On average, wedding photographers spend about 8 hours taking photos on the big day, and they send as many as 800 shots to their clients afterward. While those are some amazing numbers, it’s even more incredible how often 799 of those shots are shockingly cliché.
Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes wedding planning knows that most of the wedding photography advice on the web is the same: Jump as a group. Stay out of focus while holding your rings up to the camera. Make sure those heels have their moment to shine (because who doesn’t want a photo of their shoes to gaze at lovingly later on, right?).
This list is different. Here’s how to avoid taking cliché wedding photos so you can have wedding prints you’ll truly be proud of.
The reason some wedding photos can feel so cliché is that they look the same no matter who’s in them. Someone in a white dress, a few folks in tuxes, everybody posed perfectly and wearing a pretty smile. Those go-to setups don’t say much about what makes you you, and that’s a major missed opportunity.
Think about who you are and what you stand for and make sure those values and preferences make their way into your photos. It could be as simple as skipping posed shots and letting groups come together naturally, or you could get totally crazy and bring in a bag of props.
Are you both musicians who met when you joined the same band? Think about taking some photos in your wedding finery while holding your instruments.
Do you spend every birthday on a trip somewhere beachy just so you can scuba dive? Put on your flippers and mask for a fun photo that includes wedding-y things as well as something that’s innately you.
Are you typically more at home while dressed down and doing casual, fun activities? Instead of making your flower girl and ring bearer stand up straight for serious shots, sit on the ground with them and read a book together or play games.
In other words, there are no rules. If the photo setup feels comfortable and makes you happy, it’s perfect.
This suggestion is going to be a bit controversial. One school of thought says you should always bring in an experienced wedding photographer to shoot your nuptials because it takes an expert to understand details like which angles work and how to get the right shots without getting in everybody’s way. But career wedding photographers may also get a little too used to taking the same shots no matter who’s in them.
A professional photographer who has a background in photojournalism, portraits, or even fashion may be able to offer a different perspective. They’ll look for moments that tell a story beyond what everybody else sees. If you’re worried about missing out on the photos friends and family might expect, you can always hire a wedding photographer for the formal shots and a second photographer who specializes in candids. Let each work their magic and enjoy some sure-to-be impressive results.
Destination weddings are so much more than just saying “I do” someplace far away. Taking your entire wedding hundreds or even thousands of miles from home is an opportunity to add to traditions (or skip them altogether). That includes your photos.
Every beach wedding seems to have a shot of the happy couple standing in front of the waves. Sure, it’s beautiful, but is there anything about it that indicates where the wedding took place? Not so much. Not all tropical locales are the same, and destination weddings in urban settings or up in the mountains are just as special. Take the unique attributes or traditions of your location and work them into your wedding photos.
You may have a killer set of pipes or a spouse-to-be who loves karaoke, but that doesn’t mean your wedding pictures should look like you have a new LP to promote. Those cliché group photos that look like a boy band or girl group gone wrong just aren’t flattering, and they aren’t unique either. Instead of settling for a generic shot of you and your BFFs, try adopting a natural pose (relaxed bodies, easy smiles) and let a special location or backdrop do the talking.
And maybe take just one album cover shot for the giggles. Hey, you only live once!
It might not be possible to skip over every clichéd photo simply because so many of them are expected by your parents or in-laws. You may not want to stand back to back with your sweetheart grinning like a fool while your photographer takes snap after snap, but sometimes you do it just to keep the peace. But that just means you have to get extra creative to ensure there are photos you love too.
One way to do that is by bringing your photographer to wedding-related events they might not normally be a part of. Let them sit in while you and your friends make wedding favors from scratch. Bring them to your dress or suit fitting or for a walk around your venue while you and your fiancé are still in street clothes — the look in your eyes as you first walk down what will soon be your aisle can make for a very moving image.
Sometimes the best way to plan a modern wedding is to look to the past. Talk with your photographer about adjusting the typical Pinterest wedding photo checklist and adding in some shots inspired by your family background.
- In Mexico, couples may be draped in el lazo, a figure-eight of rosary beads and flowers that symbolizes an eternity of wedded bliss
- Chinese culture dictates the bride be carried from her home in an ornate sedan chair, with attendants shielding her with parasols and tossing rice — all symbolizing luck, health, and prosperity
- In Venezuela, newlyweds are challenged to sneak away from their own reception without getting caught, an escape that would make for an adorable “gotcha” photo as the couple makes their escape
Some of these customs may be long outdated, but that’s part of the fun. Add in a bit of culture, always with respect, and you have photos that honor your heritage while still feeling deeply personal.
You 100% deserve to have whatever shots you love as a part of your wedding photo album, and if that means forming your hands into the shape of a heart, then so be it. But if you’re concerned about clichés, then maybe you don’t want to do what every couple ever has done in their engagement photos and/or wedding shots.
Same goes for jumping in the air as a group, posing behind an empty photo frame, and the backlit shot of the wedding dress still on its hanger. Again, if it’s what you really want, then jump until you can’t jump any more. But if you are determined to be different, capture the wedding dress being fastened up one button at a time or get the wedding party to laugh at something naturally rather than attempting to orchestrate a 20-person jump (seriously, you have no idea how often that fails).
If your wedding is already over and you’re staring at your photographs wondering what the heck happened, don’t despair. All is not lost, we promise. Even the most daunting stack of clichéd photos can be saved as long as you have digital copies and some editing software — or access to someone else who has an eye for detail and a nimble clicking finger.
A filter here, a splash of color in a black-and-white print there — it’s incredible how playing with focus or replacing a background can make a boring picture come alive. You can even turn you and your spouse into watercolor artwork or give the images a vintage look to go with those antique store frames you just bought. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination and the software you use.
At the end of the day, the only opinion that matters is your own — and your better half’s, of course. Take chances with your photos and, if you tend to be risk-averse, make a list that includes traditional shots as well as some wackier ideas. Keep the ones you love, toss the rest, and live happily ever after.