Tips for Wedding Photographers who want to be Famous: A Post-Modern Guide

1. Generally speaking, photographs with light colours will get you noticed more quickly than photographs with dark colours.

2. Subjects that create interest: Bride with child, Landscape with tiny couple, Flower details, Editorial style (Free from morbid props…..grandparent, ugly family member, etc….) Styled portrait, Prisms and smoke bombs.

3. Subject matter is important: It has been said that photographs containing actual non-posed real life portraits are ignored….while the same photograph with posed and directed non-posed portraits will elevate your status, exponentially.

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The Life & Death of a Wedding Photographer, or, The Perpetuation of Mediocrity

I’m all for photography education. In fact, I have been teaching photography in one form or another for longer than I’ve been photographing weddings. Longer than I’ve been an actual photographer.

When I started I was really interested in the software, my understanding and competence led me to teaching. I have taught Photoshop at all levels and have delivered courses on Lightroom and digital workflow. I have delivered courses on camera operation, from basic operation to advanced metering, lens dynamics and digital technology. And, I have lectured on the History of Photography. All of the above has been both academically, and private courses and tuition. 

Why do you need to know this? Perspective.

So you love photographing weddings…….. You look up to successful wedding photographers and you want to shoot like they do, you want to be recognised by your peers and the industry and you do everything you need to, to achieve that. You go on loads of workshops, you fall in line with the industry standards, you use the popular presets and design your images to be accepted by wedding blogs, and other wedding photographers. You become part of the cool gang and embark on the virtual circle jerk that is the soulless liking and commenting on popular photographers work with terms like, “Next Level” and “Mind Blown” and “RAD” and you start to become recognised, people are liking your rad comments and are now liking your work. Your relentless submission to wedding blogs, after fine tuning your work on their recommendation to their standards, is starting to pay off.  You are getting features, the cool gang are starting to like your work too and all of your dreams are coming true.

Then one day you get the mail you’ve so desperately waited for. Yes, you’ve won an award. The awarding body has finally realised that being connected to you will do them some good, will generate some revenue somehow and they’ve reached out to tell you how amazing you are, how utterly beautiful your work is, and how honoured they are to give you such a pointless accolade. You, in turn, will be honoured, humbled, totally blown away and tell will everyone what a privilege it is to be recognised by the whatever the fuck bullshit blog that awarded you the rad award.

You’ll go away and think about where your career will take you next. You’ll have no idea. Then BAM, like a bolt of lighting you’ll get it! Obviously you are amazing, the industry has already confirmed that, and the amount of likes you received on your recent awards post confirms it again. You need to help others achieve their dream too. WORKSHOPS!

Why do photographers (and I use that term lightly in most cases) think that winning some bullshit industry award qualifies them to teach, to be an educator. Most have nothing to teach, no insight, no understanding of their craft and no understanding of themselves. And why do people attend these workshops………

So you love photographing weddings…….. You look up to successful wedding photographers and you want to shoot like they do, you want to be recognised by your peers and the industry and you do everything you need to, to achieve that. You go on loads of workshops, you fall in line with the industry standards, you use the popular presets……………..

….and the cycle continues!

Priorities

Photographers are keen to jump onto social media and complain about shit. I’ve seen posts about Uncle Bob, about wedding guests getting in the way of the precious portfolio shot, about wedding guests with mobile phones taking photographs (I mean, how very dare they), about not getting a slap up meal at the wedding (I’ didn’t get fed last week, no biggie, nipped out for a sarnie, the staff were rushed off their feet attending to the actual wedding), about the couple, yes the fucking couple who are paying them, about how they as photographers aren’t being pandered to, about how the email response they got from a dog shelter they wanted to shoot for (for their own gain) wasn’t up to their usual professional arse kissing standards, and most recently how a destination wedding photographer had to wait over an hour for his hire car, a whole long blog post about that one…..because he had to wait for an hour.  For fuck sake man, we all know you are used to being treated like a little prince but sometimes things just don’t go to plan. Get a fucking grip.

Put all of that effort into studying photography, you might learn something about yourself. Or you might not, who cares.

Responsibility

Just when you think you have nothing more to really say about the state of the photography/wedding industry because you just don’t care enough about it anymore, something tips you over the edge again.

I was recently asked to submit some photographs to a (in my eyes) ridiculous institution that promotes nothing but a stylised, trendy and popular wedding imagery. I completely understand that I wasn’t singled out to apply, but that hundreds of emails would have gone out some very excited, humbled and blessed wedding photographers. I…..am none of these things. I have one person to thank for what I’ve achieved, and that’s me.

