Rules of Business: Treat People Like People (Part 2)
Continuing my rules of business from part 1, “Stop Sucking”, here’s something else everyone should do to be a good (or successful) person. Treat people like people. Ever heard people say if you’re on a date and the other person is nice to you, but mean the waiter, that’s a mean person? Well I’d like to share some life experiences that I hope will make you think about how we treat others.
Treat People like People: with Respect
I was a second shooter for another photographer at a wedding. (P.S. The above picture is not from this wedding, fyi.) Shooting that wedding was a terrible, but valuable learning experience. I learned exactly what I don’t want to do. Sure, the main photographer was nice to the couple, but they’re paying a lot of money. First of all, I saw a complete lack of organization, because even after asking, I had no schedule, no details, and no idea what shots were wanted. And when I asked to clarify expectations, I was told to figure it out. Communication plays a big part here. “Go take pictures of the bridal party.” Ok, I can do that. “No, don’t talk to them or pose them, take candids.” But they aren’t talking to each other, moving, or even showing signs they’re awake because you are ignoring them, and they don’t know who I am. I thought you hired me for my skills, ideas, creativity, and abilities as a photographer, not as just a button pusher. There’s more to getting good photos than showing up with a camera. I understand spending most of your time with the couple, but at one point I was asked to find the best man and they didn’t even know his name. When you shoot a wedding, the couple is letting you in to an intimate part of their lives, and letting you share this experience with them. Their best friends are there because they are a huge part of the couple’s lives. The least you could do is remember their names. A photographer does so much disservice when they don’t take time to get the know their couple, and end up with the average pictures that any photographer can take of every couple, every week.
During the short dinner break, I had a chance to talk with the video crew that was brought along. Both of those guys were nice guys, and I enjoyed talking with them, even if only for a few minutes. But those guys hated being there even more than the main photographer did. One very openly told me, “I hate weddings, but it pays the bills.” I couldn’t believe it. Great art, be it still photography or great cinema, is created by people that are passionate about what they do. Why would anyone hire someone who hates what they do and doesn’t want to be there? The reason I love weddings is because I can get to know those two individuals, and create unique work for them that has personal meaning that you won’t find from your canned “please do pose #34” portrait studio.
So the whole camera crew was shooting with junk equipment (except the main), was completely ignored, and thrown into the fray without knowing expectations. But what really makes me truly sad for the couple, is that over half of the crew hired to capture their wedding moments didn’t want to be there, and the couple down gets let down by missing everything that was personal and important to them as individuals. (Getting to know your couple falls neatly into “Stop Sucking”.)
Treat People like People: not Money-bags
End of the night starts rolling around, but this wedding was running particularly late. The time came to leave, and the first dance, toasts, or cake cutting hadn’t even happened yet. This photographer, just like all of the terrible stories the internet warns you about, walked up to the couple and asked if they wanted us to stay for $X per hour. Really?
I know this is how things used to be done in the old medium format film days, but times change. After that experience I learned what I don’t want to do. So here’s to all the Brides and Grooms out there:
I won’t give up on your wedding day. On your wedding day, the day is yours. There shouldn’t be pressure to hurry up the celebration with your family and friends, just because your photographer is on the clock.
Come on photographers. Give couples their day and stop pecking at their wallets.