Every Monday I take your questions from Facebook and Instagram. I'll choose three of my favorite questions to answer on every Tuesday's "Ask Me Anything..." This week I answer your questions about tips for shooting a wedding, how to get clients to feel comfortable in front of a camera, and my opinion on value.
How do you help people to not feel awkward? To break the "I feel stupid" feeling? What are some tips for helping your clients feel comfortable and "themselves" in front of the camera?
This is a great question that I get all the time from photographers and clients alike. Putting a person in front of a camera is a funny thing. Someone who is naturally vibrant and open in everyday life can immediately clam up and become totally shy as soon as they are confronted with a camera. It can feel as if every insecurity you have is suddenly vulnerable to what the lens sees and your naked to trusting the direction of the photographer. Not only is it difficult to trust sometimes, it can also be challenging to be confident and open about who you are in front of a camera. Understanding the perspective of the client is crucial to being able to capture natural and candid moments. I call it "capturing the essence" of my clients. By "essence" I mean the beauty of their spirit and the free flow of their soul into your camera. When a person gives this to you, it is the ultimate gift.
I achieve natural shots in two ways. One, I'm a sneaky ninja that gets the shot before they see me coming and think to guard themselves. To master this technique you have to know how to anticipate the shot. At a wedding, for example, when speeches are taking place...are you focused on the person giving the speech? Or are you anticipating the tears from the mother of the bride off in the corner? The second technique is to give constant direction. A good photographer should be able to confidently flow through directing their client's movements and angles. Also, giving constant reassurance is so crucial. I've seen people blossom in front of my camera after shouting out a "YES!" or "Stunning!" or "You're a tiger!"
Sometimes, however, we have clients who can be very stiff in front of the camera no matter what we do. They're thinking too much. Get them out of their head by asking them to move! Learning poses that invoke movement can also create the appearance of a natural moment. I love having couples run, spin, slow dance, sway, etc. It's not during the moment that I'm waiting for...the truly candid shots happen after the pose when they think I'm done shooting.
I think the thing that has helped me the most in helping my clients to feel comfortable is the fact that I'm a huge dork. I'm really goofy and silly when I'm shooting and shout out lots of lame jokes...and the occasional animal noise. I dance and shout and run all over the place. I think, to some regard, making myself look stupid tends to make my clients feel less stupid. And, that's fine by me.
What tips would you give for shooting weddings?
This is a pretty loaded question because there are so many elements that go into successfully shooting a wedding. So, in an attempt to narrow it down, I'll give 5 of what I feel are the most important tips.
1) Have a Timeline: Working together with my couples to build a strong timeline for the wedding day is SO important for me. I want to make sure my couples don't feel rushed or stressed to fit pictures into the day. I want them to have a balanced amount of time to actually enjoy their wedding day as opposed to taking photos all day. Educating your clients about how long each portion of the photographs will take and what time of day you need them will help you to be successful in getting beautiful images for them. For example, "Sunset on your wedding day is happening at 6pm. I would love to set aside 30-60 minutes at magic hour for Bride and Groom portraits. How can we make this work with your ceremony time? When will dinner be served?" It's all about communicating before the wedding so, come the actual day, everything goes smoothly and you are able to get the shots you need to deliver an amazing product to your client.
2) Have Back Ups: ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS bring back up gear with you. I never shoot a wedding without a back up camera body in case something happens to my main Mark iii camera body. Have back up batteries, memory cards, hard drive storage, etc. A wedding day only happens once. You can't go back or delay the day because your equipment messed up. Be prepared for every possible thing to go wrong. This doesn't have to be stressful though. If you're prepared and organized, you are ready for anything that comes your way.
3) Bring snacks: This may seem kind of silly to be listed as one of my tips but, once you've shot a 10 hour wedding in 100 degree weather, you'll get why I think this is so crucial. A wedding day is kind of like running a marathon. You are literally on your feet the entire day. Not to mention, your mind is running a million miles an hour in an attempt to remember scheduling, names, directions...all the while trying to be creative. Wedding days can be completely hectic and, many times, you don't get to eat until dinner at the end of the day. Even then it's a very quick bite. Pack high energy snacks like Cliff bars, almonds, and bananas that will keep your energy and focus up all day. Don't forget to drink lots and lots of water!
4) Have a great 2nd Photographer: I pretty much only work with a small group of 2nd photographers. This is because I trust them. They know how I work on a wedding day and are not only there to get different angles from the day, but also to serve as support. It may sound trivial, but having someone to get you water, carry bags, make you laugh, and throw out creative ideas is reflection of my success on a wedding day. I am only as strong as the people around me and those who I choose to be part of my team.
5) Get there early: I always plan to arrive to venues early to scope out lighting scenarios, choose locations for "first look", "wedding party portraits", "romantics", etc. As I walk through the venue I allow myself to become inspired by the textures on the walls, the landscapes, and the structures. I envision my shots ahead of time so I can be prepared when the moment comes and avoid wasting time on not knowing where I want to shoot.
Why are pictures so expensive?
Someone asked me this question as a joke but I actually think this is a really important question. Why do I charge what I charge? I'm going to be very transparent in answering this.
It makes me sad when I get an inquiry from a prospective couple saying they love my work but I'm over their budget. I believe everyone deserves beautiful photos and I honestly wish I could work with everyone's budgets to make this happen. I believe what I do is a gift and always feel completely honored when a couple feels connected to my art enough to ask me to tell their love story. That being said, I place tremendous value on what I do. I decided a long time ago to stand by this. I am a business, and just as any other business would refuse, I will not give my work away. At the end of the day, value comes down to perspective. How much do you value your wedding photography as an intimate reflection of your day? How much do you value the art of the person you hire?
When I first started my business, it was honestly really difficult for me to know what I was worth. I almost felt guilty charging people for something I loved doing so much I would have done it for free. It wasn't until I remembered that, first and foremost, I am a business that I truly began to grow in success. I realized the components of my value as a photographer...the amount of time I spend educating myself on my craft, the money I invest in high quality equipment, the personal attention I give to my clients, the product I deliver that only my perspective can produce. Don't get me wrong, I don't run my business in a way that is "salesy" or trying to empty pockets by any means. I like to believe I'm pretty straight forward when it comes to this. I put my life, my heart, my soul into giving my clients beautiful images they'll have as heirlooms for the rest of their lives. I think that's worth a lot.
You have to remember that photography is not a right. We are not entitled to beautiful photographs. Photography is a luxury. I feel that if you value something enough you are willing to make the investment. It's just a matter of perspective.