November 15, 2012

Selective Blogging of Weddings – Why It’s Not The Thing To Do

I woke up at 1:30 am on my second night in New York City a few weeks ago. I could hear the cars rolling past on our street here in the leafy Brooklyn suburb we’re staying in and was wide awake. Perhaps the jetlag was still getting at me but my mind was whirring away at 100% and there was no way I was going to be able to sleep again. I laid there with Kristen beside me thinking I want to put into words what I was thinking, a “serious” blog post about the ethics of selectively blogging weddings, and formulated what I was going to write; this is the outcome. It took me a few days to write but I think it sums up my sentiments pretty accurately. As with my last ranty post, if you’re not interested, scroll to the bottom, there’s a picture of a cat.

Firstly, you need to know that writing blog postings (specifically blog postings from weddings I shoot) take quite a lot of time. I have a bunch of Photoshop actions that speed things up for me, but even then, selecting images from the 500-800 I deliver to couples, resizing and compositing them together when needed, uploading and writing the text takes me a minimum of an hour. You might see that I like to write something meaningful with my posts but alas, it simply isn’t possible in a time-poor world we live in. Sometimes, I just have to chuck the images on there but I’m honestly trying hard to write text with the images each time. However, one thing that I never do is pick and choose which weddings appear on my website, I blog all of them. Yes, every single one. I met a lovely couple of few weeks ago who seemed genuinely surprised that I did because, so many of my weddings had interesting, unique and diverse people and surely I had simply cherry-picked the most attractive/skinny/interesting couples to appear (not their exact words, but I imagine it was what their sentiment was).

One of the bits of advice that I’ve seen in a lot of places is “only blog the weddings that match the kind of work you’re after”. That is, one must selectively blog. I appreciate that sometimes we get busy (for example, I have 10 weddings next March, I’m already fearful of how I’m going to be able to blog all of them), but the idea that only some weddings are “blog-worthy” confuses me somewhat. There is very much a completely valid idea that you need to show off work that attracts a certain kind of client. Everyone (and when I mean everyone, I mean the new-wave of non-traditional wedding photographers) wants to photograph interesting weddings. Ones with nice looking couples who wear funky clothes, have their wedding in an amazing venue and fill it with cute and handmade details. These are the weddings that you see posted on all of the wedding blogs around the place and drive traffic to your website. But the reality is, not everyone fits into this mould and not everyone has the time, money or desire to have a wedding like this. But at the end of the day, photographers are hired to photograph what’s there and I thankfully don’t know a single one of us who doesn’t put in 100% when they’re at a job, regardless of what they’re photographing.

But what if you shoot a “boring” wedding, what then (and I use the term “boring” very loosely)? Well maybe it’s time to reassess why you’re getting bookings that you don’t want to take. I completely agree that photographers should be working with selective audiences, ones that they feel comfortable with. I do this all the time, it’s out there and clearly visible on my website (go ahead, read it in the text box below the image slider on the front page!). I don’t specify that people need to look cool and have lots of details at their wedding but certain kinds of people find me more appealing than others, simply because I’m out in the open about what they can expect from me and what I expect of them. For example, my info sheet that I send out to potential clients makes reference to marriage equality being important to me and I hope it is important to them too. If the couple are anti-marriage equality or even ambivalent on the issue, it’s decidedly possible that I will lose a potential client. But I’m ok with that, because I want to work with people I can connect with and our value bases need to be close for that to happen. Remember, as a photographer, I spend a HUGE chunk of my day around the couple and their families, we have to be able to get along, it’s essential for any chemistry that I can portray visually. This is why my “branding” (more than simply nice business cards and a logo), is focused on delivering people something more than simply nice photography. I like to think they get a nice PERSON doing nice photography and most people I have ever worked for say just as much which is always lovely to hear.

