Recently I attended the wedding of a friend of the family not as a photographer but as a guest. For the record, I photographed my last wedding in 1984! I know things have changed from back in the “day” when you left the studio with 10 rolls of 120 film and in my case a Mamiya RB67 (actually two of them), bulky studio lights, a tripod, and a shot list.

I accept that things have changed in the industry, but some things made me question my own sanity. For example, photographers were to be seen and not heard back in the day. Actually, during the ceremony, you were not allowed to be seen either. And still, I managed to get incredible images from different places in the sanctuary to the choir loft without anyone noticing. It was a great skill that I learned during my time in the military.

Anyway, back to where I started – while my wife and I sat in the pew listening to the ceremony, all of a sudden from right behind me came the sound of “machine gun fire”! The photographer held down the shutter release on continuous fire at about 10 to 12 frames per second. I almost dove under the pew before me to get out of the line of fire!! And then it dawned on me that there was return fire from the front of the church too!

So, in roughly 15 minutes, the photographers had fired off about 250 frames each. Then as the couple were saying their vows came the added excitement of the muzzle flash! That’s right the photographers are now firing another 250 frames each with a flash on! 

Finally, the ceremony was over. I was sitting there shell-shocked and wondering out loud to myself: what in the heck are you going to do with 1000 images of the ceremony? Are you going to edit them? Are you going to just put them on a disk and give them to the bride and groom? And you only charged them 350 dollars to photograph the wedding just the ceremony images alone would have eaten up any semblance of profit!

Unfortunately, that is the way some amateur & semi-pro photography business seems to be going. Cameras are so advanced that just about anyone can make a good image or at least good in someone’s eyes. And it never ceases to amaze me that on some camera brand Facebook sites (not manufacturers’ sites) you see questions like I just got XYZ camera, and I am going to shoot my first wedding. What settings should I use? Or the one that got me thinking, how many images should I take at the wedding? How many should I give the couple?

The sad part is that as professional photographers, we tend to allow this to happen and then we (me included) sit around coffee complaining about “our” competition. Instead of complaining, maybe we should reach out as mentors. Encourage them to join professional education organizations and address why they are doing this for free or next to nothing, which kills their self-worth as a photographer.

The good news is there’s so much better education available today than ever before to help beginners and even “experienced” photographers improve their craft and run a profitable business. Organizations like the Professional Photographers set the standard for what to aspire to. It is the North Star of our industry and is the difference between having a successful, profitable career vs. being unprofitable and burning out.

If you’re looking to improve, grow, and be in this industry for the long term, invest in yourself. Start by Joining an organization that will help you from reinventing the wheel. Learn more about the Professional Photographers of America here and be sure and check out your State Photography group as well.