what is wedding photography?

Hello world!

Today I ask a simple question.

What is wedding photography? It seems a simple enough question to answer at first.

In Wikipedia’s words: Wedding photography is the photography of activities relating to weddings. It encompasses photographs of the couple before marriage (for announcements, portrait displays, or thank you cards) as well as coverage of the wedding and reception (sometimes referred to as the wedding breakfast in non-US countries). It is a major commercial endeavor that supports the bulk of the efforts for many photography studios or independent photographers.

In my words: Wedding photography is my passion and my honor. It is an art that was gifted to me only to return to a family on their wedding day. A wedding day that we as photographers use as our canvas is a landmark of new beginnings in a couple’s life. A day that the bride has been dreaming of since pigtails. It is a day that parents hope will come but pray it never will. It is a day that we will see fathers cry and mothers clutch something familiar. It is a day that will never happen again. Our photographic images are how we remember.

Wikipedia’s answer focused on the business of wedding photography, not the art of it or even the emotional side of it. Many photographers  share the same answer as wikipedia; a major commercial endeavor or a great way to make some fast cash with little or no experience. In this age of photographer soup it is very easy to buy a inexpensive digital camera, take a workshop, buy some photoshop actions, get a template website filled with images from that workshop and you are off and running. Isn’t this great that it is so easy to be a photographer now!? Don’t get me wrong here. I am all for change and the growth of technologies. The information that is out there now drives us all up the ladder, raising the bar ever higher. But we must use it responsibly and be honest with others and ourselves.

Enter Mr. Mudd: wedding photographer. Mr Mudd called me up a couple years back to order some of my photoshop actions. We talked for a bit and he told me that he was gearing up to shoot his first wedding in a few months. I asked who he assisted with. “What do you mean assisted with? I held a reflector at Jims workshop and was his right hand man for the whole 3 days. He kind of took me under his wing.”(true answer) “So are you shooting a friends wedding?” I asked. “No sir” he replied with his chest out proud. “A bride saw my pictures on my website and fell in love with my style.” Now, in retrospect I should have gotten out the stick right then and there, but I didn’t want to hurt his pride or make waves. We continued a short conversation with my head in my hands and the call finally ended.

To me this was grounds for a good stick thrashing. I mean, come on! You sold your website images to that poor girl as your own creativity and talent. Boo to you Mr. Mudd. Boo to you. Ok, sorry for the rant, but it gets way better! Wanna hear the rest?

Super duper then. Here we go.  Lets fast forward a few months to a beautiful but sad Saturday afternoon. Beautiful because it was and sad because I wasn’t photographing a wedding. I was in my studio probably cleaning, which I need to do again soon, when the phone rings.

me: “Hello” I answer, only to hear heavy panting on the other end with a faint F bomb lingering on the callers lips. “Hello, this Is Parker J.”

caller: “Oh thank god! Parker, this is Mr. Mudd. I talked with you a few months back.”

me: “Ah yes, Mr. Mudd, Hows it going?”

caller: “I am at a wedding and my camera won’t work.”

me: “Well, lets see if I can help. What do you mean it won’t work?”

caller: “It says error 99 on the lcd.”

me: “Ok, try pulling out the battery and replacing it.”

caller: “nothin”

me: “ok, lets try taking the lens off and putting it back on. Sometimes they don’t seat all the way.”

caller: “nothin… shit”

me: “Now don’t worry. We will get through this. If all else fails we can maybe reset the custom functions, replace the card, whatever it takes   to figure this out for you.”

caller: “nothin is working!!”

me: “OK, what part of the wedding day are you in?”

caller: “The dad is getting ready to walk down the aisle with the bride any second!”

me: “DUDE! Just grab your other camera and shoot it. Don’t worry about this right now!”

caller: ” I only have one camera.”

me: “Wow! Really? Ok, then you need to borrow a camera off a guest or something because this only happens once.”

caller: “I’ll see what I can do. I don’t think its a big deal to her.”

me: Just sitting here with my mouth open.

caller: “Ok, thanks anyway Parker.” click

I was furious. How could this happen? The truth is it is happening every weekend out there. This wasn’t the last one of these types of calls. It was the worst but not the last. This was such a disservice to that family. Depriving them of having that magical moment when a father walks that long walk to give his daughter away forever. That moment when they don’t know weather to laugh or cry. That moment when a sideward glance is all the father can muster. That heartfelt moment. This goes way beyond the bride asking about back up equipment, doesn’t it?

