Forgetting these three things will make you a better wedding photographer
Hmmm. Everyone’s a photographer, right?
Well, it’s true. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, 500px, Pinterest, Yadda Yadda Yadda – It’s all there. My Pinterest page is slowly filling up with pictures from all over the world, and it’s a great tool for inspiration. I mean, just amazing, and especially great if you’re hitting writer’s/artist’s block like I did at the beginning of this year.
In that situation it’s hard to feel confident in your own creativity, and if you’re not careful it looks like everyone else has been to better places then you, and has a better bunch of mates than you, and generally just IS SO AWESOME when you feel like you have no idea how any of this stuff works.
Inspiration is great, but if you’re not careful you can become a bit of a leach and you won’t even know you’re doing it. You might even say things like “It’s not copying – we just happen to have come up with exactly the same idea, which only goes to prove that I’m the same as [more successful photographer]”.
You do know this story.
How many Oasis type (very commercially successful) bands suddenly appeared in 1995? How many crap Oasis type bands do you remember now after they’ve come and gone?
We all lean on tricks and latch on to cool ideas occasionally – it happens all the time, but it’s a temporary fix and the smart artist in you knows that you’re faking it. It depends on how much you value your own core creativity, and how much you trust that to be your route to success. How do you define success?
I tend to rely on these 3 things when I’m thinking about new projects, especially personal projects which are the lifeblood of your next shoot whether they see the light of day or not:
1. Forget worrying about what Photographers You Want To Be Like are doing.
You know who I mean. I’ve lost count of how many websites look like Jonas Peterson’s or Jose Villa’s etc. The photographers that you admire have worked so hard on their vision and their art and they’ve produced art that makes you swoon. We get it. But there’s a fine line between flattery and plagiarism and if you know you’re doing it so does everyone else. Exposure, poses, colours, fonts – I mean Right now I’m thinking of a fairly well known UK duo who’s site is pretty much exactly that same as Peterson’s down to the logo ‘idea’ on the top of their page.
Think about it.
Idolising another successful artist starts to colour your own art until you can’t produce work that is brave, strong, or real – you know – just like you promised yourself you would. Until you stop copying (come on, be honest) other photographers you can’t offer your subjects/couples/clients the best photography that you are capable of. We need to see what’s driving you as an artist, not a reflection of everything you can find on the internet already.
If you can’t help yourself, stop following them on social media, and restrict the way you shoot until you’re over it.
2. Forget what equipment you haven’t got.
This is obvious, right? Wrong!
It’s in a photographer’s DNA to say “equipment doesn’t matter” when they secretly really mean “I want to buy a new camera today, because I know that I JUST NEED IT, OK?”
It’s something you’re going to have to live with, and you will feel guilty after each purchase that you know you can’t afford, but you worked out a way to scramble enough together to get the next iteration of the same thing that you weren’t really using anyway.
I’m not judging here – how can I? All I’m saying is that there’s nothing more liberating than restricting your kit as a matter of exercise. Put off upgrading your iPhone/laptop/camera/camera bag! (guilty) for another year.
You’ll be surprised at how much headspace you’re left with to deal with taking pictures, and how much money you’re left with to perhaps get yourself to the locations and people that you want to photograph (see below)
3. Forget about living online 24/7
We’ve convinced ourselves that the versions other people present to us via social media is a valuable alternative to spending time with people and hearing the stories they’ve got to tell. Pictures on instagram of photoshoots in Iceland, holidays in turquoise seas. Sitting around a campfire getting drunk and playing the guitar. ‘Connected’ people you follow telling you about how much they’ve done as you flick your phone to just refresh, see if anybody’s retweeted the picture of your cat that you posted.
Stalking/Liking what some friends have been up to while your wife/husband/partner/etc watches some TV from the other sofa. “I’ll be up in a minute – I’m just ‘doing something’ here”, as if it were something critically important.
It’s there and we all know about it, but we suck it up and conveniently forget to think about it as a mind numbing problem – the problem being that you’re not thinking about being a better photographer – you’re tweeting about the #XFactor! Killing time. Why? I guess we’re now Wired to think that everyone else is ‘on it’ and we’re not keeping up if we’re not contributing to the conversation. Or, being left behind.
I’m about as hypocritical on this stuff as they come, so I’m not going to preach about it, and it would be churlish of me to say that social media isn’t important to people for all kinds of different reasons, especially in the wedding industry. I’ve made some great connections and friends through Twitter, and there is value there, but once you start aiming your content (let’s call it content) towards the currency of gaining followers you probably need to back off for your own health!
When you go to bed is your phone on or off? Does it make it into the bathroom with you, just in case you get a notification?
When this stuff starts getting under your skin you start getting dependent on it.
Try Scheduling an hour here or there for social media. When you finish work, turn it off. Can’t turn it off? try this: turn off all of your notifications and shut down all of your apps. Turn of your WiFi or put it in to Airplane mode or Do not Disturb. Leave it in another room. Do any or all of that every day.
Then go and talk to the person that you’re with about something in their life.