Can a Shy Photographer be Successful?
So we are gonna start this lesson by asking the question, can a shy photographer be successful? My answer is, why awkwardness always wins. A few months ago I had a conversation with a friend and I admitted that I was an introvert, and then he laughed, but it wasn't even like a laugh as much as it was like a scoff, like, a (scoffs) and I was like, I am. To which he replied, there's no way that you are an introvert. But my response was, I'm an outgoing introvert, and there is such a thing. Because a lot of times people are just like, there's just no way, and the definition of an introvert and an extrovert, is that, in it's most basic form, is that an extrovert gets energy from being around a lot of people, and an introvert walks away depleted from energy by being around a lot of people. Now, I can handle a conversation and I'm not, you know, at a networking event I'm not in the corner being like, oh, nobody will talk to me. Like, I know who I am, but I also know that in the same vein it ...
takes a lot from me to be in public settings. Now, public speaking is something that I can do. I'm very proud to say and know that I can teach photographers and I can speak to photographers and to business owners, and to young entrepreneurs. I know that about me, but I can tell you that at the end of the day I will take my stuff and I will sit in the car, I will take like 10 deep breaths, and JD will ask me a question and I will say, shh. (audience laughs) I, it is not in me right now. So these are the things that I know. Now, having known this about myself, what people see is 1% of who I am, and they base their judgment on 100% of who I am based on that 1%. So I have to take a step back and I'm gonna be very honest in this section and talk about the struggles, and I have come a long way in my career in regards to my awkwardness, in regards to being an introvert. I was gonna say introvertesism, but I just don't think that's right. Being an introvert. Now, being around people, it gives me energy but it also depletes me of a lot of energy. Now if given the choice, I probably would choose reading a book over going to a party. I would choose practicing yoga. I would choose taking a walk on the beach. Now some people are listening to this and they're just like what, are you kidding me? I wanna be in a bar, I wanna be at a concert, I wanna be out with people, I want my weekend to be with three different groups of people at three different times. And I think to myself, if I look at my calendar and nothing is planned that day, I'm just like yes. It's just me day. I get to work in my sweats and I get in front of my computer and I get to listen to my music, and I get to take a break when I want to. That stuff invigorates me. And it's important not to hide behind it, it's important to know this is who I am, and then you can kinda build up the energy to give off the energy that you're going to need from your clients. Now, I love my friends and I love being in social company so please don't think that, you know, on our lunch break you're like, can't talk to her. No, I like it, I love it, I thrive off it, but there is a balance, there is definitely a balance. Now, I actually wrote this out in my blog and I was being just really open, I said that I am an introvert and it takes everything from me to actually give it all to my clients on a wedding day. So then I got an email from a reader and he or she asked, if I am shy or introverted, can I still be a successful photographer? And I thought that was like a deep and profound question because somebody is asking me, can I do it? And far be it from me to give somebody permission, so I decided to talk a little bit about why I think the answer can be yes. The most simple answer is yes, but there is a however, and you knew the however was going to come. You can still be a successful photographer if you're shy, but you might have to work a little harder. Now, I am by nature not a person who will walk into a room and be the center of attention. In fact, I am completely the opposite. I literally will cling to walls. Like, JD is the complete opposite. Now if you meet JD and we're together, JD looks like the calm, passive, docile, and I look like the hey guys, how's it goin'? Like, it's like jazz hands all the time. But that's the thing that comes out as I teach, right. But in reality I walk in and I'm just like, hi. Okay, I'm okay, I'm okay. And JD just effortlessly just moves throughout the room. At the end of the night, he met the single, the one grandma in the room and she's like call me for the goulash recipe. (audience laughs) He gets invitations to go golfing, he's making friends with the bartender who's making him signature drinks under the table. Like, that is the difference between our, what people might perceive on the outside versus what's going on in reality. Now, I will tell you in full honesty that I am past the point of being a wallflower. I am like the wallflower