Whatever you do — DON’T SMILE

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Megan Bitch Face

What is it with the trend of people purposely not smiling — sometimes looking downright miserable — in wedding photos these days?

It's such a shame, especially when the bride has such a beautiful and radiant smile!


Oh Indra, this question has plagued me for YEARS! It was actually the reason I ended up firing my wedding photographer between the ceremony and the reception. No, seriously…

There I was with my brand spankin' new husband, deep in the “we just got married–oh my god wtf — so crazy — I love you” times, and our photographer kept telling us NOT TO SMILE during the portrait session. Dude, are you fucking kidding me? I don't know if you just saw what happened back there, but I kinda married this guy I really like, and I have that goofy perma-smile on my face right now and, well, just photograph that! Kthnxbye.

Our photographer was actually getting frustrated by our apparently unwelcome smiling. So, to appease the photographer, (and to get the portrait session to end faster) I cut the smile from my face. Now I have over a dozen photos of me glaring at my husband in my best Megan Bitch Face. Ah the warm fuzzy memories, ready-to-frame, of the time Aaron and I stood face to face, all blank stares and angry expressions, on the beach. Good times.

Anyway, to answer your question, I present to you two options:

  1. If a couple is staring at the camera or each other with completely blank looks on their face, it's probably because their photographer made them do it. (Maybe they think it looks sexier than a goofy smile? Maybe it's because it seems more editorial? Maybe they just want a well rounded portfolio of wedding day looks? I really don't know the motive. As a photographer myself, I've never told a newly wedded couple to “wipe that damn smile off your face.”)
  2. Perhaps the couple wanted to take a serious photo for whatever reason. I mean, that “serious YAY!” photo is freaking genius. Worth the struggle to not smile, amma right?
serious yay
Seriously, Yay, we're so happy. No really. Yay. Photo by Leah LaRiccia Photography.

But the fact is, it's a bit of a wedding photography trend at the moment. Is it my favorite trend? Not at all. Is it sometimes kind of cool? Sure (as demonstrated in the photo above). But should it be up to each couple if they want to forgo their blissed-out smiles? Of course (unless you booked our photographer and have relinquished all rights to your facial expressions).

Tell us, what current photography trends aren't a good fit for YOUR wedding photos?

UPDATE: Because I got a couple requests (and because I love you very much), I dug back into the hidden archive of crap wedding pics to find you some of my favorite Megan Bitch Face photos:

Megan Bitch Face

Megan Bitch Face

Seconds earlier
Hi, it's SO MUCH BETTER when we're smiling!

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Comments on Whatever you do — DON’T SMILE

  1. Silly photographers and trends. Smiles are always better, in my books. Unless of course you actually feel like not smiling, in which case… fine. But it’s weird to think of a photographer actually being ticked that someone is smiling on their wedding day.

  2. One of the reasons we took a “Not Smiling” photo is because we were semi-mirroring the formal wedding photos of our various ancestors. We have prints of all these uber formal, stern wedding photos in a shadow box and put our mimicry in there, too. Although ours is notably less stern. Maybe it says “This marriage shit is freaking SERIOUS” ?? 🙂

    Also, RE: photographer prompting this. I wouldn’t see it too weird if the photographer pointed it out as an option, but making it seem like a necessity would be a little off putting to me.

  3. I think it’s the notion that the photographers want their photos to look like artistic fashion shoots found in Vogue. That’s just silly! They could hire a unhappy model for that 😛

  4. I hate non-smiling photos! I had to throw out half my engagement photos because I look like someone just insulted my mother. I also hate fisheye lenses, and those photos where the groom is standing 20 feet behind the bride. Also, I already told my photographer, I’m not running or jumping! I mean, what is that?

    • Yes Jackie, why didn’t we find each other sooner? I’m a wedding photographer and I absolutely hate fisheye lenses. Seriously, what the heck? You should not be putting people in front of a fisheye – THEY WILL BE DISFIGURED. The only thing I hate more than a fisheye lens is those stupid blurry groom in the background looking longingly at the bride. My goodness, they’re in love, let them be together! And the only time I like the non smiling pictures is if its for real and I’m not forcing that on the couple. Like maybe he’s kissing her on the neck and she’s feeling really sexy and not super smiley. Other than that – kiss, laugh, smile – do whatever you want!

    • Yes, exactly! We all point and laugh at 1980’s corny hokey poses – some of them even put up to mock on “awkward wedding photos” type sites. And then history repeats itself with 7 million more of today’s jump, seriously stare off, stand by graffiti wall, purple-yellow colored, blurred heads, whatever-the-trend-is stuff. But timelessness in a wedding photo? That’s not achieved by photographing any trend. Never ever.

    • It’s all about personal preference of the couple I think. Some of the best pictures I’ve taken have been candid moments of “that just happened”. And I did do a jumping picture at my own wedding because I was that damn excited that I felt I could fly. But a photographer should never push a couple to do anything they’re uncomfortable with. And if the photographer doesn’t have enough ideas to move on from a ditched idea, they aren’t worth the $.

    • I 100% agree, I can not stand the jumping photos…I have a list for my photographer of “do not want pics”, if we can make a “do not play” list for the dj we can make a “do not take” list for our pictures. After all WE paid for them to capture what WE want.

    • My husband and I call that the creeper shot and we do it occasionally. Not my favorite until we had a groom who took the creeper part seriously and had us all laughing so hard we could hardly take the photos.

