No, I’m not going to blather on about New Year’s Resolutions so if you thought that was what this was about, I’m sorry.
Every year right around Christmas, I begin thinking about what to do in the coming 12 months. Sometimes we just raise our prices a little and call it a day, Sometimes we overhaul our systems and start over. Every time, we examine what we did in the past to see what we SHOULD do in the future. This year was a little different. So much happened in our lives and our business that I couldn’t even begin to predict what 2013 should or could be. In my time in the Wedding Photography Business, I’ve seen trends and fads come and go. I’ve watched as a lot of great photographers left the industry because they simply couldn’t make a living at it anymore. I’ve watched new photographers enter the business with “passion” and energy, and walk away with their tail between their legs only a few months later. I’ve watched others come into this business and not only survive it, but thrive in it, becoming the “established” photographers, replacing those that leave. It’s a never ending cycle and it always will be. Out with the “old”, in with the “new”. There are some exceptions however. Me. I’m not old (will only be 42 in a couple weeks), and I’m not new (been a wedding photographer longer than I care to admit). Yet, I am still here. I’m not going anywhere, and I’m only getting better.
When I entered the Tampa Bay Wedding Photography Market over 12 years ago, I had no idea what I was in for, It was very different from the Connecticut and New York Industry I left. People here are actually…. nice. For the most part, they appreciate each other and the almighty dollar and have respect for both. My pushy salesperson ways had to change, and change, they did. My famous saying, “There’s the price, and there’s the door….” had to go, replaced with, “We want you to call up and say, “It’s <insert your first name here>” and we know who you are.” No more customers with more money than sense, instead, just real people, having real weddings. I haven’t been truly expensive as a Wedding Photographer for a long time, and this coming year will be no different. I have analyzed my business to death and back again and we have a system that works, so we are sticking to it, with minor alterations.
I’m rambling, I know. Part of my New Year’s Message is this: We are still here, still providing what we feel is some of the best Wedding Photography available and doing it at reasonable prices. Another part of my Message is this: Too many people are acting like Rockstars in Wedding Photography. We’re photographers, not celebrities, all of us. Our job is to make you, the bride, have an awesome wedding. Yep, that’s it. It’s a pretty modest job in the grand scheme of things. We shouldn’t run the show, or be the center of attention, YOU SHOULD! Don’t get me wrong, we can keep the ball rolling and keep the day flowing, but ultimately, it’s about you. I’ve watched far too many photographers shoot weddings for a year or two then suddenly they are flying around the world giving seminars. It’s amazing, they talk about how successful they were as photographers, yet charge ridiculous sums to show the world how to do what they did? If you were so successful as a photographer….. why are you selling your ideas instead of photographs now?
I’ve done my share of speaking and teaching, more than my share to be honest. I’ve had sponsors that paid me damn good money to stand in front of hundreds of photographers and inspire them to do better. To teach them the “right” way to be a Wedding Photographer. I like to think I did some good. The thing is…. some people thought of me as one of those “Rockstar” photographers, though, I never was or will be. I simply love photographing weddings. Plain as that. Sure, I won some awards in the process, and got to meet lots of photographers and help a few along the way, but in the end, I didn’t lose sight of what was important.
That’s my real message here. To not lose sight of what is important. I’m not getting sappy or pathetic either. I don’t mean religion or family, I mean in my business. I never lost sight of the fact that without brides and grooms, I’m not a Wedding Photographer. Without people hiring me to photograph their Weddings, I’m not in business. Teaching and speaking and selling Photoshop Actions or Lightroom Presets are part of our industry, but they should be a small part. I don’t use any of that stuff from other people in my work. I make my own, and alter them constantly as I grow as a photographer. It’s some of what makes our work unique. We pride ourselves in stepping away from the pack, instead of following it. There’s an old saying, “Unless you’re the lead dog, the view never changes.” While we aren’t the lead dog, we’re not the caboose car either.
You may have noticed the graphic at the top of this article. I made it the way I did on purpose. It’s all about wishing everyone a Happy New Year, but also emphasizing the “New”, and well, now that I think about it, the “Happy” part should be clear too. I look forward to 2013, and all the amazing photographs another year in this business will allow me to create.