When I worked as a wedding photographer, one of the most common concerns I heard from clients was that they don’t want their wedding day to feel like a photo shoot. Which, of course, it shouldn’t. As the daughter of a photographer, I’m all too familiar with photo fatigue: the moment when you realize that smiling through one more photo means your face will definitely melt off. Particularly for introverts (though certainly not limited to them), having to endure an extended period of time where you feel like you have to be “on” can be seriously draining.
Of course, the easy answer is that you don’t need every shot on Pinterest’s must-have list, or heck, you can even forgo photos if they just aren’t a priority. But for those of us who want to have our cake and eat it too, here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years that can help minimize the effects of photo fatigue and allow you to enjoy your wedding the way you and your partner intended it.
Choose the right photographer for you
I was a bridesmaid in a wedding once where the first thing the photographer did upon arrival was stage an elaborate boudoir session for the bride, complete with sultry faces and Austin Powers–esque directions from the photographer. I don’t know if he even said hi to anyone in the room. I’m sure you can guess how the rest of that day went. So first things first, ask your photographer about their style. How do they approach their work? Are they going to be minimally invasive during the day? Or do they take a more editorial approach to things? Photojournalists, as a rule, tend to make a real effort to stay out of the way and allow moments to unfold naturally. (My BFF’s wedding photographer was so invisible that I didn’t even realize she had a photographer until pictures showed up on Instagram the following week. And yet, judging by the photos, he was everywhere. That is a skill.) Which doesn’t mean photojournalists won’t do posed portraits and family photos. Just that those things aren’t usually the focus of their work and, therefore, your day. But whatever style you choose, your photographer should make you feel comfortable enough in front of the camera that getting your photo taken starts blurring lines with maybe having a little fun.
Secure yourself some privacy
Just because you’ve hired a photographer to capture every moment of your wedding, it doesn’t mean you need every moment captured. So if you want some privacy, just ask for it. Getting ready can be a great time to decompress before the wedding (boudoir sessions notwithstanding), and if you think you might want that, it’s totally fine to request that your photographer not show up until the very end or just after. Another great option is to take a few minutes away from everyone right after your ceremony to have a quiet moment to reflect with your partner. Your photographer will take that time to focus on photographing your guests and rehydrating.
Keep family portraits to a minimum
When I shot weddings, I’d say nine out of ten couples expected the formal portraits of the two of them to be the major time suck of wedding photography. But often it’s the family portraits that end up taking the most time to execute, because, well, there are more people to wrangle. My recommendation is to keep your list of family portraits as short as you can. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to exclude your favorite uncle from your family photos. Just think about what photos you might actually end up framing and use that as a guide. Realistically, are you going to frame three separate portraits of each of your aunts? Probably not, so group them together into one picture (obviously you know better than anyone else who is important to you, so group accordingly). And my expert tip? With the exception of some special family members (like your siblings, maybe, or a three generations photo with you and your mom and your grandmother) there are few photos that you’re going to want to frame in the future with just you or your spouse alone with your respective families. So save yourself the time and include both of yourselves in the family portraits.
Do your couples portraits during dinner
There are lots of great moments to take couples portraits, and I know a lot of people opt for first looks these days. I, myself, am a proponent of getting ready together and seeing each other before the ceremony, especially if you’re nervous or have any anxiety about the ceremony. But if you’re trying to minimize the amount of time you spend actually posing in front of the camera, my favorite tip is to save formal portraits for dinner. The rationale is simple: by the time dinner rolls around, you’ve gotten through most or all of the scheduled parts of the day. You’ve already had a chance to mingle with your guests, and you’ve possibly even had a cocktail or three. The vibe, as a result, is relaxed. And since most of the time the couple eats before the rest of the guests, your guests will be busy stuffing their faces with lasagna when you sneak off for twenty minutes of portraits at sunset. Plus, at that point in the evening, a few minutes alone with your partner (and your photographer trailing a comfortable distance behind you) usually ends up being a welcome break from the party. Be sure to talk with your photographer about light to make sure it won’t be too dark for portraits during dinner, but if you’re getting married in the summer, sunset and dinner usually coincide perfectly with each other.
At the end of the day, getting your pictures taken shouldn’t feel like a chore. And your wedding definitely shouldn’t feel like a photo shoot. But for those among us who hate having photos taken to begin with, there are ways to make it less painful. And some don’t even involve champagne. Unless, of course, you want it. I’m cool with that.
THIS POST ORIGINALLY RAN ON APW IN February 2013.