As a wedding photographer, it's not always easy to find balance between the style of work you're genuinely passionate about and the type of work that pays the bills. So, how can you shoot personal projects to improve your professional photography work?
When I started out doing weddings, I found it daunting to let potential clients find out about my personal work, in case that clashed with what they perceived a wedding photographer should shoot and therefore would reject me. However, the more I learned and the more I worked, I realized that personal style and identity is what actually sold my work.
To further break the notion that wedding photography should remain mainstream in order to generate bookings, I decided to create a very personal bridal portraiture shoot, which would show my way of thinking and seeing and let me gain confidence in translating this into a real wedding in the future. We all have certain insecurities about our professional work, but the only way to overcome these is to actually go ahead and challenge them. We can read blogs, comments, and articles about finding our unique style, but we will not find it unless we physically go outside and experiment.
I decided to experiment with moody bridal portraits.
Combining personal style and professional work is not easy, because when we are doing a real wedding, we are often confined to various limitations during the shoot, such as the time, place, and subjects. However, the more you experiment by combining them, the more you'll fall in love with what you do professionally, because you'll become more comfortable with creating something unique with every shoot that you do. The last thing you want is for your wedding business to become monotonous, unfulfilling, and unchallenging.
The first thing you need to do is decide on which part of the shooting process you want to experiment with. Do you constantly struggle posing groups? Do you want to up your bridal portraiture game? Does your mind go blank when shooting details and lay-flat shots? Take a moment and pick one that you'd like to play with. Doing this on your own time will relieve the pressure on you and give you plenty of time to practice.
Doing a shoot like this will not necessarily mean that you'll be able to recreate it exactly on a wedding day. However, you will gain more confidence in using your creativity in scenarios where you have to make a quick choice of either stopping after getting the "safe shots" or continuing and experimenting. Many of us, myself included, at times tend to revert to what we find comfortable and safe when placed in a challenging situation, instead of allowing ourselves to try something more unique. The issue isn't whether we can or can't create something different; instead, it's the lack of confidence to even attempt it in the first place.
After you have decided on the type of shoot you want to do, the next thing you have to plan is who or what you need to use for this. You can work on planning an elaborate styled shoot that'll bring together a bunch of wedding vendors or you can do something that costs you hardly anything. If you're opting for a styled shoot with plenty of people involved, be aware that the planning process alone can be a lesson well learned. You'll need to ensure that every vendor taking part is aware of what is required of them and what they will receive in return, which means sending out contracts and sticking to deadlines.
I, on the other hand, went for something more spontaneous and less formal. This shoot cost me half of a train fare for my model and a homemade lunch that we both shared after the shoot. I am aware of the insecurities I have in my business, and as such, I wanted to focus more on working one-on-one with someone and work on posing her to create unconventional and moody bridal portraits. My goal was to learn to slow myself down while shooting portraiture so that I could take that into my wedding business.
After your shoot, you have the choice of how to use the images. Depending on the content, they can be submitted to wedding blogs or magazines to help spread the name of your business or you can use a few of them on your social media to introduce your personal work to clients, while still keeping it within the wedding theme. Create a conversation with your photographs and let your potential and existing clients engage with your content!
Have you made a promise to yourself to experiment more this year?