How to Let Go of the Shoulds That are holding you back as a Wedding Photographer

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When I First Discovered The Shoulds That Were Holding Me Back…

When I first started my wedding photography career, I did A LOT, and I mean A LOT of second shooting for other photographers. I once second shot 47 weddings in one year to be exact!

From that experience of watching other photographers work on the sidelines, I was able to observe how the couples felt around them. Being an empath, I have a high emotional intelligence and I could tell when the couples felt uncomfortable, when they were having fun, and when they were only doing something because they thought they should. Over time, I was able to craft an approach I believed in for myself.

I used to believe that there were a lot of shots I HAD to get as a wedding photographer. Some of these included:

-          I SHOULD take photos of the dress hanging.

-          I SHOULD take 1-2 hours for portrait time of the bride + groom.

-          I SHOULD take perfectly pretty detail shots of the rings.

-          I SHOULD get photos of the guys getting ready by telling them to get dressed while I’m there.

All these shoulds were stories that my mind created after observing how other photographers work and what was featured on wedding blogs. But then I asked myself a question. WHY?

WHY take the photos of the dress hanging? Will the couple look back at that photo in 10 years and FEEL a wave of emotion over that photo? No.

WHY take 1-2 hours for portrait time of the bride + groom? Are those the memories they will want to remember most? The ones where they were told what to do, when to kiss and what to say to each other in those moments? Most likely not. They will remember the moments when they laughed, cried, and connected with each other and other naturally throughout the day!

WHY take perfectly pretty detail shots of the rings? Again, will the couple always look back at that photo and admire the rings? No. They have them on their hands everyday! If they are going to admire their rings, they can just do so in person in a split second. Why would they go digging through an online gallery to do that?

WHY are the photos of the groom and groomsmen getting dressed a must? Is that the only story we can capture as wedding photographers? Will the groom be emotionally connected to those photos and think “oh boy, that time when the photographer told us to get dressed and then literally watched us getting dressed while taking pictures of that was a BLAST!”. No! The memorable times are what happens naturally when you are there. The key is not telling them what to do and simply telling them to be. Whatever that is! Some moments that could be a stronger story are the guys are just hanging out, bantering, having a drink, playing a game, and even if they are getting dressed, at least it’s what they are doing naturally, not that the SHOULD be doing that in that moment. There’s a huge psychological difference! It’s not about the clothes they are putting on! It’s about the time they are spending together.

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My Powerful Realization

Once I asked myself these questions and debunked all the bullshit stories of all the SHOULDS, I found a much deeper purpose and meaning to being a wedding photographer.

With this realization, I had to ask myself why again, and go in a bit deeper this time.

WHY was I creating all these shots I thought I was suppose to get even though deep down I felt ridiculous about them? The answer came to me easily. “Well if all wedding photographers are doing it, then I SHOULD too. For me to have a successful career in wedding photography, I need to follow the pack to survive”.

This is a normal thought for us to have because we are literally wired to feel like we belong so we can survive with the community around us, but I didn’t just want to survive, I wanted to THRIVE, so that wasn’t a good enough reason for me.  I wanted my photos to have a deep purpose, and since there was so much love and emotion present on wedding days, I knew there was a way to add depth to wedding photos.

And Even Deeper…

The next question was WHO? Who was I documenting this day for?

The answer was simple. The couples! Not wedding blogs! Not other photographers. But wait, was it really only for the couple? No! The day is exciting for all the family and friends involved too! How could I document all that excitement? How could I create images that will make the couple and their family and friends FEEL something when looking back at them?

Well, by simply showing up, observing and documenting. No expectations. Just telling the story of what is. Because THAT is what they will all want to remember most.

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But Again, I Go Even Deeper…

I wondered, what are THEY thinking? What are they feeling about the whole photographer scenario?

I put myself in their shoes and wondering how I would think and feel if I wasn’t a photographer. I would be totally ignorant to the process and have NO CLUE of what the photographer would need from us to do their job. So, couples end up thinking along the lines of this; “From my experience when being a part of our friends wedding, we had to take photos for 2 hours, so that’s what we will have to do. Photos are important so we should make sure we do everything we can so the photographer can be happy with how they turned out and they enjoy photographing us. The photos need to be directed a little for them to turn out perfectly because maybe that’s the only way the photographer can make the photos look beautiful, to have full control. So we should just do what the photographer says.”

Did you notice something? They are thinking that they SHOULD do certain things too! Photographers think they SHOULD do certain things because they assume that that’s what couples want, but the couple also thinks the SHOULD be doing certain things! All that ends up happening is we end up in a freakin SHOULD circle! Everyone trying to please everyone! Mind blown right!?

Our Responsibility As Wedding Photographers

It’s our responsibility as artists and photographers is to first decide on our approach (WHY we do what we do and HOW), and then communicate that with potential clients! That way, the couple will realize that there are different types of photographers with different approaches which will allow them to choose the photographer they connect with most! That way, both parties are happy! As photographers we end up feeling fulfilled because we feel valued for what our soul wants to offer. Also, the couple ends up being happy with the end result because they got to choose the style of photography that spoke the most to them + they get to enjoy their day how THEY want to!

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As a Photographer, Experiencing This is Magical!

When you are super clear on your approach through your online presence, your website, your communication with couples, they go on the journey with you with a high degree of trust intact and you can arrive on their wedding day feeling excited and energized instead of stressed or nervous!

I used to feel SO nervous throughout a whole wedding day since I was so concerned with getting everything on the should shot list. With the approach of being a storyteller and simply observing what’s happening in front of me and documenting, I get to head into a day with no expectations and be present throughout the day. What happens on their day happens and it’s part of the story. It’s so liberating! It gives you breathing room to create freely with people around that trust you and are so grateful you are there! When I realized that I’m able to focus mainly on documenting the raw and unfiltered CONNECTION they share with one another and all their favourite people, THIS is when I fell head over heals in love with documenting wedding days.


I would LOVE to know if this post helped change your perspective in a positive way! If so, feel free to DM me on Instagram, email me, or leave a comment below!

With love, Sara