NOTE: This is a re-post from photographer Jeff Acough’s blog that photographer, Eric Laurits, posted on his twitter (I know, how modern-communication-technological of me). I believe this, like any specific acting “advice” that we can offer, is just as important and an often forgotten part of the artistic process. Anywho – hear goes:

The fame game

“Earlier this week I came across this article on Dame Judi Dench lamenting the fact that young actors only cared about becoming famous, and don’t spend enough time learning their craft. I wondered if there is a parallel situation within our industry? We live in a celebrity culture now, and this is seen throughout all of our lives;  the desire to become famous is almost endemic within our society.

I was recently having a Skype discussion with a very good friend of mine who runs wedding photography masterclasses for one of the world’s biggest photography organisations. For one of his masterclasses he invited the delegates to give their reasons for wanting to attend, and asked them what they wanted to learn from the class. Nearly all were newcomers with less than two years of experience, and 70% of them indicated that they wanted to learn how to be a famous wedding photographer and present seminars all over the world :-/

Surprising? Certainly – but I’ve got to admit it is not completely unexpected. Forums, blogs, Facebook, Twitter et al have given us unprecedented access to the lives of the top people in the profession, creating a desire to emulate the lifestyles of those that are seen as the ‘celebrity’ photographers. The smart photographers use the internet to promote their ‘celebrity’ image and sell it on to the masses wanting to emulate them. It is not surprising to me that many ‘celebrity’ names no longer shoot weddings – preferring the comfort of the seminar circuit and product sales, rather than the cut and thrust of taking pictures for a living. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, as many of the guys on the seminar circuit are accomplished and experienced photographers who have a lot to offer – they learned their craft, became successful and then decided to change their career somewhat.

The problem now is that there is a generation of photographers who seem to want to bypass the bit about learning the craft and go straight to fame and fortune. Many an internet forum sees new photographers posturing for position, trying to put their mark on the world. In the past year I’ve even seen seminars advertised by photographers with less than three years experience; this cannot be good for the industry as there is a potential situation where the standard of photography that newcomers aspire to will be very low. It’s akin to the blind leading the blind.

Like many experienced photographers, I get my fair share of emails from new photographers asking for the ‘magic bullet’ that will catapult them into the limelight. I also read pages of posts on internet forums by other photographers who wish to spit venom at those who are more successful because of petty jealousy. Both camps seem to miss the fundamental keys to success; talent, hard work, and years of experience.

Being a photojournalistic wedding photographer is one of the hardest jobs in photography. Period. I would agree that in terms of stress levels, conflict photographers and those that document human suffering have it much worse than us, but other than that I can think of no other genre of photography that demands so much of the photographer. A documentary photographer could take several days to get two or three pictures – we have to get a couple of hundred images in a matter of hours, and they all have to be good; a fashion photographer can see his images on a screen, then adjust and reshoot – wedding photographers simply don’t have that luxury; the sports photographer can predict, position and shoot knowing that in most cases they will have several chances of getting the shot throughout a football match or an athletics event – there are rarely any second chances of getting a similar shot on a wedding day.

To be a good photojournalistic wedding photographer requires dedication to craft, and a honing of that craft through experience. Once you can combine that craft and experience with good marketing strategies, you have the basis of a good wedding photography business which will grow with you. To my mind this is far more important than trying to run an incredibly unstable and short lived career based on your perceived status within the industry.

Getting to this stage takes time – something which people seem to want to avoid. Our quick fix, ‘have everything instantly’ culture programs our minds to rush into wanting everything yesterday, and this spills over into our business lives.

I was having a similar discussion with another good friend of mine over dinner on Friday evening. Like myself he is a successful wedding photographer with a great business. The parallels between our businesses are quite similar – we’ve both been in the industry for twenty years, and it wasn’t until our fifteenth year that we became really successful and financially sound. After three years we were still trying to make our way, learning the craft and putting everything we earned back into the business. By year five we were just about making a living. It took us both a while to get to where we are now, but now we are here everything is very stable and the long term structure is in place for continued success.

What struck me also, was the obvious passion we still both have for the industry – we still try and improve all of the time, looking for new ways of doing things, trying to stay ahead of the game. Both of us choose to do seminars but very selectively, and at times when they won’t interfere with our own businesses. It’s actually really satisfying to know that when we do speak to other photographers, we do so from the position of working photographers who go out each Saturday to photograph someone’s special day.

For me there is never any satisfaction in being handed something on a plate. It is far more gratifying to achieve something through hard work than by a quick fix solution. I would agree that sometimes getting somewhere takes time and effort, but when you get there you really feel a sense of achievement.

For those that still aspire to ‘celebrity’ – remember that once your fifteen minutes of fame is over, what will you do for a living?”

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