The Art of Photography and Film

How Photography Connects Us to the World

Posted by on Nov 28, 2018 in Photography | Comments Off on How Photography Connects Us to the World

How Photography Connects Us to the World

A recent article on UpJourney.com featured a handful of professionals describing ways to cultivate the trait of unselfishness. One in particular that caught my eye was from Monica Eaton-Cardone, a Florida entrepreneur. Her advice was simple: connect with other people. Truly connecting with others, she points out, requires us to step outside of ourselves. That got me thinking. I don’t think anyone would argue that selfishness is running rampant in today’s world, perhaps more so than at any other time in history. Yet for all this focus on being ourselves and doing what we want to do, I’d venture to say that as a rule, people–particularly Americans–are sadder, lonelier, and more anxious than ever. It has always struck me as ironic that we talk about being “connected” through the internet and social media, while the reality is that social isolation is killing us: increased individualism coupled with an ageing population accounts for more people than ever feeling isolated. That, in turn, leads to an increase in anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and addiction–among other things–all of which contribute to early mortality. So what does this have to do with photography? It’s simple: photography is a great connector. It can connect us to the past, it can connect us to each other, and it can connect us to the world around us–urging us out of ourselves, as it were. I’m not talking about instant, endless selfies; the most powerful photography captures more than a self-aware smile. In fact, one report pointed out that Instagram was dangerous for social well-being, associating the site with ” … high levels of anxiety, depression, bullying and FOMO, or the ‘fear of missing out.'” That’s not something we need more of. At a time when so many are so anxious about how the political climate might affect their personal rights, safety, and happiness, it’s more important than ever to remember that we are not alone here. Our default is to hide in our respective bubbles, whether it’s a career bubble, a family bubble, a region bubble, or what-have-you. But at the end of the day, like it or not, we’re all wide-eyed inhabitants of the same tiny planet. Sometimes we need to be reminded that despite our differences, we are very much the same. Photography can do that. Photography picks out the mundane details that we tend to overlook and gives them relevance simply by giving them permanence. The fact is, we don’t often alter the universe in big swoops; change more typically comes from the small actions in our everyday lives. That, in essence is what makes the concept of community so necessary … and the art of photography so powerful. In a 2008 TED Talk, National Geographic photographer David Griffin points out that photographers need to know how to create a visual narrative. First and foremost, photographers are–or should be–storytellers: photography can serve as a positive agent for understanding the challenges and opportunities of our world, compelling us to confront a wide range of issues–even ones that are potentially distressing or controversial. The world needs connecting. And photographers are in the perfect position to help make that...

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Pro Hacks for Handling Holiday Photo Sessions

Posted by on Nov 2, 2018 in Photography | Comments Off on Pro Hacks for Handling Holiday Photo Sessions

Pro Hacks for Handling Holiday Photo Sessions

Well, Halloween is over: time to break out the Christmas decorations. Kidding/not kidding. While most people–including myself–like to complain about the so-called “Christmas creep,” the fact is the holidays are a busy time, where demand often overtakes supply. In my business, for example, lots of customers want holiday pictures–way more than I can reasonably do in the week before Christmas, which is when everyone seems to approach me. Obviously, it’s better for all involved if we start early. There will, of course, always be procrastinators who wait until the last minute, and the rise of the internet and 2-Day Delivery has only made that worse: customers have come to expect convenience and  speed when shopping online, and expect any purchases to arrive in hours. This leads to its own set of risks–check out this article for tips on safer online shopping–and exacerbates the “I want it now” mindset. For photographers, time is always a factor–and the holidays are worse: more people wanting to schedule sessions in a shorter span of time, compounded by additional deadlines that range from “We need to get our Christmas letter in the mail TODAY!” to “But Uncle Sid and Aunt Jan will only be in town this weekend!” One of the ways I have developed for dealing with this is expanding the possibilities beyond the traditional studio settings. For example, more than one client over the years has postponed a holiday photo due to tinsel trouble: “I want the photos in front of our tree, but I’ve been so busy at work, the tree isn’t completely decorated yet!” My response: turn the problem into an opportunity. Families don’t just come together on Christmas Eve: the decorating itself can provide memorable, fun-filled moments, ripe with photo ops. Trimming the tree itself is part of the magical the atmosphere of Christmas; most families have at least a few cherished of ornaments or traditions that are only experienced at this time of year. Young children–particularly toddlers who might not remember Christmas from the year before–are especially good subjects, but really, the possibilities are endless. There’s bound to be chaos, obviously, so think tight shots: try to get people’s faces as they open boxes of decorations, or shoot through the tree as a special ornament is hung. And here’s the best part: once everything is on the tree and the lights are plugged in, you’re ready for that family shot in front of the tree. Another trick I have used–sparingly–is suggesting that group shots aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Holidays are a time to stress the importance of relationships, but it’s hard to focus on catching personalities when you have 20 people trying to say “Cheese!” through frozen smiles and clenched teeth. Snapping people in groups of two or three as they are available can be a logistical nightmare, as you can imagine. But it does help accommodate a variety of schedules, and in almost every case where I’ve done this, the family has later told me it resulted in their favorite Christmas family pictures ever… and frankly, those were some of my favorites, as well. The joy of the “giving season” comes through much clearer when your subjects are relaxed and comfortable, which also means they tend to be more expressive. Shoot fathers with daughters,...

