Postcards from a Wedding

I wrote this post over a year ago and totally forgot about it. Sorry. It WILL be the last post I ever do in regard to anything related to a wedding. Ever. I’ve been out of that game for a long, long while and won’t be going back anytime soon. I’m not even sure I could do it anymore. Anyone who has ever done a wedding knows it’s both a mental and physical game.

CLIFF NOTES: If you don’t want to read this opus the basis is MAKE YOUR OWN IMAGES.

I was asked to write about advice for wedding photographers, something I promised I would never do again. However, earlier in the year(2012) I photographed my last wedding ever and I thought it an opportune time to sign off on this industry and business. This post might seem hard hitting, which I hope it is, but the intention is simply to make people think. As photographers we are capable of so, so much, but in difficult economic times, or trying times for the industry, I am baffled by the level of conformity perhaps best illustrated by the portrait/wedding world. Yes, many weddings are comprised of the same format, preparation, ceremony, celebration, and there are similarities from shoot to shoot, so in some ways repetition, standardization and trends all contribute to an assembly line type situation. However, I spent ten years in the portrait/wedding world and was successful because I did NOT conform. There is power and there is value in unique imagery, just as there is in unique literature, poetry, art and sound. So the next time we find ourselves walking on the same well worn path, let’s turn around, step off or begin hacking a new trail.

I named this post “Postcards from a Wedding” as a tribute to Magnum photographer Susan Meiselas and her “Pictures from a Revolution” film. Yes, we are talking a major stretch between the Nicaraguan Civil War and a wedding in the Caribbean, but hear me out. In or around 1990, when I was first beginning my official photojournalism degree at the University of Texas, Susan Meiselas came and screened this film for the PJ students. My first “photojournalism” class had hundreds of people in it because “photojournalism 101” was an elective that any communication, art or journalism student could take. Consequently it was a packed house. I was hooked. Completely and utterly hooked. First, the film gave me a feel for who Susan was. Second it gave me a feel for what type of effort it required to do this work, and it also gave me a clear picture of the connection between a committed journalist and the people she was working with.

Susan’s Nicaragua work was also graphic, violent, beautiful and felt like the kind of work that I wanted to make. Years after meeting her, and years after graduation, when I finally had a portfolio I believed in-my first book-I sent her one, unannounced. This was before I had a computer, email, cellphone, etc, so it was mailed to her in a giant envelope. Several weeks later it came back, and it came back with a long, handwritten note. In a nutshell it said “You see the world in a unique way but you have to learn how to make YOUR images.”

Maybe, just MAYBE, there were two or three images in the entire book that would prompt someone to say I saw the world in a unique way, so I figured she was being polite, which she had already proven by writing me back! What I took from her advice was the last part. I had to learn to make MY images. This is easier said than done. I see so much work today, so much, and the overwhelming majority is work I’ve seen before. Finding vision, as I’ve said many times in the past, isn’t easy. And you can find it only to lose it just as quickly as you found it. I know, I’ve done it. Several times.

But let me break this down with the wedding thing in mind. It is a challenge to bring up weddings and Susan Meiselas in the same sentence, but it’s my blog and my soul died a long time ago so I’m gonna go ahead and do it. I’ve written about this for years and normally get crucified when I bring it up, which is reason enough to do it. The wedding photography industry is filled with photographers who aren’t really photographers in the traditional sense, but that’s okay(They approach from a different angle). If someone finds joy in working in an industry then more power to them. However, there is a downside to this little tale if you have wider plans. If you have “other plans” in photography it can be difficult to be associated with the wedding industry, fair or unfair that is the truth.(Just had this conversation again, last week, with another photographer who said he was not getting commercial work due to being known in his area as a wedding photographer.Much to the chagrin of another photographer who didn’t think this could be possible.) One of the ways this can go away is if wedding photographers learned more about not only photography but about themselves. You GOTTA study, work, toil and fight to figure out who you are with a camera in your hand, and frankly most people don’t do it and the industry doesn’t put ANY pressure on them to do so. There is also an unfair stigma associated with wedding photographers. “If you can’t do anything else, you do weddings.” This just isn’t true anymore, not by a long shot, but the IDEA remains and sometimes this can be a real issue requiring educational skills on the part of the photographer.

