…if I get it wrong, I’ll buy you a drink at the wedding!
By the time you and I meet for your engagement session, we’ve probably exchanged a few emails, you’ve shared your amazing creative vision for the wedding, talked a bit about how you two met and how the proposal went down. We’ve probably shared a few jokes, bonded over our shared obsession with animal adoption, or the coast, or Leonardo DiCaprio movies. I feel like I know you and I genuinely can’t wait to meet you!
On the day, we meet at your chosen location, you step out of your car and greet me with the biggest smile and maybe even a hug. And, already, I am counting down the seconds, waiting for it to happen. You’re exactly what I knew you’d be – strong, creative, independent, successful in your own right – and still, I know it’s coming.
It may not be the first question, or even the second, but by the third question, I feel it coming…
“You can Photoshop me, right?”
I’m not kidding here ladies, at least 90% of the women I photograph ask me this question within two minutes of meeting me. These funny, creative, wildly together women – whether size 6 or size 26, whether blonde, brunette or redhead – women who take my breath away and inspire me in so many ways – they all ask the question.
Sure, it’s always said in the most light-hearted way, and occasionally they’ll add a little detail, some specific hang-up, maybe it’s ‘can you Photoshop my nose’ or ‘can you give me a thigh gap’, but they always ask the question. And I predict that you will too.
Want to know why?
Because, as women, it’s engrained in us – like an unspoken expectation. The question isn’t really the question, you don’t really want me to edit you beyond all recognition. Because, if you did, what would be the point of photographs today, or even on your wedding day? You’re not really asking ‘can you Photoshop me’. You’re telling me a hundred other things, like ‘I’m vulnerable right now’ and ‘there are these expectations I put on myself to be perfect – especially for my wedding’.
That self-deprecation, which, incidently, I have never encountered from a groom, tells me ‘This matters Jess – I want everything that I am on the inside reflected on the outside’ and ‘I feel like I’ll be judged by these photographs’.
And do you know what? I get it. I truly and honestly get it. And I want you to know that it’s ok to feel vulnerable. Not only in front of my camera, but in life in general. I feel vulnerable too.
Let’s not pretend that this five minute blog post could even possibly scratch the surface of what it is to be a woman today, of all the pressures we feel to present ourselves a certain way and meet some seemingly unattainable level of beauty and perfection. These things, for most us, just are. And always have been. I’m not going to tell you not to be nervous when we meet for those engagement portraits, or trivialise the concerns you might have about stepping in front of a camera. But, I am going to tell you something that is true.
The most influential, brave and downright amazing people I know are women. That humility, the vulnerability that is engrained in us, it is a thing of beauty because it is something we share. When I meet you for the first time, I’m feeling it too – ‘Am I talking too much?’ ‘Will they like me?‘ ‘Will they trust me?‘ ‘have I over shared with that story of how my daughter took a pee in my wellie boot- seriously, why did I tell them that, now they’ll definitely think I’m a wierdo…‘ I am right there with you. And it’s ok.
And I’ll tell you something else that’s true. There is not one woman I have photographed, in five years of this amazing job, who has not seen those images of herself, both from the engagement and the wedding, and fallen in love. Wedding photography is a unique art form. Photographing people who are that committed to one another, who’s only purpose in that moment is to reflect on and celebrate that love – it creates images like no other.
On the day of your session, and of course during your wedding portraits, you need do nothing more than love each other. Bask in that feeling. Love softens us, it makes our pupils dilate, our lips and cheeks blush, our eyes smile. And there is simply nothing more beautiful than that. I promise.
So be nervous. Be vulnerable and unsure. And, when you ask me if I can Photoshop you, I’ll know to bring out a few more toddler toilet stories to lighten the mood.
Or, just tell me you’re a little nervous, leaving your thighs out of it, and I’ll buy you a drink at the wedding… 😉