As a seasoned wedding, engagement and family photographer, you’ve spent years perfecting the way you capture love; images of the rings, the veil, the kiss, you have your shot lists down to a science. But with the surge in same-sex marriage across the country, it’s imperative that even seasoned photographers make themselves students again as the demand for same-sex wedding, engagement and family photographers grows every day. Here are some ways you can make your couple’s experience as extraordinary as their story, and capture images of them that depict an authentic representation of their love.
Get to Know the Couple
As with any couple, the more time you invest in building rapport, the more comfortable your couple will feel in front of you and the camera, and the more natural the images will look. Get to know the couple. Ask them about their story, and observe how they interact with one another and the positions that they naturally fall into.
Talk to them about their comfort level showing affection in public. This will help you visualize the perfect poses and shooting locations ahead of time. For same-sex couples especially, PDA may be something they’re not yet used to, as they may have spent years unable to express themselves safely in public. Talk to the couple about various private and public shooting locations, listen to them, and be willing and eager to make them comfortable above all else.
Don’t Assume Gender Roles
One of the biggest mistakes photographers can make is to assume that one identifies as traditionally masculine and the other, feminine. Plugging same-sex couples into traditional wedding positions may make the couple uncomfortable, or even offend them. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about how they self-identify and embrace their answer. It’s also important to take into account physical differences or similarities. Many traditional wedding poses assume one partner to be stronger, taller, or bigger than the other. If your couple is relatively the same height, size, and shape, those poses may not work for them.
If you’re photographing the couple’s wedding, ask the couple ahead of time about what they plan to wear to the ceremony, and don’t assume that there will be a tux and a gown. There may be two gowns, no gowns, two tuxes, or any other combination. If they plan to wear the same color, talk to them about involving details like a sash, a watch, or a bouquet, to break up the image so that the color doesn’t clash or overwhelm the frame.
Putting effort into getting to know the couple as they are without stereotyping is a valuable lesson that will help you take more meaningful and authentic photos of any couple, same-sex or otherwise.
Keep Your Poses Open Ended
Instead of telling them where to sit or stand and how to hold one another, use open-ended prompts like “hug each other” or “walk toward me and hold hands”, ask them to “cuddle on a chair”; get action shots of them just being together and let them naturally fall into place with one another. If you have a specific shot in mind, tell them (for example), “I want one person giving the other a piggyback ride”, and let them self-select who does what. Leaving your posing prompts open-ended will give the couple a chance to express their true dynamic by assuming positions that feel most comfortable for the two of them.
Many couples have an idea about what positions they want to be photographed at their engagement or wedding shoot. Ask them if they have any posing ideas. If their pose doesn’t translate onto camera, adjust them to transform the initial idea into something more photogenic. Using their idea as a starting point is a great way to get a better idea of how the couple would like to be portrayed.
If your couple is having trouble relaxing, or if the images are looking stiff, choose a shooting location where your couple is naturally comfortable and can really interact with their environment. For example, capture images of the two of them picking out a record in a record store, cooking together, or playing with their dog. Capturing authentic moments like these help the couple tell their story.
Use Preferred Pronouns
Address the couple by their names or use gender-neutral pronouns. Observe the terms they use with one another and don’t be afraid to ask for preferred pronouns. Showing that you care enough to use the pronouns they prefer will help foster a supportive, inclusive, and respectful relationship between you and the couple.
Gender-neutral terms should also be applied when talking about the other people in the wedding. Use terms like “wedding party” instead of “bridal party”, “bridesmaids”, or “groomsmen”. Use gender-neutral terms when addressing individuals at the wedding, and mix things up. Be creative when it comes to taking group shots of the wedding party; don’t assign gender-stereotypical posing ideas, mix it up!
Focus on the Couple
Don’t sensationalize photographing a same-sex wedding. If this is among your first same-sex weddings to photograph, it’s okay to be excited, but remember to treat your couple how you would any other couple. Relax into the role that you normally assume and remember, this day is not about you and your portfolio. Your number one priority is to help your couple feel comfortable with you and in front of the camera.
Ask About Family
Ask your couple about the support of their family, and if there is any sensitivity you should know about before the wedding so that you can plan your family shots accordingly. Ask the couple whom they will want in their photos, as some family members may not be supportive.
Capturing love as a photographer is an important job and an honor. Photographing a same-sex wedding or engagement session can challenge your photography and teach you valuable lessons that will translate to photographing all types of weddings and people. As the industry evolves, we hope to continue to foster educational conversations like this one and offer a resource to help photographers promote inclusion.