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The Ethics and Morality of "Becoming" a Wedding Photographer

Paul Bestwick

pro member
This discussion came out of a thread on a course in wedding photography. The course gives a great experience in every phase of a wedding shoot, explaining the planning, business, giving live shoots with great models etc.

From this came a discussion on not the "could" of being a wedding photographer, rather the "should" of taking on these jobs! So here we discuss the ethics as a new thread!
The actual course that sparked this discussion is found here . Please post anything specific to that course offering, there. This thread is based on the following assumptions:

A wedding is one of the most important landmarks in people's lives. It involves personal, social, responsibility, loyalty, accountability and sensitivity. There's a committment to maintain and cherish one another long after the fierce raging chemistry of attraction declines. The marriage is not a passive institution. It requires, friendship, caring for the other more than oneself, division of tasks and relationship maintence work.

One important part of a wedding is the ideas of hope and expectations for facing uncertain future.

And the wedding pictures? The're the glue of memories of fire and joy that got things going in the first place!

So he're we come with a camera, autofocus, electronic flash and charm enough to get jobs? We're honest and ready to go?

Now the discussion: Asher




The way I see it there seems to be an over abundance of people who are under some illusion that they are pro photographers because they have taken a few courses & bought some gear.
I know photographers like that. They make a few bucks on the weekend or part time. That is not a professional photographer.
From what I have seen, particularly on commentary of shots on the net, most of these pretenders would not know good from bad. Mediocre from fabulous.
I am not knocking the course. Do it, that is a good part of your education. But that is all it is.
You want to be a wedding pro ? Great, get beside a few for a couple of years. Get great at it & then do it.
Too many pretenders have flooded the market over the years with their second rate images & unfortunately customers have now been educated to accept a far lower standard of work.
You don't see that in the commercial world as the standard required by the ad agencies is so high that your weekend wannabe would not get anywhere near the ballpark. It is only because the wedding market is so accessible that this has occurred.
As far as being arrogant is concerned, well I certainly don't think that is something I am guilty of. Would that not be more fairly applied to those who assume the mantle of "professional" without paying their proper dues ?
Furthermore, who is it that is challenging the concept of "instant wedding photographer....just add gear & courses" ? Scott & myself, both pros in this very field. I would have thought that our opinions would carry some substantial weight.
It is wonderful to have a forum where photographers of every level can come & learn. I certainly have picked up some valuable tips here. Sometimes though, the feedback you get may not be the ego stroking comments you feel you deseve.

Cheers,

PB
 
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Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
the way I see it there seems to be an over abundance of people who are under some illusion that they are pro photographers because they have taken a few courses & bought some gear.
I know photographers like that. They make a few bucks on the weekend or part time. That is not a professional photographer.
From what I have seen, particularly on commentary of shots on the net, most of these pretenders would not know good from bad. Mediocre from fabulous.
I am not knocking the course. Do it, that is a good part of your education. But that is all it is.
I keep thinking of the words Bob Kolbrenner has in his book on Yosemite

If you buy a camera, you are a photographer
If you buy a flute, then you own a flute


I've quoted him before, and it's worth repeating as it points to the delusion that cameras make pictures. I say that is nonsense!


You want to be a wedding pro ? Great, get beside a few for a couple of years. Get great at it & then do it.

Too many pretenders have flooded the market over the years with their second rate images & unfortunately customers have now been educated to accept a far lower standard of work.

You don't see that in the commercial world as the standard required by the ad agencies is so high that your weekend wannabe would not get anywhere near the ballpark. It is only because the wedding market is so accessible that this has occurred.
This is probably true. Even high end photographers can actually produce work that is below standard. The black and white images and my son's wedding were loved by everyone. I was troubled that the veil was blown out and the details of the bride's white gown with delicate woven patterning were blown too. I was the only person who was concerned!

Where was the excllence?


As far as being arrogant is concerned, well I certainly don't think that is something I am guilty of. Would that not be more fairly applied to those who assume the mantle of "professional" without paying their proper dues ?
Paul, I don't need people to pay dues which sometimes may be a lot of exploitation of cheap labor. However, unless one has another way of getting real experience, working with a pro is the only way I know of to do first-class work.

Furthermore, who is it that is challenging the concept of "instant wedding photographer....just add gear & courses" ? Scott & myself, both pros in this very field. I would have thought that our opinions would carry some substantial weight.
Paul and Scott, on average, what is the range of numbers of weddings or months or years does it take for say a competent product, child or sports photographer, or a guy from photography school to become a well equipped Wedding Pro that you would feel qualified to strike out on their own.

That s difficult question, but since we have no system like in the U.K., what is your best guide to this?