The wedding industry was the first industry where I listened to photographers tell me they learned the business by going online, in 2005, and copying who was hot. This isn’t good. That might get you a business but it doesn’t make you a photographer. There is one photographer in particular, someone I first heard about years ago, who has been cloned by an entire generation of wedding photographer, right down to his camera and lens. I see dozens and dozens of wedding snaps that all look EXACTLY like his…only not quite as good. But guess what, it’s good enough. The bar is low so people can get away with this. And also, a lot of wedding snappers base their work and credibility on their clients who are mostly people who DON’T look at imagery. They like most things. This doesn’t lend itself to developing a higher standard.

I’m not gonna show you the bulk of the work I did on this wedding(Private), which by the way was the final wedding I will ever do. It’s over Johnny. The vault has been sealed and dropped overboard. I did this wedding for several reasons, but most importantly I did it because I really like the people involved. That’s all I need. Yes, the location was great, I had freedom to do what I thought best, and even though I was the official photographer I was also part of the gang, which makes things far more civil and enjoyable. The images you see here, with the exception of two, were all made with a plastic, discontinued underwater point-and-shoot. The rest were taken with a 43-year-old rangefinder. Why did I use these old tools? Well, I like them, but they also give me the STYLE of image I was going for. And when I say this I mean for THIS particular shoot. I had a very concrete idea of what I wanted the final product to look like the DAY I accepted this job, which was months and months before the shoot. I didn’t just apply my “wedding photography” to this event like all the rest. I’ve done weddings where I shot a grand total of 20 images THE ENTIRE DAY(665 Polaroid), and I’ve done others where I shot digital and shot literally thousands of photographs. I’ve done weddings in black and white only. I’ve done 6×6 weddings, 6×7 weddings, 6×9 weddings, and even used a 4×5 once or twice. I’ve shot Lomo, Holga, Pentax, Fuji, Canon, Leica, Polaroid, Zeiss, Voigtlander, Contax and a homemade pinhole. I used this messy range of clunkers because I had a vision for what the job not only required but how I envisioned the final product. I had this vision because I had experimented enough to know what worked and what I could expect to walk away with, and I was fine tuning my approach and technique to fit each job individually. This is a doable thing when you are doing a total of ten shoots a year. It becomes REALLY difficult when you are shooting 20+ events per year and suddenly conformity becomes a part of the equation. If someone else can do your editing you might be on the path to assembly line.

The goal is to be able to see the final project, which in this case is a book, and say, “I know who did that.” Call it style, vision(overused) or point of view, doesn’t matter. What matters is HAVING ONE. Wedding photographers should demand more. They should rally around those who take chances and set a tone that borders on chaos and failure, not volume and year-end-sales. Could we possibly take anymore of the mystery and experience out of it?

To be fair, working as a photographer these days is not what it once was. There are different pressures and the value of photography, especially in the mind of the general public, has changed and not for the better. There is less appreciation for the process and also less concern with the longevity or impact of the images. But, this doesn’t mean you don’t fight the fight. If you are a wedding photographer you have to educate yourself and your clients to what it is you do, SPECIFICALLY, and why you do it that way. In the long run, it’s all you’ve got. And don’t go thinking this is a rant against wedding photographers because this level of operation is happening in almost all genres of photography. Having an online following or filling a workshop doesn’t make a good photographer. These aren’t bad things, not by any stretch, but what I see happening is people associating these abilities with photographic talent. In my opinion, the best photographers in the world aren’t on social media and they surely don’t teach a lot of workshops. Why? Because they are making their work instead.

