Should photographers shoot same-sex weddings any differently?

June 12 |

gay lensAs some of you might know, I wear two professional hats: one as the managing editor of Offbeat Families and another as a wedding photographer. As such, it made sense that Ariel asked my opinion on Capturing Love: How to Photograph Same Sex Weddings, an NPR piece about how "different" it is to photograph same-sex weddings.

Based on the title alone, I was puzzled. Practically speaking, why would photographing a same-sex wedding be any different from photographing a heterosexual wedding? The article's first point isn't exactly ground-breaking: at some same-sex weddings there isn't a wedding dress (gasp!). Well, you know what? There's not always a dress at heterosexual weddings, either.

The article's guidelines for shooting a same sex wedding are mostly okay (it's true that depending on where you live, safety and public displays of affection might be a concern), but one of the rules had me scratching my head:

On the biggest lesson from photographing same-sex weddings
Dodds: "The biggest thing is just trying to meet a couple where they are; trying to figure out what is the dynamic of their relationship and how can I photograph them in a way that will represent that. Because in the end, I want to hand over wedding artwork, not just wedding photography. In this day and age, anybody can pick up a camera and take a picture. I want to give somebody something that goes above and beyond that."

Listen, friends: if your wedding photographer isn't approaching your gay, straight, or any other wedding with this mentality, he or she isn't doing their job to the best of their ability. Yes, same sex weddings are newly-legal in some places and that's really awesome and exciting for a lot of people, but at the same time — people are people. Sure, you might be photographing two suits or gowns instead of one (…or none!), but at the end of the day as a photographer you've still just experienced a really incredible wedding — whether or not two men or women just got married.

In my opinion, being a wedding photographer is one of the greatest gifts because I get to spend so many wonderful, important days with so many wonderful, important people. The way these couples self-label and identify matters — but not when it comes to how I do my job. All things considered [har, NPR pun!] and potential safety concerns aside, the love story between the two (or more) people getting married is what matters most.

Do you think there are any different considerations for photographing same-sex weddings?

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  1. I did think that the article's point about "making sure the couple feels safe wherever you're taking their photos" was a good one. The WORST would be to take them to an amazing location for portraits, only to have them harassed by intolerant onlookers. My heart breaks just thinking about that scenario.

    Other than that, every other point was nothing different from than any other wedding! It was kind of odd.

    23 agree
  2. This sounds like they were asked to write this "Are there differences between shooting a heterosexual vs a same-sex wedding" and struggled to come up with enough to fill a story, because NEWSFLASH a wedding is a wedding. SMH

    18 agree
  3. After reading the article, I'd say that it sounds like the reason there's anything to talk about has more to do with gender stereotypes than being gay. Think about how brides and grooms tend to be presented in relation to each other, particularly in the WIC. Frequently, the bride is all soft-focus fragile loveliness and the groom is all reserved and square-shouldered, and the photos work that contrast. Frequently, too, the visual emphasis is on the bride, except for a couple boys-will-be-boys shots of the groom and his groomsmen. For photographers without experience being in/around same-sex relationships, taking wedding pictures that do not rely on that heavily gendered vision may require doing some thinking.

    59 agree
    • Yeah, that's what I was thinking. Traditionally, a lot of the emphasis is on the bride and her great big dress. You'll get two or three shots of the groom looking as manly as he can manage and then a bazillion of the bride doing things like contemplating her bouquet. That's getting passe even for het couples and wouldn't work at all for same-sex couples.

      5 agree
      • Agreed! My first thought was "there's no difference between same-sex weddings and offbeat weddings!" because in my observation they're more likely to be egalitarian relationships and on a purely superficial level its quite possible that a hetero groom has just a much/more to photograph than his hetero bride. I have seen so many awesome socks and cuff links on OBB!

        In my (girl on girl) engagement shoot, our photographer chose where/how we stood based on who looked more natural in which position. I am more mobile/flexible than my partner, so I did a lot of the twisting/climbing/balancing. We're about the same size, so she had to get more creative than "taller person in the back" type shots.

        1 agrees
    • We had an issue around gender stereotypes with our photographer. Even though my wife and I both wore dresses on our wedding day, I'm definitely more femme than her. I didn't notice it at the time (because I was too busy being blissfully happy), but our photographer totally treated me as the bride and my wife as the groom. I think she just didn't have a lot of experience in general (one of our only wedding regrets is not looking harder for a better photographer), and it shows in the pictures. There are just way more pictures of me than of my wife, which sucks.

      She also wore a SUPER BRIGHT PINK floral outfit, which pissed me off because I saw pictures of her wearing much more subdued outfits (like most photographers do) at other weddings later. I still wonder if it was because she didn't take our wedding as seriously….it was definitely a more casual vibe, but I still wish she didn't stand out soooo much, considering we were wearing red and black….

