We’re pretty excited about a new series we’re starting on GWS called Ask the Expert, where we’ll be sharing tips, insight and advice from wedding experts we love + trust! To kick off the series, we’re chatting with the amazing Samm Blake from The Wedding Artists Collective about current trends for couple’s portraits! Today, you’ll learn more about how to get the most out of your photographer during your portrait session, along with some awesome advice on how to relax and be yourself, even with a camera pointing your way!
Below, Samm tells us more about her personal approach and we think knowing as much as possible about your wedding photographer is only going to be helpful in the long run. After all, we’re pretty sure your portraits are one of the main reasons you’re really hiring a great photographer and it’s important to know how they like to shoot – and what you can do on your end to help make the images even better!
On The Ever-Debated First Look
Samm says: Contrary to a lot of other wedding photographers I don’t prefer to do a first look with portraits before the ceremony. I feel I can get more in 10 minutes with a relaxed and happy couple than I can spending an hour with a nervous one.
I prefer doing the portraits of the couple after the ceremony as they are generally far more relaxed and their whole energy is different. I often find before the ceremony, the couple is anxious about the ceremony and after the ceremony, the hard part of the day is over with and its now just a time to enjoy.. therefore I find couples are so much more relaxed.
I also find makeup/hair generally runs late, which means the first look time will be cut short as the ceremony still needs to start on time. This then results in a nervous / anxious bride and/or couple. A bride that is rushing to put on her wedding dress and get out the door, creates a nervous energy that is not ideal to creating the best photographs. I feel like at this time, a million things are running through their heads and they are not able to focus on each other and be completely in the moment at that time, which I feel is a necessary part to creating amazing pictures for my couples!
Another big part of why I prefer to do the couple’s pictures after the ceremony, is that the bride is so incredibly anxious about getting her dress dirty before the ceremony, but after the ceremony, it is barely a concern. One of the hardest parts of my day is trying to convince the bride she should drop her dress and let it touch the ground. That is a prerequisite in order to make amazing photographs! You need to be able to walk comfortably in your dress and if you have a train, let it be on the ground in order to create natural and relaxed photographs. It is so hard to make beautiful pictures if the bride is freaking out / shows nervousness on her face about getting the dress dirty. Obviously I do my best to not get it dirty but I know that it will get a little dirty in order to make great photographs! At the end of the day, I think having a great collection of photographs that shows off your amazing dress outweighs not letting you dress touch the ground, and by touching the ground, I also mean walking with the dress touching the ground, as the best photographs are one’s when there is movement to them.
How To Relax During Your Portrait Session
Going for a walk and shooting as you go is a good way to get couple’s feeling relaxed and comfortable. They’ll interact, talking and laughing with each other as they normally would. It helps them to almost forget that you’re shooting.
I always like starting a shoot by doing some walking shots, this is a great way for the couple to forget somewhat they are being photographed and stops limbs to become stiff and awkward, which can sometimes happen at the start of the shoot. Being photographed is a awkward and uncomfortable process for most people and I find the best ways to photograph someone is forgetting they are being photographed, where they are forgetting to be conscious about where they think they should place their hands or how they think they should smile. I find it best to get to this place is through action and movement.
Another thing I like to start off a shoot with is giving my couples a little pep talk, mostly reminding them / giving them permission for them to be themselves. So often people become self conscious when they know they have a camera on them, they freeze up and wait for prompts to do something. Reminding a couple to be themselves is such a simple thing but helps so much to remind them to not wait for my prompt to do anything. “Kiss her if you feel like kissing her, do not wait for me to tell you to do so!” Another thing that also helps so much is just acknowledging that it’s totally fine to feel a bit awkward, saying that out-loud to them takes a weight off their shoulders. I think so many people get awkward about feeling awkward. By letting them know its very natural to feel awkward feels like it sets them free of it.
Over the years of shooting, I have also learnt to embrace and be okay with quiet, to give my clients space. I find I create my best images in this time, by not having a constant dialogue back and forth, I find it gives the couple room to breathe and some sort of magic happens and I create my best work, just letting couples do their thing. My second shooters often tell me how quiet of a shooter i am and rather then feeling weird about, i am embracing it and making it work for me and the types of couples I attract.
Posing + Being Yourself
Let the couple embrace each other as they naturally would- don’t pose people too much or tell them where to put their hands. It can start to feel too forced.
I want to create photographs that are authentic and stir emotion and memory inside a person, rather then just creating a pretty picture. I need to go about creating the photographs in a different method than just telling them what pose I think they should do next. I want my photographs to have some extra feeling and meaning rather then just being pretty. I think the real beauty of a wedding photograph is when the couple looks back on their images and are flooded with emotion and memory of how they felt on their wedding day. I never want to tell a couple where to place their hands or how they should pose as such, I prefer a couple to interact as naturally as possible. I prefer to give a very basic direction of what I want them to do, and I trust they will do that it in the most natural way to who they are. One thing I like to ask my couples to give each other the biggest hug they have ever given each other before.. this creates the most amazing pictures as there is so much passion and emotion going into that hug. This is something I could never do by asking them to pose in such a way and it would never be in the way that is natural to them and it would be this forced unnatural creation of a photograph, which I am not a fan of.
We loved hearing more about Samm’s laid back approach, but we know every photographer is going to work a bit differently. In the end, it’s really important for couples to ask their photographer questions about their shooting style so everyone can be on the same page! Couples choose Samm because her style is very relaxed, however some clients might want photos that are more directed or crafted. We hope this series helps you think about what you want from your wedding photos and helps you decide on what type of photographer to book for your day!
Thanks so much to Samm Blake for sharing these amazing tips + insight with us today! Be sure to tell us in the comments section below: what other questions do you have for wedding experts that you’d love to see answered in this series?