gardener, right. Like I have always been a looker, a watcher, and a waiter. I prefer to walk into a room and watch conversations to see, okay, okay, okay, I know who I feel comfortable going and talking with and engaging with. I know who's going to make me feel like less of a person, I know how I'm going to go to and feel comfortable with. I'm going to approach that person, that person looks like they probably read books on the weekend, that's who I wanna hang out with. That's who I am, but as a wedding photographer, I am not afforded that luxury. Now, I have been this way since I was a child, so for people who are saying I've been this way far too long the answer is you can always teach an old dog new tricks, because I knew that when I started my business I understood that being shy, even though it's an innate characteristic, or being introverted, even though it's an innate characteristic, something had to change, at least a tiny bit. After a few failed photo, I don't wanna say failed. After a few not so great photo shoots in I realized that the subjects in my photos looked lackluster, and that is something really awful to say but I take 100% ownership because my clients aren't lackluster, I was just giving them nothing to do. I was applying the same approach that I had in childhood, I'm going to wait for a photo, I'm going to watch for a photo, I'm going to wait until the universe aligns and that perfect moment just happens and in my back of my mind at least not in, maybe or maybe not intentionally, I'm just like, it's gonna happen, it's just, wait for it, and then it never did and I kind of went through this cycle, like oh, it's just that couple, and oh, it's just that couple. And then I realized, yeah, no. Let me save you some time. You must give the thing you want to get. That is it. So if you are shy, you need to be more in that moment, and if you are introverted, for that moment step out of yourself to give the thing that you want back to your client. I know that it works. When Creative Live flew down to Orange County to film a lot of the shoots that I was doing, no, okay, let me actually take this back even further. I've been teaching with Creative Live since 2010, it has been a wild and amazing adventure. I'm indebted to so much personal and professional growth to this amazing organization. Having said that, I have never seen any of the courses that I've ever taught, because even when I see like a promo I'm like, do I sound like that in real life? (audience laughs) I like, I turn to JD, I'm like, I'm sorry you have to live with this voice, I mean, but with this course it was different. I had to look through all of the footage that we got so that I knew how to frame, how to use teachable moments. And watching that I looked at myself as if I was seeing myself as a different person, 'cause I saw that, and I'm just like, that's me? Like who is that person who's like yeah, how's it going, okay guys, great, awesome, awesome. You know, bring it here, move here, blah blah blah, and I was like, that is a personality that I take on to get what I want, even though it is not natural to me. So let me encourage you that if you might not be the person who shines in the center of the room, on your photo shoot you must shine, and you will shine, because as a by-product of your shininess people reflect that as a result. Now, one thing is that the best photographers don't hope for a photo, they make a photo. They take what they have and then they say I'm going to make this better by way of what I can infuse into it. Now, I quickly learned that if I wasn't capturing the types of photos that I wanted it was because I wasn't giving my clients what they needed. They need more encouragement, they need a transfer of energy, they need very specific directions. If that is the one thing you walk away from this lesson, that they need directions, they need something to do, and they need a transfer of energy, that is the very first foundation of the things that you should apply. Now, my clients show up to a shoot, 100% of my clients show up to a shoot shy, nervous, introverted, they will sometimes make comments of like, oh, well I'm sure the other people you work with aren't as hard as we are, right? So before they say those things we as photographers must stay in control to set the pace. Now, I cannot be a pace setter if I'm going to take the role of being a wallflower or the gardener of the wallflower garden, right, I can't, I'm not afforded that luxury to be like I'm sure, you know, if my clients say oh I'm sure other people have done better or they're more natural, well, hm. I can't wait for that, are you kidding me? I need to go up to a shoot and I need to stay in control and I need to set the pace. Now I do this when I want to stay in control. I will get in the right head space, and I usually get into the right head space by listening to music. Depending what I'm feeling, like, the drive to the shoot, I live in Southern California, I shoot a