This is how you’d see me at a destination wedding in the tropics.
- Shoulder Bag: ONA, Bowery in Field Tan. ONA makes wonderfully stylish bags. This one is holding three additional prime lenses and a lens cloth. It also contains my passport, which I keep on my person at all times during a trip. My passport and my used memory card are the two things I am determined never to lose. It’s a useful obsession.
- Shirt: Ralph Lauren, in Navy and Pink Check. This shirt is labeled ‘non-iron’. I iron it, of course, but it doesn’t wrinkle too badly during the day. I always roll up my sleeves when I shoot – it’s relaxing and I feel ready to use my hands.
- Necktie: Jos. A. Bank, in Navy. I virtually always wear a patterned shirt with a solid, nicely textured tie.
- Pants: Polo Ralph Lauren, Linen Cotton Preston in Navy. I’ve worn Polo pants my entire career. They sit very well on me and they’re durable. All my wedding clothing gets destroyed during the course of a season. My RL pants have always held up for a long time without fraying or tearing.
- Belt: Orvis, Braided Latigo Leather. Very thick, with great texture and a brass buckle that matches the brass hardware on my ONA bag. It’s the little things.
- Shoes: Clarks, Watkins Park in Taupe Nubuck & Suede. My Clarks are as comfortable as sneakers, with a casual look acceptable for a beach event.
- Camera: Canon 6D with 50mm 1.4 lens. Light and remarkably quiet when used in silent shutter mode.
For domestic weddings my attire is more formal and includes more black: black pants, belt, shoes, and shoulder bag. But I still wear a colorful-but-conservative shirt and necktie.
No matter where I’m shooting I have three requirements when selecting my clothing:
- Acceptably Formal. I believe in dressing at least as well as an ordinary guest, which means I always wear a necktie. A blazer is too cumbersome and too hot for me, so I omit that, but everything else is typical of what a guest would arrive in. I’ve worn true suit pants before, but I’ve found chinos to be less likely to suffer a regrettable split.
- Deceptively Athletic. Shooting a wedding is a highly physical endeavor. My clothes need to be light weight, relatively breathable, and loose enough for crouching and running.
- Entirely Forgettable. I’m a photojournalist, so I usually want to keep the lowest possible profile. My attire is intentionally conservative, largely thanks to a solid necktie.
Finally, I bring a couple of nearly-identical shirts to every wedding. Sweating during an outdoor ceremony is unavoidable, but a wet shirt doesn’t need to be part of my night. With a fresh clothing change I can shoot in the middle of a crowded dance floor without feeling self-conscious.
So why is this posted under Automation? Because most people are used to seeing lesser-dressed photographers. Looking better than average shows you care enough about someone’s event to make the effort. Which gets you an instant measure of respect and gratitude from clients and their families. Which gets you remembered positively. Which gets you referred.
Dressing well is a way of automating your referral efforts.
The stream of photographs on Steve McCurry’s blog is excellent – check it out. I admire the considerable care he puts into his compositions.
Check out Mike Lerner’s portfolio website; he’s Justin Bieber’s tour photographer and has shot many other pop and rock artists backstage. Notice how his website lays out all the goods for you very quickly.
I’m a really big believer in maxing out the number of portfolio images you show on your wedding website pages. It just makes sense because web visitors want to evaluate you instantly. They have no interest in a grand (aka slow) presentation, especially up front.
Engaged couples online are like single men in a nightclub. They’re always scanning the room looking for a worthwhile lead. They’re thinking, ‘She’s a 6, not interested. She’s a 9, way out of my league. That one’s a 7, I can work with that! Now let me look closer to see if she’s here with her boyfriend’. It all starts with scanning.
If you’re a single lady looking for a man in that club you’re most definitely wearing a ‘cute’ outfit (read: a little too revealing). Why? Because you expect men to look you up and down. You want them to because that’s how the game works.
The game of booking more weddings works the same way. Photographers need to think more like single ladies. Embrace the fact that engaged couples want to size you up superficially first. Dress for it.
An engaged couple who arrives on your site doesn’t immediately begin deciding how they feel about your work. First they decide whether your work looks like it’s worth a closer look. They’re sizing you up at a glance to see if you’re even worth their time and attention. Help them by showing more pictures on a single page. Allow your prospect to get a sense of your overall style and skill in the first 30 seconds before they get impatient. This approach is the fastest way to get them to Step 2 where they slow down to actually examine your individual images.
It’s not elegant like the Flash website intros of the good old days (circa 2008) but it’s how the game works now.
Petapixel has a nice interview with Mike Lerner about his unlikely path to becoming a photographer of pop stars. His ‘hipstagram’ image style is pretty much the polar opposite of mine, but a few years back he shot Paramore (one of my favorite bands) so he’s alright by me. Watch a young Hayley killing it on YouTube.
“Every day Times editors conduct dozens of weddings, uniting words and images, in print and online. / As in any marriage, the two parties should not just speak to each other, but seem as though they belong together. / “Let us start with the advice of The Times’s stylebook: A caption should normally explain what readers cannot see for themselves in the picture and should omit the obvious.”
This is yet another reminder that your pictures frequently need written context for maximum effect. They are usually not worth a thousand words.
I talk about the way I use captions to book more weddings in Wedding Mind Tricks. The basic gist is:
- You need to communicate your style to prospective couples online as quickly as possible. We are long past the days when a photographer could sit on her office couch with an engaged couple and explain each portfolio image while they’re looking at it (a la the great Joe Buissink).
- Captions allow you to narrate a richer, more original story about your work. Couples can’t figure out the depth of your shooting approach just by scanning your images. They need your help.
- Explaining yourself in a block of text is a sad waste of time. Web viewers just aren’t willing to suspend the downward pace of their eyes to read entire paragraphs. Especially when they’re still deciding whether they even like your pictures. People are far more likely to read captions.
Captions are one of the reasons every couple who hires me has a complete understanding of my shooting style before I ever speak. (See hundreds of captions at work on my site.)
You have to turn on your brain to write a meaningful caption. Just try your best. Even New York Times editors struggle to get them right all the time. It’s not easy but it’s absolutely worth it.
Right now I’m listening to a lot of recorded rain sounds in my office. I find it incredibly relaxing. It quiets the ambient noise of yapping pets and rumbling delivery trucks in my neighborhood. (Is it bad that I think school buses = two birds with one stone?) In my ideal world I’d live far enough into the countryside that I’d hear neither.
I'm not into poses and details. I just wanted to make my style of meaningful wedding photojournalism. All the time.
So I wrote my own rules. And I got the right couples around the world to hire me.
This blog is about how I did it.
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Wedding Mind Tricks