I’ve thought long and hard on this. It’s been maybe 18 months of waaayyyyyy more rejections than I’m used to, and I’ve had to sit back, analyse the situation, and work out why that’s happening. If there’s one thing I know for certain, is that not everyone will love me. And I am completely happy with that. But I needed to understand, and come to terms with, why I’m probably not the wedding photographer for you.
(Side note – I’m not a people-pleaser. It’s too exhausting, and it makes me feel very empty and lost.)
Reason 1: I don’t follow the trends.
The Wedding Industry.
Three simple words which can spark off a mass debate in a matter of seconds. It’s a wealth of knowledge, resources, suppliers, opportunities, everything.
If I’m perfectly honest, I’ve found the wedding industry to be an incredibly difficult place to be, over the last few years. Loads of things have changed, and it’s not been as much..fun as previous years. Yes yes, I know, everything changes, roll with it. And I totally do! We all grow in our business, we all develop our styles, we make new friends and (sadly) lose some old ones.
But I’ve found it immensely difficult because it’s been really hard to maintain my own voice, and not morph into everyone else. As well as that, I. Do. Not. Fit. In.
I was NEVER the trendy kid at school. In fact, I had exactly ZERO sense of fashion, and the same can be said now. Instead, I seem to follow ALL of them and NONE of them all at the same time.
Yeah, I’m not sure I understand that either…
But the same applies to my wedding photography. The trends over the years have seen rustic vintage weddings with that “certain editing style” (put a yellow filter on everything to make it look “old”). I tried it, and that turned out badly. Because it wasn’t my style. Well duh, Jay… Another trend which I thankfully skimmed over was selective colour. Y’know, where everything else is in black and white, but one key feature is still in colour. That makes me twitch, and not in a delightful way. A massive trend at the moment is Fine Art Weddings (and Fine Art Film Photography). I went and changed all the wording on my site for a while, in order to hit the SEO Gods with as much Fine Art Film Wedding Photography as I could manage.
I remember coming back to look at my site some months later, and wondered wtf I was trying to do, exactly. Me and Fine Art Weddings…no we don’t really gel, either. I do FULL ON COLOUR, and I do WHATEVER IS HAPPENING AT THE TIME. Soooo…the whole thing about making you look like a perfect painting? Nope…I won’t do that. Because given the chance, you make it happen anyway. I don’t need to force it. #SorryNotSorry to make you vomit, but to me, your love for each other as a couple is Fine Art As Fuck.
So…I continue along, shouting my beliefs quietly, in my little corner of the internet. I don’t appear on wedding blogs very often (“Your photos are beautiful! But current wedding trends blah blah…”), and I’ve come to love and embrace my own style.
(Fun, bold, colourful, crazy, beautiful…and I’m ok with that.)
Reason 2: I will try to be your friend.
I sat at my desk this morning, and checked the usual multiple Facebook notifications. One of them was for a post which said this:
Celebrating my better half today. Thanking you for all your constant love and support,
not just the four years we’ve been married but for the 13 years we have been together.
Every day is a good day with you ❤️
A big shout out of our friends and family who joined us four years ago to celebrate
and to Jay Emme – your photos get their annual look over tonight 😍👏🏻🍾
Marianne & Paul, London
I still cross paths with some couples whose wedding I did when I first started, 7 years ago. Many of my couples share their news with me; from starting new jobs to starting new families. From moving house to travelling the world. They share their sadness with me, too. I have several days in the year where I raise a silent toast to their lost family members, lost friends…even lost partners. I share in their heartache, and send messages of love from wherever I am, when I can.
Most of this stems from, quite literally, being their “temporary new best friend who knows how to use a camera, under wedding day pressure”.
They come to me for workshops, and we go and have coffee and giggle about silly things, and discuss camera things, and chat about the stresses of being a working self-employed parent. Sometimes they send me random crazy gifts. I’ve had everything from framed prints and handwritten letters of immense gratitude, through to a knitted lip-balm holder holder shaped like a penis. (It was SUPERB craftwork, I have to say.)
My clients become my friends. And it’s important, because that’s how I’m able to do my best work. Without that relationship, without me knowing how you function, without being your friend, you’ll probably end up with photographs that don’t quite capture you and your style as much as they should do.
Reason 3: I’m trustworthy, but being bonkers makes people nervous.
Me: Hey, guys? Can you come with me for a minute? I just found this cool spot, and need you to go and stand in the dark for a bit.
Couple: Um ok, sure…
Me: Yeah and I need you to close your eyes, hold each other, and just enjoy the peace, ok?
Me: LOOK. We’ve made it this far and have had a BRILLIANT day. Do you trust me?
Me: Then let’s do this.
I’ve had this conversation. So. Many. Times. For a while, my branding tagline was “brilliantly bonkers, addicted to weddings”. And it was true.
And it still is. My brain is constantly firing, and my eyes are ALWAYS seeing photo opportunities. And sometimes, those things I CAN see, are the things you CAN’T see, and they’re probably pushing your boundaries of trust and fear.
(For the record, I would NEVER put you in harm’s way, nor would I ever DREAM of making you look like an idiot. See Reason 5.)
