DIFFERENCES MATTER 



WHO IS YOUR MARKET

When I see a photographer on a forum griping about the market, though it's universally the same for all, the flags go up.  The claim is his market is tougher, the money isn't there, less brides, too much competition, he lacks equipment and he lacks financial strength, no bookings, and worse no inquires. 

The only truth in his whole statement is that the wedding market is the same for all.  I am correct on that one point.  It’s really how you handle it.  The difference is style and allocation, tradition and a level of conservatism is what defines it.  A wedding is simply the bonding legally and spiritually of two people, regardless of color, faith, gender, age and in some cases planet of origin.  

Ask yourself the difference between a drunk on a curb and a college President. Nothing basically, they are both humans and alive.  But one handled his problems and the other succumbed to them.  The difference between a winner and a winer is just one letter and world of attitude.

You have to look inside.  I immediately look to determine what level of expertise this photographer guy/gal is on.  Their answer draws me in because there are clues both positive and negative, different angles or beliefs, that I am reading from him or her.   


QUESTIONS SOLVE PROBLEMS
From success to failure, some things are easily attainable by simple questioning.  I ask to see their bookings, how many weddings did you do last year, what is the average cost of a wedding in your area, what do you charge, what is your presentation like, even down to how do you dress for the shoot, did you attend the rehearsals, do you use flyers and menus, do you only do weddings, also Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and Quinceneras ?   

All of these things are asked and most visible.  Many lay unanswered and they don’t know.  Does he or she have a  good consistent following,  a clientele that his style and artistry are accepted by and most likely traditional family values; and is not limited by style or interpretation.

They could be locked in a rut caused by the economy, a poor followup system, or lack of communication skills and sometimes looking in the mirror realizes their skill levels are not competitive. They are not up to date, nor qualified and has done nothing to better themselves.  

So I ask questions, lots of questions as to why this person is either successful or not. Do you only do one ethnicity, one religion, one type or for a specific church, one pastor, one wedding planner, one price range, one style. The I ask how much did your business expand this year over last year knowing this is a failing economy.  Are your profits and volume on the rise or are things sinking. What do you do for followup?

This is my point, to make it in this game you need to have "flex".  I love when a guy tells me, he is a photojournalistic shooter and doesn't do traditional posed shots.  Tell that to Grandma. 

I can learn a lot about a shooter in an hour,  some do a great job and follow the coaching and some will still be flipping burgers because their attitude, beliefs, conduct, intuition, training and confidence is lacking.


WEDDINGS ARE UNIQUE

We live in a world of cultural difference and nothing shows that premise better than the Wedding ceremony which you, you lucky devil, have been retained to perform at.  Those folks have selected you to be the court scribe on the most important day of their lives.  And differences are apparent and at times unique.

Now thats not to say some Wedding planners do the same thing over and over because it works for them, not necessarily for the client.

In the old days, going as far back as the Neo-Babylonian days  the court scribe recorded all the events and rulings and changes the Kings, Judges and others made.  The scribe was fairly safe since many could not read or write in those days. 

If he did screw up, boiling oil fixed things.  If you screw up, the results could vary so the point is the more you know,  the less you will not know when it counts.

Kings talk a lot and sometimes the scribe would run out of ink and since they had no Office Depot, he had to tell the chief,  “ Hold that thought Boss”,  I’ll run down to the local fish market and get a fresh squid.

Here are a couple of clues as to what to look out for. And I mean no harm or inference to anyone, just telling it like it is or in my case was. One has to respect the difference and cultural beliefs people have.  Thats what we will be talking about in this section.


TRADITIONS AND CONDUCT

Some ethnicities of the middle eastern nations prohibit the taking of photographs that show elbows, faces or feet. These religious virtues sometimes transfer here to the states and you have to be cautious when doing the Wedding by finding out what the rules are.   The US is the cultural center of the world, so many different cultures live here but still follow their beliefs and customs.  Knowledge of these things will open up your business and possibly fill a niche in a community bringing you more work. 

Sure things are moderated here in the states but yesterday at a local mall, I saw a woman in a burka, with veil dressed head to toe all covered up in black. Obviously she was not shopping at the GAP or Dilliards. It was 93 outside and 80% humidity.  After I wrote this, I started to think how hard it is for a photographer doing weddings in certain countries that prohibit human form in the pictures. 

It would be too presumptive to think the Taliban is hiring Wedding Photographers as one Blue Burka is the same as another Blue Burka. I doubt if we will ever see the Bride of the Month in a Blue Burka.  You’d be in the soup literally or in the oil whatever boils quicker…so respect of cultural beliefs is important. 

The best advice is you never know where there is a winner.  I just glanced over my shoulder at these two, I was a guest at the wedding and the Nikon Coolpix did the rest.  She was chomping on ice to cool down after some really fancy dancing, her grandma was a Rockett.  The follow-up shot sans ice cube was perfect. That is till he smooched her with cake. The $100 spent for the hair and makeup girl meant nothing to him….

Just so you know.  I insist and repeat myself that you have to visit the Church a week before or if possible be an onlooker at a Wedding function there before yours.  You need to accomplish three things on your mission.  Pre-check the lighting, check the service for nominal or abnormal changes, and check out the demeanor of the clergy presiding.  

