The Beauty Of An Unflattering Wedding Photograph


What do you see when you look at this picture? What story does it tell?

A few weeks ago I photographed a gorgeous wedding with the beautiful bride that you see pictured above. This moment was captured just before she walked down the aisle; her chief bridesmaid was adjusting the veil when the bride made this wonderful expression. It made me chuckle at the time so I took the photo, but when I was preparing the final photographs for the wedding story, I hesitated over whether I should include this moment or not.

My hesitation soon became doubt, and I started to struggle with this photo. Why? Because brides make a considerable effort to look incredible on their wedding day and I feared that this bride would cringe seeing herself in this moment. When I look at this photo, I see two stories: The first is an expression of excitement and anticipation from the bride before she walks down the aisle towards her future. In the second story, I see a mad vampire bride, her eyes crazy and teeth sharp in anticipation of devouring her soon-to-be-husband for [wedding] breakfast. I was worried the bride would see the latter story and judge the photo as a bad representation. I agonise over decisions like this all of the time.

A recent client kindly said that I “have a gift to see others as they would wish to be seen”. I cannot think of a higher compliment for my work, because when I capture photographs and curate them for a wedding story I quite literally obsess over whether the subject of a photograph will look at it and say “That’s a great photograph of me”. I’m curious as to how a person who is not well-instructed in photographic art distinguishes between what is a good photograph and a bad one, but I suspect that most use the following criteria: If a photo featuring that person is a flattering one, it’s a great photo; if not so flattering, then it’s a bad one. No matter if the composition, light and moment lends itself to a creative image, the bottom line is: If you don’t look as cool as you want to look in that photograph, it simply isn’t good enough.

I’m concious of this thinking, particularly with the wonderful brides I get to work with. How I see another person through the lens may be different to how they see themselves, so what happens if I get it wrong and their photographs look terrible? I’ve been lucky to receive the most wonderful letters and emails of gratitude from all of my clients, but still this nagging worry remains.

Ultimately, I decided to include this photo in the final collection. As a reportage photographer, I aim to cover the reality and truth of a wedding day as it unfolds. Wonderful moments like these add to the texture of the day; they serve as an emotional document to be looked back on by the couple, their family & friends. Besides, there are plenty more moments of the bride looking traditionally beautiful. I hope she sees this photo as I do, otherwise, I might be devoured at her next meal.


What do you think? Do drop a comment and let me know how you might view a photo like this in your own wedding collection.



I love this photograph. It is refreshing in this world that we live in of enhanced beauty, vanity and self-obsession. (#selfies etc) I know the bride in this photograph and she is true to herself, happy in her skin and you can see her excitement and sheer joy in this photograph. On the night before her wedding, when I saw her, she was literally jumping up and down with enthusiasm. Bring it on Nigel, let’s see more of your “gift” in action.

I’m glad you see it too, Sophie. I think it’s easier to see the beauty of the moment if we are not the subject, but I always hesitate over images like this 🙂

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