As a wedding photographer, there’s no doubt that you’ll be open to love wherever and however you find it. But supporting LGBTQ+ couples requires a little more action than ‘just’ being accepting.
You’ve also got to make your LGBTQ+ clients feel just as welcome, valued and important as any other segment, and included as part of your wider marketing message.
Now, you might think that this is a given — which, by the way, is a great sign that you’re already on the right track — but in such a gendered industry, subconscious stereotypes and age-old ‘traditions’ can quickly muddy the waters of wedding photography.
That’s why making a little extra effort can go a seriously long way, as we found for ourselves, last year, when we chatted with some trailblazing photographers who have gone out of their way to build inclusive, gender-blind businesses.
Today, we’ll be reflecting on those interviews, compiling the key takeaways, and diving a little deeper into the specific actions you can take to support LGBTQ+ couples as a wedding photographer in 2020 and beyond.
So, let’s get started.
First things first, you need to cover the basics
And that, primarily, means — you guessed it — working with LGBTQ+ couples, photographing them, and including their shots in your portfolio.
Again, this might seem obvious, but you can’t actively support the LGBTQ+ community, without actually including them in what you do. That’s why an inclusive portfolio is an absolute must if you’re serious about running a diverse and truly accepting business.
But how do you include LGBTQ+ couples in your portfolio, if you haven’t already?
We get it… this can be tricky.
It’s a little bit like the chicken and egg scenario.
If your portfolio is lacking on the LGBT front, why would LGBT folk reach out to work with you? But if you never get the opportunity to overcome that obstacle, how can you ever move forward?
It’s a nightmare that all photographers know only too well — that eagerness to branch out into something new, but lacking the relevant ‘experience’ to actually get started.
Don’t worry, though.
If this thought process sounds a lot like your internal voice… chances are, you’re overthinking things a little.
As Tara (a brilliant and inclusive wedding photographer) told us last year, attracting LGBTQ+ couples is as simple as reaching out directly, and asking them if they’d be up for a (possibly free) photography session to get you started.
You don’t even have to shoot a wedding, either.
Just a romantic couple shoot with some friends at home is a great way of giving your portfolio that first taste of inclusivity it’s lacking.
From there, things should quickly start to snowball if you continue to put inclusivity first, and follow the rest of the steps we’ll be covering today.
Next, be clear and don’t leave any potential clients guessing
Once you’ve covered the basics, and photographed your first LGBTQ+ couple, you’ve next got to use those shots to make it absolutely clear to other potential clients that you’re open — or even, actively looking — to work with the LGBTQ+ community.
This means, first and foremost, including those shots in your portfolio across each of your digital (and physical) platforms.
You should also include examples of your inclusive couple photography on your website, too, to make it crystal clear that you’re proud to be an LGBTQ+ ally.
And to really get the message out there, you could even consider sharing your new shots with the online, queer community on sites like Reddit, Tumblr and Instagram to draw in some potential traffic and celebrate inclusive love.
The bottomline here is that transparency is key.
You don’t want to keep anyone guessing, or cast any ambiguity around whether or not you work with LGBTQ+ couples.
As awful as it is, a lot of gay, bisexual and transgender people have to look for direct (and often indirect) signs that their custom is welcome. Do all you can, then, to shine the brightest light possible on your LGBTQ+ support to throw your arms wide open to the community.
Avoid gendered language and outdated marketing messages
The wedding industry is dominated by talk of ‘brides and grooms’, ‘white wedding dresses’ and ‘him and her’ traditions.
All of this is great — in fact, it’s what attracted many of us to the idea of working in the wedding industry in the first place… that quintessential, ‘white wedding’ imagery that you’d expect to see at the end of a Disney movie.
But as whimsical and romantic as all of that is, it’s important to keep in mind that a wedding is so much more than that ‘traditional’ view.
And if you’re serious about running an inclusive business, you’ve got to reflect that reality in your messaging, branding and overall marketing strategy.
This, obviously, doesn’t mean erasing brides and grooms from your brand — but it does mean taking a little extra time and caution to make sure that you aren’t alienating anyone who doesn’t match that rather limiting version of what love looks like.
Remember, inclusivity means including everyone; you don’t have to exclude anyone to be inclusive — that’s not the point. But you do need to strike the right balance if you want to show your support for LGBTQ+ couples.
As Crystal told us last year, targeting and respecting diverse couples is as simple as considering your use of language, and generally not pushing the ‘traditional’ narrative too hard without counterbalancing it.
This comes down to super specific yet hugely impactful decisions, like switching out ‘bride and groom’ for ‘the happy couple’, or replacing ‘he and she’ with ‘they’ or ‘them’.
You’ll also want to be aware of things like this in person, too. Using the right language and tone will help your LGBTQ+ couples trust you on their shoot, which is super important for beautiful, honest shots.
In a nutshell, you want to ask yourself whether you’re presenting your business (be it on Instagram, in an email marketing campaign, or in person) in the most inclusive way you possibly can — and if the answer to that question is ‘no’, then you might want to go back to the drawing board.
Be authentic and don’t force things too much
Don’t get us wrong, here: the sky’s the absolute limit when it comes to supporting the LGBTQ+ community — but you don’t want to force things too much, and risk coming across, at best, inauthentic, and at worst, altogether offensive.
You could say that there’s a ‘balance’ to be had. Not in your support and acceptance (that should be unequivocal), but in your messaging.
Let’s say, for example, you’ve never worked with LGBTQ+ couples before, yet you start suddenly ‘re-branding’ as a ‘queer photographer’ in June to ‘cash in’ on annual Pride celebrations.
We probably don’t need to tell you that this would be a major misstep.
Because, above all else, it would scream inauthenticity.
And if you’re using the queer community for a quick cash grab, your intentions are coming from the entirely wrong place — and, trust us, that will be clear.
None of this means you can’t, or shouldn’t, go out of your way to reach out to LGBTQ+ couples. But it does mean that you should consider your actions.
In the above scenario, for example, instead of seeing Pride as an opportunity for profit, why not offer a free shoot in celebration of the month? Not only will this build your LGBTQ+ portfolio, but it’ll also show a genuine care for equality.
The future clients it could attract would also be pretty great, too!
That said, you should never be afraid of ‘making money’ from LGBTQ+ couples — photography is a business, after all, and there’s absolutely no shame in that.
The point we’re making here is that authenticity is key, not that offering inclusive services is always cynical or calculating… because it’s not!
Remember that, and everything will soon fall in place.
And finally, follow your heart
Yes, it might sound a little cliché…
But the truth is, a lot of what we’ve covered today comes down to common decency and being a kind person, which the vast majority of wedding photographers have already got down to a tee.
So, don’t feel overwhelmed or intimidated by anything we’ve covered today. Chances are, we’ve just broken down what you already knew, and unpacked it in a slightly more strategic and considered way.
Yes, there’s a lot to think about, and we don’t want to undersell that fact — but once you’ve covered the basics and put everything in place, you should leave the rest to your instincts.
Good intentions always shine through; so don’t overthink things too much, have some fun and follow your heart… it’s almost always right!
Do you hear wedding bells?
And if you follow our advice today, there’s no reason why they won’t be ringing with pride for some lucky, loved up LGBTQ+ couples who are blown away with how accommodating, accepting and all round amazing their wedding photographer is.
Let us know how you get on supporting the queer community, and don’t forget to head over to our blog for more content to help guide you in your career as a wedding photographer.
We’ll see you next time!
Connection is what it’s all about. Feel free to reach out to us with any comments or questions you might have, even if it’s only to say hello. If it wasn’t for our beautiful community, this place just wouldn’t feel the same.