      3 agree
  4. Good grief! My photographer had BETTER not think photographing same-sex weddings have to be captured differently. What on earth is different? You have two people getting married. Give them good pictures.

    Wow, seriously, if he says anything about it being hard to photograph two brides, or anything of the sort, I'm firing him. (not that I think he will, he advertises ALL weddings.)

    2 agree
  5. Amen, Sister! Going through the wedding process at this moment and being a queer couple, we have to deal with the awkward looks and "aha's!" at every stop. I wish people would just realize… we are normal. Sure, there will be 2 dresses, but other than that, there is not much different from us than a hetero couple.

    8 agree
  6. "Are two men having a kiss off-screen?"

    WHY YES, THEY ARE! GOOD GOSH, I THINK IT MIGHT BE ROCK HUDSON AND RANDOLPH SCOTT! THE RUMORS ARE TRUE! WAIT TILL THE NEIGHBORS HEAR ABOUT THIS. AUNT BETTY TOTALLY CALLED THAT ONE

    j/k Seriously, though, photogs: Our LGBT couples want the same thing the rest of us do, which is to not hear "Um, I'm not sure when your album will be done. Um, I don't know why all the shots came out so blurry…"

    8 agree
  7. I'm feeling curious about what all the photographers came up with to fill an entire book. I am not clear whether the book is really just stories of photographing same sex weddings, which could be interesting if it's things like personal stories and anecdotes about being part of weddings for people who previously hadn't gotten that. But otherwise… why not just make a book about how to do a good job as a wedding photographer?

    The comment one of the two made about how they usually feminize one, masculinize the other just because that's where they come from… that kinda irritated me. The assumption that that should be the assumed way to photograph a hetero couple got under my skin. I don't need to be "feminized." I'm good with who I am and if you're trying to make me look more feminine in photos then you may be doing it wrong. I should look exactly as feminine as I am (and as masculine). I just hope these photographers have taken this new knowledge to ALL the weddings they shoot because geez.

    5 agree
  8. This article is spot on. I treat all of my couples differently (while still professional of course). Every couple I've photographed has had their own dynamic and as a photographer, it's my job to adapt to that. Otherwise, they're going to hate their photos. So I guess, yes, you do treat them the same.

    5 agree
  9. I would have thought that photographers would photograph every wedding differently.
    And in a way, I understand the comment on there not being a dress. If you think about 'traditional' wedding photos, how often are there an insane number of wedding dress pictures? The dress on the hanger, the dress being laced up, the dress on the bride. It can be difficult to know what each couple wants to capture in their wedding photos, and for some photographers these shots are really their go-to shots. At least they know to take lots of photos of the dress, right?

    5 agree
  10. I'm going to be the third to express annoyance at the mention of gender stereotypes in the NPR article.

    After my wedding day, I want to be presented with photos that represent us as a couple, not photos showing how girly I am and how manly my husband was that day. I want photos that will remind me of how much we love each other and how we chose to celebrate that love. I don't want to remember the photographer being in my face all day trying to make me act more lady-like.

    I also think the original article was a bit presumptuous to end by warning couples against having a friend/amature photographer take pictures at the wedding. All talent aside, I think I'd rather go with disposable cameras than hire someone who is going to depend on my gender to tell them how they're going to take the photos.

    5 agree
  11. I don't think the photographer interviewed was advocating feminizing or masculinizing, I think they were saying having photographed same sex weddings they realised they had been doing that and wanted to change:
    "Often, I end up feminizing one person and masculinizing the other. And not intentionally; it's just because that's my background. So it's fascinating to see that photo (of a male couple were that wasn't happening) — light bulb moment — this is what I wanna go after."

    I thought this article was really good, it would be great if we could all magically know what it's like to walk in someone else's shoes but we just can't. I didn't know until I came out as a lesbian what a hugely political act it would be just to hold my partner's hand walking down the street. We get stared at all the time and most of it is friendly , just pure fascination. I could decide to see this as homophobia and get enraged that these people are gawping and how much it shows that they think I am other to them when I want to be seen as the same, but really I prefer to save my energy for the real homophopbes. These people don't hate me they have just never seen anyone like me, (it was the same with the kids in the school I worked in India and their fascination with my Irish freckles). You know when they hate you, you really do.

    I can take honest innocent ignorance where it's accompanied by a willingness to learn and reflect, I think that's what this article was about.

    11 agree
    • Some of us – okay, meaning me – gawp at *any* couple holding hands on the street, just because it's kind of unusual and it makes me happy 🙂 (Especially when it's a pair of elderly folks – so sweet!)

      5 agree
  12. I'm surprised this article didn't talk about post-wedding issues like posting "sneak peeks" on public Facebook pages, blogs, etc.

