5 ways to keep calm in front of the wedding day paparazzi

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A reader sent me this question…

Hi Megan,

I'm one of those people who FREEZE around a camera. Deer. In. Headlights. I want to be able to enjoy my wedding and for once not hide whenever I see a lens. I was wondering if perhaps you had any advice for relaxing and enjoying the wedding documentation.

Thanks!! -Halle

Hey Halle, and all my other shy brides. I'll fess up right now and say that I can't identify with this at all — I'm a total ham and LOVE to have my picture taken. While I can't really give you tips AS a shy bride, I give you advice based on my years as a wedding photographer!

1. Spend some time getting to know your photographer before the wedding.

There are several ways to this…

  • Have the initial meeting in person.
  • Keep in contact via email.
  • Find them on Twitter and Facebook.

I know I enjoyed getting to know my clients through these methods, and getting to follow their wedding planning process, and even chime in on a few things. So when I showed up on the day of their wedding, I already felt like we knew each other.

2. Practice having your pics taken with an engagement session!

This will accomplish two things…

  1. You can let them know flat-out that you are not comfortable in front of the lens.
  2. It gives you a chance to get comfortable with your “personal paparazzo.”

My favorite couples to shoot were the ones that I've become friends with (no shit, huh?). And that's happened over coffee while we're having the initial meeting, or even during silly engagement photo sessions followed by margaritas.

3. Have a shot of tequila!

I don't know about you, but this is like instant-comfort-zone-juice for me. Of course, everyone's different… wine, whiskey, your semi-legal imbibement of choice… And then watch all your relatives tell you how “blissed out” you looked in all your wedding photos. Way better than “dear in headlights” amahright?

4. Ask your friends and family to chill out on the snap shots, or assign someone to do this for you.

Throw and unplugged wedding! Because, honestly, two photographers (a main photog and a second shooter) on or around the dance floor can already be a bit much when you're having your first dance moment, but when your Uncle Bob and your wedding-photog-in-training friend gather around, flashbulbs a'flashing, it can turn your intimate moment into a fake smile and squint-fest. If your photog has any skillz, you won't even know they're there during the intimate moments.

Speaking of intimate moments…

5. Schedule some alone time for you and your newly betrothed.

Get your yichud on. It will probably be the only time during the day someone WON'T be trying to take your pic — enjoy it and use that time to re-energize.

Honest time? Even my most SUPER shy brides have gotten over their lens fright on the day of their wedding. They're just so damn excited to be getting married that they find themselves, either in awesome moods, or just WANTING to have as many pics taken as possible because, really?, when is this going to happen again? So embrace the lens! It's gonna let you re-live this day over and over again. Love the lens, the lens is your friend, goosfraba!

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Comments on 5 ways to keep calm in front of the wedding day paparazzi

  1. all of the advice above is EXCELLENT.

    i would like to add that good photographers are EXPERTS at making you comfortable and helping you forget they’re there. my wife HAAAATES getting her photo taken, but whitney lee (yes! her!) was able to make everyone just love being around her. i know it doesn’t help right now, but i hope it will be the case for you, too.

  2. My wedding officiant and I had this discussion at one of our pre-wedding meetings. He decided to add a line “the bride and groom ask that family and friends share in this wedding fully and not through a camera lense. The couple would like the only person taking pictures to be the official wedding photographer.” It really helped our shyness.

    • That was so awesome of your officiant, and he raises a good point. So many people spend so much time just taking pictures that they don’t live in the moment, and miss it completely, without realizing it.

    • Another way to minimize the guest photo-taking would be to set aside 5 minutes, say after you make your grand entrance, where you, your partner, and your wedding party can just stand around and let guests take photos of you (not with you). If you do this, you can contain the photo-taking to a specific point during the wedding, allowing you to both brace yourself for a limited, defined period of photos and make a small concession to Aunt Mildred et al who just want to capture you in your finery. There will always be one or two people who make it their mission to document every minute of the wedding, but for most people, they just want one or two decent photos of the couple. Our DJ unexpectedly had us stand on the dance floor with the wedding party after we made our grand entrance and before the first dance for random guest photos and although I don’t mind having my photo taken, I really think that guests being given a defined opportunity to take photos early in the evening was the reason we weren’t approached 120398098 times during the reception for photos, which ultimately allowed us to relax more overall and enjoy spending time with our guests.

