Worried about how you look in your wedding photos?

My 5 year old daughter Audrey’s favourite book is Roald Dahl’s The Twits. Audrey delighted in the sheer naughtiness of the story as the Twits play cruel pranks on each other, but she picked up on one passage in particular that has a more profound message.

If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.

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.
— Roald Dahl 'The Twits'

‘But what does this have to do with wedding photography?’ I hear the fictional reader say allowing me to move onto the actual point of this blog.

Most people, male and female, don’t like having their photograph taken. They certainly don’t like looking at the photographs in detail after they have been taken. This can lead to long delays when choosing which photographs to put in albums or made into wall art. Sometimes it can even result in an email from the couple who are unhappy with their photographs.

This unhappiness is not just restricted to photographers but can spread to other wedding suppliers such as hair and make up artists, wedding ring makers, and dress designers. This is something I’ve learned the hard way while photographing dozens and dozens of weddings over the past four years.

’I fall in love with all of the couples I photograph,’ I said to one of the bridesmaids at Rebecca and Ben’s Yorkshire wedding. It’s an odd thing or a 6’ 1” bearded, working class Geordie to say, but it’s true.

A relaxed, natural photograph of Rebecca and Ben at Bagden Hall in Yorkshire

A relaxed, natural photograph of Rebecca and Ben at Bagden Hall in Yorkshire

When I look through the viewfinder of my camera I don’t see any flaws. I make no negative judgements regarding appearance. I get to know how the light falls on someone’s face. How their eyes crinkle when they Duchenne smile. I see the little look they give to their partner during the speeches. I feel the very real love between two people.

I wish I could take a wire from my head and plug it directly into couples brains so that they could see themselves the way I do. I wish I could separate their minds from their physical bodies so that they could look at themselves with all the affection they look at each other with.

I wish couples could remember that Roald Dahl quote.

It’s understandable.

We are under continual daily assault by lifestyle magazines, Instagram, Pinterest, wedding blogs, diet books, films and music videos, advertisements. You are told to drop two dress sizes, get shredded, Konmari your drawers, cook falafel from scratch on marble worktops, build a designer minimalist capsule wardrobe, and backpack around Croatia to curate the perfect Instagram feed. Following that onslaught it’s unsurprising that real people don’t feel good enough. That they’ll never be good enough. It bleeds into the edges of your vision, poisoning your thoughts every time that you look in the mirror.

It can ruin your life, never mind your wedding day.

In my blog for Zoë and Ed’s Yorkshire wedding, I asked Zoë ‘what is the most important piece of advice you could share with couples?’

It’s your day - so make sure the day is a reflection of you and not an instagram overload.
— Zoë
Zoë and Ed leaving the church at their smart but informal Yorkshire wedding

Zoë and Ed leaving the church at their smart but informal Yorkshire wedding

As your wedding photographer I can see that all of the messages we are fed by the media are rubbish. You are more than good enough. You are loved and you can love. Your family and friends sharing your wedding day is evidence of that. Someone wants to spend the rest of their life with you for goodness sake!

I wish I could grab each of my couples and give them a big hug.

I can’t undo all of the conditioning that everyone in the western world has gone through for their entire lifetime in one blog, but I can offer some advice.

Beth and Lee in Jesmond Dene following their wedding at As You Like It in Newcastle

Beth and Lee in Jesmond Dene following their wedding at As You Like It in Newcastle

Don’t be put off hiring a wedding photographer because of worrying how you look

Even if you can’t get over the fact that you don’t like the way you look in photographs, think about your loved ones who do see the real, beautiful you. Your wedding photographs will enhance and spark their memories of your happy day for years to come. You’ll be able to share the photographs with your children or grand children in the future and who knows, you might look back and not be so critical of the way you looked.

Your wedding photographs aren’t about showing how you looked they are about showing how you felt

I’m not photographing your physical body, I’m photographing the love between two people that manifests itself through your physical body. I’m photographing that moment when you walk down the aisle and see your partner. I’m photographing your hand affectionately touching your partner’s back as they talk to an old school friend. I’m photographing your mother looking at you lovingly while making a speech because your dad isn’t at the wedding.

I’m photographing the tears, the laughter, the apprehension, the anger, the sadness, and the happiness that go to make up a wedding day.

Get someone you trust to help you look at your wedding photographs

Your partner, your parents, your best friend, a work colleague. It doesn’t matter who it is, but pick someone you trust to help you look through your photos and pick the ones you need to order as prints or make into an album. They’ll see the real you, not the fucked up version of you that you have rattling around inside your skull. They’ll help to get you out of yourself and see things in the photographs that you didn’t even see yourself because you have blinkers on. They will see your beauty and your character.

I look at your wedding photographs like that trusted person, having experienced your wedding day for 8 or more hours, edited the photos for hours on end to convey how the day felt, and then delivered them. That’s why it’s heartbreaking that there’s a disconnect with how couples perceive themselves.

Alex meeting Sam at the end of the aisle arm in arm with her Dad at le Petit Château in Northumberland

Alex meeting Sam at the end of the aisle arm in arm with her Dad at le Petit Château in Northumberland

What do I do in situations like this? Well for one thing I’ll try and swim against the tide by trying to get the message out there that you don’t have to be perfect to have your photograph taken. I’ll direct people to this blog.

And I’ll remind people that your love shines out of you like sunbeams.