The following article is a guest post by Drexelle Park, a photographer with her high school sweetheart and other half, David Park, from Orange County, CA. More of their work can be found at www.dparkphotography.com.
Who is Jim Garner?
Graduating college as a psychology major, Jim Garner turned to professional commercial photography in 1993 in Seattle. After marrying the love of his life, the other half of his photography business, he and Katarina started a wedding photography business. Hundreds of weddings later, Jim Garner is now known as one of American Photo Magazine’s Top 10 wedding photographers in the world.
As he changed his style from picture taker to storyteller, the creative explosion that he unveiled in this WPPI 2011 Platform Class took place.
You can view more of Jim Garner’s breathtaking work here.
His Platform Class
How can we have creative explosions in our work?
“SMILING MOMENTS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN IMAGE PERFECTION. STOP WORRYING ABOUT THE TECHNICAL DETAILS BUT ON HOW TO CREATE A STORY.
– JIM GARNER
For Jim Garner, the answers are simple. But these answers will transform your photography to the timeless and extraordinary:
- 1. YOU MUST CREATIVELY REINVENT REGULARLY
How do you release your inner creative genius? Jim says there are 4 ways to do just that:
- Capturing: Preserve new ideas. Write your ideas down when you get out of bed, out of the shower.
- Surrounding: Surround yourself with interesting people and ideas. Take a 20-minute walk.
- Challenging: Take on tough problems. Try something new. Join competitions.
- Broadening: Expand your knowledge. Have an outing or adventure once/week with personal projects. Fail! Failure stimulates creativity.
Make sure you take lots of breaks. Sleep on it! Surround yourself with positive stimulation. Record ideas AS they come to you.
- 2. YOU SHOULD BE CREATING ART, NOT PICTURES
“WE MUST STOP LOOKING FOR PORTFOLIO MOMENTS. THEY’LL COME NATURALLY WHEN YOU FOCUS ON STORYTELLING 10X MORE THAN YOU’LL EXPECT IF YOU FOCUS ON JUST YOUR PORTFOLIO.
– JIM GARNER
Jim argued against being just a picture taker and becoming a storyteller.
A Picture Taker:
- Captures the image WITHOUT design intention
- Takes MANY images in a short period of time (shoots like lightning)
- Lighting consistency is NOT considered while shooting (you need continuity)
- Nowadays, he challenges himself to never use flash, off camera, or alternative lighting
- Delivers images on a disc or as individual prints
- Relies on canned poses that worked in the past (stifles creativity)
- Usually subjects look at the camera (creates a posed/portrait look)
- Captures images with the FINAL art design in mind
- Shoots quick bursts and then allow for client interaction
- Lighting is consistent during the shoot
- Delivers images in albums/enlargements. You’ll get paid for every image you retouch.
- Relies on client experience to create the REAL expression and fun
- Most images have a candid appearance with subjects looking away from the camera
- Focus on feeling, emotion, and natural moments
- Thinks in album spreads. An album spread with well-designed images are as, if not MORE, impactful than a single WOW shot.
- Adapts to the style of the bride (To Jim, the more affluent the bride, the more candid they want their images to be)
Jim’s first goal is always to just get everyone moving. Jim will have the limo park 4 blocks down to see what happens as the bridal party walk on the street. He’ll use words such as:
- “Work that!
- “Hit me with that dress!
Let your clients play. DON’T have them redo poses. That drains their energy.
Then, change your website to show stories, not just single photos.
- 3. YOU MUST DELIVER ART THAT HAS LONG TERM VALUE IF YOU PLAN TO HAVE LONGEVITY IN ANY CREATIVE FIELD
By delivering art, you’re structuring your business for profit.
- 4. YOU MUST PROPERLY IDENTIFY YOUR CLIENT – THEIR STYLE, TASTE AND VISION
- 5. YOU MUST CREATE IMAGES THAT REPRESENT YOUR CLIENT IF YOU WANT THEM TO FIND VALUE IN THOSE IMAGES
Study your clients’ personality. You have to be in their inner circle to influence what they do.
- 6. YOU MUST UNDERSTAND HOW YOUR CLIENT THINKS ON AN EMOTIONAL LEVEL-WHAT MOVES THEM EMOTIONALLY
Shoot less weddings so you can put more energy to get to know your clients.
- DEVOTE MOST OF YOUR ENERGY TO THE EXPERIENCE OF YOUR CLIENT
The real money maker is your clients’ experience. That is what will drive the profit.
NEVER take your eyes off of your subject. It lowers their energy.
So how do you sell this storytelling style?
Jim recommends telling your clients:
- We’re concerned with how your day unfolds. We don’t want it to feel like a photo shoot.
- Describe different cultures. Did you know East Indian cultures have a whole week of moments? In Australia, they’re celebrating in the morning and afternoon. In Europe, they have 24-hour weddings. Why do we have in the US to be so fast-paced?
- Communicate the value of your services. We are very expensive at $450/hour or $225/spread.
- Give it away and it will come back to you tenfold. If you assign the value of what you give away before giving it away, it will come back to you tenfold. You hurt yourself by discounting. Never giveaway money.
A few more rules on getting the best experience for your clients:
- You MUST dedicate time to enhance their experience, not just time for a photo shoot. Tell your clients: We’re going to give you this time. It won’t feel like we’re taking photos but it’s about your experience. It’ll be all about the beautiful time that you have on your wedding day.
- Sometimes, Jim will even pay for drinks for the whole bridal party or for the limo to have an extra 30 minutes to create an experience with his clients.
- If you want to do it, YOU MUST SHOW IT! Jim shows the clients 2 different albums: an experiential storybook, thick and full of spreads with storylines, and then a standard book of people who don’t see each other beforehand or have the storytelling emphasis.
“STOP LOOKING FOR PORTFOLIO SHOTS. START SHOOTING THE STORY!
– JIM GARNER
Applying the Lessons Learned
After just a few hours of listening to Jim Garner, we had pages of notes of what we wanted to change or enhance in our business. We had seen the experiential style of photography with our clients and saw the amazing results but had never really pinpointed the cause: storytelling, a real WOW experience rather than focusing on a WOW image.
We’ve since changed our emphasis to storytelling, which has significantly boosted our clients’ experience and our album sales. This stuff works. Not only does it make a better business, it makes it THAT much more of a meaningful work of art that your bride and groom will treasure for a lifetime.
So, I leave you with Jim’s final question.
“WHAT CHANGES WILL YOU MAKE?
– JIM GARNER
About the Author
Article and Images by Drexelle Park of D. Park Photography
We’re David + Drexelle – high school sweethearts, complete opposites but God amazingly brought us together, 2 kids who were scared of marriage but now passionate about a lifetime committed to love, the good, the bad, the crazy, the lovely.
Our desire is to inspire a generation of people like ourselves who were jaded about love through incredible imagery that celebrates marriage: love – lifelong, lasting, and lovely.
We’re D. Park Photography. Modern classic wedding photographers for the truly original, authentic and timeless love stories.
– BIGFOLIO (promo code VEGAS150 – 150% off premium site)
– Advertise when you rebrand
– You must creatively reinvent regularly
– You should be creating art, not pictures
– You must deliver art that has long term value if you plan to have longevity in any creative field
– You must properly identify your client – their style, taste and vision
– You must create images that represent our client if you want them to find value in those images
– You must understand how our client thinks on an emotional level-what moves them emotionally
– Devote most of your energy to the EXPERIENCE of our client has on their wedding day and beyond
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