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Posts Tagged ‘wedding photography’

We, the wedding photographers are exactly like the zebras in Madagascar 2. Likewise striped, all talking at the same time, all saying the same thing. Our online presence is so overwhelming, if you dare use online search services you’re promptly bombarded with tens if not hundreds of replies and quotations, all of them pretty much identical.

So, how do you choose?

The following is glimpse into our world which, at the very least, will help you understand what makes most of us, (wedding) photographers folk, tick. Or tok.

We, the pro photographer bunch, are first and foremost people like everyone else. When we’re sitting across the table from you, trying to negotiate packages and prices, we look like adversaries locked in a fierce battle of wits and services, however, in reality we’re very much the same: we have mortgages, bills to pay, dogs to walk and all that jazz, therefore we’re guided by the same “roof overhead, food on table” rules like everyone else.

It may appear our profession makes for a glitzy, rewarding occupation but when we strip the glamour and take a peek inside, it’s still a job, very similar with most of them out there. Certainly, we don’t have to look at the same cubicle walls all day long but we still need to do our job the right way in order to survive. Just like you.

So when you sit across the table from us, it is worth remembering we all put the pants on one leg at a time (with variations) and look kind of silly in the morning in our nighties. We’re more similar than you think.

We’re not the adversary. Actually we’re on the same side, and when you think of hiring one of us for your big day, think along the lines of “hiring help” or, better said, of finding a good business partner.

Nothing turns us off more than you shopping for price only. It won’t really give you any meaningful answers while making us feel like just another non-descript product on shelf at WalMart. You would feel the exact same in a the same situation. Think of someone telling you: “I don’t care who you are, to me you’re just a piece of meat I will compare against other pieces of meat.” Really makes one feel special, doesn’t it?

Here’s a few things to help you along:

1. The Big One : We tend to avoid “tire kickers”. They represent a phenomenal waste of our time (and theirs as well but they don’t realize that). Besides if they had to deal with themselves they would start avoiding themselves as well…

2. So, in light of #1, take a few moments to see if you actually LIKE the person across you. Chances are if you’re NOT taking the time, the person across will kindly return the favour. It’s pretty hard hiring someone helpful, someone who you feel comfortable working with, unless you go beyond the simple “package” inquiry. Get us to like you as well… see where that leads…

3. Knowledgeable, nice people can be found at any price point. Same with a-holes. If you use price alone in your screening process you might miss this really nice photog, $150 more expensive, you would have otherwise loved. Keep in mind that buyers remorse could come from both spending too little or spending too much.

4. Once set on a short list of who you’d like to hire, seek to find out what they could do for you within the confines of your budget. There’s a very good chance to get preferential treatment once you sit down and show an honest interest in that photographer’s work. Chances are you click with the right photographer and that’s a world of opportunity for you to explore.

I know THIS photographer has a particular soft spot for young, nice, hard working couples who simply find it difficult to stretch their budgets (happens when you’re young and mostly penniless). To my business partner (who’s also my wife BTW) dismay, I always find a way to accomodate them…  But… I have to like them first…

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I really hate photographers sometimes…
The kind who take your money and then leave you high and dry.

Last night I had a meeting with a prospective client. At the end of our conversation she mentions one of her friends might also have a look at our portfolio, being in need of a wedding photographer. “Well that’s great” I think to myself while proceeding to inquire a bit further. It turns out the photographer with whom the couple signed a contract and gave a $900 deposit, simply dropped off the face of the Earth after their engagement session and less than three months before their wedding. The emails and phone calls simply go unanswered so her friend is obviously upset and thinking of getting the photog into the small claims court.

After a pause to think it over, I’ve offered to shoot this couple’s wedding and postpone payment until they get their money back from the no-show guy.

It always irks me to no end when I hear stories like this (and it seems to happen more often nowadays). The damage these kind of people do to our industry reaches much farther than the simple anecdote. In an age of instant social networking and free wedding blogging the anecdote travels far and hits hard. It puts unnecessary question marks over our profession in the minds of our clients. Yes, in case anyone wonders, I’ve been asked a number of times what guarantees we could offer so the couple is confident we will actually show up come wedding day. How the heck can you answer that? Of course you will show up and do a good job, of course you will deliver the goods but in your client’s mind there will be always a sliver of doubt, until the day you finally deliver their albums. That day you will be loved and recommended to everyone they know which is absolutely fantastic from your individual point of view but generally your clients will still think they were lucky to find you. That’s simply not true however. Rather the opposite actually. Every single one of my peers I came to know and respect, take great pride in their craft, staking their reputation on their work ethic.

It takes only one of us however to pull a stunt like the one above and the label gets applied to all the remaining great mass of photographers. This is what’s rubbing me a long way, the wrong way.

The not so many freakin’ bad apples.

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The digital SLR crowd makes for an unmistakable and at times unavoidable presence at any event nowadays. Yes, it did grow over the past few years to a full crowd. Just a very few people at “posh” events used to have dSLRs. Now there are many, many, many more.

Thinking back to the 2009 wedding season it is impossible to recall the number of people, some using really nice pro or semi-pro gear I’ve encountered. As entry level dSLR kits venture deeper and deeper into the inexpensive compact digicam territory, they are quickly becoming the prevalent tourist neck ornament.

Our tools of the trade have reached a new, lower, more “democratic” price point to a degree where $10000 can buy you a full set of photographic gear capable of taking pretty much any type of shot you need to take. The Yesteryear’s Pro could separate himself from the fore-mentioned crowd, by proudly displaying and using his big cameras and lenses complete with menacing looking hoods affixed bayonet-like. Not anymore. I remember being greeted recently at a wedding by a guest holding a Dicke Bertha sized camera, while having something looking like one of the Guns of Navaronne casually slung over his shoulder. Aside of making my gear look…umm… portable, his presence left me quite a bit perplexed.

I’ll cover this bit in a minute, just after making a quick point about the least of my worries. Yes, gear prices continue to go down every season and brisk pace technology steps make properly exposed, sharp pictures almost a non issue, yet, quite contrary to some people I know in this business, I’m finding this trend positive. My hardware related capital costs are going down every year, and as a business owner you got to love that.

Even though today everyone has the means of honing their craft to almost perfection, craftsmanship is only part of the equation. Being proficient in your chosen medium is essential but mercifully not enough. It never was and it will never be. Without the spark of talent, no amount of effort can help the creative process leave the realm of comfy average mediocrity. Anyone can buy the exact brushes and colors Michelangelo used, study, practice and hone his craft to the n-th degree yet the results will never go beyond a perfect copy. Conversely buying a Leica and learning how to use it (obviously much easier than painting) will never make one a Cartier-Bresson or Salgado nor buying a Stradivarius will transform someone in Menuhin overnight. Creativity, talent, originality are not for sale anywhere and camera kits do not bundle any of it either.

This brings me back to my original point. People sometimes buy pro gear hoping for massive improvements in their photography but frequently they are disappointed by the results and by that time it’s a bit late to back down. Pro gear does absolutely NO hand-holding and tends to be rather complex yet people gladly add this layer of complexity on their pre existing struggles. Really perplexing indeed.

There are no cameras pre-packaged with “perfect moments” at least neither now nor in the foreseeable future. That does not keep people from trying though…

Well, in the end it is worth remembering that if one sincerily believes doubling the efforts can compensate for a lack of talent, there’s no limit to one can’t do.

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