A couple of years ago, Kristen and I ran a workshop (the be nice + take nice photographs workshop) for other photographers on how to run a successful and simultaneously ethical photography business. The wedding industry is known for some pretty bad stuff which I struggled to reconcile and as such wanted to share some of the strategies Kristen and I used to find a path that worked for us. My values and ethics dictate everything that I do and that hopefully contribute to a more just and equitable world – this below list describes some of the things that I do to ensure that.
respect for the people we work with
We don’t treat the people we photograph as ‘clients’. We treat them as people who have life experience and something to offer the world in which they exist. They are our equals. We feel privileged to be chosen to play a small part in their lives and to have had the opportunity to cross paths with them at a time of happiness. We respect that we get something other than financial gain in return from a couple choosing us to photograph them. Our role as wedding photographers is not merely a transaction – it is an enriching experience we would not have if we were not photographers.
Weddings are about both people (and sometimes more than two people) being married. Weddings are not only about one individual within the couple. We work in a way that is inclusive of both people getting married.
We actively support marriage equality and we prefer to work with vendors who also support marriage equality. We believe that it is a basic human right to marry the person we love, regardless of sex or gender.
We are clear about who we are, what we can provide and what we expect from the people we work with. This includes being up front about our pricing, the hours we provide, how we work on the day and what we require from the couple (and their significant others) to do the best we can. Sometimes we have to prioritise and make choices about what we can and cannot do. If we can’t do something, or we believe we will be unable to complete it to a standard, we will say so.
We do not choose who we photograph based on societal norms of beauty. If we have an online presence, we attempt to blog or show publicly all of the weddings and portraits we photograph (unless of course someone does not want their photos public). We believe that the world is made up of people of all types of people and that they should all be represented. This representation includes individuals of all shapes, sizes, abilities and colors, people of diverse religion and cultural backgrounds and those of all sexual and gender identity. We do not believe that blogging only ‘beautiful’ couples will help our business become successful. On the contrary, we believe this business model actually it makes no sense at all. All types of people get married, not just the ones our western society has decided are beautiful.
We strive to challenge the societal norm of blogged weddings being primarily focused on generally ‘white’ ‘model’ brides. We do not believe this is representative of society, additionally we believe that this focus in the wedding industry perpetuates inequality in society. We try to minimise that inequality in our day-to-day actions as photographers by representing the world as it is. We of course do not discriminate against the models in the world – they, like the rest of us were born into their bodies and deserve also to be treated with respect and as equals.
We care about the environment. We don’t print things that we don’t need to. We source products through environmentally sensitive companies and we try and be carbon neutral ourselves. We recycle packaging that products arrive in. We don’t do this because it is cool, we do it because we genuinely care about the impact we are having on the earth.
We do not mark up the price of our albums simply to make a profit. The price of albums covers our time, postage and the album itself. We are transparent regarding the pricing of our albums with those booking us and with other photographers in the industry. We do not use the sale of albums to generate income for ourselves.
support for other photographers
We support other photographers and treat them as colleagues, rather than competitors. We respect their skills and knowledge and we recognise that we also have something to offer others. We work to minimize the hierarchy that sometimes exists within the wedding photography industry.
sharing skills, knowledge and learning
We are transparent and share our skills and information because we believe that education should be free. In return we receive and learn from others.
We do a set amount of work for free each year. We are aware that we have skills, which can benefit others, and we make time to share those skills and to give back to something that has meaning for us. We do this without expecting anything in return. We assist other photographers in becoming socially responsible and we volunteer our time to do this.
We support wedding vendors, including wedding blogs, that are couple focused and inclusive of all people. We actively support other vendors who, like ourselves, strive to be representative of the society in which we exist. They offer the same service (or if the vendor is a blog – the same visibility) to people regardless of their shape, size, colour, ability, sexuality, gender, religion, cultural background or their economic status.
If a couple is unable to afford our services we are open to (where possible) bartering goods and services in exchange for photography. This is an attempt to ensure that all people, regardless of their income, can have access to professional photography services. We believe that this also offers us an opportunity to have enriching experiences that we may otherwise miss out on.
super and banking
We use ethical superannuation funds and where possible, community banking.