The Perfectly Unposed Movement

There are routines that happened during my childhood that must have repeated themselves a hundred times. At night, my mother would read to me religiously, but she was the one taking pictures so she’s not in a lot of photos. After school, the bus dropped me off at my grandparent’s house and I would sit at the kitchen table, eating cottage cheese and diced canned peaches. My grandfather would quietly read the paper and chew on tobacco. There’s no record of that either. I wish we had more photos inside their well-lived farmhouse.

Every year growing up, we took posed, smiling photos of myself and my brothers. But when I look at them now, there aren’t any emotions that rush to the surface. I’m not transported back to that moment. (In fact, I barely remember posing for them.) They were tradition and I’m glad they exist, however, those pictures in no way reflect who we were back then. They’re far from an accurate depiction of what my childhood felt like.

They don’t show the adventures in the backyard, the handsprings on the couch or my complete obsession with our pets. Most of all, they don’t show my parents interacting with us in any significant manner.

That stuff existed every day, but there aren’t pictures representing those unique family dynamics.

There are many reasons why I started this “perfectly unposed” movement and why my passion runs so deep. Total honesty here: it birthed by mistake. I started to question the posed stuff during my own traditional sessions. I would see kids having absolute meltdowns when it was time to get pictures taken. Time and time again. They were consoled, encouraged and even bribed, but, kids were not having a good time during the session. Honestly, neither were the parents.

I was photographing an anxious family going through the motions of being a happy family. On a fundamental human level, it made me sad that I was a part of it.

My skepticism for perfectly posed photos grew as elaborate as the props that started appearing. Families would hold cute signage that say “Joy” and “Blessed,” rather than taking photos that truly conveyed those emotions. I noticed moms’ taking tags off of just-purchased clothes, choosing new outfits over the comfortable ones the child was used to and adored. Add in the fake backdrops and all things Pinterest…it has become a totally choreographed affair.

I kept on asking myself…”Why are we doing this?” The shoots in no way represented real connection or relationships.

Year after year, that question was like a drumbeat in my head, amplifying. The “perfectly unposed” movement, to me, became an outright rejection of cultural norms. Are we doing this subconsciously, out of tradition? Or, are we putting forth a stylized version of ourselves so we appear wealthier, happier and more put together? Why would we put crying kids in matching outfits to take photos that in no way represent their authentic family life? Has female socialization (usually women organize the shoots), fueled by social media, forced us into this competition to gain Facebook “likes” and Instagram “hearts?”

I’ll just come right out and say it: I am highly suspect of identities that we create in photographs to display to the world. I switched to fully documentary for fear that I was fueling this pervasive game.

Now, I have zero judgement on families who loved posed portraits. But, I wonder if families don’t realize…there is a more relaxed option. I think you can get one “camera aware” picture and then just have fun.

If you think I’m totally wrong, I’m sure you’re right. I’m figuring out life as best I can and I’ll be the first to admit I have no idea what I’m doing. I think being honest about being human brings us together.

In the meantime, I want to photograph your worn yoga pants with a screaming kid attached to your hip. I want to document a house well-lived in, with broken toys and laundry piled up in most rooms. Families and kids are weird, quirky, funny, exhausting and unique…why would we force them into contrived poses and photos that look like everyone else’s?

I may be in the minority here, but there is nothing more beautiful than emotionally rich images.

To me, meaningful will never go out of style.

 

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Candice & Alex: Sand Castle Wedding

 

Candice and Alex were beaming when they told me they dreamed of a Parisian-themed wedding at Sand Castle resort in Long Island. I’ve known Alex for years (he is also a photographer) and if there is one thing he is known for, it’s that he has an exceptional eye for detail. I knew the day would be meticulously planned and absolutely gorgeous in every way.

But, it was the heartfelt moments that really blew me away. The excitement of the wedding party during the getting ready portion of the day, the couple’s absolute joy and admiration for each other and their family, plus, the groom’s daughter stole everyone’s heart! See their full slideshow here.

A few favorites form their Long Island wedding…

To see more favorites, click here.

Candice and Alex, you are absolutely spectacular! Thank you for trusting me with your day!

Thanks to some talented pros made this wedding extra special:

Beauty: Angel Star Beauty

Bride’s Dress: Blossom Brides

Florals: Bella Posh Events

Ceremony & Reception: The Sand Castle

Entertainment: Genesis Events

 

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Kate & Gary: Glen Sanders Mansion Wedding

With their smiles, humor and warmth, Kate & Gary make everything around them brighter. Even with the threat of rain, the enthusiasm could not be contained at the Glen Sanders Mansion. Large wedding parties always make for a fun day and the party that followed their beautiful outdoor wedding was absolutely beyond!

