I got married in January 2021 and once you’re done liking all the photos of my gorgeous wife (what else is Instagram for?), I’d like to share a little wisdom with you as a wedding dress and suit designer who learned a whole ton about weddings when she had one, too. Specifically, I want to talk to you about wedding photos.
Full disclosure: Both my wife and I work in the wedding industry. I make outfits that make people feel their best on the day they get married; my wife is a wedding photographer. If any two people know something about taking wedding photos, you’d think it would be us but guess what? The wedding industry doesn’t care who you are; it messes with your head. That’s especially true when you’re queer.
Questions to ask a wedding photographer
All those head-thrown-back-laughing, devil-may-care wedding photos that you see on Instagram and Pinterest? I thought those were easy to get. Don’t you just smile and say cheese? Unfortunately, as both my wife and I learned, taking a good photo means being comfortable.
“Being comfortable” means different things for different people. For some couples, it’ll mean being in a familiar place that you love. For others, it will mean having something in common with your photographer like a shared TV show or candy bar. For my wife and I, it meant knowing that our photographer wasn’t weirded out that we’re queer.
Unfortunately, figuring out that information means asking questions. I know, I know. It’s 2021; shouldn’t wedding vendors just be upfront about celebrating everybody’s joy at this point?
Until that glorious day comes, however, I have a few go-to questions I recommend you and your partner ask when interviewing a wedding photographer: Have you ever photographed a queer couple? If so, how many? How do you pose your queer couples?
That last one is particularly important because if the answer is “No, I don’t pose my queer couples any differently than my straight couples,” wrong! Try again! Your queer couples deserve better because the same old poses might make us feel uncomfortable, unseen, and, worst of all, unsafe.
If you’re a wedding photographer, remember: It’s OK to do research and it’s OK to ask your couples questions. This article from Equally Wed is a good place to start and I’ll add my own suggestion: Before taking any photos, ask your queer couples “Who’s the big spoon?” It’s a good way to avoid any kind of assumptions about who does what in any given relationship.
As a couple, it could feel awkward or even dangerous to ask these questions and I want to acknowledge that no matter how you feel about asking, there’s a level of emotional labor here that should not be discounted. I also found this information vital as my wife and I planned our wedding. Feeling comfortable with your photographer makes all the difference between good photos you keep for forever and bad photos you delete as soon as you get them — and that’s good advice no matter who you are.
What does your wedding photographer stand for?
I recommended two other interview questions — Have you ever photographed a queer couple? If so, how many? — that could make a wedding photographer’s head start to spin. Maybe you’ve never photographed a queer couple before not out of malice but just because it hasn’t happened (and if you want ideas on how to change that, let’s talk). So how do you answer these questions? Have you just lost the lead?
Couples, you know what I’m going to say: If someone says “no, I haven’t photographed a queer couple before,” you’re probably not going to hang up the phone. You’re going to see how they talk to you. Are they nervous about wording? Are they making assumptions about you and your partner? Are they saying all brides are women or that every wedding has a bride and a groom and which one are you?
You’ve probably already done your research because you want to make sure you and your partner are safe. You’ve checked the vendor’s social feeds. What are they advocating for? Is it for the love, safety, and joy of all couples or just the straight, white, and skinny ones? If you don’t see yourself represented in any capacity, don’t hire them. (Fellow vendors, did you catch that? You don’t have to have the full gallery of photos as long as you are actively trying to do better and are willing to publicly advocate for people who don’t look like you.)
Do remember: This conversation goes beyond being LGBTQIA friendly. This is about actively celebrating and affirming the love of a couple. When my wife and I were interviewing vendors for our wedding, we wanted people who wouldn’t just shrug their shoulders and take our money; we wanted people who believed in our human right to marry the person we love.
Ways we looked for this kind of affirmation included a vendor asking for and using our pronouns and showing a vested interest in us versus checking some invisible box of “working with a queer couple.” These things may sound small but they matter!
What are they good at?
Another thing that I learned: To put it very simply, different photographers are good at different things. Some are really great at shooting inanimate objects. They’ve got that wow factor that makes a flat object pop. Some really capture the intimacy, and encourage it. Other photographers are awesome with dogs and with kids, while still more excel at landscape photography. What you see is what you get.
As a couple, it can be hard to know what your photographer is good at because there are so many photos to look at and only so many hours in the day. My best advice: What do you feel when you look at this photographer’s wedding-related photos? What does your partner feel? If you vibe with what you’re seeing, chances are good they’re a photographer worth talking to. Try to look beyond editing styles.
Why does this all matter?
You can’t fake intimacy. That’s the biggest lesson I learned about wedding photos from my wife and I’s wedding. No amount of golden hour light or editing will add that particular sparkle that takes your photo from being a photo to being a memento of your love at a very special moment in time. So fight for your right to feel comfortable with the people you hire, whether it’s for photos or some other service on your wedding day. You’re worth it.
Share your wedding story with me! I’d love to hear it.