Is there one key to success as a wedding photographer? In today’s episode, I’m sharing what I believe is the source of my longevity and success over fourteen years in business. This episode is the final installment of the missing ingredient series, where I’m sharing the hidden steps necessary for running a successful photography business. 

The Focused Photographers Podcast was created based on the idea that the most incredible tool for learning is a deep dive into any given topic from multiple perspectives. Join us every other week as we explore important topics, with host Daniel Moyer and a variety of guests offering different perspectives! Make sure you’ve hit that follow or subscribe button on your favorite podcast player to get notified each week as we air new episodes!

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REVIEW THE SHOW NOTES

The wedding that inspired this episode (3:23)

Being included in life-altering moments (12:41)

Gathering information to do the job effectively (18:23)

 

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Website: WWW.DANIELMOYERPHOTOGRAPHY.COM

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Business Instagram: @GETFOCUSEDPHOTOGRAPHERS

 

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-Dan

Review the Transcript:

Hey friends, I’m Dan Moore and welcome to the focus photographers podcast. It is time for my semi annual appeal for ratings and reviews. I feel like I am just getting started. I’m almost 70 podcast episode years deep and I still have so many more ideas, so many more podcast series ideas and so much more excitement and goodness coming your way. But we’re gonna take a minute and look back at 2023. This year, I published three really great series that I’m very proud of. And I got a lot of great feedback on the first series this year was called getting noticed it was all about getting more eyes on your business and how to do that. The second was a series on photographers and mental health, which is pretty self explanatory. And then this last one is a series called missing ingredients, which this episode is the final episode of that series in 2023.

This podcast listenership grew by 431%, which totally blew me away when I saw that in my Spotify podcasters wrap would help me out as if you are a new listener, if you’ve waited around for one or two episodes, or even a bunch of episodes, and have never reviewed me or never rated me, I would so love for you to take two seconds out of your day and go out and rate this podcast and leave a review of something that stuck with you from any of the episodes that you’ve heard, these two seconds would be a massive help for me, it’ll give me a little bit of pep in my step and, and help push this podcast up a little bit higher in the algorithms and have some more people find it and help spread the Good News and the love and positive mental health and all that good stuff. Okay, so let’s get to the show. This episode is the final episode in a series called missing ingredients. There is a wealth of content out there around pricing presets and sales in the photography world. But there are so many more habits and tasks and hats that you have to wear to run a successful business. So this series aims to shed light on what those other things are, that go into running a successful photography business.

This episode is about the 14 years I’ve spent photographing weddings. And there’s one thing I can pinpoint my longevity and success to in business. And it’s simply put that I’ve always sought to blur the line between what the traditional photographer and client relationship looks like, and what’s expected of a wedding photographer. This episode, I really want to hone in on a few of the stories from the weddings I’ve photographed over the last few years that illustrate the point I want to make. I don’t want this episode to be the reminder and the inspiration, and maybe the motivation that every photographer needs to hear, especially at the end of the year, going into the following year. Okay, let’s get to the show.

So I’ve had this episode on my list to record for months. And I’ve just been putting it off and putting it off, because I really wanted to do this episode justice. And I just wasn’t sure how to do it. It really stemmed from this, this wedding I had in June of this year, June 2023. And I’ve been at this for 13 years photographing weddings. And the same feeling had occurred to me at so many weddings before, but this time, it just felt so it just stuck out maybe because the bride came up to me the next day. And and said something that really stuck with me. So I’m gonna share that story and then some other stuff with you. And we’ll just go from there. I don’t know how long this episode is going to be. I don’t have a plan for it. But which is a great way to start out an episode. It’s a very thoughtful episode. Let’s leave it at that. But so back in June, I had this wedding. This couple had put off their wedding four times, you know, couple times for COVID. And other times she got pregnant and they were like, Oh, well, you know, why don’t want to be pregnant right during our wedding.

So we’re gonna put it off. And I was with them through that whole entire process. So finally they decide that they’re going to have their wedding at their house, Jewish couple, they have their ceremony the night before, at in the backyard. And then they’re going to have the reception on Saturday night. Friday night rolls around, and it’s raining. It looks like rain for the entire weekend. And I’m rolling up we’re having conversations, you know, leading up to the wedding about what we’re going to do and what should we do for the pictures and all this stuff. And the wedding is at their house. There’s this huge tent that takes up their whole backyard. They have a beautiful big house, this big front lawn. And you know, we’ve been talking about all the different things I can do there. So I roll up and it’s like, not good. We’re supposed to start taking pictures at three o’clock, and I roll up and the groom’s not ready yet. You know, their two kids are like bouncing around. They’re not ready yet people are coming into the house. So starting to get sort of muddy and crowded in the house when that’s not what was supposed to happen. It was supposed to go in the tent in the backyard and hang out there and have hors d’oeuvres and get drinks at this drink cart thing and people are coming into the house and I see the bride and she just looks so flustered. And I’m just reading her face and I’m just like I decided you know I’m gonna go back outside I’m gonna look around or whatever. I come back in and she’s telling the groom like you go upstairs you need to get the kids ready bowl.

