I’ve been talking with a lot of vendors in the wedding industry who aren’t photographers.  One of the most consistent comments that comes up about photographers is that their egos are the biggest obstacle to garnering great referrals.

But let me qualify that.  I don’t think we should bend over or not be assertive.  So let’s draw a line between Ego and Confidence.  Confidence has everything to do with believing that what you offer to the client is valuable, appropriate, and the way that you do your thing is the best solution for the client.  Confidence means that you help the client trust you, that you build their level of confidence in your ability to solve their problem.  Confidence is all about what you can do for the client and helping them see and enjoy the value of that.

Ego is not about what you do, it is about you.  If you take yourself more seriously than you take your work you might have an ego problem.

Before I lose the support of all my photographer friends let me explain!  Some of the biggest complaints I see from folks outside the photography community are about personal demands that photographers make.  I’ve had a ton of coordinators, florists, band members, venue managers, catering staff, etc. ask why photographers make such a big deal about the following issues:

  • Vendor meals
  • Start/end times
  • Amount of photography time spent
  • Being accommodated by other vendors
  • Competition with videographers
  • Being allowed to do what they want

Most of the complaints have to do with how the photographer is being treated, or expects to be treated by others whether those expectations are being communicated or not.  It is all about the photographer being accommodated.

Yes, I realize that you get hungry.  But making an issue of it and drawing attention to how people are treating you takes the emphasis from the client and onto you.  Being hungry is a problem that lasts a few hours at best, but ill will from making the photographer the center of attention or complicating the catering staff’s job lasts far beyond that.

Most of the other vendors have to deal with the event as it exists.  They don’t necessarily get to walk out or demand more pay after 8 hours.  They have to do their jobs till the event is done.  When we complain about start and end times we look petulant.  When we make a big deal about how much time we are afforded to take the pictures “we” want we put ourselves before our clients and how they’d like to spend their day.

The point that I’m trying to make is that perception is reality.  If we appear to be self-involved, self-interested, and generally selfish then people will believe that is true.  When we appear to be completely motivated by what we want and when we assume that people can read our minds and ought to be accommodating us instead of the event or client at hand we make it hard to refute the “selfish” tag.

I’ve been accused of not taking the photography side of things as seriously as the business side.  Part of that is a carefully constructed brand -while I could talk about the craft of photography all day (and I may choose to at some point) I’d rather you know me for business- I don’t want to dilute that.  So understand that I have the utmost respect for the truly creative part of what we do when I say this:

For those wedding photographers out there, I think it is in your best interest to think of yourself as a service person before thinking of yourself as an artist.

Let me qualify that before you string me up.  Art is in many ways about the artist and what they are trying to say about their subject.  I’m fine with that.  But when we are hired to do a job the most important thing is that we get the job done, at least it tends to be the most important thing to the client and the other service professionals we’re working alongside. Make sure you get the job done, and you execute on the service that you’re hired to do without getting in the way of any other service person.  And if you can create some art along the way, then you are way ahead of the game.  By all means, create your art, but when you and your art get in the way of the service be prepared to piss off some people you’d probably rather have on your side.

If you think your art is more important than the service, then trying to create art at an event whose primary goal isn’t creating art is probably not the best idea.  Go create art and let the service people work the weddings.

That’s probably going to ruffle some feathers, but I’m trying to give you all a peek from the other side of the fence.  The biggest issue I hear about photographers is that most of them have an ego problem and don’t work well with other vendors.  When I ask for examples they usually tell me some story of the photographer acting in a way that most photographers would think is totally fine.  I think that maybe the photography industry has moved out of alignment with the rest of the wedding industry.  Sure we can expect them to shift and accomodate us, but I think it might be best for us to consider our position first.

Am I wrong?

Hey, it is just my take on things.  Please give me yours.  I’m interested in how you see it.

– trr