mum or mom? The bride’s mum would likely be horrified to know that her darling daughter had disrespected her dress to the point of destruction. But not in America it seems, and that is my point. We’ve all seen the pictures of the bride with her dress on fire and quite frankly I’d have trouble selling that concept to my clients.

We brainstormed on… why just a wedding dress we thought? Why not any dress, even a prom dress? Another American tradition that has crossed the Atlantic in the past few years. So we set about creating a concept where everyone is a winner and came up with the brand Cherish the dress™ together with the slogan – ‘Make your dress a star, not the victim’.

The shoots happen in fine hotels, penthouse apartments, city centre cafés, and if the weather is fine then urban exteriors too. There are no wedding day pressures, no weather worries, and plenty of time to get the hair and make up perfect between shots. Concentrating the shoots in locations of splendor, beauty and opportunity maximise the client’s enjoyment of wearing their dress again.

It’s not just a girls shoot either, we get husbands and boyfriends involved too. It’s a bit like a very dressy pre wedding shoot but post wedding or post event. There’s room for passion and romance too. There’s time to use off camera lighting creatively and a fantastic opportunity to put together a collection of fine prints that command a high price. As a guide, I would expect photograph sales equivalent to the value of the dress.

Such is going to be the demand for this new genre, we sold out of places on our first Cherish the Dress workshop in Manchester within 5 hours of making them available. It was billed as a one off workshop but if you would like the opportunity to attend a workshop yourself, let Laura know and feel free to suggest cities and venues too. Any European city is easily within our reach. You never know we might get invited back to the Manchester Hilton.



  1. damien

    You are welcome Luis. D.

  2. damien

    Hi Willie, Thanks for the vote of confidence. I’ll be back as Arnie said. Incidentally where in Australia are you?


  3. Willie


    I have recently had major discussions within a members forum here in Australia on this very subject.

    The majority want to follow the ‘trash’ fad. I reckon it’s a bit disrespectful, so it’s great to see the ‘cherish’ concept.

  4. Luis

    Hi Damien,

    This quote caught my eye:

    “we get husbands and boyfriends involved too.”

    The cynic in me was very amused until I saw your mention of proms and such… Thanks, as always, for sharing the great ideas.


  5. Chris

    Hello everyone, Just to add to Damien’s reply to Alan’s comment. We have today just come back from a successful two day wedding Fayre at Tatton Park in Cheshire. One of the quality premier events in the North West. The really interesting thing about my promotion of Cherish the dress™, is not only the great positive feedback we received from the brides and grooms and parents, but also plenty of boutique hotels absolutely loved the idea and want to get involved. This is a great business opportunity not only for photographers, but also the hotels view it as a much needed stimulus to attracting wedding clients. Photographers should take the model and adapt it to their local areas. Some will call it by another name, some will approach it a different way. Fashion aware clients want new and exciting images, photographers want creative opportunities and local small businesses from make up artists and hair stylists, to hotels and restaurants want initiatives like this to support. The feedback from this weekend has been overwhelmingly positive. People have been upbeat, and have money to spend. Our biggest challenge is the doom and gloom media. Positive thinking will create exciting times and opportunities for everyone in our industry.

  6. alan MASON

    Thank you Damien for taking the time to answer my posting.

    I wish you every good fortune with it.

  7. damien

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for the heads up on the Ranger kit. I must try a beauty dish on my Bron kit. I use a silver brolly because it is less bulky but I think you are right about the quality of light. I would never go near an umbrella in the studio. Your lighting quality speaks for itself.

    The one advantage that the Bron kit has is the two outputs on the pack have switchable power ratios. I’d love to be able to control the flash power at the camera though. The Bron remote has the up and down buttons but they don’t seem to do anything on the Mobil. It might just be that I need a firmware upgrade. Anyway thanks for the heads up on the Ranger kit.

    Cheers, Damien.

  8. damien

    Hi Jamie,

    Thanks for your kind words. I strive to never overlook the opportunity to shoot beauty. Trash is about shock and attitude and works very well indeed for some. Cherish is about beauty and romance. Let’s make this work too.