It is wonderful to have a forum where photographers of every level can come & learn. I certainly have picked up some valuable tips here. Sometimes though, the feedback you get may not be the ego stroking comments you feel you deseve.
Well, I appreciate your contributions! Thanks for being open and real!

Asher
 
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Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
What are the erthics of taking on the responsibility of doing a wedding?

We all like to extend our reach. however, ethics deals with a line between what one has the power to do and what one should do. So I feel it's worth looking at this. I am asking what would be a check off list for one to go through before making a contract to photograph a wedding?

Is it sufficent to have a 5D a pocket wizard, a Norman flash for the hall and disposable cameras for each guest table?

My own view is that this is a serious event in someone else's life. Also there are available competent Pros who are trying to earn a living to feed their families. So as an ethical person, how do we want to conduct ourselves?

Here are my initial suggestions:

Ethics of Shooting a Wedding

  • Don't do favors! No that's not mean. Unless they are eating catfood, let them pay a photographer!

  • Don't shoot a wedding unless you have done it many times before and have a routine that knows about all the pitfalls of dark churches, rain, camera not working, flash broken etc. and you have met with the bride, groom and parents beforehand, checked the locations, photographed under those conditions and worse and really know you can deliver on time.

  • Don't shoot the wedding unless you know you can deliver all the key shots that the family expects. Can you make pictures that can replace the best shots in professional bride albums? If not, maybe you need to learn more first. Think about it.

  • Wedding photography is not just "covering" a wedding. The family can do this.


In OPF, we are about the journey to the masterpiece. Here we welcome pros and enthusiasts. However, that doesn't mean we agree that knowing one's camera backwards is sufficient. I'm not asserting that "masterpieces" are required for weddings, far from it! We are nurturing and want to see those who do shoot weddings demand of themselves much more than just being able to "get jobs" and "get by". In all we do, we must aspire to excellence. That is the minimum standard!

I hope I'll be forgiven for being preachy. However, this is an issue which is important to me as a father, photographer and someone who appreciates a stunning wedding picture to be treasured.

Asher
 

Paul Bestwick

pro member
Hey Asher,

I used to play guitar a lot about 25 years ago. I still love guitars & own a nice Guild (USA) acoustic. I recently purchase another top shelf guitar. A gorgeous PRS (USA) I have 2 beautiful instruments, I have had a number of years experience. As a musician... I SUCK.
Imagine, I take my instruments to a music venue, get up on stage & start playing. I would be booed off in a heartbeat..
Not the case with wedding photographers. The customers are undiscerning (in many cases) & this is precisely how it has come to be that amateurs have hijacked the wedding market.
That is why photographers sell their prints for next to nothing. That is the expectation after the industry has been so undermined by the guy making a buck on the weekend.
Personally, i am immune to that to a degree as I made a decision that I was not going to be dragged down to that level. In the context of my locality I am recognized as expensive & for many unaffordable. This has been my strategy for survival in an industry which has all but seen the death of the main street studio. (I have one of only a couple of high profile main street studios in my city. Years ago, before my time I believe there were quite a few)
So understand that it is not a matter of dissing those who have aspirations. Rather how do you observe without disdain photographers proclaiming themselves to be pros with limited (or nil) expertise & industry experience.
With regard to being exploited, I was exploited. I worked for nothing for a number of years on the weekend. I worked in a camera shop during the week for 2 years & then for Canon for the next 4 years. Much of that time I worked with pros for free......nada....n/c. Just because I wanted the experience. Also, during that period I shot weddings, often one on Saturday & another on Sunday for a rockbottom budget warehouse type operation. They would get around 20 weddings per weekend & get hacks to shoot them. The standard was low but the customers paid little & knew what they were getting. I put in the hard yards for an extended period of time. Now I am reaping the rewards.
How many weddings does it take to become great at it. Many will never get it no matter how many times they go out. They will be competent but not fabulous.
To the aspiring photographer , I would think that no less than 50 weddings alongside a TOP pro would be required. Not second shooting. Watching, holding reflectors, taking light meter readings, passing lenses doing what you are told to do.
Wedding photography is an acquired skill which takes years to develop.
I have a friend who is an ophthalmologist, I bet he doesn't have to deal with wanna be eye surgeons in his specialized industry.
I hope there can be some value found in what I have had to say. I have found that the applause for mediocrity is overwhelming. Real opinions such as I have attempted to explain are not welcome. People don't like the truth if it challenges their position.

Cheers,

Paul
 

Paul Bestwick

pro member
nice sentiment. Best wishes with that.

I need to add one final thought. As a photographer I am on a continual journey of learning, just like all of us here. I have my own dreams & aspirations.
I want to exceed my own expectations in the genre of fashion photography & produce images above my current ability. I am no different to any of the posters
here in the context of my desires to succeed. We are all doing our best no doubt.
There are lots of great photographers that you never hear about. They are just out there quietly doing it.