lot in Orange County and Los Angeles. There is a lot of driving in what I do, and that commute I can make my, I can feed negative energy, look at this jerk in lane three, huh? Right, or I can be like, I'm listening to my podcast, I'm listening to Arcade Fire, I'm feeling pretty good about what this jam is doing for me right now. I can get into that head space, that helps me stay in control. I need to pre-visualize. Now, we're gonna get into a very, we're gonna get into a much deeper explanation of what pre-visualization is in a future lesson. But suffice it to know that pre-visualization is thinking about a photo in advance, before the photo even happens, before you have that opportunity. So when I am driving I'm thinking about the things that I can envision my clients doing. Nine times out of 10 it may not happen, but just putting your brain in that mode of I'm positioning them here, the arm goes here, the walking goes this, this here, this here, and if it's at a location that I have never shot at before, my imagination makes it limitless. Oh, and then if there's a river and if there's an arch way, and if there's a door, and if I can use the rule of thirds, right? It's just in having a conversation in my mind to get me in the frame-set that I need to be. Thirdly, I need to focus on articulating my thoughts. I will tell you that I place a high value on conveying what I want to convey, but it is very difficult for me. I grew up, I didn't learn how to read until I was 11, I was always really quiet. My parents were the ones who kinda became the mouthpieces for us, but at home I was fine. There was like this old, old cartoon like on the WB network where there's this farmer and he finds a frog and this frog sings, like, hello my honey, hello my darlin', right? And so he takes the frog to the county fair and he's like look, look, and he opens the box and it's like ribbit, okay. My parents joke that my twin sister and I, we're the WB frogs, right. At home we're like hey, and then in public we're like. (audience laughs) So, because I become flustered in how I speak, because I become frustrated in not getting the thing that I want for my client, I practice what I'm going to say in advance. Maybe you're really good at it and it's not a pressure point for you, but I know that being in a bad head space is weak for me. I know that if I don't pre-visualize, it's weak for me. I know that if I don't think about articulating my thoughts, it's weak for me, so I'm looking at weaknesses and saying how can I address 'em the minute that I go into a shoot? And then lastly, I say a quick prayer, and yes some of ya'll might not subscribe to the praying. I do, because I'm not afraid to admit that sometimes I show up to shoots feeling completely uncreative. I show up to shoots feeling burnt out. So I need to say, I need to get in the right space so that I can deliver what my clients have hired me to deliver. Whatever is happening in this outside space, it is left at the door. I need to show up and I need to bat a thousand for them. And I need to be fair to them, and how I am fair to them is by doing the things that I need to in advance to prepare me to play against those things, my natural inclinations when I'm stressed out is to shut up and be shy. I will actually say quite honestly, woah, maybe this is TMI. JD and I don't really argue all that much. We just don't, not because we have a great relationship, not at all, it's just, it takes two people to argue and whenever I feel it escalating I'm like. (audience laughs) I go back to the WB frog, I can't do it. And because I know that that is a natural inclination when I become overwhelmed or really frustrated on a shoot I'll be like um, and then, (stutters) like... (audience laughs) Bring it on back. You guys think it's funny, but I'm being really honest with you guys. And some of you guys maybe might not experience this because you're just like calm, cool as a cucumber when you guys get to your shoots and I applaud you, tell me your secrets, but for those of you guys who really struggle with this idea of sometimes you're shy and sometimes you're introverted, or sometimes you're just awkward, you feel me. Okay, so, knowing all those things, knowing how I stay in control of a shoot, another tip that I do to stay in control is to arrive early at the location. I want to know what I'm working with, even if I have shot at that location before I still arrive early, and I arrive early because time of year changes light. Construction around the venue changes light. If there's a sea, like there always is in Orange and LA County, of photographers in really great areas, you don't wanna look like it's like the Owen Mills of Laguna Beach, right? You have to do things that are different, so by getting there early you play to your confidence and what I do is I create a photo map, and you're gonna hear me talk more about this in a future lesson when we shoot the engagement session, but a photo map is me going and saying, when