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Mar15

The Problem With Wedding Blogs

There are hundreds of them. Lists to review of which the ‘top 100 are’. Many brides will know them by name. They have for many, become the main modern source of bridal reference.

It’s the popular Wedding Blog.

In CONCEPT there is nothing wrong with them, and I know they act as inspiration for many a bride. The problem is that they have become marketing and advertising machines, less concerned with thoughtfulness or quality and more about  – plain and simple – what sells (the age old story, I suppose.) What sells it seems, are primarily photographs of ‘details’ rather than real moments. What they have done  is created a generation of brides who now feel that there weddings are somehow ‘not good enough’ if they can’t live up to these detail-heavy expectations. I have had several brides APOLOGIZE for “…not having enough details.”  That’s insanity.

As photographers, we are now expected to concentrate a fair amount of attention on capturing these details during the wedding , because a lot of brides in turn want to submit their wedding so then THEY will be on the same blog they used as inspiration. It’s a vicious cycle. However the real issue is that there is a whole body of photographic work being overlooked and not given it’s due, because the images do not match the color scheme flavor-of-the-month. Just try and submit beautiful photos of real moments not accompanied by photos of paper straws and mason jars, and in most cases they will be rejected. As a photographer trained to look for moments and really observe LIFE – having images of paper lanterns garner more value than a beautiful, tender, fleeting moment is mind boggling. One can only hope this trend eventually goes the way of ‘selective color’.

I have tried to touch upon this subject here in the past with little luck, as I have not been able to quite wrangle my words. I came across a post on the blog MUSEA which I am going to share with you here in it’s entirety. I have never come across a post which hits the nail on the head so eloquently. If you’re  bride-to-be or a photographer (I have already posted this link on facebook and twitter!) Take a few minutes to read this. At least for me, this really hit home and expressed MY frustration and I hope you find it equally enlightning.

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link to original post HERE

We’ve gotten ourselves into this mess to a large degree. Among photographers who shoot weddings, there is this low grade grumbling about how tough it is to run a successful business. The economy is blamed, the amount of competition is given as an excuse and the devaluation of photography is also called out for making this career path  difficult. I do think some of these factors are valid, but it’s always been hard. Always.  Not only has it always been hard, but most photographers chose this life because they want to live it till they die. It’s a life choice, not a trend or a fad. So many photographers today don’t build their life around the long arc. It’s all about microwaving a career.

At the Gathering in New York City last week, I spent a lot of time reflecting on where our industry is and how it has gotten to the place it has. I believe there are a number of different circumstances that have lead us to where we are in 2013, but one that’s not talked about is our role in all of this.

As the new rank of photographers has come along the past 10 years, what has been left behind are the knowledge and respect for the history of photography. The fact that a person can educate themselves through the internet is quite marvelous, but it’s also a curse.

When someone only learns through self-education, they have the power to skip all sorts of information they should have learned. It’s the difference between having a personal trainer that forces you to do the work you don’t really want to do, but need to and working on your own. Humans do much better when we have someone guiding us and keeping us accountable. This is why we have teachers, coaches, pastors, mentors, bosses and partners. Left on our own, we typically wander off track only engaged in things that give us a rush of adrenaline.

When photographers teach themselves, the discipline to learn about the deep history of photography is quickly left behind. In its place grows an ambition to see how quickly they can get a profitable business off the ground. There is no time to marinate, to ponder, to freely explore and to gain a deep reverence for the power of images.

A great number of photographers now don’t know who Edward Steichen was or Paul Strand or Minor White or Alfred Steiglitz or Lee Friedlander or WeeGee or Harry Callahan or Emmet Gowin or Nicholas Nixon or Imogen Cunningham or…

This breaks my heart, because many photographers don’t have a foundation for what great photography is. Since this understanding is missing, what has happened is that much of the wedding industry has become a contest to see who is the most clever. Photography has become about who is really witty instead of the human condition. It’s now about materialism, style, looking cool, trendy and ‘with it’, but often the substance is missing.

Wedding photography has become more clever and creative, but it hasn’t gotten deeper. Timeless truths are hard to find in portfolios these days, but it’s really easy to find someone pushing the boundaries of composition or some other basic element of photography.

Photographers tend to be obsessed with photography, but if you look back over the history of the medium, the most successful artists were more obsessed with life, with humanity. Photography was a means to self-discovery for the masters, not the end. The masters often photographed because they felt it ultimately made them better people and that they would understand the world more intimately.

What I’d like to see in the wedding and portrait industry, is to have maybe 20% of the industry creating more mature work. I want to see less images about how clever the photographer was and more about how the bride keeps forgetting her dance steps, about how the groom shows his love by caressing his wife’s shoulder to calm her nerves or about how the bride’s family laughs louder and longer than most people. I want to see photographs about the people, about family, about real life, not about off-camera lighting or about VSCO action sets.

The more we emphasize the surface of life, the less people will value photography, because anyone can learn to capture the surface of things. That’s the easy part. True artists dig deeper, they see the minute moments we all miss. How can you take your work to a deeper level? What truth are you showing us about life that enriches our souls or are you just showing off a really expensive table setting?

image

Wedding photography has decreased in value because most wedding images are about stuff, material possessions. Wedding images are about styled shoots and models and fancy invitations and paper lanterns. Most wedding photography today actually sells the other wedding vendors better than the photographer.This is why blogs and Pinterest are so popular.