    • I agree too. We asked that our officiant ask people to not take photos. My then fiance has rather thick glasses so an unexpected flash can honestly startle him.

      Also, I’ve been to so many weddings where the poor bride and groom can hardly eat their food they paid for. What can help this is DO NOT have a bride and groom table! We sat with our parents and ate with them and because of that, folks left us alone. If you and your honey are at a table all by yourselves folks will be like “oh hai! can we get a photo?” every ten minutes

  3. I’m not particularly camera shy but I did have a few insecure moments about photography when I’d look at posed photos of us. I basically decided to – and did – pretty much ignore our photographer and not try to pose at all.

    Other than the portraits with other people, I didn’t pose and I mostly pretended the photographer wasn’t there at all. If you can find a mental place where you can just ignore it, I think that’s the best place.

  4. great post!
    a bit off topic but does anyone know what those purple paper ball things are called in the photo? I want to google how to make them but don’t even know where to start!

  5. One of the things I like about our photographer is that his previous clients have said they didn’t even know he was there a lot of the time. He gets great photos but it does it quickly, photo-journalist style so it’s not a case of having a camera in your face all day.

    I’m not so sure how I’m going to cope with everyone else, but I’m definately liking the idea of scheduled alone time!

  6. Even though this is great advice, I’ve got to say that I squirm every time I read someone saying that you just have to get an engagement session done, because otherwise you will be awkward around the photographer on the Big Day and have lousy pictures. Just one more wedding-related thing that you just HAVE to pay for, or else you’re doing it wrong!

    • While never required, this IS one of the things that as a camera-shy person I never regretted finding the money for and I would recommend it to anyone in my situation who asked me for advice.

      It was kind of like getting the first date out of the way before I went all the way with my photographer- a little awkward, but I walked away a lot more confident about the main event.

        • I treasure my engagement pictures because the thing I thought was smiling that my face was doing? Was not smiling. I may have a goofy grin in all my wedding pictures, but AT LEAST IT IS A SMILE.

          • That sounds like my problem. When I think I’m smiling normally it just seems to make me look blank in photos, like I don’t know what’s going on.

            I feel like I’m pulling some crazy Joker face whenever I smile for a camera but it looks normal in the photos.

    • It’s odd to me to hear people say this. Both of the photographers I actually crunched numbers with offered FREE (or perhaps just included?) engagement shoots. Basically because it was important to *them* to be comfortable with photographing the couple. Of course, they were both pricier photogs, but still. If you’re camera shy, but want pictures, then I think it’s worth paying the extra money to make sure you get a photographer who specializes in a photojournalist style and includes an engagement shoot in even the most parred down bundles.

  7. Awesome article! It also always seems good to remember that if you feel like your forcing yourself to smile or ‘look good’ the pictures will show that force. Just let the happiness of the day shine through and be yourself.

  8. I absolutely hate my picture being taken. I don’t think I’ve taken a flattering photo in my adult life. The thought of so many photos being taken on my wedding day makes me want to puke. We’ve hired a photog on the basis that she’ll be taking shots of the day as they happen, all candid so we aren’t posing (I hate posing with people). I’ve told her that we prefer more photos of the DIY projects than of ourselves. We’ve also sort of hinted to our friends that we don’t want a ton of photos taken of us already, and slowly we’re getting fewer photos taken of us. I’m hoping they continue the trend 🙂 The photos are the worst part of this wedding for me.

  9. I absolutely hate getting my photo taken, but I honestly really really enjoyed getting our engagement photos taken. We ended up having great chemistry with our photographers (we are using them for the wedding too). One thing I found that really helped me was just being super involved in my fiance and just enjoying our time together without thinking too much about the lenses around. We did what we naturally do at home and they are some of the best photos we have of us, it allowed me to be super happy and not worried about the lenses around me.

    Granted it may have helped that one of our photographers accidentally went swimming when he tried to get a shot from a canoe in a lake…

  10. So, off topic but…any chance we’ll get a profile of the wedding featured in the photograph? I kind of fell in love simply from that picture.