    • Perhaps it started that way, and I can TOTALLY see that from the above photo, but when a photographer is telling a bride and groom specifically not to smile even though they WANT to, it has gone too far!

  5. I’ve never been much for trends anyway…but I always go for smiles, and in fact, smiles are a huge factor in whether I use a photo or not! It’s really strange to me that a photographer would tell a couple not to smile…

  6. I’ll never get this trend, and have been so surprised at the lack of emotion that some pretty big name photographers are aiming for in their pictures. I think it’s a symptom of getting bored with your art and looking for something that excites YOU as the artists, regardless of it’s lack of common sense in the situation. But maybe I’m just old fashioned like that.

  7. Seriously, I was be so mad if that happened to us, Megan! One or two serious “editorial” pics are okay but I want to be HAPPY and SMILE, DAMMIT!

    I am also very perplexed by the mustaches-on-sticks trend for photos. I realize I’m in the minority, but I just. don’t. get it.

    • Yeah, it wasn’t the highlight. Though it’s a funny story now. And, yup, we’re with you on the mustache photos.

    • There’s someone else! Whilst this site is full of things that aren’t necessarily my taste, I can relate to them, but the mustaches completely bewilder me

      • We did mustaches on stick in our photo booth as an homage to my husband’s wicked handlebar mustache, but if you’re doing it just to be trendy? Nah. We also had red lips on sticks in tribute to my infamous red lips.

  8. You actually fired your photog??? I seriously would have loved to be a fly on the wall for that convo….I wouldn’t have the guts to do something like that! 🙂

    • You know, it wasn’t that dramatic. My day-of coordinator/friend noticed I was getting SUPER aggravated (maybe it was the whole “miming the Darth Vader choke-move at my photographer’s back” thing). So she asked me what was wrong. I told her that the photographer was, in essence, harshing my buzz. So on our walk from the beach to the restaurant, she grabbed him and brought him over to me and said, “Okay, I think we’re good here! Megan, do you need James for anything else?” And I said, “nope, he’s free to go!” He looked SUPER confused. I then skipped away towards the reception feeling a million pounds lighter and my buddy took care of sending him on his way!

      • That’s awesome — and great support for finding a day-of coordinator. Glad it wasn’t major drama, but thanks for sharing as a reminder that you’re not stuck with keeping vendors, even day-of.

        • FORTUNATELY I had a feeling that this guy wasn’t gonna gell with an offbeat wedding, so I asked my other friend who DOES NOT do weddings to just bring his camera anyway. Of course those pics were way better. But yeah, I was at the point where was happy to just not have pro photos just so that I could enjoy the rest of the time.

  9. I think one of two not smiling photos to express the solemness of the occasion is okay. But not expression-less. That’s not a good look for me. I agree that I want to capture the joy I’m feeling on that day, with perhaps just a little bit of thoughtfulness.

    • I think if you have a formal ceremony and a formal reception and serious vows and whatnot, you can have some non-smiling pictures. As part of my vows, I promised not to be crabby at Drew if the Bears lost to the Packers. So the tone of our wedding was very lighthearted and fun. That said, there are pictures of us not smiling. But I don’t recall Erica ever telling us NOT to smile. There are some pics where I had to consciously tell myself not to smile so big (because when I do my eyes look squinty). She just took a lot of shots while we were doing stuff.

  10. I’ve told couples not to smile… and in fact used the exact words “whatever you do don’t smile,” but before you jump all over me, (which by the way I never do jump shots… how ridiculous are those anyways!) hear me out:

    A) You’ve been smiling like the happy grinning fool that you are, all day, and sometimes the face muscles get sore and tired, a quick “don’t smile” pic refreshes your face, gets it out of the plastered on your face zone and brings things back to looking normal. I can tell when people are fake smiling.

    B) I used it once in specific because the bride was an Art History major and American Gothic was one of her favourite images.

    C) Telling people to not smile actually causes them to burst out laughing when they try to maintain a serious face, thereby giving me an even more awesome reaction in an image.

    D) I usually balance out the “don’t smile” shot with a “just laugh” shot…which also feels really fake when it’s happening but looks even more real in a photo.

    I agree with the others on here. Telling your client through the course of several shots and setups to not smile is obnoxious and so are those wannabe Vogue/Vanity Fair type wedding portraits. I’m all for interest, artistic shots and uniqueness but yeah, weddings are, for the most part, a happy occasion! Smile your face off!!

    • I agree with your points. On our wedding day, we were smiling like crazy fools and we have the photos to prove it. However, I was glad our photographer had us try some other stuff as well, just for some variety. We have some pictures of us that a kind of serious or with just the littlest hint of a smile. While those might not be the ones that we frame or do anything special with, I like having them in our web slideshow with all our other photos.

    • I actually named this post “Whatever you do DON’T SMILE” because it’s what my dad used to say to me whenever I was in a snit to make me smile. Worked every damn time too! 🙂

  11. My photographer figured out after our engagement shoot that I’m kinda a smiler. We did some photos later on in the reception and I was pretty much gonna smile. Photographer told me to look like I badass. I have a big grin on my face. I was incapable of it. Thankfully he didn’t spend the wedding day telling me not to smile. We have a couple photos like that that turned out (looking kinda badass with classic cars mostly), but I like the ones of us smiling better. Maybe because my dude just doesn’t smile much unless he’s around me so it makes me gleeful that he looks happy.

