The internets. The interwebs. The ‘net. A land of promise, of never-ending entertainment and voyeuristic intrigue. A land where you can buy anything, be anything, and….apparently…SAY anything.
This week a story arose from Texas that tickled the gossipy fancies of both bloggers and photographers alike. A bride and groom (bride is a blogger, apparently) had hired a seasoned professional wedding photographer to capture their day. Their day came and went and apparently, in the midst of designing their wedding album, they were “shocked” to find that said album did not automatically include a cover. A cover would be an additional $125 charge.
The bride and groom exchanged emails, so it seemed, with the photographer to no avail….and when they didn’t come to a mutually beneficially agreement, they took to the airwaves….NBC to be exact. They ran to a TV station and claimed that their photographer was holding their pictures ransom until they paid this $125 (edit: apparently I was incorrect, it’s $150) cover charge. Per the story I saw, the photographer only responded with a one line, canned response about customer service. The bride and groom waxed dramatic about “lost memories”, etc. It was all very touching and infuriating.
Now, I’m gonna be 110% honest here. My initial reaction upon seeing the story was that the photographer was greatly at fault. Your dedication should be to your customer, stop nickle and dime-ing, all that. I couldn’t believe that was her policy and that she was holding this poor couple’s pictures.
Well, I was right in my disbelief, at least. Because the real story ended up being FAR different.
Turns out the photographer had sent the news station a pretty lengthy email explaining the various attempts to resolve the issue with the bride and groom. She was fully professional in all of her correspondence and even though I’m still kind of scratching my head at the “no cover included” policy…..the policy was stated. Bride and groom either didn’t read it, or didn’t understand it.
Turns out they HAD their pictures that they were contracted to have….and the Bride had been sharing the watermarked images on social media for some time.
Turns out the photographer had reached out to the bride and groom with friendly correspondence offering very fair solutions to the misunderstanding.
But, you know what? None of that mattered. They were victims and they were gonna make sure their victimhood went VIRAL. Over $150, they were willing to destroy this woman’s livelihood.
And go viral it did. The masses got a hold of the story and hit up Yelp, etc. completely destroying the photographer’s previously held good name. One comment even stated that the photographer in question had given them AIDS. It was sick stuff…..and the bride and groom even “liked” the comments.
It was all very interesting to watch go down, to say the least….from a sociological standpoint anyway. But, coming from the perspective of a wedding photographer, it’s a huge cautionary tale.
This is a brave new world, and the rules have changed.
In today’s world, it’s not good enough to strive to give great, thorough customer service. It’s not enough to have it written down, many times over. It’s not enough to have stated policies.
Basically, any of us who have somehow escaped having a customer take any slight, real or imagined, viral are simply lucky. Because in this brave new world, it sometimes doesn’t matter what the truth is…..some people will take any opportunity to get their 2 seconds of internet infamy, even if that’s simply in the form of a wildly inappropriate Yelp review.
I’ve had friends in the industry who have battled their own “viral victims”, and I know what doing so does to a person. Most of us, I’d say at least 75-90% of us, are in this because we truly LOVE photography….we LOVE weddings….we LOVE offering an artistic service to someone who loves us back for providing it. But when dealing with something as emotion-packed as a wedding, you are bound to come across some irrational beings here or there. People who are all too happy (gleeful, even, it seemed) to spread their woes up and down the internet. If a tree falls in the woods, and someone doesn’t vague post about it somewhere, did it really happen?
This is not to say there are not unscrupulous businesses about and that those businesses shouldn’t be handled. But there was a time when you had an issue with a business, you simply didn’t spend your money there. Or, perhaps you visited them and discussed your issue calmly with a manager. Maybe you wrote them a letter. The internet and social media allows people to put emotion before common sense…..and some of the reviews I’ve seen of businesses are just….well, sad. Because sometimes the truth of the matter is somewhere muddled in the middle. Despite what the news media tells us, not everyone is out to get us.
