Consumerism Destroying Art

Before the days where everyone could afford a professional DSLR and have access to cookie cutter portfolio websites, finding a wedding photographer was a local search, usually through word of mouth. It’s easy to see how saturated the internet is with aspiring wedding photographers, anyone with spare change can start up their own business and practice at friends’ weddings. The competition is fierce, the selection is overwhelming. We are in the age of smart digital shopping, the days of Fat Wallet turned to Groupons, getting the best value for your money, seeking discounts while expecting highest quality. This is good practice for mass produced products where it drives costs of products down due to demand, however, this is killing the art of photography, specifically wedding photography.

Back in the days when digital was only slowly taking over film, and internet portfolios were rare, wedding clients did not complain about not getting their money’s worth. Considering you get married once with one set of photos, how could you really know if someone could have done a better job, or even shot it differently? You accepted what you got. This is not to say you should accept low quality work even if you have nothing to compare it with, but also not to expect the entire wall found on your Pinterest to be in your album.

There was Google, and now there are massive wedding forums and Pinterest that showcase the world’s most beautiful wedding photos all in one convenient collection. As brides continue their research and soak in all these images contributed from thousands of photographers, they get more excited at the fantasy of what their wedding can and will look like if they just hire that “perfect” wedding photographer for the lowest possible cost. Brides will even go as far as sending a photographer images shot by someone else they would like said photographer to emulate. Offensive? Probably just a little.

In the bride’s defense, most of my clients are not like this. They have followed my work for years or have a personal connection with me just by looking at my work. They have not been saturated with fantasies. They accept reality and respect an artist’s personal vision. I am talking about the brides that try to be a smart shopper and think too logically. They want the photographers to be robots and artists at the same time. They want high quality portraits, artistic vision, unlimited group photos, a documentation of every face, and a customer-is-always-right mentality. You should see the typical photo-list that clients used to show me, it’s a joke how long it is. I personally don’t believe you can have it all.

If you want an artistic vision, an artist needs space and room to breathe, relaxed, and not feel the pressure to also include cookie cutter portraits. If you want full documentation of every guest, then hire a studio with 5 photographers and you’ll get 250 great passport photos. Do not expect a photographer to have the ability to switch on and off the artistic side to match your hectic wedding schedule. Your entire day will set the tone for a specific mood, and a photographer will inherently feed off of that mood. These brides do not treat photographers as artists, they have no feelings for people they paid to serve them on the most important day of the entire world. They are never “satisfied customers.” There is always something to complain about, and when they do, it’s a poopstorm. As a smart consumer, there is no excuse for a photographer who tried his or her best. Disregard the fact that this person was willing to spend 10 hours documenting your silly little day, and that he or she took some amazing photos, but maybe had difficulty with certain situations. Mind you, weddings are not an assembly line of the same product, it is a day of unlimited combinations of lighting, environmental, and personal factors that change how a photographer works. For a bride to nitpick what she sees as faults in her wedding photos and have the audacity to say her memories of the entire day is forever lost or ruined because one or two photos cannot be cropped to her liking, really says something about her character and how she treats her friends and others.

Finally to my point, brides, be realistic about the unique circumstances every wedding photographer has to approach on a weekly basis, and are trying their best to produce something they would be proud of. You cannot expect a 100% success rate on all of the images, and you have to accept each artist for their strengths and weaknesses. This is the human element. If you research a photographer, really get to know his or her work instead of congesting your mind with the “best images” from the internet. Art requires you to have an emotional attachment or a personal connection with the artist, not a checklist of requirements. In the end, you are only doing yourself a disservice to yourself if you love to find the faults in everything. If you appreciate the positive things in life, then you will cherish the moments captured by even the simple photographs.

5 Comments

  1. Blake January 29, 2013

    Poopstorm. LOL

    Good stuff here.

  2. JulieLim January 29, 2013

    Ah… Tony, thank you for this post. It’s as if you took everything that I hated about shooting weddings right out of my heart. My hats off to you for your transparency and honesty. Within two years of my career as a wedding photographer, unrealistic expectations of some clients has definitely made me want to quit numerous times but I feel that it is my responsibility as a photographer to educate my clients and draw that line.

  3. BIll January 29, 2013

    Part of this is because there are way too many questionable “photographers” out there. Too often you see someone with little to no experience, no training, no passion, arms themselves with a with a DSLR + couple lenses and starting claiming to be a wedding photographers.
    The other part of this is that true photographers need to learn to say no and set expectation in the very beginning, even at the expense of losing potential clients. It’s hard to do that when you have bills to pay, but then you aren’t doing it for artistic reasons.
    I blame the industry, not the brides.

  4. Kheric March 6, 2013

    Tony, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.

    Essentially, there are many brides (and other “customers”) who can’t discern a difference between reality and fantasy. Pinterest and the like allows a bride to take the single best shots from a wide pool of talented (or fortunate) photographers – thus creating an impossible portfolio. Then, as you stated, the deep pool of budding photographers makes a price point go wonky.

    To agree with Bill (above), I think the best thing that professionals can do is to be very up front and clear about expectations. If it costs you a job, then you really didn’t want to work for that client anyway as it would come back to haunt you. If you don’t set these ground rules, then you run the risk of not informing your client what to expect and later getting angry hate mail, hate messages, hate posts, and other drama/PR nightmares.

    A client you want is one that is willing to accept you’re human and willing to pay for the possibility of greatness. The probability of you executing on their expectation of greatness is something that needs to be made clear before anything is signed. If you can deliver 99% of the time on what is being asked for, then charge appropriately and tell them you can do it with 99% success!

  5. Amerigo April 18, 2013

    I’m really sorry but HOW can you destroy art?
    Is like destroying love.
    Btw, good luck!

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