Sheesh, I have recently seen sooooo many rants on the internet from photographers giving up because they find it too tough to cut it as a wedding photographer or they are sick of competing with the newbies who “under cut their prices/ don’t know what they’re doing/ use vintage processing/ are ruining the industry”. So here is my two pennies worth… first up a little history.
I started working as a photographer in the early 1990s first in music and then from 2000, the majority of my work has been in weddings. I am still as thrilled to earn my living in this way as I ever was, still as excited about each and every job, from the simple engagement shoot I did in the sunshine on Brighton Beach last night, to the look book that I shot for a collaboration between Rock n Roll Bride and Crown & Glory. I will NEVER tire of taking photographs or being in such a privileged position that people trust me to record their memories on one of the most important days of their lives. I will always be on a quest to take THE perfect photograph that sums up a wedding day.
Are you always busy? When that group email or Facebook event invite gets sent your way, are you never able to go because you have to work?
Weddings are a weird industry, everyone knows that you work a lot of weekends but then it is also expected that you are contactable first thing Monday morning. If your marketing campaign has been successful and the bookings are healthy, you may well find that suddenly weeks and weeks are stretching in front of you with no proper break. Every wedding you take on has a significant amount of admin and for us photographers, there is that mountain of post production. Throw in a few double or even triple header weekends and that mountain can quickly become Everest.
The business is yours and so it’s quite normal to want to manage every aspect of it. There are also certain things you definitely can’t outsource, but if you look at the situation objectively, do you think you could actually be addicted to being so busy?
Recently, a good friend and photographer showed me some images that he had shot a few years ago. He told me that he was cringing while putting together the couple’s album because they had waited three years before coming back with their selection and meantime his work had, in his eyes, improved a lot. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the images and the couple were clearly still very happy with them if they were investing in an album. Of course they were not the images he would shoot if he did their wedding today but I told him that I think it’s good to look back on your old work and cringe a little. It shows that you are progressing, evolving and developing.
When interviewed on Rock n Roll Bride, Jonas Peterson said “You will never find your style, your style will find you” and certainly ‘finding your style’ is one thing that a lot of photographers, artists and designers seem to struggle with, especially in the early days. However I believe that this constant quest to define and refine your style is one of the things that keeps us in a state of creativity. If we didn’t, our work would surely become stale and dated and we’d probably get very bored. I have been earning my living from taking photographs for over twenty years and I have yet to think “this is it… this is exactly how I’m going to shoot every picture from now on”. I go through phases of being in love with a certain lens, filter or technique but it is never the only way I shoot. By constantly playing and experimenting, learning rules and then breaking them, I’m forever progressing and changing. Any creative should grow with their craft and I very much see it as a journey. The path may be unknown at times but isn’t that all part of the adventure?
Sometime late last year I got an email from Kat asking if I wanted to go to Paris to do a shoot with her, Gala & Shauna. My answer was of course an enthusiastic “Oui ma Petit Filous!!” They’d bagged themselves a fabulous apartment that we shot in, but of course I also wanted some photos by the Eiffel Tower. On the Eurostar on our return, I got to thinking about the tower and its purpose in the city. Sure, it’s a big tourist pull, but I started to wonder how on earth it got built in the first place and why it’s even there at all. So I did some research on the most recognisable iconic landmark in the French capital.
Paris is a beautiful city with plenty of amazing architecture, lots of culture and umpteen things to do but before the tower was built, many of its citizens were moving away and tourists were not exactly flocking there. Commissioned for the Exposition Universelle, a world fair held in Paris in 1889, Monsieur Eiffel’s brief was to create a temporary structure to mark the entrance to the fair. Despite facing much criticism, he seized the opportunity and designed the tallest structure in the world at that time. Once completed, visitors to Paris raved about the innovative lattice tower, left armed with their photographs and talked non-stop of going up in the amazing lifts or dining in its fine restaurant with amazing views. Suddenly the fortune of Paris had improved and these visitors were filling up the hotels and cafes. People rapidly moved back to Paris and it was suddenly one of the most exciting and most visited capital cities in the world. So much so that the decision was made to never take it down, and to this day no trip to the city of love is complete without a visit.
I hope that all the days in your business are happy ones – challenging but happy. Yet, the reality is that they won’t always be. I’m not here to rain on your parade, or hold a pessimist pity party so early on in the life of your sparkly new business. But, the biggest issue that you will face with any new endeavour is how to keep the positivity going once the ‘newness’ has gone.
All things with the prefix ‘new’ are pretty great. New year, new car, new job, new house, new shoes, new friends, new clothes… that word always signals shiny iridescent hopes and glitter spangled dreams; and the chance for things to be different. But the fact remains that eventually the time comes when these things are no longer new entities or new experiences that delight you with their everyday twists and turns. Even with the work we love the most, the banal will soon start to set in and with that comes the onset – that classic curse that affects all businesses – the ‘I want to plan something new’ syndrome.
The thing about me is that I love what I do, until I don’t. Part of the curse (if you will) of having a creative mind that has to draw up ideas and solutions to client problems on a daily basis, is that every now and again I have some new crazy, mad fangled idea for my own business and I want to run with it! It probably happens to be every week – actually scratch that – every day. From complete career changes, to inspiration for projects, to insane new business plans; I have a graveyard of urls, half started tumblr blogs, and notebooks filled with scrawls and scribbles which support this brain baby overload.
There are obvious fashions in weddings just like with clothing, interiors, food and just about everything we consume. However if you want to maintain any kind of longevity in the industry is it wrong to appear to be too much of a particular trend?
I actually get asked about this quite a lot as I guess it could be perceived that I am part of the fashion for vintage toning on wedding images. Ironically, this toning is something that I started doing when I switched from shooting weddings on film to digital a couple of years ago. I have always tweaked the colour on my images, whether it was toning black & white prints or cross processing print film in the chemicals for slide film and vice versa. I like to find out how things work and then mess with them. In the 90s I worked for the experimental Blah Blah Blah magazine and the art director, Chris Ashworth, used to always prefer the images that would normally get binned. He liked to to push the boundaries of everything. At the time, I was simultaneously working for a number of teenage pop magazines so it was utterly liberating to be able to do something creative and definitely my favourite magazine to work for.
So I guess it was inevitable that when I finally embraced digital technology for shooting weddings, I would start to seek ways of messing with the colours again. I have always been passionate about old photographs and all they represent in our social history, so if Photoshop was going to give me the ability to experiment, then I was going to! I looked for ways to recreate those faded tones that old colour images have. At the same time the kinds of wedding dresses and decor items that were gaining popularity we’re also very vintage, and so suddenly it was a ‘thing’.