I love wedding photography. I love the moments, unexpected.

These are just a few of those moments that Mr. Mudd thinks are no big deal.

The events you have just read are true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Your lucky I’m being nice today Mr. Mudd.

 

Keep on clickin”

Parker J

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Or when your son walks you down the aisle.

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or your mom.

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Or when the dad just can't hold it in any longer and runs out of the room.

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  • Mike Carpenter - March 30, 2011 - 3:03 pm

    SLAP!!!! That’s my hands grasping my face when I heard this! So true. Stop time for these people. That’s the thrill for me, to catch that emotional moment that says a thousand words!ReplyCancel

  • Tina - March 30, 2011 - 3:20 pm

    Wow. Just wow. I’m not a pro yet, but when I shot my friend’s wedding last year, I took not one, but two back up DSLRs. I even threw my son’s P&S in the bag in the (extremely unlikely) case that all three of my DSLRs failed.

    wow.

    Don’t think it’s a big deal to her? I’m stunned!ReplyCancel

  • Samantha Vanderlist - March 30, 2011 - 3:32 pm

    WOW…. and wow again! I get very frustrated when I hear stories like these. Thank you Parker for bringing a tear to my eyes with your images.ReplyCancel

  • Richard Israel - March 30, 2011 - 3:41 pm

    Brilliant post Parker and your photographs add a beautifully poignant sting, so sad and oh so true.ReplyCancel

  • Lorraine Daley - March 30, 2011 - 3:43 pm

    Wow…I feel bad for the poor couple. I am sure Mr. Mudd thought it wasn’t hat important because he was actually hiding his nervousness by blowing it off. I hope this poor man has learned a thing or two. Anyway, nice post.ReplyCancel

  • Brian Woodward - March 30, 2011 - 4:19 pm

    Innocent? Mr. Mudd?? I think not! Hacks like that need to be outed so they can go back to their careers in fast food production and management. Whew! OK, I’m better now. . .ReplyCancel

  • Rachel Shomsky - March 30, 2011 - 4:35 pm

    these photos have me in tears… thank you so much for sharing this post! We owe our clients the BEST of us, so sad that for many it isn’t happening…ReplyCancel

  • Kelly - March 30, 2011 - 5:23 pm

    Beautifully put! It is such a honor to be trusted with such moments. A commissioned photographer is more than just another tier to the wedding industry. The client is trusting us to apply real, genuine craft to these moments. Poor, Mr. Mudd…probably has never heard of that antiquated device called a hand-held light meter either?!ReplyCancel

  • Kristin Vining - March 30, 2011 - 6:56 pm

    I think you are neat-o!!! Beautifully written and captured…every last bit. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Ashley Brokop - March 30, 2011 - 9:47 pm

    Thanks for sharing. Loved reading this…really did!ReplyCancel

  • Stuart Meyer - March 30, 2011 - 10:39 pm

    Dang. That is pretty bad, especially what he said before he hung up. I shot my first wedding with two cameras and an assistant who had two cameras. And, I was honest enough to say I was starting out and charged accordingly. And, they loved their images.ReplyCancel

  • […] and Crash My Wedding Specialist Steve Mittman of Mittman Entertainment. The article is titled What is Wedding Photography, written by Parker J. Pfister. In this article Parker adresses 2 very important issues in Wedding […]ReplyCancel

  • Kristin Smetona - March 31, 2011 - 10:03 am

    I can not tell you how many times I have gotten phone calls just like that. It’s so infuriating! Your images are lovely! Just a great reminder of why we do what we do!ReplyCancel

  • Stacy Walker - March 31, 2011 - 10:14 am

    I LOVE this post! You are so right when you say that this kind of inexcusable conduct happens every weekend. There is no excuse for us ever underestimating the importance of someones wedding! My wife and I have been to weddings so sick we could barely walk, when family members were in the hospital and even once when I had a kidney stone…because excuses are just that, excuses. Love what you do, value your clients, appreciate this opportunity they have entrusted you with or go do something else!ReplyCancel

