Tuesday, May 31, 2011

choosing the right photographer

There are times I wish I was better at doing the things I love. A better photographer, a better baker, a better guitar player....just better. 

At times, I feel the limitations of my knowledge and even though I know I worked my hardest at doing something, I still feel that my work is still not as good and perfect as I would have wanted them to be. Like any other artist, I am my worst critic. 

I see how A work, and sometimes I envy how he can view something and just know exactly the perfect composition without thinking twice. He has the eye for the best angles, the broader perspectives, the correct light setting and catching up to him sometimes feels like a chore. I envy how he can simply listen to a tune and without so much as a chord chart or guitar tab, he'll know exactly how to play this on guitar, while I have to try so much harder. I love his humility though, even when I tell him he's much more talented than what he credits himself for. When I do get to this tortured artist phase, I try not to simply feel down and depressed, instead I try to use this as an impetus to be better. 

We realize that our business is still young and not at all comparable to other photography businesses who've been in the industry for awhile. If there was ever a ranking for the best photographers in Canada, I'm not sure we'd even place because there are so many other talented photographers out there. This is also why we work harder to improve our craft. We try to channel our frustrations on our limitations to good use, by realizing that though we might not be the best, there will always be clients that would fit our style perfectly and appreciate the value of our work. Now if the ranking was for passion and dedication, then yes, we'd be right up there with the big leagues. 

I look for inspiration everywhere for this very same reason. No matter what I'm doing, there will always  be many others that are much better at doing it, and this inspires me to try harder. Over the years of shooting together, we've taken every experience to heart and learned from our mistakes. Every event we cover was an opportunity to get better. Often times we get more compliments when we're not over confident that we've done what we were paid to do. And it's because we're not over confident that we plan better shots, over prepare ourselves, create Plan Bs in case Plan A doesn't work out and try harder at creating better compositions with every event we cater to. 

Some people would say, I'm probably not as good as a photographer because there are so many things I'd rather be doing, like baking, or crafting, etc. The truth is, when our business was just starting out, we originally planned to do other aspects of party planning. I loved making handmade invitations, so I obliged when people asked me to do them, even though I was almost only charging at cost and not getting paid for labour. I took orders to make cupcakes that were paid for less than they're worth, because I tell myself that the reason I was doing it was not for money, but out of my love for baking alone. I took flower arrangement orders knowing that I will not have any profit, simply because seeing them at weddings made me feel good inside. Mind you, A and I still have regular day jobs, and so it's not as if we necessarily have to do weddings for money. 

I love all these other things and I'd probably do them just for the satisfaction of seeing the fruits of my labour. I don't think however that my love for these other things hinders me from being a good photographer. In fact, I think it is for this reason, I am a more enriched photographer, as I have appreciation for the value of little things. I know how much work is put in in creating the larger and little details at an event, which makes me focus my attention to them a little bit better than another photographer. 

And so when there are clients that devalue our work, and think we're charging more than we deserved, I think about how much harder we have to work to keep up with improving our craft. I think about the money we spent in investing on the best photographic equipments. I think about the hours and hours of editing we do, to ensure that each individual photograph is colour corrected, perfectly balanced and retouched. I think about the time and money we've invested in creating the custom photo books, the amount of time and gas we spent on client meetings and shoots. And for my baking, I think about the hours I spent making fondant, colouring, planning for customized cupcake toppers to meet the requests of my clients. 

One of the things we learned in this process is, we're probably not the best photographer for everyone. And we shouldn't be. We'd love to work with people who appreciate photography as much as we do, people who are passionate about the same visions and ideals. We'd hate to be the kind of photographers who'd lower their price and give discounts just so they can get clients to hire them. We know there's still so much we can learn from other photographers and we believe knowing what we are and embracing our limitations only make us strive harder to get better. 

So my advice is this, when choosing a photographer for your event, please choose wisely and carefully. Choose a photographer who has the same vision as you do. A photographer who will appreciate and understand the efforts you've made in putting together your special event. Remember that your event is about YOU. It's about finding someone who will take utmost care and respect in documenting your most precious moments as much as you do. It's about finding someone who'll care and value your memories as though they are their own. And please pay them accordingly. I'd hate to see struggling new talented photographers devalue their work just so they can get their toe in the water. They deserve better and you know it. 

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Thanks August Empress for the cool background!