PB
 
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Angelica Oung

New member
An apprenticeship such as what Paul went through accomplishes two goals -- it provides learning through experience and it artificially regulates the supply of wedding photogs by setting the barriers to entry very high. Wedding photography is not the only field where this kind of system have been in place...and are now getting seriously eroded.

In Japan, it used to be that an apprentice who aspires to be a sushi chef have to endure years of mopping the floor and running errands. Then he (and it is almost always a he) moves onto cooking the rice for a couple of years before he is finally allowed to even touch the fish. It is a seven to ten year process before he can hang out his own shingle as a proper sushi chef. If you feel disgusted with wannabe photogs, Paul, imagine how gutted the guys who entered into sushi apprenticeships at 16 feels when wannabe sushi chefs jet into Tokyo, go to "sushi university" for six months and go home to open their restaurant.

I very much doubt the average sushi chef in the states even went as far as sushi university. So perhaps out of solidarity with the sushi masters who paid their dues, you should stop eating sushi prepared by those who did not go through at least seven years of apprenticeship. If not, you are one of those undescerning customers who are sending standards into rack and ruin, right?

My point is not to denigrate the value of apprenticeships, either of the sushi variety or of the kind you went through. But that is not to say that anyone who chooses a different path is somehow automatically less worthy because they don't want (or was unable) to put themselve through a process you yourself describe as 'exploitation.'

I'm glad that there are folks who stick to tradition and go through the apprenticeship process. I respect their craft and am impressed with their dedication. When I go to Japan I will certainly make it a point to splurge at a high-quality restaurant for a meal to remember, probably prepared by an apprenticed chef. But I also love the sushi I can get in the U.S. restaurants. Or even the conveyer belt operation in Taipei where the rice balls are made by robots. Like you said about the "rockbottom budget warehouse type operation" where your services were exploited at years ago, the customers paid little and knew what they were getting.

Remind me again why it was proper for you to charge little to shoot weddings at a lower skill level with a "rockbottom budget warehouse type operation" in order to gain experience but it is appalling conduct for those who strike out on their own to charge little to shoot weddings at a lower skill level in order to gain experience? Is it because they (and their customers) get a better deal through bypassing the "rockbottom budget warehouse type operation"? You say that "The customers are undiscerning (in many cases) & this is precisely how it has come to be that amateurs have hijacked the wedding market." Isn't that another way of saying that these photographers fulfill the needs of those with lower budget and lesser requirements for their wedding pictures?

By the way, where do I or Kathy or any other aspiring wedding photographers get the arrogance to think that we can go pro without going through the kind of gruelling apprenticeship you did? Perhaps because we, like Asher, have seen the work of pro photographers our family and friends paid through the nose for and found them less than inspired.

As far as ethics are concerned, I think the most important rule is not to misrepresent yourself. If photos are taken at a workshop and not at a job, say so as you show them to your potential customers. Don't make promises you can't fulfil. I don't think there's anything wrong wiith pricing your services to match your level of experience/expertise, but don't sell yourself short out of either a misplaced sense of modesty or just for the "buzz" of calling yourself a pro because you will then be providing an artificially underpriced service.

By the way, Paul, it's funny that you used music as an analogy because if there is one field that is even more filled with pretenders and wannabes than photography, then it is music. Muscians trying to make it give away their products for free all the time. It's called open-mics. Most of those muscians are not very good, but I still enjoy open-mics and don't think any serious muscians would be threatened by them.
 

Paul Bestwick

pro member
hey whatever, I am not interested in defending my position or opinion. I am merely illustrating the path I took to become successful in my field.
No doubt there are up & comers out there who will take a path similair to mine, it is a recipe for success.
Anyone can shoot a few weddings. It takes a huge effort & lots of weddings to become great at it.
I could care less about the sushi. As long as I don't get food poisoning or get asked to play a few bars of Bon Jovi.

PB
 

Angelica Oung

New member
Sorry if my response seems overkill. I am a very nice person who can be argumentative online. I certainly have nothing but respect for those who did it the hardcore way and now have the success to show for it!
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Hi, Asher,



Wow! That pretty much shuts that profession down, doesn't it.

Would you care to rephrase that?

Best regards,

Doug
Hi Doug,

You changed the shutter timer on a 10D i believe. That's a risky procedure for most people. However, you alone would suffer if you would have screwed up. Anyway, you can get a whole new 30 D for just about $1500 or so. Weddings however are different. When the bride relies on you to make magical memories, there is no store to just replace lost moments.

That's why no photographer should take on a wedding if he/she cannot be sure they can do the job and very well. It's just not fair.

Yes, I think one should do many weddings with someone else in some capacity. How many is "many"? Well it has to be sufficient to give one confidence one can do the next one with no second thoughts and be ready for contingencies without missing a beat.

