Dear Wedding Photographer: Keep calm, people Do give a shit about your art!
About a month ago I came across this article http://www.photographyfarm.co.uk/blog/you-are-not-an-artist-you-are-a-wedding-photographer/ which I felt was bit of a closed ended opinion (albeit with some room for discussion). A few days ago I read this https://www.silkphotos.com/nobody-gives-a-shit-about-your-art-but-you/ which is on very similar lines but extremely acute. It aches to see objectification of this degree in wedding photography and as a self-taught photographer (and I dare say, artist) I feel the need to clear the air a bit.
The underlying current of both articles is how a wedding photographer ought to stop considering herself as an ‘artist’ and needs to focus on the basic FIRST and in some cases, basics ONLY. While the latter half of the sentence makes reasonable sense, the first half takes any sort of pride one may get from this profession and requests you to dump it in a can of low-self-esteem. The first articles claims that wedding photography cannot produce art because it is commissioned work (it makes a mention that if Mona Lisa was a bride, she would have asked Da Vinci to make her look thin). Clearly, someone needs to point out to the author that Mona Lisa was Commissioned work! From what I remember, most of Renaissance era work was and it turned out be friggin awesome. Second article takes the concept a bit further and concludes that family pictures cannot fall into the ‘arty’ category and urges the reader/photographer to ‘Stop giving a shit about their art’ while shooting weddings. I’m so thankful the world isn’t as black and white as the author’s opinion (no pun intended).
Lets solve the conundrum of ‘Can one actually create art in weddings?’. As a wedding photographer, think about what got you here in the first place. What makes you happy. Ponder on the first amazing image you made at a wedding. I’m willing to bet that it wasn’t a group shot of the bride’s family against a flat wall. It was probably something that involved a lot more character, some technique… an off camera flash or long exposure maybe. Something that when you first saw it on the LCD, you were beaming with more joy than anyone else in that room. That …. is Your art. That is what you had put up on your photography page and THAT is one of the big reason (if not the biggest) the client hired you for. Does the client expect you to click group shots then? To answer that question, ask yourself how you would want to remember your own wedding by and you’ll know the answer is an immediate yes. Does that mean you don’t get to be creative…? Absolutely no! In fact, exactly the opposite. The client has seen your cherry picked selection, they know what you are capable of and they trust that even with something as mundane as a family portrait, you’ll do an amazing job … an artistic job if I may use the word
Let me give two quick examples. First one is of two group shots taken seconds apart at a wedding. The first shot is a something simple that gets the job done (we call this first shot), the second get the job done AND makes me happy (aka second shot).
second shot (a 150 Mega Pixel off camera lit composite)
Second example is something more complex, we wanted the expressions of the parents as their son walks down the family home dressed up as a groom for the first time. One mirror in hallway and two off camera flashes equals this.
Would a family shot have done justice to capture the happiness on the parent’s face, yes and thats why we have that too!
If you are curious about how we manage to get so many relevant pictures, I’ll sum it up in one word – Magic. Ok, maybe not. Planning … which if done correctly works like magic! To be able to check mark so many items of the wishlist requires multiple sittings with the client in order to understand their taste and explain to them them our style. We have been fortunate to these two merge and merge very often. With the clarity that ‘coverage’ and ‘art’ need not be exclusive, the more we work towards honing our skills the easier the marriage of these concepts becomes (pun intended).
So go out there and be the artist you want to be. People have loved you for that and they will also love you for the ‘checklist shots’ you do. Peace
PS: Happy Valentine day 🙂