For Photographers ~ How to Be a Better Wedding Photographer & Your 5 Point Improvement Plan
Well 2015 is just about knocking down your door and it’s time to crack on.
We’ve always enjoyed working with some great couples over the last ten years, and we’ve been lucky with a business that has had a continuous level of success, but we’ve had to work very hard to maintain our standards and juggle a bit of life alongside working in an extremely competitive creative industry.
Obviously the social media landscape has changed or skewed perceptions of who a photographer is today. The amount of followers you have is now your currency or your value. It’s superficial, but it’s a fact.
It’s harder than ever before to stand out. Technology now means that cameras have equalised and taking pictures is something that people do with their phone. Anybody can be a photographer, but becoming a great photographer takes time and you need a strategy.
I’ve talked to, taught, and learned from a fair few photographers, specifically wedding photographers over the last year to gain a better understanding of how a photographer sees him/herself. A few of them have been photographers for some time, but jaded or having no real appreciation of how good they are. A couple just seemed happy that their pictures were in focus!
So this is my little round up of advice with a New Year’s 5 Point Health Plan at the end for you to take with you. There’s a lot of advice from photographers to take on board, I know, but have a look at this list with a little honesty in your heart and see what you think.
Don’t compete – everybody’s better than you and you’re better than them.
It’s a hard thing to do but if you’re looking at everybody else for answers you’re not going to be able to see your best work when it’s in front of your eyes. It’s the mistake that photographers especially make a lot. There’s this assumption that trends are the path to a certain kind of success. The only way.
Other people are making more money than you with inferior photography and a fish eye lens, and nobody has noticed how amazing your art really is.
Competing with this is going to swallow you up. You’ll end up running in circles always unsure if it’s you, your prices, your website, your social media, your prices, or your photography, your personality, or the way you dress.
It’s could be one or all of those things but you’ll know if your photography is up to scratch or whether you’re really just trying to be like someone else. The minute you’re honest about that is the minute things start looking different. And not just to you.
Stop trying to know everything.
Focus. You don’t need to know everything there is to know about cameras for a start. You don’t have to be all over video. If you shoot Nikon you don’t need to ditch it for a Canon set up. You don’t have to be the next Steve Jobs of the business world.
The information overload that you’re supposedly expected to take on is exactly that. An overload. You need to concentrate on getting better at what you’re good at. That’s it. Once you’re diverting yourself away from that thing with the countless other distractions, then you’re going to find it hard to get back to the core of what you set out to do. Jack of all trades, master of none kind of thing.
Be ready to change everything if it’s not working. You’ve tried something and it hasn’t worked. That could be the way your workflow doesn’t work, it may be where you choose to locate your workspace. Is your office under the stairs? Move it. Do you start work at 10am? Start at a different time. There’s no right or wrong way to do this stuff, but make sure you get into a rhythm, and don’t blame a lack of productivity on anything that you can easily change. Only shoot film? Why? Go and shoot some digital pictures! (You can Visa/versa that).
Talk to other photographers with respect but without intimidation. Your peers are as scared of the world as you are and nobody knows what’s going to happen next. You can learn from other people and you don’t have to pay to go on life coaching style workshops to discover community.
Work with real people in the real world. Obvious huh? We still don’t do it, but there is often a great deal more value in working away from the internet. Shut it down for just a couple of days and don’t even log in. if you have a lot of enquiries to deal with schedule in an hour to read and respond, and then turn it off. It will still be there when you get back.
Make plans, make it personal.
Come on! If you’re winging it every time you pick up a camera and it’s all just great then it’s time to have a look at that. Go for the slow burn. Start taking a note pad with you everywhere you go, start using it, and start coming up with project ideas. You know the ones – the ones that come to you from nowhere that you shelve for a later date. Do one of those.
Have relationships, be unavailable.
Be hyper present when you’re working, especially when you’re shooting. Jesus, the amount of videographers I’ve had to endure whining about the couple who’ve paid them to be there at the place where many other videographers would love to be is unbelievable. If you’re there then be there 100%.
It’s the same at home. Learn to stop thinking about photography when you’re with people who need you to be you. Stop checking twitter, stop checking your emails. It does two things; it actually improves your photography, and you can come back to it fresh/minded and often with a new perspective. Once you force that distance you will see your productivity boom. You’ll also find that your personal friendships and relationships get stronger when you’re not the number one most important person in the room all the time. If or when things aren’t perhaps going so well this will make more sense.
It’s sometime the hardest thing to do as you can’t say when inspiration is going to hit you, but if you’re honest with yourself you’ll find that taking a break is more creatively liberating than scrolling through your facebook feed while your kids are playing in another room.
Actually really ask yourself who you think you’re photographing for.
Knowing the answer to this one question can really help you to be a better photographer.
Technically speaking, anyone can use a camera, make exposures, work out lighting. Some even have a knack for it. Some people connect, some people capture. Some tell stories, some orchestrate.
If you’re just getting into photography as a new career then you need to be sure of your reasons for doing that. Is it because you think of yourself as a photographer, or maybe because you can’t live without photography? Some of the photographers I look up to appear to not think about their excellent images too deeply, and some I know over think the simplest of pictures.
It’s OK to be a critic – but don’t be green eyed nasty… A lesson I learned early on at University was that having your picture published doesn’t mean that it’s always a great image, and it doesn’t mean that that photographer is more qualified than you.
This is your 5 point plan to help you become a better photographer.
- Stop following your competition. If you’re obsessing that everybody else is doing better than you you’ll lose sight of what you were good at in the first place.
- Turn off the internet and only check your emails for 1 hour of the day. That can be 30mins in the morning and 30mins in the afternoon if you want.
- Create a personal project. When you have a few projects running consecutively you’ll start to see a pattern, and a body of work will start emerging and in turn inform your paid work.
- Don’t work for free. There’s no value in it. If you want to shoot and not get paid, make sure that you’ve built that value in. Collaborate to learn.
- Forget about photography. Seriously. Go to the beach and build a sandcastle. Climb a tree. Do it with someone you want to be with. Do it without a camera in your hand or an f stop in your mind.
Please feel free to add to this list in the comments below.
Happy New Year Everyone