Let's start with a disclaimer, an update, and the positives shall we? I'm gonna tell you what drives me nuts about the wedding photography industry.
First thing you need to know:
I've won multiple awards from multiple legitimate places. I didn't pay for it, schmooze for it, or weasel my way around anyone else for it. I did it via hard work and somewhere along the way a few people noticed. That's great and I am very thankful. So don't call me bitter or jealous, because the truth is, I could care less about awards and publications. I care that my clients are happy, I've done the best I could, I've spent time with those I love, and I can put my head on the pillow at night knowing that I didn't compromise my own personal beliefs or stab a friend in the back to climb another rung on the ladder. That folks, is part of why I'm going part time in 2017.
Big names require the ability to not care if someone's not happy, to kiss the right rings, to put profit above people, and to take big risks. One day, you come to a point where you are forced to either take a huge risk with a lot of money you must borrow, branch out and hire people, or slow down. I'm 38 years old and will have to pay for college for my daughter soon. I can't take that risk so I choose to slow down and reevaluate.
I'm taking less weddings next year and my plan is to go back to college for a degree in Respiratory Therapy this fall. I'm a firm believer in the old saying that we make plans and God laughs. So we'll see where it all goes and I'm open to changing course if needed. Part time does not effect any of the promises made. Part time means I'm old and tired, and you'll read shortly why I just need a steady paycheck, a life, a boss to call in sick to, and to clock in and out like a normal human being. I've got degenerative disc disease and some difficult issues in my back. I can no longer shoot weddings every weekend for 6 weeks in a row. It's too much, and after last year, I'm forced to admit that. I can shoot weddings just fine, but I can't do it ALL the time. My body needs rest in between. None of this effects the promises I've made or the images I'll shoot in the near future. If anything, it's a positive, and it means I just might be able to have a faster turn around time!
As for the things we shall discuss, I can understand why certain vendors would need to do "stylized shoots". How can a florist, caterer, vintage rental place, and other types of vendors I surely forgot show off their skills and their vision otherwise? It's not every day that this type of wedding vendor is allowed to create the most immaculate thing they can come up with. Show the world your talents!
When it comes to photographers and venues, take several seats please. It must be fun to have all these talented people come hand you the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I wouldn't know, because I've never participated in one. Venues, if you've done a few because photographers just wouldn't shut up and leave you alone until you agreed or the trend caught you by the horns and wouldn't let go, it's all good in the wedding hood. Otherwise, can we chill with the fakery? I know y'all are gonna be mad at me, and I don't want to hurt any relationships I've built, but we really need to talk about this.
This here dinosaur has been treated some ways and seen some things in her day that would blow your mind. So get your coffee or wine, hold on tight, and watch me get wrecked by a whole lotta people. Those feathers are gonna ruffle worse than a chicken running away from the cooks at KFC. Bring it. STYLIZED SHOOTS -
If you're a photographer or a venue, they're faker than a celebrity's, um, parts and plastic. That's not what your venue looks like and you know it. Sure, it's what your venue is capable of, but it was styled and created with your input and direction of course, by other highly talented vendors to look the way it does in those pictures. Brides are under some serious pressure these days and rather it being about the people and the marriage, there's way too much focus on the details. The industry created the monster and we all know it. Flower crowns, horse drawn carriages, size zero five figure dresses, cakes made with 18k gold, pinecone headdresses with red fur capes, handmade monogrammed favors for guests costing 50 bucks a piece , tables decorated with the finest linens from Italy, and Louboutins on a bride's feet is a load of you know what. In my not so humble opinion, you're doing a disservice to the couple. The large majority of people cannot afford and do not have time for all that. Those pretty stylized shoots might make a bride-to-be ooooh and ahhhh and convince her that her wedding will be just as fabulous if she books you on the spot, but there's no way a real wedding day will look like what you've shown them. We all like to get creative, and there's nothing wrong with that. Do your stylized shoot. But also DO TELL the couple what's a real wedding day and what is not. Photographers- you know better. Or do you? I've heard it said that some wedding photographers have nothing in their portfolio BUT stylized shoots. Doesn't shock me at all. Now I'm not completely hating on you here. We love to get creative so there's nothing wrong with participating if you have the decency to tell perspective clients that this was indeed a stylized shoot and not a real wedding day. As a full time photographer, there's no way on God's green earth my salary will allow me to pay 5k or whatever the going rate is to go to one of these dog and pony shows. My husband isn't rich and doesn't finance me, I refuse to put my family in debt, so I don't get the luxuries you do. Some of you sure are making a killing selling a pipe dream, tricking your peers into thinking this will make them a good photographer and get them all the most high end weddings in their area, by "teaching" a whole lot more than getting out there and doing the real work. On an actual wedding day......