  12. I’ve been using Stumble to look at wedding photos. It seems there’s this trend to stage photos. The no smiling thing falls under this category. Also staging trends include things like these: Plop the wedding rings on a tree stump or set each on a thin candle. Then take a macro shots of food at a weird angle, centerpieces at a weird angle, and the bride’s hand holding flowers at a weird angle. Take more photos of decorations than of guests. Digitally alter photo colors so they look like they were taken with older film. Put some item in another item where it would never occur naturally (i.e. a pile of fruit in a dresser drawer). Have the bride and groom pose with random objects.

    What do I want? I want spontaneous photos, obligatory family photos, and photos of friends. I don’t want it to look like a high-fashion magazine or an art shoot. Weddings to me are about the people that attend them. So get the smiling photos of the guests interacting with one another. I want a record of the day, as it happened.

    • Unfortunately the images that most photographers post on their own sites or have posted by wedding industry blogs are NOT representative of what was actually shot on any specific wedding day since they’re trying to show off the various contributors for the wedding they shot.

      That’s also why there are lots of links to other vendors at the end of one of their blog posts… it increases traffic to and from their site which makes their business rank higher in Google searches etc.

      Wedding industry blogs have lists of the types of shots that they’re looking for and these are generally detail shots: what did the rings, centerpieces, aisle runners, table setups, venue, flowers, food, shoes, dresses, vehicles etc … all look like.

      They really don’t care what Uncle Joe was caught doing on the dance floor, or how great all your university friends looked because the blogs, and their readers, don’t know those people and they’re on those sites to find ideas/inspiration.

      If you were to meet with most wedding photographers and go through their actual portfolio from an entire wedding, I bet you’d see a lot more of the spontaneous and obligatory family photos.

    • This is one reason we went with a photo-journalist style photographer.

      He wanted to photograph people, and even better he wanted to photograph them doing all the things they would naturally, without posing or even knowing they were being photographed. Which is exactly what we wanted photos of.

      He took some photos of things like centerpieces or rings as well, and got one I really love of an abandoned program lying on the grass next to an empty wine glass, surrounded by confetti. It makes a perfect ‘end of day’ shot.

      But the focus of the photos is very much on the people at the wedding and all the great moments we shared.

    • On the note of bride & groom with random objects — friends of mine got the *best* wedding photo ever from this. Their hilarious groomsman went off on a wee wander, knowing they were near an area where locals tended to illegally dump household rubbish (unknown to everyone else). He came back with an old toaster and iron, and it resulted in the best photo ever — groom pulling a sulky face with the toaster, and bride making her best “50’s housewife” pose with the iron. I love it — I crack up every time I see it.

  13. This would be virtually impossible for me to do. When I was a teenager, I always admired my friends’ sullen yearbook photos, whereas I was all smiles all the time. I thought it was somewhat mortifying that I couldn’t not smile. Then I dated a dude who always complimented me on my smile and I knew I shouldn’t be ashamed to be a “smiley” person (despite a semi-obsession with the ever down-cast Trent Reznor.) If a photographer told me not to smile, I would end up with a bizarre look on my face.

  14. I don’t know. Being told not to smile when you really, really want to is just a recipe for uncontrollable laughter for me. I also am the person who ALWAYS looks if someone says “don’t look.” At the same time, I’m not a super smiley kind of person in general and I hate the fake ass smile I end up with when I feel pressured to smile or when someone is taking my picture.

    I like to think of myself as a Tyraesque Smile-with-my-eyes kind of person, lol

    • Absolutely agreed! I hate being told I’m not smiling enough, and in general stand in solidarity against the policing of other folks’ facial expressions!

      • Yeah, I HATE being told to smile more. I have muscular dystrophy which means I can’t move my face muscles a lot. So I’m looking for a photographer that isn’t continually telling me to smile more – as I WILL beat him/her to death with their camera. On the plus side of me looking like a miserable cow, I won’t ever need Botox… Ha ha.

  15. We have an American Gothic shot with me holding a broom and her holding a sword (it was a handfasting) I couldn’t stop smiling long enough to take the photo until our High Priestess shouted “George Bush” that did the trick 😉 It’s a really cute photo, but unless it’s a planned “serious” photo the stop smiling trend seems odd to me.

    • LMFAO! Oh dear, that’s hilarious, moreso because I would have the same reaction if someone shouted “George Bush” out to me! Great tip 😉

  16. It’s because of the new “American Gothic” trend with hipsters. Also because some photographers (and couples) want “edgy” photos.

  17. So I just got married last week, and among the 11 people in attendance was my husband’s Russian grandpa. There’s some sort of thing about Russian people not smiling in photos, or maybe it’s just a Grandpa thing, but whenever he was in a photo with me he would yell at me to not smile. Which was basically impossible because I kept cracking up. Eventually we started doing photos “for Grandpa” so whenever we were in a particular pose or place, we would take a shot where we weren’t smiling. Or rather, I tried to not smile. But we got plenty of natural ones too, and obviously we had big ridiculous grins on our faces.

