DEAR TKB: “We’re planning our wedding, so I have a lot of pictures of my body in my near future… should I hide it or embrace it?”

Happy Monday afternoon, everybody!  There’s a reader out there who needs a little advice regarding her body.  But I think this question could stand to be heard by all of us.

Question from a reader:

I’m in a little situation for which I have only myself to blame, but I’m hoping you can give me some advice, because at this point I’m completely unsure about what to do and if I’ll regret it or not.  

We’re starting to plan our wedding, which as you can figure means we’re going to have an engagement shoot soon.  I’m mostly very excited about this, except for one thing, but it’s a big thing.  I have this tattoo that I don’t absolutely love/identify with anymore, but is extremely visible and I can’t really avoid showing it off in almost every outfit I wear, whether or not I want to.  I don’t haaaaate the tattoo, it’s just sort of a we tolerate one another and get along ok in our day to day lives situation for me and the tattoo.  I make the best of it, mainly bc the money I could put towards removing it is better spent on things like food, shelter, and our general well-being.  So removing it isn’t in my near future.  The tat’s on my upper right area of my back, and it creeps up and slightly over my shoulder, so you really can’t miss it from the front/side/and back.  I just guess I don’t know exactly how to work with it, but the problem is especially bothersome now, since like I said we have engagement photos coming up and I’m panicking.  I don’t know if I should try to cover it up, like with heavy-duty makeup or something, or embrace it as part of me.  I would really appreciate any advice you or even your readers could offer.  I don’t know which way to go on this, and I could use a hand, and you’re the first person I thought of to ask.  If I try to talk to my mother about it she’ll probably feel a sense of “I told you so” and there’s no need for that, now is there :)  Thanks in advance for any guidance you would be willing to offer.  I’m asking you because I know you’re always honest, and so I trust that you’ll give me real advice which I’m craving.  Thank you very much!”


Ok Holy PRESSURE, Batman.  I’m going to forget for a moment that the answer that I/the readers offer up is potentially going to have an impact on your engagement photos/wedding photos/body image.  So, turning that immense feeling of responsibility off for a moment… so I can actually think, and respond to this question…

I love tattoos.  I don’t have one myself, but I’ve always dreamed of getting one.  But it always ends at dreaming, because I cannot commit to anything that permanent.  Translation: I’m a wuss.  By the way, I still want one.  Some day it’s going to happen, I can feel it coming in the air tonight.

You know what I love more than tattoos, themselves?  The way they come out in engagement and wedding photography.  Adore.  There’s something so cool about the look of body art in photography to me.  Adds another layer of depth.

But you know what is the coolest thing in the world, to me?  Above all that, even?  A girl who decides not to give a flying f**k about the parts of her body she doesn’t necessarily adore, and swings around with a big fat smile on her face when someone takes a picture of her, because THAT’s what makes a great photo, to me.

Final note… the parts of my body that I don’t think are perfect = my boobs – they could be a bit *bigger*; my butt – it could be a bit *higher*; and this sucky scar I have on my lower right shin – it could be *not-therer*.  And I could easily photoshop it all the way out.

But if i did that, then the girl in this picture below wouldn’t exactly be *me*….. now would it?

In an effort to super-fully-extra-completely address this lovely reader’s question, I felt that this recent submission, by the fab Esther of Esther Louise Photography would be quite fitting.  Mostly because of the rad tattoo situation and the embracing going on therein, but also because it’s just a great + unique + super cool shoot that I think you’ll dig.

Here’s the rundown on today’s fab shoot, from Esther:

Meet Mel and David. They met when they were playing in band for a young adult group at a church. They were friends for a few years before they started to realize that maybe they were interested in more. Their friendship blossomed into love and after an adorable geo-caching proposal they are planning a wedding for the Fall. They have such a cute natural love that just fits and it really comes across well in their session. They are both really creative and wanted some fun details for their session. We brought along their accordion and a tambourine and she danced around in the field as he played here comes the bride. I couldn’t stop giggling as I shot.

So part of the way through the shoot we spotted something yellow in the bushes. Out of curiosity we checked it out and low and behold there was a pile of vintage hoover vacuum cleaners. Right there in the middle of our field. So I figured, what do you do when you stumble upon such an amazing and random prop in the middle of a session, well, vacuum cleaner races. Obviously. This would only work with a spunky fun loving couple so I hit the photo shoot jackpot on this one as they frolicked around chasing each other.  I hope you enjoy their fun shoot!

Oh, and by the way, Esther thought she’d include a pic of her pup in her email to me, and had this to say:

PS – I’m sure everyone that submits has some sort of comment about your adorable pup, but I couldn’t resist myself. I’ve included a picture of our pup Emma to say hi. She’s not exactly this little anymore but I love reading all of the funny comments you put with B’s pictures because I think my dog has very similar thoughts and I’m constantly laughing at her while I sit at my desk and edit. 

Esther, your pup gives Bambino a run for his money.  And don’t you DARE tell him I said that.

Here we go, dear readers – the questions are twofold today:

1) I’d like to turn to you on this reader’s question.  Any thoughts/feedback for her regarding her tattoo and what she should do?

