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11 October 2013

How to Fail at Being a Wedding Photographer ● by Jess

*sigh* It's been a hard week....

Before I came to London, I had this brilliant, fool-proof business plan to get here and hit the ground running. Within a month, I was certain I'd own this place (at least wedding photography wise).

Now I just feel like I landed head-first with a mouth full of dirt. It has all sort of hilariously climaxed into this one painful week, where everything has just fallen apart. The crowning jewel was being tongue-lashed by model, who simultaneously referred to herself as a prop.

The rabbit hole to this dark place started earlier in the week, when I decided to take the Pollyanna highroad and use this time to niche my portfolio. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to beef up my engagement portfolio (and *bonus* help out a few aspiring models), so I posted castings on three modeling/classified sites.

After a week of silence, I finally received a single email from an interested model. I explained the premise of the shoot, but after five email exchanges, she still seemed incredibly confused.

The misunderstanding began when I asked her to think of an activity to do while we did the shoot (ie horseback riding, biking, picnic, street fair, etc). I even sent her five shoots from other photographers who have done similar sessions to make sure the approach was clear.

Eventually, she called, and somewhat hysterically told me she couldn't do any of the activities I had recommended, exclaiming that she was nothing more than a prop and, as such, shouldn't be required to come up with any ideas. That it was my job. 

Naturally, this left me baffled. Even if the industry perpetuates this idea, I had never actually heard a model refer to herself as being "nothing more than a prop." But I could tell she was flustered, so I explained that this was a different kind of shoot. Because these sessions are more about her and her sweetheart's relationship (and not just about a pretty face) it is important that we show chemistry, which is achieved through interaction. 

She bubbled into a strain of petulant whining, telling me that she didn't even like those kinds of shoots. She just wanted pretty pictures with her husband, and was that really too much to ask?

At this point, I basically lost all patience. "Well," I said, irritated (but composed!), "it sounds to me like we are looking for very different things in shoot, so perhaps we aren't a good match for this project after all." 

She replied with a "uh...Yeah, ok." 

Then there was this long pause, so I said, "ok, well... best of luck to you. Bye." And as I removed the phone from my ear and began pushing the button, I heard "No, wait Jess--" 

So, I hung up on her, although I didn't really mean to. Did I feel bad about it? No, not really, but as this is my business I felt I should make sure she knew there was no ill will. I wrote her a followup email that thanked her for calling and said I was sorry we wouldn't be working together. 

I was greeted later that evening with a scathing response, in which she accused me of "obviously [being] very new to this, since you don't know how it works." She chided me saying "I thought you said you were a professional photographer" and "I'm sure you'll find hundreds of 'rich' couples with all the props and backgrounds your looking for. I guess that's all that really matters." She even finished off the message by saying "You really need wishes" instead of 'Best wishes' (which is how I ended my email). 

Though funny, it was also incredibly insulting. I was left utterly confused by the whole experience. It was literally as though she had no concept of what an engagement session actually is. 

I related the incident to an Australian wedding planner I've been working with. She looked at me and said, "Well you know why, don't you?" um.... no. 

"People here don't really do engagement sessions."


She continued, "Yes, I mean they do exist, but it's definitely not a required thing. Engaged couples don't usually send photos out with their announcements and its often seen as sort of an unnecessary expense."

I'll be dashed. 

Living in London sometimes feels like an alternate universe. Everyone understands what you are saying, and everything is clean and familiar, but then cultural differences like this come along and smack you right in the face. It's a humbling realization to know that something so simple and critical to how I run my business now has significantly less cultural value. 

So right now its London-1, Jess-0, but dangit, it makes me more determined than ever to succeed. Very soon I'll have this blasted, amazing, confusing town figured out, and when I do, it will be a glorious day.



  1. YOU don't need to change. THEY need to change! xoxosby

  2. I love your post. Isn't cultural difference so crazy...annoying? Once you think you've got it down, someone reminds you that you don't. Lame. Loves coming at ya. You will come forth victorious, I know it!

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  4. It's actually not just London. Engagement photos are very much an American Mormon thing. We're the only ones that feel it mandatory while a majority of the rest of the world skip that session. So you can revolutionize an entire country and make engagement photos a thing!