I gotta do this. And she’s just she looks over at me and she goes Oh, this is my worst nightmare. And I just looked at her. And all the things that we normally say, as photographers popped in my head, right? Because it’s raining out, we do this thing where we go into like fixer mode. And we want to say things like, oh, you know, rain is good luck on your wedding day, we want to say things like my, you know, this funny one is, you know, it’s the rain is all your past boyfriends crying for you, or whatever. And none of that felt right, because I saw her in this moment of, because we’ve been talking about this, this moment, this this ceremony and reception and this whole weekend, what it was going to be for, like two years. And I looked at it and I said, that is a very valid way to feel right now. And I just stood there, I said nothing else. Because what else is there to say, right? You have all this stuff that’s built up in your mind this way you wanted it to be, and nothing is going right? Right? Like I said, there’s people in the house, it’s starting to get muddy in the house, there’s stuff a lot of places have this big, beautiful kitchen that was supposed to be, you know, set up in a different way. And, and the kids aren’t ready and the groom’s not ready. And we can’t take pictures outside. And there’s no other places in the house to take pictures, and you can’t do anything about it. The only thing to say in that moment, is that’s a valid way to feel. Now thankfully, after that, you know, it cleared up a little bit. But after I said that, like I just kind of sat there with her. And then I said, Okay, this is what we’re going to do. Here’s some of the options, whatever. But I think it looks like the radar is going to hold off for a little bit. So why don’t we do this?

Why don’t we just hold off for maybe 1015 minutes, and then hope that it clears up and then once it does, we’ll jump outside, we’ll get a bunch of pictures in, and then even after the ceremony tonight, maybe we get some more pictures, then we’ll just do the best we can, right? We’ll just take take one little step in front of the other, and then we’ll just fit things in whenever we possibly can. Right? We don’t need to have all the answers right now, let’s just take one small step and do the things that are most important, right, let’s get the picture of the two of you together in the picture of the two of you with your kids, you know, that’s gonna be the first thing that we really want to get when the rain stops. And she just looked at me, and she said, Okay, and then we went on and like, you know, it’s a little bit difficult. It’s still rain through different parts of the evening and stuff. And we, we finished up the ceremony, the really nice ceremony, everybody came back inside, which was, I could tell again, like, you know, now that they’re married, it’s okay, like, you know, vibes are a little bit higher. Again, we got some of the pictures done, then we come back inside. And the again, this is supposed to be the supposed to be having hors d’oeuvres outside, they got this really cool trailer bar cart thing where people were supposed to be able to go up to it. And everybody’s now inside, again, I can see the sort of frustration coming is, you know, dishes are starting to pile up or whatever. And I’m, I’m getting really awesome candidates like people around this massive Island. And I’m getting these crazy good candids of people laughing and smiling, and the couples laughing and cheering and the kids are in the background playing and getting wild. It was so cool. But then you start seeing like the plates pile up. And there’s nowhere there’s like one trash can that’s outside. And I this is the point at which I feel like, we need to sometimes step out of this role as recorder of documents, the recorder of moments, and just just read the situation and be a human first, right? Like, yes, we’re there to take pictures and all that stuff at a certain point like this is why many photographers leave the wedding early. And a certain point, you’ve kind of got it all right. And this, this is not going to be the case at all weddings, because most of the time you’re going to a venue or whatever. But I just there was just trash around. So I picked up some of the plates, because grab some of the plates, I grabbed a trash bag, I just started shoving some of the plates in there. It took me three minutes. There’s just like, Dan, you don’t have to do that. And I was like, Yeah, but it’s such an easy thing. And I know it’s going to reduce your stress for later.

