There’s something I’ve needed to get off my chest for quite some time. I’m sure it’s already been said in a dozen different ways, by a dozen other photographers, but it bears repeating:
I. Hate. Pinterest.
Ok, ok, that was a bit harsh, and who am I kidding? I drool over all the cozy coastal cottages with their perfectly imperfect rustic kitchen tables, and chunky knit throws, draped casually across the arm of a bleached-white Restoration Hardware sofa. The 3-ingredient, better-than-your-grandma’s cookie recipe sits quietly on my “yum” board, never to actually be baked, but enticing me with its fail-proof promises, and mouth-watering photos. These dream-worthy boredom busters have a special place in my heart, and will continue to keep my impatience at bay when my time in a doctor’s office waiting room nears 45 minutes. BUT if you want a surefire way to shatter my heart on the spot, here’s the perfect recipe:
Your longtime high school sweetheart just popped the question in the most incredibly sweet, simple way, and you never saw it coming! You find yourself staring at that brand new shiny ring on your finger, in the middle of the day, too distracted to get any real work done. Friends and family gush, your cheeks ache from grinning, and you start planning your dream day. The date, venue, and general details start falling into place. Wedding dress shopping was a success and you found THE DRESS.
Then comes the excitement of engagement photos! We pick a date and location, and hammer out the session details. Through emails, phone calls, and maybe even a date at your favorite local restaurant, we’ve gotten to know each other well. We’ve added each other on Facebook, and I’ve gotten a strong sense of who you are. Most days you lounge around the house in leggings and t-shirts, but when you go out, you kick it up a notch: a little extra mascara, heels instead of flats, curled hair. I see that you love spending time with your family on the weekends, picking crabs in the summer, building bonfires in the winter. You’re a down-to-earth, all around fun gal, and I could totally see us getting together for a movie night in our pjs.
As your photo session approaches, we talk in more detail about styles and poses. Then, with all the good intentions of a well-prepared bride, you hit me with a Pinterest inspiration board. All your favorite poses and outfit ideas are laid out neatly for me to look over, in a lovely little grid. Suddenly, all the unique information I’ve gathered about you and your fiancee has been funneled down into one narrow cookie cutter formula that I’ve seen a thousand times before.
Now, let’s pause for a moment, before I further crush your board love.
Pinterest has its place in the photo session planning process. It’s a wonderful way to visualize tops and bottoms together, colors and patterns, all coming together to create a lovely, cohesive picture of you as a couple. It’s even a great way to narrow down what mood you want to capture. You originally thought you wanted a sleek, urban vibe with sidewalks, and skyscrapers, but Pinterest helped you fall in love with big open fields, and tall wildflowers.
The danger lies in one, tiny detail that can make or break your session. Viewing your photo inspiration as a checklist is a swift, simple way to ensure your photos are forgettable. In essence, what you’re telling your loved ones through photos is that you are a cute, cookie cutter couple, just like anyone else on the street. Imagine how hilarious it would feel to go up to a random couple on the street and say, “You guys look soooo cute together! Here, get in this box, so I can pack you up and take you home.” Even more hilarious would be looking at your guy, with all the sincerity of your romantic heart, and telling him, “They are just so adorable. I want us to copy everything they do, and we’ll have our photographer take pictures.” (The word “creepy” comes to mind.) Ironically, one of the reasons you probably love the photos you’ve pinned is because that couple didn’t have a checklist. They allowed the photographer to capture their emotions, and their love language.
I’ve photographed a wide range of couples in a variety of locations and styles, but the ones I loved the most were the ones who stayed true to themselves. One couple shared a Pinterest board with me, then called and said, “We just wanted you to get a feel for the vibe we want. We love the outdoors, camping, and hiking. The photos we pinned are great because they feel relaxed and natural, like any weekend we spend together. You know us. We trust you. Don’t put us in those poses, just give us that feeling.” Yum. Yes. Perfect. Because they gave me creative liberty, I felt excited, and energized by the entire process. We hiked through the woods, threw leaves at each other, built a campfire, and made s’mores. The whole scene was so real that the couple actually forgot I was there, and gave each other snuggly, gooey s’mores kisses by the campfire. THAT is what I love about photos! I love taking a mood, a tender emotion, and making it tangible. Three years later, that amazing couple is able to look back at their photos and say, “That is us, to a T.” If you’re looking for candid, sweet photos that reflect your absolutely one-of-a-kind style, the best thing you can do is put down your iPad. Stop overthinking it. Stop putting yourself in a box. You are unique, and beautiful, and full of life!