(an article written by someone who tends to follow their gut instincts… me)
I was having lunch the other day with a friend who is also a local wedding photog. Amongst the other talk of the hour we got on the subject of “the business” and 2011 outlooks and such. One topic that came up during that particular discussion is how everyone seems to have a DSLR now-a-days and how quickly people who have just picked up one become wedding photographers. It’s a simple fact and it is something us wedding photographers have to deal with on more than one level.
On one hand, it means an increase in competition when you look at the numbers. On the other hand those are only numbers and the ratio, I believe anyways, of people who are good and stick with this endeavor long term is a pretty small percentage.
On the other hand, the emotional looking one, it can really beat up some photogs who have been around awhile. Especially those taking a hit business-wise. It can be frustrating believing you are losing food off the table to someone who has not put in much effort beyond buying a camera and couple lenses. It can cause good people to get calloused and hardened. It can even cause them to get downright mean. For others it gets to be too depressing to remain in business so they opt out.
I would be remiss to not admit that at times I struggle with the ever widening stream of people getting into wedding photography. But, and I believe this holds true for many artists, I tend to think it is my very nature as an artist to measure myself against others in the same field as I. The problem in that which many of us experience is that judging ourselves against others or comparing is a dead-end street. We either will think people are putting out junk or we will think we are putting out junk. What we should be looking at when we look at each other’s work is what is admirable about their work and what do I want to avoid that they have done. Just trust that they will do OK and trust you will do OK, it is not about business it is about improving yourself and growing. If you are not working to that end you will get stuck and dig yourself a hole that could be way too difficult to extract yourself from. The other thing is that even though you may not see yourself going down that hole your colleagues and clients will. It’s a lose/lose situation. Stay out of it. Look at how you’re thinking and if you do not see any good coming out of your thoughts stop them in their tracks.
Another suggestion I have for ourselves, as well as myself amongst this flood of photogs (of which quite honestly I am one having only been shooting professionally for just over two years) is that we do our best to show, in our work, in our demeanor, in our professionalism, in our knowledge and integrity why we are what we are. We need to, as a whole, do our best to educate potential clients and the public at large as to what quality, in regards to photography, looks like. Another thing I struggle with is the technical aspect of photography. I have hammered myself in regards to technical failings regardless of whether the shot was good or not. This was something else my friend and I got into. Sometimes we don’t see the shot for what it is and we only see our mistakes or what we “shoulda” done. We must dissect shots sometimes so that we can learn from them. On the other hand we cannot let our technical side put the blinders on our creative sight. We need to view photography not only with our eyes but if we are trying to make a living taking photos of people so we can sell them to them we also need to view things with their eyes as best we can. Many times, I will even go as far to say most times, our clients view of an image never aligns with ours. But you better hope that they don’t see what you cannot… you need to be able to see what they do beyond your techno-eyes.
So I want to encourage anyone that reads this.
The struggling wedding photog:
Do not give up if this is your passion. Do what you can in every aspect of your business to exemplify what great photography is and to show it. Educate clients gently, educate the public gently in any way you can to see the difference between what is good photography and what is not. Next, don’t get hung up comparing yourself to anyone. Learn and improve or learn and avoid, let go of anything else.
The potential wedding photog client:
Please do not judge or hire photogs merely based on price. You will always find another who shoots at the same price. Look at the work and meet with the photog. Do you like them? Better yet, do you trust them? Not only to be where they are supposed to be, when they are supposed to be there, but do you also trust them to do everything they possibly can to give you the best of what they got?
I am so interested to hear your comments on this. I don’t write this to provide all the solutions to a problem or problems. I am just writing this from the heart I have for this business and the heart I have for couples getting married and also the heart I have for people I have come to know in this business. So, please leave your comments, good or bad, I appreciate it.