open letter photographers

Dear Creative Types,

I get asked on occasion what advice I would give beginning photographers, and aside from the typical answers of what gear I use, what cologne I wear, and how I keep a rocking dad-bod (lots of bad food choices), the final and most important answer I give is this: shoot from your heart. Turn off the background noise and remember why you’re a photographer in the first place.

If you’re a new photographer, especially a new wedding photographer, you’re going to be inundated with the “shoot to get published” mantra that prances around gleefully in our industry like a caffeinated child from every social media outlet imaginable. You may even be tempted to join the thousands of photographers shooting to impress the elite few that perch themselves on top of the massive pile of vintage, lace, burlap, and faded yellow broken dreams that so many try to climb in an effort to attain fame and fortune.  But what happens when the fame and fortune doesn’t arrive? My advice is to step away from the pile.

If you shoot for you, and create from your heart what it is that you see, not what some intern behind a desk at a wedding publication tells you is popular, you’ll be light years ahead of everyone else trying to get noticed. If you create good, solid images, blogs and websites will contact you and ask for your work.

If you listen to what most of the wedding industry tells you is popular, or a good photo, or blog worthy, or has a chance of getting published, you’ll miss really great, meaningful photos because you won’t be looking for them. Like this photo, for example:

grandmother with bride

As much as the wedding industry would love for me to stick grandma on a vintage table in the middle of a field in an antique dress while a herd of miniature, organic, vegan, vintage horses galloped by while pulling the bride wearing a designer dress in a diamond studded, locally sourced, Pacific Northwest Approved, handmade chariot, that’s not real.

Ten years from now, no one’s going to care about how many likes/shares/butt grabs/atta boy’s you got with your really cool vintagegasm of a photo shoot, if you missed basic shots like this one.

But wait! What about getting published and being famous and popular!?

Well. About that.

See, at some point in this gigantic commode of vintage and floral arrangements more expensive than your car and Cool Kids Clubs, the idea of shooting a wedding to make your clients happy and possibly getting some attention turned in to shooting to get attention and possibly making your clients happy.

And for all of you on the edge of your seats about to cry into your Pinterest lists, hear me; shooting details and decor is fine. It has its place. It’s a small place, but it has one. But when those things become more of the focus than the actual people and love stories you’re hired to shoot in the first place, you’ve completely missed the point.

Shoot your details. Shoot your models and your antique dresses made from the tears of vegans and beard hair of hipsters. Shoot your bouquets that are larger than the bride. Shoot your fancy plates. But in all of that shooting, remember that 10 years from now no one’s going to give a flying rip if you got published when you missed shots like the one above while trying to get popular.

Your clients will never call you crying a few weeks after their wedding when a loved one passes away unexpectedly asking for pictures of plates.

Shoot what matters.

The end.

Brett Birdsong is based out of the Midwest and escapes frequently for destination weddings internationally and within the U.S. When he’s not photographing or writing, he can be found dancing for tips in Key West, or sitting under his favorite cork tree. He is very happy.
Photos: Brett Birdsong