It doesn't always go perfectly on your perfect day.
With planning you can solve a few minor problems, a hairdresser to fix fly aways and a make up artist to cover up a number of sins but there are always little things that creep in. A small band aid, flesh colored and hidden on the groom's neck — his hands nervous while shaving on his wedding day — to those watching from the pews it was indistinct but in the photos it shows all too well.
These temporary flaws are easy enough to correct with enough scrubbing. A good photographer is also a good editor, skilled with digital painting to cover up those band aids and blemishes missed by makeup (or acquired after during all the brushing and crying and confusion during wedding preparations). No one misses them because in their minds they've already gotten rid of those superficial blemishes.
But what about permanent parts of a bride and groom? The scars and physical traces of life, love and suffering (as well as genetics for male pattern baldness) that put character into someone's face and body, keeping them from looking like a Barbie doll, perfectly plastic. It can be difficult to talk about what you want airbrushed out of sight and out of mind.
Photographers are not plastic surgeons, few will ask you to tell them what you don't like about yourself. It's an especially awkward conversation during a first meeting when a photographer and a couple are first getting to know one another, no one wants to feel judged or be found wanting. Your photographer, especially if you haven't signed a contract yet, also doesn't want to accidentally slight you about a sensitive subject.
So how should you start talking about retouching with your photographer?
Many bridal resources suggest a list of questions for your photographer about their gear, their experience and their techniques. Inevitably the conversation turns to post-processing and here is where you can start to talk about how you'd like to see yourself in your wedding memories.
Ask your photographer about how much retouching they like to do. Are they like real photojournalists, barely leaving a trace of digital editing on their work? Do they draw their inspiration from magazines where everyone is picture perfect, some unreal and idealized version of themselves? Then you can talk about your preferences.
From there you can get more particular. Broadly speaking there are three major concerns for post-processing people: the skin; fine lines and wrinkles; beauty marks and scars.
Skin, even on the best of days can sometimes have uneven tones and textures. Often these go unnoticed day to day, makeup can help even things out but sometimes as the day wears on skin problems can show through. There are a lot of great programs that photographers can use to help even out skin tones, it's simply a matter of deciding what makes you unique and what you want to see. Your skin can go mostly untouched, gently evened out or smoothed over to magazine-style perfection.
Most find the latter unappealing. As with a lot of airbrushing being too heavy handed can render you almost unrecognizable and suddenly your wedding photos are not about you but some CGI version of yourself.
Wrinkles can be a mark of distinction, of wisdom and experience but just as often they're an unpleasant reminder of the aging process. The process of planning a wedding can also be wearing so as much as you rest beforehand you might find yourself with slight bags under your eyes and a few stress lines that will disappear after some time away on your honeymoon.
These can either be softened or eliminated entirely.
The same applies to scars and birthmarks. While they can add character to a face or body, some people are self-conscious about these marks and would rather not see them in their ideal portrait.
There are a host of other issues, and once you start talking about a few of the larger ones it's a lot easier to say that you'd like to see your arms slimmed down a touch and to swap out their husband for Colin Farrell (or to at the very least fix that bald spot that he keeps denying).