For you newbie wedding photographers out there I’m going to cut you some slack. Keep learning, keep expanding your knowledge base. The people I want to direct this post at at the “pros” who have suddenly found themselves in the wedding world. This really started happening about fifteen years ago, based mostly on economic pressures. YOU folks have a responsibility. YOU have the knowledge and experience which makes it truly painful when I see YOU conforming to what the industry is subscribing. When you homogenize your photography to meet an industry with seemingly no quality bar it really has devastating effects and not only on the wedding market, which is some ways is impervious to impact. How many times have I see or heard a photographer from another genre land on the wedding market and make some bold proclamation about “doing things right” only to see the same person six months later churning out the same generic content under the fateful statement, “Well, the clients aren’t complaining.” Weddings offer certain photographers, very good photographers, their FIRST real chance to make decent money, and ultimately for some that becomes overpowering. I get it, but ultimately I don’t get it. It just makes me sad. These folks tend to stop making good imagery, and not just within the borders of their wedding work. They just stop creating or thinking or whatever it is that made them photographers in the first place. This in turn drags the industry down ever so slightly. And then someone else does, and it happens again and again and again, and suddenly the slight variant is a deluge of brain drain. The truth is these people don’t need to do this. Many of these folks came from genres where the photographer has lost all rights, all ability to work in a pure sense, and where they have had to conform, sign contracts and give up on working in the style they dreamed of working in, but in the wedding world you can do ANYTHING you want to do, so when someone gives up, conforms, caves in, it makes it that much more difficult to watch. So if by any strange change ANYONE actually reads this post, take this ONE thing away which is to find that inner photographic kid once again. Stop doing what you think you have to do and start doing what you WANT to do. I guarantee your work will improve and photography will be a lot more fun once again. Photographers have an inherent power I wish they would take more advantage of. Not everyone can do what we do. I’m a firm believer there are the SAME number of photographers there always has been. There are millions of people with cameras, but they aren’t photographers. When you make a unique style, or recognizable style of image, there is a power you can harness and your clients will know and respect this. Your images might not fit every job, but you don’t really want every job. You want the right job.

And stop talking about new equipment. It won’t help and has no bearing on your imagery. I’ve been having conversations with photographers who tell me they are worried about showing up at a job with a 5D Mark III because they are afraid the client has the same camera and won’t think of them as a professional. This is incredible. If your client can make the same image you are making they maybe you AREN’T a photographer? (Buy a 40-year-old camera and you won’t have to worry about this!) Your photographs should be about light, timing, composition and your visual history, but if these items started in 2005 by you copying someone online…you might have a problem.

If you are offended by this post just know….I’m by no means a perfect person or photographer(OBVIOUS), but what I am is a pretty decent witness to the times and to photography. I’ve made plenty of horrible images, some for myself and some for clients. I’ve had successes and failures and this post is simply my opinion. Take it or leave it. I walked away from working as a photographer so that I could work on purely my own work. I fought the downward slide of “professional” photography for the past ten years. It’s doable, but it’s all about education of the client. To do this you need the kind of work that educates. You don’t need a standardized test that EVERY OTHER photographer has.

My advice for wedding photographers? My advice to young photographers?
It’s all the same, and I’ll go back to what Susan told me all those years ago….make YOUR photographs, whatever those may be. In the long run, it’s all you have. You have to get outside of the wedding world and look at the full range of photography being made. Perhaps your images will be more influenced by Sternfeld, Steber, Shore, Smith, Salgado, Seliger, Stanmeyer or Strand than someone in the wedding field. If you don’t know these names(Please, please, please don’t tell me if you don’t know.), start there, look them up and see how you feel.

I walk away from this industry with overwhelmingly positive thoughts because I walk with memories of the people and the true moments that happened far from the glitz and glitter of the reception, those moments when hearts beat fast and the honest decisions were made.I walk with the truth of knowing that I was chosen to be the witness.

PPS: The images you see are the images I printed for MY book of the wedding. A snapshot book. 6×9, 300-pages .

Periphery

I’ve shot a fair number of weddings over the years. By industry standards, not many at all, but in normal human terms I’ve seen my share.

The wedding photography industry, at least to me, is a strange beast. It’s hugely successful, which is nice to see in a rapidly shrinking professional photography world. I just never fit in. But, this isn’t really a surprise to anyone. I remember my parents telling me that THEY never fit in in life, so I’m not sure why I would have expected anything different. I did weddings for a variety of reasons. I always had the client in mind, but I also had my own feelings front and center while I was navigating my way through these shoots.

I would end up in little places, during little moments and I would know I was where I needed to be. I tried to make photographs that summed up these little “encounters” but the client was not always what I was thinking about. I would let my mind flow to whatever region it needed to flow. Sometimes the influence was music, other times literature. I would see daylight visions of different times, eras and regions. Imagine daydreaming, or creatively daydreaming, in the middle of the shoot. Maybe that is the best way to describe it.

