I'd Rather Cover The War Than Shoot A Wedding
On the ASMPproAdvice forum we'd been discussing the effect the Flickr crowd has had on the sourcing of professional imagery for advertising. Somehow, I'm not certain how but somehow, one of my correspondents took something I said as being a slight against wedding photographers. Not so, but it was a good opportunity to reflect on why I have the utmost respect for practitioners of the matrimonial arts... and by posting that bit here as well, the opportunity to fulfill my promise to tell the story.
One of the forum regulars wrote: "While I am not defending what is happening and I realize your comment is somewhat tongue-in-cheek (as some of mine are), these MWAC are hurting the professional portrait/wedding shooters that share similar skills and resources as the rest of us 'photographers.' I know there is an attitude or at least was, amongst some commercial photogs that they look down upon the portrait/wedding shooters but that there are some that do recognize there is a necessary skill to deal with 'ALL THOSE PEOPLE.'"
I don't know where you got the idea that I look down my nose at wedding photographers, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. The fact is that I have the utmost respect for wedding photographers, and for a number of reasons.
Those who are really good at shooting weddings are very successful and make a ton of money, who could look down their nose at that?
Personally, I don't shoot weddings because I'm not going to see my wedding-shooting friends from just about now through the end of October. If they've managed to save out the odd weekend here or there they're going to be spending that time with their families, not me and mine. Also, I have an aversion to working at parties. Let's not neglect to mention that there's always some distant relative with a camera who will shoot the wedding for next to nothing just for the invitation, (I guess they're the subjects of your angst) and I'm not into that kind of competition (the Flickr crowd??).
AND, I'm really not into having to educate 100 per cent of my customer base, I prefer to deal with professional photo buyers... though there's some debate about the professionalism of the pro set these days as well, but most are cool.
The most important reason I don't shoot weddings is that it makes me very nervous. You see, one of the very first paid shoots I ever did was a wedding... it was a nerve-wracking experience I don't ever want to duplicate.
I was a fifteen year-old kid who pumped gasoline in a service station (remember those?) to feed a photography habit. The night manager was a neighbor, and the father of one of my best friends, who lived across the back yard and thought I was a great photographer, for a kid, so he offered me $100 to shoot his oldest daughter's wedding. Hey, a hundred bucks? You bet! (In 1968, $100 was real money!)
I took my Pentax H3v, my (only) 55mm lens, and a roll of Ektacolor Professional (36 exposures) and proceeded to shoot the wedding. I was blissfully doing my thing for what seemed like the longest time when it occurred to me that 'I must've taken more than 36 pictures by now'..... the film leader failed to catch and I was, essentially, shooting with an unloaded camera. I hadn't ever (previously) thought to check the rewind knob for tension as a sign that the film was loaded properly. Luckily... LUCKILY!... I was able to re-shoot all the pictures I could remember taking to that point and got it all worked-out, but I was sweating bullets!! The bride, groom, and the rest of the wedding party never figured-out what was happening and when it was all over (and they loved the pictures!!!) I swore-off wedding photography altogether.
The next time I considered shooting a wedding it was my turn at the altar and my (now ex-) wife threatened not to marry me if I went through with my plan to shoot my own wedding. Instead, I hired one of the best wedding guys in the Chicago area, Russ Berckman, who did a fabulous job but he must have been in a sweat himself as he came to the realization that damned near every one of the guests was a professional photographer of one sort or another. Talk about a tough crowd. Jeeez!
I don't screw-up on the job, but I definitely prefer to shoot jobs where re-shoots are possible. There are no re-shoots when you do weddings. You blow a wedding shoot, there's no recovery. It's simply not my cup of tea.
I'll leave it to others to look down on wedding photographers. I'd rather cover the war in Iraq than shoot a wedding.