Dear Fellow Wedding Photographer,
I am not talking to ALL of you, but I am talking to A LOT of you. I’ve seen your work. I’ve read your ads on Craigslist. I have seen your Facebook posts. I am not trying to criticize… I came from just where you are (and believe me, I still have plenty to learn). You are not doing your clients or this industry any favors by not continually furthering your craft. You are meant to grow and learn and become better. And in order to do that, you have to get out of your comfort zone. You need to learn from people who are better than you. You need to be willing to put yourself out there. You need to subject yourself and your art to criticism from someone other than family, fans and followers. You are not meant to stay at a skill level that is okay and comfortable, and well… mediocre.
You need to grow. Our industry is dependent on your growth. Our growth. We can not continue to let the non-photography community believe that sub-par photography and sub-par professionalism is acceptable.
On one hand, I am both embarrassed and puzzled by the lack of interest my fellow (local) wedding photographers extended to Nik Pekridis and Salvatore Dimino. Linda Rukavina, owner of Boerne’s Linda Rukavina Photography, spent months trying to persuade local photographers to attend this workshop. Normally, Nik and Salvatore charge $1000 each for their workshops. Through Linda, you could have booked this workshop for only $650 and the instructors were even gracious enough to accept payments right up to the first day of class. Linda’s goal for the workshop was to host only ten… TEN photographers. By the time November 3rd rolled around, just seven smart souls had registered for the event and that included one from Houston and one from Illinois. So that leads me to believe that only five local photographers found enough value in this workshop to take advantage of its convenience.
On the other hand, I had an incredible opportunity to be one of seven students to learn from not one, but TWO WPPI Master Photographers over the course of three days in an intensive, hands-on wedding photography course. If I had a question, I didn’t have to compete with other raised arms in order to be heard. I didn’t need to shout over a room full of other voices. If I needed something repeated, all I had to do is ask. If I needed something to be re-demonstrated, all I had to do is say the word. If someone had another idea for a shot, or wanted to see a particular technique in action, all we had to do was mention it. After all, there were only seven students. We had three days, two masters, one MUA, four models, two locations and one gracious host to accommodate all of our learning needs. So thank you, majority of San Antonio wedding photographers, for not being interested in the growth of your photography skill. Your arrogance… obliviousness… laziness… lack of financial means… whatever is was… was very beneficial to me having a nearly one-on-one A+ learning experience.
I can’t say I’m all that surprised. Back in 2014, I attended Jerry Ghionis’ San Antonio How to Wow tour. Jerry is one of three WPPI Grand Master Photographers, outscoring the other two by a combined sum of 109 points. Many regard him as the world’s best wedding photographer. His one-day workshop was divided into two parts: a day part and a night part. Neither part had more than 20 people in it. (For reference, the Facebook Group San Antonio Photography has 5,591 members.) I attended both parts of the workshops, and afterwards thanked him profusely for coming to San Antonio. Then, I apologized profusely for the lack of participation from my San Antonio counterparts. Not many photographers of this caliber are willing to come to this market. And now I understand why. It’s a shame… a shame on us.
[Let me get off-topic for just a bit and tell you something about Jerry’s charisma. I’m sure he meets 1,000s of people a year shooting weddings, teaching workshops, attending conferences, judging print competitions, etc. At the San Antonio How to Wow, he was demoing a standalone photo booth and during the breaks, he would encourage the participants to take selfies with him. When it was my turn, we were goofing around and somehow he managed to perfectly frame my eye in the “L” fold of his hand between his thumb and first finger. It was dumb luck because the booth would take three shots and we would change poses between shots. Fast forward four or five months to the 2015 WPPI. He was promoting his latest book, Darling, in his expo booth. If you purchased the book, he would sign it and you would get some bonus decks of discontinued PicPockets. I was really interested in the PicPockets. When it was time for him to autograph my book, he not only remembered me from the San Antonio workshop, he remembered the weirdly-timed selfie we took. That speaks volumes to me regarding his authenticity.]