In some cases these images became critical later on. In other cases they were never seen or used, but regardless, they were very important to me.

This little grouping is one such case. I think the elements caused my little adventure. The wind, the cold, the water. It was grand, and allowed just a little “pop” in my brain. I was freed, for just a few moments. Click, or “clunk” I should say, as I was using the Hasselblad. A respite. A moment, just for me, but perhaps for someone else. Nothing more, nothing less.

The Situation

So many choices…..

I wrote this post a MONTH ago, then decided not to post it. But, things kept happening and I thought I would share my experience. My goal is not to bag on the wedding industry because it is one of the strongest industries left in photography and has become refuge for thousands of photographers who can no longer support themselves in their native genre(And if this allows them to create their own work then fantastic). There are many positive things about the wedding photography world, including some great photographers, social media pioneers, workshop pioneers, branding and marketing pioneers, but with these have come the vast homogenization and capitalization of the business. I think this is only natural. Anytime someone ramps up production, it is nearly impossible to maintain initial quality.

A friend sent me an email……

“Hey, I’m getting married next summer, have some ideas for the photography, you think you can do it?”

Well, not sure I can, but let me check around for other photographers in the area,” I said. The area my friend lives in is a familiar one to me, and I HAD friends in the area. I wasn’t sure any of them were still there, but I figured I would be able to quickly go online, search a few things and find a direction for my friend to move in.

Thirty one photographers.

I looked at thirty one different photographers online. All of them local to my friend. I thought maybe I would have to search three or four, check some of my old friends and quickly find a good match.

Thirty one photographers later I had to send an email to my friend saying, “You can’t hire any of these people.”

Now before you go thinking I’m a hater I need to clarify a few things. First, I did not expect this AT ALL. Again, I figured I’d go online and bingo, find a good match. Second, I’m not looking for photo-Gandhi here, just someone with a point of view who has a recognizable style That’s it. Again, pretty simple.

But here is what I found.

1-Almost all the work I found looked EXACTLY the same. It was made with the same lenses, the same cameras, in the same angles, with same tilts, and the same backgrounds and on top of it…all the same post-production filters. If anyone is using that faded, old photo look, PLEASE stop. EVERYONE has the filter, which in essence takes away any interesting residue that filter had in the first place. It’s a filter. It’s a button you push, and it does little to nothing to make the images interesting.

2-All but ONE of the websites were of the same design.

3-All but ONE of the blogs were of the same design. And, the blogs were not blogs they were simply areas where more images were posted, all the same images, at the same size and in the exact same fashion, and the blogs told me NOTHING about the photographer.

4-Photographers that used to be good had traded good for volume and THEIR work now looked like everyone else. (I found this painful). I see the upside to this folks, the upside that is an upside native to ONLY the photographer. Everyone else has to endure the idea of conformity.

5-ONE photographer had a recognizable style. This is a GOOD things folks. Only problem, his style was a perfect blend of Larry Fink and Taryn Simon(two REALLY good photographers), so if you KNOW either of these two people then the idea of wedding photos looking like this…well, it feels a little second hand. And, I realized when something is THAT stylized, how is that going to look in ten years? How about 50? Frankly, I think it is going to look like 2010. Now, this is debatable, and again, I give this photographer props for at least blazing their own idea. Would have loved to see more pioneering looks, but alas there was JUST one.

6-There was a MASSIVE amount of phony talk and quotes and sayings. Everyone was saying all the right things, only problem was their work all looked the same. Blogs carried most of the phony baloney. Don’t use the word love, it’s redundant. Don’t call your work “Art” that is for others to decide. In 41 years I’ve never been to an art gallery and seen wedding work.

7-Ninety percent of the “wedding photojournalism” was posed. And I mean REALLY posed. The description “wedding photojournalism” has little value any longer. Nothing wrong with posing but just call it posing.


8-Two of the sites crashed my browser.

9-Too many sites had MUSIC. Why? Why for the love of God do wedding photographers put music on their sites? You realize of course I’m either listening to Pandora or iTunes so when your wedding tune comes blaring in it is suddenly mixed with Metallica or Audioslave and sounds like the end of world. Just go ahead and take that off please, and I’m speaking for %99.9 of all humanity.

