This week the ever thorny subject matter of in store smart phone photos has reared its controversial head. Whether you want to ‘free the nipple’, radicalise an audience, be Jay Rayner, a Mumsnet martyr or simply provoke envy and adoration in equal measures on Instagram, the sophisticated technology of the Pandora’s Box in your handbag is either a deadly weapon or a powerful ally.

To the point of desperation I, and fellow retailers, ask over and over again for ‘no photos’ in wedding dress appointments. This is not a conspiracy; it is common sense, experience and care for our clients. It is not for the reasons often cited “the designers don’t let us” or to stop the dress being copied. There are ample images of all wedding dresses online, including scroll over hi-res versions and even video on Maggie Sottero & Sottero and Midgley’s website.

Here are the 10 reasons to turn off your phone and be ‘present’ during your wedding dress appointment…

1 – Not every situation is improved by a camera.

Ask yourself – can you recall a brilliant kiss or a particular fine night of sauce & sex-pot behaviour? Have you closed your eyes to bring back the memory, clutched a jumper drenched in the scent of your partner and longed to repeat the experience? Aren’t you bloody glad you don’t have a sex tape of it? When it seemed magical would you really want to be reminded that you kept your socks on, that your hair was stuck to your forehead like a comb-over and the smell of Kiehls’s Musk had turned to actual animal musk? Would you want your performance to fall into the wrong hands and be subject to criticism? Would you, yourself, critique the way your boobs moved? Perish the thought of filming your face in the final throws of ecstasy!

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Asking a woman to get virtually naked and be ‘judged’ in a wedding dress by a group of friends and bridal professionals is difficult enough. Bring a camera into the mix and even the most confident woman turns gauche and gawky; even if the dress fits. If it doesn’t fit, you go home with a set of less than flattering photos. Voodoo doll pinning or elastic bands across your back; either is going to undermine your confidence in yourself or the dress.

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When you look at the photos again you won’t remember the thrill or the emotion, you will turn critic. You will forget that the dress didn’t fit and that there are several intermediate stages of technical fitting to go through. The lighting is bad, you had the wrong shoes on, no make up, someone shot you from under the chin, from a chair, at a bad angle – the list goes on.

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Don’t let some bad snaps haunt you, remember how you felt; trust yourself and your instinct.

2.Your self esteem can’t handle it.

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Obviously I can’t write a thing without an appropriate over share. Here is a little visual treat for you. This is me in Suzanne Neville’s size 12 Mayfair dress and jacket. I was in urgent need of a dress to wear to Brides magazine’s 60th birthday ball. A grand affair held last February at Goodwood House. I asked Suzanne if she might run something up and therefore needed measurements and photos. Boy, have these items proved to be worth their weight in asymmetric hair accessories!

The dress was a masterpiece; it was sculpted, corseted, flattering and confidence bringing. People said I looked great and the structural mastery of Suzanne’s dresses was evident. I felt fabulous and it is one of the finest dresses I have ever worn. I was a confident ‘Plus Size’ but the photos and measurements burnt to my very core. A few weeks after the ball I walked into a gym and a Slimming World group and put myself to work. I do not want to be the person, the business or the experience that makes someone else feel like this.

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The elastic band photos are private images shared only with the designer for the purposes of great pattern cutting. I see images like this all the time and I see the brilliant end results.

They are not for the purpose of body shaming, but body celebrating, by creating a brilliant dress for whatever shape.

My self esteem was fine – I work with this day in day out – but it was still a shock to see. I can handle it, can you?

3.You are not a photographer…

Our Pinterest boards are not full of amateur iPhone snaps. Clearly we ‘know’ this, but we don’t really acknowledge how much our sub-conscious has absorbed a winsome blonde, with sea-salted plaits captured on old fashioned film by a hip Californian photographer whose fee alone would cover a modest British wedding.

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We are also sensible women that know images are retouched, Photoshopped & edited to the max. Apologies for using myself as an example again but I think I look ok in my fitting room selfies, but Nick Tucker captured glamour and personality I didn’t know I had in my engagement shoot. Images below by Nick Tucker Photogaphy.

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The photos we aspire to are the ones where the last thing on anyone’s mind is what their face looks like or whether they are sure about the dress, where you are not crowd-pleasing and simply are having a brilliant time.

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Good photos we love, in regards to bridal fashion, are either professionally powerful or personally joyful. One simply cannot achieve this level as an amateur in a shop on a wet Wednesday in Spanx with a vague sense of skiving. More importantly, neither can your Mother who has to have a small reminder how to unlock the phone let alone take a picture.

