Photographers, Take Risks Early!

A few years ago when I started Henington Photography, I was thrilled when I booked my first paying clients. I’d worked hard up to that point studying light, composition, equipment, shooting free/discounted weddings for friends, and second shooting for other photographers. I desperately wanted to do a good job and make my paying clients happy. Early on I didn’t have a clue what my “style” should be or who I wanted to be as a photographer. All I knew was that I didn’t want to screw up! For my first year or so, I played it safe. I was a real photographer, taking photos of couples and people were paying me to do it! I was living my dream, but I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I thought I would. The photos I was taking for my couples were simple, bright, and clean. I was posing people according to the basic rules of posing that I’d memorized from watching tons of tutorials. Most importantly, my couples always seemed happy with my work. I would apply a nice filmy preset in post and voila, my couples were thrilled, but I felt uneasy. I loved being a photographer, but I did not love the work I was producing.

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The work that inspired me was the stuff that was pushing the boundaries of photography—not just wedding photography, but photography in general. I was inspired by images that were surprising, geometric, artistic, and bold. I was taking photos that were pretty, but also safe. Not that pretty wedding photos are a bad thing! But deep inside of me, I didn’t want to be just another wedding photographer who took perfectly posed, pretty photos. I wanted to be a great photographer who happened to photograph weddings. I was afraid, however, that no clients would book me if I went that route. After all, the stuff getting published in the magazines is not exactly the artistic, edgy stuff. Around this time I had a discussion with an artist friend of mine who gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received. He told me that I needed to take risks early, while I was still new—to be bold and not be afraid to fail over and over again while I still had the chance—because once my business matured, my brand would be solidified and it would be a lot harder to change. I didn’t need any more convincing. I decided from that point on I was going to risk it all and begin taking photos that I loved.

I was afraid that I wouldn’t book any more clients once I began to show my new work, especially since I’d have to integrate my new stuff in with my old. But the opposite was true. Once I started to produce work that I was passionate about and that pushed me creatively, my business grew and my clients were more excited about their photos. I was happier with my work too. For the first time in a long time, I was excited to import my photos into Lightroom and start editing. I was producing work that I was proud to show and the more I took photos that I loved, the more people connected with my work.

The truth, however, is that I know I haven’t arrived. I haven’t mastered wedding photography. I haven’t realized my creative potential, and most likely, neither have you. In order to continue to enjoy being a photographer and to continue to wow my clients, I know that I have to continue to grow and evolve. Otherwise, being a wedding photographer will just become another monotonous job and my work will grow stale and dated. My advice to wedding photographers in the beginning of your career is to take risks now! Create images that move you and you’ll eventually create images that move your clients. Try new things, be bold, and never stop experimenting or learning! Once you decide that you’ve made it—that you’ve mastered your style, posing, compositions etc.—your work will slowly slide into irrelevance and you’ll probably lose that spark that got you into photography in the first place.