the clients arrive I don't wanna meet my clients and be like hey guys, where are we going? Like I wanna say, hey, I got here early, I walked, I found a few great places. But before I get to make this about me, talk to me about what you wanted. Maybe a client every so often will say well, we really liked this area. I'm like okay, awesome. But most times clients show up and we say well we're here, whatever you think. And so the last thing you want is to walk and be like well, let's just walk, let's kinda see what's goin' on. No, show up and say great, I wanna start the session here. I really love this area, but let's save it 'til the end because sunset, we're gonna get this beautiful golden light, it's gonna be reflecting off the fields of wheat, it's gonna be amazing. So you're selling their excitement, you're telling them I arrived early, I'm in control, I'm ready for this. You tell me what you want. Boom, let's collaborate, we're ready, go. Already before the camera has even been clicked my proclivity to introversion, to being an introvert, my tendencies to being flustered when I speak, my tendencies just to completely close down and in on myself are subsided, and then I know, I play to my strength, and I'm ready to make a photo, not just wait for it to happen. Now, if you're anything like me the thing I want you to know is that your success does not hinge on your shyness. But it hinges on your ability to move past your natural characteristics, to be the type of photographer you want to be. You have to say this is who I am, but I'm ready to move forward. I'm ready to make the changes that I need so in order to start attracting the client that I want, in order to have a better client experience and to have better client endorsements. Now, speaking of becoming a confident photographer, I received an email from a blog reader, and she asked me the following, and yes I have permission to share these questions. Dear Jasmine, I want to ask you a question. How the heck did you get all your confidence with your clients? I'm about to secure my first ever engagement session, and on one hand I'm so excited I can jump up and down all day, and on the other I feel like I could throw up with anxiety. Did your confidence bloom over time? I often have trouble telling my clients what to do because I get overwhelmed easily. Warmly, Waiting for Confidence to Come. This is my response. Dear Waiting, Well, before a formal answer comes we need to clear up a few things. Confidence is somewhat a new idea to me. For most of my life, I have been the person who prefers watching, not engaging. Ya'll know that now. I struggle in new social situations and I find myself flustered when I can't walk into a room and feel comfortable. Still to this day I get nervous before I shoot clients. Years into my business, and the butterflies in my stomach? They've multiplied. Now that that's on the table, let's chat about what we can do in spite of how we feel, and help our clients trust our direction and ability to produce the type of images we're proud of, even when we feel anxious. I've discovered the following tips to be helpful. One, let your clients unfold naturally. So we're going back to how can we be confident as a photographer, first things first, let the clients do their thing. At the beginning of any session I stand back, like I kind of say okay guys, we're gonna start here, and you're gonna see me do this in future lessons. Hey guys, start right about here. I kind of lightly position them, and then I see what their bodies do naturally. Every couple has a different dynamic into what they do. Where her arms go, where his arms go, where the weight falls into her hips, if he leans into her, if she leans into him. I see what they do naturally, and then what I go through is I will go through and make small changes. I will close fingers, I will shift hair, I will turn profiles, so I see the natural components of what it is and then make those slight modifications. Now, second thing to make yourself confident on a photo shoot, is to follow clients on social media. Now, I know people feel differently about this but I'm just talking strictly about my approach. Yes, I do friend my clients on Facebook, and yes I do follow them on Instagram. I like knowing what they're doing, and whenever I'm shooting I'm talking to my clients behind the lens, and as I'm talking to them behind the lens it's helping me create a really candid conversation, because what happens is so often I see photographers have the camera down and they're talking to their clients and they position them, and then they walk back. And they're like oh yeah guys, wasn't it such a fun weekend? Oh that's so great, and I can't believe it happened to the dog, ha ha ha, awesome. Boom, and then they shoot. So the whole thing of the couple laughing about what happened with their dog over the weekend was completely lost. So keeping the camera above my eye keeps me more confident in soliciting the type of