  18. Photo trends that don’t work for me:

    • Jump shots. Shoot me. Not jumping. It’s not flattering. NO JUMPING in my wedding photos!
    • Strange angles. Take a picture but don’t tilt the camera first. Looked at one of my friends wedding photos and half are tilted.
    • Overuse of dodging, burning and vignettes. Why would you want to look like you’re surrounded by darkness?
    • The macro shot I hate the most is close ups of the bride and groom’s hands together with their shiny new rings.
    • Making a shot black and white and having only one item be in color but done badly, or other wonky color changes, such as boosting the colors too much.
    • I’ve decided I hate photos of an empty dress. It looks much better on the bride than on a hanger. Forget those shots.
    • Bridal parties picking up the bride and/or groom and looking awkward—why?! (Also, other posed bridal party shots such as all the girls kissing the groom, all the groomsmen on one knee, all of them doing something strange that they would never normally.

    Luckily I think I’ve found a photog or two for my wedding who doesn’t seem to do much of this at all. 🙂

    • HA HA! Yes to all these! My photographer tried to get us to jump AND do that whole “holding up the bride like I’m a log or something” shots we all yelled NOOOOOOOO. Shoot us standing here, with, you know, all of our feet on the ground. I’m telling you, he didn’t seem to get WHY we wouldn’t do these things.

      • So you were supposed to jump AND look serious?? WTF?!? “Here we are before we plunged to our deaths”

    • Oh, I don’t like the “let’s all worship the bride” and the “let’s all pretend to be scandalized by the couple kissing” photos. They rarely turn out well because they’re so contrived. They might make you smile when you see them, but it’s not gonna be what you’re framing on your wall. We do have a few super-cheesy wedding party shots, but they happened naturally (cheesy friends, I guess) and so therefore they’re fun and free. You can tell the difference!

    • Yes! Instead of the wedding party’s “omigod they’re kissing!” scandalized picture, my photog had us kiss and then got the whole wedding party plus parents and grandparents to surround us and cheer and laugh and clap. It was a fun moment and really captured the joy of the moment.

      Why do photographers like to make the bridesmaids hold up the groom? I don’t get it…

      I totally agree with the empty wedding dress. I have one, and promptly got rid of it. All you could see was the boning and padding and zippers and buttons and straps and everything else that it took for me to wiggle in!

      • We absolutely never want to take this shot. Fraught with disaster. Its always a bridesmaid that suggests it. The last wedding we shot, one if the groomsmen got really pushy about wanting to pick up the bride and she just didn’t want to. I felt bad putting my foot down but he wouldn’t take a hint.

    • Oh I agree with all of the above!!

      But in defense of wedding photographers (myself included) it’s not always the photographer’s fault … it’s sometimes the sister of the bride who got married four years ago and is bitter because the bride didn’t pick her photographer because “her wedding photos are the best EVER!!” So she’s going to suggest every shot THAT photographer took for her sister’s wedding. Then she’s going to say “your photographer must not be as good because your photos don’t have the “super trendy” photoshop effect of select color processing!”

      Yes – this happens, regularly. Sometimes it’s the sister, the aunt, the brother-in-law. And arguing with someone closest to the bride and groom on the wedding day does not seem like a good idea to me. So occasionally, I will take a jumping shot, or give in to the excited “ooh ooh – let’s all the bridesmaids pick up Johnny because that’s what we did at my wedding!!!!”

      It comes with the territory.

      But you will never find those shots on my website and I make appoint to tell my clients I avoid them.

      But, again, while I agree with everything you’re saying, remember, it’s not always the photographers fault.

    • My question is–what the heck do people DO with pictures like these? Everyone always selects one picture of their wedding of themself and their SO to blow up and frame. Some make it to the Bookface, but after that? They lie forgotten in scrapbooks and on CDs stashed away in the corner.

    • I don’t know, I think everyone is being a little picky. If you don’t like these things, that’s cool, don’t do them, of course… But if someone else likes them, leave it alone. Some of them I don’t like. I’m not a big fan of jumping or people holding up people. I wouldn’t have done them even if my photographer suggested them (which he didn’t). Also, as am amateur photographer myself, I dislike when any of the post-processing is done badly. If you want spot colour, do it right. If you like a soft little vignette or something thrown out of focus, do it well and do it judiciously. I enjoy an off-angled shot here and there, I love black and white, and I think even a fish-eye can create a great effect when it’s used on the right photo (and not ALL of them O_o). But I love close up shots of details, including the hands and rings (they’re *important*, why would you not want to show them off??) and I absolutely love photos of hanging dresses!

      I mean, hey, if someone wants all of their photos to be them and their people standing around smiling, awesome. But I want way more variety than that. Just **tasteful** and **artistic** variety. lol

  19. I recently pleasantly surprised my photographer on our Bridals shoot when I said I wanted to hitch up my wedding dress, toss off my shoes and play in the river! haha She was stoked! We did take some more formal pictures as well. When we weren’t smiling, we were either trying to look “sexy” or “pensive”. I tend to like those types of serious photos but I don’t like the totally stoic unhappy looking ones. It’s kind of a fine line between the two, I think – looking pensive and looking pissed off. Ours were done outdoors in some fantastically beautiful locations so my eyes wondering off looking at the scenery won’t look too weird, I don’t think. Some people may just be self-concious of their smiles (stained or crooked teeth, dimples etc.) so that’s why they may not smile as much. I don’t agree that a photographer should be directing the couples to frown though. That is odd. :/

    • Yes–sexy and pensive photos I like, because I think they can convey some of the emotions your relationship and wedding might involve. (Not that smiling isn’t sexy.) But if they’re not natural, they just look soooo awkward. I know that I am such a smiley person that I can’t do serious or smoldering. Always looks unnatural. So I just told our photographer that right away and we got mostly grinning-ear-to-ear shots.

