Not only do I have a responsibility, as a wedding photographer, to document an event accurately and empathetically but also I have a duty of care to my customers when they look to me for guidance. The initial contact is made because a couple find my documentary style of photography appealing however, once we have met, it's then all about relationship building. Familiarity, and ultimately rapport, are as important as my camera and will be a significant factor in a couple's decision making.
It's imperative they have complete faith in me to be able to create their wedding photography, regardless of the inevitable pressures on the day.
What concerns me at present is clarity within the wedding industry, or the lack of it. In particular the general perception of what it takes to be a good wedding photographer. There are several mistakes that people are innocently making because of this perception, the main being that what you shoot with matters and not in fact who is doing the shooting.
A good documentary wedding photographer is that because they have talent and skill and a finely tuned, well-practiced eye for composition, lighting and storytelling - all under pressure and done discreetly. The camera and lens are a means to an end when used by a competent photographer with intuitive people skills.
Digital imagery has rapidly evolved since the turn of the century with breathtaking advances in camera technology - the digital camera has become an indispensable tool for business. There is now huge interest in photography; everyone knows either a keen amateur or professional simply because it's now so accessible.
In one sense this is a positive aspect as people are more aware and appreciative of a good photograph however, for brides and grooms, the task of researching and finding their ideal wedding photographer and understanding what it takes to be a good one has never been harder. The process is often a daunting, confusing and misleading task.
The internet is supporting a saturation of photographers at the lower end of the market. It's incredibly easy to set up a company on the web and when combined with greedy wedding directories, irresponsibly taking on as many subscriptions from 'photographers' as possible, effectively endorsing them, it inevitably creates a fog for couples to work through.
Go onto most online wedding directories and you will be presented with considerably more photographers than any other wedding related service. There are often very little or no guaranteed credentials too. Letters after a name or a society's logo on a photographer's website can mean exceptionally little and the term 'Award Winning' is used all too freely when the majority of the time it represents next to nothing, for instance, it may materialise that they came third in a regional print competition several years ago.
Flashy, template websites will aid poor photographs, so much so that couples will often overlook the photography and ultimately the photographer. It is vital to have a great site, however it needs to be backed up by even greater photography and fundamentally a photographer that couples can trust and invest in.
Over time the dust will almost certainly settle; the internet may not be such a muddle for couples to use as a resource; weekend snappers and pixel peepers will realise that it's not such easy money and perhaps word will spread that it's probably not such a bright idea to get a friend of the family to 'machine gun' a wedding, after all, there really are no second chances.
I try not to get caught up in technology. Essentially, it's the person you hire and their perception of what it takes to be a good wedding photographer.
I read a great blog article recently by a US wedding photographer named David Mielcarek, you might like to take a look if you found this interesting.