conversation that I want, but I will say that the most sincere reactions come when I'm making a personal connection to the couple. So case in point, I was at a recent wedding and I was posing the bride and her bridesmaids, and she had about five on each side and I got the traditional portrait, right, so the bride in the middle, the girls on each side, and we had a couple, like, just very safe photos, and I felt like I couldn't get from them, 'cause all of them were just so concerned with being, like, perfect, like. And I'm like okay guys, just relax. So it was kind of like I was like, okay, so then I was like I have to change my approach for this group. I have the camera in front of my eye and I'm talking to them, and I'm like okay great, everybody lean in, okay this is awesome, lean in towards the bride. So everybody's kind of leaning in, and I was just like, ladies, I know you can do better than this 'cause I saw the bachelorette party photos on Facebook from Vegas and they were like (gasps) oh my God! Okay, that photo of them like laughing and the after effect was far better than I could've gotten through just natural coaching, but I wouldn't have known those things if I wasn't invested with my clients in a quasi-personal level. What they put on Facebook is what they put out to the large majority, I'm not getting a private showing of their inner workings, right? They put out what they want people to know. I knew they went to Vegas, I knew they got a little loud and crazy, and what resulted was a funny photo. I like that, it is reflective of my brand, what can you do to kind of create those connections with your clients to reciprocate the same thing? Thirdly, and the last point, is to set no expectations. At the beginning of each photo shoot I tell my clients that I expect nothing from them, I really do. I go to the session, and I'm really excited because a former bride, a former client, started her photography business before she got married and then she got married and she hired me to shoot her wedding, and she's here in the audience today. I absolutely adore her. So the thing that I think is tethering me to this idea is that she can tell you if I'm talking trash. I cannot make up things that did not happen. So I can say that I started the session by saying I don't want anything from you. Now she might've come into this, and this is all speculative, she might have come into the session being like I'm a photographer, I should know what I should do, or, or, maybe Shane should be standing a certain way. No. You're a photographer, but in this moment you're my client, you're a bride, you turn off that little switch. And I say that to a photographer, imagine how much more I'm gonna be saying to the average girl who's walking up to me, or during our session. I start off by saying before I even turn on my camera I expect nothing from you. I take all responsibility for any photos that come out, so you take a deep breath, you enjoy what this process has become. Then I tell them the things that I do want from them. What I want from them is I want them to have fun, I want them to relax, and I want them to enjoy the process. Now you all know that I spoke to you this morning and I said the same darn thing, so I have to live by it. Have fun, relax, and enjoy the process. I can't tell you the energy shifts, the energy that shifts between us as photographer to clients when I say I want nothing, I need nothing. But if you're game, I want you to have fun. I want you to relax, and I want you to enjoy. People can do that. All of a sudden, literally, physically their posture changes and they're just like, we can do that, that's great. Now, what I think that I am doing, what I know that I'm doing, is I am giving my clients permission to just be. Permission to be themselves exactly how they are. I ended the letter by saying I hope this offers a little bit more insight into how I work, but moreso what you can do to bring out the true soul of your subjects behind the camera. Confidently, J Star. Now, what I have noticed after that email and after these types of email conversations was that sometimes people, this notion of permission, is that sometimes people just need the permission to be, like somebody to say, you're okay exactly how you are right now. And I think that permission is somewhat of a weird concept because we've lived our whole lives being like I don't need permission for nothing, right? I mean, or at least I did, I mean, I don't know. (laughs) But there is this thing that happens when you tell a person I want you to be you, I want you to shine, I want you to feel good. Now, one of the things that I looked for, like the most things I was excited for growing up and being an adult was that I can eat dessert before dinner, and that when I go into my hotel room my mom would make us unpack our suitcase. Like, we would go somewhere cool, we'd be staying at, like, I mean if my family was going somewhere high class we'd spend the night, like Holiday