  11. I totally didn’t think about the fact that aside from the photographer, there would be 800 other cameras, all getting the same shot, and all wanting you to hold that smile one second longer. 30 minutes after our ceremony, my face hurt from smiling so much. Having your officiant, or someone else, be in charge of asking people not to become paparazzi is a great idea, one I wish I had heard a few weeks ago!
    I think the best thing to do to simplify the whole process is to know what photos you want, and prep people ahead of time. Also, designate someone to herd the sheep when they are going to featured in a pictured. I spent as much time running around trying to round up my family as I did actually being in a picture (maybe more). That part was not so fun. Preparation is KEY! The key I ignored!

  12. This is all great advice. Especially getting to know your photogs, I did and it just felt like I was hanging with friends. 😀

  13. Thank you Megan! I was never able to get back to you on the Tribe because my mobile SUCKS and won’t let me write anyone 🙁 (Never move to a small town where you have to give up proper internet service) I’m really glad you ended up writing this! My mister & I were actually talking about an engagement shoot. Once we figure out what the hell we want to do, we will definitely be contacting you. This article made me so happy I think I’ll have a shot of tequila to celebrate. Lol

    • HA! You are so welcome Halle. Yeah, the engagement shoot advice (though not a necessity) was born from an experience that I had with a bride earlier this year and it seemed to really help her (see the comments above from Gayle). And do me a favor and have an extra shot for me, fer serious. 😉

      • Can do! The engagement shoot is awesome advice. I actually happened across Gayle’s profile & showed my fiance, which is why he wants to do one (uhhh… Sometime before the wedding!). It’s good advice. My friend offered to do our photos, but who wants their BFF/Maid of Honor behind a camera all day?! If you can capture that same atmosphere, it would take SO much of the stress out of the day. I wish I would have thought of it pre-freakout-over-photos.

  14. PS (to jump in on the convo above) the “shot of tequila” advice seemed more of “do what feels natural and act how you normally would” than “get wasted.” It makes sense too. If I’m normally hanging out with my friends, having a couple of drinks and I follow that same pattern on my wedding day, I’ll feel more relaxed rather than ALL EYES ARE FOCUSED ON ME. In fact, just thinking about that makes me feel better. Reading a ka-billion wedding stories on the Tribe makes you realize that the brides who are more relaxed & themselves tend to have more fun. (Reading back through this I realize I can never make it on a “reality” TV show or become a top model! Haha)

  15. If possible it might also be an idea to let people know in advance that they will be able to get copies of all the professional photographers shots so they don’t feel the need to jump in on all the posed photos or follow him/her around asking you to just hold the pose for another 10 seconds while they take their own version.

    Of course it does depend on the contract with your photographer, if you’re not allowed to make copies it doesn’t do much good to offer them to people, but even if they’ll let other guests order prints it might cut down on the number of cameras a little.

    • Danikat,

      My DF is a photographer, I am one who HATES getting their picture taken. There’s serious irony there, like the shoemaker’s kids thing. Anywho, he doesn’t do many weddings (not his style) but when he does there are two things he ALWAYS does. 1.) explains to the couple ahead of time (and rest of family that he comes in contact with) that our services include a full printable high resolution disk of the day. This means the bride and groom can copy it, print it, and distribute it to their heart’s content. and 2.) require a complimentary engagement shoot. He does this because all of his jobs come with my services as a makeup artist for free and I need that pre-wedding time to do a trial run on the bride and make sure we are on the same page (also I like to have time to give her skincare advice that will help her look her absolute best on her big day) and for he and the couple to get “comfy” and acquainted before such a big event.

      This ALWAYS works out great. He doesn’t usually have to deal with too many other people shooting over his shoulder, because we can just tell em, they can get copies from the couple. We wind up with a good rapport with the couple, and we don’t get bogged down in printing services. Granted, we lose some opportunity for revenue, but since weddings aren’t our primary focus, it is a trade-off we don’t mind making.

      The last wedding we shot, we wound up going out to dinner with the couple (they INSISTED) the night they came to pick up their disk and make the final payment, and then after dinner, and drinks and lingering, we went shopping with them and just hung out. I think we probably will do that again too, as they said they had a great time with us and were interested in hanging out again!

