Back when I posted the results to my year-end survey, people clamored to see more behind-the-scenes stuff. And I’ve noticed more and more lately that new fans and commenters are other photographers, which I never would have imagined. I’ve written only a few posts for photographers but I suppose there will be more, now!
Anyway, this post probably would have been handy when I was first starting to shoot weddings. I feel like there’s a progression of what photographers wear to weddings. It goes a little something like this:
- I want to be a PROFESSIONAL. I will wear all black and be a ninja.
- Wow, all-black at an outdoor wedding in the Texas summer is really, really hot… I will wear light-colored stuff that lets my skin breathe and I’ll keep my demeanor professional.
- Why didn’t anybody tell me that light-colored clothing in heat will show ALL SORTS OF SWEAT STAINS?
- Screw this! It’s hot. I’m going to wear what I like, with appropriate hemlines, and it will be comfortable and I will be me.
That was my path, anyway.
I basically have two outfits. If I feel like the wedding is going to be super casual, I wear a pair of cotton twill pants and a 100% cotton shirt. If the wedding is a bit dressier, I wear a lace cotton dress with black cotton leggings. Cotton socks and a pair of dependable shoes (I always wear Kalso Earth) complete the outfit.
The key word here is “cotton.”
I once made the mistake of wearing a cute tunic top that looked breezy in the store — but once it was on my body, it held in all of my sweat and heat and cooked me on the inside. I paired this shirt with a pair of pants that I loved — and I loved those pants because no matter what I did in them, they didn’t wrinkle. Both were polyester and a poly-rayon blend. I shot a short wedding in the afternoon heat and almost passed out when I got home. It took several glasses of ice-cold water, a cold shower, and eating coconut-milk ice cream in front of a fan to cool me down. That night, I went to bed early and woke up the next day feeling like someone had stomped on my neck. Polyester: it won’t show sweat stains, but it’s NOT WORTH IT.
What I recommend is wearing a dark-ish color with texture so that your sweat isn’t as apparent. You are going to sweat. It is unavoidable. I found that the lacy material on the Fluttering Flora dress from Anthropologie is perfect for masking my sweatiness. (This particular dress is no longer being sold in stores, but there are versions available on eBay, and there are other lacy dresses available since that style is still pretty popular. Just make sure it’s cotton.)
A big thing, for me, is to feel like I’m part of the wedding instead of a hired outsider. I get to know my couples pretty well before their wedding day, and we’re usually on friendly terms. We’ve met up, talked over coffee and sparkling water, exchanged countless emails, and are usually in touch through Facebook or Twitter as well. So if I show up to a wedding wearing all black and looking just like a “vendor,” it skews the relationship that I’ve worked to create with my couples. That’s why I wear a nice dress — something a guest could have shown up in. And because I’m hopping around and squatting and generally being a liiiittle un-ladylike when I’m shooting, I wear cotton leggings as well.
For some reason, none of my second photographers have caught me wearing my new pants-and-shirt combo, so I’ll have to borrow a shot from Olivia and Amy’s homemade photobooth so you can see that:
I’m on the right, obviously. The shirt is also from Anthropologie and is 100% cotton. Because it’s got a dip-dyed, ombré thing going on, sweat is less obvious than if it were a solid-colored or pin-striped shirt. Cotton twill pants are a dime a dozen; I think I got that pair from Delias.
Most important, for me, are SHOES. I need shoes that do not give me blisters or pinch or lack support. The best shoe I’ve ever come across are the Kalso Earth shoe. They’re being branded now as a “healthy” shoe, because it has a reverse heel (better for your posture), but I bought my first pair of Earths when they were still marketed as a crunchy granola company, not a “burn more calories!” company. So don’t be fooled by all that mess, and just know that their shoes are so comfortable that I’ve yet to find another company I love more. I recommend them to every female wedding photographer I know. They even have vegan options.
I also can’t stand having hair on my neck. It’s so hot and sticky and itchy! So I do my hair up in a few different ways. I’ve tried the sock bun, the winding braid, and my most preferred hair are the mini-buns (aka the Sailor Moon buns).
Although my wardrobe choices evolved from wanting to look “ninja professional” to wanting to be comfortable in my own clothes, I’ve come to realize that it’s much more important to showcase myself as MYSELF at weddings. My clients know me and like me — that’s why they hired me! But their wedding party doesn’t know me. Their grandparents don’t know me. Their guests don’t know me. And so showing up as me shows everyone who doesn’t know me, who I am. I’m not a faceless catering crew member in starchy white shirts and black pants. I’m not a part of the venue’s team and while I don’t mind telling you where the restrooms are located, it’s really not my job to do that.
Dressing as me, and being me, means that I’m representing my business the same way I run it: I’m approachable. I’m friendly. I have a touch of quirky. And I feel that that helps people remember me, and making an impression is always good!
Perhaps in the future I’ll write about makeup on a wedding day. That is a whole different beast to talk about.
Photo credits: top photo of me in the shed: Mercedes Morgan. Shots of me acting like a model, me next to the shoe, and the last shot of my Sailor Moon buns: Caitlin McWeeney. Photobooth shot: Olivia and Amy’s wedding. Sock bun: self-shot with iPhone. Braids: Meredith Greager. Disclaimer: link to Kalso Earth shoes is an affiliate link to Amazon.