A guide to wedding photography for the camera-shy.
You hate having your picture taken but you’re about to give an awful lot of money to a professional to do just that. It’s absurd isn’t it? And yet you’re probably going to do it anyway.
I should start by saying that as usual, if you’re looking for impartial nicey-nicey advice, you are in the wrong place. This blog is one hundred per cent my own biased opinion. So if you expected me to go on to say: it’s okay, you don’t have to hire anyone you don’t want to. Then you’d be wrong. Of course you don’t have to do anything, that is the beauty of free will; however I’m saying that you bloody well should. This blog is all about why you should and what you can do to make it a more comfortable, even an enjoyable experience. So, let’s start with the why…
Baby, you have never looked so good!
Your wedding day is the day that you will put the most effort (and possibly the most money) into how you look. Even if you’re not going in for the whole enormous gown or tailor-made suit, the choices you have made about what to wear, how to do your hair, your make up, shoes, jewellery have been made so that you feel at your very best. You’ve gone to all that effort; you should capture it. Whatever you’re into, a good photographer should pick up on your vibe and your photos should reflect it. Wedding photography shouldn’t be about styling you up into something you’re not, it should be about capturing the very best version of you.
It’s all down hill from here
Ooh, it’s a low blow but it’s rarely not the case that as we get older we all wrinkle, sag and stretch. If you’re always waiting until you’ve lost a few pounds or you’ve got a nice tan or whatever it is that makes you feel less than amazing, then you run the risk of missing your prime. As a photographer I love taking photographs of faces. Not just beautiful faces, but interesting faces and characterful faces. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has something about themselves that is worth pointing a camera at. Trust your photographer to find it. It’s what they’re good at. Plus they know all the tricks to make you look your best. We ‘togs don’t just spend all our time working out what the buttons on our camera do. A professional photographer will have studied lighting and posing, both of which can be manipulated to deemphasise your insecurities. I realise that I might get hauled over hot coals by the body-positivity crowd for admitting that a few tricks might help you to look better, but stuff that. We all stand a little straighter when we look at ourselves in the mirror, that’s all I’m talking about.
In the spotlight
If you’re all on board with the body-positivity lark but it’s the thought of being the centre of attention that’s worrying you. Then I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but on your wedding day, everyone’s going to be looking at you anyway, whether there’s a camera pointed at you or not. As fine as Uncle Sid looks in 70s suit with the mad lapels that he’s dug out of the attic for the occasion, today you are still more interesting. (I’m not saying uncle Sid wouldn’t get some significant real estate on my SD card, but that’s not the point) The best and easiest way to get through a day where you are definitely going to be the centre of attention is just to accept it. The point I’m trying to make is that if you make a big deal out of being the centre of attention, then it will become a big deal. If you don’t, it won’t.
Eighty-eight miles per hour
My final reason for making sure you get some awesome photos of you on your wedding day is that you might not always feel this way. Hindsight can be a callous bitch and as yet McFly, there’s no way to go back in time. Wedding photos aren’t just about capturing how you looked; they should capture an expression of how you felt. The memories that good photos evoke are about more than a freeze frame of a moment. You’ll remember what happened just before the picture was taken, or what was going on behind the photographer as they took the shot, or how full you felt from your dinner. The memories extend outside the four edges of the image and those four edges can’t be reproduced at a later date. I would call it priceless, but it’s not. The price is a decent professional photographer who has the experience to not miss the moment and the technical knowledge to capture it well.
So what can you do to make it all not so terribly awful?
Find a photographer who listens.
If, after reading this, you still definitely don’t want any portraits, then your photographer should accept that. A lot of photographers go through the day on autopilot or try to get the images that they want for their portfolio, which isn’t okay. You’re the customer; you call the shots. Let them know what’s important to you.
Trust your photographer.
They have done this an awful lot more than you and they have no desire to make you look stupid or ugly. It is in their professional interests to make you look good with the least fuss possible. Remember they’ve trained their eye to see the world a little differently from you and they may not be taking the shot you think. The two images below were taken seconds apart from each other, the only difference is the choices and instructions of the photographer.
Escape from your guests.
If you let it, the portrait session with your photographer can be the most relaxed part of the day. You get to escape with your new spouse and spend a few minutes not having to talk to guests or worrying about what happens next. If you embrace it, it can be lovely. I always try to create a calm atmosphere during my portrait shoots. I even back right off and let you have a chat and maybe a sip of champagne together while I happily shoot you from a distance with a long lens.
Scheduling time into your day for the family formals and portraits will keep your photographer in check and stop sessions from running on longer than you want them to. If you’re nervous, do it as soon after the ceremony as possible, so it’s not hanging over you. Most photographers will ask for a schedule and a list of any group shots as it helps them to work more efficiently. Appoint your best man/woman/person (maybe not dog) to round up the family for each shot and help get it over and done with, so you can enjoy your day.
Remember it’s mostly candid anyway
Practically every couple I speak to say that they aren’t into posed images, they just want me to capture things as they happen. Well do you know what? I’m going to do that anyway. Capturing things as they happen is the bread and butter of modern wedding photography. I’m hardly going to pipe up during the ceremony and ask the officiant if they could just face into the light a bit more. Or stop you mid-speech to get you to do a fake laugh for the camera. For most of the day your photographer will be in the background just papping away and you won’t even know they’re there.
My final bit of advice is to take the compliments. Your wedding day is the day people are supposed to tell you how great you look. Expect it and embrace it and let it empower you to stand in front of that camera. I guess it’s not impossible that they’re telling you what you want to hear, but it’s extremely unlikely.