While I've covered a few weddings in my time (I think most photographers will confirm the same), it was never a genre that I felt 100% comfortable with doing.
Obviously it's one of the best earners in terms of $$ and so it was, perhaps, only natural that part of my planning towards full time photographer status was to put up a NigelCookeWeddings website, fill it with a few of my best images, and call myself a Wedding Photographer. Let's face it, a single wedding, even charging lower rates than most, could see me through a few months of normal every day expenses in all of my other genres of photography. This was a very attractive prospect. Shoot a handful of weddings per year and that would allow me to travel as well as continue to have GAS without having to resort to selling a Kidney or two.
I had been holding onto this post for a few weeks as I had been asked by a friend to potentially cover their wedding next year and depending on how that conversation went was going help shape my final decision on wether or not to stick with weddings as part of my future.
They have decided to use someone else and I have to admit I'm a little bit relieved, as it was the choice I was secretly hoping for, as it allows me to now stand on top of my little box, puff out my chest and declare with a huge smile on my face .....
There were always two specific reasons why I felt very uncomfortable in calling myself a Wedding Photographer.
Firstly, given it wasn't my first love, [or even my second or third], I found myself rarely looking to improve my craft between wedding shoots. Apart from when a wedding image appears on one of my social media streams, I never go looking for them. I don't read about the process involved in getting the shot and I don't follow a lot of wedding specific photographers to gain inspiration.
It is the exact polar opposite for the genres of photography that I am in love with - Sports, Wildlife and Landscape. Every single day, when I'm not actually out shooting, I find myself immersing myself in the art of photography, specific to these 3 genes. I hunt out those who inspire. I ask them questions. A recent update to a fellow sports shooters website (Michael Regan) who I have admired from afar for a very long time and now have the privilege at times of shooting beside at games (physically speaking not quite photographically yet) had me fired up to finally pull together some of my own favourite sports images.
As I went through my own archive I realised just how much I love shooting sports (hopefully some of this love can be seen in my images). The passion, the heartbreak, the fans, with, of course, a healthy mix of the Great British Weather thrown in for good measure. Add to this, the fact that these moments can be over in an instant, captured in a split second or lost forever. The Wedding Photographer has the same duty on the day. To capture fleeting moments, those moments which last a second or less and are typically not observed by the guests. I then pulled up some of my person favourites from my short stint as a wedding photographer, and while they may be pleasing shots in their own right, with the feedback received from my clients always positive, none of them got me anywhere near as fired up as my sports collection.
I did a similar task with my wildlife and landscape work - again just looking through some of my images (quite a few of them have not yet seen the light of day) had my heart beating just that little bit faster. I think to improve as a photographer it is very important to shoot what you love as this love and passion will show through in your work. I didn't love wedding photography and I think this would show in my own work, both existing and future. I don't make images to be rich. I do it for the love of photography and I always felt that I was short changing this love by doing something for a dollar alone.
Secondly, photography as a profession is a precarious one with paid jobs (especially well paid ones) few and far between. I always felt that by taking a wedding job I was in some way taking potential revenue from a full time wedding shooter. Now some may argue that all is fair in love, war and photography, but personally speaking I always felt uncomfortable. I guess it would be similar if I had the opportunity to shoot a major sporting event only to find out that a Weekend Warrior Wedding Jock rocked up, undercut the price, and got the job. Now I'm not saying you can' be a Sports and Wedding Shooter - so long as you are as passionate about each then that's great and hopefully will help sustain you both financially and photographically.
So yesterday, while I was publishing my updated sports portfolio, I also hit the suspend button my NigelCookeWeddings website (heck I even got a refund for the months of webspace rental I didn't use). And today, again with a smile on my face, I can stand up and say that my very short career as a wedding photographer is now officially over.
Want a wedding photographer? Then check out Jon Mold Weddings. Now there is a man who's passion for what he does shines through in pretty much every single image he produces. Word of caution if you are reading this Jon - STEP AWAY FROM THE FOOTBALL PITCH :)