In Praise of the Down Do

KaliThis is Kali. I shot Kali’s wedding about 10 years ago but I still remember her well because she made me realize that brides can be just a little more glamorous with their hair down. She was a hair stylist by profession and when I asked her what she was going to do with her hair her answer was “not much.” She said, I want to look like myself, and this is how I wear my hair. (Personal disclosure: I have a soft spot for Kali because she had a light spray of freckles across her nose and left her make-up light enough for them to show through.)

I’ve been shooting weddings for many years. I’m coming up on my 500th next summer. In that time I’ve seen things come and go, and I’ve learned a few things that just won’t go away. For example, way back in the film days, before I was even in the business, it was standard to make only 50 to 80 photographs at a wedding and most of those were carefully posed, and shot full length or close to it. The film wasn’t very detailed. In those days, you needed heavy make-up to make photos to look good. It was closer to stage make-up than it was to something a woman would wear in the real world. That tradition persisted much longer than it was a good idea.

Our digital cameras now are so precise that there is no such thing as “wedding make-up.” A bride’s wedding make-up should be about what she’d wear on a date to a picnic. The professionals who do make-up know this, so the overly made-up brides are, thankfully, a thing of the past.

Pro tip: Be very careful with spray tan. If you are the only one with a spray tan in a field of normal skinned bridesmaids there is a 50/50 chance that you will look like an Oompa-Looompa in your wedding photos.

The one thing that hasn’t faded away is the Up Do. I’m not sure why, but most often women in weddings, even those with absolutely beautiful hair, hide it in an up do. I’ve seen brides with so many bobbi pins in their hair they need to stay away from strong magnets.

I don’t want to suggest that there are not stunning brides with their hair up. I could post many, many photos of complex and lovely up dos. There are plenty of lovely brides in this website’s galleries with glamorous up hair. But long hair can be a dramatic element in a wedding photo. Hair down becomes as much an accessory as a veil or broche. But unlike accessories you buy at a store, hair is yours. It’s who you are. I say; if you’ve got it, use it.


Speaking of my soft spots, this is Linsey. She was naturally poised and glamorous (and still is, I did some family photos for her last month). I had her spin around in the photo on the right and her hair and dress did a little dance together.


Angela would look regal anywhere, but in a Rolls Royce her dark hair frames her face like a painting.


When you’ve got natural blonde hair like Jeanette’s it’s a crime to put it up. Her veil and hair together were more beautiful in person than any photograph. I probably shouldn’t mention this, but Jeanette is proof that beauty doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Her dress came from Esty for under $200 and her bouquet is newsprint and cardboard flowers she made herself.

jeff n jennifer




Free yourselves brides. Let your hair down.

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