I’m a part time wedding photographer and that’s a good thing!
I don’t often get on my soap box but today I am! I had a conversation today which triggered me to write this blog. It was about someone wanting a ‘proper’ wedding photographer. It wasn’t a discussion about me as I’m not able to photograph their wedding for various reasons but I’m assisting in their search. They said they had had a photographer in mind but they weren’t a ‘proper wedding photographer’ so were now discounting them. I asked what they meant, and it was simply that they didn’t specialise in just weddings and photographed other things and had now moved into weddings.
Well you know what that’s exactly what I did. I originally was just an equine sport photographer, moved into portraits and then into weddings and commercial work. Did you know at a rough guess from all the photographers I know and have had contact with 80+% don’t specialise in just one area for a variety of reasons. It’s probably closer to 90%. A lot may do mostly one thing but will do other work just may not post about it publicly. There are some true specialists and they do an amazing job, but it’s not something most can do as photographers.
The fact I do different types of photography means I am technically a part-time wedding photographer. That is something I’m proud of, not something I try to hide, hence I have all my work on one website. Some photographers will have different websites and social media accounts for each of their specialist areas. They’re not necessarily wanting to hide they do other things but they want it to appear to the particular client who is say looking for a wedding photographer that that is their main specialism because of misguided beliefs of some potential clients that being good in more than one area is a bad thing. Personally I barely have enough time to keep 1 social media account going never mind 2 so 1 it is!
Does that mean I’m not a specialist?
No not at all, I am a specialist but in more than one area. There are many types of photography I don’t do because I’m not a specialist in those areas. I don’t no newborns, studio family portraits, corporate headshots and others. Can I? yes. Can I do them to a good standard? Yes. Can I do them to an excellent standard? No, I don’t believe I can and I don’t want to produce just ‘good’ work. I also want to do photograph things I’m passionate about. I’m passionate about weddings, horses and helping small businesses. It’s not a surprise therefore that those are my specialist areas of photography! I am fully capable of improving my abilities in other areas but as I’m not passionate about them I have no real desire to!
Why 2 specialisms can be better than 1
I love doing more than one type of photography as it makes me a better photographer overall. Take my studio lit work with horses, that has made my off camera flash work in weddings improve 10 fold and the rest in recent years. It also keeps my work fresh.
I get to experiment and refine techniques away from the pressure of my weddings and then include them when I know they work.
Also just because two types of work don’t seem linked doesn’t mean they are.
The BIG reason
Do you know my biggest reason though for not doing mostly weddings? I like weddings, no I LOVE weddings and I don’t want that to change. Oh and I also love my weekends and family time.
The number of photographer friends who have grown to resent weddings saddens me and it is something I truly want to avoid. The thing with weddings is that they are on the whole held on weekends. A full time wedding photographer only shooting weddings would generally have to shoot 30-40 a year to make an ‘acceptable’ wage. Now consider not only do most weddings happen at the weekend but they also happen March to October. That’s essentially one wedding every weekend. But they won’t fall nicely once a week when in those numbers. You will get weeks with two even three in a row quite regularly through the year. Some photographers have even in recent years what are known as ‘quadruple headers’. Double headers are bearable, triples are painful, a quadruple is just unthinkable for me. I photograph weddings as I love them, I want to continue to love them. If I photograph regular double and triple headers I would not love weddings for very long.
I don’t want to resent being at a wedding when I want to be at home with my family. For this reason I have always taken the policy that I photograph at most 15 full day weddings a year but normally it’s nearer 10. I do also do some associate and second shooter work photographing weddings with and for fellow photographers. This number of weddings plus my equine and commercial work and some other photo related projects have allowed me to find the balance I want.
So don’t write off the photographer who doesn’t have a sole specialism
So yes the ultimate point of this blog is don’t presume a photographer isn’t a true professional or not a ‘proper’ photographer if they have several specialisms. They will have their reasons for how they run their business and that’s OK! Being self employed gives us the right to run our businesses in the way that works best for us. ALL that matters is that the photographer is capable of doing the job you want them to do to the standard (or better) that you expect. If they meet that criteria then they are a proper photographer.