some comments on the wedding industry
There was an article today online at DeviantArt.com called “Photography Is Dead” that caused a bit of a stir on Facebook which got me thinking : something that happens every third week of the month. In a nutshell, it spoke of the idea that the quality of “photography these days” is dying due to all the ‘newbies’ out there buying digital SLR’s. There has been much said in the photo community about this idea aside from this article – the concept that all these new folks running around willy-nilly with cameras that rather easily produce ‘good’ photos, are diluting the market. That these folks are single-handidly devaluing the photography business. That they are stealing work from the ‘rest of us’ by undercutting prices. These Weekend Wedding Warriors and Photo-Mommies want to steal our business and shut us down.
What I took away from this article was that they were suggesting that a lot of people get into photography now assuming it’s ‘easy’. The days of learning how to really expose (film) and potentially have to even develop it in a smelly darkroom, are gone for the most part. Back then, if you had a camera and really knew how to use it, there was a lot of craft and background knowledge necessary. It was impressive when you whipped out that Hasselblad and actually knew how to wrangle it. Personally I got into photography because I felt a passion for it and enjoyed it, not because I thought anything about it would be simple. We all had to start somewhere,and nobody comes out of the gate charging $5000 for a wedding. (I think for my first wedding I charged something like $1,200 with $600 in expenses)
Today the presumed ‘easy’ part at it’s most basic, is that you can immediately see your images and exposure and make corrections etc on the fly, with no real skill necessary. The article suggests that everyone and their Mother can run to a Target, buy a basic camera 101 kit and open a successful business. Those people then in turn, post their images on Facebook and thrive off of ‘likes’ and positive comments which only fuel the vicious cycle.
To a certain degree this IS a phenomena that is occurring. And we long-time Pro’s are indeed feeling the result, as Brides struggle to find ways to pay for their weddings in this economy (I hate that expression as a blanket excuse, but do believe it is a factor) often shopping strictly on price and not quality. I call it the Wal-Mart Effect: I can get a lot for a little and I don’t care much about the quality–all I know is i’m getting a LOT!! But if you think about it – this is really nothing new: there has always been a market for The Dollar Store, as well as Neiman Marcus. The popularity and ease of iPhone photography and Instagram type sites hasn’t helped, as that encourages a ‘thats good enough’ disposable mentality which unfortunately trickles down into a lot of things. (although i’m the first to admit I often carry my iPhone as my only camera!)
This is not to say that many, many couples are still appreciative of great photography and what it offers them in the long term. Those photographers who have been at it for many years know there’s an art to what you see and when you press the trigger. An art to dealing with and directing often uncomfortable people in front of the camera. An art to producing an image you know the client EXPECTS to see. As many have said before – it’s easy to take a PICTURE, but difficult to take a PHOTOGRAPH.
And YES – while those ‘weekend warriors’ may be saturating the market and offering their wares at rock-bottom prices, will they last the long haul one they realize how much REAL work is involved? Will they be around in 2 years once they discover how little they are actually making per hour, after all of the time needed to really do the job right? WIll they discover any profit whatsoever after calculating the cost of all the bells and whistles added to make their packages look appealing? Will they still be around once a few people have poor experiences? I doubt it. And will there always be brides simply looking for a bargain? YES…
I don’t know if there is any easy answer to this other than to stick to your guns and the the best work you know how to do. Never do a ‘just good enough’ job, as that’s a disservice to you and your client. If you’re charging a certain price, you had better believe in yourself enough to be able to ask for that fee and know you can deliver. If you’re starting out – take the time to learn from people who have been doing this for awhile. Ask to go on some weddings simply for experience. You may find you love it–or hate it. Don’t misrepresent yourself online making a month old business appear to be long established. Be honest (when I started out I was REALLY clear with couples that I was new at it!)
You can call me naive, but I still believe the cream will always rise to the top.
And it does so with good reason.