This post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings, the leading online resource dedicated to serving same-sex couples since 1999. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.
The aspect I enjoy most about my work is having the chance to talk with wedding professionals about the work they do. Though we often talk about same-sex couples, trends and marketing practices, I absolutely love learning more about the specific talents and “tricks of the trade” of those who work with couples every day.
In this spirit, four years ago, I fielded a phone call from New Hampshire-based photographer Thea Dodds. And that phone call turned into a coffee and a two-day exchange of ideas and professional experience. The end result was our self-published title, Capturing Love, which went on to be published as The New Art of Capturing Love by Amphoto Books in 2014.
The collaboration was meaningful for both of us and I came to understand more about wedding photography — and the challenge of producing beautiful, meaningful and personal images — than I had ever imagined I might.
I decided it was time for us to catch up — and this time on the record. I wanted to know how writing the book and being on tour teaching same-sex wedding photography in the industry has impacted her perspective.
Here’s what she had to say:
It’s been 4 years since we first sat down to produce and publish Capturing Love. How has the experience impacted your approach to wedding photography and couples portraiture?
Four years! That is hard to believe! When we first starting writing this book we could count the number of marriage equality states on one hand. So much has changed in four years. Co-authoring Capturing Love has changed me, too, both in my business and my personal life. I’ve learned so much from working with you, my clients, and our contributing photographers, that it’s hard to know where to start.
Overall, I’d say that Capturing Love has helped me connect with my clients more authentically. In a large part, I’m able to do this because I’m more conscious of the assumptions I bring to the table. I also have inclusive language that invites people to share who they are. And all of this blends right into my personal life because this work is really about being a better person.
How has it impacted your thinking as a small business owner?
Capturing Love was a wake-up call to me about how important our work is. Our photographs influence opinions so we better make sure we know what the work is saying. One of the things that drove me to this project originally was that I felt my photographs of same-sex couples looked more like pictures of siblings. Once I listened to what my work was saying, I was able to change it. Now I am concerned with underlying meanings, power relationships and diversity in my portfolio. For instance, now that I know the LGBTQ population is about 5% of the US population, I want to make sure that my portfolio reflects that. Now that I know a ‘dip photo’ communicates strength and power, I’m a little more cautious about imposing that message on a couple. It’s not that I never do it because some couples want that iconic image, but I’m just careful that they’re not doing it just because I told them to.
What changes, if any, have you seen in the photography industry?
Change is the one thing you can count on in the world, and the photo industry is no different. I’ve been photographing weddings for 11 years and I’ve seen a lot of changes in my clientele, in industry standards and in wedding traditions, too. In the last two years, I have seen a sharp increase of interest in serving the LGBTQ community. This is truly fantastic change. It’s not every day that you get an entirely new segment of the population entering the wedding industry, so this has been a very exciting time to be a wedding photographer; but, there is still a lot of work to do.
Some photographers may have rushed into being LGBTQ-friendly while not learning how to be LGBTQ-competent. Just like we say in the book, the only way to get better at something is practice, and the one thing you never want to do at a wedding is practice. A wedding is a wedding, but there are some physical and cultural differences that impact our approach to best-serving the LGBTQ community.
What is the most common question you have encountered when teaching other professional photographers about photographing same-sex couples?
The most common question I hear is, “Should I just figure out who is more masculine or more feminine and pose them accordingly?”
The answer to this question is no because the premise of the question rests on gender identity as a binary system. In reality, gender identity is not just masculine and feminine, we all fall on a spectrum of expression. So before we can even begin to discuss how to best serve the LGBTQ community we have to confront and discard the binary concept. The idea that a couple is made up of a “feminine” and a “masculine” pairing will mislead you. It will distract you from capturing the authentic love of any couple.
What is the biggest gap in service you see that still remains when working with all couples — LGBTQ and nonLGBTQ?
Weddings and wedding photography have modernized so much over the last decade. Ten years ago, just about every wedding I photographed had garter and bouquet tosses, now I rarely see either of those. Of course, there is still work to do in our industry.
Last year one of my ad reps corrected herself after saying “brides” to “couples.” This caught my attention because I’ve known this rep for at least 5 years, and she was making a conscious and tough language change. Inclusive language is still the biggest gap in best practices for all couples. “Brides” is just one of the many terms that many of us say out of habit, and it is just plain out of date. With the sharp increase of mixed gender wedding parties, we also need to adjust “bridal parties,” “best man,” and all of the other terms that limit how a wedding can be expressed.
What are three things you see in your crystal ball for 2017?
Plaid… J/K. I see more couples booking me without ever meeting or even speaking on the phone. I see more couples having unplugged weddings, not just unplugged ceremonies. And Mason jars, we may never exhaust all of the trendy things you can do with Mason jars. 🙂
You’ll be presenting at WPPI and Shutterfest next spring. What can attendees expect in your session?
At both WPPI and Shutterfest, I will be doing two classes: the first is a lecture that sets the foundation for being an inclusive wedding photographer; the second class is a live demonstration and hands-on class where attendees will practice inclusive language and the Capturing Love approach to posing on a real couple.
Perhaps the best part of the hands-on class is that attendees can actually build their portfolios, which is critical to being an inclusive photographer. At Shutterfest I’m also doing a brand new presentation called Art History of Wedding Photography. Historical context is critical to all artists, so I’m thrilled to bring this new topic to this platform. This will be my 3rd year doing both of these conventions and I can’t wait to share these wonderful tools and meet some new friends.
Are you interested in teaching me the tricks of your trade and sharing some of your stories working with LGBTQ couples for a future WeddingWireEDU post? Drop me a line!