So what’s the problem? Well I think the attitude of selectively blogging only certain weddings is not a good starting point. But it’s a challenge, I’ll be the first to admit it. It’s something I battled internally for months and also discussed repeatedly with Kristen. Should I blog everything? Or just my “best” weddings? But at the end of the day, it bottled down to one single question, and the answer to me was clear.

How would a couple who didn’t get blogged by their photographer feel?

Would this couple sit there and think that their wedding simply wasn’t good enough to be featured on the photographer’s website? Were they too unattractive? Did the photographer not try as hard to take nice photos? Was their venue sucky? Pretty much every single question they had would be focused on some sort of perceived inadequacy. I think that there’s something fundamentally wrong with a couple who’ve just experienced the happiest day of their relationship having to think these sorts of negative things weeks/months after their wedding; it’s just not right.

Basically, at this realisation, it made sense that it was unethical to accept someone’s money and then later decide they weren’t “good enough” for you to show as your clients. That’s effectively the decision we make when we consciously decide not to blog a wedding. This of course excludes the circumstance I mentioned above where the photographer simply doesn’t have time to blog or if they feel their photographs are not of a professional standard that they would willingly release. But if the latter is true, I’d expect some sort of compensation to be offered to the couple (either monetary or offer of reshooting). But to be honest, I don’t know a single photographer who stuffed up so badly that they had nothing nice to show at the end of the day.

Anyway, the point of this post is my feeble attempt to dispel the idea of selectively blogging. If you’re getting clients that you don’t want to (for whatever reason), there are other harmless and more ethical ways of getting the clients that you DO want than simply choosing not to blog the weddings you don’t want and distressing your clients.

– Research what your model client looks like and find out how you can make yourself appealing to them.
– Become the best damn photographer you can be and make people want to hire you.
– Run at a loss for a while if it means investing in the best gear/computing/backup systems to ensure that a technical glitch can’t damage your business and reputation.
– Find out what makes you different from the competition and really focus on those points as a big selling point.
– BE NICE!

I don’t want to toot my own horn too much here but I have nearly 40 weddings booked for the next 12 months and I’m honestly looking forward to every one of them. I’ve met 90% of the couples I’ve been booked by and I like all of them. The ones I haven’t met, I’ve gotten to know via email, Skype and Facebook and I’m quietly confident that as long as I get fed at the reception (I get very hungry!), I will have an amazing day with the couple and hopefully take some great images for them.

As I’ve posted before, the wedding industry sucks. We can all do our part to make it that one little bit better and as photographers, I think this is a great starting point. Make a commitment to blog everything you physically have the energy to blog. Make people feel good about themselves, remember, that’s what you’ve been hired for in the first place. And most importantly, treat people the way that you want to be treated, I think that’s a fine way to lead your life and run your business. Let me know what you think, discussions are always welcome here.

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    22 Comments

  • Andy March 4, 2014

    Ive felt as you do Lucky and glad to see others thinking about it too. Maybe clients don’t care if their wedding is blogged. Maybe some do. From a practical perspective, if it is feasible to do so, as in taking into account time constraints, is it not better to blog every event and please everyone, rather than blog a few on the basis that not every one cares, and potentially damaging your continued relationship with the clients who do care? I suppose it all depends on what you offer your clients and what they expect from you.

  • jessica Roberts July 25, 2013

    Lucky. You . have. hit. the. nail. on. the. head. MIchael and I have also discussed regularly and I agree with you whole heartedly. I get to know all my clients before their day and almost always become friends, I can’t imagine not blogging their weddings. They also really look forward to it. My blog has also become a selling point. They ask me about it and if they will feature. So refreshing to hear your views and I had been thinking of writing something on this too. Now I feel like I don’t have to you have summed it up nicely.

  • Lakshal Perera March 13, 2013

    That sounds pretty crummy Maria, I’m sorry to hear that. I think that’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about which causes wedding photographers to get a bad reputation.