If one is taking a shorter tack, I'd strongly consider paying an experienced assistant or photo technician to help you. At $200-400 a day or so that is a bargain and even at double it would be worthwhile. The idea, after all, in the first dozen weddings is to make absolutely sure everything will go perfectly. So the more you shorten you own experience, the more one needs to get one's better backup help!

Sorry I sound dogmatic. I just have a thing about these promises for magic. :)

Asher
 
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An apprenticeship ...
Angelica has already made most of the points I meant to make myself, so I only make the few that's left.

I honestly think that what we see here is a pure and crystallized "cast" thing. The Kings and Emperors of the Wedding World do not think that anybody is worthy to enter the magic castle unless s/he hold the candle (I mean, reflector:) for 20 years and ran their errands while they were busy creating the masterpiece.

I also hear a lot of what can be loosely described as "when I had to shoot my weddings I had to ran 20 miles barefoot in the snow uphill both ways to get to the location".

So, what's is left? From one point - one can't shoot a wedding if s/he didn't shoot (20, 30, 50, 70000 - pick your number) of them before. From another - one can't shoot a wedding if s/he didn't serve as a peon for (3, 7, 20, 1000 - pick a number again) years for a Grand Master.

What a great way to make sure that everyone gets really scared or discouraged, and those stupid, photography illiterate, penny-counting and totally unappreciative Bs&Gs would be left face-to-face with one and only Professional Wedding Photographer for the whole county, so he can dictate when, what and how much.

Well, guess what - you're not in Kansas anymore! :)

Digital turned this industry inside out. What was the privilege of the few nowadays is off-the-shelf commodity. Nowadays people do turn to their friends with P&S and entry level dslrs with the requests of shooting their weddings. If nothing else for one reason: they have seen the pictures from that friend and they know what they will get. Besides, they may feel more comfortable with their friend doing that as opposed to some total stranger.
Yes, they are taking risk that pictures will not be of the same quality as they might have been if they hired a pro. But you know what? There is no guarantee that the "pro" would do better. Tons of the wedding pictures I see from the "pro" photographers are so lame I was wondering how they managed to stay in business.

And now I think I starting to see the light. It was that damn cast that kept them afloat. It made them legit.
And since customers were illiterate, they could not tell if the veil was blown.
They still are illiterate and they still can't.
Only now they have a choice.
They can ask their friend Mike with XTi to do it for them as a wedding gift. And if some formals get screwed - hey, they are friends, they can reshoot :)

Cheers!
 

Paul Bestwick

pro member
Hey Nikolai,

well here is how I see it. I am looking from the inside you are viewing from the outside.
Yes I do think those learning the art should walk on their knees to Paris, Florence, Sydney....any where but the whore on seven hills. (preferably on broken glass....Murano of course) The point you miss is that due to the ease of entry, the art of wedding photography has become degraded. & so those with little skill should be scared & discouraged. I will bet that there would be countless numbers of brides who wish that the so called photographer she trusted to shoot her wedding had never seen a camera.
As far as reshooting goes, you have got to be kidding. Evidence of your ignorance on the subject.
& on another matter, I agree with you....tons of shot from wedding pros are crap. They are the ones I refer to who should never gone down the wedding photography path.
It is a serious profession. It has been too lightly made of. Anyone who can afford a camera is suddenly a wedding photographer.
Get their friend to shoot as a wedding gift......great idea. He ruins their shots the friendship is finished.
Here I will prove how the art of wedding photography has become devalued. You said it yourself by implying that even a friend could do it. How unprofessional.

PB
 
Paul,

me and my friend recently shot a wedding for a friend. One video producer and one programmer, 1x20D and 2x30D. With some extra lights and other stuff. Whole day, 2500 shots. Plus few days of culling and couple of weeks of postprocessing.

I certainly would not give them all A+, but the results were all solid B+..A-, with a lot of As.

The bride was ecstatic.

Did we do a poor job? I don't think so. Are we "pros"? No, I don't think so either.

The art is not devalued - it has been enhanced and expanded. Those who can afford paying $100K for a wedding go to those who do nothing but such $100K weddings. Those who can't - go to friends :)

The milk hasn't spilt, it simply turned into a cheese. There is no need to cry over it.
 
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Paul Bestwick

pro member
Nikolai that is great. I am sure the shots were wonderful just as I am sure there would be many non pros out there getting great shots. I do not deny that.
However, there is no denying the vast amount of crap being produced every weekend. There is no denying the deafening sound of the applause for mediocrity.
The art is being buried under a mountain of puked out pixels. As I have stated though. From my perspective, why should I care. It only serves to make what I do look so much better.
Not that I need any help.

Cheers,

Paul

BTW. I could always shut up & say nothing. Or perhaps I could also applaud the crap.
Maybe I could just call it how I see it. What would you prefer.
 

