For some reason wedding photography isn’t a well-respected genre in the photography industry. I have no idea why that is when it’s so physically, creatively, and technically demanding. But I do have a lot of ideas about why wedding photography should garner more respect.
Photography in general is a highly competitive industry where we’re all trying to gain the respect of potential clients as well as earn the dollars we deserve or at least require to pay the bills. Maybe if nothing in this article convinces you that wedding photography should be respected, maybe you’ll at least hear this. What if we all respected our fellow photographers, regardless of specialty, for choosing a creative path that takes bravery, creativity, and resilience?
Wedding Photographers have Incredible Versatility
First, let’s talk about the versatility that wedding photographers are required to have. We call wedding photography a specialty but really it is all-encompassing of almost all of the photography specialties. Wedding photographers have to be able to shoot portraiture, architecture, landscapes, photojournalism, editorial, fashion, low-light, off-camera flash, high action, and high stress.
Okay, maybe high stress isn’t a photography specialty but weddings are high-pressure once-in-a-lifetime events that wedding photographers are expected to nail on the first try. There’s no time to ask anyone for one more take or to try some different lighting. The wedding photographer has to work with what they have, rain or shine at noon and at sunset.
While I personally enjoy the fast-paced environment, wedding photography demands that a photographer has a versatile tool belt when it comes to their photography skills, their people skills, and their business skills. Even more than a decade later I’m constantly learning new skills to take my wedding photography to the next level and expectations are constantly increasing.
With these skills, I’d love to know if there’s something you think an experienced wedding photographer wouldn’t be able to shoot. Maybe underwater? Perhaps I’m exaggerating but I’ve found that the skills I’ve learned through wedding photography are directly applicable and have prepared me well for other projects I’ve undertaken.
Wedding Photographers Aren’t Afraid of Hard Work
Next up, shooting a wedding is hard work. You have to be creative for 8-12 hours straight while on your feet the entire time. My watch usually alerts me that I’ve reached 10,000 steps before the ceremony even starts.
I’ve had to learn special body mechanics to prevent tendonitis and other chronic pain that’s a result of all the squatting, shifting, and weird body positions we get into to get the shot. Staying hydrated is a challenge especially when you have limited time to use the restroom. And don’t even get me started on eating, I basically have to treat it the same as climbing a mountain.
Wedding photographers have to shoot in stressful and variable conditions. One minute there’s harsh light everywhere and the next you’re on a pitch-black dance floor. But wait, we have to go over there to photograph the cake now with completely different conditions. A wedding photographer has to be quick to adapt and prepared for just about anything, it’s not for the faint of heart.
Competition in Wedding Photography is Real
As I mentioned in my intro where I implored photographers to just respect each other already, photography is a pretty competitive industry as a whole. Something interesting about wedding photography is that the competition isn’t always based on who has the strongest portfolio or the most experience because the clients aren’t always educated decision-makers. This likely applies to a lot of industries, but wedding photographers have to compete on everything from style to personality to price.
Because couples are generally inexperienced hiring photographers, even experienced veteran photographers have to constantly be competing with someone with less experience. The more established your business is the less you’re willing to compromise on price, which is also probably because you have a mortgage and kids to support. Therefore, you have to convince a couple that they should hire you over someone else who to their untrained eye has a strong portfolio for 1/3 of the price.
Every year a wedding photographer has to find new clients, there’s no repeat contract business here. The closest we can do is serve our clients so well that they send all their friends and family our way. Persevering year after year in the photography industry, regardless of specialty, should be celebrated.
Wedding Photographers Achieve Happy Paying Clients
As artists, don’t we all want patrons to appreciate our work? Wedding photographers have succeeded at finding people to love their work for generations. It’s pretty cool knowing that my photos are part of a family history and love story.
Wedding photography actually pays pretty well these days as far as photography goes. While the range can vary wildly, there are definitely areas where weddings are extremely popular and established photographers can charge a good rate. That means that wedding photographers are valued by their customers at least.
This brings me to the question of value. What does it mean to be valued and respected? How can we create a culture where, again regardless of specialty, we are valued and respected both within the industry and beyond it? Sometimes I wonder if it starts with valuing ourselves.
What’s the Real Issue with Wedding Photography?
What’s the real issue? Do you think wedding photography isn’t respected or that it even matters if it is? I realize that I’m probably writing this article just to the discouraged wedding photographers out there. You’re the ones that might find the topic interesting and the question valid.
I want you to know that I see you. I see you running your business trying to keep up with the competition and book enough clients to pay your bills in a limited about of wedding season weekends. The way you keep your clients happy while utilizing creative new lighting techniques and keeping crazy grandma at bay, it’s amazing!
You don’t need the approval of the photography industry as a whole. Instead, you have your profits, your satisfied couples, your creativity, and the countless skills you’re constantly developing and refining. When you find yourself feeling burnt out or undervalued, make a list of all the awesome things you can do and revisit some of the e-mails or reviews your clients have written to you.
About the author: Brenda Bergreen is a Colorado wedding photographer, videographer, yoga teacher, and writer who works alongside her husband at Bergreen Photography. With their mission and mantra “love. adventurously.” they are dedicated to telling adventurous stories in beautiful places.
Image credits: All photos by Brenda Bergreen.