It’s been a while since I’ve written this column from high up in the sky. This time, I’m on my way to Singapore (for Keda Z and Kelly’s wedding reception). I’m also gearing up for an MPA (Master Photographers Association) gala dinner during this trip. I’m sure there will be lots of great conversation and learning, as well as cocktails and dancing! Since I’m presenting my insights into the successes of the modern wedding and portrait photographer, I thought I’d share a few of my tidbits with you.
In a nutshell, the schematic for the modern-day wedding/portrait photographer should follow three tenets for success:
* Do good work.
* Shut up and serve.
* Be you.
1. Do Good Work
I think one of the things that attracts most of us to photography is our desire to create. However, we must learn how to use our tools before we can truly free ourselves to do good work. This is no different than learning how to be a good carpenter or brick layer, or even hitting a baseball. All of these things are learned skills. To do good work, you must practice! Of course, a great place to learn and get great instruction from masters from all over the world is WPPI 2017 in Las Vegas, February 5–9. (See what I did there?)
2. Shut up and Serve
I’m going to be brutally up front here, guys—it’s not all about us! It’s our job to create, produce and get it done, but all too often we get wrapped up in the “me” part. Whether you’re there to shoot a wedding, quinceñeara, baby photos, high school senior portraits or even a funeral (yes, I did one once!), your job is to serve your clients, not your ego. All too often I see vents on social media like, “Just shot my 80th bridal party picture while the sun went down and totally missed some great pics for my client. FML.” For my client? Really? It’s bad enough you’re posting this on social media because chances are your client will see it at some point, but outside of that bonehead move (and if you need to post on FB), it should read more like: “Dang it, I forgot to look at what time the sun was going down! I’ll be shooting formals straight through sunset now and really missed a great opportunity. I know that these bridal party and family pics are really important for their family history and I’m stoked to be documenting this for their kids to see someday. #blessed.” Do you see the difference in those sentences? It’s a monumental shift in thinking from the poor, suffering artist to having the wisdom to understand just how damn important your job is! I get it, people, we are invested both physically and mentally in our jobs, whether we’re fighting traffic through NYC streets on Marathon Sunday or flying halfway around the world. The pressure to produce can be an 800-pound gorilla on your back. But your job is to serve. Shut up and serve your client!
3. Be You
This one seems easy but is probably the hardest to achieve. Of course, you want your awesome personality to shine. Your mom or someone else in your family has probably told you this over and over, that people will love you if you just be you. However, this goes deeper when it comes to your work. When your work becomes an extension of that “be you” mentality, it’s scary because now you’re putting you out there. Now you’re not just taking pretty pictures, but you’re asking why you’re taking that picture. Your vision now becomes an extension of your camera, and you’ve found a way to do this while serving your clients.
Done right, this trifecta is the magic you admire in so many great photographers—they achieve three things effortlessly: beautiful work, done with great skill, that your client seeks you out for, yet is an extension of “why” you take pictures. It’s you, but for your clients. So get out there and work on you, learn new things or be part of a community where you help others. I’ve learned so much about myself by helping others.
I’d love to hear stories about your paths to success. Jason.firstname.lastname@example.org is where you can always find me!
The holidays are a great time to work on these ideologies. From all of us here at Rf and WPPI, we want to wish you happy holidays and an awesome New Year!
To read this article in the digital edition, click here.
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