So you want to be a wedding photographer?

One of the great influences on photography in the last century was the art director of Harper’s Bazaar, Alexey Brodovitch, (1898-1971), who spent 24 years at the magazine from 1934-58.  Brodovitch began his ‘Design Laboratory’ with courses for designers and photographers in 1933, with separate classes for designers and photographers, but it was perhaps after the war that they became more important.

Among the photographers who attended his courses were Diane Arbus, Eve Arnold, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Lisette Model, Garry Winogrand, Tony Ray Jones, Hiro and a personal friend of mine, John Benton-Harris.

In the American Institute of Graphic Arts biography of him, Andy Grundberg writes:

As a teacher, Brodovitch was inspiring, though sometimes harsh and unrelenting. A student’s worst offense was to present something Brodovitch found boring; at best, the hawk-faced Russian would pronounce a work “interesting.” Despite his unbending manner and lack of explicit critical standards—Brodovitch did not formulate a theory of design—many students under his tutelage discovered untapped creative reserves.

But perhaps his worst put-down when students brought work that did not meet his creative standards was “So you want to be a wedding photographer?”

It was a quotation that came to mind a couple of times today, first when I read an article For Photographers, Competition Gets Fierce in the New York Times, which talks about how many unemployed ‘digital debbies’ with little or no previous experience “are taking their fancy digital cameras and booking jobs shooting weddings”, seriously undercutting the pros at the game.

Back in the distant past, we had a professional photographer at my wedding, though I don’t really understand why. In those days photography was black and white, and he obviously had no idea how to use it, and the prints are flat and lifeless.  At a glance they seem over-exposed, taken with no feeling for composition and printed on the wrong paper grade – there’s professionalism for you!

My own father’s wedding was I think recorded in only one photograph, a highly detailed view of a large group with my parents at the centre. It seemed perfectly adequate, although it might have been better if my father had not been holding a baby when it was made (it wasn’t actually his, and I only came along, the fourth child, some fifteen years later in case anyone was having doubts about my legitimacy.)  I find it hard to understand why now people want large albums and even videos of the occasion.

Given that so many people attending weddings now take digital photographs, its hard to know why we also want professionals to take pictures, and harder still why they should employ those without some kind of track record at ‘under  $1000’, when what they are getting is unlikely to be much if any better than friends could provide for free. Although weddings have provided a useful income for many professionals for many years, I’m not sure this is necessarily a good thing; wedding photographs don’t seem to me to be particularly worthwhile and few of those who get a living income from them have used the support to do anything more worthwhile.

But should you really want to be a wedding photographer there is some very good advice on some things to avoid in 32 Tips For Taking The Perfect Wedding Photo which is subtitled ‘Avoid disaster and embarrassment by following these simple rules.’ Thanks to EPUK News for directing me to this page, which I’m sure would have had me laughing all the way down the aisle even if had drunk a few less glasses of a good Bordeaux before reading it. My apologies for any errors of typing, sense or grammar.

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