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"Finding Your Photographic Style: Why Photography Isn't A One Shoe Fits All"

Listen up people I'm here to tell you an unfortunate truth.  You probably won't believe me but here's today's truth bomb. Photography, the skills to use a camera, set up a studio and complete the edit are not a one shoe fits all. 

If I had a penny for every event conversation I had that went along the lines of ..

"It was great talking to you,  we love your work but ... ... my friend's friend's parrots groomer is also a bit of a photographer, mostly landscapes and still life but he's said he'll shoot the wedding for us.  He's there as a guest already and he's just got a new whizz bang camera to try out. We wish you all the best and love your work"

There's a lot to unpack here so let's start somewhere, anywhere.

Let's start with "He's there as a guest anyway"

I've shot functions where I'm a guest.  Let me tell you it's not easy.  With the exception of knowing who most of the family are it makes no difference.  If anything it can be a hinderance and it obviously impacts me as a guest. The hosts want me to be at the party and shoot the party.  I'm going to be working the party just as hard, if not harder than normal.  The thing is a good 50% of people in the room won't know that we go back to our school days.  They'll just look at me and wonder why I'm enjoying a beer, having a shuffle on the dance floor and basically behaving like a guest with a camera. 

Would you want to book a professional who behaves like that ?

He mostly specialises in landscapes and pictures of teapots ..

Now I'm not knocking anyone who is a creative, Far from it.  That said because you can shoot a good sunset or a smashing Wedgewood that doesn't translate into capturing the most important days in a family's life.  Photographing people is hard.  It's  about making friends quickly, putting them at ease.  It's understanding family frictions, making a potentially slightly lubricated group behave.  It's about getting everything right so you don't miss vital moments because you are checking the last shot on the back of the camera.  I occasionally take a landscape or a still life, but for me, that's generally just an excuse for a good walk.  I have a friend who shoots watches and watch mechanisms.  Super fine details of teeny tiny springs, cogs, screws.  The attention to detail is insane and just not for me.  If I had a penny for every photographer I met who wouldn't touch a wedding with a barge pole ...

Which in a roundabout way brings me to editing.  Again there's always at least X + 1 ways to edit a photograph, where X is at least 1,000,000

Editing people, editing events is a skill all of it's own.  Which pictures to keep, which ones to loose.  A wedding can easily yield way over 5000 images shot on the day, whittling that number down takes time.  The look and feel, the aesthetic, can be deeply personal to a specific editor / photographer.  That is after all one of the reasons you hire them. 

Finally for this point, time to delivery.  If you are a hobbyist with a day job, and a life, and who knows what else then when, and how will you deliver the pictures ?  It's my experience that people like pictures of an event in at least Y - 1 days from the event.  In this case Y is roughly 15.  You have to set time in all of the other things to make that happen.  Or you have make people wait.  As I've already said people don't like waiting.

Next ..

He's got a new whizz bang camera. 

Your event is not the time for your hobby photographer to learn where all the buttons, whistles and bells are on his shiny new Canon Blah Blah.  Over the years I've learnt my cameras inside out and back to front, and there's probably still more to learn. Using them is 2nd nature, like a 12 year old playing FIFA on a PS5.  Put a different brand in my hands and I won't even be able to find the power switch let alone make the best of it.  Even an upgrade to the new version of the same camera can take time to get right.

A new camera ... in the singular.  Hobby photographers, I think it's fair to say, have less equipment than professionals.  Whilst that is a sweeping generalisation I think you'll agree it's reasonable one to state. 

Additionally if you shoot landscapes you are less likely to have the kind of equipment needed for say a wedding.  I'd struggle, for example, shooting a Formula1 race with some of the kit I have.  Weddings and the like happen but once.  Technology is prone to failure, no matter how much you pay for it.  Even if it doesn't fail you might find someone has put a boot through the front of your lens, I know it happened to me. 

If you don't have enough equipment the you are taking a risk.  This is by no means a brag but I never leave without 3 cameras, 7 lenses, 4 flashes, a sewing kit, 9 batteries, gaffer tape, mini torches, hair grips and double sided sticky tape for female use and several spare memory cards.  In the event of failure I'm well covered.

What about the office set up?  I should also add if I had a penny for every time I heard.

"X took our photos for Y.  They took forever and when I pushed they finally admitted that the memory card they used failed when he took it out on the next shoot, the hard drive crashed, the computer died, the cat vomited on the keyboard" delete where appropriate.

Now I'm paranoid.  All of my cameras take 2 cards each, constant backup on site as I shoot.  It doesn't matter what time I get back in the wee small hours of the night.  I'll get a brew, upload all of the images and then back them up to 2 separate drives, that's now 4 copies of each image.  Over night they back up to the cloud, now we have 5 copies of your precious event.  Furthermore, the cards now go in a fire proof safe, and are not brought out until your pictures have been delivered and signed off.  You final images are then put into cloud storage, kinda indefinitely.  On top of all of that I have a spare computer, almost as good as my main one.  So if that fails, I can use the spare.

How about delivery.  A full photo gallery takes many gigabytes.  Many computers now no longer have the means of ingestion that they used to.  No DVD drives, no USB ports for memory sticks.  I deliver via a private password protected gallery on a photographer specific web provider, this is now a 6th backup of your images, and vitally also backed up by that host provider, so now there's 2 cloud back ups happening. 

You can download the few pictures you like, all of them at once, share them with family and friends.  You can order prints with a single click.  Even better they stay there for quite sometime.  No discs to scratch no sticks to loose. 

It's not uncommon for messages like this one.

"Hi you took wedding pics for us X years ago.  We'd really like to sit down and get some prints ordered but can't find the link.  Can you help?" 

In this case X in in the range of 1 to 10 ... but yeah of course I can help.

There's other things like, Insurance.. whilst in the early years, I'll admit, I lived without now it's a must.  Equipment, indemnity, incident and accident.  You venue will often ask for the various certificates from all of your suppliers.

I could carry on writing all day and all night I've barely touched the surface of what this could be. 

  • How about a site survey?

  • How about knowing the other suppliers in the room?

  • How about knowing the sequence of events?

  • What about special considerations for maybe elderly, young or ND guests?

Here's the key thing to remember the photographs at your event are the lasting reminder of the day, more so if you are not having a video.  They will make you smile everyday, as you walk past them on the wall.  They will allow those that could not make it on the day to share it with you. They will be an insight for future generations of you, when you were younger, to the people in your life.  They will be a precious link to the generations that came after you long after you have gone. 

Consider your photographer wisely.

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