What Uncle Bob Doesn’t Know

I was recently reading through the February 2014 edition of the magazine “Professional Photographer” put out by the PPA (Professional Photographer of America) and a couple of the articles hit home for me.

Recently, there has been a big rush of “Photo Moms” and “Uncle Bobs” that have a good camera and want to take photos for some extra cash, or think that having a good camera will create good photographs. If you’re lucky enough to not have these people back out on you, leaving you high and dry with little time to find (and pay for) a professional, then you still have a few things to worry about.

As beginner photographers, everyone starts out as an Uncle Bob.  Uncle Bob loves taking pictures and spends a little bit on a decent camera, and gets a lens or two that will “do the job”.  Whether Bob has the passion for photography that turns a fun pastime into a business with continued education, years and years of experience, and a work ethic that makes him work longer hours and physically kicks his butt day after day is what sets the professionals apart, and makes us, as professionals, continue to grow, invest, sweat, learn, and spend ridiculous amounts of money on insurances, taxes, and the best darn equipment we can get our hands on.  Does the best equipment equal the best photographs?  No. But if you know what you’re doing with a camera there’s no limit to what you can create when you have equipment that can keep up with your vision.

Professionals do it because our passion pushes us to challenge ourselves and to always work toward that image that is “the one” that we know our clients will consider their favorite.  We wait for it, search for it, experiment with it, do research about posing, shutter speeds, apertures, ISO, exposure, shadows and light, and all the things that set us apart from Uncle Bob.

When you invest in a professional photographer, you’re not just paying for better photos.  You’re paying for experience, and assurance that nothing will go wrong on the big day.  You’re paying for someone who knows how to use a camera in a way that will tell the story of your day, not just show you pictures from your day.

Here are a couple things I want to share from articles in the magazine.  Things I know, but never really could put into words until I read this magazine.

First, creating a successful photography business is never about the best equipment, or whether you bring your camera everywhere with you and take photos of everything around you.

I think success in photography takes two things: time and happy clients.  Very happy clients.

How much time?  Years.  Decades.  I’m currently celebrating my 10th year in business.  My very first job was an elopement.  A Bulgarian couple who had moved to America and were getting married on the beach in Scarborough.  Total people at the wedding: 6, including myself and the person marrying them.  I was paid $250 for 2 hours of work.  That $250 was like gold to me.  And so was that couple.  Am I better at what I do now?  Uh, YES.  Do I charge more now?  Uh, YES.  But do I treat the people that hire me any different than that very first couple who put their trust in me?  Absolutely not.

So many people want to start a business and throw up a website and expect to make it big.  As a wedding photographer, I know none of us ever “make it big”.  Per hour of work we are some of the lowest paid people in the business.  But I do it because I am passionate about it.  There’s no better feeling than to be able to pay the bills doing what you love.  Not get rich.  Pay the bills.

Time can easily weed out the people who want to make a quick buck taking pictures.  I’m not here to take a few pictures and collect your money.  I’m here to put my vision, my time, and a little bit of my insanity into what I do.  I prefer to be an Image Maker, not a Picture Taker.  It’s about more than clicking the shutter.  It’s about treating the people who hire me right, paying attention, and in many cases becoming great friends… a relationship that lasts long after the job is done.

As the article I read explains, everybody has a camera.  What people who invest in great photography understand is it’s not about that.  It’s about the vision of the artist, the style, the use of light, the personality in each photograph that comes through.

So, next time you know of someone who is considering having Uncle Bob take their wedding photos, please do them the favor of sending them a link to this sweeeeeet little post of mine.  😉

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