The definition of a wedding has changed. It’s no longer about family and two people committing their life to one another. It’s about throwing a stylish party that shows how creative the couple is. It’s a game to see who can ‘one up’ the other weddings of the world. The Wedding Machine has won.

It’s like this:

Oh you thought your wedding was unique? Well, I had mine on top of an abandoned carousel out in New Mexico with a bunch of people in mermaid costumes floating in an inflatable pool. That’s right. My wedding kicked your wedding’s ass!’

We act as though the most important thing to photograph at a wedding is the decor and style of it all, but you know what is the most important thing to photograph? Do you know what the most important thing in life is? It’s people.

The problem is photographers have willing jumped into the wedding blog ocean and are enjoying the swim. They LOVE seeing their work get published, while each blog post shoots all of us in the foot. We are hurting our own industry by not demanding a higher standard of image. I think most of us want to be creating the types of images that most blogs don’t run, but that’s not considered ‘good’ photography anymore. It’s played off as the boring stuff that some mom will buy. That’s sad.

I would love to see several blogs and magazines, ran by people that know the history of photography and understand the power of images, honoring a higher quality. I hate that publications don’t celebrate the interesting human interactions at weddings. It’s the most symbolic day of our lives, but we are more obsessed with the symbols than the actual emotions and people that are there. We’d rather treat our clients as models than human beings with fears, hopes and desires.

When I look at most wedding photography today, I don’t know the couple any better than I would a fashion model on the cover of a magazine. The soul is missing and it’s time we get it back, because this track of personality, coolness and style is quite uninteresting in the grand scheme of life. Don’t we want future generations to know something about the interpersonal relationships of the families we are shooting rather than the fact the bride dropped an insane amount of money on blue Jimmy Choo’s?

As photographers, we have the power to redefine the industry. To say weddings need to be about THIS and not THAT. We need to set the bar, not clients and surely not wedding blogs. All the power is in the images that are celebrated and are on display. We have the power to make weddings more real and less fake, but we have to fight for it. We have to learn to see the world more intimately and we must learn how to make those types of images. Styled shoots are easy, but capturing the human spirit…now that’s a real goal worth working towards.

Blessings,

Michael Howard

Founder and CEO of Musea

7 Comments

  1. Paul

    Yup, I loved that article, It so true! When I started into this business there was NO glamor about being a wedding photographer and somehow its now all about being young and fabulous. Forget running a business, or being human it’s about what camera, what bag, how many weddings etc, etc! ugh.

  2. admin

    You said it, Paul!!!!

  3. Robert,

    Both your commentary and the post that you included said it as well as I have heard it put. I get really frustrated when I get these incredible interactions between people and the couple ohhs and aahhs over a shot of the placecards. My hope is that as time passes those moments will increase in importance while the “detail shots” face into the background.

    We have seen this in cases where we had shots of older relatives who die at some point after the wedding and we get so many notes from our clients thanking us for getting that moment with their grandparent or greatuncle…

    Frank

  4. Jennifer

    We had one of our grooms tragically die two months after his wedding (he was 39). That truly put it into perspective for us.

  5. Jeannine

    I can only imagine your frustration, as I am not a photographer, or even in the wedding business. As one of your past brides, however; I am posting this comment with the hope that future brides read it.

    You gave us the photos of some of the details from our day, but the photos we treasure most, the ones that adorn our walls and are shared with our families and friends are the ones where you caught moments that as the bride and groom, we would have never remembered. The look on my father’s face during our father/daughter dance, or when he first saw me in my gown, my nieces laughter as we got ready, the photograph taken of a moment very shortly after leaving the church on our walk to Inn. To me it encapsulated the feel of the entire day. There are too many to mention.

    Future brides, take heed. Let your photographer do what they are trained to do. Trust them. Let them capture the day for you in a way you’ll never remember it. Like Robert did for us. When trends change, and you wonder why you ever chose what you chose for favors, or colors, or flowers, none of that will matter, because you’ll have the memories that will last a lifetime in the photographic story that your wedding photographer captured for you that day.

  6. Catherine Fiehn

    Loved this article! As I see more and more photographers that seem obsessed with creating styled shoots and trying to out best each other by owning the latest and greatest equipment. I wonder what has happened to real moments and the quest to capture an event and it’s meaning. 30 years from now the couple will have wished they had just one more photo of grandma laughing and will probably notice they could have done with out the artistic assortment of glassware at the bar. For twenty years,I photographed hundreds of wedding with the same professional camera. I didn’t need a new camera every year to make my photos better. I got better and since a camera was is a box with a hole in it so did my photos. My ability to put people at ease got better as I got less nervous with gained experience and the expressions got better. I got faster with the camera settings and tricks of the trade and my subjects where happier in return and had a better experience. All not because of a more expensive camera but because of a more experienced operator!

  7. Michael Howard

    Robert,

    Thank so much for sharing my article. I’m glad it resonated with you and with many others. I truly believe that photographers have the power to direct the industry in whatever direction we see fit. We need to steward that power much better than we have been. My main goal with writing articles like this one is to create discussion and to get people talking about how to make our industry better.

    Thanks again!

    Blessings,
    Michael

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