10-It was apparent to me, very apparent, that the vast majority of the wedding sites I found were created by photographers who have never studied photography. Now, again, I can see both sides of this. First, this could be a great thing. “Hey, no need to study, I’m getting work and shoot all the time.” Photography is now open to ANYONE. There is ZERO barrier to entry so if you tell people you are a wedding photographer…then you ARE a wedding photographer. Okay, the flip side. This is total BS. When you don’t study photography, or understand it, or have vision, or a style…the problem is…it shows in YOUR WORK. Hence me looking at THIRTY ONE DIFFERENT SITES. Folks, studying photography, learning photography, isn’t a bad thing. It’s a GREAT thing. And fun. Just because you are getting work doesn’t mean you SHOULD be getting work. Think about photography and ask yourself, “Am I aiding this business or watering it down?”

11-Branding is out of control. First of all, most of the sites were branded and stylized to the tenth degree. Again, branding…a good thing, but people you GOTTA be able to make pictures, and I mean GOOD pictures, not the exact same thing that everyone else is doing. And let me stress this again. THE EXACT SAME THING. Your ultimate brand…is your photography, not your letterhead, logo and packaging materials. I see this in all worlds of photography, but nowhere as much as wedding/portrait. Again, logos are cool and I’m a sucker for a great box, package, etc, but man, what is INSIDE the box is what is gonna last.

12-Being a destination photographer was being used as some “badge of honor,” but the work looked EXACTLY the same as the work made at home. EXACTLY. Look, if you are going to Thailand or Greece to shoot a destination wedding, well, why don’t you MAKE something that looks and feels like Thailand or Greece? Let’s think about Greece…..hmmm, let me see. I think cliffs, DEEP blue sea and lots of white. So why the heck would I use the old faded photo filter?? People?????? Am I going insane over this stuff?????? YES, the answer is YES. You flew halfway around the world and used the same filter you used at the local bowling alley back home??? WHAT?????? And look, this is 2010, I’ve taught workshops where I was the ONLY person in the room who hadn’t been to Everest base camp…EVERYONE travels. Using this as a sales tool is a little 1918. When it took 3 months on a ship to reach the motherland…now THAT was travel.

13-This is only going to get worse. With equipment prices falling, many folks looking for second jobs, and the quality bar reaching the Earth’s core…the days of the visionary are nearing an end. Photography and fast food are nearing critical mass. Lucky for photographers, Americans eat fast food, on average, twenty times per month.

14-Not a film shooter among them. This could mean something or nothing depending on your view on the “old ways.” You know me, I prefer the stone age over the space age, and when I see RAMPANT blown highlights, including many of the wedding dresses, combined with that embalmed skin tone I begin to lose it. People, this is basic photography and exposure. And yet, there it is, all over the place. A few sites had major splash pages void of highlight detail. Glowing skin tone highlights with fringing, banding, etc. Before you condemn the “old ways” just know that NONE of this would have been accepted before the advent of the “new technology.” Look, I know how tricky it is to keep highlight range when you are moving fast and shooting digital. Many times I’ve sat down at the computer to begin a “salvage op.” I see a lot of this sloppiness covered up with….what else…filters and post production, but again, that is like trying to hide from a missile strike by standing behind a tree.

So, I wrote my friend and said, “You can’t hire a wedding photographer.” Yep, I did. “You have to look outside the wedding industry, find a real fine-art shooter, someone who will look at your day with NEW eyes and not INDUSTRY eyes.” “They might only shoot ten frames but at least you are going to get ten interesting photographs.”

People, I’m puzzled by all this. I’m still amazed at what I found. I keep finding myself thinking, “Go back and look again,” and then I see pages of purple, clicked on sites and know I don’t want to. I fear that wedding photography has been commoditized to the point of no return.

Now for me, it doesn’t matter. I’ve got ONE more wedding to do and then I’m done. Moving on. But I think for anyone remaining, do what I did, pick a city and take the ride. Great work takes time and I don’t think much of what we are doing these days is given the time it needs to excel. And if you are shooting 30-70 weddings per year, how are you able to give the time you need to create something unique?