So, as an exercise I clicked on 30 (I might have given you clue here) of my portfolio images, answered a couple of questions then left my fate to the gods of mediocrity. I did, at the time, have a joke with a friend about what they would think of my photographs.

Anyway, the inevitable rejection email arrived, an email so riddled with trendy embellishment it was a little awkward to read.

The main section, after saying that I clearly wasn’t good enough,  read like this –

The good news is, our editor-in-chief ………………… has offered to give a personal critique of your work, should you desire a little more insight into our decision. While we noticed this is your final year to submit, getting her feedback can be really valuable in submitting to other competitions going forward. Sometimes the thing that held the judges back is actually fairly straightforward and fixable as you continue onward, so finding that out can bring a little peace of mind. Like I said, competition was super tough this year. (Super tough, no wonder I didn’t make the cut)

 Again, I want to thank you again so much for taking the time to gather your work, answer our questions and send us your submissions during a very busy time of year for you as a wedding photographer, and we hope that the process of putting your 30 photos together was an enlightening or at the very least interesting task, as we’ve heard from other photographers.

“getting her feedback can be really valuable in submitting to other competitions going forward”

Really? ……So if I take someone else’s idea of what, and how I photograph I can hope to be successful in other competitions. But what if other Judges are looking for something different, or if trends change, or just like yourselves they are’t prepared to look outside of their small comfort boxes? I’d spend my whole life running around in circles, never understanding who I am as an artist and will never truly develop an understanding of what I do and why I’m doing it. I will forever be trying to copy the photographers who have been awarded god like status and will be in a perpetual state of unworthiness. 

I think I’ll pass on that, I’m happy with where I’m going thanks.

I added a quip to Facebook with regards to this experience with added tounge in cheek cheekiness like, yeah they can eat a dick, and, they wouldn’t know a good photograph it kicked them in the nuts…. Which received some interesting response. Mostly people will get that I’m just poking fun at the ridiculousness of the industry, but others, well……

“if you don’t accept the judge thoughts it’s easy, don’t take part to the race”

“I think you’d use different words in case you’ve been selected to be one of those 30”

“And I’d really love to see you in front of ………. editorial staff using the same word”

Yeah, man. I’m sure I’d be quaking in boots. Like I give a shit what their editorial staff think of my work.

It’s nothing more that prodding an industry that’s hell bent on homogenisation. I care not for them, or any other awarding body for that matter. I take an iconoclastic stance on all that threatens freedom of imagination. My words would be different if they had accepted my photographs. I would congratulate them on looking for more than popular trend, for promoting individuality. But that would have come with it’s drawbacks too……I can’t imaging how many more emails I’d get from other wedding photographers asking what gear I use, and what my settings were for that shot. Attention I can do without, thank you very much.

I had an idea that this post would be about the award thing, but, in a cruel twist of fate, it became about other photographers. Who, might I add, are the only people that care about how many awards other photographers have.

This sparked conversation in other places – Man, people really don’t like it when you laugh at their most coveted institutions.

A mate of mine directed me to a thread where the discussion had turned to responsibility, of popular artists, the responsibility to not be a dick.

Right, here’s the thing. I have a huge responsibility, to me, to photography, (It’s one of the very few things I give a shit about) to the people that commission me to be my best, to be me, to do what I do, to not fucking do it like everyone else, to be an individual, to not pretend be something I’m not, to be honest in all situations, and to not bow down to an industry that cripples the creative nature of all who are in involved, for their own gain.

I have, somehow, become well known within the photography community and have amassed a few followers. Honesty, I didn’t fucking ask for you to follow me, and I certainly don’t have any responsibility to you, or the photography industry…I especially don’t have any responsibility to the wedding industry and it’s tedious hyperbole. If you follow me with an expectation I will appease your every mood, or I will only post things you will agree with, or that I am somehow some sort of guiding light for you, you will, undoubtedly be disappointed.  Me not living up to your expectations isn’t my fault. 

Follow some other sucker, get over yourselves, stop taking everything so seriously, and don’t forget to eat a bowl of dicks.

Lots of love,

Ian

If only I was a Lawyer

We are in a situation where it’s all becoming the same, no one can think for themselves and everyone wants an easy answer. Fortunately for them, easy answers are easy to come by……..