2) How cute and romantic is this SHOOT?  Love. :)

xoxo!  - Alison

Photography: Esther Louise Photography

Label(s): "DEAR TKB..." Advice Column, {Engagement}

Love all of this...


  1. Jessie S. on August 22, 2011

    Okay, my thoughts are 1.) I need that puppy.
    2.) To get the tattoo in the first place, you must have thought it was the right thing to do. And even if you don’t maybe embrace it as much now as you did then, what you can embrace is that you have the confidence/self-assuredness to do what you feel is right for yourself at any given moment. The tattoo is a symbol of that, and that confidence/self-assuredness is a beautiful thing to have!

  2. Winnie on August 22, 2011

    Rock the tattoo. You got it because at one point in your life, you identified with it enough that you got it permanently inked into you. That’s ballsy. That’s commitment. That’s who you were, and that makes you who you are.

    And if you still can stand it when the pictures come out, Photoshop was invited FOR A REASON.

  3. Danielle Fletcher on August 22, 2011

    I say cover it. A tattoo is NOT part of you, it’s something you did to yourself and it can be removed. If she was embarrassed or afraid to show it but loved it, that would be another story. But it sounds to me like this is something she would CHOOSE to remove when she has the opportunity. There’s no need to have it in photos if that’s the case. It’s not freckles, it’s not thin lips, it’s not HER. She doesn’t have to embrace something that’s not in her DNA. And she shouldn’t feel bad about covering it. It’s all a choice and she should do what she wants!

  4. Nicole on August 22, 2011

    ROCK THAT TATTOO GIRL!!!!!! Don’t be self conscious about it or it will show in the photos. You said it best, Allison, “But you know what is the coolest thing in the world, to me?… A girl who decides not to give a flying f**k about the parts of her body she doesn’t necessarily adore, and swings around with a big fat smile on her face when someone takes a picture of her, because THAT’s what makes a great photo, to me.” <– couldn't agree more!!

  5. Lena on August 22, 2011

    So at the tender age of 16, I got myself a tattoo….and at the tender age of 16, I carefully considered what would and would not show on my wedding day, because I was a wedding-obsessed little monster from day 1.

    But I picked a tattoo that was in well-hidden location because that’s my personality, too-it’s that 35%.

    Obviously, you got that big, rockin’ tattoo because you never meant to hide it. It’s a part of you, just like the hair that won’t be tamed or the nose you wish were smaller or any other of a hundred things.

    That said, a tattoo is an addition, and if it makes you comfortable, you’re lucky that it is something that can be hidden-ish. Maybe try choosing an outfit that hides it, in addition to your other looks, or apply makeup for just part of the session. Embracing yourself is like, oh, the best thing on Earth, but hating your engagement photos would suck.

  6. Ann on August 22, 2011

    1. the puppy – too cute! i need to get one stat!
    2. on a normal day, i’d say rock the tattoo! it’s something that you’ve added to yourself to express something…BUT…if it’s a love/hate relationship (as the reader indicated) and you’re questioning it, i say cover it up. find a super cute cardigan or bolero to match what you’re wearing. like lena said above…”embracing yourself is the best thing on earth, but hating your engagement photos would suck.”

  7. Claire Martine on August 22, 2011

    I say rock the tattoo. Mainly for two reasons: 1. it is who you are and it shows that in the past it was important enough to ink onto your skin and 2. makeup and cover up WILL rub off on your clothing. Everyone says otherwise (trust me, I’ve heard the promises, I have a giant hand/wrist tattoo I loathe) but it will rub off. Imagine having to wash your hands after you go to the bathroom and then you wipe half of the make up off and then you have to scramble to cover it back up before going back out to party. Then it will be wet and you’ll have to walk around with your hand in the air to get it to dry. Or, well.. not wash your hands. But that’s your call.

  8. Mariah on August 22, 2011

    I say ROCK IT! As someone who has several very large pieces on my body, I understand your apprehension, especially since one was acquired at a young age. However, I really feel that unless it’s a tweety bird pissing on a yankees sign, you probably at one point in your life thought it was the coolest thing ever and you should rock it. Your fiance loves you, all of you, and that tattoo is part of the woman that he fell in love with. Have no shame girl, rock that ink and embrace who you were and who you will be.

  9. Kelly on August 22, 2011

    I agree with the other comments that at one point in your life that was part of you. And although it may not be you now, if you weren’t that person back then, you would be a different person now (butterfly effect kind of thing).

    But I also understand wanting to have perfect e-pics. And let’s face it, the e-pics will be around forever and you will show your grandchildren who will show their grandchildren who will show their grandchildren, you get the picture (bad pun, I know). Anyway I would suggest doing part of the shoot with the tattoo and the other part without. There is good make up out there that won’t look caked on. I think Kat Von D from LA Ink actually has a line of tattoo cover up you might look into.

    The other thing to consider beyond e-pics is your wedding photos. If you do not want the tattoo in your wedding photos, then I think that answers your question about if it belongs in your e-pics.

    Hope this helps and happy planning!

