Whatever you do — DON’T SMILE

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Megan Bitch Face

What is it with the trend of people purposely not smiling — sometimes looking downright miserable — in wedding photos these days?

It's such a shame, especially when the bride has such a beautiful and radiant smile!


Oh Indra, this question has plagued me for YEARS! It was actually the reason I ended up firing my wedding photographer between the ceremony and the reception. No, seriously…

There I was with my brand spankin' new husband, deep in the “we just got married–oh my god wtf — so crazy — I love you” times, and our photographer kept telling us NOT TO SMILE during the portrait session. Dude, are you fucking kidding me? I don't know if you just saw what happened back there, but I kinda married this guy I really like, and I have that goofy perma-smile on my face right now and, well, just photograph that! Kthnxbye.

Our photographer was actually getting frustrated by our apparently unwelcome smiling. So, to appease the photographer, (and to get the portrait session to end faster) I cut the smile from my face. Now I have over a dozen photos of me glaring at my husband in my best Megan Bitch Face. Ah the warm fuzzy memories, ready-to-frame, of the time Aaron and I stood face to face, all blank stares and angry expressions, on the beach. Good times.

Anyway, to answer your question, I present to you two options:

  1. If a couple is staring at the camera or each other with completely blank looks on their face, it's probably because their photographer made them do it. (Maybe they think it looks sexier than a goofy smile? Maybe it's because it seems more editorial? Maybe they just want a well rounded portfolio of wedding day looks? I really don't know the motive. As a photographer myself, I've never told a newly wedded couple to “wipe that damn smile off your face.”)
  2. Perhaps the couple wanted to take a serious photo for whatever reason. I mean, that “serious YAY!” photo is freaking genius. Worth the struggle to not smile, amma right?
serious yay
Seriously, Yay, we're so happy. No really. Yay. Photo by Leah LaRiccia Photography.

But the fact is, it's a bit of a wedding photography trend at the moment. Is it my favorite trend? Not at all. Is it sometimes kind of cool? Sure (as demonstrated in the photo above). But should it be up to each couple if they want to forgo their blissed-out smiles? Of course (unless you booked our photographer and have relinquished all rights to your facial expressions).

Tell us, what current photography trends aren't a good fit for YOUR wedding photos?

UPDATE: Because I got a couple requests (and because I love you very much), I dug back into the hidden archive of crap wedding pics to find you some of my favorite Megan Bitch Face photos:

Megan Bitch Face

Megan Bitch Face

Seconds earlier
Hi, it's SO MUCH BETTER when we're smiling!

Comments on Whatever you do — DON’T SMILE

  1. Silly photographers and trends. Smiles are always better, in my books. Unless of course you actually feel like not smiling, in which case… fine. But it’s weird to think of a photographer actually being ticked that someone is smiling on their wedding day.

  2. One of the reasons we took a “Not Smiling” photo is because we were semi-mirroring the formal wedding photos of our various ancestors. We have prints of all these uber formal, stern wedding photos in a shadow box and put our mimicry in there, too. Although ours is notably less stern. Maybe it says “This marriage shit is freaking SERIOUS” ?? 🙂

    Also, RE: photographer prompting this. I wouldn’t see it too weird if the photographer pointed it out as an option, but making it seem like a necessity would be a little off putting to me.

  3. I think it’s the notion that the photographers want their photos to look like artistic fashion shoots found in Vogue. That’s just silly! They could hire a unhappy model for that 😛

  4. I hate non-smiling photos! I had to throw out half my engagement photos because I look like someone just insulted my mother. I also hate fisheye lenses, and those photos where the groom is standing 20 feet behind the bride. Also, I already told my photographer, I’m not running or jumping! I mean, what is that?

    • Yes Jackie, why didn’t we find each other sooner? I’m a wedding photographer and I absolutely hate fisheye lenses. Seriously, what the heck? You should not be putting people in front of a fisheye – THEY WILL BE DISFIGURED. The only thing I hate more than a fisheye lens is those stupid blurry groom in the background looking longingly at the bride. My goodness, they’re in love, let them be together! And the only time I like the non smiling pictures is if its for real and I’m not forcing that on the couple. Like maybe he’s kissing her on the neck and she’s feeling really sexy and not super smiley. Other than that – kiss, laugh, smile – do whatever you want!