  20. I have a big mouth, big teeth and a big smile. Smiling also comes very naturally to me and I love doing it. So in just about any photo you see of me, I have a huge smile on my face.

    When we were doing engagement photos, I was instructed not to smile for a few poses because we wanted to get some peaceful eyes-closed, contented-looking shots. Which is cool. But this is what happened: “Ok, now close your eyes and don’t smile.” I close my eyes and stop smiling. Pause. “Ok, now you look dead.” So I started laughing and that’s how the shot came out. Much better than “dead looking” 🙂

  21. Not a fan of all the washed out, over exposed, and over-use of lens flare that a lot of wedding photos have in most style blogs. The colors are so faded.

  22. I hate that too!!! I also hate the pose where the couple is standing about 4 feet apart and holding each other’s hand very solemnly. Blech.

    • YESSS that drives me crazy! Why do you want to be so far apart?! And so mean-faced!

      • Gawd, I was waiting for someone to say that! What is with the far apart shot? It looks so strange and not at all romantic or real..

    • Super late to this conversation, but yes to this! It reminds me of those Cialis commercials where the couple is in separate bathtubs holding hands arm’s length away. I think whoever made that campaign missed a very important part of health class…

  23. I had no idea this was a trend for actual wedding photos!

    I’ve seen the photos of models in wedding magazines looking like someone just ran over their kitten or they have the worst menstrual cramps of their life or something and those confused me enough.

    But why would you want to look sad or angry on your actual wedding day?

  24. For the record, I hate it when others insist that I smile for photos. I’ve never been a big show your teeth kind of smiler, but often smile with my eyes and whole face but still closed lips – and I get harassed about it a lot from folks who don’t think it’s enough. When I see those photos of myself where I’ve been bothered about it, I can see the discomfort in my face instead of seeing the smiling around my eyes.

    I’m glad I read this post, because it’s something I will talk to my wedding photographer about ahead of time now! I’m glad to be reminded – otherwise I might not have thought of it!

    • OMG! I can relate.
      My newly-acquired family all naturally have gigantic smiles. Whenever there is a family event, I get harassed to no end to “SMIIIIIIILE!”. My natural smile is deemed a frown and they bug me about it until I only feel like glaring. I physically can’t make my smile any toothier but they still hound me.

    • Thanks for this comment. I feel the same way. I have goofy teeth & a goofy smile to match. I often do not smile or show much emotion naturally, and I hate being nagged into smiling for photos. I just look strained and/or goofy.

      If I naturally smile on my wedding day, then so be it; but if not, then I don’t want to be pressured into some unnatural facial expression.

      Smile or no smile, no one should be pressured to fake a face on their wedding day just for the sake of the photog’s vision.

  25. Another wedding photography “trend” I’ve noticed: headless shots! Not where it’s to focus on a detail, but it will be full-body shots…with no heads. Everything is in focus…but no heads. No thanks. I would like my head accounted for in the pictures, please! It’s the faces of those I love that I want to capture the most!

    • I actually framed one of our “headless shots” because I like that it took the focus off of our faces. I think it drew attention to our body language, which is just as sweet as our smiles. But we took like two headless shots… not one hundred.

    • My parents have a lot of shots like that from their wedding, but that’s because their photographs were taken by my dad’s friend who didn’t know one end of an SLR from the other. They also have some *extremely* gothic interior church shots, because he didn’t know how to change the exposures on the camera…

  26. I was always under the (perhaps extremely naive) impression that a good/responsive wedding photographer wouldn’t demand any expression because they’re not aiming for a specific “look”?

    In a magazine style photo set then yes, tell the sourfaced model not to smile if the overall aim of the photo is the sultry/arty thing. But wedding photos are to capture the moment and the day, not sell underwear or appeal to a target audience surely?

  27. You know that episode of The Simpsons when Lisa gets braces and the photographer says “I bet you have a beautiful smile” before crying out “there is no god!!”. That’s me. I have the most hideous smile. But I’ll probably still end up with at least some terrible smily photos from my wedding, because I’ll be happy. Even though I know I’ll never look at them again

    • I am not going to tell you the whole, “I’m sure you have a beautiful smile” B.S., but I will say this…there is nothing more beautiful than a bride, who is truly in love, genuinely smiling at her groom. And because of that I’m sure you’ll be beautiful, your smile will be beautiful and you will look at those photos for year to come.

      • But there are also brides who can’t or won’t smile beautifully and naturally. I knew this girl in high school, she had this practiced “I’m amazing and someone’s taking my picture” smile–it was like she was torturing the muscles in her face to make an expression, and every single one was revolting by making her look awful. Her eyes were never happy in those smiles, either–they always looked dead and soulless. And she kept that smile as long as a camera was around. SO CREEPY AND SO BAD.
        In that case, I’d BEG her to stop smiling.
        Not that that’s a common case, but I just have to imagine that a lot of brides think “I have to be beautiful” so they freeze something like a smile to their faces and wait.

  28. I had the opposite problem, Megan! We kinda wanted the artsy-fartsy serious editorial shots in this beautiful 500 year old fort but couldn’t do it! Our photog (a family friend) told hubby to “fake whispering sweet nothings in her ear”. Ray leaned in and whispered “Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Not a thing.” I burst into laughter, and the photographer’s assistant (his wife of 2 months) said “Oh fuck it. Just be your disgustingly cute selves. Those pictures are better anyway.”

