“Don’t be like the rest of them, darling” – Coco Chanel
If you’re starting out as a wedding photographer – or at least thinking about it – then 2018 is a pretty exciting time to be doing it. Everywhere you look online, you’ll find creative prompts – photographers’ websites, dedicated wedding blogs, Pinterest, Instagram – the world of wedding inspiration even has its own handy hashtag (#wedspo, if you’re wondering). However, as a novice wedding photographer in research mode rather than a casually-scrolling bride or groom-to-be, it’s easy to end up feeling overwhelmed – or even, dare I say it, a bit deflated. Why? Well, put succinctly, it’s down to the same reason – there’s simply so much variety out there in terms of artistic style and overall aesthetic that a photographer – especially one who’s new to the game – can find themselves bewildered.
You probably already have some idea of the kind of wedding photographer you are, or aspire to be. Perhaps classic portraiture is your thing, i.e. posed couple shots and family groups with megawatt smiles all round and everyone looking the ‘right’ way. Or maybe you’ve been working on your reportage style and get your kicks from catching couples and guests candidly ‘in the moment’. Edgy shoots might be your preferred style with bold palettes, dramatic backgrounds and offbeat props and framing or – and I’m not really a fan of definitive labels, but this is probably closest to my wedding photography manifesto – there’s Fine Art. These styles do overlap, but many photographers have a natural leaning towards one of these. Yet if you’re searching randomly for inspiration, it can be easy to lose track of the images that really make your head spin and your heart sing – the kind of images that made you want to be a photographer in the first place.
‘What kind of photographer am I?’ you might ask yourself, or ‘What kind of photographer should I be?’ And at this point, let me be perfectly frank: comparison is a fool’s errand.
If you only look to others for inspiration you’ll soon find that you’ve been stuck on your phone or behind your laptop for hours rather than getting out and experimenting with shooting in different conditions. My advice? Research can be helpful, but you need to target and limit it. Focus on your preferred style, set yourself up with a Pinterest board or two, click away for a short time period and then get out. Head for churches, venues and gardens and get skill-building. Ask family to pose for you – as blood relatives, they’re less likely to say no! – and take photographs, officially or otherwise, at friends’ weddings. Remember, the wedding market is so vast and saturated that something that starts out as ‘unique’ – couples posing with smoke flares, unsmiling straight-on portraits – quickly becomes a tired trend. Don’t let another creative tell you ‘how it is’ – you are the creative, and the sooner you realise that and have confidence in that assertion, the quicker you’ll find yourself setting your own trends and producing images that you’re truly proud of. Until you have that, there’s little point in pushing for bookings or promoting yourself all over social media. Trust me: take time establishing that aesthetic foundation and your business will be all the stronger for it.
So why are you still here? You need to get out and shoot!
Want to learn more? My online course has a module where, rather than telling you what your style is, I encourage you to develop your own, plus build a portfolio that will really help you to stand out. Click here for more information.