How photographers are like chocolate chip cookies...

I made chocolate chip cookies last night.  I'm not sure why, but it seems to me, the only ideal time to make them is at 9:30 at night, when I am tired, and already know that it is NOT a good idea.  As the night wears on, believe me, I can be full of bad ideas.  Isn't there some rule about not eating past 6 or some such nonsense?  As I stared at the cookie sheet of dough, already formed into balls, I started thinking of my own work.  What makes each photographer so different?   When I compare myself to other pros, I can see that we are all like chocolate chip cookies.  We generally have the same ingredients, but our chocolate chips are placed a little differently and maybe some are seasoned differently then the other guys.  Each photographer is unique, and each can offer something a little different, but we basically have the same job---to record.  The more I surround myself with other photographers who do shoot weddings, or families, or engagements, the more I can see the similarities in our work, HOWEVER, all of our styles are a little different.  How we handle business is different.  How we edit, and the angles that we shoot our work in is different.   

I don't photograph every client that wants to book me.  Don't let this shock you.  I'm being perfectly honest.  When a client calls me on the phone, or emails me, wanting me to work for them, I get all of the details of their event- whether it is a wedding, a family shoot, etc.  I then set a meeting where we can meet in person before the shoot, that way we can get a sense of their wants, needs, and personalities.   If I know that I am not the  perfect photographer for you and I can't give you everything you want-I WILL refer you to another professional that can.  I know my limits, I know what I can deliver.    

Your  wedding is so important to me that if I know I can't shoot it the way you want- I have a list of preferred professionals I can send you to.  Now I don't want to get off track here, back to the cookies!  As they are baking, I've been known to hover near the door with the oven light on to make sure they are not going to burn.  So after 10 minutes, I'm peeking in, checking to see when the edges are going to start browning.  I want them to be perfect.  You spend so much time mixing the ingredients, and forming the dough, placing it evenly on the sheet, why would you let them burn??!!  

Each wedding is so carefully planned, so carefully crafted.  See, I got married "years ago" and back then, there was really no such thing as "Engagement sessions", "Save the Dates", "Maternity sessions", a lot of these photography opportunities just weren't thought of yet.  Now, the Bride and Groom are more overwhelmed than ever with getting the venue (according to whatever date they are open), booking the florist, booking a photographer, the dress, the food, the cake, and in the middle of everything making sure her engagement photos, and bridals are scheduled, designing wedding invitations, numerous dress fittings, making one decision after the other.  I can't even imagine the pressure.  Some photographers will book, sight unseen, all of their clients.  I know it takes a little extra time out of the already crazy time restraints that an engaged couple has, but I really want to meet you.  I want to see you, get to know you, understand exactly what you are looking for, and make sure I am the best fit for you.  We are at the 'mixing stage' so to speak.  While there are hundreds, probably thousands of chocolate chip cookie recipes in the world, we tend to gravitate towards the ones that taste the best to us.  I like soft, gooey, lightly browned on the edges- while another may like a crunchy, harder cookie.  Some may be slightly sweeter, some may be slightly more bitter depending on the type of chocolate chip used.  It is our job as photographers, to answer questions, educate, figure out what kind of photography you are looking for, (are we the best ingredient for you).  I take this job seriously, I don't want to be responsible for screwing up your big day, your big moment, by promising I can shoot in a certain way and then not being able to deliver.  Even if it isn't a wedding, and it's another type of session- I still want it to be perfect.  I do have a few weddings under my belt and while I could say, "well, if you've shot one, you've shot them all" that is not entirely true.  Each wedding has certain things that makes it unique.   Photographers are not all the same either, we all have different things that makes us unique.  

All of the details of your wedding day need to be treated so carefully.  Look at the detail in creating your wedding bouquet.  The different flower combinations, the decorations, the colors, the special wrap that goes around the base, and trinkets that hang from it.  That in itself took hours to create, hours of planning.  Brides have special hangers made for their dresses, the sky is the limit with creativity.  Each bride is unique, each wedding is unique, each photographer is unique.  It is crucial to pick exactly what is going to work for you, pick a photographer based on their past work, see what they captured, did they capture the important details?  Did they capture things that are important to you?  Do they have the same eye for detail as you?  Are they looking out for your best interests?  You are hiring someone to record your day.  

I love Mad Men.  In one of the seasons, Don was creating an ad for Kodak, and in his sales pitch, said the following:

"Teddy told me in Greek, "nostalgia" literally means "the pain from an old wound."  It's a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone.  This device isn't a spaceship, it's a time machine.  It goes backwards, forwards, and it takes us to a place where we ache to go again.  It's not called The Wheel, it's called the Carousel.  It lets us travel the way a child travels.  Around and around and back home again.  To a place where we know we are loved."  

He was talking about the old Kodak Carousel, for slides- but you can say the same thing about a camera.  It allows us to travel back to a time and place that we want to visit over and over.  Pick a photographer that is going to let you do that.  Pick one because they are just as excited about your wedding day as you are.  The cake will be eaten, the decorations cleaned up after you've left the venue.  Your dress will be packed in a  bag and forgotten over time, you won't remember what you ate that night, you won't remember some of the guests in attendance- but the pictures your photographer took will allow you to go back to that day, and experience it all over again.  This is that moment when you need to decide what cookie is a good idea, even if it's 9:30 at night.  

Leia Smethurst

Leia Smethurst Photography, PO Box 18694 , Oklahoma City, OK 73154, United States