There are so many man-made versions of Christianity it is impossible to keep up with them.  The others like Judaism, Bahai  are fairly cut and dry.  If you are not familiar with the particular process at the church, go there and see for yourself.  One bride told me how special her pastor was, how kind and easy going.  He could of written more sermons but his arrest for Pedophilia got in the way.  

I will not comment on the replacement they sent, other than it was a catastrophe, about as warm had they preformed the wedding at the local prison.  I live in Florida and we average one arrest  a month for Music Directors or Youth Pastors getting arrested.   I always ask the Bride about the Reverend, Pastor, Priest or Rabbi. Then I go look for myself.  I want to see up front, it’s beliefs, traditions, smoke blowing, character assassinations, false prophets, ridiculous rituals  and it will vary from Church to Church.  Think of churches as franchises and no ones on the same menu.   The largest group, Christianity goes from the liturgical beliefs to some fairly out on the limb concepts because they are man-made.

Diversity comes in two forms.  Religious Diversity relates to the customs, traditions, and processes.  Human Diversity is simply who we are, short or tall, black, yellow, red or white, rich or poor, Klingon or Romulan.  A working knowledge of these diversifications will make your life easier and trains you to avoid problems by knowing whats next.


•  MIX-MATCHED STYLES - NOT ON THE SAME PAGE
Number one on the hit parade is mis-matched shooting in the wrong wedding style. Be prepared that your style applies to the Wedding couples beliefs.  People are culturally different and PJ may not be the best choice for a specific wedding and you might be going or moving to a position that might not be correct.  

At a Catholic Church one day the photographer thought he ruled the roost, climbing over everybody and everything,  till he got to the LUNA which is a circular receptacle with glass sides, metal circled with gold or gilded metal to hold the Sacred Host upright in the monstrance during the Mass. 

It is a sacred vessel, having received the priest's blessing.   It is sometimes called a lunette.  The older, very-very Catholic  “tough” priest had enough with this clown.  He stopped the sacrament, paused, my source tells me the priest said  “God Forgive Me" and invited the Photographer to leave the Church right now.   

We have a tough time in my area with Catholic Churches and FLASH, because idiots like this guy made it tough for all of us.   It has even encouraged second shooters to hide as guests on the aisle seats and grab what they can with high ISO's.   

You might be best to mix it up a little so you cover your bases. I have learned this from my diversified experience shooting weddings of ethnic and social differences. In addition, I must stop and give thanks to the many professionals and associates who shared a few horror stories with me over a brew or two.   


•  YOUNGER COUPLES
Some younger couples like moderate trendy PJ to almost a “shock jock” approach to the Wedding.   Notice I said “some”. You better expect anything, sometimes blowing tradition out the door.  Expect anything from a moon to topless exhibitions to falling on ones face dead drunk.  My favorite is the exposure problem a young new female shooter, new at the game living in the UK, had “penis exposure” from the groomsmen in three of her shots as explained in preceding pages.

Sure a click or two in Photoshop could have cured the extended problem, but I gave her a better idea.  Upon my suggestion and after she got paid, She used the “shrink image button” in layers in Photoshop and popped a print. All the bridesmaids got a souvenir  8x10 of the diminished male standard. I’ll bet that made a few circles around town!  I once said the best way to expose an a-hole, is with a camera and show the world.

Another example: So after you shoot a thousand B&W "truly photojournalistic artistic renderings or PJ shots" the mother-in-law calls up and wants the 30x40 color shot of her firstborn to hang over the fireplace of their new house. Try selling her the black and white artistic shot of the Brides bra strap while she was getting dressed. 


•  COMRADES IN ARMS
You are not alone: My buddies and cohorts in the business shared a few other horror tales with me. 

Fred Miranda’s website at http://www.fredmiranda.com/ has a pretty good wedding forum.  It’s inhabited by a few pro’s and many, many beginners, some guys pretending to know more than they do.   A fast check on licenses, which is commonly on all government websites for that city or state sites tell you whether they are legal or not, whether they maintain a studio, and their real status.  Hilarious sometimes, like kids brag how good they are at HALO and Tanki games,  and some shooters pretend to be what they are not.

There are many other sites devoted to Wedding Photographers.  But, like most of the web, take things with a grain of salt, two shots of vodka and a twist of lemon.  Ego’s run prolific in this business and everyone’s a pro on the web.  Just look at some sites and you’ll realize a few are more conversation than talent. And see how many have the same Wedding Music in the background, the same style as they all bought them from a booth at WPPI or on-line.  Clones of Clones.  

Type in Wedding Forums on Google and a lifetime of reading is before you. Type in a few names of the shooters from the odd groups on Google and its like reading the tabloids. A few have a pretty shady past.  Several we found in NEW JERSEY should have warrants or doing time by now. Some did, the article is buried in this site somewhere. Big time lawsuit.

YOU have to serve the client, not force your beliefs or issues. If their style is not the best style for you, get someone else to do it and a referral fee is better than nothing or a goof up. Again I am NOT picking on any age groups, religious groups or ethnicities, just a few tips for political correctness and to CYA.

Older established families and higher more elaborate level Weddings go far more often to the conservative side with shooter covering the basics and then: the PJ style thrown into the mix for complete coverage and a better bottom line.