Why is professional Wedding Photography so important?
Silly question, you might think, but still one that needs answering on some level.
In a time when we all have a digital camera in our pocket, and anyone can now get great looking pictures from the comfort of their own phone, the role of the professional wedding photography at today’s weddings is more debatable than ever before. We are in the eye of the storm, at a point in history when photography is an every day part of life, yet harder to define or pin down than it has been in the past. The question is; Is professional wedding photography necessary at your wedding?
It can get very confusing very quickly, but I like the question, and I like the answers it brings.
I’m deeply connected to photography and art, particularly portrait photography which ultimately brings me to wedding photography. Lately I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I define myself and what I need and want photography to be in my life. Sometimes I wonder why I consider myself to be a “photographer” when there are so many other photographers in my field of vision. I try to figure out what it means to me and what it means to my clients.
In some ways I’m still in love with a romantic notion of being a certain kind of person, and Photographer fits that for me. Realistically, though, I know that’s nonsense and literally means nothing!
Is being a photographer the same as taking lots of pictures? If it is then I’m no more a photographer than anybody else. In fact I might be less of a photographer than most of the planet if we’re categorising by numbers.
I call myself a Professional Wedding Photographer. I photograph other things and people too, but for lots of reasons I get the most out of photographing weddings. And I get paid – it’s a fairly unique situation in that I get paid to do what most people do every day to some degree with their smartphone. I’m often approached by guests at weddings who warm to the idea of becoming a photographer, when they see what appears to be a really fun job. (It is!) – I always suggest that they’re already taking pictures, so what makes what I do any different?
This might be what people say:
“I couldn’t do your job because there’s too much pressure – I wouldn’t want to mess it up”
This is a little insight into what it means to want to be a wedding photographer: You’ve got to really know what you’re doing, and sometimes you’ve got to really know that something magic can happen when you don’t know what you’re doing! You’ve got to trust your instinct in that regard. The fact that I simply can’t [and never have, touch wood] let a couple down with their photography could be one of the big things that makes me continue to grow and be better as an artist. I can’t know everything, but I’m lucky enough to have a great deal of experience in adapting and playing it by ear. It’s the hunger to get a lot of things out of the way of me making great photography that drives me to overcome such obstacles, and an insecurity of ‘messing things up’ is a big thing to get rid of. I know a few people who have got themselves shooting one wedding only to proclaim that the responsibility was too much to bear, and “never again”.
“Your job looks easy!” soon turns into “Can I come and second shoot with you at a wedding” and ultimately “Can you tell me how you get bookings!”
Firstly, when I’m shooting, when I’m at a wedding, that is the easy bit! It is for me anyway. That’s the time when my mind is racing. I’m plugged into the fabric of the wedding, and looking for a way in, or sometimes a way out. I’m readying myself for stuff that I know is coming, as well as something that I can’t anticipate. I’m in my natural environment and every time I find myself there I’m living and breathing the moment. My attention is piqued and I’m alive. Sometimes I’m a whir of cogs and steam as my little brain calculates all kinds of situations, all the time keeping an appearance of calm and rhythm. It looks easy because I’m comfortable operating at that level.
What’s hard is the stuff that people don’t see. Getting there, for one.
I’ve been a photographer all of my life, and a wedding and portrait specialist since 2003. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but they’ve really always been my own. I’ve never 2nd Shot for anyone, preferring to carve my own path, I guess. That might be different if I was starting out as a wedding photographer today. I wouldn’t know where to begin, so I suppose 2nd shooting might be a foot in the door. I think I’d struggle to be get those bookings, struggle to compete with all the other photographers who want those same bookings.
Running a business would come high on this imaginary list… Most of what I do as a photographer is actually trying to run a business. There’s even a whole industry built on supporting photographers and supplying them with software, learning programs, online and offline, workshops, accounting, marketing, banking, insuring, and on and on. All of it seems to perpetually cost money, and this is before you’ve touched on camera and computer costs.
When I’m asked if I will take on a 2nd shooter, I usually politely decline, explaining that if I was going to employ anybody it would be someone to run my diary and my office. It’s over 80% of what being a photographer is all about I’m afraid.
So you’ve got this wedding, and you’re trying to justify the value in your photography, and it’s harder than ever because everyone has a camera. Some people will even turn up to your wedding with more expensive looking kit than I carry, so how can you justify the cost of hiring me? Presumably the images will be of a high enough standard for you to get away from your big day with a few good shots intact..
You also know that’s not true, at least I don’t think you would have read up to here if you were the kind of person who wasn’t interested in the importance of your photography.
How important is your wedding? Sometimes people want to shout about it, and sometimes people might be more private and self assured, but every couple I’ve ever photographed have had the same number one reason for getting married, and they’ve all had their own unique story of how they got there.
Getting married means everything. I know that – I’ve been married for 10 years and we still feel fresh and we know that our story is still happening. Choosing to be with one person and all that that means is a pretty amazing thing. It defines us and crystallises a purpose. It is the essence of life and love and everybody deserves that in their lives. It doesn’t have to be marriage, but for the people in life for whom it does, a wedding is the centre of the universe and it is the birth of life. It’s not a small thing, and not something to be shy about.
Your wedding is important, and the experience can be a touch mind blowing to say the least. Sometimes the experience can even be a little overwhelming too. You’ve been told a million times that the day will go by so quickly, and guess what? It does! Not in the way you might think, but it does.
The reality is that your wedding is just one day to the rest of the world. The difference is that when you wake up tomorrow you will be married and you’ll feel like the first people in the world who ever got to that point. (Believe me when I say that any such beautiful delusions pale into insignificance when you have your first baby – just saying!).
Another cliché – you can’t take anything [from your wedding] with you. This too is almost true. The meal will have been eaten, the cake cut, the moment of him seeing her walk towards him down the aisle, the flowers, the party… The photography is the only true snapshot in time that when done well can trigger your memory and transport you back to and through those moments. Your Photography is the one thing that is everything of your wedding, and it can also have the power to inspire and surprise you. A visceral representation of you in a moment of time, as the earth spins under our feet.
I always thought that the greatest story you could tell was that of two people finding each other, and falling in love, and working hard at holding on to that. Wedding photography is all about that. Finding that story, and telling it well.
It makes a statement. It’s a celebration.
It tells the world that you are who you are and coming together is enough. It’s a great reminder of the things you truly value in life – the core and centre of love.
It’s actually what keeps the world spinning around.
Jason is a professional Wedding Photographer based in Surrey in the UK. Working under his middle name (Alexander) and specialising in Wedding photography for more than 10 years, he has been the photographer at hundreds of weddings across the UK and internationally. Regularly featured on popular wedding blogs and in magazines, showcasing his natural and beautiful photography he has earned the respect of his peers and couples alike. Alexander Leaman photography is taking commissions now for 2016 and 2017 appointments.