  • Tomme Hilton - March 31, 2011 - 11:41 am

    GREAT GREAT insight Parker. I hope every potential clients weighs this article upon hiring instead of relying solely on a budgeting aspect. Anyone can get lucky a few times but what happens when something goes awry?ReplyCancel

  • Kim Sayre - March 31, 2011 - 12:15 pm

    I hear ya brother… imagine if Mr. Mudd had been the photographer at a wedding I shot a couple of years ago in San Francisco. Beautiful day, amazing family, wonderful bride… a lovely lady who passed away a little more than a year later from complications of childbirth. The photos of her mother’s wedding will be the way this little girl knows her mother, and sees her at one of her happiest moments… I keep her picture in my office where I can see it every day, and think about the responsibility we have to our clients. To all the Mudds out there… this is not a way to earn a quick buck on the weekend… Life’s to short to not have back-ups…ReplyCancel

  • Rafael Sotomayor - March 31, 2011 - 1:39 pm

    That really sux, and the worst thing that is happening all the time. 🙁ReplyCancel

  • Dustin Smetona - April 1, 2011 - 12:19 pm

    Parker, thanks so much for the well-written and straight-forward (yet gracious) post. Every bride on the planet needs to read this before picking a photographer.

    Maybe you and I could start a non-profit together where we target brides to help educate them about wedding photography. That way this kind of thing ceases to happen!ReplyCancel

  • kristi hedberg - April 5, 2011 - 9:02 am

    such a wonderful post, Parker…..You are the consummate professional. Weddings make me quake in my boots. I love second shooting, as I am totally free to capture the unexpected moments, but not totally on the hook for them. It is such an important day, no do-overs…….I stick to portraits!ReplyCancel

  • […] and Crash My Wedding Specialist Steve Mittman of Mittman Entertainment. The article is titled What is Wedding Photography, written by Parker J. Pfister. In this article Parker adresses 2 very important issues in Wedding […]ReplyCancel

  • Justin Hulse - May 21, 2011 - 12:33 pm

    Join the club… I’m ashamed the lack of respect that enthusiasts show toward weddings. Aside from that, all of us full-time photographers are suffering financially because enthusiasts think that photographing weddings is a great side income. My sister’s dentist shoots weddings on the side. My cop friend shoots weddings.

    Brides have NO IDEA what they are missing out on when they hire a cut-rate photographer.ReplyCancel

  • Jorge R. Gonzalez - June 10, 2011 - 10:52 pm

    Thank You for those insightful words. The saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words, but the words that you used to express your feelings for your passion, wedding photography, go beyond what one single image could describe. Thank you again, you have placed a burden in my heart to better myself.ReplyCancel

  • Dan - June 15, 2011 - 3:18 pm

    One of the best posts on wedding photography I have ever read. Content is king, and content is what your images capture so vividly (and what we should all strive for). Thanks for taking a passionate stance on the subject. You’re an inspiration to a whole new generation of young photographers. Keep rockin’.ReplyCancel

  • […] what is wedding photography? […]ReplyCancel

  • Gillian Reinhardt - August 24, 2011 - 6:31 pm

    Thank you so much for this. I hear stories like this all the time and I just LOVE the “photographer’s Soup” label, because that’s exactly what it is. It’s great that our industry has so much attention from the mainstream but at the same time it causes some interesting issues.

    Your images are always breathtaking and inspiring.ReplyCancel

  • Amanda Hill - September 11, 2012 - 7:29 pm

    It is so sad that this happened to someone 🙁 I wish there was a way to educate more brides in a broader scale. I wish wedding blogs and magazines would do a better job of educating brides on a realistic budget for wedding photography that doesn’t suck.

    I first saw you teach at Imaging USA 2 years ago and I love your work Parker. Beautiful images in this post, and very well said.ReplyCancel

  • Simon Dewey - July 9, 2014 - 3:57 am

    Both inspirational and jaw-dropping, “what?” at the same time.

    I think we have to bring our passion to our clients…. and the clients who put their passion into photography will find us.ReplyCancel

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