    Thank you for considering me as a viable alternative even though you’ve never met me, I really appreciate it!  :)

    I think the only positive to come out of it is that you’re able to reconcile not seeing your wedding being blogged after being told it would be and simply being happy with marrying the love of your life – that’s an immensely hard thing to do and you’re probably much stronger than me for being able to do it. :)

  • maria March 13, 2013

     
    Hi Lakshal. I got married in Spring 2012. I have been coming across your works across all sorts of wedding blogs – I love your  Gypsy Wedding on Rock n Roll Bride and your piccie of the DIY farm wedding with the gorgeous Milky Way backdrop. As I read on and found out more about the photographer behind these wedding however, I became increasingly more impressed.  I love your  attitude and this blog just reinforced this.
    I am happy with our wedding photos and I had no expectation that our wedding photographer would feature our wedding on his blog until after the wedding he made promises that he would put sneak peeks of our wedding on his Facebook page and that our wedding would jump the queue to be featured on his website ahead of his other weddings because it is extra ‘special’.  That was almost six months ago . I then starting checking his websites regularly, excited at the thought our wedding may be featured – however he has not done as he promised and yes, I did feel crummy. Not because our wedding was not featured ( I am just happy We married and had the most wonderful day) and  but because I discovered he is not a man who follows on his words . I suspect was only saying it to appease his clients at the time. I have thought in the last couple of months that I was to recommend a wedding photographer , I would be recommending Lakshal Perera and not our wedding photographer. Your ethical and sensitive attitude is a breath of fresh air so A BIG THANK YOU.

  • ZWP December 1, 2012

    Clever, true and really… guilt releasing! I am new in this “wedding” world, and at first, I suscribed to many wedding blogs to look at people, inspiration… and started to unsubscribe. Standard, glapourous, very “magazine for” orientated… where were the real people? My clients were not gonna spend 50 000 $ on a wedding (even if Switzerland is pricey!), they didn’t have DiY project every where, they were not “edgy”… and still, I liked them very much, we had a great time and some really cool pics came out of these moments spent together.
    I believe in the kindness of a lens that is directed toward people and reveals their beauty, their qualities, their humanity. This is my goal when I take a picture. But for some reason, I never undertsood that my intuition was to shoot like that  until I read your post … funny how organic it seemd to be for me, and how what I was looking around me didn’t correspond, but still, I didn’t notice. 

    So thank you Lakshal, form far far on the other side of the planet, I felt less lonely in my approach of photography and maybe a little bit more empowered. 

  • IanK November 20, 2012

    To me, that is different. 

    If Lucky blogged every single wedding except yours, than that is slighting you, your husband, and your wedding.  If he regularly blogged only a small subset of his photos that he personally liked, or wanted to use as part of his portfolio, then it’s not slighting any couple or any wedding. You wouldn’t have the expectation of being blogged about later.

    And since when did that become an important part of the package, anyway?  You got professionalism pre-, during, and after the wedding. You received great photos, and a disk full of the wedding photos in JPEG format, which isn’t something that many photographers offer their clients by default (some just offer you 10-20 photos, and you pay extra for anything else you want).  I don’t know about you, my primary concerns would be grabbing as many of the good photos as I could from the photographer without paying any extra, getting the prints that I ordered, and….that’s it.  I don’t even know if I’d expect a blog mention unless that was part of what I was told I would get.

  • Nat November 20, 2012

    Maybe I am shallow or my priorities are wrong… But I can guarantee that I would have felt like absolute sh!t if Lucky didn’t blog my wedding but blogged the ones the weekend before and the weekend after…  Wedding’s are emotional, personal and sacred, but to an extent they are a ‘show’ or we wouldn’t bother having guests or photographers (or pretty dresses).  We do worry about being judged and not blogging us would feel like a criticism.

