Have you ever felt nervous in front of a camera?
Because I absolutely have. Like every time.
The joke is that this is why I’m on the other side of the camera.
This guide’s a bit tougher than some of the others, to write and maybe to read, because it deals with stress and anxiety, and these aren’t super fun. But wedding photos are fun – and if you’re reading this, it’s because having some great photos from your wedding day is important to you.
The only real way to get great wedding photos is to confront these anxieties.
If I could, I’d have you just magically shed all of your anxieties and insecurities and bring only absolute self confidence and esteem to your photo shoot. But it’s something you’ve gotta confront, something that takes practice. Hopefully this little guide can help you take on some of these things before your shoot, so you’re not having to deal with them for the first time day-of.
And if nothing else, you’ll know that you’re not alone, and that the people on the other side of the camera (me and Jess) know exactly what you’re going through and want to help.
Basically everyone gets nervous
Out of all the couples we’ve ever photographed, I could probably count on one hand (maybe two) the number of folks that told me that they’re totally cool with having their photo taken.
Which means that photos are tough for the vast majority of folks. And that you’re not alone. And it also means that basically every couple you’ve seen on our Instagram or on our site was nervous – and I like to think those photos turned out well despite it. And that yours can too.
We’ve all got ‘em.
Maybe we think we just generally look weird in photos. Maybe we like certain things about ourselves, and aren’t keen on other things. Maybe we’ve had awkward experiences with photos in the past. Whatever the case, these insecurities lead to feeling self-conscious – the biggest barrier to good photos. As I said earlier, I can’t magic wand these things away (I absolutely would), and that we’re gonna have to call them out, identify them, and grapple with ‘em a bit.
What do I do with my hands
One thing I hear often is that folks aren’t sure what to do with their hands in photos. It’s a joke from that old Will Farrell movie, but it’s super common, and not just for hands. Positioning your body well in photos is difficult, even for many models.
The good news is that if your hands are positioned in an awkward way, or if you’re not sure what to do with them, it’s not that big of a deal – we’ll just let you know. We’ll offer suggestions (hey, try holding hands together like this, grab hold of something, try to soften your hands a bit), adjust, or reset, or try again. We do this all the time. Something looks weird, we’ll just let you know, and we’ll take another shot. Which leads to our next point.
Let the idea of getting something perfect, or correct, leave your mind – because perfect is not what we’re after here. What we’re after is capturing who you are as best we can, and perfect is not what any of us are. Also perfection is impossible, so there’s that.
There’s no correct way to hug your partner. There’s no correct way to kiss your partner. No correct way to walk, or hold hands, or laugh or dance with your partner. There’s no correct way to stand.
The unique way you normally hug each other, the way you kiss or walk or touch each other, is what we’re after. These normal ways generally get buried under insecurities and inhibitions and tend to be the first things tossed out when there’s a camera around.
Jess and I are weird in private. The way we are around each other is weird, and it’s us, and we love it, and it’s this stuff that’s great to have in photos.
I invite you to be your weird selves as well during our session as best you can.
There are also flattering ways to do those things in photos, which is also something we’re gonna aim for. But I’ll tell you this: flattering photos are great, but sometimes the in-between less-than-perfect photos end up being the ones you’ll love best.
So yeah, maybe ironically, aiming for perfection in your photos generally makes for worse photos.
Who these photos are for
The photos we make together are for you. Easy enough.
I mean, we love making them, and the planning, and the process, and the travel, and posting and sharing them, but in the end they’re of you, for you. For your memories.
I think some folks get hung up on performing their love for us. Or performing a style of love they’ve seen in other photos. Maybe they worry we’re judging them or their style of love. They worry they’ve gotta be epically photogenically magically crazy madly in love for us, in front of that camera, right from the get go, or it isn’t real. And this isn’t true.
We don’t want you to be anything other than comfortable showing us who you are, and the way you love each other. As discussed above, it can be difficult enough letting who you are shine through without having to play someone else in photos.
We’re talking about anxieties and difficulties in front of a camera!
It ain’t easy stuff, but we’re still alive here. This section’s basically here to give you time to take a nice deep breath before continuing on.
What Jess and I do
As mentioned, we’re awkward and anxious in photos too. We’ve come to terms with this and can laugh about it, but that may be because we’re surrounded by this stuff every day.
You know how I mentioned that working though nerves takes practice? That’s what we do whenever we can, by meeting up with other photographers and spending time on the other side of the camera. We do this because everyone needs some nice photos of themselves, and to keep perspective on just how tough it can be to do what we’re asking couples to do.
During these shoots, we lean into the nerves. We use the butterflies as fuel. Jess and I do a bunch of goofy shit when there’s no one around, and this nervous energy’s great for bringing that out during these photo sessions. We dance around, hang all over each other, do dramatic stuff, laugh about how nervous we are, run around… it’s great. Being able to say fuck it and just doing what you want is a true skill in photos (and in general).
We also practice taking selfies whenever possible, because we’re not always around other photographers. And because this is a really low-stakes way to practice being in front of a camera. Feeling a bit more brave, you can ask other folks to take your picture if you’re somewhere with people around. Pictures turn out terrible? No one sees ‘em.
How the best photos are made
This varies from person to person. In general, great photos show who you are and the unique way you love each other in a flattering way.
Some folks think, “I’m nervous for these photos, so they’re gonna be terrible” but this isn’t really the case. Because again, everyone’s nervous, and still great photos get made.
There’s this great quote from Dan Rather: “Courage is being afraid but going on anyhow.” That’s what we’re asking our couples to do – to accept that they’re nervous or afraid, but to be open to making great photos anyhow.
The wrong way to approach a photo shoot is to realize you’re nervous, cross your arms, plant your feet, and close yourself off. Or drinking too much beforehand.
The right way is going on anyhow.
Because when you’re feeling uninhibited, when you’re able to open up, when you’re able to focus on your partner and how much you love them, when you’re able to take in a view from wherever you are, when you’re able to help them during the shoot and them you, when you’re able to do the things you do together when no one’s around: that’s when the magic happens.
That’s how the best photos are made.