Below is a response to my post last week which seemed to upset some photographers and be applauded by others. One photographer, Gordon form Flash Gordon Photography felt I was so far off the mark that he posted a long response on his site describing my post as an infomercial. I feel that Gordon is way off track with his rant and added my replies to his remarks below.
If you would like to see my original post, click on the title of the post below.
For ease of reading, Gordon’s post is in black with my comments in blue.
Choosing a Photographer – A rant
So here’s the thing. Photography is a competitive business. And if you want to do it for a living you need to work at that business. In fact it’s more about the business than the photography. In an industry where anyone can go to the local camera shop, spend $699.00 on a DSLR and then hang up a shingle saying “photographer”, how do you then differentiate yourself?
These are exactly the type of people I am warning against in my blog post and by knowing your photographer is a financial member of the AIPP you are assured of a professional standard of photography. And once you have narrowed your choice down to a few photographers, you should ask questions so you can differentiate which one will provide what you are after.
Well, you’d think that by having some talent, good ethics and a business plan, you’d be OK. But the reality is there are heaps of reasonably talented photographers out there, all producing decent work and all with a free listing in the yellow pages. That makes wedding photography one of the most competitive industries. So you need to have something else. However unfortunately for some that means trying to lift them selves up by putting other people down. And it bugs the s%#$ out of me.
No, no, no – having ‘some’ talent, good ethics and a business plan does not cut it for a wedding photographer if you are looking for great images no matter what the day throws at the bride and groom. Who wants a photographer with ‘some’ talent and a business plan going to pieces at the first sign of rain with limited experience? Not me, not my clients. Who wants a photographer with ‘some’ talent that doesn’t know how to make a curvy girl feel great and look fantastic on their wedding day but they sure know how to make the size 8 stunner on a cloudy afternoon look terrific like in their portfolio. If these photographers are charging $500 and the client knows they get what they pay for – fine. If they are pretending to be something they aren’t – that’s not right.
A studio in our area (that’s me) has put up a post on their blog that starts by saying they don’t want to offend other professional photographers. Which means they’re about to offend other photographers. And guess what. I’m not the shy and retiring type.
Now before I rant, i need to say I like the person who wrote the post (who probably doesn’t think much of me though anymore) and he’s a superb photographer running an excellent business. No question about it. But to catalogue what he considers as weakness based on services he doesn’t provide is just a bunch of tripe. It’s not useful information. it’s just an advertisement disguised like consumer advice. An infomercial. And it’s got my goat up.
I’m not a part of a husband and wife business. But if i were, I’d be pretty offended that he seems to think that just because a couple works together that they don’t have talent. And the two photographer thing. Sure one shooter can do a great wedding, but we choose to have two shooter packages and we CAN be in two places at once. And I’m sorry sunshine but there are quite a few photographers on the coast with more than 10 years experience and some of them are still crap. And great ones with a lot less than that. (As an aside I shot my first ‘pro’ wedding 18 years ago). It doesn’t take 10 years to be a great wedding photographer. It takes a little bit of talent and a lot of hard work.
These paragraphs just makes me laugh. I am a husband and wife team. My wife, Linda, has been an integral part of our business from the very beginning and I know that I wouldn’t be half the photographer or have the success we’ve had without her. I too would be very offended if someone suggested Linda wasn’t an important part of Impact Images.
What I would never do though, is sell Linda to my clients as a photographer when she clearly isn’t – that would be deceitful and wrong. I totally agree with Gordon about the two photographers – so much so, that I wrote about it in my initial post! As I wrote, if my clients require two photographers, for whatever reason, we will provide a second photographer, an actual photographer. I won’t however, load Linda up with some pro camera gear and ask her to go shoot the guys. She’s not a photographer!
Now I am a member of a couple of “pro” wedding organisations, but not the AIPP. Firstly because it’s expensive and adds a cost to every wedding we shoot and secondly because some years ago I joined and they stuffed it up so bad they had to give me an apology and a refund. Once bitten, twice shy and all that (it was a very, very long time ago. I need to get over it). I’m also completely uninterested in entering the competitions or collecting the “letters” they hand out. Now I think that organisations like the AIPP are a very good thing, and I should join (again-sort of), but I don’t believe for a second that some one’s ability to run a great wedding photography business is dependant on membership. I also bet that occasionally a member lets a client down and that not all members are always up to standard. How would you police every member at every wedding? Memberships of professional bodies can give you some benefits. It will usually mean the member has a properly functioning business. It will make it easier to find them, if something goes wrong. But it doesn’t guarantee that that’s the right photographer for your wedding.
So, are you for or against the AIPP? The cost of membership is $450, so for a studio shooting around 40 weddings per year, that’s a whopping $11.25 per wedding – a very small price to pay for piece of mind and a GUARANTEE of professional quality photography. This paragraph has obviously been written in the heat of the moment with no research to back up his statements. The AIPP is the only professional photography organisation which provides a standard assurance through its ongoing accreditation program. With a history of more than 40 years in the photographic industry, the AIPP has become Australia’s leading professional photography institute. Fully accredited members are tested for their expertise in the field and are required to have a minimum of two years working experience as a professional photographer.
The AIPP is the ONLY recognised association of professional photographers in Australia.
It’s amusing to read that Gordon is completely uninterested in gaining accolades and awards for his work – I go into every one of my weddings looking to achieve images that will not only impress my couples but also my peers. I strive, like all AIPP members, to get those amazing award winning images, it’s what separates us from them.
As for the letters they ‘hand out’ – I think you’ll find that you will have offended many more photographers than just me, who put their heart and soul into earning those letters through hard work, practice and dedication to their craft. I think those letters are exactly what push us to shoot and work the way we do. I for one am very proud to be recognised as a Master Photographer through the AIPP.