  29. This makes me love my wedding photos even more — we got about 5 “posed” couple shots, and all the rest are during the ceremony — which is perfect. They’re all smiley, happy, laughing photos. I can’t do posed photos well – I’m too much of an idiot and I tend to pull a ridiculous face (intentionally). We did get a bridesmaids/bride jumping shot though … I don’t care how unflattering it is; it makes me laugh.
    This is what I mean by I have a compulsion to be stupid … I am forever 12. And yet, one of my favourite photos 😛

  30. My least favorite trend is the Cradle of WTF: http://cradleofwtf.tumblr.com … or what I used to call “cute hands” before I found that tumblr. If that’s what you’re into, cool, I guess, but like others have said here, I want pictures of us & our guests, not me gently holding a bottle of old-timey soda.

    • I notice this site includes a picture that looks exactly like the cover of Twilight. Now that’s all I can think of when I look at any of them.

  31. As a wedding photographer, I love getting my clients to do serious faces mostly because it’s so damn hard and hilarious and I often get the most natural smiles and adorable bouts of laughter from them in the process! But that’s easier when you have a great relationship with them and an understanding of what they’re into. (Kind of the point of being a wedding photographer). But – in the process, I often end up with a great serious shot when the couple is into it. I also love it for the irony – like the photo above. There is a fun irony to see an obviously happy people looking very solemn, holding a flag that says “yay.” I imagine this couple look back at this photo and laugh at how hard it was to keep a straight face. And isn’t that what it’s about?

  32. Ha THIS! This happened to us. At my wedding, I laughed and smiled so much that our officiant gently joked about my silly grin. Our photographer, however, insisted my husband and I take one “serious” photo. It is so against our nature. Neither of us managed to look serious. We were trying so hard not to laugh that my husband looks stern, even angry, and I look tragically sorrowful. Then out of the hundreds of wedding photos, she selected that one for our relatives to identify us on her website.
    It’s funny, if kind of insulting, that she selected as “best” the one picture that looks nothing like who we are. Oh well, I can always prefer the goofy shot of us inside the catering fridge.

  33. The trend I hate the most (and I am going to be unpopular here) is the bodyless dress hanging infront of a window, and look how special my shoes are (shoes with rings, shoes on pedestal shoes in the center of the picture). I don’t like when emphasis is put on “Things” like it is being done for a magazine as opposed to the people in the things. Am I going to need a macro shot of the rinestones on my shoes in 20 years? No. Will I want every shot of 8 men making crafts at a table, yes.

    • Totally agree with Vivi. There was a wedding (which will remain anonymous) that was very popular on here, for which photos were mostly stuff: cake, video games, video games (typed twice on purpose, there was so much of it), shoes, empty dresses, jewelry, hair ornaments. There were a few nice shots of the couple too but looking at the photos alone, it looked more like a catalog shoot than the union of 2 people who loved each other. The wedding looked fun but the love that came through in the photos was material, not romantic. It made me sad and disappointed, and I wondered if the photos were actually telling the real story. I certainly hope not. It’s so cool when a couple shares interests and integrates them into their wedding but when the photos seem to be all about the stuff and not about the people, it feels like something is missing.

      Also, thank you Megan for making my comment an actual post! I’m very excited to read what everyone thinks about this subject.

      • I agree sometimes it seems like weddings that are posted online are more “things” than people — but that perhaps to some people, the people pictures are a thing that they don’t feel comfortable sharing with the whole darn internet, so they share the details they ARE comfortable sharing.

        So we don’t see the picture of the bride dying of laughter with Great Aunt Mary, but maybe that’s the picture she treasures the most from the whole day.

        • Or because most people who are looking at wedding photos online 1.) don’t give a crap about the couple, they’re looking for wedspiration, or 2.) don’t give a crap about the couple, they’re looking to see what kind of photography skills the photographer’s got. Pictures of someone with a silly grin on their face often don’t capture the audience’s eye, because they don’t know the couple.

          • I totally agree with Dootiesbug. When looking at others’ weddings online, I’m not looking to get inspired for people – I have my people already! I am looking to get ideas for THINGS. It is nice to see the emotional vibe, sure, but it’s not really what I come to these sites for. No doubt, that is why these photos are what end up being shared online.

  34. See, we have a lot of pics of us not smiling, but they’re PASSIONATE! They aren’t “stand there and look serious” they’re “I love it when you kiss me right there” and “OMG I love you so much.” And there are tons of goofy can’t-contain-them grins. I don’t think any of that was prompted, though.

    And on a side note, the whole jumping thing? My bff’s photographer had us do that at her wedding and uh, the bridesmaids dresses were short and really swingy (cut on a bias) and my dress went over my head. Twice. If you love your friends and want their privates to remain private, please don’t do the jump thing. We did it and none of the photos turned out because of my cooter. And now I know someone who is not my husband has a picture of my underwear.

  35. I want mixed emotions on my wedding day. I want a few emotional serious portraits (not smiling, but not looking pissed off.) As the photographer, I always get a couple non smile pictures, although in almost all of them I have my subject engaging something else so it’s not just a blank stare at the camera. That’s kinda weird!