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Should Photographers Accept Bitcoin?

Posted by on Oct 11, 2018 in Photography | Comments Off on Should Photographers Accept Bitcoin?

Should Photographers Accept Bitcoin?

If you’re running your own studio, you know: you are ALWAYS on the lookout for a way to monetize. Whether it’s lowering prices, trying out new technologies or methods, or bumping your advertising, it’s a constant challenge to make income exceed outgoing expenses. So it’s hard to just ignore it when some new idea comes down the pike that looks like a potential goldmine. Like Bitcoin. Most people don’t understand cryptocurrencies or how they work: they just know they hear and read it about people making millions on minimal investments, and it sounds too good to be true. There were certainly people who DID make a killing with their investments: if you had bought a couple thousand dollars’ worth of Bitcoin a decade ago, you’d likely be a billionaire right now. Of course, you can’t win bets in retrospect … but that doesn’t mean cryptocurrency is out of the picture for small businesses. Many are saying that cryptocurrencies are the payment method of the future, and you’d be ahead of the game if you started accepting it now. But is cryptocurrency a good bet for small businesses right now? There are several logistical things to consider before you jump into cryptocurrency; in this post we’ll take a look at some of them. What Is Cryptocurrency? Digital currencies are a way to cut the middleman out of a payment transaction. Rather than store your money with an organization like a bank for safekeeping, it exists only in the ether, accessible through an encryption only you have the key to. Cryptocurrency is decentralized by design: no central bank or government regulates or backs it. Buyers transfer funds directly to sellers, without any third party involved that processes the payments. Everyday people can’t wrap their heads around the idea that the bitcoins themselves don’t physically exist and have no intrinsic value; the only reason cryptocurrency is worth anything is because the value belongs to you and you alone, according to the public ledger. Anyone can look at the ledger and validate this, and if anyone tries to use your cryptocurrency, pretty much everyone will know about it immediately. Is This for Me? There are a few benefits to accepting cryptocurrency that you should think about: It’s cheaper. The lack of a middleman means reduced transaction fees. Accepting credit card payments means fees of 25 cents a swipe plus a percentage of the transaction total–with crypto, that’s not a thing. You’re protected. Crypto’s transactions, like cash, are final. That means there are no fraudulent chargebacks, because no third party can reverse charges. It’s global. If you’re not selling prints online, you should consider it. Cryptocurrencies can free you to sell to international buyers–without having to deal in currency conversions. Customers. Accepting cryptocurrency offers means customers have an additional way to pay–one with an extra layer of data protection. But Why Not? There are a few reasons to wait on accepting cryptocurrencies, as well: It’s technical. Accepting cryptocurrency is an information-dense process with a high learning curve. You’ll need to choose a processor and set up a digital wallet on an established digital currency exchange … if your eyes are already glazing over, you might need help with this part. It’s still inconsistent. While we’re not seeing the massive value swings of a year...

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How New GDPR Laws Affect Photographers

Posted by on Oct 1, 2018 in Photography | Comments Off on How New GDPR Laws Affect Photographers

