Unless you’re a model or a celebrity, most of us aren’t used to having a camera pointed in our direction for a whole day. I don’t know about you but when I’m in front of the lens, I tense up and my normal smile turns to something resembling a grimace. The alternative to that is for me to lift my head up, look down my nose and fill my cheeks with air, giving the camera my best ‘holier than thou’ puffer fish pose. Either way- not a great look! My wife generally has to prod me in the side to remind me to try and smile like a human being. Lucky for me, I spend most of my time behind the camera, rather than in front of it. But what are you supposed to do if your worst nightmare is having a camera on you all day and your wedding is lying in wait ahead of you? I’ve had many couples who have been in that position and, lucky for you, I’ve put together my top tips on how to be comfortable in front of the camera. Check out 5 things you can do and 5 things I like to do as well, all to help you feel relaxed and look natural in front of the camera.
What you can do
Get the chemistry right when booking your photographer
So you’ve started looking at photographers and you’ve shortlisted your 5 favourites. They are all within budget and have beautiful portfolios so who to pick? The best thing you can do from there is to get on Skype or head to a coffee shop to meet them all. It may take a while but it is time very well spent, trust me! Once you have spoken to them, just consider, who did you feel most comfortable around? Who did you gel with the most? If they make you comfortable, it is going to be a lot easier to relax when they are snapping away on the day. A lot of my couples and their families describe me as a friend rather than just another supplier by the time their wedding comes to a close and that’s how it should be. If you can imagine your photographer being someone you could spend time with at a dinner party, rather than just another supplier there for a transaction, you’ve already got a head start on looking and feeling relaxed in your wedding photos.
Give it a trial run at an engagement shoot
An engagement shoot is a brilliant idea for a lot of reasons- a celebration of your commitment, great for wedding stationery, Christmas presents for the parents and grandparents sorted. But don’t forget that this is a great warm-up for the big day. The scariest part for a lot of couples are the couple portraits on the wedding day as you have time to slow down and get nervous. An engagement shoot is a less formal version of these where you aren’t pressed for time and you can take the time to try things out. It takes away the fear of the unknown. It will also give you a great opportunity to get to know your photographer and their style better and get used to having the camera focussed on you.
Be honest with your photographer
When it comes down to it, the person who is going to help you through the nerves and awkwardness the most is your photographer. Don’t forget that they have done this before and know how to handle every situation thrown their way. If there is something in particular that you feel uncomfortable about, just let them know. They will be able to adapt to how they do things to make you less nervous and more comfortable. Or help put your mind at rest. And at the end of the day, that will all feed into getting wedding photos that you will treasure for the rest of your life.
Get away from the crowd
Trust me when I say, you won’t notice a documentary style photographer for the majority of your day. Any docu-photographer worth their salt knows how to blend in and capture the day as it unfolds. And you’ll be so busy in the unfolding that you won’t have a spare moment to think of where the photographer is. When it comes to the couple portraits, however, you’ll obviously be acutely aware of them. That’s when most people show their discomfort in front of the lens. Make life easier on yourselves and organise your couple photos to be done away from the rest of the wedding. The last thing you need is 100 extra pairs of eyes cooing over you both!
Make the most of the moments you have alone
You won’t get much time alone on your wedding day so make the most of your couple portrait shoot. A top tip to help the moments look natural is… to make the moments natural! Plan ahead and come up with 3 highlights from your relationship to tell your new spouse during your couple shoot. It will make everything more enjoyable and will bring all of those emotions to the surface that you would want to be captured as you start your new life together.
What I can do for you
Get to know you
It’s very similar to my point from above but also very important. I know that I can’t make a couple feel comfortable around me if I don’t know them. This is part of the reason I make sure I take the time to get to know each and every couple and any worries they have about the photography before the day. If I can make it feel like we’re just hanging out (wedding dress, sunset, and camera aside!), I know we will get great photos. It also means that I can tailor the couple portrait session to the couple, and make sure I get those images that they will absolutely love.
Collaboration is key
Each couple I work with is unique. That means that I become completely adaptable to make the most of the photography for each wedding. For some couples during the portrait sessions, I will be very prescriptive, giving frequent suggestions of what to do so they don’t feel left out on a limb. And for others, I will back off completely and let the moments unfold naturally as they relax. No matter what particular James is required, I will always be really encouraging and let you know if something needs changing. At the end of the day, I will be working my hardest to get you the best photography of your day possible.
Blending into the background
When thinking about most of the day where the ceremony and reception is unfolding, for these moments, it will be as though I’m not there at all or just one of your guests. Having done this for so long, I know when to blend into the background and just be snapping away. And I know when to get some friendly interaction going to make your guests comfortable. I will never be in your way and won’t be conspicuous when capturing all the special moments from the day. Your guests need to be enjoying the wonderful celebration you have put together, not distracted by the photographer!
Let’s get the conversation going!
When taking couples aside for their portrait sessions, you might find that I start asking you random questions about the two of you and about your lives. It’s all a part of my (not so!) genius plan to distract you from me. The more you reminisce and think about your favourite date or who does all the cooking or where your next holiday will be to, the less you are thinking about me and the more you are going to enjoy things. So be ready for random questions heading your way!
Let the music play!
A simple but nifty trick. Music. Often, that is all it takes for people to relax. You may think me odd for this but I sometimes just get my phone out along with my portable speakers and start up some background music when it’s just the two of you in front of the camera at your portrait session. Whether it’s your favourite artist or just some relaxing acoustic music to match the sunset, music is a great way to muscle out some of your discomfort and make the whole experience just a bit more romantic. It is your wedding day after all!