Why I Don’t Photograph Ugly People
“So you are looking for rich, ugly couples.”
Those were the words uttered to me by my (now ex) business coach.
We’d been discussing my marketing; the type of couples I wanted to work with, and where in the saturated wedding photography market I was going to find my fit. As someone who has always struggled with self-confidence – especially when it comes to physical appearance – I was trying to explain that my niche wasn’t simply LGBTQ+ couples, or those getting married later in life, but all couples who feel like they are on the outside looking in. Couples who excitedly trawl social media and Pinterest for wedding inspiration only to realise most wedding media represents a very specific aesthetic that they do not identify with. Couples who don’t feel confident in front of the camera because they mistakenly believe that either they don’t look good enough, or that in order to look good enough they will have to pout and pose in painful and uncomfortable staged images and cannot simply enjoy being themselves.
In all my years of being a wedding photographer, I have never photographed anyone who was ugly. However, I constantly photograph people who feel unattractive, self-conscious or who are consumed by insecurities and body confidence issues. People who perceive physical features to be flaws needing to be hidden, as opposed to unique qualities that deserve to be celebrated.
How we feel about ourselves often has very little to do with how we actually look, and more to do with the messages that we are subjected to throughout our lives. Sometimes this can be a conscious thought such as “I don’t look as good in this outfit as the model on the website did” (comparisons are never healthy), or it can be more subtle. For a long time I wondered why I looked in the mirror each morning feeling despondent and full of negative self-talk, only to realise that prior to getting out of bed, I’d probably already scrolled through tens of perfectly sculpted bodies, and perfectly lit faces on instagram.
It’s really important to be aware of what you are feeding your brain on regular basis, and even more so when wedding planning. There isn’t a certain style, look or photograph that you have to obtain in order to make your day valid or acceptable, despite what many bloggers and magazines would have you believe. Personally, I think the sign of a great wedding is how many moments of pure joy the day brings. Joy is contagious and easily overpowers feelings of insecurity and lack of self-worth. Joy isn’t created by counting calories, or by piling on the make-up. It isn’t restricted by ethnic background or gender identity. Joy is what I seek to capture at every wedding and when I do, even the most self-deprecating couples love seeing themselves in their images. Keep joy-seeking at the centre of wedding planning, not perfectionism.
I know for many reasons – be that budget, style, location or availability – that I may not be the photographer you book to capture your wedding day, and that’s absolutely fine. All I ask is that you take a good look at a prospective wedding photographer’s work and identify what it is they prioritise capturing. Is their portfolio making you feel seen and represented, or upholding unrealistic body and beauty standards? Do the couples look relaxed and comfortable in their own skin, or are they merely a focal point in an image crafted specifically for the photographer’s online portfolio?
You are not ugly or unnattractve, too short, too overweight, too camp or too introverted; you’ve just been brainwashed into thinking you need to drastically change your appearance and personality to be deemed worthy and photogenic. On what will be the most magical day of your lives, don’t book a wedding photographer whose body of work perpetuates this false belief.
Please also remember that despite what you may have seen, Fine Art wedding photography is not just for skinny straight couples, high-end reportage wedding photography isn’t just for twenty-somethings. You deserve to have any type of wedding photography coverage you want, so please don’t let your limiting self-beliefs restrict your choice of wedding photographer. When photographers of any genre make wedding shoots fun, ensure you feel comfortable in your own skin and help you to remember how much your partner loves you for who you are, you are guaranteed to love seeing yourself in the photographs.
So bite the bullet and find a photographer you feel fabulous in front of.
I can guarantee you won’t regret it.