As frequent readers will know, I have been “a photographer” for long time. And by that title, I mean a generic “jack of all photography” who photographed anything I liked the look of; just someone who loves capturing moments on film forever; landscapes, sunsets, waterfalls, people, streets, and also weddings when I can. When I was a kid, while most of my friends were doing what kids did in the 1980s, I was on my bike travelling to industrial estates photographing factories in silhouette (as I was raised on the east cost of England). We don’t all have priviliged starts in life, but we all have a start in life, and where that start leads is down to us.
Over the last 25 years, I have been fortunate enough to have a stable work life and also had a family. In a thousand ways I am blessed beyond measure. But, it has always niggled at me that this passion and craft of mine could be used to help benefit those who I prioritse most, which is my family. As families grow, and as houses get bigger, and as cars get older, so to does our need to finance it all. Don’t get me wrong : I am not financially motivated. I do a lot of things in the name of sharing, charitable donations, volunteer work etc. But, I would be lying if I said the appeal of shooting more commercial work here and there did not appeal, because it does.
Over the last few months I have angled my work more at the wedding photography market. And, like many of us, I have struggled with making a success of that from the business angle. I think I am good at photography, and I am good with people. But I am moderately bashful, which can be a challenge in business.
I have shot a number of weddings of course, but there is fierce competition these days, and with an increasing view from many that there is no need for it anymore because “iPhones take good enough pictures”, it can make it hard to explain why your work commands £2K upwards. Well I’m not going down that rabbit hole today, though I will quickly say that wedding photography is as much about taking fine photographs as it is about fine people management, interpersonal skills, and knowing how to position or group people in the best way, in the best place, for the best photograph. iPhones do not do that for you. Anyway, I digress.
During my search for photographers similar to me in nature but more successful than me, I have stumbled across several “networking” groups. Nick Church Photography is one filled with a small number of friendly UK based photographers. However, as a film shooter, I continued my search for film orientated UK based professional wedding groups. Before I found one, I joined the “Find a Wedding Photographer” group, which seemed sensible too. Again, on the whole, it was not suitable to me directly; lots of requests for photographers not in my part of the world, and often requiring digitally orientated packages. Nevertheless, it is a great group with nice people, so I have stayed. And it is a good job I did, because all of a sudden I noticed a post from “Julie Michaelsen Photography” who posted a shout-out about being a “fine art wedding photographer”. This peaked my interest and I visited her highly spendid website, http://juliemichaelsen.com/
Upon reading it, I was surprised to see that she too is a film photographer of weddings, based in London. She had a style of photography that I very much liked, and also recognised. It reminded me of the work I have seen by my (and many others) wedding photography hero Jose Villa. I tried my luck and asked her for some tips and to my surprise she replied (I say surprise, because all too often established pro’s just ignore the likes of people like me pestering for tips and advice!) to inform me she uses a Contax 645 (the same, I think, as Jose Villa), and she then informed me she was in fact trained by the master himself! So that was it : I immediately paid close attention to her work, her style, and I joined some of her other groups such as “That Fine Art Life” which is a dedicated tuition group for film orientated wedding photographers and ‘Julie Michaelsen Coaching‘. I’ve already received a few useful subscription based e-mails that are both informative and inspiring; Julies journey to fine art wedding photography sounds as though it is very different to mine, in terms of where we started wanting to break out of a successful career in the finance world of London, but conceptually her struggles starting out seem much the same as mine….we’ve all had it, where we sit at work wondering if we could achieve success in different ways, and thinking if photography might be it. And then of course everyone tells you it can’t be done, and that your equipment is not suitable, and that you can only do it if you shoot digital, etc etc.
I’ve only been part of the groups for a few days but already I have gained some much needed advice and support from several of the members, including Julie. So I thought I’d type this in the hope it may help others. I encourage others to join because it seems to be a very supportive environment for film photography orientated professionals seeking advice and support, and logically seems like a place where perhaps one can connect with others and build relationships with, that can only help in the business side. I’ll follow this article soon with another article about another member of the group who has reached out to me as well…she about 10K Instagram followers, which makes my 165 seems rather sad, but hey, let’s not start measuring our success by social media success!! That is a true route to emotional disaster! Anyway, she seems similar, it seems, to Julie, in terms of success and style and is also London based (I am seeing a trend here!). If you want inspiration, that group seems to be the place to get it!
That’s all for now. Out.