If I could have my way, I would probably take a bajillion photos, alllll day long. Even more so, I would take them in situations which, to you, would look completely effed-up. But then I’d contact you maybe less than 48 hours after the wedding, like an over-excited kid, squealing “OMG YOU GUYS WOULD YOU JUST LOOK AT YOU??!?!?”
The thing is, I’m a creative. I’ve been eccentric for YEARS, and being sensible for the sake of fitting in, bores me. I love to have fun. I’m not a prankster, no, because I’m not a fan of stress either. However, my bonkers/eccentric nature seems to do wonders for diffusing tense situations. It seems to be that, when I laugh, everyone else laughs too. Everyone else just seems to instantly relax.
Some of my friends call it a gift. I just shrug and (ironically), laugh.
And then I’ll think about a Hula Hoop move I saw on YouTube, and wonder exactly how I can replicate it.
Reason 4: I charge what I believe I am worth.
Pricing is soooo fricking taboo at the moment. I’ve been told I’m too expensive, I’ve been told I’m too cheap. I’ve been told it’s easier to ask a friend, I’ve had clients shift their wedding date to ensure my availability.
And it’s amazing how what I charge means either everything or nothing at all, to prospective clients.
I’m not a fan of “being haggled”, because this is my business, and I run it from the top to the bottom. Unless you ask, I won’t “educate you” on the reasons why I charge what I charge. I will discuss it with you, but you’re probably not interested. For some, haggling is fun. For me, haggling hurts. Because every time someone says to me “can you do us a deal”, I immediately think about my 2 kiddos, and funding their near future. Which my husband and I have to, with little/no other outside help.
So I charge what I believe I am worth.
My husband thought, at first, that I was too expensive. Then he sat down and worked out how much I was earning (roughly) per hour, and he was dismayed with the final figure. (He then asked me, for the insane amount of work I do and all that is involved, why the hell don’t I charge more).
I can’t charge less than what I currently charge, otherwise I will go out of business. Sure, I may go out of business anyway, but at least I’ll have gone with dignity and grace, rather than scraping the proverbial barrel.
I will say this – I am not too expensive. Not at all, not in any way. It’s just that…well…you don’t believe I’m worth what I charge. And you want to haggle with me, because it’s possible you believe I am worth less. That’s fine! That’s why you’re not booking me, and moving on to someone else. And that’s fine with me too.
Reason 5: I probably care too much, and will repeatedly try to “help out”.
I’m passionate about what I do. I give a shit. I care about every single shot I take, and I often kick myself for the stupid shots. I’m also passionate about what’s happening around me, and around you. Shit can hit the fan at any time, and it’s often out of my control. Doesn’t mean I won’t try to help.
I don’t know if I’ve said it enough, but thank you so so much for everything you did
on the wedding day for us – and the party before too!
You helped us out so much from the very beginning, with the wedding dress corset trauma
to helping us in the rain – all while taking the most amazing pictures!
We couldn’t have done it without you and we really appreciate it.
Cate & Jan, Germany
I’ve never ever worn a lace-up corseted wedding dress. But I can say with reasonable confidence, that I can do them up AND take photos at the same time. I can also pin buttonholes on grooms, make sure your tablescapes are as they should be, and tuck in that bra strap on your chief bridesmaid whilst she’s trying to make sure that she looks after you. What’s important to you, is important to me.
We all have to look out for each other. That’s like a goddamn commandment to me. Like the rest of your family and friends, I hope you only have to get married once. And so I want you to have a fucking awesome and as near-to-perfect-even-though-perfection-doesn’t-exist kind of day.
Reason 6: I can probably swear better than Samuel L Jackson.
In all my years, I have only ever said a swear word in front of a child once.
I said “OH CRAP”, and it was in front of my own kiddos. (I was mortified.)
Where adults are concerned, once the levels and boundaries of respect have been identified, I will use all manner of expletives to get me through the day. I have some cracking swear words, I have ones reserved for special occasion, and ones for every day use.
Why do I swear? Because it’s my language, it’s a part of me, it’s who I am. I don’t do it to show off, I don’t do it to make anyone feel better, I don’t do it to be “big and clever”. It’s just me, it’s a part of my nature.
I’m not stupid with it, though. I don’t go up to random strangers in the street and talk about how some person who cut me up on a roundabout was a total utter shit-sprout. And I won’t tell your mother-in-law that I think a certain president is a spectacular fuck-trumpet. Nor will I entertain conversation with someone who likes to drop the “c-bomb” every other word, just for funsies. But I can, and will, hang out with anyone within the vicinity, and quickly feel very comfortable in doing so.
As per Reason 2, swearing only happens when I’m comfortable with you. And if you don’t like it, I probably won’t swear around you. Though…I might drop the accidental “oh shit” at some point. But if you lurk close enough to me tucked away in a corner, you may hear “damn you fucking douchecanoe camera!”.
On reflection, some might see these above reasons as PERFECT reasons to book me. If that’s the case, then if they book me, they’re going to get the best wedding photographer they could have asked for.
And that makes me really fucking happy.