Well, it’s officially a trend with me. Someone pisses me off, and I come online to tell everybody how I feel. Today’s targets are newbie photographers who complain that their work isn’t good because they’re not photographing “wealthy” clients, dropping lots of coin on their weddings. And that, my friends, is ridiculous.
But let’s forget the photographers for a minute, because I want to speak to a more general audience. The wedding industry is, let’s face it, pretty seriously evil. At every turn, The Knot or whatever other incarnation of the “wedding experts” is telling you to buy more stuff and buy it now – you’re behind! The whole wedding will be a disaster if you don’t have napkin rings! How can you possibly not have hired a calligrapher yet!?
I’ve seen a lot of weddings at this point, both with my own clients and in my experiences assisting other photographers. I’ve worked very “high-end” weddings (Building Museum, anyone?) and much less expensive weddings. And I can tell you right now that the amount of money you spend on your wedding has very little to do with its awesomeness. I assisted at a wedding where the bride’s mother was so stressed about everything going off perfectly (after all, they had spent a fortune on the event) that she barely spoke to anyone other than the planners and catering manager. And I’ve seen low-key weddings filled with more joy and love and sweetness than any photographer could hope for. And vice versa.
And okay, maybe it’s my niche. My clients don’t tend to spend big on decor, but they do drop coin on food. They don’t tend to have huge bridal parties, but still manage to fill their getting-ready hotel rooms with friends and family. They get married in back yards and churches and hotels and vineyards and historic mansions and campgrounds – in other words, all over the place, at a huge range of venue prices – but they hire me to capture the spirit of their day. I am, at heart, a documentary photographer. I’m not going to spend ages photographing the details – there’s much more important thing to capture, like people. If you are primarily an editorial photographer, then I do suppose I could see how richer might equal better. But, frankly, that seems really sad to me. And backward. And makes me really glad I focus on people and moments and emotions. When wedding vendors stress stuff (“details”) over everything else, I find it immensely depressing.
The point is, the amount of money you spend on your wedding is not the determining factor in how awesome it is. I could rattle off the things I don’t think you should skimp out on, but that’s beside the point. You and your friends and family bring the awesome, regardless of the setting. Getting all those folks together is enough, full stop. Is this blasphemy from a wedding photographer? Yeah, maybe. But here’s the rub. I don’t get hired by folks that don’t care about wedding photography. I don’t get hired by the couple that figures they “just” need a wedding photographer, so they go with whoever. I feel very fortunate that the folks who hire me are deeply invested in what their wedding photos look like. It gives me great joy to exceed their expectations.
So let me roll on back to the photographers for a minute. The new photographers who think their images are no good because they’re not shooting at the Ritz. First, it is our job to make a wedding look great. This is easier in some situations than others, but is no less true in a church basement than at the Four Seasons. I’m going to go ahead and paraphrase Jasmine Star here, who said to shoot T-Ball weddings like the World Series. And the fact of the matter is that if you can’t make a church basement look good, you’re going to have a hell of a time at the Four Seasons, too. And here’s one more quote, which I said, earlier today, in a forum where this subject came up and pissed me off and sent me to my own “make new post” page:
Treat your clients and their weddings with compassion, and it will show in your work.
If you can do this, you will have happy clients. Respect, value and show compassion to your clients – regardless of what they’ve spent on their wedding – and you will produce better work.
And PS: if this resonates with you, go check out A Practical Wedding. It’s a very active blog that talks about weddings in a way that almost no other wedding blog does – honestly, without a lot of frou-frou nonsense, and tackles the hard subjects.