When was the last time you used your camera for a paid job? If you are a wedding photographer, like me, the chances are high that it was quite some time ago now. In fact, these days I’m using my Sony A7III more as a webcam than a camera! As we patiently wait for lockdown to end and weddings to open back up here in the UK, you might find yourself feeling increasingly disconnected to your kit. I have even seen a fair few photographers trying to sell some of theirs. These really are the craziest of days. However, before you call MPB for a quote to see how much you could get for your cameras, let me try to inspire you for getting back into that creative headspace.
For some of us this could be the longest we’ve ever gone without shooting for a client and it’s hard not to feel a little rusty. As wedding photographers our work is always seasonal and you could think of this as an extension of that. The off season has just been a little longer this year but as these weeks go on and on that might not be all that reassuring. In the first lockdowns, many photographers created projects inspired by their circumstances and adapting to these new times – Like Facetime Portraits and Doorstep Portraits. In this latest lockdown, I haven’t seen any of that. Of course a lot of photographers have had to seek income in other ways for now but there is an end in sight to these restrictions. It’s coming, I can feel it.
Over on Clubhouse, I’ve been chatting to some photographers based down in New Zealand and Australia. It’s very different there and weddings are mostly back on again. The main difference for them is that overseas visitors cannot attend but they are currently in the middle of their summer season. It’s so wonderful to see their images on social media shot at recent weddings. Our latest Farmers Image Of The Week was shot by Cushla Marie at a National Park in New Zealand.
At times, the Pandemic has felt like we are in a tunnel where not only can you not see the light at the end, but the tunnel just keeps getting longer and longer. Seeing other parts of the world allowing larger weddings again is giving me some much needed hope and I feel like that light is starting to peek through now.
Photography is like any art form, you need to train and practice. If you are busy then you are doing this at each and every job – You are always learning and developing your craft. When you are not busy, you might need some self-motivated work to keep that connection to your camera. At the beginning of any other year, I would usually see photographers start 365 projects. That hasn’t happened this year but there is no reason why you couldn’t start one. I completed one a few years ago inspired by hearing Martin Parr speak at Photography Farm. He said to take photos of your ordinary days, not just when there is a special day like a birthday or a trip to the zoo. He said take pictures in your own space as this is what you will not remember. He was right, looking back on those images now is very precious and I will treasure them forever. They were all either shot at home or very close to home, in our everyday spaces. If you are feeling like this might be something you could take up, I created a weekly photo theme that can be started at any time. Just work your way through the themes in your own time and they should improve your shooting and help with inspiration. THE PHOTOGRAPHY FARM CHALLENGE
Or if you’d like a fun one off challenge, head over to Australian photographer Oli Sansom’s PHOTO CHALLENGE GENERATOR. I just tried it and got Today, I’m going to take a wide-angle portrait and then I’m gonna adopt a kitten and love it forever.
Please don’t sit there thinking there is nothing to take photos of right now. Shoot yourself if you can’t think of anything else to do. Every single one of us has access to that subject and the process of self portraiture is always very challenging but revealing. So many photographers struggle with this and yet we expect our clients to be comfortable in front of our lenses. Turning the camera on yourself can make you a more empathetic photographer.
You could even just take your camera out for a walk and shoot your journey. Trust me, it will feel good to shoot again and to challenge yourself to see light, to see composition and details. I’ll bet it could make a really pretty Instagram story. Trust me, you will feel ever so slightly less rusty.
Another way to reconnect with your photography again is to curate your portfolio. If this hasn’t been touched recently, it’s a good exercise and will remind you of what fires you up most about this job. Sometimes our portfolio pages on our websites can be like photo graveyards. They are where your best photos go to die and by this I mean you maybe set this page up when you redo your website and then never go back to refresh it. Your portfolio should be the best of the best of your images and that’s often our latest work. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I will be reviewing a website for a photographer and they have a portfolio full of images more than three years old. Yet if you look at your website analytics, this can be one of the most popular pages on your site. So it is worth ensuring that potential customers are seeing your very best. Nobody opens up a shop and only does the window display once. It needs to be refreshed often to reflect what you are currently offering.
If you struggle with curating your images, you could try printing out potential entries and then laying them all out on a table or your floor to see how they all fit together. You want your portfolio to have a cohesive look overall, to not feature many similar shots or multiples form the same shoot or wedding and you want to be showcasing what your ideal weddings looks like. Sometimes doing this exercise can bring you a renewed confidence in your own abilities. Looking at your images when you’ve had a little distance from them can give you a more objective view and reassure you that you are on the right track.
EDIT YOUR SOCIALS
How does it make you feel when you open up your Instagram? Is it a non-stop source of pleasure that makes you feel glad to be a photographer or does it deflate you and make you feel worse? Try editing what you are exposing yourself to. You can unfollow or mute the accounts that don’t inspire you for now. Think like Marie Kondo, does it spark joy? I filter really awesome shots that I see into folders to look at when I feel like I need a shot of visual inspiration.
You could start a Pinterest board just for photos that you find inspiring. My favourite one is of iconic famous couples like Sid and Nancy. I’m never looking at other wedding photographers’ work there, I like making boards with music or fashion photography. I am looking for elements that I can try out in my own work and hopefully avoid getting too caught up in trends just for weddings.
You could use this time to plan your own styled shoot for when restrictions allow. These always reset and revitalise our portfolios and keep our social media fired up. What’s stopping you from planning a shoot? It could be as simple as a girl in a dress with some flowers or as themed and elaborate as you like. Or if planning your own shoot seems too daunting, join one of the styled shoot days or workshops that are around. We have one in Sussex that will happen as soon as it’s possible and we are currently looking for a location for another Scottish one. The idea of these shoots is to give you as much content as possible while also connecting you to other photographers and suppliers.
Anytime that I’ve been able to shoot in the last twelve months, I have felt deeply grateful. To just be able to do my job, to shoot again has felt wonderful. I don’t think I will ever take it for granted again. I’m sure you have also felt this or you will when you get back to shooting. That gratitude is a terrific force, an energy firing me to be better, to make images that matter more. The fact that you and I are still here, still standing, still moving our businesses forward and still connecting with each other means that we will be OK. We’ve made it this far and we just need to keep going and keep reminding ourselves what it is that we love about this job. Why did we ever pick up a camera to begin with?
Images for Crown and Glory by Devlin Photos