Believe me, I know how it goes – your scrolls through Instagram in the months leading up to your wedding consist of about a hundred bookmarks of images you want to be YOURS on your wedding day. You sift through poses, locations, times of day – you want it to be perfect.
I’ve been there. I thought I wanted my own wedding to be intently focused on epic locations at golden hour. I thought that was the dream. We trudged 45 minutes away from our guests on the day of our wedding up to a mountain top to stand, pose, and be ‘art’ that would be worthy of a handful of strangers instagram likes. Once we got to the top, we looked at each other and realized that we both really just wanted to get back to our party.
Can I clarify the resounding reason that changed this all for me?
My own elopement did not exist for the purpose of instagram strangers approval.
My elopement existed because the love my husband and I share is sweet, and silly and explosive and ours. Because the idea of spending another minute not married made us feel SICK. My elopement that I planned in three weeks existed because 75 of the people that we LOVE dropped absolutely every responsibility from all over the world, and flew 9+ hours to watch us promise our lives to each other. We were never getting married for the pictures.
But – we intentionally planned to head to this mountain top, made a conscious decision to spend close to 2 hours away from these people who dropped everything for us. The people we so badly wanted to spend every waking second with while we could, while they were all in one room for the first and last time ever — But once we got there, we realized just how much we were missing out on our wedding day.
Here are a few things to consider when planning your portrait session, things you may not realize now – but come day of, I promise will be important to you.
Your portrait time is time spent away from friends and family, how long do YOU want it to be?
If you’re having a traditional wedding, you likely planned this event for all of your loved ones to finally, finally be in the same place at once. Think about how surreal that is – how lucky you are to be surrounded by this much love. Time away from your guests is OKAY! Don’t feel guilty about stepping away, but in all honesty think about how much time you WANT to step away.
This time for portraits should really be a time block for you and your new spouse to be focused on each other – some time to slow down and chat about how the day is going, about your emotions, about the excitement and the nerves and everything in between. Be it 5 minutes or 45, make sure that you two are setting an expectation with ALL of your vendors that this time is for you – not for them.
My mantra that my couples all hear from me like a broken record is this: Your wedding day is not about my art, it is about your story. Stepping back to simply capture what I observe is priority. In fact — the history of photography really stems from a long lineage of pictures that were simply intended to document a moment in time, one single image as a way to have historical proof of an event’s happenings. It was a way to say “Hey, these people existed at this moment in time, and here is documentation of that in a single photo”.
What happens when we treat our wedding day as sacred, instead of as a photoshoot? What would you do with your day if wedding photography was no option? Instead of budgeting 2 hours for portraits, go do whatever it is you would be doing whether that’s enjoying cocktail hour with your friends and family, or sneaking off for a moment alone just the two of you – let’s capture THAT.
You should NOT see your photographer in your images.
This is so important guys. If you scroll instagram, you often will see the same image over and over again – the same poses, the same style, the same trendy warm but desaturated edit, the same exact thing on every single photographers account. But, what do those pictures say about the couple? When you look at these portraits after the wedding, will you see your beloved, or will you remember the way your photographer forced you to pose because it felt awkward and stiff and more ‘for their art’ than to tell your story? Was your portrait session a scheme to get “the shot” on instagram that would accrue 2k likes and popularity from people you don’t even know? Have conversations with your photographer about allowing you to be more hands off during your portraits. Instead, do something you guys WANT to do together, and ask your photographer to capture that. Maybe it’s you two making your favorite cocktail together behind the bar (sorry bartenders, we know you’re great at your job!), or it’s hanging out on the couch in the bridal suite for a bit to just cuddle and relax. Or – maybe it’s just going on a walk together away from the venue for a bit. Whatever feels like you – tell your photographer to capture THAT.
Tell your photographer who you are, show your heart.
Going hand-in-hand with the above, the portraiture images should reflect you! It’s really important to get to know your wedding photographer so they know how to capture you. I allow my couples the space to understand that the way I will interact with them during portraits will directly reflect the things I know about them. If they’re an introvert, or a private person I would never make them do wild poses that feel unlike who they are. If they are goofy and fun, I adore capturing that part of their love. You don’t need to show love a certain way for your images to reflect your story beautifully.
Let it get awkward.
The idea of not being posed or directed with your photography may feel a little scary, i’ve heard time and time again “we’re camera shy!” “we will need ALL the direction!” or “we aren’t photogenic!”. But, if you remember that your photographer is there to document your day, not curate it and that your wedding day isn’t about your pictures – it will take SO much pressure off of feeling like you have to ‘be’ something for their ‘art’. If you’re gawky and awkward in real life, thats totally fine! Let it show, any good photographer will know how to capture that the right way to make you look back on the images and think “Wow, they really captured us in a way that feels like US.”
Dying for portraits? Consider a day after session.
If you’re dying to have those ‘epic’ instagram shots that are highly curated and will take 1-2 hours of your day, it may be wise to instead consider adding a day-after session to your wedding. This will allow you to spend your day-of portrait time slowing down with your honey for some time just you two enjoying the newly married feels – no stress added and little time away from your guests. Booking a Day After session will then allow you both the exciting feeling of getting back in to your Best Dressed one more time to relive the feelings again, but with an intention and understanding that you will be doing it for more posed photography. This separates the experience of taking photos from the pressure of a wedding day. On the day of, I will be focused on capturing the story – and on a day-after session we are definitely able to be more playful and get the shots you desire so that it doesnt detract from your wedding day.
Think about the end result
I have seen multiple photographers do an exercise where they ask prior couples to pick out their favorite picture from their wedding day, and explain why it was their favorite. Every single time, every single couple has reached for an image that was authentic, that felt like them. Be it an image of them goofing off together after the ceremony, a real moment with mom while getting ready, or a sweet cuddle session as they sneak away on the staircase that they didn’t even notice the photographer was capturing – every single time it was a moment that was genuine, unstaged – a happy accident.
Think about the MOMENTS that will mean the most to you when you get to reflect on your wedding day, is it going to feel real the moment your father sees you in your dress? How about seeing your spouse down the aisle for the first time? Those moments are timeless, they withstand the test of trends infinitely longer than anything I or any photographer could curate for you. They will be the moments that your family down the line looks at and gasps at how clearly they can see the love that was shared on your wedding day.