This Is How to Get Killer Wedding Photos When You Hate Having Your Picture Taken

This photographer gives her clients a wedding support group

Woman with flower crown in bright pink dress and man in a white tux kissing on a rock on the beach in front of the ocean

Out of all of the stressors of wedding planning, you know what kept me up at night? Mandatory public displays of affection. I mean, you can customize a ceremony all you want, but have you ever been to one where the couple didn’t kiss at the end? Or seen wedding photos that didn’t look, at a bare minimum, affectionate? Yeah, me either. Having a camera pointed at you is awkward no matter what, but then needing to make out with your partner in front of it? Umm, please don’t make me?! But needless to say, I survived. And a lot of that was due to our lovely photographer who made the whole thing feel totally normal. (Engagement sessions are not necessary, but we found ours super helpful for this reason.)

I know I’m not alone in this (because seriously, making out in front of a total stranger with a camera is not a normal occurrence), and I think that’s why I’ve become convinced that the photographers who get their clients to feel totally relaxed and safe end up being the ones who take the best pictures. Photographers like Richmond, Virginia–based Shawnee Custalow and photos like this:

bride kissing her bride's cheek on a carousel Two men laughing and embracing in front of a brightly colored walltwo brides hugging and smiling in front of a white pillar

SO good, right? Most photographers will have a handful of shots per year that good, but Shawnee Custalow (who you may have heard of around these parts as A Lovely Photo) is repeatedly turning out entire galleries where each photo is better than the last.

Add that to the fact that Shawnee will travel—for free—anywhere in the U.S. to photograph her people (mostly queer, entirely feminist, and definitely just like you guys), with most wedding packages at $3,500, and it could be your wedding that looks this incredible (although I’m not quite sure you’ll be able to top running a half-marathon with your guests in wedding-themed running gear).

man kissing his partner beneath a treebride and groom holding hands and smiling in front of a wall that reads "Greetings from Richmond Virginia Charm School Social Club"Man in tux kissing woman in blue, pink, and green gown in the forrest on a mountain

Shawnee Custalow works her magic by giving you a safe space to be yourself, basically becoming a camera-wielding BFF that it’s not awkward to make out in front of. As she promises:

I really try to connect with my couples and put them at ease on their wedding day by making them as comfortable as possible. And as a queer lady, I understand that being a part of the LGBTQ+ community and being open and vulnerable with a stranger can be a scary prospect. I promise to always be a safe, welcoming space and to also make you look dapper AF.

Mission accomplished:

couple leaning on a letterboard sign with arrow that reads Love is all you need.woman in wedding gown and sleeve of tattoos holding large colorful bouquet leaning forward in a chair in a dark roomwoman in red tux jacket being hugged by woman in wedding gown in front of the capitol building

And when you work with Shawnee Custalow you don’t just get her and her amazing photographs, you also get access to a wedding planning support group just for her couples. Because if you haven’t already figured this out, let me clue you in on something: no matter how awesome your friends and family are, no one cares about wedding planning like someone else who is also in the thick of it cares of about wedding planning. That, friends, is why the APW comment section rules, and why I wouldn’t have survived wedding planning without the friendships I made there. So think of this group like Happy Hour, but more intimate and easier to connect with other people who get your wedding planning woes and want to listen.

As Shawnee told us:

Once a client books they are added to the group and can connect with couples that have recently gotten married or are in the process of planning. Planning a wedding can sometimes be scary and overwhelming, so having other folks to reach out to and bounce ideas off of is super helpful. I also post tips in the group, answer questions, and share recommendations for other kick-ass vendors.


woman with red hair wearing a red gown sitting on steps leaning against man in black tux sitting beside herman in suit holding pool stick in front of pool table in barwedding party with bride in center in front of red wall

So if you’re looking for a wedding photographer who “captures the best angle of reality,” as one client aptly put it—because who doesn’t want to look like themselves, but also like they could be in a magazine?—then Shawnee Custalow is there for you, no matter where in the world you are. Plus! Shawnee is offering $200 off any package booked by October 31st.

SHAWNEE CUSTALOW IS OFFERING $200 off ALL WEDDING packageS booked by October 31, 2017.

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