  16. Another thing that may help camera-shy brides is getting more used to people taking pictures of you. I was really uncomfortable with being in front of a camera before, but ever since my partner bought a camera I’ve gradually become more used to it. He’s taking pictures of me ALL the time, and you can really see a change in me from the first photos he took to the more recent ones. I definitely look more relaxed and like myself with time.
    So if you guys have access to a camera: take pictures of each other! You’ll learn to relax and you’ll also learn what makes you look good.

  17. I never liked having my picture taken as I always looked bad in them.
    I realised that I needed to think about what my face looked like. So I looked in the mirror and decided which ‘face’ worked best.

    I realise this isn’t really helpful for shyness, but I found I was less scared of getting my picture taken if they came out nicer!

  18. I found just being really up front with my photogs about my nervousness has already helped them to help put me more at ease. I suffer from partial facial paralysis due to Bell’s Palsy that never recovered. So half of my face doesn’t move properly. I hate it. I hate photos of me. I hate the way my smile is all screwed up and crooked. Hate hate hate… and so I just admitted it to them. They were super sweet and assured me that they would work with me, be patient with me, and try and shoot from an angle on a side that would make me most comfortable. They were very compassionate and totally put me at ease. I’ll still worry about it.. but I’m feeling more comfortable with the idea after just being honest with them. 🙂

  19. My advice is

    1) to book a photographer who reminds you of yourself, your family or your friends in some way. That way you are comfortable around them.

    2) If you can swing it, book one who is talented with lighting and retouches in photoshop. This will help you A) look your best before the photo is snapped and B) feel confident that even if there’s something in the photo that bothers you, it can most likely be edited.

    As a graphic designer, I can assure you that we can do things like switch mouths if your eyes are best in one shot and your smile is best in another. There are limits, but there are also possibilities. (I know a photographer who edited out 3 people and the trash on a picnic table for a shot for Converse.) This leaves you free to enjoy yourself and not worry about the faces you make in the photos.

    3) Remember that this day, your day, you are going to be the most beautiful you have ever been, not just because of the make-up and hair and dress, but because this is your day, and your joy will shine through in every photo.

  20. I think all of the advice given is fair. Just out of curiosity I looked at some of the responses. I truly believe that some of these people just need to relax : ) Take the article with a grain of salt. Geesh!

  21. I used to be a very camera shy person and some of these have helped me. Sorry this is long…

    1. Take pictures of yourself. Find what looks good, and it will get you used to a camera. Do this as much as you need to, and you can always delete the photos.
    2. Get a photojournalist photographer. Then you don’t need to do as many posed shots.
    3. Do your posed family portraits before or after the ceremony when there isn’t a lot of people around. Or just skip those photos all together.
    4. Remember deep breaths. Take a few seconds to take a few deep breaths, it will calm you down. Tell the photographer you need a minute, and they will understand.
    5. Carry a stress ball. There are so many of them and now you can buy ones that don’t even look like a stress ball. You can seriously put it in your bouquet. Or if your dress has pockets your set.
    6. Lastly if the thought of a whole bunch of people looking at you all day, and taking photos makes you cringe think about having a smaller wedding. If all the people important to you can fit on a smaller list, it may help that nervous feeling. I know when there is a small get together I feel a lot more at ease compared to the holidays when all of my family is there.

  22. The old adage may be to imagine the audience in their underwear, but imagine yor partner in their’s instead; your smile will be genuine;)

  23. I honestly dont think it is necessary to blow things out of proportion in regards to suggesting a shot of tequila…offbeat bride seems to tout being offbeat, out-there, keeping the fun when things get serious. If someone suggests a drink then a responsible person can respectfully decline instead of going on a rampage. Some people (like myself) have been negatively affected by alcohol or drugs in their life and choose not to lead the lifestyle…why not take responsibility, not take it to heart and continue on to another page or down the list to more pertinant matters. This slight suggestion seems to have been given so to add whimsy where nerves and stress come in to play…on a lighter note; I love the advice given in general on offbeat bride and this article…it is real and not written to induce stress…kudos

  24. my bride from october gave me a great idea too…. a SAFE WORD!!!! She said if it ever got to be too much…she would utter the safe word and i would know when to back up a bit!!! Always ALWAYS helps to talk to your photographer AND be honest with them!!!!

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