Most of my wedding photography clients will tell you there is one word they hear me say often throughout their wedding day: Breathe. As a wedding photographer, one of my many duties is to make sure my subjects look as relaxed and natural as possible. With very few exceptions, when someone is anxious or nervous with being photographed, the simple solution has been that one simple word: Breathe. Reminding people to breathe lets them know in a non-critical way that they have become rigid. It seems like we believe it necessary to stand perfectly still for a 19th century daguerreotype camera to finish burning our image onto a copper sheet. Breathing while being photographed reminds us that we are living creatures, not statues, and that a breath gives a photograph precisely what it gives the human body – Life.
Another thing that happens when we are nervous or anxious is that we tend to breathe shallowly and more quickly. It’s a perfectly natural part of our “fight or flight” survival instincts. However, when your photographer encourages you to take a breath, it not only conveys a subconscious safety message (your photographer is not a tiger about to snack on you), it will also help to eliminate photographs in which you look precisely like you’re afraid a tiger is about to snack on you. By taking a nice full breath, you are telling your brain that you are not in a life or death situation, despite the behavior of your future in-laws. That release of anxiety will be reflected in your photographs.
Taking a full breath also helps to prevent the problem of dead eyes. We’ve all seen pictures where a person is smiling, kind of, but their eyes convey the message that they are tired of being photographed or don’t really care for the person they’re being photographed with. Depending on the length of your wedding day, by the end you’ll be pretty tired of smiling not only for your photographer, but for your friends and family. There is an easy way to help stave off the “I’m smiling but I actually don’t want you to point that flashy thing at me anymore” look. Whenever you are about to take a photograph, take a nice big breath. It will help you to relax, it will invigorate your body, and it will add more life in your eyes.
Your brain requires more oxygen than any other organ. Breathing isn’t just essential to our survival, it’s essential looking and feeling our best. Breathing has many positive side effects other than just keeping us alive. It energizes us, it helps our bodies detox, and it helps us look vibrant and alive. Breathing fully will wake up your brain at the end of a long, tiring wedding day. It will also release tension, which will result in you looking more relaxed and joyful in pictures. When you look back on your wedding day photographs, which thought would you like to have those photographs bring to mind? Do you want to think “Wow, I looked hit!” or would you rather think “Wow, I looked so happy. What a beautiful day it was!” If the second sounds better to you, just remember this one simple word: Breathe.