It seems a strange question to ask as it's the first thing that most people ask when taking a photo. "Smile please!" Cue rigormortis smile held until the camera drops and you're released right? Well it shouldn't be that way but that's most people's experience. The reason I ask the question is because of an exhibition of antique wedding dresses I went to a few weeks ago. (Stick with me on this one) As they showed dresses through the ages, they showed the photos of the accompanying wedding day. It struck me as we drifted through the 1870's, 90's, early 1900's.... that no one is smiling. All wearing pinned expressions and dour faces. Then we arrived into the 1920's and more relaxed faces began to appear until we reached the 1940's and the guests are in full beam. So what changed.
Well, mostly technology and the more relaxed times of the day really. It's not that people from the late 1800's were a dour lot but the technology used to capture photos meant standing still for long periods to expose the photo. This meant smiles weren't high on the agenda. By the 1920's cameras had started to advance and shutter speeds faster so more natural photos. The era definitely helps of course and the roaring twenties wouldn't have been roaring without a smile and of course the change in fashions.
For wedding photography today, more natural poses are more, well...natural and capturing people in a relaxed and natural way makes for a much more pleasing photo experience. That being said, some people just hate having their photos taken but there are ways to make it easier.
- be personable - it sounds simple but knowing the people you're photographing and what they do and don't like is important and above all, never bark instructions!
- Natural locations make natural shots - put people at ease by shooting in places where they feel comfortable. Photographing in front of an audience for example or public place is always daunting
- - catching people unawares - sometimes I'll ask people to relax as I'm setting up the shot but actually I'm photographing them proper. The phrase "thanks we're done" often surprises but it's sometimes the only way to capture people being natural with each other
- Have fun! I'm not going to explain this one. It doesn't need instructions! :-)
The last one is my favourite and it is a skill to be able to get to know people quickly, have fun but not be over familiar when photographing people but if you can master it, it makes for the best results.