How New GDPR Laws Affect Photographers

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect this year. If you’re a freelancer or small local studio, there’s a good chance you have no idea what I’m talking about. Fair enough. GDPR is a new law regulating the way businesses collect, process, and use data from citizens in the European Union. “At its core,” states one source, “GDPR is designed to protect personally identifiable information by strengthening and unifying the standards for data storage.” The law covers any business with EU customers, no matter where or how big the business is: even tiny photography studios in St. Podunk, Kansas, can be affected. Of course, if you are a freelancer or small shop, it’s unlikely that you have any customers in the EU … or have any real prospects of ever GETTING one. Nevertheless, I still say you need to think seriously about implementing the tenets of this new law.  Not only is basic concept–getting a tighter rein on how companies use customer’s personal data–a good idea, it is an idea I expect to spread: it wouldn’t surprise me to see the US adopt similar regulations soon–within the next five years, even. My advice is to start planning now. A High-level View of GDPR There are three primary areas where the GDRP will have the most dramatic effect. I won’t go into heavy detail (I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t a technical blog), but I’ll highlight the major points of impact. 1.       You Must Have a Lawful Basis GDPR requires that merchants have a “valid lawful basis” for processing personal data. There are six lawful bases, and mostly they get down to whether the processing is necessary: in other words, if there’s some feasible way to accomplish the same goals without processing personal data, you probably won’t legally be allowed to  process it. 2.       You Must Have a Clear Privacy Policy Having a privacy policy has always been a good idea; now, it’s mandatory. Said policy must thoroughly explain all the ways you’re planning to collect and use the personal data of EU citizens. It must be written in clear and simple language and provide information for who users should contact to review, change or delete any of their data. 3.       You Must Have a Data Processing Contract If you take credit or debit cards and use a third-party data processor like PayPal, you need to have a written contract in place to ensure that “both parties understand their responsibilities and liabilities.” The GDPR lists what needs to be included in this contract, typically a Data Processing Agreement (DPA).   Are You Sure This Really Affects Me? If you do absolutely no work with European citizens, there is a chance the GDPR doesn’t apply to you … yet. If you sell prints to someone in London over your website, though, or do any kind of email marketing that might go overseas … well, sorry, you’re in the loop: if you collect, process, or use personal data of any EU citizens, you are liable. Not complying to GDPR can result in fines–some of them fairly steep. EU regulators are allowed to fine US companies for GDPR violations; in some cases, US authorities may even help. No Time to Be Complacent Feeling a bit overwhelmed by all this? While...

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The Basics of Freelance Photography

Posted by on Aug 27, 2018 in Photography | Comments Off on The Basics of Freelance Photography

The Basics of Freelance Photography

So you want to be a freelance photographer. It certainly sounds like a good idea: you control how much you work, what jobs you take, how much you get paid. Good work if you can get it. Unfortunately, having everything in your control also means that suddenly, YOU have to handle all of the countless details involved in running a business–most of which have nothing to do with taking pictures. Let’s take a look at some of the factors involved in freelance photography that might not be a part of your dream. What Does “Freelance” Even Mean? What does it mean to be a freelance photographer? First off, it means you’re going to be self-employed–and that is a double-edged sword. As far as Uncle Sam is concerned little ol’ you will be a legally operating business entity. This could take the form of a sole proprietorship or LLC (Limited Liability Corporation), or you might decide to incorporate. Before you decide, you’ll need to talk to an accountant or tax expert … or spend yours doing researching local, state, regional and national business and tax codes. You’ll normally have to get a federal tax ID and register with your county, township, or state. Don’t think you can operate “under the radar” here: not only do government agencies and local business organizations tend to frown on that, establishing an official business allows you to write off rent, equipment, and supplies as tax deductions. This sounds like a hassle, and it sort of it: you’ll need to plan ahead, extremely organized, and learn to see the “big-picture” as you go. YOU function as your business around the clock, 24/7: as a freelance operative, you’ll be wearing many hats and trying to keep multiple plates spinning at any given time. Essentially, you have to consider yourself a business professional as much if not more than you consider yourself an artist. Most freelance creatives will tell you they’re lucky to have 30% to 40% of the workday actually taking pictures; the rest is marketing, sales, and bookkeeping. Marketing? Sales? Afraid so. Did you expect work to just walk in the door? If you get to the Annie Leibovitz-level, maybe … but in the first few years, marketing yourself could well be your main job. Thankfully, the internet offers a world of opportunity unheard of 20 years ago: Stock Photos – these days, many freelance photographers either specialize in or simply supplement their income through stock photography sites like iStock which allow anyone to purchase licensed photographs for a wide variety of uses. Most advertising agencies, publishers, and graphic designers fall back on stock imagery for every project. It’s a great way to establish an ongoing market base. Your Company Website – Having an attractive yet functional website allows you to post galleries of downloadable or printable available for purchase. A website is also a great way to promote your specialty, whether it’s sporting events, travel or local color, or the old stand-by, wedding photography. Social Media – We live in the Age of the Tweet, so don’t be afraid to promote your work through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social site. The fact that you can sell your work here without spending money makes social media one of the most financially viable ways...