And she just looked at me again, when she said thank you. And and like that I didn’t think twice of it. You know, maybe, you know my parents raised me to clean up and help out and all that kind of stuff. But I feel like so often we just get into this space where we’re removed from what’s going on. We’re removed from the the festivities and it’s like, oh, like that’s, that’s their wedding. That’s the stuff that’s happening to them. That’s their highs, that’s their lows. And I feel like we forget sometimes what this wedding means to this couple that this couple is not just another see like number in your CRM. They’re not just like another dollar figure in your diary. They are so much more than that. And I was reminded of this the next morning so like I said the rehearsal was Friday night. Another rehearsal. The ceremony was Friday night, and they did their ceremony, all that stuff. And the next night was really they were they invited a ton of people over and they had a huge tented reception in the backyard. And again, you know, it looks like it’s gonna rain but we got a bunch of pictures in but I roll up on there early. My second shooter arrived. So we’re just chit chatting or whatever. And the bride with some of her bridesmaids rolls up and stops in front of me and she goes down, I need to tell you, that you Validating my feelings yesterday, just made the day so much easier, I immediately just had so much more trust in you, I’m literally These are the words that she’s saying to me. And she’s getting all choked up, and I’m getting a little choked up, because like, I just want this stuff to go really well for my clients, right. And I’m sure that you’re listening to this, and thinking of stories that probably have happened in your career or whatever, where like you’ve seen parts of your couples that like other people don’t get to see. But she’s just like, all through that evening. You know, there were several times where like it fully down poured at one point during the ceremony or during the speeches during the reception.

And it was like they were having to put gutters up on this tent thing because it was like a muddy, sloppy mess underneath that tent, and it rained really hard. And then it stopped and people danced and danced in mud. And I’ve really funny pictures of people walking from that barchart thing into the tent, and they’re just dripping wet and gross. And they’re holding drinks. It’s hilarious. But throughout the evening, and even right before I left, she just kept coming back to me and being like, You’re so thoughtful, I’m so thankful for you that you were the person here that you really helped me get through some of these moments that, you know, I was feeling very tense and, and she’s like, you’d be such a good therapist, which, you know, then I told her about how I was finishing up my life coaching certification and all that stuff. And she’s like, Oh, my God, you’re gonna be amazing. Turns out, she’s a psychology professor and a certified professional counselor, blah, blah, blah. But it’s just like, it’s just these moments where you, we have to stop fixing what’s going on or trying to fix the thing. Sometimes we just need to sit with people and listen to what’s actually happening. That’s really hard, because we’re supposed to like, we’re supposed to be there to capture these moments. But sometimes, what people really need is,

is that person who’s outside the equation, it’s not a parent, it’s not their spouse, it’s not kids, it’s not the wedding party, it’s not a guest, you are this person outside that can offer a different perspective, right? I’ve got hundreds of weddings under my belt, I have a different experience, and so to you than all of their guests, and whatever that you can help reframe them to what actually matters, to reframe them to how the solution can be fixed, or how you’re going to make things work. Or sometimes you just sit with them and validate what they’re feeling, right. Because you have this window of experience that you have been able that you’re able to draw from and share with that person. And if you’re feeling confident, then you can allow them to borrow your confidence. All this stuff just reminds me of how like we, we really need to show up and be the best version of ourselves for couples because like I said, there’s just not another number in your CRM.

And there’s another couple from years ago that I like. And the more you do this, the more of these things are going to pop up where it’s like, why is it that I, the person who has known the couple for maybe a year gets to be included outside of everybody else into these really special like life altering moments. Like there’s this one couple I had years ago, the wedding was three and a half hours away from me at this little barn. And I remember when I was talking with the bride leading up to it, we threw a bunch of conversation and all the stuff I knew that the things that she was looking forward to most well, one was that she was really missing her mother her mother passed away several years before her mother couldn’t be there. And she’s going to do some things honoring her. Just some very simple little things. And that in the evening, they were going to the things she was looking forward to most was having this dance party around a fire with instruments and all this stuff. That’s what she like was thinking about most when she was looking forward to her wedding day. So the wedding days arrives, a drive you know, get up at the bud crack of dawn, a drive up there with my second shooter and I’m you know, I’m we’re going through the day, it’s sort of rainy again, we end up doing the ceremony outside still and it’s an it’s It’s lovely, right? The couples up on this little platform thing. There’s this huge oak tree behind them. It’s massive.

The guests are all like in front of them and these white chairs. And the lush green around them is like this stark contrast between like the couple who are both wearing, he’s wearing a white shirt. And she’s wearing this like, you know, obviously a white dress and all this stuff. And they had this lantern on sort of the back corner of this like Dyess area or this like little stage that they were on. And the stage is like pretty rustic, but there’s this lantern back there and this small little table. And this is the moment where she was telling me that she was going to honor her mom, and I run back there and the fishing is still you know, maybe 10 feet away because this Dyess is pretty big Egg and I’m a walk back, I go around the back of this little, this little platform area, and I’m right up on them. And they light the candle. Nobody else is around like the closest person is the efficient, who’s 10 feet away. The couple are the guests, and maybe the wedding party or between 10 and 20 feet away. It’s just me and the couple, and I can hear the bride she likes the candle and goes, I love you, Mommy, I miss you.

