It happens at most weddings and it makes me feel so good. A groomsman or a bridesmaid will come up and say, “ Hey you’re a great photographer.” The funny thing is they haven’t seen any of my pictures yet.
I’ve been thinking about this lately. How can I be a great photographer if they haven’t seen the pictures yet? I’ve come to a conclusion. Being a great photographer isn’t about the pictures. When I taught photography at Oregon State University, I could take a Freshman and teach them to shoot manually in about a week. When I taught at Corvallis high school I could do it in two weeks. The fundamentals are not hard; once exposure is mastered, the composition comes with practice and you can get beautiful photos pretty easily.
So why are these people saying I’m a great photographer? It’s because of how I make them feel in the moment. And it has nothing to do with a camera or what lens I have or this setting or that filter. It has taken some practice. Years actually. I think it really started when my friend Richard Lewis taught me how to wait tables. He taught me how to “style people’”. How to give them the experience that they want. I love reading people. I observe them. Think about them. I listen to them. And then I adapt what I do and say to give them the best possible experience. Sometimes a bridal party is a little more subdued and serious and so I respect that. I flow with them and create a more solemn atmosphere. Other times they are a little more rowdy, they want to laugh and drink and be a little crazy. At those times I turn it up a notch, joking and laughing with them, yet also maintaining control with precise directions so it doesn’t get too crazy. I also tell the guys to put down their drinks a lot.
I guess all this is to say that I want the bride, groom, bridal party, mother of the bride, 2nd cousin of the bride and everyone else I interact with to think to themselves, “The best thing about that photographer isn’t his pictures—it’s the way he made us feel.”
A couple years ago I spent a good amount of time thinking about what set my photographs apart. I came up with two phrases to describe my pictures: True Emotion and Inspired Light. I think those two words describe my pictures well and what I am trying to achieve.
However, I’ve really struggled to come up with a phrase that describes maybe the most important part of what I do at a wedding—how I make people feel. So I’m reaching out to you friends. Can you help me come up with a phrase? Maybe if you were part of a bridal party at one of my weddings you could share a fun experience or a positive feeling? I’m open to your suggestions and would love to hear from you!