  9. damien

    Hi Alan,

    You are right of course. Nothing is new in photography, it just gets reinvented. Over the past 10 years or so I have seen many bridal portraits enter wedding competitions that were taken days or weeks after the wedding when there was more time available and less worry for the care of the dress. These shoots have often been more relaxed affairs tending towards a trash the dress shoot and mostly shot at an exterior location.

    The Cherish difference is that it is largely an interior shoot in a fabulous location with a make up artist / hair stylist involved and more sophisticated lighting set ups.

    The business angle that I’ve not discussed in this piece involves the wedding venue hotel offering weekend stays with a shoot package. The couple arrive on the Friday night, have a romantic dinner, have a Cherish shoot on the Saturday morning (before that days wedding couple get back from the church) and have a viewing session at the hotel on the Sunday morning before the couple check out. Hotels love it because it sells weekend rooms and Friday night dinners. We love it because we have free use of the shoot location, the make up happens in the clients bedroom, there are no bad weather problems because we shoot interiors and we get use of a swanky meeting room for the viewing, all at no cost.

    There are bound to have been a few photographers who have offered this kind of service but it has not yet been mainstream in the UK. Once you get clients asking for Cherish shoots by name it becomes a recognised genre. Like boudoir, trash the dress, urban and pregnancy. These are all genres that get asked for without the photographer having to push it.

    The Australians shoot this kind of picture on the wedding day itself. They often have several hours in the afternoon for a dedicated couple shot where the dress is kept in good condition. I’ve always been envious of this fabulous picture making opportunity and rather than try and change the wedding culture here in the UK it seems more sensible to create demand in other ways.


  10. alan MASON

    how do you figure you have a new genre here ?

    post wedding shoots have been going on for decades.

  11. Mark Theisinger

    Hi Damien

    The Elinchrom Ranger kit is fantastic with the wireless control you have if you need to up or down the lighting. The only thing as with most big flash kits is the size and to do by yourself is cumbersome without assistance. Lately I have been using a beauty dish/bowl on the front as it produces a better quality of light than a brolly or softbox it can provide nice directional lighting which is soft and does not have the extreme hardness that standard reflectors offer. It’s great when you also need some curling of your light scource on say a wall behind your subject. I believe they used these dishes back in the old days on Hollywood films.

  12. Jamie Hotchin Stylianou

    When I saw this ‘Cherish the Dress’ my soul was in automatic sendouts of desire and excitement to be in this course… Todays bridal dresses are beautifully created – why on earth the americano’s are doing this? Damien its so good to see your valuable contributions again in this field of wedding photography and respect you have…. ;)

  13. damien

    Hi Mark,

    Great stuff, I checked out the You Tube videos and they look like you had a great time. It’s interesting to note that you were using big flash and really giving the shoot the quality of light it deserves. This kind of image could look so naff if done badly and yours really set the standard. I couldnt help thinking the bride in the scrap yard must surely be a model.

    Thanks for your generous and useful contribution. There are great opportunities out there at the moment for those of us willing to put in the effort.

    It looks like you were using Elinchrom Ranger? Do you like the kit?



  14. Mark Theisinger

    Hi Damien
    interesting comments on your blog about Cherish the dress. I’ve now done a couple of trash shoots -adamant that I would not shoot the “look at me I’m standing in a muddy pond” pic that seems to be doing the rounds everywhere. The Cherish idea is great but equally there is a market for the urban styled trash shoot even in the UK. I had a bride ask me on Christmas Eve to do a shoot in her foundry near Birmingham a couple of weeks ago. She is the MD and had spent all her life growing up in that industry with her father and husband, to her it was a very personal place that she felt she wanted to give her dress a great send off. Despite my reservations and trying to talk her out of it she burned it in one of the furnaces and had it cast into a lamp post as a keep sake. As you can imagine it has generated huge amounts of publicity with front pages and features in the press and magazines as well as the Beeb interviewing us all for Friday night’s news.
    I appreciate not every shoot we do is going to create publicity because of its quirky uniqueness, but on this occasion she wanted something very personal and she is thrilled with the images.
    A bride may have a lot of emotional attachments to different places for a number of reasons and if we as photographers can tap into those associations and provide them with an experience whether in trashing or cherishing then we are all on to a winner. I’ve put a few of the images onto my website and there is a couple of Youtube films on the blog if you want to have a look
    Kind Regards


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