That’s like, I’m starting to choke up behind the camera. It was like why am I why do I get to be part of this, right? Another time where I’m standing in a hotel room. And it’s these double doors the bride is right in front of me in front of the double doors. And, and on the outside of those double doors was a whole bunch five minutes ago was a ton of ladies. There was like seven or eight bridesmaids, the grandma, the mother, the bride, the Father, the bride. And the bride is like everybody out, right? It’s just me and my dad. That’s it. And then you stay here too, right? It’s like, all these people get cleared out of the room. And I’m standing behind the bride, she’s standing right in front of me. And those these double doors and the dads on the other side, the bride goes, Dad, are you ready and he goes, Honey, I’ve been ready for this moment for 28 years. And the bride looks over her shoulder at me does like a little pouty lip and opens the doors. And I’m thinking like in my mind, Dan don’t mess this up. Again, the all these bridesmaids are cleared out of the room, the mom is good other rooms like grandma’s cleared out of the room. And here I am somebody who’s known abroad for a year.

But the access that I get to her, just because I have a camera is so unearned. It’s these kinds of feelings that the further I’ve gotten into this, the more I keep having to try to remind myself that my grandparents and your grandparents, and that person over their grandparents had a photographer at their wedding, our great grandparents, you know, maybe had a photographer out there at their wedding, which looked way different than the kind of, you know, documentary, we’re there for eight plus 1210 hour days, it was so different right? That these people had wedding photographers we are that these pictures that we create for people will be the thing that generations see of them later. And we the longer I’ve been at this, the more that I have to remind myself of that or that I have to dig deep, and pull that out and remind myself, Hey, this is really important. These people are not just paying you 1000s of dollars, I should not just be going through the motions and showing up and hoping to do my thing and get good pictures because I think they’re going to be good pictures. It’s like no, we need to show up and take pictures that we know are going to be great pictures because we’ve done the job of listening to people that are in front of us. We’ve done the job of seeing the people on the other side of our cameras as who they are. We need to be human. We need to have feelings and empathy for the other people on the other side of the camera. Yes, we are there to make really good money. And yes, I believe that people should pay us handsomely for your trust and your preparation and your willingness to be there through all these big moments and little moments. But we can’t let the money be the only driver of why we’re there. There’s this really famous 1930s street photographer named Weegee, he’s really well known for sort of having like, like being ahead of the cops being like, right at a scene of the crime are right on the news. Right as you know, the the it was happening, right. And he’s quoted saying, I know him because I drive all night long. I know every block, every signpost, every cop every beggar every everything. For him. For this guy who was just a street photographer, preparing for the job meant gathering lots of information and gathering details. And this was from everything news from murderers to fancy golfers and everything in between. But for him, it meant gathering information to be able to do the job really effectively. The quote that I love from him most. He’s just a street photographer, right? He’s up all night long. He’s driving all night long. And you would think, right, he’s just this news photographer, he’s just shows up, takes the picture, you know, gets the news, sends it out to you know, the news agency or whatever. That’s his job, right? But he’s quoted and I think this is such a beautiful thing. And we can learn from this because we are really at risk of forgetting what the point of our job is.

That is yes, we can share photos on Instagram and reels and Tik Tok and all these things. But those platforms will go and I’m not even going to be like, Oh, the power of print is so important. You need to have your clients printing things. No, you just need to educate them. You need to make sure that you are Helping them by creating photos that are going to be deeply meaningful to them. And this quote from REIT, Weegee, just really, I think drives that home, that like I said, here’s the street photographer, he takes pictures, you would think that he would just move on and, and give the news agencies their pictures. But he’s quoted saying, when you find yourself beginning to feel a bond between yourself and the people, you photograph, when you laugh and cry with their laughter and tears, you will know you’re on the right track. If a 1930s street photographer can do it, I think we can do it as wedding photographers. Because it’s not just the news. It’s somebody’s life. And it’s those two lives coming together. And these photos, if they’re anything that they say to future generations, that they were here that they were young, that they were in love that they existed, and, and they cared enough to have this moment documented. So when you go out to photograph your next wedding or your next session, take this down deep, put it on the bottom of your camera, create a label or something to be a constant reminder to you that this is more than just a number in your CRM.

These are people with their lives, and to keep that in the front of your mind with all this talk about, you know, making six figures and everything and like that seems to be the driver for for the coaching and education in our industry. This is the other side of that, yes, make good money. But yes, be able to create meaningful photos that will last for an eternity that will last for a lifetime for generations and generations. And if there’s one thing I can say is just to get really curious about your couples, just get be a student of them so you can gather information and create the best photographs possible the most meaningful photographs possible for them and watch the clients just keep pouring in. Because you did something more than just show up on the wedding day and take pretty pictures. So that was a straight off the brain. And I hope that you got something from this. I hope that there’s something in here that sticks with you. Thanks so much for listening friends. Make it a great day. We’ll talk to you soon.

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