Scott B. Hughes

New member
Hi Nic, your tone is not what would be embraced by my clients or resorts with which I work. Attitude and presentation is a critical aspect in the professional arena.

>> Digital turned this industry inside out.

I'm assuming that you weren't present prior to the advent of digital capture and feel that you are misunderstanding what 'digital' has done.

In the hands of the accomplished photographer, well... in the eyes of our clients, not much changed.

What did change was every "wannabee" photographer became a 'professional' photographer... photojournalist of course (read low quality party pic garbage), being that they had no clue of proper lighting or posing.

The result is the consumer now has more options.... most of the same as before, that being access to photographers that DO have a clue, but also the task of wading through the swamp of self-proclaimed 'digital photographer' "pros".

>> If nothing else for one reason: they have seen the pictures from that friend and they know what they will get. Besides, they may feel more comfortable with their friend doing that as opposed to some total stranger.

No one is arguing with having Uncle Bill or friend Mike making the photographs, so long as everyone is comfortable with the results. Lets not confuse Bill or Mike with a professional that does this on a daily basis.

>> There is no guarantee that the "pro" would do better. Tons of the wedding pictures I see from the "pro" photographers are so lame I was wondering how they managed to stay in business.

I would wager those "pro" photographers (see wannabee above) are so lame because they are busy working their electrical engineer or restaurant manager positions and not really serious about the photography. Otherwise, they would not survive.

Just curious, do you have a website which displays your wedding photography?
 

Paul Bestwick

pro member
yes I would like to see the site also.
Here it is OK. Scott is a wedding pro making a point. I am making the same point. Show me an equal opposite side to the debate. Yes please, two full time wedding pros who support your view.
There aren't any. You see, not many photographers of that ilk frquent the forums because the forums are full of crap
Even so, there are still opportunities to learn & this particular forum is of a very high standard. Apart from the applauding of mediocrity that is. Yet a fantastic shot, often does not even rate a comment.
Bizarre.
It appears you value your own opinion over the thoughts of working pros. The irony of it is that working pro is what you (not you directly) are striving so hard to become.

My place if you are interested. I actually give much of my work A+. Isn't that the whole point of shooting at a professional level.

http://www.studio58.com.au/opm/Studio 58.jpg
 
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Ray West

New member
I'm thinking there is a confusion between wood and trees.

You have a Ford car - do you get it serviced at the authorised Ford service centre, or your mate does it in his back street garage? OK, how about a lambo?

Afaik, there are no professional organisation for photographers, no formal training/authorisation, so anyone can call themselves whatever they want. At the end of the day, if the customer is happy, the photographer get's paid, then where exactly is the problem?

Talking of ethics, is it correct to photoshop out the zits, and all the rest of the stuff you do? Of course it is, it's what the customer wants....

Best wishes,

Ray
 

James Roberts

New member
Whew!

Well, I'm on the side of education and shooting *a lot* till you hang your shingle out. And on training yourself and being trained and mentored too.

Almost everything that separates the stuff I love from the stuff I think is less than great has nothing to do with the equipment, or being somewhere. It's great for Ansel Adams to say stuff like "well, I was in the right place at the right time" but that's a joke when you actually know what he did to get shots and the work he did to make a single print!!

But this is a complex and tricky subject.

I will say this, as someone who did his (lots of) learning in the age of film: digital is a different medium and it has revolutionized the art, but not in the ways that most people think.

And the overall interest in photography has, to my eyes, just increased the business opportunities--the more different my work is from the shoot and burn guys, the better chance I have to make more $$.

But Paul is right; the ubiquity of digital has degraded the art too.

IOW, there is just such an ever-increasing difference between crap and great stuff that, well, it's true people are being "de-educated" or something.

But to stay on point: one thing digital has truly done has change / shorten the learning curve on developing the "negative." I'd say it only takes, oh, a couple of years of intense training now to really understand what kind of file you're getting out of a good quality digicam in terms of final art and computers etc.... (Assuming of course you have a photographic background and some talent).

Shooting film was different. In some senses, you don't need to see how a pro uses a reflector over and over again these days (and there's still lots of debate between the additive and subtractive guyson that!!) to see how it affects the shot--the results are instant.

But you do need an education so you know if what you're seeing is wrong or not. You do need a mentor, IMO, at all points in your career.

I'm not sure you need to be an apprentice if you have a good practical university or college degree in photography--a lot of which these days include apprenticeships and assignments for photography companies and photographers.

The darkroom too was different to me. You had to put the time in there just to understand how negatives respond to temperature, different chemicals, etc..

That says nothing of printing, which IMO still takes even longer if you want to do it yourself (a great lab was, and is now, still your best friend).