  13. I think that same sex couples should be photographed differently in the same way that heterosexual couples should be photographed differently. Every bride and groom, bride and bride, or groom and groom has different aspects of their wedding that is important to them, and a good photographer will capture that.

    I think most of the difficulty of capturing same sex marriages comes from a photographer who just isn't comfortable with it. If they don't think the image of two people of the same sex kissing, they won't do as good of a job capturing those moments. If your photographer thinks that your anatomically correct heart cake is awesome, they aren't going to get good pictures of it. I think it just has less to do with there being a lot of real differences and more to do with how open minded and comfortable they are with non-traditional weddings.

  14. I was a little surprised and borderline offended with the comment "Often, I end up feminizing one person and masculinizing the other".

    That shows the photographer's unconscious bias and stereotyping which I am glad appears to have been recognised.

    Fascinating to see how wedding photography in their eyes is so heavily influenced by heterosexual norms.

    When Judy and I marry next year, neither of us will wear a wedding gown but I will probably frock up. Judy will wear an evening shirt and trousers – not a suit and tie. I wonder how Hamm would approach photographing us!

    1 agrees
  15. While I agree with many of the comments that all people should be treated equally, in my experience, in a lot of photos queer couples can be portrayed in ways other than romantic partners. Sometimes we look like siblings or friends and photographers need to be aware of this. No one wants their wedding photos to look awkwardly posed!

    Obviously in wedding attire and in a wedding background the relationship status may be more evident, but there are certain body positions that just. don't. work. for queer couples the way they do for most hetero couples.

    So yeah, there is a "gay lens" that photographers need to be aware of. Of course, treat all people as individuals, but also realize that there are unique issues with gender identity and sexual identity.

    2 agree
  16. This is purely coming from personal experience. When my partner and I were looking for a photographer we experienced a lot of people wanting to do our wedding as almost a prize. To be able to shoot a queer wedding and a queer interracial wedding was oddly desired in a disgusting way. I don't know if other queers have experienced this when trying to find a wedding photographer. I am curious to hear other peoples thoughts.

    • "When my partner and I were looking for a photographer we experienced a lot of people wanting to do our wedding as almost a prize"

      This is totally an attitude I have seen in some wedding vendors, and part of the reason why this article originally made me say "Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?"

  17. Great article! I treat every single couple differently, doesn't matter if it is a heterosexual wedding or a homosexual wedding. I base every single photo on my impression of the couple and their requested photos. If they give me that funny/zany feel, I shoot a lot of funny photos coupled with some romantic. If they are a love at first sight kind of couple, I make sure to take as many heart-stopping romantic photos as I can.

    I don't see why there would be a difference? You're shooting photos of a couple in love. Of their preparation for a lifetime together. Of their promise to love and cherish. There isn't a single thing different between a Het-marrage and a Hom-marrage… except what's between their legs, and no one (but the couple) will see that.

  18. Love this part and totally agree, 100%. People are people… I really get into the experience of an amazing event and the energies… Well said Stephanie.

    " people are people. Sure, you might be photographing two suits or gowns instead of one (…or none!), but at the end of the day as a photographer you've still just experienced a really incredible wedding — whether or not two men or women just got married."

    WORD!

  19. Love this site. I actually took a different take on this. I didn't see it as "not treating a gay couple as equal" so much as " not treating the shooting of a gay couple the same as heterosexual" which I think is actually truth. Photographers are used to shooting straight couples. That's not wrong or bad, it's just that many haven't had a chance to exercise their eye or experience with gay couples. So where as you might shoot a male groom and female bride maybe with him on a knee or holding her (threshold style) that could look ridiculous with two women in gowns or two guys. Could…depends on the couple, but there goes those two potenial "traditional" shots out the window. So where you may have the male on one knee before the female and that might work with two guys (if the personality of the guys fit it may be pulled off) but it could look weird…definitely not sounding too good with one woman on knee before the other. Not that the emotion or love isn't there its just the wrong pose…so thats where I mean shooting a gay couple ISNT the same…(and thats okay!) The bottom line…the style of shooting and particularly the poses have to be worked out for same sex couples. And while many shots are workable for any combo of genders…I just think photogs will need to build the repertoire of shots for gay couples so the shots are creative, dignified, romantic, and capture it all beautifully!

    1 agrees
  20. Loved this post. I just photographed an engagement session for two amazing gentlemen in Yosemite yesterday. This was my first same-sex shoot, and I'm photographing their wedding in June! It was seriously a non-issue when it came to photographing them together – it is all about observation and capturing their chemistry and dynamic organically. I'm going through the photos this evening and I can't stop smiling! 🙂

    3 agree
  21. This is a great post and discussion. I find this so absurd. A photographer is paid to capture the love of the people getting married.

    1 agrees

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