On the face of it, it’s really easy to believe that wedding photographers lead pretty exciting lives filled with champagne, partying and playing with expensive tech that they also get to use for their hobby, and I can see why it looks that way.
I only have to look over my Instagram account to see a wealth of happiness, days brimming with joy and the odd (heavily curated) photo of myself where I look good and I’m having a great time at work.
I absolutely love my job; let there be no dispute about that. My job is quite unique I think, getting to know strangers who found me on the internet, briefly, before taking a front seat on one of the most important days of their life is a complete and utter privilege and I never take that for granted.
My couples look after me so well; I eat like a queen and often have a couple of drinks in celebration with them too. But being at a wedding to take photos is such a tiny part of the job. A school mum asked me today if I do any work during the week as my job is a weekend thing… Perhaps because I do the school runs 90% of the time it’s easy to think that I’m popping off home after to put my feet up at catch up on daytime TV and some laundry… Any wedding photographer will tell you that that’s a bit of a dream. The reality is that this job can be quite lonely and that gives us a lot of time to think and worry… And of course any self-employed person knows there’s a lot to worry about running your own business!
I’ve spent a little time collating a list of some of the stuff I find most stressful, which I guess has sort of become a little open letter to my clients and potential clients… Some cathartic writing, if you will, about the stuff that occupies my head when I’m not shooting a wedding…
Sometimes enquires drop into my mail box in abundance, sometimes they are few and far between but I always take time to respond to them with a personal reply. I give them all the same skeleton response to ensure they have the information they require but I want them to see relevant galleries and answer any specific questions if they have them. I’d say it’s at least a fifteen-minute activity replying to an email.
I understand I am not everyone’s cup of tea, and I absolutely understand I may be out of budget. I am absolutely fine with being told either of these pieces of information. What I find really hard is when potential clients disappear on me, or ghost me, and I never hear from them again, but in the meanwhile feel bad quoting other potential couples for the same date, in case they happen to reappear in a few weeks and then get left disappointed.
Dear lovely potential client, please just take 30 seconds to say “thanks but no thanks.” Thanks.
The price of fish
I understand that weddings are expensive affairs and that you’ve saved hard to have everything you want at your wedding. Please remember that everything comes at a cost and sadly Tesco wont give me my shopping 20% cheaper because I’ve been paid 20% less to do a job.
I am a mum, with kids, with bills, with kit that needs maintaining and the price of fish is the same for us both. If your budget is smaller then ask me about if we can discuss shorter hours to accommodate your budget. Please don’t assume that I will deliver the same awesome for less money, unless you’re going to ask for money off your shopping bill in the supermarket too.
The rest of the week
I hinted at this in my introduction but I’d like to provide some clarity here:
During the week I go to work.
Sometimes I’m taking photos (and people don’t just get married on Saturdays of course) but I’m likely editing, emailing, marketing, blogging, book keeping, doing other bits of admin, in meetings or any of the other things I can’t think of right now. All of these things aside from editing still have to be done alongside editing. Yes, you might see I’m not in the office on a week day (because my weekends aren’t days off and a girl can’t work 24/7!) but it’s not always a jolly and I am pretty much glued to my desk Monday – Friday. Wedding photography isn’t a hobby and I’m about as full time as it gets.
I still get these the morning of a wedding. I’m 100% confident in my ability to do the job brilliantly, but I don’t sleep much the night before a wedding and just feel a bit “arg” in the first 15 minutes I’m shooting… please don’t look worried if I ask for a second coffee, or say something really silly when you introduce me to your squad… I’m on it and I totally can’t wait to wedding.
I promise to take you as you are today
Some of my favourite ever wedding vows, because fundamentally that’s the reason we’re all here right? You two decided you liked each other enough, just as you are, to make a commitment to spend your lives together in front of people and you want some photos of that. I assume, when you made the decision to tie the knot you knew that meant your other half would love you even with three heads and scaly skin.
With this in mind, requests to Photoshop absolutely break my heart. I have plenty of hangups and I don’t really like having my photo taken either but I do believe that our other halves just don’t see the imperfections we see in ourselves. I have never seen a bride or groom who isn’t beaming and radiant on their wedding day, and I know this translates in their photos too. You are perfect and the person marrying you thinks you are too.
Digital artist I am not
With the above at the back of my mind, I also wish that people understood I can’t just Photoshop that… I’m a photographer, not a digital artist and while I have some very basic Photoshop skills I cannot make a chaotic bridal suite tidy, or add a missing relative into a group photo retrospectively. I can’t fix broken stuff and I can’t make a wet March wedding in the countryside look like it was hot and glorious.
I am all about honesty in my photos; I LOVE the chaos of prep when the bouquets are all staying hydrated in the bath or in the last four mugs from the back of the cupboard. I love the group photo when Uncle Richard finally appears from his crafty cigarette and comes to join us and we all laugh about how we’ve been waiting for him. I will still make sure you wedding day looks like the best day EVER even if it’s a monsoon out there… and that’s a promise.
And now we wait
I love your wedding photos and I have poured my heart and soul into the curation and editing of your final gallery. I have stared at your faces for longer than you need to know about, and when I deliver those photographs to you I have lived through your wedding day at least five times as I go through my processes in preparing them for you…. I am heavily invested and I am desperately hoping you love them too.
So when I’m about to press send on that gallery, I do feel a little sick. A lot sick, actually. And once I’ve pressed send, I feel like a little ticker starts ticking away… you’ve opened the email, I can see you’ve logged in… You’re no doubt MASSIVELY excited and I get you’re busy too…. Please just let me know you’ve got them. And that you love them, I hope. Silence after you’ve delivered a gallery to a couple is the hardest thing.
FUCK YES WE DID A THING! You got married, I documented it all and the forces threw the three of us together in the funniest of ways. Of course it was nice that you paid me to do it but I really want you to know how much I’ve enjoyed getting to know you and being part of your day. I really mean it when I say I want to stay in touch. Know that there is always a brew for you if you’re passing near my home and while you may be bored of weddings now, I will never be bored of yours and I’d love to keep on hanging out.
A step back
Maybe it sounds like I’m a bit disillusioned at work; I cannot stress just how wonderful my job is. It’s easy to get caught up in the stuff that is frustrating; at the end of the day, we’re only human and when you work a job that is so personal with so much emotional attachment I think it’s only natural to feel so sensitive to things like this… It feels a bit better written down though! Are there any things you wish your clients knew? We’d love to know!
Hannah is big in the game at Photographer’s Keeping it Real and is also a wedding photographer who loves a party based in Northamptonshire with a keen eye for interior design and an addiction to houseplants.
FOLLOW HER WORK HERE