4 – You are not a bride (yet)

It is fairly well documented, by which I mean I am told it a lot, that a bride and groom’s cheeks hurt at the end of their wedding day because of their Cheshire cat grins and coat hanger smiles. At a wedding dress appointment a slightly constipated grimace at a camera on the insistence on whoever is wielding the offensive weapon is not going to produce the best results. Magnify the awfulness of these results by the ‘sneaky’ shots grabbed by a friend or relative when it has been pointed out there is a no photos policy.

This is not how you are going to look on your wedding day, this is not a photo to be judged. Not a photo to choose from.

5 – You are (probably) not a Model

With one or two model and actress exceptions I have yet to see a bride ‘turn it on’ for the camera in an appointment. Most turn squarely towards the camera and get a mug shot like they had just been caught cruising Sunset Boulevard for an easy lay… Countless times have I tried to coach the drop hip, three quarter turn, weight on one leg look, to no avail. Instead of Alexa Chung fashion ambassador, I get confused flamingo; a wobbling wading bird of the bridal variety.

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It may come to pass that the new generation of brides born after about 1993 who have pouted at their lenses since Year 7 and their Beebo account days can start to pull off some boutique brilliance in their wedding dress selfies. Yet again though, who can actually recognise anyone from their profile pictures? I might have to add another clause, ‘No photos, and no HD brows’

Yet on their wedding day a real bride outshines any model…

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6 – Do you have the vision?

Working with ‘trade’ friends can be incredibly liberating. Creating unique looks, a professional in their field entrusting another to bring a thought and a vision to life.

It takes a leap of faith or confidence – one that wouldn’t be helped by our reference shots. I take photos of my brides, lots of them. I focus on bits of dresses that don’t fit, the bits that need changing, the squishy flesh, the anomalies. Frankly it would have the untrained eye watering wildly. When you have a look at what I focus on, and to the millimetre, you can see why I want to focus on the end product rather than the work in progress.

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Paula Rooney is a couture florist who works constantly with the best magazines, venues and photographers. Paula was also clear she wanted a dress like no other! The photos of Paula show me draping bits of cloth, metres of lace and sash-ing it all together. They are the equivalent of a designer’s sketchbook. It is scribbles in cloth.

The stunning custom end result, brought about by mix and matching Paula’s vision, Sassi Holford separates and edgy handmade accessories from both Helen Pollington and the Miss Bush team, is gracing the pages of this month’s Brides.

Unless you are trade you would hardly green-light the dress based on the working images. Relationship and reputation based decisions & collaborations will work where a camera can’t! Images below by Carey Sheffield.

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7 – You are a ‘Reverse Big Mac’…

Ever since Michael Douglas was turned into a gun-toting homicidal maniac by an illustrated menu in Falling Down I can’t help bringing the scene to mind when I order from any fast food outlet. The fantasy land where meat glistens and buns are plump is the wet dream of a marketing exec’. Short of coming out of a Michelin grade restaurant, what you see in a photo is not what is going to come out of the kitchen.

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As a bride if you take photos of yourself in sample wedding dresses you are essentially creating your own marketing images. Too long, too short, too big, too small, wrong colour, bad lighting… the list goes on. How can you be expected to create images of a dress to sell it to yourself without the final well-fitted product?

Sample wedding dresses are not the product, the price on the label is not for that dress hanging there it is for a product yet to exist which is personally commissioned.  I would love for you to be able to take a snap of the finished article, the perfect towering burger of a dress with matching layers of cheese and artful drapes of lettuce, however until it is made is simply can’t happen.

8 – Your wedding dress shop is your friend

If a wedding dress shops asks you politely, lets you know before your very first visit that there is a no photo policy it would be great if this could be communicated to all your accompanying friends and family. It is embarrassing for all to have to bring it up, even more so to challenge someone about their continued covert attempts.

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There is an immense amount of faith and trust involved in any wedding related transaction, and the relationships work best if there is a two way sense of respect. All a shop is trying to do is help you protect your sense of self esteem, prevent pre wedding dress jitters and protect your privacy. I have once ended an appointment when I asked someone to stop taking photos and the person in question rolled her eyes and did the “talk to the hand” gesture at me. I have a couple of peers in the industry that have done the same….

9 – You are creating bad marketing material for lovely shops (A word to my trade friends)

I have seen the inside of all of your shops via online stalking, I know that we all do all we can possibly do to keep our web presence as shiny as a brass plaque, our front steps scrubbed and our windows clean.

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I have also seen photos taken where the bride is trying to show me a dress and I can see the merchandising is a bit off, the dress being modelled looks awful and I am questioning your taste in carpet or suspended ceilings.