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Creator or Maintainer? Why Entrepreneurs Leave the Businesses They Start

Posted by on Aug 9, 2018 in Photography | Comments Off on Creator or Maintainer? Why Entrepreneurs Leave the Businesses They Start

Creator or Maintainer? Why Entrepreneurs Leave the Businesses They Start

Entrepreneurs are puzzle solvers: they see a whole where others see pieces…they see opportunities where others see obstacles…they see gold where everyone else is just looking at hole in the ground. It’s not just having a vision, although that’s certainly part of it. It’s more an innate need to create. coupled with the ability to pull various pieces together in a way that others often don’t understand, even after the fact. That’s painting the picture with a fairly broad stroke, of course, but it’s not something that would be argued by most people–up to and including entrepreneurs themselves. But while entrepreneurs are fantastic creators, they often aren’t good maintainers. They may be able to build a successful company, but tend to be less skilled–or perhaps simply less interested–in actually running that company. So why do so many entrepreneurs seem to lose interest with whatever it is they create? Part of it is based in the same qualities that makes them great entrepreneurs in the first place: that ability and drive to build something out of nothing. But creation itself is the reward: once that is accomplished, they often get bored and start itching for a new challenge. Again, that is a generalization that doesn’t apply to everyone. Some entrepreneurs–Mark Zuckerberg comes to mind–run the company but continue to push the boundaries of innovation. But entrepreneurs as a rule don’t seem to be good at the day-to-day of treadmill of running a business. There are some fairly common reasons as to why this is–things that all entrepreneurs need to be aware of: “Where do we grow from here?” Starting a business and making it a success usually requires a perfect storm of conditions: opportunity, market timing, financing, and more all have to come together in order to make it work. Entrepreneurs are master of recognizing how these individual pieces can come together into something greater than the sum of the parts. The problem is, what next? The world at large is expecting another miracle, even bigger than the one before. But it’s hard to keep capturing new lightning in the same bottle. Steve Jobs managed to do it, but it could be argued that his greatest successes–ipad, ipod, and such–weren’t his goals. They may’ve been significant leaps along the path to building a company now worth over a trillion dollars…but that was never really his end-game, either. He was ever looking beyond devices to how computers as a whole could seamlessly serve mankind. He never seemed to be trying to top his successes, because he hadn’t yet reached his ultimate goal. Others have struggled trying to leapfrog their initial success. Amazon, for example, is America’s marketplace…so how does a company keep growing after that? The company’s most ambitious attempt has been Alexa. There are currently some 50 million Alexa-capable devices out there in the consumer market place–that sounds like a success story, right? In terms of market saturation, yes; unfortunately, by most accounts, Amazon isn’t making much of a profit per device sold. And since it’s hard to image people trading in Echoes like they do smart phones every couple of years, Amazon considered the devices themselves a type of loss-leader to usher in the next new wave of retail: sales over voice-enabled devices. According to a USA Today article...

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How Your Broken Flash Is Killing the Environment

Posted by on Jul 9, 2018 in Photography | Comments Off on How Your Broken Flash Is Killing the Environment

How Your Broken Flash Is Killing the Environment

How much gear do you have? Admittedly, being a pro photographer doesn’t require as much equipment as it used to, and unless you’re developing silver gelatin prints, what we do use has a much smaller footprint. On the other hand, what we use now can also be pretty awful for the environment. More specifically, what we throw away: as we have moved to an increasingly digital process, we are generating more and more electronic waste. In 2016 alone, according to one study, close to 45 million metric tons of e-waste were created. University of San Diego’s Electronics Recycling Center reports that e-waste represents about 2 percent of the totalwaste in a landfill, but nearly 70 percent of all hazardous waste—and it’s getting worse. What is e-Waste? The term e-waste refers to all electrical and electronic equipment or parts that have been discarded by its owner as waste (without the intent of re-use–handing your old flash down to your kid brother doesn’t count, natch). For photographers, that could mean anything from used batteries or bulbs to monitors, printers, or photovoltaic panels. Even things we don’t necessarily think of as equipment can be bad when tossed: fans, postal scales, calculators, routers, cell phones: face it, as Americans, we love our tech … right up until the time something newer catch’s our eye, and that toy we couldn’t live without yesterday becomes tomorrow’s hazardous waste. Of course, that’s not all on us–there are roughly 90 million iPhone owners in the US alone–but photographers do use a lot of tech, and we can be as guilty as anyone of simply chucking it when we’re done. But seriously, what else can we do? Besides filling our homes with a ton of electronic paperweights? Plenty, as it turns out. Just like all our other trash, we need to think in terms of environmentally sound management of electronic waste and make efforts to minimize its adverse impacts on human health and the environment. With planning, we can substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, repair, recycling, and reuse–just like we do with other waste. Cutting Down on eWaste A Google search for things like “electronics recycling” will usually turn up multiple disposal options in your area. Some specialized businesses only handle e-waste, selling anything salable and parting the rest into specific categories. It’s the easy way to safely and responsibly dispose of your old tech. If it happens to be a non-profit, you may even get a tax deduction. You can also recycle simply by passing along, like to that kid brother we mentioned earlier. Or, if it’s working, donate your tech to a shop that sells used items back to the community. You’ll need one that specializes, though: Goodwill or Salvation Army centers generally don’t appreciate old electronics that have no general market value, like CRT monitors. In fact, if you do find an e-waste center that offers pre-owned tech, you can save even more money by shopping there first if you need new equipment. Not only does buying used save you cash, it helps maintain the cycle of avoiding landfills. It’s Time to Rethink Old Tech With so much consumption of new technology in our country and around the world, it has become critical to make our tech use more sustainable by raising awareness...

