As photographers, we need to compete strongly. But, not as one might think, against other professional photographers, but with the guests at the events our clients pay us to shoot. And, that competition is fierce.
Since the dawn of easily loadable, portable cameras, professional photographers have had to understand that guests will bring their cameras, and some will take exceptionally good shots. In the film days, the guests might have brought anything from a 110mm instamatic, to a high-end SLR. Now, every guest has the equivalent of an instamatic in their pocket or purse in the form of a smart phone. Some will even bring a dedicated camera, like a micro four-thirds, or a DSLR. Any of these cameras is capable of capturing a good shot in the hands of a skilled user. And the users, skilled or not, can be in more places than us, and post to social media more quickly. In order to give the most value to our clients, we need to provide exceptional service.
This last summer, I attended a wedding as a guest. Naturally, I brought one of my DSLRs with me. Another guest, a relative by marriage, “Kay,” also brought her DSLR. Kay is a talented photographer in her own right; she and I spent a good portion of the reception shooting the event together. Much of the reception action took place in a large, open-sided tent. Some of the other guests were putting on an impromptu hip-hop performance; the paid photographer was nowhere to be seen. Kay and I even got shots of the first dance before the paid photographer and his assistant got to the dance floor in that tent. We were, however, respectful, and keeping out of the way of the official photographer and his assistant.
My wife, observing some of our photography, related to me later that the paid pro was giving Kay and me dirty looks as we took photos from the sidelines. So, instead of just stepping up his game and getting better shots by virtue of being the lead shooter, this pro appeared to harbor animosity towards us guests who were having fun with our cameras. I speculate, but cannot prove, that we threatened his sense of his own value. We were clearly getting good shots, and being attentive to our subjects, who were even hamming up and responding to us. And, we would be able to post our shots quickly – maybe not that night, but certainly within a day or so – probably quicker than the pro and his staff.
So, what can we do about the guests shoot at events? First of all we shouldn’t get threatened by them. We can do a few positive things:
· Observe where the guests are taking shots. They can lead us to the most interesting action. Either go there, or send the second shooter
· Be responsive. Post a few shots on social media quickly. Our clients know that there’s no magic in processing images that keep us from providing, or posting, images within a day or so of the event
· Get as much of the prepared shot list completed before the wedding. That’ll free you and your assistant to shoot the improvised and candid shots during the reception
Remember, we are at an event to get shots, not to worry about what shots others are getting. Let’s shoot even better images than the guests.