On Being Photographed


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.


Abby and me.

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.

This is me with my arms out and chin up.

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.

This is also me.

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.

Who needs a beauty dish?

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.]


  1. This is the first time I have ever looked at your blog- I saw the name on the side of souris mariage, and thought, is that wedding or movie related? So I clicked, and this post is exactly what I needed to see- I hate pictures of myself. To the extent that of the ten or so that exist of my FH and me (there were more, once, but my laptop got nicked) I have approved 1 to go on our website, and cringe every time I see another on facebook. Our photographer says we’re the first couple she’s ever met that want NO “casual” shots- all posed, even if we’re posed into “in the moment” shots because we both make that face or get caught talking every. single. time.

    That was a lot of words to say, I’m glad I picked today to check out your blog, in time to see that post.

    • Welcome! I hope that this post can help you appreciate pictures of you and your fiance caught talking, laughing, whathevering that makes you look a little silly, because the best thing I have learned about being photographed a lot is that we often look our best when we are caught completely off guard.

  2. Clearly, you stopped by my WTF face post today (or if not, we’re highly sympatico, you’re the A side to my B side).

    So, um, yeah. You’re also crazy beautiful, which makes even your WTF face look fabulous. And, yeah, I need practice. I also need to accept what I look like today instead of wishing I still looked like what I looked like eight years ago.

    • I had this posts in drafts yesterday, and when I read your post today I felt all the more sure I should go live with it. [Regardless, I think we are A and B sides of one highly awesome album.]

      What I really want to say here is that once you reach the point where broadcasting your WTF face feels like no big deal, showing your “pretty face” is also de-powered to the point where you can be a real human outside of your appearance. Which I think is a fundamental goal for all women in a quasi-post-feminist-time, no?

      And seeing your “here is the face I must overcome post” today just made me think, “Sarah looks so much like [redacted name of high school friend]; I feel like I already know her in real life.” You are, yourself, a gorgeous lady.

  3. You are alone dear HitchDied. I am also an amateur model, or at least I used to be. After I had just graduated from undergrad, I used to meet up with photographers and have my picture taken. Normally I did dance poses for them since I used to be a dancer (I do not have a models body and never pretended I did). I did it for about 2 years. I never intended to make money off of it, but it was fun.

    Looking back, I actually think it’s prepared me to have my picture taken on the day of the wedding just like you said. So yes, practice makes somewhat perfect. Learning what position to hold your head and angle your body in pictures has helped a lot.

  4. That is awesome! I’m glad I’m not the only one.

  5. Dang I got someone to take my photo to get me comfy in front of the camera but never looked at the photos.

    Always far too scared. Stupid anna.

    Listen to Robin not me, Sarah!

  6. thansk for the tips! I loathe getting my photo taken. I did like 90% of our wedding photos though. I love your expressions in the above shots & I especially like your striped socks.

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  8. Practice makes perfect. Yes it’s about being comfortable in front of the camera but it’s also about performing for the camera. Film stars don’t say ‘I’m being filmed’, they say ‘I’m filming’. I’m still looking for an active verb to replace the passive ‘being photographed’. Any suggestions?

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