2011 is turning out to be The Year of the Hater. I can’t seem to get away from ‘em!
But it’s like my momma always said: If someone’s talking behind your back, that means you’re at least two steps ahead.
I have to admit, though, that in a way, it’s really disheartening. I mean, here I am, just working hard, doing what I love to do and trying to contribute something to the world, and all some people can think to do about it is stand around and snark.
But haters are like everything else in life: You can either let them get you down, or you can use them as the fuel that propels you forward.
Not surprisingly, I choose the latter.
And everyone, no matter how successful and talented they are, has encountered his or her fair share of haters at one time or another. Jennifer told me the story of how, when she was getting her degree in photography at Louisiana Tech, her classmates dismissed her as “just a mom with a camera” and how that, as much as anything, made her more determined than ever to finish school and forge a career as a working photographer.
I know there’s been a lot of discussion lately in the photography world (and elsewhere) about how a lot of “photographers” and overenthusiastic Photoshop jockeys are seemingly purchasing a DSLR and hanging out a shingle before they’ve even gotten the thing out of the box. I guess that’s true enough, but look at it this way:
1. Some people believe this phenomenon is driving UP the cost of professional photography when in fact, the opposite is true. Generally, amateur photographers can charge less than professionals because their overhead costs aren’t as high. Professionals have backup equipment, insurance, second shooters, studio costs…the list goes on and on. Amateurs don’t have all that, so they can charge less and still make money. But by the same token, hiring an amateur may save you some money in the short term, but if his or her camera breaks in the middle of your wedding, then you’re probably S.O.L. I hired a professional for my own wedding. To The Guy and I, the photography was one of the most important aspects of the day. But we also recognize that not everyone can or wants to afford a professional photographer, and therefore, there is a demand for the amateur with a good eye who is ethical, responsible and does not misrepresent him- or herself.
So besides covering their overhead costs, why do photographers seem to charge so much money, especially to shoot weddings? It’s not because they’re greedy or egotistical. It’s because, for a photographer, weddings are an ENORMOUS amount of work. They’re physically demanding, they’re intellectually difficult, and they’re emotionally draining. You have to schlep heavy, awkward equipment all over kingdom come; you have to work, even in the best of circumstances, with people whose emotions are running extremely high; no matter what, you have to work quickly; and usually, you have to work six to eight hours without once sitting down, eating anything or going to the bathroom. And never mind the hours of back-end work, like editing and processing! Having been on three wedding shoots now, I can say without reservation that whatever your wedding photographer charged you, chances are good to excellent that he or she earned every last penny and then some.
2. Lord knows I love a good Photoshop action. (You have only to look at my honeymoon photos to see that for yourself.) But while I think the obviously-processed look is fun every now and then, I usually prefer photos without it. Lately, there’s been a lot of snark about photographers who, OK, yes, probably do overuse those techniques. (And it kind of drives me nuts when someone who is actually a really good photographer feels compelled to add fake lens-flare to EVERY! SINGLE! PICTURE!) But you know why they do that?
No, it’s not just because they have crushes on Scott Kelby.
It’s because that’s what their clients want. That super-processed style of photography is very, very popular nowadays.
Frankly, I see it as trendy, and I suspect that brides and grooms who order entire albums full of selectively-colored photographs will perhaps regret it in 25 years. But I can’t fault any photographer for giving his or her clients what they ask for. That’s just good business sense.
3. Having said all that, though, if someone approaches you and wants to pay you for your work, then more power to you. And that goes not just for photography, but for any kind of work that you do.
Jessica the Web Mistress and I rarely market ourselves as photographers, but when we do, it’s for jobs that we know we’re capable of – Christmas card photos, engagement shoots, senior portraits, headshots, etc. We never, ever misrepresent ourselves. People have approached both of us (not the other way around) to shoot weddings, and we are careful to explain to them that we are NOT professional wedding photographers, that we do not have backup equipment or insurance or studios, but they’re welcome to look at our portfolios and, if they’re still interested, then we can work together. And because we’re not laboring under the delusion that we’re the second coming of Diane Arbus and David LaChapelle, respectively, we charge modest fees for our work – somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 of what the pros charge, because we simply do not yet have the experience, the equipment or the resources to provide the same level of service that they do.
There are a few photographers in this town – even some highly successful professionals – who I, personally, don’t care for their style of photography. That’s not to say that they lack talent in any way; I just like a different style better. And that’s OK! That’s what makes the world go ’round and what keeps all of us working and continually striving to get better. I think every photographer can tell you at least one story about a potential client who had an unlimited budget but who went with an amateur simply because he or she liked the amateur’s work better. That’s life. That’s art. It’s subjective.
I can defend myself and other photographers all day long, but I guess what it comes down to is that I am working really hard on my own time and without pay to get better at something I love to do.
And what are the haters doing?
Why, they’re doing what haters do best, of course: hatin’.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’m learning more than I ever thought there was to learn! I’m learning about equipment by carrying it around and setting it up; I’m learning how do deal with glitches as they arise. (Light won’t work? Left your reflector at home? No worries! Just have your Photography Assistant Monkey hold your umbrella up on its stand!) And best of all, I’m learning from fun, patient, professional, supportive women like Jennifer and Leah Rea.
I may never be a consistently-working professional photographer. But it’s not going to be because I didn’t try hard enough.
I may not have enough talent. I may not have a good enough eye. Or there might be another reason that I haven’t even considered yet! And while that would disappoint me, I learned to deal with disappointment, rejection and failure a long time ago. There are worse things in life.
Like not trying hard enough.
While she’s not a photographer, Tanya Harville has become one of my biggest inspirations when it comes to my photography aspirations, because she is living proof that with hard work, focus and professionalism, you can channel your talents into a highly successful career.
People are often surprised to learn – I know I was – that all these “wedding professionals,” like photographers, event planners, florists, bakers and caterers, are not rivals. They’re friends! They all work together, and they all have each other’s backs.
And I haven’t met one yet who isn’t more than willing to share what they know with anyone who wants to learn. You’d think they’d be sort of proprietary with their expertise, wouldn’t you? But that’s not the case. Instead, they want to see their respective industries grow and improve with new talent who’s committed to honest, ethical, professional behavior.
In that spirit, Tanya will be teaching a class at LSUS each Monday evening from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. from February 28 to March 28th, and the cost to register is only $75. And while it’s somewhat geared toward aspiring event planners, it’s also a great learning experience for brides and grooms. For instance, she’ll cover topics like analyzing event budgets and interviewing vendors. Here’s the link to register. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email her at tanya [at] tanyaharvilleevents [dot] com, or contact her through her Facebook page.
Speaking of weddings (as if we haven’t talked enough about weddings in this post), I assisted Jennifer and her official second shooter, Leah Rea, at another one this weekend. Take a look and tell me what you think!
(Click here to view the rest of the set. All of these are completely unedited, God help me. Interestingly, I let The Guy choose which ones to blog!)
(This one went a LOT smoother than the last one, thank goodness. At least I didn’t break anything this time.)
I think I’m improving in increments, but only time will tell if this is a viable career option for me. In the meantime, I’m having a blast learning all I can.
If nothing else, I’ll end up as one hell of a mom with a camera.