Inn Express somewhere right off a freeway, and we're like whoo, there's a pool here! But before we could actually get to the pool, my mom would say you have to unpack. It sets the tone of this vacation. And I'm like, oh my gosh, and you wanna know the ironic part? My husband's the same way. (audience laughs) We arrive to the hotel and he has to unpack everything and I'm like oh my god, I married my mother. Okay, but on that note. (audience laughs) There's this idea that, when I was a kid the thing I would say to myself was no one's gonna tell me what to do, I'm gonna leave my suitcase out and I'm gonna jump on the bed, I'm gonna eat dessert, because I thought to myself there was a notion of permission, and what I realize is that this notion of permission extends far beyond into our adult life. Sometimes in more practical terms people need the permission to be honest, even when it hurts. People need the permission to be real, even if it's awkward. And more relatable for girls, some women, most women from my experience, need the permission to feel beautiful. Now it's a funny thing to kind of even say, because I've been thinking about this for a really long time and kind of talking about it, and I can't say that all women, because there is that rare species of females who like walk in and own a room, primarily like the seven foot blond with blue hair who sits like dressed entirely in spandex in the front row of my cycle class. I mean, this girl is totally okay in her own skin, let me tell you. But for most girls, you're uncomfortable, most times, in general, but specifically in front of a camera. So, when I want my clients to feel confident I need to tell them, it's okay to be confident. I want my clients to bloom in front of a camera. I could not get them to bloom if I was going to be the introverted or shy photographer that I was, that I used to be. Now, when I shoot clients a few seconds into the moment. So if I was shooting a bride I'd be working with you and be like, okay great, I wanna see what her body is doing naturally. Then I lower my camera and I tell her that in this moment it's okay for you to look and feel beautiful. You have your hair done, you have your makeup done, I love this outfit. So I'm not behind my camera thinking, woah, what are you doing. I'm behind my camera thinking go, you give me 100%, I will give you 100%. That is a conversation that I have with my clients again and again. I look at them in the eye and I say you give me exactly what you want so that you get those photos, and it changes it. The permission to say you are beautiful, you be beautiful, you rock your beautifulness. That's what people need. So often we as photographers block ourselves from saying those types of things. Now, when I'm shooting I'm looking for a girl to explode in front of my camera, to blossom. When we end a session, if the bride can walk back to her car with her fiance and feel loved, and feel radiant, and feel beautiful, I have done my job. What we do is kind of like therapy for the soul, right? Like, our photos are a by-product of how we made somebody feel, and if you made somebody feel good she's gonna look back her photos and say, in that moment I felt great. That right there is a powerful and fundamental shift in how we approach for shooting for our brand. Now, if you're a photographer I want to encourage you to give permission to your clients, but obviously you're not gonna go up to your clients like I give you permission, right? You have to kinda create it, put it in a soft, kinda conversational way, and you might feel awkward as you're doing it, but that tiny second of feeling awkward pays off in dividends for the entirety of the shoot. Remind your clients it's okay to let their guard down to get the types of photos that they have wanted, it goes a very long way. Now, kind of looping this back, we started off with can a shy photographer be successful, then we kind of ventured into what we need to do to overcome the shyness, and that introverted tendencies. Now we're talkin' a little bit 'bout why I have learned that awkward always wins. And so if you are awkward, fantastic, I can speak to you. If you find yourself like cool as a cucumber in any social situations, then probably just start doodling, write some notes, send me a little letter. Now, I was reminded of this fact when I had the opportunity to go on a hike with JD and my really great friend from college. We were in Oahu and we went on a hike and we came down from the hills and we stopped off at a cafe, and while we were waiting for our drinks she and I just were just recounting some of the ridiculous things that we did in college, like this one time we lip-synced in front of our entire campus to like a Beyonce mash-up, and we thought we were like, oh my god, we're so cool. Like, in this moment Beyonce would be proud. We also camped out for, like, Justin Timberlake tickets, because, again, we were like epically cool. And every story that we kept on telling