More ramblings on the state of the wedding photography industry

From time to time I will visit other photographer’s websites. It amazes me how “casual” wedding photography has become. I saw a sample album on site that contained no nice photos of the bride and her mother (she appears in the candids as the bride is getting dressed), the groom’s parents are absent from all the photos (maybe they didn’t come to the wedding) and there are no images of the families that traveled to this event. Sure, there are lots of photographs of the wedding party having fun and it looked like everybody had a good time; but there are key people that I’m sure were important to the bride and groom who are absent from the photographs.

Another photographer claimed to have “World Class Photography”. Dig a little deeper and you will not find any awards from their peers or the professional organizations. In fact, you won’t even find memberships in the professional organizations.

Possessing a scalpel does not make one a surgeon. Possessing a nice digital camera does not make one a professional photographer. A true professional photographer controls exposure, focus, composition and lighting to produce consistent and repeatable results.

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The State of the Industry – Part 1

Catch me in a candid moment, and I will rant and rave about the direction that the professional photography industry is headed. Occasionally I will find others making similar comments. From the June 2007 issue of Rangefinder:

‘Digital can make you a sloppy photographer,’ warns Sterling [Hoffman]. ‘ is easy to take a lot of images hoping that one of them will be good. The option of “FISP-ing” the image (fixing it in Photoshop) is leading to a generation of photographers who do not pay appropriate attention to white balance, exposure, expressions and extraneous things that should have been removed.‘” – Page 50, Avoiding Digital Disease by Mark Zucker.

“‘That means photography is changing at its most basic level. It means that every photographer is now looked at as a Photoshop person. Meanwhile, successful photographers have worked extremely hard to train themselves to see light, to understand exposure, to work with camera perspective and lenses, and so on – and that just doesn’t happen in Photoshop‘” – Page 131, Joseph Meehan: Embracing the Future with a Mindful eye on the Past by Michelle Perkins.

There is more to photography than picking up a camera and firing off a few hundred – or thousand – exposures. Photography is the art and science of capturing an image in a camera. Not the art and science of correcting your mistakes later.

Rapidly Declining

The quality of wedding photography – on the whole – is rapidly declining. It saddens me to see this.

The problem is, a lot of people with decent digital cameras decide they can photograph weddings. Most of these newcomers have no knowledge of what actually makes a good photograph. They take their flash and stick it on their camera in TTL mode, put the camera in Program and take hundreds or thousands of photographs. “It looks right on the back of the camera, so it must be right. Anyways, I can fix it Photoshop.” Both of those statements are inaccurate.

Every photograph rests on four foundational pillars: 1)Focus (including depth-of-field), 2)Exposure (including color balance), 3)Composition (including lens selection) and 4)Lighting. The better the foundation, the better the photograph. A camera with an on camera flash in program mode IS NOT capable of getting creating a quality photograph. It is – quite simply – bad photography.

The magazines that cater to professional photographers are not helping matters. They publish images that lack the fundamental basics of good photographs. Professional photographers have not helped themselves either. Many are just lazy and use poor techniques when it comes to photographing weddings. Prices of good digital cameras continue to decline encouraging more people to move into the business.

Take all those ingredients and stir them up and what do you get? It’s not pretty and it smells bad. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.