A few months ago, possibly less than that, I read this article titled “Why I Hate Your Engagement Pictures” and it was one of the saddest things I’ve ever read. Not even coming from a photographer’s perspective. How angry at the world do you have to be that you can’t find some way to be genuinely over the moon that your friends are doing well? Seriously. Explain it to me. Look, I get it, some couples are fucking nauseating and you just can’t get past your gag reflex. But I’d venture a guess that you’ve never been in that place, you’ve never had that person that makes you want to be absolutely ridiculous without a care in the world. Get over yourself. Let people stand in a damn field during the sunset and lovingly stare at each other if they want to. Let them make whatever memories they want.
Look. I’m going to explain why they might want to do that from a photographer’s perspective: engagement sessions are for the couple to get comfortable with the photographer. MANY of my couples tell me “we don’t really need engagement photos” and I’m like “yes, yes you do.” And then they flip out because they can’t believe how cute they look in front of a camera and they tell me how much they’re going to treasure those photos.
Two years ago, I nagged my friend Emily to let me take photos of her and her boyfriend, Derek. There was a day while they were engaged that she was just having a crazy day of wedding planning and she needed a margarita. We got dinner and she told me that those pictures I took when they were dating — saved their relationship, and that she didn’t think they’d be getting married if I didn’t help show them what they were fighting for. Now he’s her husband.
In the last year, three of my (best) friends have gotten married. Two of my other (best) friends are engaged. Not one of them asked me to be a bridesmaid. Four of them asked me to be their wedding photographer. I told each of them I wouldn’t want anyone else to touch their wedding with their camera. I told the other one I didn’t want to be her photographer, I just wanted to be there for her in any other way (which ended up being basically a taxi driver, decorator, and quasi coordinator). Also, I wasn’t comfortable shooting her wedding because it was out of state, I didn’t want my first “destination” wedding to be riding on that much of a friendship. Her photographer was incredible, so was her wedding day.
There used to be a time where I was of the mentality “they better make me a bridesmaid because they’ll be mine” and that was at a time that I didn’t think I would end up working in the wedding industry. My feelings about being a bridesmaid shifted SO drastically. I didn’t wear a dress that went with their wedding colors. I wasn’t in any of the bridal party group photos. And here’s the thing: I’m not the type of girl who is a bridesmaid. I’m the assertive one, I want to get things done and make decisions and just have that be that. You know what I did and what I was? I was a helper. I DID so much more. They trusted me with helping make the one wedding they’ll ever have, happen. Those three wedding days that happened and the two that are still to come are days I will cherish for my whole life.
I had my phone out and on and Skyping Liz during Rachel’s wedding because she was teaching in China and there was no way for her to make it to the wedding. I helped set up the reception area and the dessert table and I helped make sure that the flowers from the ceremony were moved to the centerpieces on the tables. I cried all day because I was so overjoyed for my friends and I loved getting to be on the other side.
I overshot the crap out of Tyler and Morgan’s wedding. Seriously. They didn’t get the all time high return of photos, but 1300 is a lot. Oh wait… “At the end of the day they will have 10-20 photos that they truly cherish and frame.” That was left as a comment on a photo I posted because I ran a contest with the guests to see if they could guess how many photos I would send back. I want to take a minute to tell that person how wrong he is. (It won’t be anything like that one I ripped my ex to shreds, don’t worry.)
Look, dude who thinks only 10-20 photos matter — I think (and I’m positive she thinks) all 1300 of those photos matter because I took them. I showed up in the way my friend needed me. I can’t even begin to tell you how much pressure I had put on myself for that wedding. When you’ve known someone for almost as long as you’ve been alive and they trust you with their WEDDING PHOTOS it’s a big.effbomb.deal. When literally 80% of the guest list has known you for that same amount of time, it’s a big.effbomb.deal. No one put pressure on me, but me. I was an emotional roller coaster all day. After it was over, I got in my car and cried. Not because I was sad. But most of you have read what the last couple years have been like. I’ve had so many people in the last two and a half years trying to coax my creativity and potential out of the corner and behind the boxes I shoved it in because of three awful men who wanted to strip me of it. I take nothing but pride in every single shutter click from July 11.
It was completely her day, but I was responsible for it. All of the people that didn’t even need to acknowledge that, did. I’ve had this same personality my whole life, but it doesn’t make sense on a little kid. It did on her wedding day. It was the graduation day I didn’t get to have. Tyler’s mom hugged me so many times that day and told me how excited she was that it was me with the camera. She, and SO many others, told me how proud they were of the woman I had become. Holy moly, you can’t know the wonderful weight of that. So, dude who thinks I returned too many photos, I know you don’t know my life or how hard I worked to get to her day. I know you’re just a stranger to me. I know you think you’re superior to me because your camera is technically nicer than mine. I know.
But you can suck my lens.
My friend Natalie sent me a letter during Christmastime. She said, “you show up when it matters and that is huge.”
That’s the life I want to live, that’s how I was raised to live. You know what? When it’s my turn, they’ll show up for me in the way I need them to. I’m confident in that. Every photo I did or didn’t take, and every time we have and will show up for each other.
I’m so confident they’ll cherish it all, just like I do.
Also, #knightstietheknot has been dropped in the gallery. Bam.