But, and this is where it gets complex--please let's not discount talent.

Some people--some very rare people--just have a knack for this. I know a few pros who didn't go the apprenticeship route, but are very, very successful, and no-one would accuse them of not being stupendously good wedding photographers.

Joe Buissink is one; he started when he was 45 or 46 by his own admission, coming from a different career. He was just named one of the top 10 wedding photographers in the US by America Photo. His work--the work I've seen in prints--is frequently breathtakingly good.

http://www.joebuissink.com/

If his story is true (and I don't know how dedicated he was before he hung his shingle out), then that's the argument for talent. There's also this guy--

http://joeyl.com/blog/
http://www.joeyl.com/

is the commercial site...

He's 17 years old and has been shooting, digital only, for 2 years. I mean, really! I look at someone like that and my 20 years + in photography (at various business levels, it's true) and my jaw just drops.

On the other hand, for every Buissink or Joe Lawrences there are a thousand fabulous pros who came up the old way.

So, Paul, I agree with you... except there are exceptional exceptions. I think the problem with our culture today is that everyone thinks they are the exception, and they're usually not :)

(Hey--what have you got against Rome, by the way?? I didn't quite understand that quip about the 7 hills)...

The ethics Asher stated previously are entirely correct, if you're not doing a "favour" for some one (and another pro friend of mine is considering opening a shoot and burn rescue business, just to help save some of the poor brides out there with a CD and no clue how to print!)

(BTW--the difference between real sushi and the fast-food type is astounding. I'm all for apprenticeship when bad execution can kill the customer, but the taste and experience is also completely and totally different--it is an art. But I pay a premium for that experience, and that's where the analogy is correct.

IOW, I don't think there will be mid-market photography much longer. You either need to be high end or low end, and low end means volumes of folks who barely know what they're doing).
 

James Roberts

New member
I'm thinking there is a confusion between wood and trees.

You have a Ford car - do you get it serviced at the authorised Ford service centre, or your mate does it in his back street garage? OK, how about a lambo?

Afaik, there are no professional organisation for photographers, no formal training/authorisation, so anyone can call themselves whatever they want. At the end of the day, if the customer is happy, the photographer get's paid, then where exactly is the problem?

Talking of ethics, is it correct to photoshop out the zits, and all the rest of the stuff you do? Of course it is, it's what the customer wants....

Best wishes,

Ray
Well, that's really confusing now...

The ethics of retouching is completely different from a business ethics. IOW, anyone can use photoshop (or retouching dyes, for that matter). But only someone who knows what they're doing has something worth retouching to begin with...

Anyway, in Canada, at least, there are at least a dozen different professional places to study photography and earn a degree or diploma.

There are many more university Fine Art departments with photography as a medium to study, sometimes in conjunction with other arts and degrees (like media, communications or architecture).

There are also professional organizations, like Professional Photographers of Canada (and their organizations around the world). There are also successful wedding photography organizations, like WPPI.
 

Ray West

New member
Hi James,

I guess I mean 'chartered', such as chartered accountant/engineer, whatever. The institute enforces the title, you can not call yourself a chartered engineer, unless you have passed the institute requirements. For the older institutions - architecture, for example wrt. buildings - you can not advertise as an 'architect', unless you are a fully paid up member of the 'Royal Institute of British Architects', unless the rules have recently changed. Unfortunately (or fortunately), newer trades, such as software/photography, if any institutions exist, they have no teeth, they can huff and puff about professionalism, but the public's perception is that the membership means nothing (except that the members have paid a fee for membership. (I guess the prime example in the UK is 'The Guild of Master Craftsmen'. You pay a subscription, and you say you are a member, impressive, or what?

Best wishes,

Ray

ps, wrt. retouching I was using it as an example of providing what the customer wants. You are being paid to make a false image, I suppose it's like a lawyer, 'being paid to stretch the truth'
 

Paul Bestwick

pro member
Hi James,

nice commentary....thanks. I definitely felt out on a limb, with Scott mind you. It is frustrating.
As I said though, at the end of the market I am pitching at I am not as effected as what I would be if I were at the lower end.
As you say & I agree, the mid market wont survive, I expect the backyarders to pretty much kill then off. Or at least bring them down to their level.
My strategy is to be at the top of the market. There will always be clients looking for the best & at that end of the scale the choices are few. The idea of course is to be the best of the best, the difference has to be so great that it is obvious to even the uneducated (visually) & then the balance lies in not being so slick that you scare them off.
I have a few steps left to hit the right spot. A new website is high on the list.
WHy wouldn't a comitted pro be pissed with the backyarders. Let me use myself as an example. I buy the best equipment, always have the state of the art. Reason, I want the best technology available for the purpose of squeezing the max quality out of my images.
I have lived photography 24/7 for the last 17 years. My life is based around being a photographer, I love it. While other people were buying houses I was buying cameras, enlargers, studio lights etc, etc.
On the other hand, you get these guys that come along with their 5D's or whatever it is they use. No real expertise, no real sacrifice or comittment & they call themselves pros cos they have done a few courses.
Rome, some of what I have said is kinda tongue in cheek & I threw that in for a laugh. Having said that, I am kinda anti Roman Empire/Catholic Church. I have some strong opinions on that subject which do not belong here.
I am probably not as pissed about this as what I sound. But I am making a point.
I could cry, give me a break please. If you haven't made it by your fifties & you are just getting started. Guess what, it aint gonna happen. Not to say of course you can't pursue it & enjoy it for what it is & if you really work hard at it you might make a few really nice images.
Don't you think it is refreshing to have some balance. so much gushing over rubbish & undeserved backslapping. Lets get real & be honest.