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Pro Photography Business: The Sad Harsh Truth

Posted by on May 25, 2018 in Photography | Comments Off on Pro Photography Business: The Sad Harsh Truth

Pro Photography Business: The Sad Harsh Truth

One question I often get from would-be pro photographers is “How do I get started?” There are multiple ways to interpret that question, but mostly I can look in the eyes of the asker and have a pretty good idea of what the person wants to know. And generally speaking, it’s not the question he or she should be asking. Too often, what they mean something more like “How can I set up a business so that I can quit my crummy day job and be free?” In which case I start talking about carts going before horses. If your rationale for starting a photography business is wanting to lie around your fabulous Soho loft while picking which jobs you want to do out of the hundreds of people who are banging on your door and begging for your services … … yeah. No. That’s not just photography, that’s any small business. And most people have at least a clue that striking out on their own will require a lot of work. Creatives, for some reason, seem to have trouble with that concept. Too many of them seem to believe that being your own boss is simple (Hah!) and highly profitable (HAH!). Well, here it is: the cold, hard truth. Unless you are an absolute phenom and have been written up in Time or Variety, nobody outside of your immediate family cares about your work. Sorry. That’s reality. So instead of worrying about the money aspect of it right off the bat, I try to convince would-bes to concentrate on their craft. Do it in your spare time. ALL your spare time, not just the corners where you’re not hanging with friends or playing video games or posting cute pictures of kittens on social media. If you want to be a pro photographer, you need to live and breathe photography. Develop your eye first. If people want to pay you to take pics, great–if not, take pictures anyway. Keep taking pictures until you have to struggle see the world without a lens. Post your work, print your work, whatever it takes to be seen. Keep filling your days and nights and weekends behind a camera until you barely have time for anything besides your job and your photography. If you’re at that place, you can start advertising for clients. You’re not ready to run yet: now you’re in a holding position. Because being a great photog is only part of the equation: sadly, unless you’ve got family who will support you, you’ll probably need to hold on to that day job until the money starts trickling in. You see, it’s not enough to spend all your free time taking pictures. You have to spend all your free time getting PAID to take pictures. And that’s when you can start seriously thinking of putting in your two-weeks’ notice. Even then, your days are going to be full. You have a business to run–and the product you sell is YOU. You’ll need equipment, a location, and probably an assistant. You’ll have to think about credit cards and debit cards, whether you’ll accept Paypal, what kind of hours you will keep. There are a lot of “what-if”s involved: what if you have a slow month and can’t make the rent? What if...

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4 Marketing Mistakes Photographers Should Avoid

Posted by on May 18, 2018 in Photography | Comments Off on 4 Marketing Mistakes Photographers Should Avoid

