On Being Professional

Sunday, August 25th, I did photography for a wedding.  While not the first wedding I’ve worked, it was definitely the biggest.  I’ve learned a lot from the experience and am going to pass that learning on to you, dear readers.

First thing is to make sure you have your own ideas to bring to the table.  Just because your clients want certain things doesn’t mean they won’t also want something you suggest.  On top of that, who hires someone who doesn’t add to the job with their expertise?  Going hand and hand with having your own ideas is accepting that your client is the one that’s really in charge.  You may have the expertise and equipment, but it’s ultimately them that need to be happy with the photos.  

For example, since my forte is natural light, I had a spot picked out where I wanted to take Mike and Missy’s first look photos.  It was out next to the lake, by the hotel’s outdoor area to their restaurant.  As pretty as I thought the location was, and as sure as I was that I could get an amazing shot, Missy just was not comfortable being in a position where so many strangers would see her in her wedding dress (which was stunningly beautiful, by the way) and have to deal with all of the attention.  Even if she had agreed to the location, I wouldn’t have gotten that shot out of it because Missy would have been uncomfortable.  It’s a give and take between photographer and client.

Don’t be afraid to make requests, either.  I was lucky enough to be able to attend the rehearsal before the wedding and quickly found out that with the way the chairs were set up, I wouldn’t be able to move down the right-hand aisle without getting in the way.  The wedding coordinator, also named Missy, was able to adjust the chair placements with hotel staff before the actual ceremony and I was able to move around with ease.

Speaking of being lucky enough to attend the rehearsal, don’t pass up any opportunity you might have to prepare for a job.  I was able to assess the lighting situation beforehand, and knew what to expect from the setup.  I knew where I needed to be and when I needed to be there to capture the best moments.  I was far less prepared at previous weddings and I feel that the extra preparation really paid off.

Another example: I was on location in Walker, MN, and completely unfamiliar with the area.  The bride and groom wanted to have their family and bridal party photos outside.  I was able to go with them and their wedding coordinator before the wedding day and we picked out locations close to the hotel, decided what photos would be where, and went over a list of must-have photos.  The day of the wedding, it was a scorching 119° F outside.  Even in the shade, it felt like we were melting.  Because of the preparations done earlier, I was able to save family and bridal party alike from waiting out in the heat for their turn to be in pictures.  We had allotted two hours for bridal party and family pictures, and we ended up only taking an hour and a half, maybe a bit less.  Those not needed to be in photos immediately were able to stay cool and wait inside, and because of the list of who was needed in what pictures, no one really needed to stay outside longer than 15 minutes.  With the exception of yours truly.  But, being the professional that I am, I powered through it and got beautiful results.

Lastly, I want to touch on doing paid jobs for friends.  If you’re just starting out in the photography-for-money world, more likely than not you’ll end up working gigs for your friends first before getting more business from outside your personal connections.  The wedding I worked over the weekend was actually the wedding of one of my best friends.  He was constantly encouraging me to take it easy and not work so hard, asking if I needed a break or if I was okay.  While part of my work ethic on his wedding was absolutely because Mike is a very dear friend to me and I wanted him to both have fabulous photos and get the biggest bang for his buck, an equal part was simply because I was being paid to do a job and I would be damned if I didn’t do it to the absolute best of my ability.  I learned the hard way on a previous wedding job with another friend how easy it is to take advantage of a friendship, as either the photographer or the client.  I was able to enjoy the reception once my duties as wedding photographer were done, and I will admit to breaking my professionalism once during the ceremony (c’mon, who doesn’t cry when one of their best friends gets married to the woman of his dreams?).

In these situations it’s a fine balance between friendship and professionalism.  And while my favorite couple is honeymooning in St Lucia, I will soon be sorting through all the photos and editing where needed.  A photographer’s work is never done!

Be professional when you get out there and shoot!

-Kate

P.S. All the best wishes and happiness in the world to Mike and Missy!

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