Cheers,

PB
 

Ray West

New member
Hi Paul,

Don't you think it is refreshing to have some balance. so much gushing over rubbish & undeserved backslapping. Lets get real & be honest.
Don't you think it is refreshing to have some balance. so much gushing over rubbish & undeserved backslapping. Lets get real & be honest.
Don't you think it is refreshing to have some balance. so much gushing over rubbish & undeserved backslapping. Lets get real & be honest.
Don't you think it is refreshing to have some balance. so much gushing over rubbish & undeserved backslapping. Lets get real & be honest.
Just thought it was worth repeating ;-)

Best wishes,

Ray
 

James Roberts

New member
Hey Ray--

The funny thing is, there is a Royal Photographic Society (and it's one of the most respected, I'd venture to say). You certainly can't get any of their distinctions without be able to do the work; I believe all of them are still juried, and quite difficult to attain at the higher levels.

http://www.rps.org/

In fact, the Professional Organizations don't seem to have any teeth in the market, as you point out. That's they're problem--they need to market the benefits more directly in my opinion.

Now, two more things. You still need a ton of other qualities to be an excellent or exceptional wedding photographer; I find commercial portraiture / editorial a lot easier, actually (though there are some art directors who I'd happily call bridezilla :)) As another pro friend of mine used to say "Wedding Photography? There are easier ways of killing yourself!"

You need to like people, be in good shape (or have fabulous assistants!) and be a superb businessman and marketing person. You need to believe in weddings, too...

But beyond all that, and even beyond the technical, you need a heart and eye that can actually translate the feeling into a visual representation. I want to create art, not record life; you're not mirroring the "event" naturally but reflecting and translating the emotions that took place there into something representative and almost archetypal.

If that's there, by the way, I'd overlook a blown highlight or two, and so will the client, even if my inner editor is cringing.

It's your vision and their experience that matters--not the equipment or the retouching, in a sense (though both help you get there!).

That means you need talent and training, because no-one--no-one--just "knows" art out of the box, (well, except for the geniuses. And even they need to train).

See, I don't believe we're paid to take "real" shots anyway (hence the retouching ethics). I honestly don't know what an unmediated image could possibly be....

Wedding photographers have always worked with light, with retouching, with dodging and burning--in short, with the techniques of photography.

Adams did the same things. And for those who didn't, well, they relied on the art of the labs and ultimately on the film companies to help their vision along. Velvia didn't shoot, or look, like Portra.

So, in all honesty, the ethics that Asher is speaking about, I think, and the professionalism Paul is talking about, too, are ways of ultimately respecting the client's hopes and dreams, and not just their desire to consume event coverage.

Case in point... I know lots of brides who have fabulous video coverage. But it's coverage, not a movie. They watch it once, and they never watch it again. If they have wonderful photography, though... that book gets looked at over and over.

Once brides understand this, and see the difference, I find at least, they're eager for the "real thing."

Fortunately, there are many ways, and many individual ways, of making art! But it isn't just about your unique personal vision, and that's why training and education is important (to say nothing of the fact that even if you rely on others or automation, to excel you need to understand when the automation breaks down. Joe Buissink, again, for example, shoots a lot of the time with a 5d on P mode. Really--except, as he says, when he doesn't :))
 

James Roberts

New member
@ Paul--yeah, I hear you on most of those points:) (Rome is still a great place to get a visual education, though, not to mention the food!)

Yep--the top end is where you need to be. The middle is going to vanish soon. The market also makes a difference; here in Canada we seem to be lagging a little behind the US and Australia / New Zealand in some ways.

I hear you on the sacrifice and commitment too. It's a hard road to slog, and those who know me also know I have (at least) a lens fetish which I can't justify in a business sense (well, not all of it, anyway).