Do you have 4 hours to light and shoot the detail shots with a more talented photographer than you telling you exactly how to do it? NOPE.
Are all of your brides 21 and a size 0 and trained models? NOPE.
Do your couples tend to spend six figures on the decorations and import hand made tee-pees? NOPE.
Do you get to plan the time of day your bride gets married for the best light possible? NOPE.
Does that fake stuff teach you to sweat and smile for 8+ hours with no bathroom break and one pitiful bottle of water as nourishment? NOPE.
Do you need experience, talent and a good grasp on the fundamentals of lighting, composition, etc... to participate in a stylized shoot? NOPE. They're fake. They're overdone. They're a load of crap. They're filling too many people's portfolios and websites. Your venue doesn't look like that and your pictures on a real wedding day don't look like that. Tell your brides the real deal and in the end, I'd like to believe they'll respect you more for the truth. KICK-BACKSDisclaimer: Not everyone does this. Maybe it's the smart business type thing to do, but it's not for me.
Did you know that vendors make deals with each other for kickbacks? Hey, if you refer my venue and they book I'll give you $200. Hey, if you refer me as the photographer I'll give you $150 from the package. Hey, if you refer me and only me, regardless of whether my work is crap or not, I'll talk you up and push every one who visits me to book you. Kiss the right ring and you're in baby doll.
Am I on some people's preferred lists? Yes, and that's very flattering. I got there because they watched how I work on a wedding day and saw the final images. I didni't pay for it nor ask for it. Am I involved in kick-backs? That'll be a cold day in hell. No sir, I can't be bought. Have I been approached to to join the pyramid scheme? Multiple times. So brides, do your research. Not everyone has your best interest at heart.
SELF PUBLICATION and PAY-TO-PLAYI can't mention names because nobody wants a lawsuit. I can tell you, that the new trend amongst photographers is to get with their vendor friends and create an online magazine so they can publish themselves in it and call themselves published. That's mighty shady don't you think? The big name wedding blogs and websites are pay to play. You get featured because you pay $8000 for a full page ad. They could care less if your work is juvenile at best. So much I could say here, but we are blue collar average working people. I can't risk ruffling feathers of one of these multi-million dollar companies whose sole purpose of existence is for "inspiration", better known as, setting the bar so high for the average bride that it makes them feel inferior. It's a nasty cut throat business that people are willing to do just about anything to get ahead in. But please remember, there is a remnant who doesn't play dirty. There are people who don't participate in all the catty middle school girl level nonsense. DIGITAL ONLYThat's the way to go folks. Hand them a CD and be done with it. I'll admit, when I have a bride that's a friend of mine and can't afford much, my once a year help a sister out type of thing, I've done it myself. ONCE a year for very special people who otherwise cannot afford me. But I ALWAYS surprise them with a tangible product. When you only offer digital files, you've got it easy. There's no time spent ordering prints. Shoot, if something's blurry or is crap quality, just blame it on the kiosk they have it printed at and tada, nothing sticks to you. No need to have the ability to put a 40" portrait on the wall because you don't care if they ever have anything from their wedding to look at. It's not your problem, it's all about the fortune and fame and the next stylized shoot to beef up that portfolio. You don't have to spend countless hours looking at 1000 images and racking your brain on how to pick the best ones, make them fit together and make sense chronologically in an album. You don't have a freaking clue how hard that is or how time consuming it is. You're smarter than me. But if you don't mind that your work is printed at a kiosk with sub standard ink that'll fade and cheap paper, then by all means, carry on. It's the easiest way out of any problem that may arise with the work your produced. So you wanna know what my agenda is? Quite simple - to tell my customers the truth. Your wedding day is about the people you love and your marriage is more important than whether your crystal chandelier came from Tiffany's or Home Goods. I look forward to working with the people who will still have me after this! Feast your eyes on the images below. Would you believe this was DIY at a real wedding with less than 25 people present? That's right girls, you don't have to spend as much as a car for your wedding decor. Oh, and it wasn't shot at a stylized shoot.
Guess I was born in the wrong generation. I wish people were hired and referred based on who does the best work and whose style you like, rather than who you know and who you're willing to pay.