Being an Artist vs. the hired Photographer
Carrying the water bottle you can always find her toting along we continued our conversation as we headed into the church's sanctuary "...so you're the artist then..." she concluded. If I was feeling frisky I would have poked at her correcting her grammar, "you mean the arteeeestttt", but the truth was, compared to the options she had presented, I declared myself both the photographer AND the artist, but where I thrive most is as the creative. On our way to an extra service at church derived for entrepreneurs we had begun discussing business, in particular my business, and the trick to finding the balance between shooting for yourself and documenting for others when I explained to her that there are times I don't even want to pick up my digital camera, not because I don't like it's quality, but because film makes me be the photographer I know I am. The photographer who instead of taking 25 photos of the same thing to decide she likes none of them to holding a film camera in front of my face, taking a moment to focus and recompose to figure I don't really want to take that shot in the first place. Being pushed to only capture the good stuff means I don't take my frames for granted and pause and think before I click. Henceforth, making my body of work a lot more curated and less "here's a photo of everything, at every minute, at every angle, just in caseeeee!". It relinquishes you of self-imposed obligations to get shots of every waking moment encouraging you to instead take a breath and look around, telling the story exactly how you see it. After all, your particular vision is why people hire you in the first place, so stand up for it! Sometimes when you take your craft and make it into a business it's hard to find the shift between what a client wants and what you love, after all, when first starting you've been shooting "4 your eyes only" all this time--obliging the desires of someone else isn't what you realized you signed up for. But when it comes to a wedding day, it kinda sorta is. For most couples a wedding album wouldn't be complete without formal photos of their friends and family, or simple + pretty images detailing their reception's decorative elements. As an artist the formal and traditional factors may not be your thang but they're apart of the deal. So is happily agreeing to photo of Aunt Carole and her brothers when she goes off your printed list to request it. It comes with the territory and is something I'd never in a million years miss, even when couples say "you know, we really don't any photos of the details..." I know they're crazy, I'd never want to risk them changing their minds in 10 years so even if it's just a few, I make sure I get some of those beautiful but "standard" wedding detail photographs just in case.
Just as you're the official photographer of the day, required to photograph typical moments and details of each event, it's also just as important to know your strengths, focus on your personal style, and stand up for your business and time. Because if you don't, who will? And we allll know every second of a wedding day is precious and allotted photography time is a rare commodity. When I first began shooting I'd find myself humoring every photo request at the beck and call of family members saying "Oh, did you get a shot of this? Where's the photographer, she should get a photo of that. Are you sure this light is okay behind them?" finding my camera working hard to get the lackluster images that someone else was directing instead of seeking out beautiful moments myself. Even as a freelance newspaper photographer I'd let restaurant owners suggest how I set-up plated food when I KNEW that if, left to my own devices, my style would be more effective because, helloooo, I was a professional already. I was just too nice to say anything and took the photos they wanted before shooting what was actually needed, in turn often being rushed and deleting everything I had taken to accommodate them anyway. And WHY?!?! In efforts to be nice, really, but because I wasn't confident enough to take ownership. I was letting what other people thought I should do dictate my shots and ultimately business. Having a pushy officiant asked the couple to face one another and jointly hold the bouquet in between them for the entirety of the ceremony for "the photographer" (?!?! Hi. THIS photographer requested nothing of the awkward sort), or an aunt hovering over as she pulled me away from photos of the rings to get shots of the groomsmen putting on their boutonnieres...all of them...one.by.one. Sure, it may seem like no harm no foul to take the shot and move on, and typically it's not, but there comes a moment when as a business owner we need to step up and position ourselves as the Artists, or our creative spark may just get sucked right out like Dementors whisked along. Poof. Now you're soulless.
Nowadays I feel completely confident in the balance I've found with being hired to document while still having absolute style and when a officiant hinting-ly (it's a word, go with it), says "Oh, look, their foot prints in the sand make a great photo...." I have the courage to nicely smile and simply reply "awww, that's sweet" without raising my camera an inch. Or to politely ask the waiter to remove the practically life-size bottle of champagne from the middle of my shot that he placed there just before I clicked because, I don't know, I guess he though it would look great sitting right in front of the Bride + Groom's chairs. "Thanks, I got a shot of that already, you can take it away now...or better yet just give it to me... ;)". Because I believe in myself, my craft, my eye, know the must-have images and am always on the look-out for beautiful artistic shots throughout the day...and footprints in the sand ain't one of um. All-in-all, choosing to be an artist first and foremost makes me a better photographer. And if politely smiling doesn't work I always have the excuse "Oh, I only have a few shots, this is film".