I'm back shooting a lot of film (!!) so my Web site is languishing too--just going through a major studio change to boot! So life is always interesting :)
 

Paul Bestwick

pro member
"P" Mode.......... must try that sometime. yea. If it works for him .... good. He has earnt the right to operate like that.
Would you believe I still measure the light with my Minolta meter. It obviously comes from my Blad days. But the thing is, when I first went digital & used the D30 then the D60, the exposures were horrible.
To make matters worse, I was shooting jpegs. Anyhow, the exposure latitude is still a little narrow for my liking & it is quick & easy to check the light. Cool thing with the MK3 it has the iso shift function for those hectic times when you just forget in the moment. Now thats when Joes method of "P" comes into its own.
Sometimes I need "PHD" mode. Read, Push - Here - Dummy.

Cheers,

Paul
 

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
Hi, Asher,

You changed the shutter timer on a 10D i believe.
Well, the shutter release switch on a 20D.

Yes, I think one should do many weddings with someone else in some capacity.
A nice restatement. Now I know what you mean. Thanks.

I'm reminded of the time a few years ago I was giving expert testimony in a criminal case in a small town in the Great Plains. A local man was accused of making a telephoned bomb threat to a local school. A key piece of evidence was the record of use of the man's cellular telephone, which showed that it had been used for the call in question.

I had been engaged by counsel for the defendant to describe that it was possible for such a record to be spuriously created by an interloper using a cellular telephone modified so it would falsely identify itself as another telephone. (I made no suggestion that such had been done in this case.)

After the completion of my direct testimony and cross-examination, the prosecutor (a young assistant deputy attorney general, brought in from the state capital for the trial) said, "Mr Kerr, just to be sure we understand the bottom line of your testimony, are you saying that a call made from this telephone [indicating the defendant's telephone] could have actually been made from some other telephone?"

I said, "Would you like to rephrase that, counselor?"

She laughed (first time in the trial), and said, "Let's try this:

"Are you saying that a call recorded as having been made from this telephone could have actually been made from some other telephone?"

I said, "Nicely done, and the answer is yes."

It's a tough language.

Best regards,

Doug
 

Paul Bestwick

pro member
James I have to agree with you regarding the food in Italy, it is the best I have had anywhere. Not to mention standing at the counter in the cafes having my daily "cafe Americana" (long black)
Lens fetish....? I can relate to that. I am getting set to add a 300/2.8 is to the arsenal.
Bit hard to justify but heh..............I need it.

Cheers,

Paul
 
Hi Nic, your tone is not what would be embraced by my clients or resorts with which I work. Attitude and presentation is a critical aspect in the professional arena.
Hi Skott,
we're not clients here, we're peers, aren't we? ;-)

Scott B. Hughes said:
Just curious, do you have a website which displays your wedding photography?
No, not yet. I only did few weddings so far, so I'm building a portfolio. Hence my eagerness to learn.
The rest you can see at www.photosocal.com. It's very limited for now, I recently started a major overhaul, but got caught up at work and had to freeze it at a bare minimum.

Cheers!
 
yes I would like to see the site also.
Here it is OK. Scott is a wedding pro making a point. I am making the same point. Show me an equal opposite side to the debate. Yes please, two full time wedding pros who support your view.
There aren't any. You see, not many photographers of that ilk frquent the forums because the forums are full of crap
Even so, there are still opportunities to learn & this particular forum is of a very high standard. Apart from the applauding of mediocrity that is. Yet a fantastic shot, often does not even rate a comment.
Bizarre.
It appears you value your own opinion over the thoughts of working pros. The irony of it is that working pro is what you (not you directly) are striving so hard to become.

My place if you are interested. I actually give much of my work A+. Isn't that the whole point of shooting at a professional level.

http://www.studio58.com.au/opm/Studio 58.jpg
Paul,

as I already mentioned to Scott, I don't have a *wedding* portfolio yet, I'm building it. Hence the need fo tryouts, workshops, etc.

You're brought an interesting point, though. You (and Scott, I think) are photographers. You earn your living with it. You do just that. I (and few others, I guess) represent a totally different breed. We're all accomplished - and often world class - professionals in some other areas (medicine, software, engineering, etc.), yet we love and do photography, too. Hence the difference in the approach.

It comes to me as no surprise that you, guys who spent your life doing this thing, has a concrete opinion on how to do things and large portfolio to prove it. You also have an advantage of the brand name, etc. We, OTOH, do not have a lifetime to spend on what we want, so obviously we're going for some shortcuts.

The main point, however, as Ray said, it's up to the customer to decide who s/he is going to hire: you with your 'blad, me with my 30D or a friend with Casio. Price will be different, risk of screwing things up - too. As long as this is clear - I think we're all OK.

Cheers!
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Jamie,

I appreciate your input. The photographers, Joey Lawrence and Joe Buissink are now added to my lists of valued guys to study. So thanks for adding your experience and insight.

Asher
 
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