JD and maybe, 'cause JD and I went to different colleges and maybe like for the sake of my sanity I didn't share those stories with him. Like, we were dating at the time, but he was like you camped out, like really? And all of the stories ended with, oh my gosh, what were we thinking? Now, JD and I were in Hawaii to shoot a wedding, but Ginger lives in Oahu so we had some time just to kinda take some time and invest in ourselves as well as invest in our business. Now Ginger, my friend, my best friend from college, she has a really great and tactful way of talking about how awkward I am. And if there's anybody who can attest to my awkwardness, it's the girl who lived next door to me for four long years. Now, I didn't go to campus parties, I just never understood the lure of the red solo cup, I just didn't get it. I didn't pledge the Greek system. When I entered in my first year I dedicated myself to graduating with a 4.0, so all this really comes back down to is like, I'm like one pen shy of rocking a pocket protector, so I was just like, this is who I am, and she knew that, she knew it in and out. Now, Ginger said the following. You've always been awkward, but don't you think that that's helped you as a wedding photographer? And then she went on to explain that the awkwardness that I possess helps me identify awkwardness in other people in uncomfortable situations. I sat there, and this conversation happened like two years ago, and we're now almost into our 10th year of business, so I've gone seven years of thinking that my awkwardness was an impediment, and for the first time I thought, oh my god, you're right. I am like the awkward whisperer, I know when it's coming. And so because I can sense that stuff I'm just like what, and then I can kind of use myself, I can remove myself from a room, I can go in and I can kind of run a little interference, another sports reference that I almost messed up, but saved it at the end. That in those uncomfortable situations I am well suited to ease it. Now, on a wedding day I will not be the first to admit that there are so many uncomfortable situations. We have shot weddings where divorced parents refused to speak to each other. How are we supposed to deal with that in family pictures? Right? We have to know these things, we have to prepare ourselves, we have to navigate these choppy waters. There have been bickering in-laws, to where in-laws on both sides didn't want their kids getting married and so they're just darting each other dirty looks across the reception, that the moms couldn't be in the same room when the bride was getting ready and you're just kind of like, oh my gosh, how do I navigate this? But because I was aware, because I knew of the situation, because I know how to deal with those awkward situations, I kinda dealt with it with grace and with ease. And I've also shot weddings where bridesmaids and even sisters of the brides they don't actually like the bride and they're all arguing, right? So the girls all start as friends 10, 12 months before the wedding planning process and all of a sudden be like, that girl didn't like that sweetheart neck and look at me in my asymmetrical dress. Look at how awful I look. And all of a sudden there's like this going on the other side of the room, and I'm just like, the bride's getting her hair and makeup done, I'm like okay, okay, I'm like your hair looks great, you look awesome. So I'm trying to be like your, the better the bride's experience is on her wedding day the more she will like my photos. It's all about protection, it's all about using your awkwardness to protect what that experience does for you. And I'm proud to say that I've done all of this without the help of a red solo cup. Amen, rock your pocket protectors. In that moment I realized that Ginger was right, and I'm okay saying that, I'm okay owning it entirely. Because your awkwardness can be a strength as a wedding photographer, because you are now well accustomed to dealing with uncomfortable situations, and the longer you do it, the better you become at it. So what I want you to do is embrace your awkwardness. I want you to embrace your sensitivity to mercurial wedding day dynamics, and I want you to embrace your pocket protector, because it makes the biggest difference as a photographer. These are assets, these are definitely not liabilities. On that note, I wanna talk about questions that you might have in regards to navigating situations and awkward situations. I wanna talk about things that you could do to kind of empower yourself in regards to that. I think that homework for you would be to cite what you think a liability is and then think, can I make this liability an asset? And then once you say yes, then you actually have, the homework then begins, then, is once you can say yes, I can make it an asset, then you have to say how. How does that happen for me? Are there any questions in regards to this particular section? Yes? Oh, we have to get a mike. Thank you.