  36. When i shoot, oh MAN i hate posing! I’m bad at it..and i dislike it. If i could HIT a dislike button during the wedding, it would be those. But the folks posing KNOWING they wanted them posed…itz all good with me. Then you have those couples that will truly interact and forget the camera is there…I love those…needless to say…I have no idea about trends, I just get tired of the same ol pictures on every single blog out there…so when I go look at a photographer now (i am one)…i see the SAME photoshop actions and apparently the same LENS in all these portraits and pictures. I would really just like to be inspired, but not by clones. 😛 In the end, wedding photography ends up all the same anyways…you, the details and the couple. With a few *mind-blowing* omg i’m an artist pictures to take home with you. 🙂 At least, that is how i roll now – accepting that there will be the mundane and there will be the AMAZING OMG shots too. 😉 *smile*

  37. I usually prompt a serious pose just to get some genuine giggles from my clients. I’ll shoot the serious pose too and will include it if it has some merit, but I really want the candid goofiness that inevitably follows!

  38. “my best Megan Bitch Face”… ROFL!!!

    Pictures!! We need pictures of Darth Megan!

  39. I’m always confused by the pics of people’s feet that don’t go all the way up to their heads. My feet aren’t going to be what I want to remember. I mean, I’ll want to remember them because I’m wearing ruby friggin’ slippers (probably), but those pictures always put crotches just where my eyes naturally expect a face to be, and then I feel awkward for looking at the newlyweds’ (or whole wedding party’s) crotches. I also hate the mustache trend, but I think someone mentioned that already.

    As for smiling, I like the photog’s defense up there–I know when I smile for too long it starts to hurt, and I’d love to refresh my facial muscles. I also like when I see pictures of couples who look serene and content, but the miserable or blank looks just confuse me. I usually assume they’re from styled shoots.

  40. *Makes a note on Things to Ask Photographers list* Who knew that not wanting forced expressions was a shopping item? Sheesh.

    The overuse of editing effects is one reason I really want to get unedited copies of as many shots as I can. I’m a dab hand at Photoshop myself, and I’ve had photography training, so I want the ability to adjust the images as I see fit.

  41. that looks like Fluttershy’s “YAY….” when cheering for Rainbowdash. it makes the picture 20% cooler.

  42. I strongly dislike all pictures of the the brides and/or groom holding random objects. Photos like holding a delicate teacup or a small clock as if it means something! Or photos of the bride next to a dining table or armoire in a field. Who the hell has a dining table or armoire in a field? What does it even mean and what is the purpose? I also dislike the photos of couples standing four feet apart.

    I was looking at one wedding photog’s blog and came across lots of non-smiling photos of a bride and groom. The bride looked absolutely pissed to be marrying this guy and at one point looked as if she wanted to murder her new husband. It was quite odd.

    Generally, I hate posed photos.

  43. My least favorite general photography trend (I see it a lot in engagement photos too) is the washed our “vintage” look. Technology has some a long way to capture the vivid colors of the world around us…and then the photographer goes back and depletes those colors…I’ll admit, I’ve had to do this on my own photos (for side hobby photography biz) but simply to make a client happy. Oh! that and the SUPER HIGH EXPOSURE photos. No thanks.

    The first thing I thought of when reading this post is that the photographer shouldn’t have been fighting his clients. When you’re in a group of people, the serious face makes no sense. When you’re doing portraits or engagement photos, the “sexy/domenow” face is very provoking and brings a lot of emotion to a photo. Maybe that’s what they were going for? Repeatedly telling your client to be serious when they obviously don’t want to is pretty dumb. As a professional photographer, you should be able to roll with the punches and change your plans to capture the kind of photos your client wants, not what you want.

    A little defense for the empty dress/shoes/cradle photos. I understand if that’s the majority of your photos…that’s pretty lacking but if you have 3 “things” photos (dress, shoes, cradle thingies) out of 700+ from your photographer…I think they still did a good job. Plus, it can be difficult to remember the tiny details sometimes…that’s what photos are for right? helping us remember?

  44. About the question of “random pictures of objects”, I’m getting married in a couple of weeks and one the reasons why we chose my photographer was his editing and the way he played with photo size. Other people also took good pictures but his albums were the best. With the typical “shoe photo”; “veil photo” “unworn dress photo”, what he normally does is a one-page collage of tiny pictures, which is more than enough.

  45. We did a few very serious, almost grim shots. But we were also standing in front of a cabin that is over one hundred years old trying to imitate the seriousness of our great-grandparents wedding photos. They are priceless because WE know they are hilarious. Of course we have to wonder; when OUR great-grand children see wedding photos, will these be the only ones that are left? Will the kids wonder if we were happy or forced to marry? Sort of funny to think about.

  46. Different strokes, I guess! My hubs and I did a “no smile” shot just like the one featured at the top of this article! we are holding hands and making poker faces while I am holding a big ol’ bouquet of balloons! It’s a cute shot because he looks very composed, and I’m obviously trying hard not to smile, and the skirt of my dress is kinda mussed up (so you can see it wasn’t a carefully planned shot, I guess).

    We call it our American Gothic shot, and it’s our favourite pic from the prof. set. In fact, both of us currently have it as our profile pics on facebook.

  47. So, our photog is a cousin, & he’s mentioned reasoning for the dress-thing–often when it’s on the bride, the color levels are such that you don’t see all the detail of the dress.
    He’s also mentioned that he’ll have the couple do one or two shots that aren’t perma-grin, because generally that’s All you get, otherwise…and while he’s shot some flattering and awesome jump shots, I think that’ll be a no-go for me! Too dangerous. 😛 (I’ve some some physical issues.)

