Hmnn, that’s an unusual title for a Blog post. “Photographers should be honest”. You might wonder if I’m implying some aren’t? Or is there a hidden message?
The answer to both questions is no. Well, maybe.
The changing face of the wedding industry
Over recent years there’s been a massive increase in the number of wedding photographers in the marketplace. The advent of digital’s made it so much easier for people to enter the industry. Equipment is a lot more affordable, relatively speaking, than when I started shooting wedding on film many years ago.
The way that we market ourselves to our potential clients has changed. Gone are the days of having an advert in the local paper when it ran a feature on weddings twice a year. The once ubiquitous Yellow Pages has shrunk to a fraction of its former size as we use the web to look for tradesmen or services.
Today, people will sign up to web-based learning to gain the basic knowledge on what wedding photography’s about. Or buy one of the multitude of books from “experts” on the subject.
Gone are the days when a keen photographer spent a couple of years shadowing the local wedding photographer before being allowed anywhere near a real couple. Nowadays you’ll buy an online course. You’ll get a friend or a model to put on a wedding dress. Enlist the help of a local florist. Shoot some photos and launch your website, sharing it on Facebook and asking your friends to “like” your new business page.
It’s easier nowadays
It IS so much easier. But it also means that there’s more opportunity to be “selective’ with the truth. I’ve seen websites where the images aren’t from real weddings, but from training days or one of those “styled shoots”.
You all know the sort of thing that I’m referring to.
Those “styled” shoots beloved by the trendy wedding Bloggers, full of “oohs” and “aahs” about how dreamy the shots are, how gorgeous the flowers look and why the shoes and the dress are “to die for”. Shoots that may take hours to prepare, style and shoot.
Don’t get me wrong. These shoots have their place, but they’re not real. These aren’t real Brides. They’re set-up. They’re not necessarily realistic of what will happen on your wedding day. They’re illusions, as far away from the reality of the typical wedding day as the adverts that pervade our TV screens, papers and magazines. Designed to sell a dream. But we know that dreams don’t always come true, don’t we?
If you follow my work you’ll know that I’ve been around weddings for a long time. In fact, longer than many of my couples have actually been on the planet. Please don’t think this is a “grumpy old git” kind of post, it’s not. It’s just my personal view on the way that the wedding industry’s moved. Why I think it’s time for a more honest, down to earth approach.
So many photographers these days shoot weddings with an eye for the wedding Blogs. When these started to gain momentum and became fashionable I took notice.
They can obviously be a great way to get your name out there as a photographer. To widen the circle of your “fans”.
I agonised whether to try and pursue them as a way of marketing my business. Come on, who doesn’t need more clients?
But a lot of my leads come from referrals, either from previous clients or from suppliers or venues I’ve worked with. People who trust me.
To me, shooting for the Blogs doesn’t work, it’s not “right” for me. For some it is, and I applaud them for that. But it doesn’t work for me.
The problem with wedding Blogs
I want to shoot real people. People having the most amazing day of their lives. I want to capture the emotions. Their friends, their family.
But the wedding Blogs, on the whole, don’t want to see that. They want to see stylish shots of the dress, the flowers, the favours, the decorations, dreamy back-lit shots of the couple.
That’s just not “me”. Not who I am or what I believe in.
I want to shoot people having the best day ever. I don’t care where they get married. You might this hard to believe, but some photographers I know will only shoot weddings in venues that they “approve” of, that match their criteria. They wouldn’t shoot it in a small church where the reception’s in the local scout hut. But I have. To me, it’s of no consequence where you get married, or how lavish the wedding is.
Happiness for me is shooting weddings where the people are genuine, have fun and who don’t care if it rains on their wedding day. Sounds incredible but I even know of one photographer a few years ago who would only accept a booking if the Bride was attractive enough for his portfolio! To me it doesn’t matter if the couple are in their 20s or their 60s. If they’re wealthy or not. What matters is that they like me, they like my work and they’re intent on having the best possible day, irrespective of what happens on the day itself.
I want people who will relax, and look on me as a friend. Someone who can be trusted with their day and who will shoot their day honestly.
Only last week I met with a lovely couple to talk about their wedding in 2018. As we chatted over coffee it became apparent that we were a “good fit” for each other and they asked me to be their photographer. Just as I was leaving the car-park he came running over and asked if I’d join them for lunch – that’s the sign of trust. A sign that we really did hit it off during our discussions and that we’re a good match personality-wise.
So, where does this leave me with the “trendy” wedding Blogs? Actually, no-where. They’re just not right for the type of photography that I do. I’m never going to shoot weddings that they’d feature. They’re not going to come knocking on my door wanting to feature a wedding.
But am I worried about that? No. Good luck to them and the photographers that use them. They’re brilliant marketing tools for photographers that shoot in their style. They’re fabulous resources for the Brides who follow them, who Pinterest away during their lunch-hours and at weekends.
I’ll never win “wedding industry awards” because I don’t enter them. They don’t interest me. I don’t shoot the “right images” for them. But I do shoot the right images. The right images for the clients who like my style. Who understand where I come from. Who want images from their wedding day that reflect who they are. The right images for me.
Photographers should be honest – to conclude
So what about the honesty bit? Let’s go back to the beginning of the Blog post and those styled shoots.
I think it’s only fair of photographers to let people know if the photos they’re sharing are from a styled shoot instead of a “real wedding”. It’s really nice having the time to set up shots and be creative, but there’s not always that amount of time available during a wedding day.
“Show what you shoot” is an old adage in wedding photography. If you show clients dreamy, romantic shots in your portfolio, that’s what your clients will expect. Those styled shoots may be great to attract people, but unless the photographer’s actually delivering those to his/her clients, consistently, the clients will be disappointed.
I believe that wedding photographers should be honest with themselves, as well as their clients. It’s all too easy to chase the money. Taking bookings wherever they appear from. Aiming to achieve the “rock star photographer” status so beloved by my colleagues in the States. But money and success aren’t everything. Sure, we all need to earn a living, but there are ways of doing it. Ways that mean you have a conscience, you’re true to your principles, and you put your client first, above all else.
To illustrate that, if I have a meeting with a couple and they go off into how much they like “this” style of shot, or “that” style of wedding, who want to share loads of Pinterest boards with me about ideas for their day, I’ll be honest. And I have been when in that situation. I respect their wishes, I understand what they’re looking for. But I’m not the right photographer for them. They need photographers who are a much better fit, and I will happily recommend some to them.
This wouldn’t be a wedding for me. Yes, I’m turning away business, but I want my clients to be happy. And shooting in that style wouldn’t be “me”. It wouldn’t be honest. I wouldn’t be true to my principles. Some of you might think that’s arrogant, but I don’t see it that way. If people “get” me, who I am, what I believe in and the way that I shoot – those are the right people for me.
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Blog post: Photographers should be honest