I get frequent emails asking about lenses, camera settings, business (I have no fucking clue about business), all kinds of photography related stuff, and recently had someone ask if I could send them a processed RAW file because they wanted their photographs to look like mine. Seriously, no liesies, “…but your look is the look that I want so if you could send me a processed RAW file, that’d be great”

Although my response is usually helpful, it’s starting to become a little less so, it’s starting to wear me down. Especially when all you get back is, “thanks for that”

I feel like it has become acceptable to freely give your ideas, your techniques, your process and your soul to anyone that asks, and it’s frowned up on, even offensive, to not be helpful. Everyone wants to be liked, everyone wants to be part of the cool gang, and everyone is obliging. Everyone is obliging to the point that there is no mystery as an artist, the popular style wins through, everything looks the same, and everything is just a watered down version of everything else.

Kool Herc wouldn’t tell people what records he played, stating that if everyone was playing his records then what would make him stand out, why would anyone go to his party over anyone else.

Likewise, if everyones photographs look the same, what makes you stand out, why would someone choose you over someone else……

When questioned about a specific technique, Bill Brandt replied, “a magician never reveals his secrets”

Why then do we think it’s ok to spill our guts to everyone that asks?  Why do we have a situation where we think that we are “All in it together” because that’s not the case at all.

Everyone is in it for themselves, and if they can shortcut to success they will step all over you to get there…..Ok maybe it’s not that extreme, but it’s not far off. False alliances and friendships built on the fact that we are all photographers and we should all be helping each other out are wearing a little thin for me. Just because you have the word, photography, after your name, does not make us the same. Neither does it make us friends, that shit takes time. I’ll gladly help anyone that is helping themselves, but free information because you can’t be bothered to find out for yourself is something that we should all start think about.

Try asking a lawyer for free advice.

Like I’ve got time for this shit…..

I don’t enter photography competitions, and I don’t submit my photographs/weddings to blogs or wedding industry websites. It’s not why I make photographs, it’s not why I’m a photographer. For some, it seems to be their whole purpose…….

I see the ‘photographer’ that needs to be validated, that needs to be part of the gang, the photographer that falls into line and shoots for the all powerful blog that drives popular trends, the photographer that is only shooting to be recognised, and to me, the photographer that is lost.

“the constant repetition of falsehood is more convincing than the demonstration of truth.” ― Mark Rothko

I do however, if asked (nicely) offer my opinion, my viewpoint and photographs. But all too often I find myself in this scenario……..

Hey Ian!

We’ve come across your wedding work as you were mentioned by another photographer and wondered if you would be interested in submitting a real wedding to the site, we’d love to feature you. We are (Blah blah wedding nonsense) and we showcase the very best wedding photographers around the world.

If you’re interested please get in touch, we just need you to answer a few questions and that’s about it, there is no cost to your business.

Thanks

The Team!

Hello The Team,

That’s great, I’d be happy to do so. If you send over the information I’ll get on it as soon as I can.

Cheers,

Ian

That’s awesome,

Please find attached a list of questions, and details about images and other info that we need!!

Can’t wait!!!!

Hi,

Please find attached your answered questionnaire, and link to photographs. Let me know if you need to make any amendments to the text (I can bang on a bit), I’d be happy to cut it down if needed.

Thanks,

Ian

Super!!! We’ll get back to you in a couple of days!

Two weeks later I while re-writing (endlessly) a to do list I realise that I had spent some time answering some questions, selecting images and forwarding it all to, Blah blah wedding nonsense. That shit takes time, a lot of time.

Hi there,

I was wondering if you guys had gotten around to the feature that I sent you a couple a weeks ago?

Ian

Hi Ian,

Thank you for submitting your wedding to be reviewed for a feature on, Blah blah wedding nonsense. Unfortunately, at this time, your work is not fitting with our vision, and style of wedding photography. Please feel free to submit in the future as we are always looking for unique weddings to feature.

Thank you,

The Team!

Hello The Team (Inappropriate exclamation mark)

You do realise that it was you that asked me to submit? I spent time answering your questions – to which I’m sure the answers were far from your expectations – selecting and formatting images and sending them off to you on your request, for you not to bother featuring them.

You are driving an industry with your own distorted view of what wedding photography should be, and so scared of losing followers that you are afraid to deviate from what is deemed acceptable. If you’d have done your homework to start with, you would have realised that what I do is not fitting with your ‘vision’, which in truth, is not your vision –  its a homogenised view that is so steeped in aesthetics it’s impossible to separate one blog from another.

Rest assured, I will not be submitting to you in the future because you are not, ‘….always looking for unique weddings’ You are only looking to promote yourself and further your reach by featuring what ever is most popular at the moment, and exploiting photographers that know no better for your own gain.

