Why photographers shouldn't hide their nontraditional brides

Updated May 15 2017
Guest post by Kirsten Hansen
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Photo by Kev Rayner, Image-i-nation photography

Offbeat Brides love our photographers. They are the ones who capture our weddings forever, showing our beauty and love in an unexpected dip for a kiss, toasts that made us (and our friends) cry, and our friends and family sharing in our commitment. We choose them for their talent and we know they can rock an offbeat wedding. Heck, lots of them are enthusiastic about the chance to shoot something a little different and have a lot of fun. Some of them are even offbeat themselves.

So why the heck do so many photographers have Facebook profiles and websites that don't reflect this?

Why do some photographers choose to show only wedding photos of couples that look like they belong in the most traditional bridal magazines? When I, as a prospective client (and even a former client!), visit a portfolio, I want to be able to see myself reflected. I want to see variety! Why is every bride skinny, white, and in a big white dress? Why is every groom perfectly styled in a suit or tux? Why do some photographers choose the most homogeneous batch of images for their portfolio?

I'm betting most of them shoot other weddings and do a fabulous job of it. I've seen the photos from my own wedding which look damn good, if I do say so myself. Those pictures are as good as anything else I've seen on a photographer's page. I've seen all the amazing photos from other weddings on Offbeat Bride so I know it isn't just my offbeat wedding that looks great in photos.

But when photographers don't show it off, nobody else knows they can do it.

As far as I can tell, it's a matter of marketing, and for those photographers who choose to display only the most stereotypical of couples and weddings, they are doing it wrong. People the world over have been speaking up for years, saying that they want to see themselves in magazines, on television, on blogs, in clothing. If we can't identify with the marketing, we won't trust that the company will "get" us.

Let's be honest: chances are that not all photographers' clients are skinny, white brides and well-groomed, athletic white grooms.

This is extra important for a couple hunting a professional wedding photographer. We want to know that they'll do a good job of capturing us and our commitment, right? If they can't prove that they can photograph someone like me and my partner, why would we give them large sums of money and just assume it will be okay? Heck, why would we assume they'd even want to take us on as clients if we're so outside their regular clientele?

I know, I know, their main market is probably still expecting a traditional wedding (a la Wedding Industrial Complex). So no, they probably do not want to be showcasing a goth wedding or a tattooed and pierced couple that might scare off potential clients (unless they're an uber cool offbeat photographer). But there is absolutely nothing wrong with showing a beautiful — but different — wedding. Let's be honest: chances are that not all their clients are skinny, white brides and well-groomed, athletic white grooms.

I would like to challenge those photographers to show off what they can do so the next potential client who comes along wanting something offbeat won't be fooled into thinking that photographer can't or won't do a kickass job. Trust me, it's worth it. More photographers need to trust themselves and their work. Beautiful photographs aren't going to turn off potential clients just because they're of plus size brides in red or grooms in bowling shirts.

I'm thankful I and my dude knew the truth before we looked at a portfolio. But the next couple may not.

  1. I make a point of showing pictures of a whole range of weddings, you never know what will appeal to future clients. I want to show beautiful photographs of people of all shapes, sizes and ages.

  2. I don't show all of my couples in my portfolio but it's the more traditional weddings I don't include. I want to attract couples of all shapes, sizes, orientations and ethnicities and I want to attract couples who are having weddings that are personal to them. I choose to show more alternative/quirky weddings in my portfolio because I want to put out what I want to get back. People who don't show alternative/quirky couples are presumably doing the same.

  3. I love this article, and completely agree. I'm nowhere near getting married so don't know if I'd be offbeat-lite, but this is something that affects all brides and grooms. Even if someone wants a reasonably 'traditional' wedding, all people are different and have their insecurities or quirks; I know few people who truly match the stereotypical bride image. Even if I have a muted wedding, I still want to know that my photographer can portray people of all shapes and sizes, colours and genders, etc with sensitivity and humanity, and that they are proud and honoured to be included in such personal events. Not that they see every wedding as enacting a fashion shoot for Vogue magazine.

    And it kinda would repulse me if my photographer only liked to put pictures up of skinny white people with expensive weddings. I believe in inclusivity in all things, and I would feel uncomfortable giving my money to someone who only thought a certain type of bride and groom are 'good enough' to display or photograph, because that's not a viewpoint I believe is just. And because, if they judge or are disgusted by normal, lovely people, how could I guarantee that they aren't secretly judging me? A good photographer should be like a doctor; non-judgemental, patient, and someone who loves and understands people. When you let someone into your most intimate moments, you deserve that.

  4. When I interviewed my photographer we were up front about our nerdiness and interests as a couple. As soon as she heard that she whipped out a sampling of images she was currently organizing for her blog of a multiracial couple in kilts, a plus sized bride, and the two of them holding a Klingon bat'leth while cutting the cake. She's known more specifically for her "mainstream" looking weddings but has snuck a few alternative looking brides and couples onto her main website. At the end of 2013 she even announced on her blog and facebook profile that my engagement session (a Roman Holiday/Star Wars remix theme) was her favorite of the year and we definitely don't resemble that of a mainstream, magazine quality couple. So this article definitely strikes close to home for me and makes me glad that I stuck to my guns and hired such a fun and open photographer.

  5. Always some food for thought on OBB!

    I never make a conscious effort to include different body types in my portfolio – I just include the photos I love best. This happens to include all kinds of brides, body types and some damned awesome alternative weddings. If there's a group underrepresented in my portfolio it's because I haven't photographed it yet rather than trying to put those people off or not wanting to share it.

  6. As a wedding photographer this post makes me SO EXCITED that I can't even begin to tell you. After working for years in the photography industry I've been feeling lately that I am just as sick of the typical traditional and boring photos that the industry encourages us to turn out. I am tired of feeling the pressure from the photography industry to curate weddings and manufacture them to make them look different than they actually are. It feels fake to me, which is why this summer I made the decision to change my entire brand and website to reflect my desire to work with offbeat clients (not just brides). Sure, maybe the budgets are lower – but who cares? I want to work with the kind of people who are fun, nontraditional and relaxed. I find that you guys are the types who appreciate what I do more than stuffy traditional clients. In the next couple weeks I'll be releasing my new website and branding and this blog post was basically a confirmation for me to read on this journey that I am making the right decision and that offbeat clients deserve to have wedding photographers who celebrate who they are and not try to make them into something they aren't. So loving this blog post and I wish more wedding photographers would feel this way too!

  7. The funniest thing happened when I looked for a photographer for my wedding. I had looked at sites and had the same experience: skinny white young (certainly younger than me) women that would look good in whatever kind of photos. But then I took myself and walked to whatever photographers were within a 30 min walk radius from my house. They didn't have sites, they didn't have portfolios. What they had were the photos for the last weddings they had been at and they let me look them over. These were true weddings, in the sense that there were people of all shapes and colours.
    I chose one because he didn't do just the cliché stuff, though he could not be called Offbeat by far, and because I liked that he featured beautiful photos of an interracial couple on the window of his shop (which I hadn't seen on any if the other windows).

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