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A Photographer’s Thoughts: Whatever You Do, Don’t Say Cheese

Having your picture taken professionally can feel really rather strange. From pretty much the moment we first start to crawl we’re told to stop dead still, look at the camera and say cheese in order to get a nice picture. The trouble is that the resulting pictures tend to be… well… cheesy!

Enter the professional photographer and the first thing they want is for you to forget about everything you’ve ever been told about having your picture taken. Instead of turning your body face on to the camera they want you to do things like turn and look at each other. Instead of staring into the lens and grinning like a cheshire cat they’ll give you instructions like “just be natural”. But what the hell is “natural” anyway? In our everyday lives we don’t stop in a fixed position we move around, we don’t force conversation with our partners, we just naturally chat. It’s a strangely forced environment and it’s very difficult to really know what to do with yourselves.

One of our wedding shots by Ed Peers

Each individual photographer will have their own style and will be looking to capture a slightly different type of shot. Sometimes they will be looking for a close in and capturing little smiles and hints of emotion, sometimes they will be shooting much wider and looking for the shape of the body and the perfect framing against a particular background. Some photographers like to capture a little bit of movement in their shots and might ask you to walk up and down a little, change your positions around or do something entirely less orthodox. Sometimes however natural they ask you to act, the thing that they’re asking you to do just isn’t going to feel natural at first. In fact it often might not feel like it’s even going to make a half decent photograph, however there’s only one real solution if you want to ensure that you do come away with some great photographs:

Have faith and Commit to the Moment.

Photoshoot with Fer Juaristi

If you’ve done your research and made sure you’ve booked the right photographer for you then hopefully you already understand what they’re about and you’ve looked through their work to find the style of portraiture they aspire to capture. If you like that style then you have to have faith that your photographer is able to create that same style for you. The other thing we’re taught about photography from a young age is that you simply stand in front of an interesting background – a landmark perhaps, or if that’s unavailable you just find somewhere nice and sunny to make the shot look pretty. Sometimes this may be true in professional photography but actually, very broadly speaking, your photographer is more likely to be seeking out what, on the face of it, looks like a very plain background (an old brick wall for example) and are more likely to look for shade than bright sunlight. Have faith that the photographer knows what they’re doing – what looks good on a professional camera may be completely different from what you’d expect. Once you have that faith it’s much easier to just go-with-the-flow and genuinely enjoy yourselves, and once you do start to genuinely enjoy it suddenly acting natural isn’t such an alien idea after all…

Photo-shoot with Nirav Patel

It’s important to remember though that with portraiture in particular your photographer can only do so much. They can offer as much direction as they like but unless you can commit to that moment and really go for it then the final image will not have the same impact. It’s a little like acting, only you’re playing the part of yourselves. The more you commit to what you’re being asked to do the more natural it begins to look and the more powerful the image will be. The photographer wants to capture your personalities and will do all they can to help bring that out of you, but they can’t control the look of love in your eyes, the coy little smile you only give each other, the way you crinkle up your nose when you laugh; these are the things that can take a photograph from simply a 2d image on a piece of paper to a masterpiece of memories full of depth, full of character and full of life – your life.

There are no real hard and fast rules about what’s going to make the best shot, it depends completely on the individual photographer, on the moment, the type of shot and on your personalities and quirks. Just enjoy the time together, forget about your preconceptions or any ideas that you’re not photogenic. Your photographer is there to make you look good – enjoy it, relax, have faith and commit to the moment. And whatever you do, don’t say cheese.

Our Civil Ceremony, Photograph by Liam Shaw

  • Andy Gaines - June 18, 2013 - 8:55 am

    Good post guys – keep ’em coming! I feel like I am starting to learn something!ReplyCancel

  • Matthew Long - June 18, 2013 - 9:54 am

    Impeccable advice Dom, you’ve done it again. I’m sharing this.ReplyCancel

  • David McNeil - June 18, 2013 - 10:24 am

    yes, the worst thing a photographer can say is “smile” or “act natural” ! Instead of asking people to smile a good photographer should give a reason for people to smile and make it happen – if you want your couples to look like they are in love, remind them of the memories and things about each other that they love. This is the key to natural photography 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Bhavna - June 18, 2013 - 10:25 am

    Have faith and commit to the moment – best thing I have heard in a long time.
    Great advice for brides and grooms to be xxxxxReplyCancel

  • Jaye Cole | Tux & Tales Photography - June 18, 2013 - 10:28 am

    Fantastic advice as always. You need to commit to the process of the photos – a little trust (and willingness to have fun!) can make for the absolute best photos!ReplyCancel

  • Michael {Bohemian Weddings} - June 19, 2013 - 9:53 am

    Love the post guys, another must read for our couples 🙂ReplyCancel

    • bridevsgroom - June 20, 2013 - 9:18 am

      Thanks so much for all the comments everyone, great to see so many great photographers agree with these points! 🙂ReplyCancel

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