The call came just as I was working to blend a spot in some trees where I removed one of three power lines across a rich, blue sky. It was my final adjustment after about 90 minutes of working on this single image. I had already removed a tan line, cloned out a couple of people in the distance and did some of the usual work touching up the bride’s back in her dress.
“What would you charge us to photograph our wedding and then just give us the files on a disc?”
Ugh. It’s the question I hate. I hear it at least a time or two each week now. A lot of brides are looking to save money by cutting out the middle man in the photographic process. They want the DIY approach to wedding art thinking they can simply have the files printed themselves using Groupon deals and photo sales at Rite Aid and Costco.
It’s so tempting to give them the deal they are looking for and simply shoot, dump and run. I tried it. It is impossible for me to be a shoot, dump and run photographer. I care too much about my images; my art.
What brides don’t realize is that shoot, dump and run photographers actually make more money than photographers/artists who see shooting as only the first stage in their craft. The SD&R photographer may charge $1200-$1500 to shoot a wedding, which looks like a steal in today’s wedding photography market. They can make $150-$200 per hour after quickly culling through the images, deleting the failed shots and dumping the rest on a DVD or two for an anxious bride. The artist, however, will make maybe $30-$50 an hour, depending on their prices, because they are more concerned with the art they produce than they are with simply clicking the shutter. They poor their hearts into making their images the best they can be and will spend hour after hour making their images flawless.
I’m sorry. I simply cannot shoot, dump and run. Really. Trust me, I’ve tried. I may be even more excited about the images I make than the brides and families are. Often times my wife and assistant, Robin, will drive us home from a shoot so that I can sit in the passenger seat to begin transferring images onto my laptop to see the result. Handing over my images without taking the time to raise and nurture them would be like giving up my babies. I’m serious. My last wedding was a destination shoot and I about died having to wait until after we flew home before I could see the images I created.
Obsessive, right? I know. I am obsessive when it comes to my art. I simply can’t just dump them on a disk for you to throw into a box somewhere or get printed from a discount lab on low-quality canvas, cheap paper or poured into a template-driven book that is identical to thousands of other books. I can’t let you treat my babies that way.
Strange? Actually, among my peers who are true, trained professionals (not the talented hobbyists who are pursuing their passion), I’m pretty normal. We take a tremendous amount of pride in having our work hang on your wall. We want it to be perfect. We live for the feeling that comes when you see your product and gush over our work. We love seeing you post on your Facebook page and we love watching your friends go crazy with comments.
Last week the Fedex truck brought a 16×20 canvas. I quickly tore into the box it to inspect it. Wow. The color was great, the texture and depth were stunning but as I looked close I noticed a tiny spot in the sky. I used a cloth to see if it was just a small piece of dirt I could wipe away but it was part of the image. I showed 2 others and asked them “see if you can find the problem I have with this image.” As usual, neither could. Regardless, I called my lab, told them they had a piece of dust on a lens and they immediately reprinted and shipped me a perfect replacement. When I showed my client the old and new, she laughed and said she never would have noticed the tiny flaw. I noticed. I was not about to let my art hang on her wall with that little dust spot. Yes, it’s that important to me.
My caller did her best to convince me to photograph her wedding and give her my images. She told me how much she loved my ability to produce both the traditional and the artistic and raved about my portfolio. It would have been a quick and easy Maine wedding paying $1800 for 8-10 hours of work. I am sure she would have been thrilled even with the stage one images I delivered but I sent her on her way. She was a little put out with me. That’s okay, I know she, like so many others, thinks that all we do is click the shutter. Her understanding is that our expensive cameras make stunning images that they could easily produce if they had the same equipment.
Today I saw another new Facebook page advertising yet another new photographer pursuing her “love for photography” by charging money for portraits and weddings. I looked through a few of her albums of poorly-lit, oddly composed images and it made me sad. I wasn’t sad for her. She’ll learn. I was sad for the people she will learn on. She’ll gladly shoot your wedding and give you the images for just $1,000.
Shoot. Dump. Run.
I used to spend time trying to convince my SD&R callers not to go that route. I used to offer to meet with them to show them album samples and canvas wall art. I don’t do that anymore because I finally learned that they don’t value the art aspect to making photographs.
Anyone can take photographs. Artists make photographs.
Scott and Robin Linscott are Maine professional wedding and portrait photographers based in the Greater Portland area. Though most of their work is in the beautiful state of Maine, they have also worked as destination wedding photographers.
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