  • Lakshal Perera November 19, 2012

    Thanks Josie. And my friend Jonas Seaman (he’s an amazing photographer from Seattle, google him!) pointed out on the facebook thread for this post that his blog is also his personal space so he doesn’t want to feel tied down to blogging “work” all the time. As such, he selectively blogs. I hadn’t considered it like that so I think his comment opened my mind up a bit more about why people might choose not to blog everything. :)
    There are days where I struggle doing what I do and sometimes the little niggles and conversations I have with people, especially my partner Kristen, transform into ideas like this. I guess I come at things from a very humanist viewpoint so the experiences and happiness of others, especially people who pay me for something, is of utmost importance to the way I try to live my life and run my business. I’m obviously not judgemental of anyone who chooses a different path to me and like I said in my response to Jonas, this is just the way I personally think about selective blogging and why it’s not the right thing for me. I also want to think of it as putting out a dissenting viewpoint to the already prevalent “blog only your best weddings” idea. :)

    Thanks for the discussion. :)

  • Sueshan123 November 17, 2012

    Love those thoughtful Ideas.

  • Josie November 17, 2012

    Lucky, I don’t know if I could manage to blog 40 weddings, should I have 40 to shoot, myself, so I really admire the effort you go to to do just that. At the moment, I blog all my weddings and I do think they’re all special in some way because every couple is different and every wedding is an experience for me also. Blogging that is all part of the journey. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t disagree with what you’ve said, but likewise I think, each to their own. What is so special about this post, and all your posts, is that you use your blog to really show people who you are and not just as an opportunity to advertise a brand, the brand being ‘you’. I think you do great work but mostly I love your authenticity and warmth which comes through all the time. It takes a brave person to be so honest on the net, so well done!

  • Naomi G November 17, 2012

    so happy to have stumbled across your post. a great post, ended with a seriously cute cat. awesome.

  • Lakshal Perera November 16, 2012

    I have model release documents in my contract so people sign and agree to allow me to publish any of their images online. However, if someone doesn’t want their images to appear somewhere for a legitimate reason, I obviously respect that (hasn’t happened yet). :)
    Also, from my experience, my couples actually like seeing their photos on my website, many have said that the blog format is really good for retelling the story of their day and letting them live it again.And yes, I’m great fun to hang out with. I’m pretty good at telling dad jokes and my lack of coordination is a hoot! :)

  • Lakshal Perera November 16, 2012

    Thanks Lisa, it’s very kind of you to say. :)

  • Lakshal Perera November 16, 2012

    Simple solution, get married again (to the same person if you still like him) and hire Lakshal Perera. ;)

  • Lakshal Perera November 16, 2012

    Holly, that might actually be good to ask some other people. After Nawksnai’s comment (incidentally a good friend of mine), I’m considering whether I’m projecting my own insecurities about this rather than it being a global issue! :)

  • Lakshal Perera November 16, 2012

    I completely agree with you, we are artists and we obviously need to be selective about what we show! And I am, I’ll take anywhere from 2000-4000 images in a day, deliver 500-800 (the rest are usually out of focus, badly exposed, repeats, etc) and then blog 100-200 images.

    The point of this post was more directed at other wedding photographers because as I mentioned, the conflicting advice to only blog some weddings exists nearly everywhere else. Everyone already culls their images down to the best, it’s just sometimes even the best isn’t “good enough” to appear on the photographer’s page and that’s the crux of the point I’m making.

    And no, I don’t think couples are shallow enough to care that their wedding has less photos than another wedding but I would most definitely care if I had looked at a photographer’s blog before hiring a photographer, seeing a whole bunch of awesome weddings and then not seeing my own wedding afterwards. I don’t think it’s shallow at all, it’s a completely natural response to feel inadequate I think. But perhaps I’m projecting, maybe we need some couples telling us how they’d feel if they weren’t blogged and why they’d feel like that. :)

  • Lan | angry asian November 16, 2012

    honestly, i had no idea that wedding photographers didn’t blog about all the weddings they worked at. i obviously did not think about this rationally, i mean, i don’t blog about every single meal i have. but you make a very good point about how maybe the couple’s feelings might get hurt if they’re not featured (i can assure you, my food does not gripe to me when i don’t photograph it… the joys of taking pix of random things that can’t talk back)… maybe there are instances where the couples do not want to be featured?
    but anyway, i do appreciate your thought process and if i ever grow up & get engaged, i would want you as my photographer, you’re kind and i imagine a great deal of fun to hang out with. 