And then there’s the auto/program/manual settings thing. My main cameras don’t even have auto focus, but I’m the first to admit that sometimes auto-focus, aperture priority or, god help me, program mode can make it easier to get the shot. I still remember when a ‘pro’ told me that no professional photographer was ever going to lower them self to digital capture and that it probably wouldn’t catch on (this wasn’t me). Hmmmmm. Don’t discount how technology can make life easier. When the lights changing fast and the action happens full manual can mean you miss shots. I use manual and I use semi-automatic modes on my cameras. So what? You can use anything you want as long as you know what it’s doing and you get the results you want. Oh, and while I do use a lot of supplemented lighting and I know how to use it, I do actually prefer natural light. I look for it. I seek it out. It’s not wrong. It’s part of our style and that of many fantastic photographers from around the world. I know of a few awesome photographer that flat out refuse to use flash at all. Good on them. But it’s not for me. Not all the time. It’s not what they don’t use, it’s what they do with what they do with what they use that counts. If you find a photographer who’s work you love and who can reproduce that quality consistently, then it doesn’t matter what they do technically.
Again, pretty sure Gordon has just skimmed my initial post when he writes above “You can use anything you want as long as you know what it’s doing and you get the results you want”. I am not against anyone using any mode or function of their camera. What does scare me and should make any bride nervous is when their photographer is shooting and hoping for the best or shooting and checking EVERY single image on the back of the camera – that’s how you miss shots.
Yes, Yes, I prefer natural light too, we all look for it, even seek it out but I see many so called photographers on location with a flash firmly fixed to the top of their camera and blasting away, which WILL give flat, boring and uninteresting light which shouldn’t be the case at someone’s wedding. Remember, there is only one chance to get these photos.
So here’s my list of what DOESN’T make a better photographer choice for your wedding.
- What brand of camera they use.
- How many megapixels it has. Anything more than 12 is already overkill, so don’t fret it.
- Whether it’s the latest model or the absolute top of the line. Lenses are still more important than camera bodies.
- Whether they’re a husband or wife team, an individual or just business partners.
- How old they are. Or how young they are.
- What organisations they’re a member of.
- What mode they set their camera on.
- How much gear they carry.
- Whether they use flash, LED lights or natural light.
- Because they’re more expensive.
I do agree with most of this list but some of it has definitely been skewed in Gordon’s self interest (which is fine – it was his post).
‘The organisation photographers are a member of’ makes a huge difference otherwise we’d all do a correspondence or online course, add some letters after our names, hang some awards and say we’re professionals. It happens! An AIPP accredited photographer is the only photographer you should consider for your wedding if you want any assurances of quality and professionalism.
And here’s what I think you should look for:
- Style. Do you love the photos they show you? Does what they do suit you as a couple? Do their personalities suit yours? Do you want a more traditional or relaxed style to your photographs? Do you like your photos looking natural or do you love the cutting edge Photoshop stuff? None of these options are wrong. But, honestly, if you want stuff that looks like it was shot in 1930, I’m not you’re guy. But there will be someone out there that can do that style for you.
- Do they love what they do? Or are they just going through the motions.
- Experience. Not in time. But in situations and places. You can be a “professional” for 10 years and have shot less than 10 weddings or 3 years and have shot a hundred.
- Portfolio. Can they show you full weddings to look at, rather than just edited albums and highlights reels?
- Professionalism. What strategies does your photographer have in place if something goes wrong? What if something breaks or your photographer ends up in hospital the day before the wedding? Do they communicate how they shoot well. Can you contact them? Is there a street address on their website? What do they wear to your wedding? Have they shot your type of wedding before? How do they handle the difficult “aunt Betty” or “uncle Bob” with his huge Nikon? How do they handle the pressure?
- Do they provide the coverage/packages you want? Some studios won’t shoot small weddings in the “busy” season. Some don’t provide digital files without extra cost. Digital files can be high or low resolution. How many photos are on the discs? Some won’t stay past the first dance. Are they within your budget? What if you don’t want an album? Does the photographer have parents albums? Do you want an engagement session? If they don’t have what you want. Walk. there are plenty of options.
- Do you deal with your photographer, or is it someone else? Can you call them up and ask silly questions and not be treated like your wasting their time.
- Do you connect with your photographer? Because if you don’t the photos won’t look as good as they could.
Here’s a tip for choosing the right wedding photographer. Get a pen and write this one down…. It’s not about getting the best photographer. It’s about getting the photographer who show you at your best… Simple really.
The third point about experience is a little misleading. After shooting for three years I had photographed over 100 weddings and I know that I was nowhere near the level I am today. It simply takes longer than a few years to be able to not only handle the tough situations but to still produce amazing images no matter what. I agree with the remainder of the list even the last one – except it will usually be the best photographer that will be able to show you at your best. Simple really.
I’m done, for now. And I feel better…….
I’m done too and although this is not a personal attack, everyone is entitled to their opinion, I still stand 100% behind my initial post. If you are looking for a wedding photographer and there are four photographers around the same price you need to distinguish who is right for you and who will get the best results for you. You need to ask the questions and be aware that some photographers just won’t cut it. My original post will go a long way in helping future brides be aware of what to look for and what to look out for when choosing their photographer.
If you are looking for a wedding photographer on the Central Coast, we’re booked and you can’t change the date, I would happily and confidently recommend any of the following photographers, all of which are members of the AIPP, all of which will provide a high level of photography and run professional businesses: Shannon of Bloom Photography, Julie of Delisser Photography, Lisa of Lisa Lent Photography, David of David Benson Photography and Justin of Vibe Photography.