Google+ July | 2013 | A Camera and a Dream

Archive for July, 2013

I see it all the time on message boards and forums. Photographers posting about potential clients who have tons of stupid questions that they obviously got off The Knot, have unrealistic expectations about their wedding day or are challenging terms in the photographers contracts.

Generally it’s met with outcries from other photographers saying “Red Flag! Bridezilla! Don’t walk, run away!”

I don’t know of many other industries where artistic temperament is celebrated like it is with wedding photographers.

It’s considered a sign of success if you can hand pick every single client. We want them to be the finest of the litter, the yin to our creative yang.

We want to have Tapas and Sushi together over craft beers and discuss how Dave Grohl is the coolest guy in the world (he is) with them.

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Here’s an honest question for you: why do so many wedding photographers blanket their marketing and branding in Jesus?

In the ancient times (c. 2008 and prior), it was well known and accepted that your personal belief system had no place in your business marketing.

Smart businesses were businesses – not personalities.

While we all know that Steve Jobs was an atheist, we have no idea what religion Apple is.  I couldn’t tell you if Coca Cola worships the Christian God or Allah, or maybe Coke leans toward the Eastern zen beliefs.  Pepsi is clearly Taoist with that abstract yin-yang symbol, right?  Adidas?

But somewhere in the late 00’s, wedding and portrait photographers the world over seemed to decide that they were *personalities* and not businesses.

They showered their websites and blogs with Christian passages, prayers, symbols of their faith.  It was the complete antithesis to everything we’d been taught in business.  Those of us who chose to keep our personal lives personal and our business lives clean and simple, were dumbfounded.  Even the old-timers who were devout Christians found the new trend a bit distasteful.

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cash

 According to most photographers on Facebook, they are leading AMAZING LIVES.  They have AMAZING clients, AMAZING locations to shoot at  and are AMAZINGLY blessed to be doing the thing they love the most.   They are rockstars. 

They invite all their friends over and jump into their swimming pools to Kanye West songs.  They don’t come out and say it, but you know they are making AMAZING money.

You know what’s not AMAZING ?    My bank account in the winter months when weddings are as scarce as hens teeth around here.

During that slow  time of year I’d think twice about buying a 1.99 digital download of Kanye’s.   That’s two packs of Ramen, ya’ll.

 Even after doing this for so many years, budgeting is still a struggle for this self-employed photographer.  Every year I put more into my winter “Oh Shit” fund for expenses I did not expect and what do you know, shit just keeps coming up.  

I have one firm rule that I have followed for the past few years:  When the “Oh Shit” fund becomes the grocery money fund, it’s time to take action and look for ways to bring in some cash.

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Charo’s story:

The scene: a 6th floor hotel room at the Hilton in downtown Wilmington.  The bride’s mom and friends are arranging the wedding gown so the bride can step into it.

I’m standing on a chair, wedged into a corner, one camera hung over my left shoulder, slapping my hip every time I move; the other poised for the moment when the bride is “decent” enough to hear a shutter click and I can get those beautiful, window-lit, iconic dressing room images.

Up till this point, I’d been feeling pretty great about myself.  I knew I was getting some awesome coverage, the bride and I were getting along like old friends, and even her bridesmaids seemed like they could be personal friends of mine – we’d all have fun over beers at the bar, you know?  I belonged.

Bride steps into her dress, and her helpers pull it up and start zipping it.

Her boobs aren’t quite where they need to be in the cups.

It’s a pretty common problem, and one I happen to know the quick fix for (every wedding photographer does).  I say, “Hey, pull the bodice down real quick, and bend over – like this (demonstrating) – and let them just fall into the cups!”

Her mom looks at me with this knowing smile and says “Oh, she doesn’t need ANY help in the boob department… her boobs are young and perky, they’re not sad and saggy like OURS.”

 

AWKWARD RECORD SCRATCH MOMENT

It ruined my whole day.

 

 Kim’s Story:

I’ve just had an awesome meeting with a potential client.  She’s funny, irreverent, exactly my target bride.

 We’re chatting like old friends and she’s talking about her favorite photos of mine on my blog from the last two years.

After 17 years of being a professional wedding photographer I am thinking “Yessssssssssssssssssssssss. The non-Pinterest inspired bride is still out there!  The one who really CRAVES real moments in photography.  She gets me. I get her. ”

Pricing was talked about and discussed like grown ups.  She reiterated several times that photography was the most important thing to her and what she and her fiance were willing to spend good cash money on.

For just a little moment, it was like it was 2008 again.  *sheds a tiny tear*

She calls the next day as promised and after a few BFF niceties she says “ So here’s one thing I have to ask of you.  I’m Italian and it’s really important to me to have pieces of my heritage included in my wedding.  So one of the things we want to have is a Gelato Bar”

I squeal, she squeals, we all squeal for…Gelato. I assure her that’s a brilliant idea, the guests will love it.

“So, here’s the thing.  The Gelato Bar is going to cost us $600. So I’m wondering if you can reduce the cost of your package $600 to help us out.”

I’ve mentioned that I’ve done this professionally for 17 years, right?

I’m the one friends come to when they want to learn how to say something to a client in a professional manner.

I’m the cool headed, been around the block, ain’t-no-chick-in-a big-white-dress-gonna-scare-me-kind-of-photographer.

 I honestly thought that nothing, nothing would surprise me anymore .  All of my moxy went straight down the drain as these words flew unbidden out of my mouth:

“I’m sorry, did you just ask me to pay for your Gelato Bar?”

The conversation went quickly downhill from there.  And as you might have guessed, she didn’t hire me.

 

We’re two photographers who’ve been around in this industry for a long time.

That used to be a good thing, remember?

Now we’re hearing the same thing over and over from long time veterans; that they can’t figure out where their place is anymore.  They can’t reach the brides, the work doesn’t matter anymore.

We have old saggy boobs and brides wanting us to pay for their Gelato Bars.

This job is funny.

Funny ha-ha, funny weird, and funny are-you-fucking-kidding-me.

But those two awkward record scratch moments were our own funny A-HA moments.

We’d love to hear about some of yours as we navigate our way in this brave new Instagrammed world trying to do the job we love in a rapidly changing market.