  48. Your photo made me laugh REALLY LOUDLY for a REALLY LONG PERIOD OF TIME… I love it. At least you’ve got a great story to tell about it!

  49. I think a lot of this comes from not choosing your vendors carefully enough. As someone who works for a wedding photographer, I can say that most photogs have a sort of repertoire that theyll do with most weddings. Pay attention to the work that is up in the studio/on the website. Does that stuff look like stuff you’d like to emulate on your wedding day? If not, move on and find someone else. Its quite frustrating to be on a wedding and to be told by the bride ‘No, I hate those shots, I dont want to do them.’ Why would you hire us, then?
    Of course, a good photographer should be able to field a range of styles, but a jack of all trades tends to be master of none. Dont hire a formal portrait photographer if you want an indie photojournalist.
    Also, tell your photographer BEFOREHAND if you have certain things you want or dont want.

  50. As I’m looking for a wedding photographer, any ones with a bunch of serious/mean/grumpy couples are immediately out. I’m gonna be so ecstatic when my fiance gets his visa and can come and get married. There’s no way we’regonna have mean looking pics.

  51. Yeaaaa, I think the only time it’d be cool is if they couple were recreating an old timey photo where you sat for so long you couldn’t smile without pain.

  52. First off it was your day, you are paying for the photographer. It what you want. Not what the photographer wants and kudos for firing him. I would have done the same thing! This is way I’m getting my cousin to take the pictures. He’ll want the goofy shots. I can see mean looking no smile picture if he gives me mallet to pretend I whacked my to be on the head.

  53. I have the opposite problem! I hate how I look when I smile and only like more serious posed pix.

    Maybe I should get your photogs number! Lol!

  54. Another option is not to hire any photographers at all. It’s a lot to ask a wedding photographer to avoid the cliches, if they are in fact a wedding photographer. The indie ones will do American Gothic, the mainstream ones will make you jump. Maybe I’m saying this because I have a couple of friends who know what they’re doing with a camera, but why hire someone?

  55. Seriously, don’t leave me hanging! I need to know more about the shark attack …

  56. This doesn’t really have to with the whole ‘no-smiling’ issue, but I read a few comments and the convo has drifted toward what people want out of their photographers/wedding pictures – CANDID SHOTS. Well I just wanted to share with everyone something my boss did for her wedding last year (that I helped coordinate). As well as two professional photographers taking care of the formal pictures, Melissa placed disposable cameras on the tables at the reception. Throughout the night, the guests took tons of candid shots of the bride and groom (when they weren’t expecting it!), random objects, and (of course) each other before placing them in baskets by the door when they left. Most of the pics were nonsense, of course, but there were a few really great shots and (best part) it’s a lot cheaper than professional photos if you’re on a budget:)

  57. Love the photo! Looks intentionally serious- but i can see the mirth in your expression- so cute!
    I agree with you 100%, but looking at the picture you posted, i can see the attraction of a ‘posed’ serious/bitch face shot- it’s cute in that you know the inside story. You’ll find that your kids and friends will love this story- it is well told!

  58. hahaha, not to be gross but you look like you need to poop in that picture!
    I’m not a huge fan of the super “arty” photos I see a lot of (no smiles, super fake poses). I like photos (of myself anyway) where I get to be natural. And if that happens to be without a smile at that moment, fine but usually I’m grinning like a fool lol

    • OMG! I think I just found my father’s very first (and only) Offbeat Bride comment! 🙂 YOU inspired this, as explained over here. 😉

  59. If my wedding is enjoyable, it will be proved by a photo of me rawwwing(because t-rexes are the coolest!) , and being a super hero… and poking my tongue out… these will be the only non-smiling photos I will be capable of…

  60. I consider this pretty much started by Jose Villa in Central Coast in California. His style was very much fine art and editorial done on a medium format camera. And it’s beautiful because he knows how to properly shoot it. But now there are a lot of the photographers out there just copying the style but they’re not making it fine art at all just a trendy pose and it’s not executed very well. From reading the comments above it’s like the photographers never stopped and asked if this is what the couple wanted. Yikes.

  61. We did one serious no smile pose. It’s a family tradition on my husband’s side and so we complied. It was the hardest thing to not smile though! I do love the photo though. Each couple had made it unique in their own way. Ours is outdoors with my husband sitting in a camp chair and I’m standing behind him. Same pose, always, but the outdoor wedding and reception which are very much us was our personal touch. I actually love this one serious photo.

  62. For that first photo, I’m imagining you going “Honey, did you just fart?” and he’s all “Yeah ^-^”

  63. I prefer not to smile in photos, and there’s nothing wrong with that as well. I don’t care if people think my smile is pretty (though it’s not), I am just interested in doing it for pictures.

  64. I’m so glad you brought this up. I got my wedding photos back recently and was looking for a nice picture of us to frame for grandparents. I got so frustrated I cried bc all we have are these pics of us barely smiling looking at each other/kissing, not the camera. Or one of our faces isn’t even visible in most pictures. I only have two pictures where we are both smiling at the camera. One of us walking down the isle after the ceremony and one of is cutting the cake. Those are the ONLY pictures where we are BOTH smiling at the camera. I’m so upset and disappointed that I spent so much money on wedding photos to not like any of the ones we got. We were told many times not to smile. We are smilers. We like to look at the camera and we were told not to. Now I don’t have any photos I feel are frame worthy from my wedding.

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