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What It Takes to be a Complete Wedding Photographer

It’s Friday and a quick check of the calendar reminds you of what you already knew – you have a big wedding on Saturday. How do you react to the calendar reminder – is it just another darn wedding, or is it news that fires you up with the photographic possibilities of the day. Many photographers I meet are pretty excited about being involved in wedding photography. But too many other photographers I have met over the years answer with a negative attitude, and that is just too bad. Too bad for them and too bad for the client who has hired someone who may not put their heart and soul into the job.

What makes a good wedding photographer, or better yet, what makes a complete wedding photographer? What do I mean by complete wedding photographer? I mean a photographer who is involved enthusiastically from the first consultation till final delivery of the product with his/her client. I mean a photographer that’s on top of their form both artistically and creatively. I mean a photographer who understands the craft of the profession as much as the art. I mean a photographer who brings their heartfelt passion to the profession, to the event and to the client – they love what they do.

I watched on TV as Tiger Woods played in the U.S. Open this past Saturday, Sunday, and Monday – yes, finally winning on Monday. From one stroke back he tied the leader with a very long birdie putt on the 18th hole Sunday evening – his last opportunity to remain in the competition. After 18 holes they were still tied after Monday’s play-off round and went into the “sudden death” playoff. Tiger won on the 1st hole, but the reality is that Tiger didn’t win on that one hole of “sudden death.” It took him 91 holes to emerge the winner of the US Open. Anybody who watches Tiger play golf can easily see his focus, concentration, skill, talent, and creativity he brings to the sport. Tiger studies the sport and practices the fine points relentlessly. The payoff is that he has become the most complete golfer of all time. The complete wedding photographer must think the same way and do the same things if he/she wants to be at the top of their profession.

It’s not just about shooting a wedding that makes us a complete photographer. It’s how we are constantly preparing ourselves for that role. Do we just run through a rote series of images each wedding that we could do in our sleep, or are we constantly refining and enhancing our style. That’s a BIG problem with a lot of the seasoned pros these days. Many of them have seen their business erode from under them because they were late to the digital game, and even more than that, resistant to the changing styles and trends the new digital world introduced to our profession.

We also need to be a different kind of wedding photographer these days. We can’t be a “I know it all” photographer. We need to be a “I want to know it all” photographer. We constantly need to be exposing ourselves to the broad range of styles and creativity we are now seeing by photographers from around the country and the world. We need to see what might fit with our own style and how we may incorporate it into our own routine. Being a complete wedding photographer demands that we are always learning, always trying new things, always trying to raise the bar on ourselves.

More specifically, the complete wedding photographer needs to be quick on their feet, stalking the action, always with their sixth sense and that extra set of eyes behind their heads, ever ready to anticipate and capture the quick reactions. Capturing both, the actions and the reactions, is essential when capturing the moments, and folks, that’s our job as wedding photographers – to capture the moments and as many of them as possible for our clients.

How well do we know our gear? Too many of us have never even read the manual and only have a superficial understanding of all the capabilities of these modern marvels of Harry Potter digital magic we hold in our hands. But that’s the point, our gear should not only be in our hands, it should truly be an extension of ourselves, all it’s functions almost directly wired into our brains, ready to perform effortlessly on the job for us. If we spend some time reading the manual and understanding all those new functions, we really do make that magic our own.

How much time do we practice the art and the craft of our profession? Is it only on weekends during the actual wedding? Think Tiger!! There are so many resources available on line that make it easy for us to enhance and fine tune our style. Just tune in to any number of them easily available at your fingertips. It’s so easy, skip an episode of Law and Order or CSI and tune into some online training. Set the alarm for an hour earlier in the morning and just enjoy a quick web cruise for wedding inspiration. Here is a quick 7 inspirational wedding sites you can check out right here over at my blog DigitalProTalk. Want another quick hit of inspiration – check out this Flickr link to the Inspirational Wedding Photography pool right here – many of these images are simply gorgeous.

Staying inspired as a wedding photographer is part of the work you need to do to be a complete wedding photographer. Here are 10 ways you might try right here.

It amazes me when I hear photographers say, “I’m doing the best I can.” I always thought that was a cop-out remark. It is kind of an excuse for doing exactly the opposite. Most of us have no clue what our best really is until we are under the gun to do better. And, most of the time we do succeed at stretching ourselves a bit more. At each wedding, we should want to do a better job for our clients than we did for the previous client. Don’t rest on your laurels. It’s the only way we grow and in turn broaden the boundaries for others to grow too.

After reading an article in Time magazine a few months ago, I decided to do a post on what it takes to be great. I applied what I gleaned for the article to photography and listed some ideas for all of us to be great. You know, it’s really easy to be the best – you just work a lot harder than the competition and most of the competition doesn’t want to work that hard. It’s all about being a complete wedding photographer. It’s more than just shooting. It’s pro-actively staying passionate about what you do; it’s your willingness to learn; it’s your sharing of your knowledge with others, it’s your desire to constantly improve; it’s pro-actively juicing your creativity from time to time; it’s practicing your skills and your talents; it’s your wanting it bad enough; it’s you’re reaching for the stars and knowing you can get there!

P.S. I want to thank Scott for the invitation to be “Guest Blogger” this Wednesday. It was truly an honor and a privilege. Hey, maybe you can sneak over the DigitalProTalk some day ;~) Thanks again, Scott.