When I started my career, I knew I wanted to do this for my entire life. It was never a question for me. Yet, there were still things I did because I thought I had to. Things I implemented, gear I bought, ideas that I bought into simply because it seemed that to be “successful” you had to follow the guidelines. (What a loaded word, “successful”). There were so many lies I believed as a wedding photographer.
Over the years, going against the grain proved to be the most rewarding part of my career. I found my own voice. And today, I’m presenting you with 4 myths the photography industry wants you to believe when you start your career – and the reality behind them.
LIE WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS BELIEVE: The way I edit is my “style” and is the reason my clients choose me.
REALITY: Many clients don’t notice the subtleties between editing styles – clients choose you for you and your ideology.
Ideology – is this something you’ve defined for your brand? Many brand designers and educators will call it the “why” of your business, but it goes so much further than that. You should sit down and have a conversation with yourself to truly define not only your “why” but your “how” and what it will look and feel like for now and the future.
Style is a combination of your ideology, and how you create art to get there. It takes years, if not decades, to really nail down what is considered to be a style for many photographers. The ability for somebody to look at an image and immediately recognize it as yours is a true sign of having a developed style.
The harsh reality is, any subtle shifting between editing styles will go completely unnoticed by your clients.
Editing is cute and pretty and puts a layer of interest into an image. But editing styles come and go, and thousands of people likely use the same presets you do. Focus on creating meaningful, lasting images that reflect your ideology, and your style will become more apparent over time.
LIE WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS BELIEVE: My images will be better if I use trendy posing and editing
REALITY: While they may perform better on Instagram, trendy posing and editing doesn’t make you a better photographer.
Take a good hard look at your portfolio and social media feeds – how many other feeds look exactly like it? The reality is that the algorithm of images that perform well on Instagram works for a reason. This is why we often see images that have copied/replicated poses from images that are viral.
While using a trendy pose (I’m looking at you, black and white image of a couple’s hands gracefully touching each other) might get you extra traction online for a little while, the allure is fleeting. I dare you this: ask your last client which image from their wedding/session was their favorite. I’d bet you $100 it’s not the trendy posed photo.
I bet you it’s an image you never thought they’d love, because they see something in it you don’t understand. A beloved nose crinkle. A secret inside joke. A meaningful location. There are so many layers to your clients beyond your understanding. And they deserve more than to be replicated like models instead of real people. Truly listen to what matters to them – and if you don’t see the cues, sit down and ask them. Creating images focused on your couple will benefit you more in the long than creating images for Instagram.
LIE WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS BELIEVE: I must use the latest and greatest equipment – a full frame sensor, an f/1.2 lens, a dual camera harness – to be considered professional.
REALITY: Your clients don’t care about your gear.
While there may seem to be basics that being a professional requires, over time those basics are have blurred. Crop sensor cameras are as incredible as full frame sensor cameras these days. How often do you really stop down to 1.2 on a wedding day? While everything is a case by case scenario and has a purpose, don’t let the intimidation of the industry cause you to make purchases you don’t truly need.
Like any industry, photography has an unwritten code of things to do that makes you seem more legit than others. It often has to do with what you write in your Instagram bio, what you wear on wedding days, how you fit the mold. But the mold on professional photography is ever changing, and you should no longer be afraid to break free of typical traits that don’t suit you
Need a real life example? In 2020, I ditched my high-end full-frame Canon gear for crop-sensor Fuji. And the results were incredible. You can make your own rules, and forge your own path for your images.
LIE WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS BELIEVE: It is my job to show up to the wedding, run the timeline, control the posing, carry dress trains, and be the cheerleader.
REALITY: Your job is to take photographs.
This one is going to sound rather controversial, but I urge you to really sit and think about it for a moment.
I assist other photographers a lot, simply because I love my career and meeting new people. But it’s become impossible to count the number of times different photographers I’ve worked with have taken a role from a parent or personal attendant.
I once watched a mother of the bride lean down to fluff the bride’s dress – and the photographer interrupted and said, “don’t worry, I got it mom” and took that role over. Rather than photograph that special moment for the mother, the photographer’s ego took over and they made it their responsibility. The mother had battled a terminal illness, and wasn’t even supposed to make it to the wedding.
This photographer took that moment from her.
It may sound dramatic, but it’s true – your job is to show up, and take photographs. Maybe do some posing, if the couple specifically hires you for that, and asks that of you. However, it’s not your job to carry dresses, pin boutonnieres, tell jokes, or be the center of attention. Your job is to photograph the people of honor, the people chosen to play these roles, executing them. If you’re trying to be great at everything that day, your images are going to suffer.
Be mindful of your ego, and the role that plays in what you believe it’s your job to do.
Where do I go from here?
Now is the time to ask yourself critically: is there anything I’m doing because I think I’m supposed to? Is there gear I’m using, things I’m saying, procedures I’m following, that I’m only doing because I think I have to? Sit down and do a full assessment of your business – each client interaction, everything you own, everything you believe you’re doing because you “want” to. Make sure every single piece of what you execute is truly because you believe it fits you.
And let go of anything that doesn’t.