Sunday, August 10, 2014

Advice From Davids Hobby and Ziser
David Hobby (left), aka The Strobist, writes my favorite photo blog. He uses flash. I use flash. He uses Nikons. I use Nikons. His blog was named by Time Magazine as one of the 25 Best Blogs of 2010. Two out of three isn't bad.

I have extracted some text from a (relatively) recent post on a subject he is imminently qualified to speak about:  Finding Oneself  As A Photographer. This excerpt comes from this posting.

"...It's not enough to just be a photographer. Maybe it was once, when cameras were scarce and expensive and conjuring prints in a darkroom was literally a dark art. Now, technically speaking, everybody (my emphasis) is a photographer. Their camera, video camera, darkroom and world-wide transmission/syndication department is right there in their front pocket. It is as if anyone could go down to the Apple store and buy another language for $99 with a two-year contract..."

Mr. Hobby's comments speak to the new reality: Nearly all of the mystery of the photographic process has been eliminated. Mastery of the physics and alchemy once so integral to the photographic process has been rendered irrelevant by automation and clever engineering. All this, and it's hidden inside your phone.
David Ziser (right) is a well-known wedding and portrait photographer, the author of Captured By The Light , and a highly sought-after lecturer and presenter. I have attended several of his seminars for wedding photographers, and am amazed by how much solid material he presents during his fast paced, one-evening presentations. He is also a gentleman of the first order, a kind man, and one who readily shares his sales and marketing experience with his students.

He makes an important marketing point during his client presentations, as summarized from this exerpt from his book: 

"...Why do we want to differentiate ourselves from the competition? The main reason is this: if I am just one of many photographers out there shooting weddings, then the primary reason my clients select me as their wedding photographer is price. But, if I differentiate myself from the competition in both style and technique, my clients will seek me out for those differences - price is no longer the primary consideration in that decision-making process. The bottom line is that you can charge a whole lot more for "differences" than you can for "sameness..."

Anyone who has considered photography as an occupation needs to keep these two truisms in mind. As a nod to Mr. Hobby, it isn't enough to show up at a wedding with a digital single lens reflex, once considered the penultimate in performance and cost. Today, if you attend any social event, you'll see many guests carrying them. In some cases they will be more expensive than the camera in your own hands. As a result, all those Nikon totin' guests start feeling like they are now playing in your sandbox, and they might begin to question what makes your images so special, since they often believe that your camera and theirs cameras are essentially the same.

Mr. Ziser's message is a little more nuanced. For the wedding photographer (actually every photographer), the task at hand is documenting every stage of an event unfolding. Anyone can stand in front of the happy couple and press the shutter the moment the knife hits the cake. But is it the right moment? Is it properly focused? Were the exposure settings appropriate for the conditions? If the answer to these three questions was "Yes", you've made it to third base. But to make the Home Run, you'll need to bring something to your photograph that will set it apart from the millions of photos that were made before, and the millions more that will be made in the future. It is that extra something, your own "secret sauce", that you must use to raise the photo from ordinary to exceptional.
© J. Quinn Miller
This photo composite, made by J. Quinn Miller in Baton Rouge, LA., may well have created the high water mark for creative wedding photography. Now you can't tell me that there are brides (and grooms!) everywhere who would pay any price to have this image in their wedding album. It has already inspired a number of copycat images. Didn’t know it was a composite? Get real!

In short, the proper equipment is just the start. Knowing how to provide over-the-top customer service is absolutely essential if a photographer wants to be competitive.