One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made as a growing photographer is following other photographers’ lead without asking myself whether or not it fits with me, my vision, and my business. I’d see other photographers doing fun/quirky/unique poses or stylizing details in creative ways, and I’d blindly imitate them without pausing to think over whether or not this pose works for MY couples or MY vision. Frankly, I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that I didn’t know what the heck my vision was (still working on that), so not having a filter to push things through was causing a bit of chaos- I was imitating the sort of thing I’d seen other professionals doing without thinking about the fact that I’m not the same person, photographer, or business owner. I think most photographers can probably identify with this sort of thing, especially during the early stages of your business!
It first dawned on me that I was making a mistake when I caught myself taking a photograph that I really and truly couldn’t justify, and honestly, didn’t even like. I was at a gorgeous venue and for some reason decided that photographing the dress outside was the perfect place to shoot, so outside we went. Something didn’t feel right, and it wasn’t until I was culling a few days later that I realized the reason behind my discomfort- I couldn’t explain WHY I’d taken the dress outside.
Before I offend anyone, let me be perfectly clear- I have no qualms whatsoever with photographing dresses outdoors. I’ve seen some really beautiful images of dresses hanging on tree branches, stone walls, etc- my friend Lauryn does it really well! But for me and my personal style as an artist, I’m discovering more and more than I prefer images that feel as though I may have happened upon the item/couple and photographed them as they are.
I won’t call myself a photojournalist- TRUE photojournalists like Jonas Peterson don’t move or style anything. If there’s a water bottle on the bed next to the shoes, that’s how they’ll photograph it, Aquafina and all. But I do want the images I capture to feel classic, authentic, organic; I want my brides and grooms to look back on their images and be able to enjoy reminiscing about their memories without the distraction of wondering why their rings were photographed on a complicated background involving their wedding cake, sparklers and a pair of cufflinks. Again, not that there’s anything wrong with that- it’s just not my style. So when I photograph something like a pair of shoes, I’ve learned that the images I’m MOST satisfied with are usually clean, free of lots of extra detail, and reminiscent of an elegant simplicity.
The same sort of idea applies when I’m posing my brides and grooms. To be clear, I DO pose my clients- I know they’re not professional models and being given direction on how to stand, where to direct their eyes, allows them to relax and trust that I’m going to make them look amazing. When I pose my brides and grooms, I’ve learned to try and filter each and every pose through the same “WHY” filter- why am I posing them this way? Is this how they may stand/sit when they’re alone, without onlookers? If the answer is yes, then fire away! If the answer is no, I reevaluate.
Sometimes, it’s fun to break the rules. Because I’m my own boss and I can. One of my favorite ring shots EVER is from Brad & Lauren’s wedding- that pink bottle of Coco Mademoiselle was calling to me. I made an artistic decision to bend my own rules and as a result, I captured an image that I will ALWAYS love. There are still elements of that classic simplicity that I love, though- the bottle of perfume is timeless, Lauren’s ring is effortlessly elegant. Would Lauren have naturally set her ring down on top of her perfume bottle like this? Probably not, but this is an instance where I took creative license… because I am, at heart, a creative.
It doesn’t always work out like that- I’ve put a lot of time in the past into creating these crazy complicated-yet-awesome jewelry shots only to look at them later with distaste- why? Because they look too contrived. Because it feels like I was trying to be someone else. And in those instances I’m reminded to ask myself WHY, and that it’s ok that my images don’t necessarily look like what everyone else is doing, that my photographs don’t involve the trendy poses I see so often on big wedding blogs. Because that call to classic? That’s what makes me ME.