For the eyes. For the heart. For the ears. For the feet. For the soul.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The show must go on.

The hard work pays off.  For them. For us. For me.

For me, I put blood, sweat and many many tears into a wedding day. I'm an overplanner. I can't go with the flow until I've done everything possible to ensure things go smoothly. Leading up to a wedding day, I scout the location a few times, take some test shots in different lighting and figure out a back up plan should inclement weather challenges present themselves.  I buy props I can't afford.  I can't eat. I can't sleep. I check and re-check my bags to ensure all my gear is packed, charged and ready to go. 

Michael and I usually bicker before a shoot. I get angry because he isn't as frantic as I am. I mistake his calmness for not caring. The truth is, we just handle things differently.

I like to think I'm building a brand for my business. Some photographers say I'm too accommodating. I'm sure I'll wear myself out one day. I'm sure I'll get taken advantage of at some point. At this point though, my manner seems to be working.

I think back to our wedding day. Fortunately for us, we loved every moment of our experience. Well, mostly. There are many facets of a wedding that can go amuck. Emotions run high. Stress and pressure sometimes surface at the strangest moments. People disappoint you. It is true when they say the ones you least expect to let you down are the ones who do just that and the ones you least expect to be there for you, pleasantly surprise you in so many ways.

For us, it was the hired help that let us down. In an effort to be tactful and not say too much, I will say that your wedding photographs are the tangible documentation that forever stir up reveries of your day. When we look at our photos, we remember negative feelings; not about our day, but about those who took the photos. It's ironic to me that clients who have had similar issues wind up booking with me. Perhaps it's because I can empathize. I see the deflated look in their eyes and try to ignite that spark that first made me so excited about planning our wedding. I remember specifically, my husband saying that he finally saw me excited about our wedding once we had our event planner and photographer booked. It's an exciting time. Your vendors should add to that excitement.

The number one rule I try to remember when dealing with clients is to treat them like a friend, but also a client first. Friends will complain to you. They will talk about others. They will let you down. It's all part of the journey. Friends mistakes can be forgiven and taken back. A wedding photographer's mistakes can't.

My experience with a new client starts with an initial meeting. I think it's important to meet with someone face to face, heart to heart. Recently, I've had a few people want to book me on the spot without meeting. I suggest they come to my home and get acquainted with my husband and I. There is something unnerving about having a conversation at Starbucks, amongst other photographers and clients showing their work right next to you.

We put out some appetizers and wine, our animals run freely and we usually end up sharing some laughs; more like friends than clients/vendors. I always tell the clients to shop around before committing to anything. My price may be more reasonable than others, however it's because I'm new, I'm hungry and I never claim to have years of experience. I'm truthful with my capabilities as well as my shortcomings. I can't "fake it 'til I make it" like I'm told to.

Not to dissuade potential business, but I must explain to the happy couple that they need to be absolutely sure about who they hire to photograph their wedding day. Unlike the florist and other vendors, a photographer is with you for the bulk of your day. You must feel comfortable in your choice and have a good vibe mutually or else it's not going to work. Sometimes in life, you just click with certain people and clash with others. That's life and that's okay.

I've been a bride so I know my expectations. I think it's impossible for a photographer to understand the true dynamics of a wedding day, without ever having been a bride or groom themselves. I don't have unreasonable standards and I was incredibly let down. I think it's unforgivable that a wedding day's memories could be tarnished by the hired helps' demeanour. So much time, effort, energy and love is put into a bride and groom's day. I think it is our job as photographers to enhance their experience. There is no such thing as a job description in this role. Chances are, you're there when things go wrong. You roll up your sleeves and pitch in to make the day go smoother, whether it's to stitch up a dress, pin corsages,  apply makeup, wipe tears, run errands and fight fires. All this, and with a smile.

I'll never forget when I borrowed my step dad's camera and lens for my first destination wedding. I was so thankful that he allowed me to borrow his equipment, in which at that time I couldn't afford. I was shooting alongside Charity Swords, an amazing photographer from Niagara and I picked up my unzipped camera bag. The lens fell out and the tears literally swelled in my eyes. Charity looked at me and said "you can't cry." I knew this, as the bride shouted over "is everything okay?" I swallowed past the lump in my throat and in my voice crackling with emotion responded "everything is perfect!"

Fortunately for me, the lens was okay. There are bound to be several things that go wrong on a wedding day. I can't believe that I was seeking a less stressful job than finance and landed in the photography circus. You can plan until your heart's content or your eyes won't stay open but nothing can prepare you for the inevitable. The weather. The dynamics. Equipment failure. Poor lighting. Unhappy clients. The unexpected. This past weekend, we shot a wedding in a venue alongside 2 other brides and photographers. I can't tell you how awkward it is to walk past people who have fancier cameras than you. At one point, the two brides crossed paths in an "uh oh" moment you would find on a red carpet where two celebrities are wearing the same dress. Notwithstanding, my bride posed alongside her for a funny and candid shot. Her photographer seemed less than impressed and took the bride beside us and instructed her to  "twirl." The bride shrieked "twirl?" The photographer instructed, "yes, twirl. You'll love the end result." I felt completely incapable, although I  think I know what she was trying to achieve with this shot.

We smiled at them and even though were in the middle of our shots, let them have that space and we carried on to a different location. The show must always go on.

It's not just about hiring someone to take your pictures. It's an entire experience from your initial meeting, to the communication in between the event or wedding, to the friendly candor, and finally the execution of your day. Everything I do, I put my whole heart into it and although I'm left exhausted by the end of the day, I know I've done the best I can. And that's all I can do.

I'm definitely no expert. I'm still new to the game, making mistakes and learning as I go. I fail daily. Just when I think I'm getting great shots, I'll stumble upon someone else's amazing work that makes me doubt my own. But when a potential client turned bride turned friend comes to me with such heartwarming comments about the experience of their day or event, I know that for me, my hard work has paid off. For me, for us and for them.

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