Artist vs. Just Another Hired Vendor

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“So, I have a ton of favorite shots from Pinterest I have printed out that I want to make sure you get. I also printed out this list of the Top 100 Must-Have Photos for Your Wedding that we wanted to try and have you capture!" 

The bride and I were sitting together hunched over a timeline, color swatches, and cups of coffee, discussing her upcoming wedding. We were going over the photo schedule and drafting a tentative timeline when the dreaded utterance from above left her mouth. Instead of folding and agreeing to photograph her more-than-likely unattainable list of Pinterest favorites, I took a moment and explained to her exactly why striving to recreate others' work would be a detriment, not a benefit, to her wedding day. She positively exclaimed, "So you're an artist, not just a photographer!" While I will gladly accept that title any day, I am also "just" a photographer as well. And, therein lies the ever present dilemma of shooting for the job, or shooting for myself. 

If I were left to my own devices, I would have hundreds of shots of the details, the florals, the bride and groom and maybe a handful of everything else. For the majority of couples, though, a wedding day album wouldn't be complete without photos of families and their guests. As an artist, these formal elements aren't my favorite, but as a photographer it is just part of the deal. Because my clients are important to me, I put just as much creative energy into that photo of Uncle Bob with the cousins... and then Uncle Bob with the cousins and the second cousins. And then Uncle Bob, the cousins, the second cousins and the next door neighbors who are basically like family... as I do the beautiful bouquets I love so much. So what happens when someone requests those cliche favorites they have pinned on Pinterest?

Because you are put in this position of being the official photographer of the day, it is important to stand behind your style and your brand while accommodating client requests. I remember the first wedding I ever shot. It was in California, and I was scared out of my mind so I took at least 10 photos of every. single. thing. I took every suggestion and request. I remember the bride and groom asking to wear sombreros at a park for a few shots. The setting didn’t make sense with the sombreros, and there was an ugly chain link fence in the background. In my head I was thinking “this isn’t a good photo”, but I took it anyways, because I hadn’t taken control of my creative voice. I was creating lackluster, dare I even say it -- bad -- photos because I was trying to translate someone else’s vision instead of seeking out my own. Getting to the point where you feel confident in saying "no" or re-directing certain requests comes with time. It is a tricky balance between serving the client, and doing what needs to be done to deliver the quality and style that you were hired for.

            Ashley Slater Photography

Fast forward from that first wedding to today, and I am confident in that balance it takes to navigate a wedding successfully. So when an overly enthusiastic wedding coordinator suggests I get that shot “of their reflection in the window” I simply say “what a great idea, you should get that picture!” or when a guest asks me to take “just a few quick photos” of their family outside while I am supposed to be documenting the bride and groom in the reception, I politely decline. Why? Because I believe in myself, my artistic eye and photographic voice. I feel confident in getting all the must-haves as well as the creative shots during the day (and for me,  a reflection in the window just isn’t gonna cut it!)

Before you know it, blending the “art” with the “job” will be effortless, and your business will flourish as you declare who you are behind the camera! You technically are a hired "vendor" for the couple's big day, but hopefully that couple has hired you because they have seen and trust in your approach as an artist. 

Have you encountered this same tension? Let's get the conversation started in the comments!