I don’t have time for that shit.

Lots of Love,

Ian

P.S. Add inappropriate exclamation marks wherever you see fit.

POWWOW!

ˈpaʊwaʊ/

“A conference or meeting for discussion, especially among friends or colleagues”
A Powwow!, and we’re having one. A Photography Powwow to be exact. Myself and my main man, Facundo Santana, from Argentina.
facusantana02
We think that there is a problem, and that problem is, “workshops”

We mean workshops that are delivered by ill educated, misinformed individuals that have no experience, giving advice to (paying) people that don’t know any better. The workshop giver that has no portfolio to speak of, no business apart from workshops, and is offering a quick fix to success……. The workshop giver that is fooling people into thinking that there is a substitute for hard work, determination, and failure, as is doing nothing more than praying on the weaknesses of other human beings for their own gain. That’s what really gets me. We have to find our own way, and if we start off in the wrong place then you may never find it. Ever. The industry, and systems in place are designed to keep you coming back, to keep spending your money – a bit like Weight Watchers – in a never ending loop of trends and popular techniques. As a lecturer on Photography History it pains me to see so many people being led up the garden path, to be fooled into thinking that there is an easy answer.  The whole,”Shoot to get Published” or “You’re a Rockstar” or “Smoke Bomb Prism Super Awesomeness” (Ok I made that last one up…I think) is wearing a little thin, and we think there needs to be a change. So we decided to put a plan into action.

www.ianweldon.com
www.ianweldon.com

Both myself, and Facundo are working, successful photographers, and although we photograph weddings we couldn’t be any further away from what you’d expect a wedding photographer to be.

facusantana06

www.facundosantana.com

Fundamentally we are photographers, with a love and a passion for the moment, and a love of photography itself. Our photography is not formulaic, it’s an extension of who we are, as artists.

www.ianweldon.com
www.ianweldon.com

Wedding photography workshops will show you how to photograph a wedding, we aim to teach you how to be a photographer.

Information on Ian & Facu’s, Photography Powwow!, will be coming soon……..

You can contact us @ photographyatweddings@gmail.com

Just a thought

I get into way too many conversations about photography, unfortunately these conversations are instigated by me. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson by now.

When I have these conversations, it quickly becomes apparent – in a lot of cases – that photography is being reduced to mere aesthetics. An opinion on how it should be, how it should look. An opinion that is derived from what the industry tells us is right. An opinion that is taken from who ever is a rockstar at the moment, because if they’re popular, then that’s the way to do it…right?

Mindlessly following trends and perpetually attending the same kind of workshop, or seminar might keep you in favour with the cool kids, and everyone might think you’re super awesome, but it’s nothing more than aesthetics, all style and no real substance. I think of it as like being a domesticated dog, eternal puppies. They never need to mature and fend for themselves, they don’t have to, someone is looking out for them. But for them it’s free, albeit the incessant paw giving, sitting and being a good boy. 

I know, blah blah blah, Evil Photography Industry, blah blah blah Photography History, blah blah blah…..But I’ve been reading some books recently on some of my favourite painters – Abstract Expressionism to be exact. An ideology that intrigued me from the beginning, that has weaved it’s way into my consciousness over the years.

Process by proxy?

So, the point is to express feeling through the act of painting itself, the process, without fixating on the actual product of that act, the artwork.

I think that’s the issue with most [Wedding] photography, is people fixate on the final product. People want to achieve that ‘popular’ final product, as easily as possible, that will ‘WOW” others. But really it falls short, even on the level it’s meant to work. It has no substance, and will eventually be cast aside for the next style or trend and photographers will get lost in the next vast landscape, or smoke bomb, and the latest trick seems to be the only guiding light. They latch onto it with all they have and flog that dead horse for all it’s worth.

I believe that the study of your craft, and art in general, will bring about a new direction for (all) photographers, a direction devoid of trends and fads, and set you on a path to understanding, not just yourselves, but the world around you. Sensitivity will bring you closer to your craft, and closer to yourself. You will never again be caught in the trap of the latest trend, where you feel safe and warm.

So the idea that we can study our art, and study the technical aspect of our equipment, and work on understanding what we do and why we do it, and understanding the world around us, and understanding others, is to create without consideration of the end product. Because that end product will be an extension of you, and no one will be able to copy it, and you will have a voice. Your art will be uniquely yours, an extension of you.

“They value expression over perfection, vitality over finish, fluctuation over repose, the unknown over the known, the veiled over the clear, the individual over society, and the inner over the outer” – William Seitz

Just a thought.