There's no better feeling than to run into folks you've photographed, not as customers, but as participants in an event. People can be so warm when they express their appreciation of your work and how much they liked the images you created of them at the event. It makes you feel differently about your favorite kind of work. It's not just something you do to make money, or use the equipment; it's something you do that creates lasting memories that people are glad to revisit and look at. It's good to know that you've created something that people will use to deepen their relationships with those who get to share the images in years to come. Photography is a relationship builder and strengthener.
Between now and next late February or March photographers are working to fill their calendars with wedding photography commitments. This is the time to search out the photographer that will photograph your wonderful event. Take your time and make sure you trust your gut sense and feelings about the persons you interview. It's not only their pretty images but the feeling of comfort and trust you have for the person who took the shots. Your photographer should exude a sense of confidence and trust. They should have done enough jobs to be able to explain what will happen during the ceremony and convince you that you won't have a worry in the world about your photography. In many cases good wedding photographers will be able to do more than just shoot great images. They'll be able to work with all of your other wedding team to make the day go smoothly and have enough savoir faire to stop problems before they star; Most experienced photographers will want to speak with the officiant to make sure they follow the rules or customs of the service. They'll coordinate their shooting segments with your coordinator or use the program and improvise a shooting regimen that works for your ceremony and reception. Some of us have done so many weddings that we probably could run the entire ceremony from memory.
I've received a wonderful acceptance from one of my customers; they identified me as their "Family Photographer" in an email sent to attendees at their sons christening. I had no idea how embracing and warm being identified as a family's photographer could be. I have all ways maintained the same sincerity and genuine engagement with members of this family for many years now. I offered my best advice when we were discussing the logistics of the christening ceremony. Most revealing was the family's acknowledgment of their sense of how expensive my services were and how much value they felt they received for the cost of my services. I think this is a testament to the value of relationship to service. People feel good about spending money for things that capture the evidence of their joy or happiness. I will commit myself to increasing their satisfaction to the point where they feel that I'm undercharging for a service that exceeds all of their expectations and contributes so much joy to their lives; both now and for generations to come.
There's one thing about taking a photograph that persists as a final statement about what the photographer sees. The taken image bares the vision of the photographer; he or she stands naked and unclothed in their conscious, or unconscious, presentation of what they see. They can't take back their image, they can't cloud their visual statement. the image stands there blatant, clear, unmistakable, testimony to their vision. Maybe this irrevocable expression is what makes becoming a photographer, and staying a photographer, so difficult; you have to stand by your vision. Maybe this is why it's so important for the customers of photographers to develop a relationship with the photographer. Customers have to feel comfortable that what their photographer consciously sees in them as pleasing and that the photographer can transmit that vision to the paper or digital image he or she produces. When a photographer is producing an image at a wedding, a sitting, or event they have to forget their nakedness. They have to lose consciousness of their physical presence as the foremost thing in their minds and subsume those details to the dominance of their unconscious spontaneity and trained discipline. The customer can't see their photographer standing starkly nude in front of them.
The last three weddings I've photographed seemed different. Two of them were for old friends' children. One was for my nephew's friend's sister. Acquiring business is all about relationships and trust. It's a great feeling to have clients recommend your services to their friends and relatives. In many ways they're recommending the relationship they've shared with you, their photographer, and assuring that others will enjoy the same experience they did.
It has taken a while to see the see relationships as the most important part of the business aspect of my photographic passion. Being able to capture a great image requires different skills than those needed to engage in a mutually rewarding business relationship; or so it seems. I suspect there is a link between the mastery of photographic skills and the mastery of photographic marketing and selling skills. I'll keep you posted as I pursue the answers to this intriguing puzzle.
Maybe it's a mistake to focus on the importance of the relationship between the photographer and the subject to the pleasing outcome of a photo shoot. I had a wonderful experience with Najah and Redi as I shot their wedding and reception. Najah and Redi were fantastic subjects. They were so open and free with their obvious affections for one another, their families, and friends. I was treated as a valued family member and a friend. I think this social linking facilitated my ability to anticipate and capture the flashes of love and affection that were integral to the wonderful album we created. It is a "we" process for me and my subjects.
I've just engaged an old family friend who selected me to shoot his daughter's wedding. The feeling of setting a price for my work was not thoughtless or easy. In truth, I'd do the work to please my friend and his daughter. My friend is a professional photographer too. It is purely the relationship that will set the price of this job, but I had to respect both of our senses of business and the practical aspects of doing the work. I provided him with my price list and my logic of pricing jobs. I guess the relational aspects of photography here extend beyond the subject of the photographs to the context of the job. I'll keep this subtext in mind as I engage his daughter and reflect on how these relational concerns impact the relational dynamic with the daughter. My normal style of client/subject relationship with family is to see the beauty of broader relationship reflected in my construction of the photos and settings. My love of the family and friends extends to the commitment to pleasing the subject and creating a wonderful product for their memory; it's really not about the money; it's about pleasing and honoring a friend.
Like all relationships, there must be connections on a regular basis in order to have a chance at success. The Internet is no different, especially when it comes to marketing your photography. Relationship, relationship, relationship is the name of the game. I wonder if it's possible to create a fungible set of relationships between my subjects, my feelings, my blog, and my image website?
I've recently completed a week long class in eCommerce and now see the importance of a serious understanding of relationships in service businesses. Photography, as I practice it, is purely a relationship business. I really enjoy the interactions with my clients and sharing my photographic insights and experiences with them. These dialogs really help me tune into the perspectives of my clients in a way that allows me to merge what they feel they want to see in the images I produce and what I feel about the subjects we're working with. There's no better feeling than to shoot an image and have your client embrace what they see as their own.
Suggesting that photographer and subject "relationship" is central to the practice of photography confuses some people and strikes a note of agreement in others. As the photographer I've resolved to acknowledge my feelings as integral to my work. When I'm shooting a person or situation that resonates with some part of my culture, sense of beauty, social consciousness, prejudices, etc., I can't help but feel that there is an impact on my construction of any image that I create of the subject or situation. As a subject in a photographic relationship, I am aware of my self consciousness as I stand still to pose or as I move about and try to ignore the photographer at work. Do I modify my "normal" behavior in anticipation of being photographed; do my subjects do the same thing. How can my relationship with my subjects influence their presentation of self in their images?
Reaching for my reality of photographic relationships between the photographer and the subject.