This workshop lived up to all my expectations. Way back when… probably sometime around 2008 or 2009, I went to a small meetup in Austin and sat in Kevin Vandivier’s living room. He talked to our small group of photographers about the importance of constantly growing. He said that as you continue to grow and learn, you will begin to take smaller and smaller steps and they will become less and less frequent. But, he stressed, you must continue to move forward. He talked about the importance of attending professional-level workshops and as long as you get just one gold nugget from a workshop, it will be well worth it. Every time I attend a workshop or conference, I look for gold nuggets. I actually got a few gold nuggets from Nik and Salvatore’s workshop. So it was well worth it.
Okay, back to Nik and Salvatore.
Dear Fellow Wedding Photographer
First Nugget. Even though I have heard this many, many times over the years, I think they finally drilled it into my head to see past the crap. What this means for me is when I walk into a bride’s getting ready room, and there are beer bottles, or hangers and dry cleaning bags, or the place is badly decorated, is I shut down from a creative standpoint. I can not see past the beer bottles, hangers, dry cleaning bags, and the olive green velour curtains. Nik and Salvatore explained how to get past this. Then they showed me how to get past this. Then let me shoot past the crap. Success.
Second Nugget. I need to be more active in educating my brides and grooms in the amount of time I will need to achieve certain shots, particularly their wedding day portraits. It’s fun and challenging to try and capture some photojournalistic portraits of the bide and groom, but those images are not guaranteed. Sometimes you come home with a trophy and sometimes you don’t. If I want my work to be more consistent, I need to ask for time to be set aside to capture these images. I need to set up for these shots and I need for them to be deliberate. I need for my clients to expect these shots and look forward to these shots. No more gambling on getting these shots.
Third Nugget. I knew this one, but it was fun seeing and hearing it in person from two Masters. As creatives, we all start at the bottom. It is a duty to ourselves, our clients and our industry to grow and learn each and every day, even if we are taking minuscule, tiny, baby steps. The day we stop advancing forward is the day we need to stop charging our camera batteries and place an ad on Let it Go.
Fourth Nugget. We can’t view each other as the competition. There are enough families, babies, brides, and landscapes for each of us. It is true. A rising tide does lift all ships. Extend a hand and help a fellow photographer out.
So, Fellow Wedding Photographer, if you weren’t at this workshop, you missed out on not only these nuggets, but some other nuggets you could have panned for yourself. In doing so, you allowed me to grow and become a better photographer. This is not a race, this isn’t a contest, but when you are not trying to get better each and every second of each and every day, I am. You are contributing to the giant gap between the bottom and the top and this confuses our clients. It confuses them to what acceptable professional photography is. You are doing a disservice to the photography community as a whole and, Fellow Wedding Photographer, I need you to stop.
Host: Linda Rukavina, Rukavina Photography in Boerne, Texas
Instructors: Nik Pekridis and Salvatore Dimino
Models: Mandy Rachelle, Maurice Hazelton, Stephanie Martinez, and my nephew 🙂
MUA: Brontë Elizabeth McCoy
Venue: Downtown Boerne, Texas and Spinellie’s Cathedral, Comfort, Texas
And shout out to Bridget (IL) and Imran (Houston) for traveling the furthest to hang out with five SA Photographers!!
P.S. Linda is hosting another workshop this coming May with Vicky Papas Vergara! She’s only accepting 20 students and hasn’t began taking registrations just yet.
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I am San Antonio’s most unique wedding photographer. I specialize in a 10-day image delivery, same-day prints, same-day slideshows, Italian handcrafted wedding albums and I have a mobile meeting space.
I am a full-time, internationally-awarded and WPPI-C certified professional wedding and senior photographer based in South Texas near San Antonio. I offer a premier and personal service coupled with an unforgettable photography experience. I cater to clients who appreciate quality photography and help them to create family heirlooms that will last for generations.
I started Ata-Girl Photography Co., LLC in 2010. I firmly believe that the unique set of circumstances I have faced in life has prepared me to take a personal and genuine interest in my photography clients. I enjoy documenting the important milestones and captivating moments in people’s lives. I love being a part of people’s journey and consider myself privileged to document their legacies.
When I’m not photographing a wedding, family or high school senior, I love to spend my spare time hiking, camping, cycling, reading, listening to Elvis and Prince. The most important things in life are for me to see my two daughters happy and to create a family history my grandparents and grandson would be proud of!
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