The shot will look worse if covert. Be aware, even if you feel you are being mean, that awful photos of your business and products are being circulated. If want to continue to let people take photos, allocate part of the store where the lighting and backdrop are good and unchanging. Work out the best angle and insist on it. I know how much blood, sweat and tears we all pour into our businesses and it is important to control the quality of the images that are taken and shared of it.

10 – We will think you are a Muriel…

I know it is a long time since the film Muriel’s Wedding came out, but us retailers still know that there are a few Muriels out there. In real life Muriels also put endless contracts on hold at different boutiques (we do know this because we do talk amongst ourselves) and avid collectors make sure they have been to every single one.

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I even have photos from my own phone where Muriel simply wouldn’t take no for an answer and every time I weaken, the photos are taken, they are off to the next shop to collect another stamp, train ticket, butterfly. Are they getting married? Who knows, but they make shopping for a wedding dress their life’s work.

The solution?

So how do you tackle relatives across the globe, friends on different planets and opinions in different time zones? Skype, Facetime and, at a push, video. All of these mediums will allow far flung members of the wedding party to feel involved, engaged and able to enjoy the experience with you.

It also allows me to answer any serious queries they have in real time. Will her boobs be that much on show? Will it crease like that? Why is the skirt wrinkled? These are the questions that cast seeds of doubt in a bride’s mind if a bad photograph gets emailed.

The greatest thing about a touch of Facetime are the squeaks and squeals of delight that bring the love and positive energy to a great appointment.

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Emma Meek, MD of Miss Bush
Miss Bush  is Surrey’s leading designer bridal shop

9 responses to “10 reasons to put your camera phone away at your bridal appointment

  1. An absolutely fascinating piece which has turned my mind around. I have thought I would have liked a photo of me – just to quash the many wobbles (alas metaphorically) of confidence I experienced. But I am one of the least photogenic people on the planet – I can only bear a couple of wedding pics and wept bitter tears over my ‘engagement shot’ – so maybe it would actually intensified my angst. And I’m definitely more of a puffin than a flamingo….!

    • Hi Amanda, thank you for the blog-love! I am pleased it has changed your thinking! I have so many multiple bride wobbles to contend with a bad phone picture shouldn’t need to go on the list! Emma xxx

  2. Kirsty Gathercole

    This is a fabulous help Emma! Thank you!
    I work once a week in a Sussex boutique & am still learning the ways and how’s and whys! Your advice is priceless!
    I actually fell prey to the disheartening feeling, when you think you’ve found the one, then your friend later sends you a shot she took of you when you weren’t aware (taken up at you from knee height)… Needless to say, I fell out of love with that dress back in 2012, ending up with the “safe” option.
    Keep on blogging Ms Meek! X

    • I think I may have to steal the line about ending up with the safe option! Thanks for reading Kirsty and thanks for your support. I do love to write blog posts and if ever think of any other mystifying topics that I could cover do let me know! Emma xxx

  3. Fab blog Emma, my sister and I have really enjoyed reading it and so many of the points struck a cord. We run a small vintage inspired boutique called Bella Figura in Matlock, Derbyshire and specialise in made to measure bridal and vintage dresses – we are currently quite relaxed about our photography policy but have had to spend a lot of time reassuring brides who agonise over the phone images after the appointment. You’ve presented some great arguments for making some positive changes in the future 🙂

    • Hi Teresa, I am really glad you found it useful. I am still battling with clients daily to put their phones down and believe what they see in the mirror and how they feel! Thank you for taking the time to comment and for you support Emma x

  4. Emma I feel so much better after reading this. I took photos of myself in my wedding dress it felt great , was tight but I have a target to reach so hoping it will be ok at my next fitting but I look at the photos after and I’m thinking should I get a different dress? Was it the lightening maybe.. I don’t look like I thought I did and exactly like you said I’m on a platform so photos were taking from a diff level but until I read your blog I was feeling like did I make the right choice. You’ve definitely made me feel more positive about it now and excited again. Thank you x

  5. Fantastic thanks for this we struggle every day with this very problem…. going to post on our site if ok with you
    Sally
    Helena Fortley xx

  6. Great blog Emma, wehre a small boutique in Northamptonshire, my self and my consultant have slightly different views on the subject of photography, i don’t want it, she agrees with it as they live on their phones is the answer..

    We try to keep it to a minimum but i know my consultant struggles to do this and I hear her offering it up, do you want a picture of this one? makes me so annoyed, we are trying to come up with a worded scripted solution to this so that she finds it easier to deal with.

    I will share this blog with her and see if this helps too

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