About wedding photographers developing identity-
I was a street photographer / photojournalist in my start with photography and later branched out into fine art / figure study photography. I never once considered wedding photography as I didn’t think I’d enjoy it. Plus, it was one thing you could not mess up. I was already a fairly seasoned photographer in 2008 when answering an ad on Myspace for photographers needed. So I thought, what the hell, I can always use extra work, I think I’ll talk to them. It turns out it was for wedding photography. I went silent. I then told him I have never shot a wedding. He says he liked my work I submitted and would work with me on it if I give it a shot. I said, sure, let’s give it a try.
He needed wedding photographers to subcontract for days he was double booked, but first I would work with him on some weddings. I kind of dug it. It felt like a privilege to be a part of someone’s wedding day and I really wanted to provide them something memorable. All I had to go on is what he was teaching me as far as protocol and etiquette. It is SO much more than technical photography knowledge with wedding photography, I can’t stress this enough.
Well, the time came when I went out on my own without him. It was nerve racking but exciting. Eventually I took on some of my own wedding clients I accepted somewhat selectively. I was honest with them and showed them the wedding work I did have. Fast forward to a couple years later. I enjoyed weddings, and by then I had quite a few under my belt. BUT, something wasn’t exactly right. I couldn’t identify exactly what it was. I was changing, and going with a different approach that seemed to compliment my native photojournalist approach. I felt like the 13 year old boy at the school dance with feet that outgrew my body, and zits. Basically freezing up when it was time to ask the girl to dance.
I knew the style I was taught wasn’t my identity. I was learning the importance of wedding photographers developing identity. Soon after, we parted ways and I was strictly freelance. I realized that the approach I do best didn’t match his brand and approach. I had to complete my own. The best advice was from my colleague and friend, Kevin Mullins, a well known British wedding photojournalist. Put my documentary style of photographing weddings in the forefront of my brand and website. I was scared to do this for a while because I knew it would put a lot of couples off with other expectations. But….that’s the whole point! It also attracts those looking for what I do. Being a niche style makes for marketing challenges, but I’ve never felt more liberated!
There are already too many wedding photographers. Many with a non-descript style and no real identity of their own. In order to stand out from your competition, you have to eliminate competition by being different. Not everyone gets it, those who do are your client. Many think you win people over by being low priced and being everything to everybody. Not at all. Those who hire because of price or to tick this service of the list don’t hire hand picked individuals. These are often the most problematic clients, I saw this first hand with some of his.
With me zeroing in on my niche, I get clients who hire me for me. They’re a specific client. But in the past 2-3 years, I can’t think of any couples or guests I’ve had any problem with. Sometimes you have to be true to yourself and this helps you provide better service to your clients. It’s an interesting ride for sure.