    • Yes, exactly! We all point and laugh at 1980’s corny hokey poses – some of them even put up to mock on “awkward wedding photos” type sites. And then history repeats itself with 7 million more of today’s jump, seriously stare off, stand by graffiti wall, purple-yellow colored, blurred heads, whatever-the-trend-is stuff. But timelessness in a wedding photo? That’s not achieved by photographing any trend. Never ever.

    • It’s all about personal preference of the couple I think. Some of the best pictures I’ve taken have been candid moments of “that just happened”. And I did do a jumping picture at my own wedding because I was that damn excited that I felt I could fly. But a photographer should never push a couple to do anything they’re uncomfortable with. And if the photographer doesn’t have enough ideas to move on from a ditched idea, they aren’t worth the $.

    • I 100% agree, I can not stand the jumping photos…I have a list for my photographer of “do not want pics”, if we can make a “do not play” list for the dj we can make a “do not take” list for our pictures. After all WE paid for them to capture what WE want.

    • My husband and I call that the creeper shot and we do it occasionally. Not my favorite until we had a groom who took the creeper part seriously and had us all laughing so hard we could hardly take the photos.

    • Perhaps it started that way, and I can TOTALLY see that from the above photo, but when a photographer is telling a bride and groom specifically not to smile even though they WANT to, it has gone too far!

  5. I’ve never been much for trends anyway…but I always go for smiles, and in fact, smiles are a huge factor in whether I use a photo or not! It’s really strange to me that a photographer would tell a couple not to smile…

  6. I’ll never get this trend, and have been so surprised at the lack of emotion that some pretty big name photographers are aiming for in their pictures. I think it’s a symptom of getting bored with your art and looking for something that excites YOU as the artists, regardless of it’s lack of common sense in the situation. But maybe I’m just old fashioned like that.

  7. Seriously, I was be so mad if that happened to us, Megan! One or two serious “editorial” pics are okay but I want to be HAPPY and SMILE, DAMMIT!

    I am also very perplexed by the mustaches-on-sticks trend for photos. I realize I’m in the minority, but I just. don’t. get it.

    • Yeah, it wasn’t the highlight. Though it’s a funny story now. And, yup, we’re with you on the mustache photos.

    • There’s someone else! Whilst this site is full of things that aren’t necessarily my taste, I can relate to them, but the mustaches completely bewilder me

      • We did mustaches on stick in our photo booth as an homage to my husband’s wicked handlebar mustache, but if you’re doing it just to be trendy? Nah. We also had red lips on sticks in tribute to my infamous red lips.

  8. You actually fired your photog??? I seriously would have loved to be a fly on the wall for that convo….I wouldn’t have the guts to do something like that! 🙂

    • You know, it wasn’t that dramatic. My day-of coordinator/friend noticed I was getting SUPER aggravated (maybe it was the whole “miming the Darth Vader choke-move at my photographer’s back” thing). So she asked me what was wrong. I told her that the photographer was, in essence, harshing my buzz. So on our walk from the beach to the restaurant, she grabbed him and brought him over to me and said, “Okay, I think we’re good here! Megan, do you need James for anything else?” And I said, “nope, he’s free to go!” He looked SUPER confused. I then skipped away towards the reception feeling a million pounds lighter and my buddy took care of sending him on his way!

      • That’s awesome — and great support for finding a day-of coordinator. Glad it wasn’t major drama, but thanks for sharing as a reminder that you’re not stuck with keeping vendors, even day-of.

        • FORTUNATELY I had a feeling that this guy wasn’t gonna gell with an offbeat wedding, so I asked my other friend who DOES NOT do weddings to just bring his camera anyway. Of course those pics were way better. But yeah, I was at the point where was happy to just not have pro photos just so that I could enjoy the rest of the time.

  9. I think one of two not smiling photos to express the solemness of the occasion is okay. But not expression-less. That’s not a good look for me. I agree that I want to capture the joy I’m feeling on that day, with perhaps just a little bit of thoughtfulness.

    • I think if you have a formal ceremony and a formal reception and serious vows and whatnot, you can have some non-smiling pictures. As part of my vows, I promised not to be crabby at Drew if the Bears lost to the Packers. So the tone of our wedding was very lighthearted and fun. That said, there are pictures of us not smiling. But I don’t recall Erica ever telling us NOT to smile. There are some pics where I had to consciously tell myself not to smile so big (because when I do my eyes look squinty). She just took a lot of shots while we were doing stuff.

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