I own two small businesses, and navigating both is all about dealing with all sorts of personalities. It’s a delicate dance every single day. My only desire, truly and deeply, is to make people happy with my product or service. With every wedding I shoot, I want to do my best. With every person I sell a record to, I sincerely want them to enjoy it and come back to us and buy their next record. When things do go awry, and they WILL…because we are all human beings…..it really bothers me….deep down. I stay awake at night ruminating over how to solve even the most mundane issues. It’s just how I am.
I can imagine this photographer in question had a very difficult few days…..wondering if this was it. If her business was irreparably destroyed. Wondering if people would Google her name and ignore the years of experience or the beautiful work and only see the words of a self-proclaimed victim. As someone who is self-employed twice over….I can just imagine how scary it must be, wondering if this was the end.
But I honestly feel that once the next “story” comes about….and there is ALWAYS a next story going “viral” and being passed around on Facebook….people will forget about this photographer. She’ll book a wedding….and then another….and the world will keep turning.
But it does give one reason to pause and reflect on this new world….and our role in it. How we feel that the entire world needs to know our stories, know our opinions, know all of our struggles and all of our dramas. That everything needs to be aired out in the court of public opinion and how it all becomes ridiculously messy.
Imagine how nice it would be if we went back to dealing with disputes, no matter how major or minor, in a more adult and private matter. If we gave people the benefit of the doubt, sometimes. If we paused before hitting send, before hitting post. If we KNEW what power we held with the internet at our fingertips, but we chose not to use it.
Imagine a world like that.
Carmelle + Brian.
Already married. Already parents……but we decided to get together and “play wedding” today anyway : ) Awesome ensued.
-Whoa nellie, it’s been awhile! So let’s get to it!
– As per my Type A nature, I spend the onset of the New Year kicking butt on my organizational needs for the remainder of the winter. Namely, organizing and labeling my medicine cabinet and finishing up our tax prep.
OH! And I got my new Erin Condren lifeplanner!! To a gal like me who loves dayplanners like Kanye loves himself, Erin Condren is pretty much the holy grail of dayplanners. It’s AMAZING. Yes…..AMAZING. I love it. It’s with me at all times now.
– Did a short little wedding to kick off the new year. I’m pretty jazzed for gearing up for wedding season, even though it’s still 4 months away. I’ve booked some pretty fun sounding weddings for 2015 (and even 2016 now), so it looks like my 7th season is going to be great!
-Resolution wise, the husband and I are totally committed to getting back on track with Dave Ramsey and seeing it through to the end. We’ve been doing really well with our cash envelopes and Baby Emergency Fund the last 2 weeks, and we’re ready to kick butt once and for all.
– Also been trying REALLY hard to get our home organized, not only cleanliness wise but with the kids and our attitudes as well. With 2 businesses, 1 full time job, 2 kids (one super active and crazy and the other “strong willed”, so to speak) , a bevvy of kid-watching options, not to mention dance lessons now (more on that in a second)…..we need to really concentrate on making our home as stress-free and happy as possible. That’s no small feat. Especially with two girls who have no problem telling you what’s what. Yeah……
I spent last night coloring up some “Reseburg Rules”…..we’ll see how well those go over.
The words “lead balloon” come to mind.
– It’s been revealed that Benedict Cumberbatch now has a Cumberbaby on the way. I was Cumber-sad…..because his Cumberbaby-Mama….welp, she’s not me. LOL
– Betty started her Christmas-gifted dance lessons this week. She took to it pretty well. She is, of course, the shortest kid in her class by far, but I think she’s going to enjoy it.
– Golden Globes Thoughts: Of course, Cumberbatch was robbed (most definitely). Will have to probably watch Transparent and Boyhood at some point.
We’re still watching Supernatural. I think the husband is getting sick of it…..I’m still enjoying it….so we’ll see if we can see it through to the most recent season before abandoning it like we did Dexter and Breaking Bad.