And I’m as guilty as the next person. I sometimes make bad photos, prints, books and decisions, but I know now the only thing that really matters is I give those images the best chance of success and by success I don’t mean exposure, branding, packaging or distribution. And, I learn from what I did wrong, correct it and make sure it doesn’t become an accepted part of my practice.

I also found myself wondering, “Who is hiring these people,” and by the looks of it… MANY people are. But again, as a photographer, if you are comfortable hanging in the 80% range, okay I get it. For me, I want to be in the 8% range, otherwise…I feel like I’m wasting everyone’s time. If anyone can do it, then why should I? If I have nothing to say, then why say anything at all?

Now, this entire post can be, and maybe should be, dismissed by saying, “Who cares?” If people are getting work and their clients are happy then who cares? In this case, I do because my friend is in the middle of it. Like I said before, I’m done with shooting weddings, have a single mission left on the books, but I do care about what goes on when my amigos are involved. In the past few months I’ve found myself as a rep of sorts when the phone rings, the email pings, when clients call about weddings. “I’m not able to do your job but let me find a photographer for you,” I hear myself saying. I just can’t stand the idea of a good shoot going to someone who is part of the mainstream mass manufacturing of wedding imagery. And I have to say, my referral list is very, very short.

The Numbers Game

I just found this post which I had written a WHILE ago. Thought I would throw it out there even though some of the material has been covered, some would say to death, in recent months. Don’t hate the player hate the game!

You don’t need to shoot each tree individually.

WARNING: I SWITCHED TO DECAF THE MORNING I WROTE THIS, MY APOLOGIES.

This post is aimed directly at wedding photographers.

Enough already.

Quantity of imagery has never been, until the past few years, a selling point of being a photographer. With the advent of digital technology and the subsequent ability to shoot unlimited numbers of images, came a style of photographer that blasted away with reckless abandon. Soon these photographers were using these insanely high image counts as a selling point, a selling point to clients who really didn’t know better. “More must be better,” the unsuspecting clients would think, as they were handed discs containing thousands of pictures, or online galleries that went on for miles. Suddenly, quantity over quality became a reality.

I just don’t get this at all. I really don’t.

First of all, if you are shooting 5000 plus images at a wedding, it is a CLEAR sign to me that you have no idea what you are looking for. It is clear to me you don’t have a style because if you did you would realize there is simply NO WAY your style of image happens 5000 times in any 24-hour period, let alone the duration of a typical wedding day.

When you sell quantity of images what you are doing, in essence, is trivializing the entire idea of photography. Why do you think that the public’s belief as to the DNA of photography has changed so much in the past ten years. Why do you hear so many stories of clients not having the same respect for what we do? Well, when you hear the photographers themselves operating under the method of, “If I shoot nonstop, something will turn out,” mentality, then why would the clients have respect for this? It’s no wonder people pick up a camera, have a high-school kid build them a website and go into business as a “professional photographer.”

I’ve heard photographers talking about “keeping their image count up,” and it drives me crazy. What are you talking about? So instead of shooting a portrait of the bride, shoot 100 frames of the bride in the same scene? Who does this benefit? You having to edit? The client having to weed through 100 frames in an online gallery?

Luckily, I think these days of quantity are about to implode. I’m beginning to see and hear from clients, planners, locations, etc, “enough already.” When a client is faced with an online gallery of 5000 images, they begin to realize that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Often times, when there is an issue they will go back to the planner, “What am I supposed to do with all these images?”

Photographers, let’s get real. Our job is to create unique imagery, edit that imagery and present that imagery. Our job is not to turn our brains off, keep our finger glued to the shutter, randomly convert a third of the images to black and white, then upload to an online gallery. I’m sorry, that isn’t photography, I don’t care how many jobs you are shooting. And if you use the “Well, my clients aren’t complaining” excuse….that is just sad.

It is very evident today that you don’t have to be a photographer to be a photographer. The days of having to know light, timing and composition have been replaced by slick marketing, advertising and the promise of Photoshop.

But when photographers trivialized the actual photography, regardless of whether they are taking a short-term step forward, as a collective, we all take a GRAND step back.

Learn how YOU see as an individual(Think about actually learning photography), make imagery that is unique to YOU and stop churning out hard drive after hard drive of generic photographs in an attempt to hit some photo-jackpot in the sky.

