2020 Blast Off: Step Up Your Wedding Game with Michael Anthony
2020 is upon us, and every year you should investigate ways in which you can improve your craft. As we move more and more into booking Gen Z clients, we have noticed that quality is something that is becoming more and more important to our clients. Quality can come in many forms: business, client experience, etc. What I want to focus on today is artistry, and what you can look to do to up your photography game for your clients starting this January. Let’s look at some of the significant skillsets and go over the trends that we are noticing in our business today.
Our industry has gone through a lighting renaissance in the last three years. The reason for this is that flash has become accessible to everybody, whereas in the past, only the most expensive options could help you set your work apart.
With that evolution, more people in the industry stepped up to share their techniques and tricks, and as a result, the industry has become much better versed in lighting as a whole.
That leaves minimal area for you to use to differentiate yourself. While in 2015, you could find a fantastic place, underexpose your background, and add a little flash, today, that will come across as just more of the same to your potential clientele.
So your 2020 plan is to up your light control and be more intricate in your details. Here are a few things that you can do to stand out.
By adding a second light to your setup, you can create a three-dimensional scene that will allow your subjects to stand out. This multi-point lighting will give your photos a unique look that your competitors probably are not delivering.
One of my favorite multi-point light setups is to cross-light my subjects, allowing separation from the background and a little bit of rim light at the same time. If your shot is too broad, you will need to remove your second light (alternately, you can use the sun as a second light source).
You should also start paying attention to methods for controlling the lighting that you are using. In a studio, we have the luxury of using flags and broad modifiers, but in environmental portraiture, that is not usually the case.
When shooting weddings, few tools are as useful as a grid. With the Profoto A1, the grid attachments make it incredibly easy to add a layer of control to your flash. The grid will narrow the spread of the light significantly, allowing you to control where you want it to go while preserving the integrity of a room or space. The grids are very small—easy to carry and attach to your light in seconds.
Another way you can step up your light game is with your use of modifiers. Tools like the Magmod Maggrip allow you to create gobo light patterns on a wall behind your subject. As far as soft light modifiers, my favorite mechanism remains the Profoto OCF system. These soft boxes are very easy to set up, and they can break down flat and be stuffed into a camera bag.
Another commonly used modifier is spheres, by Magmod or Profoto. I want to stress that placing a sphere on your flash outdoors does not make your light softer. Other than reducing the specularity of your light slightly, all it does is eat up your power.
These tools should be used for spreading light omnidirectionally, which is useful when creating fill light in a room.
Lastly, the use of flash gels has gained a lot of popularity over the last couple of years. Instead of the usual “trick shots” that impress photographers, use your flash gels to add a little bit of ambiance to a dull room.
Pay real attention to lighting because, over the next few years, it will be more and more important for setting yourself apart.
While lighting has grown in popularity, it seems that the use of posing has regressed a bit as an industry. Posing is not gear-centric, it’s people-centric, which makes it inherently less “sexy” to learn. But at the end of the day, it will make or break your client’s satisfaction. Honestly, when clients refer to “lighting,” they are usually referring to an editing style of bright or dark, but when a client says they don’t like their photos, it’s really because the posing was terrible.
Posing is where I would want to focus my action plan every year, whether that be posing for storytelling to get more playful and fun shots, or directing better to make a full editorial spread.
With posing, I recommend sticking to your foundations. I laid out my full foundational posing in my March and April 2016 articles in Shutter. Once you understand the foundations, then you can move on to what I call systematic posing.
Systematic posing is the art of sticking to a formula during a shoot so that you are delivering consistent results from client to client. For me, systematic posing looks something like this:
-Pick a location
-Set up an Editorial Pose
-Set up a Motion Pose
-Set up a Cinematic Creative
-Move to the next location
During this process, I am shooting different focal lengths and orientations, which allows me to deliver a ton of proofs for my clients. More importantly, it enables me to create a system for my photographers to follow so that they are getting consistent results for my clients as well.
You should develop your own system based on how your sales model works. Because we intend to sell a digital collection and large prints as part of a package, it’s essential to create a large number of proofs. On the other hand, for our boudoir brand Marilyn Lou Boudoir, we aim to deliver a small number of fully edited tests to ur clients, and for this model, our systematic posing is a single shot per pose in a vertical and then a horizontal variation. This allows me to fill album spreads.
Posing will be different depending on your market and where you live; however, one thing remains the case no matter what—the story needs to be central to your posing. When you pose with the story in mind, it shows your thoughtfulness to your craft as a photographer.
I know that I promised you an article about artistry, but let’s be honest, there is an artistry to business for sure. This is a fragile business—much, much more so than many other industries. The reason for that is because it is a highly competitive field with little to no barrier to entry and a consumer that is inundated daily with good professional photography. In short, it’s hard to impress people these days.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t make a fantastic living doing this. I would argue quite the contrary, but you have to be excellent at communicating with a clientele that values quality.
This means that you have to work on creating a fantastic experience for your clients. How can you create that fantastic experience? Let’s start with the basics:
-Put their experience above your short-term business gratification
Growing from zero income to a seven-figure business doesn’t happen overnight, but for us, it happened much quicker than for most. I don’t do any crazy marketing that you don’t do, but aside from being persistent, I have always worked to treat my clients like absolute gold. If they are not a good fit, we are not afraid to let them go. You have to make sure that you are doing what you can to build a mobile salesforce of clients showing off the fantastic work that you have done for them.
Every year, it’s an excellent time to evaluate your product line and make changes where you can. Whether that be with albums or printed products, use this time to revamp your offerings and make sure that you are creating the items that your clients care about most. Heading to bridal shows soon? Maybe think about having new samples for your upcoming shows that your competitors don’t have. Do what you can to stand out and be different in a place where your competitors are. That difference is ultimately what will earn you new business.