This is a question I sort of get asked a lot – well, in a roundabout way. People tell me they’re not very ‘photogenic’, and as someone who also feels they’re not necessarily that photogenic either, believe me I get it. Learning to love, or even accept, yourself in photos is a big deal. Especially when there’s as much riding on them as with your wedding photos. With that in mind I wanted to share some thoughts on the whole business.
Learning to see photos of yourself and not instantly criticise can be a challenge, and it’s not something that can always be changed overnight, but hopefully with some mindset shifts you can learn to love all your wedding photos.
Let’s be clear – it’s society’s patriarchal beauty standards that lead us to think that we’re not good enough. And whilst the Instagram driven body positivity movement is growing, and we see far more diverse representation all around us; this is still not enough the counteract the pervading message that we must be tall, slim and white to be attractive. Or that the things that make us human, or that out partners love so much, somehow make us less valuable.
There have been times when I’ve been almost afraid to show up in my own business because of silly fears about how I look. It’s bullshit, we all deserve success, and to feel valued and feel love.
With all this said, decades, nay centuries of social conditioning doesn’t disappear overnight, and I’m not 100% convinced that wedding photos, where you do want to look shit hot amazing, are the place to fully experiment with unpicking it all. (Though if you do, HMU)
Try to surround yourself with positive messages instead of anything that gives you negative thoughts – edit your social media feeds so it reads like your favourite newspaper or magazine.
The value of hindsight
Every time I’ve had a photo taken at some point in the past, whilst I may not have loved it at the time for some reason or other; I can almost guarantee that when I came back to it a few years later I suddenly loved it so much. Whatever perceived flaw I saw, I’d forgotten about – instead it was replaced by memory of the event or time, and indeed thinking how hot I looked in that moment of youth that had since passed by.
“A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
A slightly naff quote, but one that is so true in the context of wedding photography. When you, as an impartial observer, see the weddings of other couples as blog posts or galleries, I’m certain your first thoughts are how happy they look, what fun they look like they’re having, or that they looked cool; or that you got lost in the moment or the storytelling.
I want that for you too – to look back on the images and simply see two people in love, living their best lives. I want the couple shots to be a reflection of your personalities and your love. And I want that to come flying off the page or the screen.
I want you to remember the value of the moment, rather than worry about what your chin looked like when you let out that giant laugh, or hugged your best friend.
Get used to yourself
It took filming and editing an entire online course, whilst at my heaviest, 8 months after giving birth, to have the sudden realisation that ‘if this is me, I’m OK with it’. And whilst I’m not suggesting you give up the day job and start a new career as a TV presenter, getting comfortable with letting people take your photo and spending some time with those images can help. Try to focus on the things you like, show them to your partner and enjoy the compliments. If I look bigger than I thought I would in a photo, that’s cool, it’s me and that’s OK; but you can also use it as a learning exercise (I’ll come onto this in a bit)
With all this said, there are still a variety of tools to help you look and feel your best – because I also know that fashion and makeup can be armour, and that looking good makes you feel good.
If you wear makeup, I really recommend getting a pro in to do it for you on the day, ditto hair. And whilst there should be no compulsion to feel you need to lose weight for the wedding – if you want to use it as some motivation to eat a few more veggies, or to move your body more (think of all the endorphins) then it’s a wonderful excuse to do just that.
Ditto, your choice of outfit can make a huge difference. Wear something that makes you feel a million dollars. ‘Flattering’ has become a bit of a toxic phrase – so you don’t need to dress with it in mind BUT I do think that a few choice decisions in selecting your outfit can make all the difference later, unless you are really confident.
For me, I have never loved the top of my arms and I’m just happier in a sleeve, but the good news is there are so many beautiful gowns out there with all kinds of sleeves that I’d be spoilt for choice and it means I just wouldn’t have to give any more thought to what my upper arms were doing.
Don’t throw all your regular stylistic cues in the bin simply because it’s a wedding.
So that is a very gentle, perhaps somewhat superficial entry into the world of embracing yourself and self love.
If you want to work with an inclusive, open minded and friendly photographer for your wedding, then get in touch.