From the words of a portrait photographer:
How to look great in your wedding photos
from ManiSol Wedding
Hey there, thank you for being here! Selene speaking, the lead photographer and foundress of ManiSol Wedding.
Today I want to talk about you the single sentence I’ve been told the most during my first call/meeting with my couples: “I want to warn you, I never look good in pictures!”
It’s super common to wonder how to look great in your wedding photos, and from my experience, at least 90% of the people think they are un-photogenic.
These, instead, are some of the sentences those same brides and grooms told us after we delivered their wedding photos:
The photos – I don’t have words to explain. All I can tell you is that we were not standing posing like the normal wedding photos, they are playful and fun and captured each moment perfectly. I posted A LOT on my social media and people from back home and people I don’t even know say all of the time that our wedding photos are like something from a spread in Vogue.
Gillian & Robert, September 2019
For someone who is generally uncomfortable being photographed, Selene made us both feel at ease, the photos were absolutely incredible and we actually had fun. Everyone who has seen them has been blown away and has nothing but great things to say about her skills.
Emma & Rhys, August 2018
I got everything I expected and more. Not only did Selene shoot beautiful candid and posed photographs of the wedding, but she also managed to make me and my husband feel photogenic for the first time!
Theresa & Greg, May 2019
Obviously, those words were not put here to brag (though we are super happy when people say such nice things about our work!) but to put the whole “I am not photogenic” thing in perspective.
Besides being a Wedding Photographer, I am also a Portrait Photographer and I teach classes dedicated to Portrait Photography, specifically.
I want to be honest with you here – the reason why I think I am able to nail portrait photography and always do everything I can to make sure people like what they see in my photographs is that I, as well, used to hate my image in photographs. Therefore, my first thought when I started shooting portraits (almost ten years ago – ugh, feeling old right now) was: what can I do to make sure no one feels the way I do when they look at the photos of themselves I shot? What can I do to answer the same-old question on how to look great in your wedding photos?
Now – since I really want to be honest with you – I’ll show you what five years of learning, improving, trial & error can make in a photographer’s life:
Same couple, same photographer, five years in between. 2013 (in Italy) – it was my very first wedding as a solo photographer! – vs 2018 (in New York City).
So, obviously, the photographer you choose, their experience, and their ability to put you at ease make all the difference in the world when you pose for them. However, there are some tips & tricks that can help you to feel more comfortable when posing. But to understand them, we need to take a step back. This is what I always ask my couples when they say the before-mentioned phrase:
What do you mean when you say “I’m not photogenic?”
It may sound silly, but I promise, it’s not. These two are the most common answers our couples give us to that question:
1. “My face looks super weird when someone shoots a candid photo of myself”
2. “I hate posing. Whenever I see a camera pointed at me, I freeze!”
The answers seem similar, but they actually mean two completely different things, that should be handled – on our side – in two completely different ways. So, let’s dig into this a bit further.
Option 1: The photos you like the least are the ones in which you are not posing.
Caro & Chris, Boho Wedding in Verona
I will start with this option because that’s exactly my own case. If you feel like your face looks weird in your non-posed photos, you concentrate on every minor flaw, you think – ugh, do I really look like that?? – well… I got you. If you generally don’t like your looks in candid pictures, the thing you will likely end up doing is being super-aware of where the cameras are, try to always “pose” even when you shouldn’t, and generally speaking, be tense and unnatural whenever a camera is next to you. But you know what? This will make your photos look even weirder.
Feeling uncomfortable when looking at candid pictures of yourself generally proves either a lack of self-esteem in the way you look or the inability of the photographer to understand your needs, the things you consider flaws, and the ones you actually like the most about yourself.
Whenever someone tells me they don’t feel at ease when looking at candid photos of themselves, I always make sure I really look at their faces, their bodies, and, most importantly, the way their faces and bodies move when they speak or walk.
After years of studying, I found out that people who don’t like their candid photos tend to have more facial mimic than the norm (again, that’s me!). This means that they tend to move their face a lot when speaking, smiling, laughing, etc.
In this specific case, choosing the right photographer makes all the difference in the world. You should hire someone with whom you feel some sort of emotional/empathic connection, and most importantly, someone you feel you can trust. Don’t be embarrassed: tell your photographer the way you feel (you can share this link with them as well if you want!) and make sure they understand your needs, because – and I will write it big for those in the back –
you deserve to feel beautiful when looking at your wedding photos.
If you feel like this could be your case, a great idea would be to schedule an engagement session with your photographer: you will be able to “test” them, overcome your fears, and feel more at ease on your wedding day.
Option 2: The photos you like the least are the ones in which you are posing.
Strike a Pose. Romeo & Juliet Editorial
While feeling uneasy when looking at candid photos of yourself has more to do with how a person feels about the way they look, feeling uneasy when posing has a lot to do with how the photographer communicates with you during the shoot, and ultimately, with how the photographer behaves around you.
I always stress this infinitely when I teach portrait photography classes: we, as photographers, must be decent towards the people we photograph. Of course, feeling weird at first when being asked to pose is very common, and sometimes a person is simply shy. However, even the most experienced models would feel uncomfortable if the photographer – pardon the French – is behaving like an a-hole, not respecting the other person’s spaces and boundaries, acting weird, etc.
To me, communicating in length with my couples before the wedding day is absolutely fundamental. I want people to trust me when I photograph them. While shooting the portrait session I always make clear that this is a special moment for the couple to share, not a way for myself to build a portfolio. That we can keep shooting as long as they are having fun, and to always let me know if something I am doing, or asking them to do, is making them feel even slightly uncomfortable.
This empathic-centered approach works wonders. Even someone who has never been in front of the camera can feel like a supermodel by the end of the shooting and creating editorial-style portraits can be incredibly fun – for both parts! Just to give you a visual reference, this is a side-by-side comparison of one of the first vs. one of the last pictures of the same session:
this is what trust & empathy can do!
As you can see, the choice of the right photographer is extremely important and can change your whole wedding day experience. You don’t need to look like supermodels to have some amazing wedding day photographs, but you need to find a photographer you can really trust and be comfortable with. In one of the next articles, I will write in-depth about how we handle the wedding couple portraits, and how we mix candid and staged photographs to create the best experience for our couples. So stay tuned!
Thank you for reading our How to Look Great in your Wedding Photos!
We hope you enjoyed this, and we hope this article can be useful for your wedding planning. If you want to know more secrets and tips & tricks to plan your perfect destination wedding, you can download our free, comprehensive e-book, Wedding Day Ready. You can find it here: