I have a ridiculous hobby. Even more ridiculous than blogging about my wedding. I’m an amateur model. Some people get together with friends to shoot hoops; some people get together with friends to shoot tequila; I get together with friends to shoot photographs.
After five years and literally thousands of photographs, I have gotten really comfortable having my picture taken. I didn’t realize before I got engaged what a valuable asset that is for a bride.
I want to try to share my wisdom with you, but you may not like my advice. Sure, I could say, “hold up your chin and don’t let your arms just hang there,” but you probably already know that, but a picture of a person with her chin stuck out and her arms akimbo can still look awkward as hell if that person hates having her picture taken.
I could say, “Just relax and be yourself,” but I think you all figured out around first grade that advice is the epitome of “easier said than done.”
My advice for how to learn to be comfortable having your picture taken is to have your picture taken A LOT.
You don’t need to have a goofy set of friends like mine who call each other up on Sunday afternoons and say, “Frick Park, 20 minutes. Wear a cocktail dress.” You don’t need to have a friend with a badass SLR. You need a camera, any camera, and someone to take your picture. You can even take your own picture if you have a timer or don’t consider yourself above the MySpace Reach.
Take your picture in different lights, in different kinds of outfits, with different amounts of makeup. And look at the photos. Really look at them. Not just so you can train yourself to not make that face next time you’re being photographed (although that can be a plus), but so you get to know what you really look like. And embrace photos where you are making that face as photos of you.
Which is not to say that photographs are fair representations of reality. That’s the second lesson I want to impart in this post: photography can involve a lot of trickery, and that’s before Photoshop comes into play. But on your wedding day, there won’t really be time for elaborate three-flash setups and beauty dishes and soft boxes.
But if you’re used to how you look when you smile for a pocket digital camera, you’ll probably be wowed when a professional takes your photo with her fancy machine, even the lighting is all-natural and there hasn’t been one pixel of digital manipulation. If you are only used to how you look in a mirror, it can be a little more jarring to suddenly flip through hundreds of proofs.
Which brings me to my final lesson: quantity yields quality. I’m guessing that some professional photographers pride themselves on being able to “get it in one,” but in a post-film era that’s just macho posturing. When you’ve got hundreds of photos to choose from, some are going to look great, and some are going to look weird. Wedding photographers in particular have to capture fleeting moments, and the best ones must have impeccable timing for shots like “your face crumpling as you say your vows.” But I think a lot of them just take as many pictures as possible and get lucky.
Which means you’ll end up seeing a lot of pictures that were just coverage. Pictures where your crumpled face looks more like you are trying to suppress a sneeze than a true expression of the overwhelming emotion of your love. Pictures where only one of your eyes is open. Pictures where you can see your nose hair. It’s easier not to get hung up on those if you’re used to them.
So embrace your vanity. Get used to your face. Get used to staring down a camera lens. And then ignore it on your wedding day.
[Photos by the lovely and amazing Louis Stein.]