  • Nawksi November 15, 2012

    I agree with your reason to post photos of all weddings, namely, because you don’t want to run a business that’s exclusive or snooty.  It’s certainly commendable, but it only works if the ONLY reason for not sharing photos from all weddings is due to the above reason.  I believe there are still many other reasons not to post everything.  

    Bloggers and casual photographers like me post 50, 100, 500 photos of their vacation.  You’re not posting casual photos from your vacation. You’re posting your work — photos from a job that clients paid you to do. You’re a pro photographer.    Even if you don’t care too much about getting rich, you still take pride in your work.  Otherwise, you wouldn’t spend a week sitting in a chair, culling 100s of crappy photos from your harddisk(s), smoothing out people’s pores and zits, and completely removing ugly noise in the background such as power lines and rubbish on the ground that were there in real life, but muddle the spirit and intent of the photo. 

    Having said that, you’re still an artist, even if you do work for money. Michaelangelo worked for cash as well, and I don’t know of many people today see him as a “pro interior designer”.  Your post starts off by mentioning a bit of advice given to pro photographers. 
    Another piece of advice given to artists is to show people only what you want them to see.  Be selective.  You don’t think Picasso ever threw out a canvas because someone’s head didn’t look square enough?  Not every baby is cute, even if they’re all yours. There are ugly babies too, and that’s why dumpsters exist.

    As a professional artist, I’m sure you wouldn’t want the world to see every unprocessed, blurry OOC jpeg on your memory card. It’s bad business, and bad art. It’s bad everything.  Lucky, please feel free to show 15 photos from one wedding, and 2 from another if you want. “It’s not you, it’s me.” The reason a photo is special for the couple isn’t the same reason it has to be special to you.  You can still provide an awesome photo to a couple, but feel indifferent to it for aesthetic reasons.

    It’s your job to take photos of a couple’s special day,  edit them, and hand them the prints and USB stick so that they have something awesome to look at in 10 years. You’re probably great to deal with leading up to the wedding, during the wedding, and after the wedding. Is being blogged about a major component of their wedding, or an indicator of wedding success?  Do you really think your clients are that shallow? 

    If a couple really does feel hurt because you only posted 5 photos from their wedding instead of 17, or none at all, then they need to get their priorities straight. Their wedding should be special for them because it was THEIR wedding, even if the entire wedding was shot by all their friends using Instagram.  Give people some credit. 

  • Lisa Jane November 15, 2012

    If only the world had more people like you, Lucky :) We need more warm, thoughtful, clever, creativr and ethical people. You should be very proud of yourself, your standards, your attitudes and actions and, of course, your photography.

  • Joel Courtney November 15, 2012

    *like*

  • Gemma Elaine November 15, 2012

    This is why you will succeed in whatever you do – not only are you talented, you are a freaking awesome human being. My only gripe is I didn’t have you as my wedding photographer six years ago – you kick ass!  Gemma xxx

  • Holly_radford November 15, 2012

    This isn’t a ‘feeble attempt’, I feel it’s an important leap forward in ethical photography. Sometimes when thinking about ethics it’s easy to focus on climate change,carbon emissions and local sourcing,but we forget we must treat people with the highest ethical standards too. I currently teach Psychology at the moment and ethics is a hot topic of discussion in my classes. If I posit this question to them (and I just might because you’ve raised an interesting point,I know they will also whole heartedly agree with you. So that’s 120 Uk students who will also agree with you,along eith probably anyone who has ever had thier wedding photographed :-) x

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