4 Marketing Mistakes Photographers Should Avoid

Do you want more customers for your photography business? Before you answer, let me throw this stat out: according to the National Retail Federation, customer returns accounted for more than $260.5 billion in lost sales for U.S. retailers in 2015 alone. Obviously, the services we sell aren’t exactly retail merchandise, but it’s still worth paying attention to the numbers. So let me clarify: you DON’T simply want more customers. You want more GOOD customers. How do you find them? Well, the easiest way is to have a lot of happy customers in the first place … and one of the best ways to get those is to avoid these common marketing mistakes photographers make: 1.       Relying on discounts. Sometimes offering a coupon or discount makes sense (I’ve had great success with Groupon), but it shouldn’t be your first tactic, and you should never make it a way of life. The reason we want more customers is so we can build revenue streams; if you start pulling in a bunch of clients at a lower rate, you’ll end up doing a lot more work without making significantly more money. Cut-rate pricing devalues your brand: if you were worth more, you’d charge more, right? That’s what people think. You’re not going to build a stable of loyal, long-term customers on a reputation of being “The Cheap One.” 2.       Using cheap/generic marketing materials. Remember those old Hallmark commercials where people would flip over a greeting card to see is you “cared enough to send the very best”? Nowadays, people are checking the backs of business cards for the VistaPrint logo, to see if you’re the cheapskate who’d rather have someone else’s ad on your card than pay even the discounted price. So don’t be that guy (or gal). The collateral you leave with potential customers speaks volumes about you and reflects on your work. A cheap–or, heaven help us, homemade–card or brochure indicates that you are less an artist and more of a pedestrian. Until you do work for them, that card is all that clients have to remember you: make sure you’re leaving them with a good impression. 3.       Marketing in the wrong places. A supermarket bulletin board is NOT a viable marketing medium. Sorry. Have you ever hired a professional by tearing off a perforated number from a “community services” board? Yeah, didn’t think so. When it comes to something as personal as family or wedding photography, potential customers impact … not the number of a random stranger hanging between ads for lawn care guys and lost kittens. Try offering a discount on family portraits to a local business (or 2) on the condition you can hang a framed pic from the session in their office or waiting room. Much more personal, much more effective. And while we’re on the subject of marketing mediums … 4.       Forgoing a website. No, no, no. In this day and age, people are searching for services at all hours of the day or night. Maybe they’re on the office computer, or on their phones in traffic, or on a tablet while in their PJs. Whatever, skipping the online portfolio is simply NOT an option anymore. And don’t try to get away with a few posts on social media, either; there’s not that much of a...

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A Lovers’ Quarrel with Wedding Season

Posted by on Mar 9, 2018 in Photography | Comments Off on A Lovers’ Quarrel with Wedding Season

A Lovers’ Quarrel with Wedding Season

I’m getting revved up here for wedding season. After all my years in this business, I have to admit I approach May and June with mixed feelings. On the one hand, there is that unmistakable feeling of “Didn’t I just do this?” It’s a cliché, I know, but time seems to pass more quickly as you get older, and as the years flow into each other you really start noticing the repetition. After a while, doing wedding photography gives me that same feeling I get when listening to hardcore bluegrass music: no matter how good the band, after the 3rd or 4th numberI start thinking “Um … yeah, this is great and all … but do you know more than that one song?” I reluctantly confess that I have to be careful at most weddings to make sure I’m not going into auto-pilot. Could I phone it in? After more weddings than I can even count, sure. But I would hate myself, and that isn’t what people pay for. I try my best to do even the most traditional shots with a bit of a flare. The customer is always right, right? But now and again (and more frequently within the last few years, it seems), I get the couple that wants something different for their wedding album. OK, yeah, sure, some of the ideas I would politely call stupid (“You both want to dress as vampires, you want all the shots in black-and-white, with hand-colored blood? Seriously?”); some were dangerous (you’re not getting me to jump out of airplane at all, let alone with a $4800 camera. Who am I, Robert Spence?); and some were simply offensive (“Look, what the groom’s party does with your bride the whole night before the wedding is your business … but if you want it on film, you’ll need to talk to someone else.”). With all that being said, there are still people who want to remember their wedding as unique because it’s their wedding … not because they turned it into a sideshow. And when it comes to that, one of the best gifts a bride-to-be can give her photographer is a personal shot list. Now, when I say that, I am not talking about Googling “wedding shot list” and doing a copy-and-paste into an email. I get a lot of those, and honestly, the only thing that keeps me from taking the job and shooting every shot I can think of EXCEPT the ones on the list is pure professionalism. Well, that and an unwillingness to admit how petty I can be. But I digress. The truth is, there really are only so many ways you can shoot a wedding: no matter how creative you want to be, there are still going to be a LOT of traditional shots. Which makes it even more relevant to find those shots that make the wedding personal. What if the band at the wedding is the bride’s younger brother’s first paying gig? What if the groom personally carved the punch bowl out of a block of ice? What if the bride’s grandmother hand-sewed 600 beads to create her veil? Or what if the location is the exact spot where the groom’s parents met? I’ve had all of those scenarios show up on different...

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