Pete Thornton is somewhat of a black sheep. His “take no prisoners” perspective on photography and the wedding industry as a whole is a much needed breath of fresh air.
He calls “bullshit” on much of the outdated etiquette that surrounds couples and their big day and concentrates his energy on the story behind the celebration, the snorts within the laughter and the wink after the smile. The parts of life that make being a great photographer so much more valuable than simply clicking a shutter.
My curiosity was piqued when Pete and I sat down to have a chat about weddings, what we love and what we struggle with, and one of the top misconceptions: the need for everything to be “just so” - the illusion of perfection.
We like to call his impassioned position “don’t fluff the dress,” but it’s really a metaphor for the whole wedding process. From your engagement to your honeymoon and in essence, for the rest of your married life.
You know the move: the bride and groom are hurriedly ushered to the “correct” spot for their photos. An ever-dutiful bridesmaid/parent/aunty dashes to the bride’s side and flicks the train of her dress, straightens her veil, “shoos” away a bug and tucks a little tendril of hair behind her ear; “There, you’re perfect.”
And a little part of me dies right there.
Honestly, you don’t look any better after all that primping and preening than you did just 10 seconds before.
(Ha! I’ll explain that in a moment.)
In fact, there is a good chance that you have become a little more self-conscious and have started to feel like you need to “pose” a certain way to look “perfect” in the photos.
No, no, Nope! I’m after something different…
”Let me clarify.
Firstly, “you don’t look any better after all that primping and preening”… aaaw, that’s a bit harsh!
But here’s the truth: In all my time (12+ years) as a professional photographer, I have never worked with a couple that doesn’t look anything but amazing on their wedding day.
Because the beauty of a couple on their wedding day (and therefore the beauty of the photography) does not come from trying to be “perfect.” The true beauty that I capture comes from the gut!
It comes from the understanding of the commitment you are making to each other. It comes from an incredible spark that ignites when you first see each other. An overwhelming surge of emotion wells up inside of you, and you know what? That feeling can be seen in the photos!
But only IF you and your photographer allow it to happen and be captured.
This is central to what I’m trying to capture in my photography. I want to see those “belly butterflies” in my images of you. I look for it, I wait for it and I’ve got a few little tricks to draw it out of you. So when someone (as well-meaning as they are) swoops in and “fluffs the dress,” it has a diabolical way of killing that connection, that moment.
Hey, don’t get me wrong; I want to make you look your absolute best on the big day.
But you’ve already got a killer dress, or a wicked suit - that part’s done. And if all you want are some pics of you in your finery, it’s just not enough for me.
Wedding photography can convey so much more than just a simple record of what you and your wedding day looked like.
I want to convey your personality; who you are as an individual, who you are as a couple, who those awesome people around you are and what they mean to you.
It takes a concerted effort and more emotional intelligence than simply positioning you perfectly and snapping away. It’s more about questioning the norms, or formulaic wedding photography traditions of the past, and letting them go.
Be gone the hand-on-one-hip “S Curve” model-move and hello beaming smile, natural belly laugh or joyful tear in the eye!”
My best advice would be for couples to look for a photographer who can convey their own unique style in their photography. Do they see you uniquely? And to also be mindful of the latest photography “trend” or “of the era” style imagery. Can you see the things that really matter in their photography?
Sometimes you won’t be able to articulate what it is about a photographer’s work that appeals to you, but you will know almost immediately if it is what you want for your wedding photography. Go with your gut.
So stand down zealous bystanders, don’t worry about that one lock of her hair that’s flying in the breeze or smear of lipstick on his collar. All I need my couples to do is focus on that lad who’s standing with you, that girl who’s by your side and the awesome commitment you have just made to each other.
Then we are going to see what really matters in wedding photography - the authentic and most comfortable you!
Please don’t fluff the dress! Just let them be.
Let them be quiet.
Let them be loud.
Let them be who they are.
If not on their wedding day, then when else?