Should photographers shoot same-sex weddings any differently?

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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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Comments on Should photographers shoot same-sex weddings any differently?

  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.

  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

  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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

    • 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….

  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.)

  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.

  6. “Are two men having a kiss off-screen?”


    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…”

  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.

  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.

  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?

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