If you’re looking for an LGBTQ+ friendly photographer in San Francisco and around the Bay Area, I would love to tell you a little about my approach to photographing LGBTQ+ weddings and engagements.
I’m Zoe Larkin and I photograph weddings and engagements in Northern California with an emphasis on candid, natural moments. We favor an organic and true-to-life editing style.
I try to live out my business’ values in all that I do. One of my values is representing couples who have been historically underrepresented, sidelined and marginalized from the wedding narrative.
With all the strides we’ve taken recently, what does it actually mean to be an LGBTQ+ friendly photographer in the LGBTQ+ center of the United States?
And if you’re looking for an equality-focused photographer for your LGBTQ+ wedding, why would you consider choosing me?
Choosing a wedding photographer who is LGBTQ+ friendly
I’ve actually already written a more detailed piece, diving into many of my learnings and ways in which I’ve been educated by the LGBTQ+ community.
In that article (which I really encourage you to go ahead and read) I talk honestly about how I actively seek out guidance, reflecting on mistakes I’ve made, and real ways that I make my LGBTQ+ couples feel welcome, valued and affirmed in front on my lens.
Yes, I’ve made mistakes. Seeking out ways I want to learn and grow, means admitting that perhaps I’ve been less-than-perfect in my approach before.
When you are choosing a photographer for your upcoming wedding, you’ll want to carry out as much due diligence as you can! Don’t stop here, carry on searching and asking questions. You’ll know when you’ve found the right photographer.
Here’s a guide I wrote about how to choose a wedding photographer:
And here are some questions you will want to consider asking to those wedding photographers on your shortlist!
Don’t be afraid to ask them specific questions about how they work with LGBTQ+ couples. Do they use gender-neutral language on their contracts and questionnaires? Or is it all, ‘bride’s name here’, ‘groom’s name here’?
If they don’t have any LGBTQ+ couples in their portfolio, ask them why that is. For many, it will simply be because they have never been approached to photograph an LGBTQ+ celebration. But the answer may be very telling!
A good photographer will not sweat it if you put them on the spot, they should have answers for you that will allay any concerns!
Understanding my LGBTQ+ couples
Of course, I hope to make everyone feel valued when they choose me as their wedding photographer. Everyone deserves to feel seen, valued, and to be served well on their wedding day.
However, working with LGBTQ+ clients means being aware of their specific sensitivities as well as particular sources of pride. These are matters that many others may simply take for granted.
For one thing, a gay or trans marriage is one that many thought would never happen. Many LGBTQ+ people, particularly older folx, grew up keeping their sexuality a secret.
Some have spent half their lives believing that same-sex marriage would never in a million years be recognized federally.
Others have made brave decisions to come out to parents and family members who have not been so welcoming and supportive.
Still others have destination weddings or elopements in the United States, but reside in countries where their sexuality and their union are not affirmed.
I know this because I have couples who fall into every one of those camps. They have been open about some of the stigma they still face. They have shared with me their joy about being able to have a wedding. Sometimes it’s a mixture of many different emotions and factors.
Happiness of course because they are marrying their life partner. Pain because of absent parents and family members who reject their union. Mixed feelings around the heteronormative aspects of the wedding industry that many couples experience through the planning process.
A keen sense of indignation for their LGBTQ+ family around the world who don’t enjoy the same rights.
It can be bittersweet. I don’t take that any of that lightly.
Letting my couples lead
Letting my couples lead means more than asking pronouns and then treating them the exact same as a straight couple.
There are many aspects to photographing LGBTQ+ couples that means I sometimes have to avoid the instinct I have as a business owner to lead and direct the conversation.
A little bit of patience and humility can go a long way.
I have always attracted couples that are into doing weddings their own way, whatever their gender and sexuality. So it has given me the insight I need to approach each wedding as completely unique, and each couple the same way.
My business does not run as a wedding photography factory line – however tempting it would be for the sake of efficiency to churn ’em out.
Rather, I provide a bespoke experience that honors and values the unique bond and relationship of each individual, each couple. Weddings are so personal, and the investment of each of my couples is so substantial, that anything else would be doing them a disservice.
What is genderless posing?
Genderless posing means avoiding traditional posing techniques that are predicated on a male role and a female role. It means allowing each couple the space to express their unique love their own way, regardless of the stereotypical gendered roles.
Genderless posing is something that I wrote more about in that other article. But, as the name implies, genderless posing means:
- Seeing each person as an individual, not doing a typical ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ role.
- Seeing each person as equal, never putting one in a more subservient or submissive position (even subconsciously).
- Constantly refining my own ‘posing repertoire’ and making sure that I’m not making anyone – LGBTQ+ or heterosexual – feel uncomfortable.
- Switching it up! If one partner is kissing their partner’s hand or cheek, I will typically swap them over so the couple can have a choice of which photos feel most like them.
- Avoiding gendered roles while setting up any part of the wedding day.
I also take the time to question my own assumptions and how I speak to my couples. For example, I don’t ask ‘so how did he propose?!’ I know that the process of getting engaged means different things for each couple.
Being an LGBTQ+ friendly photographer in San Francisco means more than slapping a badge on your website in the hopes of attracting a juicy new market segment.
It means allowing myself to be vulnerable. To make mistakes and be corrected. Asking questions, even when it’s easier not to. To live and to learn! To be proactive and also to be a good listener.
But there is still more work to be done. Tell me in the comments what you need to see and experience from a photographer that calls themselves LGBTQ+ friendly.