Some secrets about Wedding Photography, Photographers…. and… the Industry in General

I used to be pretty vocal on our blog or on another blog I had named Brianized.  I realized that all that vocalization really wasn’t helping any.  I was making myself look like an ass, pushing away potential clients, and really upsetting other photographers.  Well, not always, but… enough that it mattered to me.  I decided to keep my mouth shut and let people say all the things they feel they need to say, without my additional opinion.  I watched other photographers begin to grandstand about what makes a person professional, talk about why this or that technique is less than proper… in general drag everyone down who doesn’t do what they do. 

I’ve had enough.

Here’s the thing…. photography is an art form and a science.  The science part will always attract those that will argue endlessly over which lens is the sharpest at any given F stop.  I’m not really going to address that except to say, “Most cameras and lenses are better than most photographers.”.  That statement about sums it up.

Now, the art form part.  That’s just it… it’s art.  There is really no “right” or “wrong” way, if you do what you feel, what you love, and others appreciate what you do.  I’ve heard everything from, “You must have a professional studio.”, to “If you shoot using natural light… you simply don’t know anything about lighting.”, to “If you advertise on Craigslist, you’re not a professional.”  Honestly, it saddens me to see this drivel written by fellow photographers.  Most times, that I can tell, the motivation to write such things is jealousy, desperation, or, simply, ignorance.

Here’s the first secret about Wedding Photography:

It’s not about photography.

Yeah, you read that right.  It’s not about photography.  Most “people” photography isn’t about the photography at all.  It’s about people connecting and telling another’s story.  Of course, you need to be able to actually use a camera, and use it well…. but, really, its quite secondary.  Here’s an example:  This person, who owns the latest gear, and takes technically excellent photographs, they know all the right techniques, have all the right tools, but…. their personality is…. abrasive, and rude, and most people just don’t like them.  Do you think they would be able to create meaningful, tender, lasting images of a couple on their wedding day?  Now, they may get lucky, and get some, but…. most likely they will negatively impact so many people along the way that they themselves will be a factor in the mood and story of the wedding, and not in a good way.  What kind of story did they tell?  Did they really tell the bride and groom’s story at all?  Or did they just snap away thinking they are doing something great, yet never really understood or cared about anything they were witnessing?

Another example:

Another photographer is shooting a wedding, they don’t have the latest gear, and they might not really be able to use all the fancy settings on what they do have.  However, they know enough to produce quality images with what they are using.  People seem to instantly light up around them, their personality shines through and they instantly connect with everyone they meet.  They get to know many people at the wedding, and the couple especially.  What they lack in technical expertise, they have in spades when it comes to people skills and powers of observation.  When all is said and done, don’t you think they have a better chance to tell that couple’s story than the previous example?  I certainly do.

Now… before the hate mail starts flowing in…. it’s a given in both examples that we’re talking about people with some experience here.  This isn’t either of their first rodeos.  If you hire someone who either doesn’t do weddings for a living, or has little to no experience at photographing weddings to photograph your wedding, you are taking huge risks to begin with.

How do I do it?

Well… first, I don’t do it alone.  Derica and I are a team, and as a team, we work together to make your day awesome.  Notice, I didn’t say make your photographs awesome, I said, your DAY.  If you’re not having fun or at least enjoying the day, your images and your story will show that.  If you are worried about every last detail, your images will show that, and your guests will all know it, subconsciously or first on their mind.  How YOU, your SPOUSE, and your family react to things will determine the mood of your wedding, not the decorations, the cake, uplighting or even the music or food.  Everyone is watching you, sorry, but it’s true, and they will gauge their reactions to your appearance and if you look like you are enjoying things.

My job is to make your day awesome.

We help to keep things running smoothly, eliminate things that could cause problems, and make every attempt to NOT impact the day (except in a good way).  We are there to tell your story, we want it to be a good one.  If that means helping in ways other than photography?  That’s what we do.  It comes with the job, and this is what we CHOSE to do with our lives.

Our methods and techniques may not be cutting edge or high-tech, but, they certainly aren’t archaic either.  What we do is study you, not in some creepy way, we simply watch how you interact with others, your intended spouse, and your family and friends.  This information translates into natural poses for YOU, personalized images that are yours and yours alone.  It also means we get to know your personal likes and dislikes about you… photographs of you, and what NOT to do!  Sounds so simple, and it can be.

This is what I mean by it’s not about photographs.  Sure, we could just whip out a camera and click away, hope for a few good ones and call it a day.  To me, its so much more meaningful to make that story something you WANT to share, something that fifty years from now you will still remember fondly, and our photographs will be the catalyst to that.

What is my point?

Well…. I’ve kept my mouth shut for a long time (well, a year?), and I have watched, read, and listened to a lot of people putting down various aspects of the Wedding Photography business.  Derica and I strive to be Supserstars, to our clients, the ones who matter.  Sure, we’ve both garnered our share of awards and honors among our peers, but, we’ve also realized none of that matters if the people we are working with and for have no idea what any of that is or what it means.  They simply know they like our work, and they like us.

I’d much rather build our business up by showing amazing work, getting awesome reviews and referrals from people who loved us than by telling the world how this or that is wrong and you shouldn’t hire that person because of it.  Now of course, certain things are mandatory:  licenses, collecting and paying sales tax, insurance, permits, etc.  I’d put backup equipment in there too, its mandatory.  However, how the photographer arrives at the finished product, so long as it’s the finished product you want, and hired them for, makes no different in the end, just so long as they do.

So my point is this… I won’t ever tell another photographer, “You’re not a pro if you don’t do this my way.” and I don’t want to be told that.  To me, that closes minds, and cripples creativity and freedom, taking photography away from being ART and turning it into SCIENCE.  I could do my job just as easily with the latest high-tech camera as with an older digital SLR, since, after all, the camera doesn’t tell your story, we do.

Thanks for listening,