– Have you seen our announcement on Facebook? Tin Dog Records is teaming up with other local record stores Culture Shock, Toad Hall, Kate’s Pie and Record Shop to help host a “pop up” record store during the premiere of the documentary “Records Collecting Dust”. This is all going down the first week of February. Check out the Event Page HERE
– This week? Doing a really fun “Anniversary/bridal-y” type shoot for a fellow local photographer (in the snow! Woot!)…..Apparently there is some football game on this weekend (meh.) so I’m hoping to get my new meeting room all put together. Once the landlord decides to clear out the last of the construction gunk. I’m ready to move in already!
I’m pretty excited that not only does it free up some space for meetings with potential clients and in-person sales meetings for Seniors, but a big-ole window for natural light studio shooting, which I’ve been really missing since moving locations.
Got the kiddos in the regular-old strobe-y studio this week….for a split second….before they declared mutiny.
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.
Ok, so Plato PROBABLY wasn’t thinking Alien Bees, Speedlights, and softboxes when he developed his quote….but it kind of works for my blog purposes, does it not?
A lot of people have a fear of introducing light into their wedding or portrait work.
You see a lot of “I’m a natural light shooter”. Fair or not fair, that’s kind of industry code for “I don’t know how to properly use a flash”. (Now, before anyone throws a big ole fit, I didn’t come up with that on my own….it’s pretty much a standard. A lot of us, myself included, started off “natural light shooters”….mostly because that’s all we knew. Outside shooting at 5pm in the summer. LOL)
The concept of introducing flash and/or strobes to my work frankly confused me. I had my little external flashes, and I became pretty adept and learning to bounce them off the nearest white wall, but that was about the extent of my knowledge. I was limited….and a lot of the time it showed.
I was completely afraid that if I decided to add this extra element to my work, I would fail….and Type A would fail along with it. I knew what “look” I wanted, but stepping outside of my comfort zone to achieve that scared the bejesus out of me. I’m Type A all the way, I don’t like “not knowing”.
Early on in my career, my work was all natural light or bounce flash, which was FINE….people were happy, I was relatively happy, good all around (and apparently I really liked enhancing eyeballs,too. Skillz.). But, I always had this nagging feeling that it could be MORE…that I could offer that extra punch that would set me apart from the bazillion other “natural light” shooters out there.
I took one of those massive 200+ attendee “workshops” on TTL at some point in 2010. It did not resonate with me AT.ALL. I knew I wanted RESULTS these guys were getting, but it all seemed really complicated and pointlessly time consuming.
One of the most important things I’ve learned about gaining new skills is you have to seek out ways of doing things that work for YOU. I know all the benefits of TTL (believe me, after 2 workshops with Joe McNally it’s burned into my brain for good)….I just prefer a different route. That route is manual flash.
Once I was introduced to Zack Arias’ One Light DVD (and subsequent workshop) I took off like gangbusters. THIS is what I had been looking for: plug in, settings set….SHOOT! Manual was definitely the way to go for me….and I looked to Zack (and later local photographer Dave Jackson) to show me the “light”, so to speak.
That’s why I tout finding a mentor as being SO important…I learn by doing. Reading information in books, for me, wasn’t terribly helpful. But, a few workshops from some of my favorite “light-heavy” shooters and I was feeling far more confident!
I purchased a few pieces of equipment and I started off slow. I learned ONE modifier at time, carrying it with me to every shoot…learning the in’s and out’s.
And I had definite moments of “This sucks…..I don’t want to do this anymore”. I had moments where the light I threw on something was AWFUL….laughable.
But then moments would happen where I would say “Why would ANYONE not LIGHT ALL THE THINGS!”
This is a good example of a pretty picture turning into an epic image with just an Alien Bee and a 28″ softbox. I love this picture. LOVE it. It’s probably the most favorite image I’ve ever taken…and it solidified my great love for my softbox. : )
Light can also break you out of some pretty sticky situations.