A few favorites from their timeless wedding…

 

Lots of gratitude for these fine people:

Ceremony & Reception: Glen Sanders Mansion

Bride’s dress: Charisol Bridal Boutique

Beauty: Hot Spot Salon  (Bride’s Hair: Clair Does Hair)

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Heather & Brandon: The Cannery Wedding

I fell for Heather and Brandon within minutes of meeting them. These are the kind of people who love hard. The kind of people who aren’t afraid to throw their head back and laugh hysterically. The kind of people who talk to you with incredible sincerity, it touches you to the core. This couple (and their guests) treats everyone like family.

There are always moments that stick with me long after the wedding day. While notable highlights include the up-for-anything wedding party and Heather’s rocker uncle singing live to a screaming audience…I was truly touched that multiple guests came up to me during the reception and asked to have a photo with the family matriarch. Weddings tend to push people to get caught up with material things and it made me so happy that grandma, a tiny woman in a wheelchair, put things into perspective. This is why we’re here, this is why we do this.

Documenting Family. Relationships. Connection. Love.

To see their full slideshow, click here. Some favorites from Heather and Brandon’s beautiful day at The Cannery in Vernon…

 

To see their full slideshow, click here.

Heather and Brandon, you are what dreams are made of.

xo

Beauty: MLO Salon

Ceremony & Reception: The Cannery

Florals: Blooms & Blossoms

Bride’s dress: Stella York

DJ: Brian Oddo Entertainment

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FAQ: Editing Part 2

Earlier this year, I put together a “What do I edit?” post (click here!). It remains the top question that comes up when I’m hanging out with couples for coffee and engagement sessions. So, here’s the deal…I turn around my weddings within two weeks of the wedding date, which most people don’t know is actually pretty fast! In a perfect world, I would LOVE to turn them around in a week, but I tend to get caught up in too many details and my monkey mind won’t let certain things go. The nature of being an unposed/documentary photographer is that we’re not moving people into poses and good light, so we just have to spend more time massaging things in editing.

I’m passionate about being transparent with what I do (not only behind the camera, but, at my desk), so here’s another round of edits to get an idea what goes on behind closed doors! (Top photo = straight out of camera/bottom photo = edited)

This next photo is very typical of how I edit the walk down the aisle. The photos are always crooked, inevitably someone leans out into the aisle, making me balance on the edge of toppling over. I also like to leave a little room at the edges because this print needs to be flexible for album printing, since it will definitely be a photo the couple picks as a favorite. Nearly every aisle shot in a church has a nasty red exit sign behind the bride. For me to avoid it would require me to step out in the middle of the aisle and I’m not willing to do that. I just resign myself to Photoshop it out later. The groom needs to see his bride without my body in the way!

I like my photos with warm tones so all my sunset photos get color grading…

When Peter (second shooter) and I are documenting the First Kiss, he gets the traditional angle, I get the unexpected one. That means I have to Photoshop both him and me out of the respective shots! (There is a school of thought among photographers that we are part of the day and should be in photos, but I don’t subscribe to that theory.) Yes, sometimes it’s inevitable. When it’s not, I make sure we are erased from history…

Ahhh power lines and signage! I absolutely LOVED this photo and felt it was among the best moments of the day. The V.I.P.s walked to the reception. While I can’t remove power lines out of every single photo (this one alone took me almost an hour), if it’s a big moment that defines the day, it’s getting extra editing!

We climbed a mountain and didn’t have a say in where the sun was setting! These two would have been silhouetted if it weren’t for our flash on a stick placed to offset the sun’s direction of light. We needed to be really close to the couple to illuminate them. We climbed up the day before so we knew the set up and agreed the only way was to edit Peter out! Worth it 100 percent.

This next photo is important because it has so many elements: bride walking into church for the first time, bride’s parents reaction, plus, the church signage for historical context. Win-win-win! Because the parents are in different light than the bride, I had to shoot it in a way that made sure the bride wasn’t overexposed. I knew I could carefully bring back the parents in editing.

This is a shot that I had zero time to prepare for, because the bride unexpectedly waved to her flower girl while she was in the other room getting ready. I knew while I was shooting it that it was going to be a challenge in post-production, but I fell in love with this shot and knew it would be worth the hours in editing!

Brutal honesty (because as you know, I regularly ride the no B.S. Express), I wasn’t sure when I was working this shot if it could be turned into something awesome. Overcast days will do that to you, I actually need punchy light to do a lot of my shots. Because of the small area she was sitting in, I couldn’t light it (and my rule is no posing, so I couldn’t move her). I still don’t know if this next shot “works,” but I do promise my couples they get the photos regardless of whether I can get it together on my end.

Peter (second shooter) is often at cocktail hour, snapping up great candids to round out the couple’s gallery. Again, we try to shoot with clean backgrounds, but if it’s between getting a great moment or a waiting for a pretty background, we’re gonna pick the moment every single time! And yes, that white pole had to go!

Hope that puts a visual on what it is that we edit on a regular basis! If there’s anything you want to know or want me to blog about, I’d be happy to!

xo

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