  10. Chelsea on August 22, 2011

    1. Find a photographer/someone who knows how to edit photos well. Our photographer, whom I used for headshots, was able to Photoshop my half sleeve (inside and outside arm) out without making it look weird at all.

    2. Go to Sephora and see if the Kat Von D (however it’s spelled) or other similar tattoo makeup will cover it up. Even then if a little is showing, it will be easy to fix in Photoshop.

    It also sounds like you can hide it with a long sleeve shirt or cardigan, so you could go that route with a few.

  11. Didi on August 22, 2011

    Try different poses! Some where you show the tattoo some where you don’t.
    I suggest not making it all about the tattoo, but not letting it get in the way of a great shot!!

    Heavy makeup looks disgusting! I’m sorry to tell you. It never matches your skin tone and it looks awful!

    Why don’t you try one shoulder tops? Have your hubby-to-be ‘discreetly’ cover up your tattoo with his body/hands/face.

    Whatever you do, just be happy! :) ♥

  12. Jessica Fey on August 22, 2011

    OK, my ‘professional’ opinion is to talk with your photographer a week or two before the shoot. Tell her your concern. We understand these things… a lot of us -and when I say us I mean us photographer types- rock tattoo sleeves and side pieces (myself included) and understand the love/hate relationships with skin down the road.

    Also, many photogs are amazeballs at styling and posing… it’s kind of what helps us earn the medium-sized bucks. If your photographer is aware of your feelings toward your tattoo, he/she can work around it. It may be a little visible in some of the photos, but you’re awesome personality will outshine it.

    Four quick things, then I’m done. No to relying on Photoshop. No to makeup. Yes to communicating with your photog. And HELL to the yes to that AHdorable puppy!

  13. Katie on August 22, 2011

    Tricky, tricky! I don’t have a tattoo, but like Alison, have been dreaming of one, and *might* one day get one…ha.

    Like a lot of people are saying, you did get this rockin tattoo at one point in time for a reason, but! I do understand not relating to things you once did. People grow up/change/become different, what ever you want to call it.

    If you will look back at these pictures and regret that big tattoo, wear a cardigan, or, get tattoo make up “removal” kits. It’s not going to match your skin tone perfectly ( as one reader mentioned ), but it’ll be close, and talk to your photographer about it, too!

    Ask him/her if it’d be easier to adjust skin tone from the make up, or the actual tattoo.

    Go with your gut!!

    And that puppy, AH!! Makes me miss when my Emma puppy was a puppy…

  14. C on August 23, 2011

    Reader- I think you should do what you’re comfortable doing. If you want to cover it up, then you should. If not, don’t. Do what your gut says. However, I agree with Alison, I like seeing tattoos in e-sessions. We all have things that we don’t care for. For example, I have love handles that clearly don’t love me. Also, like what the other commenters said- you must have gotten it for a reason and loved it. So, personally- I wouldn’t worry about it. You’re going to look lovely no. matter. what.

    Also, Esther’s pup = omgsoadorable. However, I don’t think holds a candle to the Bambino.

  15. Nora on August 23, 2011

    Rock it! But then, all the engagement shoots have outfit changes. It’s cold all the time on the east coast and I just ordered a cute long sleeve dress. Wear two outfits, one with sleeves and one without! Then you can decide if you like it later and just decide what pictures look good, tattoo or not.

  16. Elle on August 23, 2011

    I never notice tattoos when I am looking at engagement pictures. I think I am always drawn to looking at the couples’ faces because it seems that photographers really capture how much the couples “LIKE” each other, as opposed to wedding pictures where the couple, albeit in love, always look a little nervous or very emotional.

    My two cents would be to forget about the tattoo and just enjoy getting the pictures taken because at the end of the day no one is going to focus on it anyways. Arguably, if you are nervous about it or try, subconsciously, to pose and hide it, your pictures will probably reflect that…

  17. invitation consultants on August 23, 2011

    great perspective!!

  18. Morgan on August 23, 2011

    Esther is a phenomenal photographer and has an eye for details that I adore. So excited that she made your blog today!!!

    As for the tattoo dilemma, I too struggle with this very topic, I have one on my lower back that I abhor. At the end of the day though, I will probably just let it be as it is a part of me and my boyfriend loves all parts of me, even the not-so-awesome-anymore parts.

  19. Once Upon Your Day -- Julia on August 23, 2011

    I say you should rock the tattoo. It ment something at one time and is apart of you. If anyone judges, that is there fault and thay have no need to make you feel bad about anything!

  20. ashley on September 14, 2011

    I say leave the tattoo and if you absolutely hate the way it looks you can photoshop it out. But you can’t photoshop it back in!! Heavy makeup is going to leave you self conscious and worried if it’s coming off, smudging, getting on your clothes/fiance. Just worry about enjoying the process and if you change your mind later, let technology take care of it. If your worried about spending the extra cash into having a professional remove it, first check with your photographer to see if they would be willing to do it as part of the shoot or check with local colleges/universities. They most likely have an art/journalism program with some very talented students who would be willing to work for cheap (or free) if your willing to let them include the work in their portfolio. Thats what I would do!

  21. Marissa - After Flats on September 22, 2011

    I think your tattoos are part of YOU. Why hide them?


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