Like when it rains all friggin’ day and the skies are dark and grey and yuck. With a little bit of light you can turn that flat grey into something incredible.
Like when it’s snowmageddon (rain-mageddon…any host of mageddon situations) outside and you have the church or a hotel to work with….and that’s what you’ve got. A light on a stick can make it work. Light on a stick has no fear.
The image below was taken in the church before the ceremony against a mural. Most people just see a mural….my softbox and I saw an Old Masters backdrop.
Careful back-lighting can also bring drama to the dance floor. Especially if the DJ lights are horrendous (sorry DJ’s. LOL). This is just a speedlight on a stick. Nothing more, nothing fancy.
Does this mean natural light goes out the window (da-dum-bum!)? Absolutely not. Sometimes there is just no substitute for amazing late-day light….or a big open window. The trick is knowing when to utilize what for the best results. So where do you start?
Start at the beginning : ) First, what do you want light to accomplish for you and your work? What kind of work do you gravitate towards? Even the most ardent lovers of natural light can benefit from a little OCF (that’s off camera flash) skill. It’ll make you a more well-rounded shooter, for one thing….and let you offer a full range of skills to your clients.
I knew as soon as I was introduced to Zack Arias’ work that manual flash was the way to go for me….and I learned all I could from him. I devoured his One Light DVD (there’s a new version out now that I haven’t had a chance to see yet, but I’m sure it’s incredible). I also took his One Light workshop in 2011 and it was beyond helpful. I’ve also taken Dave Jackson’s “Breaking the Rules” (ahem….twice) and “f/What?” workshop, which focused heavily on light usage for portraiture. I’ve learned an immense amount from these two dudes, like I said above, I encourage everyone to find a mentor that has the heart of a teacher….someone who can, so to speak, show you the light.
Once you have the basics well in hand (all that mumbo jumbo, inverse square what-now and blah blah) you can start to get creative and really let your work take on it’s own feel.
I favor a “painterly” look to my images….I love dramatic skies and a bit of a blue, desaturated feel….some people like bright colors and sharp shadows. That’s what’s so wonderful about the art we participate in: take it and make it yours.
Push past that fear and come out on the other side LOVING the use of light. Maybe, like me, you’ll get to the point where NOT lighting something that just BEGS to be lit will fill you with such anxiety that you want to go crazy.
Ok, maybe not. Maybe that’s just me.
MODIFIERS: I love love LOOOOVE my 28″ softbox. It’s just so versatile. I use it on location and in studio all the time. I was buying Westcott Recessed 28″ softboxes but I’m pretty hard on my gear and I found I was breaking them and going through 3-4 a season. At $140 a pop this was not a small investment. So, after some putzing around on the internet I found an Ebay seller that sells a nearly identical product from overseas for about $35. I was hesitant, but I’ve had two of them now and they keep a lickin’ and keep on keepin’ on. So, I’m sold. As is my pocketbook.
50″ BIG MAMA – This is a less versatile but still very useful softbox. I use this to light big groups or to get a very soft light on a subject. Big light source = very soft, pleasing light.
60″ UMBRELLA – I’m not a HUGE fan of umbrellas….I just find softboxes give off a better, less “meh” light, if that makes any sense….but I do use them for family formals. It’s just easiest and best way to light the big group without busting out Big Mama in a church and giving Father So and So a heart attack.
Lightstands: I’ve been through a lot of cheapo light stands. Don’t buy cheapo light stands. They suck. I love my Cheetah stand…it’s heavy and doesn’t fall over as often : )
Here’s where it gets tricky. What to use? There’s SO many options. You can do a ton of groovy things with speedlights only….(I personally prefer Nikon SB-28’s but there’s a host of other options available to you….including some really great cheap manual flashes). When I’m shooting wedding portraits or in studio, I’m using Alien Bee’s. They’re affordable, throw off a great amount of light, portable and, hey, they come in fun colors…who doesn’t like that. I have a whole bunch of them, ranging from AB400 to AB1600. I prefer strobes to continuous light, but again….you find what works best for you.
