With wedding season in full swing, this is a great time to address the issue of what to wear to a wedding as a photographer. I don't know about you, but this is a legitimate struggle for many. I've personally seen wedding photographers in every type of outfit. From the classic all black ‘funeral' look, to a bold and bright color block outfit complete with electric blue pants. I even saw a photographer trying to work the ‘effortless chic' look by wearing shorts and flip flops. To a wedding. That they were working at. <eye roll>.
When searching for something to wear to an upcoming wedding I find myself repeatedly asking the question: “What's the big deal? Everyone will be looking at the bride anyway?!” Unfortunately, (for those of us who don't have a knack for fashion) it is a big deal. What we wear to client meetings, portrait sessions and weddings is all part of our brand. What we wear and how we present ourselves can have a direct impact on our clientele and even our bookings. We should dress in a way that is true to us and our personalities, but with an added element of professionalism. Doing this will in turn create a deeper sense of trust in you from your clients without them even realizing it. It is important that we communicate in everything, including the way we dress, that we take what we do seriously.
Our couples are trusting us with one of the most important aspects of one of the most important days of their lives. It's a big deal!
If you don't want to read through this whole post, please for the love, do NOT: wear shorts, t-shirts with a picture of bacon or cats on them (despite how much you may love those things or feel they represent you as a person), flip flops, crocs or yoga pants to photograph a wedding. It's all sorts of tacky. Also be considerate of the colors that you choose to wear as well!
So how do I dress professionally while still being true to myself? To help with this I have put together a guideline of the 5 basic fashionable photographer faux pas.
This may seem like a given but it needs to be included. I am continually astounded at the number of guests I have seen attending a wedding in a white dress. A lot of people view it as an old-fashioned or old-school rule that doesn't apply today. After all, you weren't supposed to wear black either and that is now viewed as one of the “safe” and “classic” color choices to wear to a wedding. The difference here is that the color white detracts from the bride and draws attention away from her. One of my primary objectives when shooting a wedding, when it comes to my appearance, is to blend in and be invisible.
To quote Martha Stewart Weddings, “If you do show up in white, you're not technically doing anything wrong, but people might talk and you'll be known as “the girl who wore white at so-and-so's wedding.” Instead of people talking about the way you tirelessly captured every detail of the day, they will be talking about what you wore. And a great thing about being at a wedding is that you are instantly around people who will notice you and your work ethic. So let them talk about your work, not your inopportune dress choice. It is best just to be safe and avoid anything that is even in the same color scheme as white i.e. ivory, champagne, light beige, light silver etc.
So, let your bride's day be about her and leave the white for another day.
This is ok:
Statistically, what color car gets pulled over more than any other? Red. This is because it draws the eye. It is flashy and draws attention to itself. This statistic should be considered by wedding photographers (and wedding guests alike) when choosing an outfit to photograph a wedding in. There is nothing inherently wrong with wearing red to a wedding. But the problem is that in a sea of blacks, navys, pastels and dark or neutral tones, the first thing your eye will see is the bright red. As the wedding guests survey the beautiful scenes and details of the wedding their eye will continuously be drawn to the one in the bright red dress. Especially because you will be one of the people throughout the day who is within closest proximity to the bride and groom – AKA the guests of honor. This same rule could be applied to any bright color i.e. sunshine yellow, bubble gum pink, citrus green etc. As well as loud patterns.
If you are wearing a pattern that makes it look like you just came from your jail cell or from a garden party with the Queen of England and Princess Kate then you've probably missed the point of mistake #2. I'm not even going to get started on the neon trend that has overtaken the fashion industry the past few years. I think it's safe to say that if your dress is shinning brighter than the sun it's probably not what you should be wearing to photograph a wedding. Just don't even go there. I am not saying that any sort of color is off limits to the fashionable photog. A great alternative would be a deep wine, plum or navy instead of the bright eye sores.
Don't wear this:
Now, if you're like me, most of your couples aren't sending you a wedding invitation. It is just sort of assumed that given the thousands they are paying you and the contract signed in blood (okay maybe not but I'm sure it feels like that to our clients!) that we will be there. This is one of the reasons that during the initial client meeting, Skype session or email we ask our couples what the color scheme, theme and over all feel of their wedding will be. This helps us gauge what we should wear to best blend in. If it is a black tie wedding then a more formal approach is necessary. However, if its a country wedding in a barn and the invitation requests that guests wear cowboy boots then it would be a good idea to discuss this with your couple and ask if you should do the same.
Not so much this:
Maybe try this:
This fashionable photographer faux pas goes hand in hand with mistake #3. It is totally acceptable to wear a pop of color that falls into the color palette of the wedding or even a dress that is a similar shade as the bridesmaid's dresses. It is not ok to wear the exact same dress you wore when you stood up for your best friend's wedding last month. This is definitely not the time to get a second use out if it! In fact, it is probably best not to wear the same style and shade of dress as the bridesmaids if possible. Unless of course you are a photographer extraordinaire like Amy Demos and Katelyn James who were both recently a bridesmaids at a wedding they were also photographing. In this case I raise my glass and tip my hat to you for accomplishing something that is near to impossible. In addition, I see many photographers who are able to put together professional, cute, and functional outfits which tastefully and subtly point back to the overall color scheme of the wedding, without looking anything like one of the bridesmaids.
A wedding is an event full of tradition and class. Don't trash it up by wearing what you wore to the club the previous night. (And don't go to a club the night before photographing a wedding.) What you wear for “Girls Night Out” should not be the same as what you wear to photograph a wedding. Nobody needs to be seeing all your goods as you climb up onto a chair to get a different angle or to remove an unwanted distracting object from the background. A wedding is not the place for revealing and skimpy clothing regardless of whether you are the photographer or a guest. As far as weddings (and all things business) are concerned, modest is hottest. Keep it classy.
There ya have it! My 5 fashionable photographer faux pas. Hopefully, this will aid you in finding the perfect outfit for every wedding, whether you are a guest or the photographer!
Showiteer Callie Beale discusses ten common things couples would change about their wedding if they could do it over again.
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