And before I go any further, I hear the cries of a few, “But my clients want as many images as possible.” Again, find your spine and tell them that is not how it works. If your client asked you to wear a Speedo would you do that to? What is the difference?

If you really edit a wedding, I mean REALLY edit. And you really focus on what you are doing, there are only a few VERY key moments of a wedding day. Very few. It is our job to see those moments coming and record them. You can shoot details of every single person at every single table and every centerpiece and all that stuff that really doesn’t mean much the day after, but it won’t help you create a document of what REALLY happened.

Working this way doesn’t happen by accident. Working this way requires you to deprogram a lot of clients who have fallen prey to this quantity over quality sales pitch. It takes time. Some folks are receptive, some are gone forever. You will not book every client. You shouldn’t book every client.

I’m going to do it. I’m going to throw out the “S” word again, so brace yourself. Is it time to find our collective soul again? Did we ever have a collective soul? I don’t know.

All I do know is that we have created a monster and it is time to put that baby to bed and get back to making photographs not production line nonsense.

For those of you who found this post insulting, rude, etc, that was not my intention, but I see the damage this charade has done and at the core of this is the belief that the CLIENT will be better served by photographers with clear objectives and clear vision.

I think if we are even discussing the amount of imagery we are going to create, it is a sure sign our photography-train is off the tracks.

My Kind of Wedding Photo: Two

This is my “Backlit Soul Glo Filter.” I would sell you a copy but it only comes on Zip disk and the ship is stuck at customs in Sierra Leone.

Did I mention this is another wedding photo I like? Taken a few short moments after the one I posted yesterday.

For me folks, I’ll tell ya right up front, the “getting ready” section of the wedding day is my favorite part, so the images I’m posting from this particular wedding, three in total, will all come from that portion of the proceedings.

I won’t be offended if you say “Ah, whatever, where is the zoom blur portion of the day?”

But me, I like this image.

It starts and stops with the light. Yep, that’s all. Sometimes I sit for hours just looking at light like this, weeping, wishing I had a something to place in it, something like, like a Faberge Egg.

“Hey, what are you doing Danny?” “Polishing my egg.”

Just look at this dress. This was one of the best dresses I’ve even seen. Really, it was the Leica MP of the dress world(I don’t own one…yet). This dress is pure art. Really. We all shoot the dress, just a part of the process, but this one I wanted to take home and photograph over and over.

When the film crew descended on the dress, with their…FILM cameras as you can see, and the light came from behind, I knew that exposing for the shadow and shooting into the light would create this glow.

This is where film really shines. You can shoot into this light and know you are going to have highlight and a range without software time or exposure compensation, or worse yet, fill light. UGH. Plain and simple, it just works.

I also think this image points to where we are as an industry today. Full saturation bombing. Nothing escapes us.
Remember in Raising Arizona, Randall “Tex” Cobb was something like “The Death Rider of the Apocalypse.” No animal, nothing, escaped his eye. Well, that is us wedding photographers today.

I see the benefit, I do, but at the same time I’m not sure how much further we can go. These two gents were good, they knew what they wanted, got it, got it and got out, which is how we should work.

I recently met with a wedding client and I began my 600-page Powerpoint, 3D presentation about my highly refined wedding skills and how I differed from the masses of wedding snappers.

I verbally dismantled the near-industry-wide technology/quantity myth right off the bat. “I’m not concerned about how many Images I make, I’m concerned about how many GOOD images I make,” I casually yet pointedly directed at the client.

The groom looked up from his Blackberry and said, “You are the guy.” “That’s it, just give me ONE photo that really tells me what our wedding was like.”

“You and I are perfect for each other,” I said. And that was it. Done. Booked, and still time to get to my powerlifting class.

Oh, and one last detail, the shoes. I mentioned the dress before but the shoes were equally good.

I’m visualizing a vertical book for this wedding, a thick one, simple design but with large images, one per page, never more, and more of a contemporary look. Lots of white space. Give these things some room to breath.

I want the viewer to turn the page, see this image, nothing else, and STOP, yes STOP and actually look at this. As a people we are not good at stopping, but that is the goal. But alas, that is a topic for another post.