Shooting For Yourself Is Good, Just Not On A Client’s Time & Dime
There seems to be a trend that has been growing in the paid sector of the photography world (weddings, portraiture, seniors, etc.), where some photographers have become egocentric artists, shooting just obscure stuff. I have been seeing a lot more of the “I am an artist and my job is to create insanely artful images” mentality. But, your clients have hired you to take pictures that are useable by them, they are not funding your art gallery display pieces.
*Above: Just a simple clean photograph, capturing a very beautiful moment between the bride and her great grandmother…no crazy sort of image gimmick.*
The Slippery Slope
I am not sure when the industry began sliding into this slippery slope of a direction, but it is really starting to rear its ugly head. This is not meant to be rude or mean, but just bluntly honest…do not be disillusioned that we are anything but a wedding photographer, portrait photographer, senior photographer, etc. when that is what you are being paid for. We decided to go into business in order offer people a service and products that we feel they will love.
If you are starting to catch yourself, saying “why don’t my clients like my crazy artful images?” or getting frustrated that your clients are not wanting to walk the obscure line of photo sessions, that either you have crossed that line or on the edge of that line. I think it is time to move back in the direction of offering our customers an EXCEPTIONAL experience and delivering them high quality professional images with an artistic flavor.
I do understand that we as photographers do offer, not only very high quality images, but add an artistic flair to them that most people are not able to achieve themselves. This is fine and well, but we do need to keep the artistic style from running amuck in jobs we are hired for. This is a very fine line that we must walk, to deliver creative images without going off the artistic deep end. I do take some very creative shots on wedding days, some turn out amazing, some don’t and occasionally the couples like them. However, what I sell most of by a landslide are the very simple photos of the couple looking at the camera or ones with the family members. People want a reminder of what their loved ones looked like on the day and most super creative images really don’t fit that bill.
I am a firm believer in going out and just failing to see what results you get with your images, but I know for many photographers reading this, you need subjects to test out some new creative ideas. I would like to offer a few suggestions of my own that work for me and maybe they can help you.
There is always something about weddings and a bride in her dress, that wants me to push the portrait envelope besides doing just the stereotypical bridal portraits. The rub is not always being sure that if I ask brides to do some off the wall sort things, it would have the pay off that I envisioned. Being able to try ideas, outside of weddings is always the best option.
This means getting a “bride” into a wedding style dress. I solve this dilemma by finding a model that is willing to do “trade for pic” shoots and also finding a wedding style dress. I always try to turn this into a networking opportunity, approach some local wedding dress designers and use some of their designs in the photo shoot. After the shoot, I give them the images of the dress on the model. If that does not work, there are plenty of inexpensive dresses that will at least give me a resemblance of a bride in wedding dress for the shoot.
*Above: This is one of my experimental shoots, with a dress from a local designer and a local model. This shot showed me the amount of time to set something like this up…I FULLY rearranged the room, set up a light lighting and killed other lights in the room (including removing light bulbs from other lights in order to keep only this light on). There were many shots that just didn’t make it, but I got to see what something like this takes to set up and if I am able to accomplish something similar on the wedding and the time I need to do it.*
I accomplish two things by doing this: I am able to put my vision into the frame of the camera to see what works and doesn’t work and make notes on how I might be able to incorporate that into wedding days. It also gives me insight into how long it takes to make shots happen (whether I had to mess with lighting, reflectors, posing, etc), something that can determine whether I have the time to attempt a similar shot on the wedding day or not.
Communicate the Timeline
While the above suggestions are great, I also know that I am in locations that I will never have the opportunity to shoot in again and simply practicing would not cover the gamut of shots I could potentially take. This is why I always, during my consults with couples before they hire me, go over what I hope for in regards to the amount of time needed for pictures. It is more common than not that I carve out 3-5 hours for bride and groom portraits.
*Note: As an editor was proofing this article, she was stunned by the amount of time I spent with a bride and groom and wedding party on a wedding day. She asked if 3-5 hours was a typo, LOL…it is not a typo. She asked if I would elaborate on this further. I will touch on it a bit, as this article is already fairly substantial in length. Brides and grooms come to me for 2 reasons 1: My Bride and Groom portraits and 2: My photo-journalistic style the rest of the day.
At the initial consultation with the bride and groom the portraits are heavily talked about. I set the expectation UP FRONT that in order to have multiple locations and the style of photos they expect, we must carve out 3-5 hours of time. In all most all the cases, we do a first look in the morning-ish time. Which means, most of the time we have no problem setting out with hours to shoot with. It is CRAZY important that you set this expectation from the out-set and understand that couple do the first look, or it will be next to impossible to carve out this sort of time. I can say, that the couple actually loves this much time alone with each other…NO one around, no distractions JUST them to enjoy each other on their special day.
It also means, that there is no stress after the ceremony to cram pics in, the couple can get family photos done and some portraits of the couple and bridal party at the venue and then it is off to spend time with the guests. There is more to the to the logistics and planning of it all…if people are really that interested, let me know in the comments and I will put an article together. *
I do this because it allows me to make sure I get ALL the images I need and what the couple is expecting. This allows me to have some time to experiment and try some different visions. Even if those different ideas don’t turn out or the couple doesn’t like them, I still have images that the couple will like and was expecting. I can knock out a couple, bridal party and family portraits in as little as 15 mins, but that gives me no time to go outside the box and produce images with a more artistic edge.
*Above: Again, just a simple clean image of the bride with her groom and a artistic flair to it. Nothing off the wall or out of left field, an image that is very usable by the client.*
Second Shooting for Creativity
Something else I do is take 2nd shooting jobs for photographer friends of mine, as I enjoy the time to be able to shoot without having to coordinate the day so much. I am able to mess with the detail shots, pull away other wedding party members and try some more creative things during a wedding day. It also is awesome to watch other photographers work and see what they come up with.
I hope that some of these ideas will help you think of ways to allow you to stretch your creative legs during sessions, while still giving your clients what they expect. While we are artists, we have to be cognizant that our clients are not paying us to have a photograph-obscura avant-garde session at their expense. They want high quality prints with an artist flare…something they can hang on their walls.