Now, people out there are gonna tell you the cheap triggers are fine. And hey, maybe they’ve had good luck. I have not. The Cowboy Studio triggers, things of that nature, I just haven’t found them to be overly reliable.
I use PocketWizards. Use them right and keep charged batteries in those suckers and they’ll typically never fail you. (Notice I said typically).
I used to lug around the Vagabond II. That sucker was the size of a small child. Ok….my assistant lugged it around….but I was sympathetic. Finally they released the Vagabond Mini and there was much rejoicing. However, I have found the mini to be a bit more of a “puss” than it’s big brother. You breathe on that thing wrong and it stops working. I’ve been through three of them already…..so, I would suggest keeping it in a bag and not letting it get wet, hot, cold, or have anyone give it dirty looks.
I hope this information has been helpful. If anyone would like some light help to take their work to the next level, I do offer one-on-one mentoring for portrait and wedding lighting. If you are interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re a parent of a child under 12…especially girls….you probably know the song “Let It Go” from Frozen backwards, forwards, and upside down. Its burned into your brain like a brand and it’s impossible to get rid of. I’m sure, during moments of family bonding, you’ve even attempted to hit that big end note (Let the storm rage ONNNNNNN!!). And I’m sure, like most of us normal folks, you fell a bit flat. Because you’re not Idina Menzel (or Adele Manzeem even).
Miss Menzel sang the song on some New Years Eve special last week. Check it out here:
Yeah. Ouch. I know.
So, yeah. She botched it. Kind of big time. She pretty much did the same thing last year at the Oscars. That’s a hard friggin’ note. Especially when you’re under pressure and in front of thousands.
So, does this mean Idina Menzel sucks? She’s a crap singer not worthy of accolades? Not quite….
As “artists” (I guess we can fancy ourselves artists, right?) it can be tough to put ourselves out there. Everytime I hit “post” on a new image that I’m proud of, I’m crossing my fingers that people feel the same way. I’m hoping I don’t hit a sour note in front of hundreds….much less thousands!
But we ALL hit sour notes from time to time. We all have our moments of “Ew…that was not good”. Thankfully most of us don’t have to have those moments in front of the entire world. So, I guess cut Idina some slack (though maybe they can try changing the key for her going foward…..ya know……help her out a bit).
With Facebook, Twitter, websites, Instagram….etc. it can feel like everyone is watching every move we make. It can feel like mistakes can be our downfall. It can feel like if we are not perfect at every turn, our businesses will fail miserably.
No one is perfect…..even the best, most prolific photographers in the world turn out crap images from time to time. Most never see the light of day, but sometimes even images we are proud of for one reason or another turn out to be duds.
When I first started using off-camera flash, for instance, my initial attempts were pretty awful. Because it was something new for me, I was AMAZED by what I was able to produce…but looking back on them now….uhhhh….yeah, a lot of incorrectly lit duds in there.
(My first off camera flash attempt….not terrible, but I can see the mistakes made. There was no modifier, so it’s a really harsh light….I didn’t pose my model very well so her feet are kind of weird looking…and the background isn’t sharp. But I was hella proud of going outside the box and learning a new skill way-back-when….and it was a stepping stone to really embracing the use of light!)
The thing is, I can assure you everyone else is worried so much about themselves that they’re probably not watching you as closely as you may think. Even if it feels like it.
The best we can do is try harder….improve….and focus on what we may have done wrong to remedy the situation next time. But, don’t give up.
I don’t think Idina is going to give up singing “Let It Go” anytime soon (even if parents of kids everywhere may want that song to go away forever). I also don’t think she’s going to stop being an amazing force to be reckoned with on Broadway because of one bad performance.
As long as we are focused on learning and improving, we can’t go wrong. Even if people are watching, keep going….give them something to watch!….and if you screw up….laugh, learn, fix it and keep going.
© Type A Images Photography