Talking about brides and giving them permission to feel beautiful, do you show them a picture to give 'em that confidence? Like they seem like they're really uncomfortable, and what's worked for me is to say look at this, look how beautiful you look, and all of a sudden they're like ready to go and rockin' the runway. Do you do that?
Photo from behind my camera?
Never, never, because you know what? I can't guess. I cannot guess that she will look at that and not see, oh, I have arm fat. Oh that angle, this is not my good side. Oh, can I, can somebody get me hairspray and put down like these flyaways? Oh my gosh, I need, can somebody bring me lip gloss? Like, I don't need that. What I do is I will mirror her, and I will, like mirror her physically. So I know this sounds like super, like I have jewels in my house and I collect kittens and porcelain figurines. It's really like, I talk about energy, but you guys know what I'm talking about. We go on a shoot, what people give us, like what we get back, how we navigate these waters. So if I feel like my bride is perpetually uncomfortable, like she's like, oh, well, hm, hm, and I'm like okay, I'm like I wanna tell you right now you look beautiful, but I need you to trust me that I'm gonna make you look more beautiful, so I want you to shift your hips this way, I want you to turn your shoulders, take a deep breath, relax, drop your chin here. Turn it to me now. And as I'm saying this I'm shooting. Drop your chin, take a deep breath, look over at Danny. Danny, do something silly. And she's just like, Danny might, may or may not, but the thing that results is her like (laughs). Like, if I make her look like she's having a good time, and if I give her the energy as I'm shooting her, oh my God, oh my God, Danny do it again. Danny, I can't deal with this, oh my, oh, beautiful, exactly, perfect, I love it. (sighs) Thank you, so good. You're just on fire, let's go. Don't give her time to not, and here's the thing. Let me take a step back. This is my approach. If your approach is showing her a photo and that is your client, and you feel confident with that, you rock that. I have a tendency of attracting brides who overanalyze every single thing, so I don't wanna turn that power over to them, I don't wanna lose time because she has flyaways, I don't want her to always think, now if she thinks she has fat arms you know what she's gonna do in every photo? Right? I don't want that, it's gonna change the dynamic. So you might attract brides who just easy, go, love it, trust you, perfect, you rock it out. There is not a right way. I know what I attract, and that probably wouldn't work so well for me. Yes, we'll pass the mike here.
Do you ever talk about, like, the awkward elephant in the room? Like if something weird is going on with the bride do you joke around with it, or do you just completely ignore it?
Like give me an example, like?
Like someone's too drunk, like do you joke about that with the bride, or like bridesmaids aren't getting along, or the mother, the future mother-in-law is being overbearing, that's a good one, they're like oh, get a picture of this, get a picture of this, or she's nitpicking the bride, like do you kinda make a joke of it with the bride and like to--
Yeah, no, I pretty much stay out of those things because I know, like even in Creative Live like I'll crack jokes and I'll be like wow that was funny, and then I get an email that's like, that was so offensive. So offensive. Like to the left arm farmers in Indiana of Indian descent, you offended us all. You know, it's just like, okay, like, and that's a fictitious organization, I do hope I do not offend the one armed farmers in Indiana. (audience laughs) But, it is not my job to be the comedic relief. It's my job to come in. So, in the cases that there are overbearing mother, mothers-in-law, what I've seen, and this is just a generalization, is that mother-in-laws feel a little bit left out. It's all, specifically during prep, right? It's about the bride, it's about the bride's mom, sometimes I've seen more often that the mother-in-law is watching the bride get dressed with her mom. So sometimes women react in a way that's, they wanna just be noticed, like, just look at me, just look at me and so what I do, and in order to diminish or squelch that, I see the dynamic of what's going on and then I'll say, like to fictitious Danny's mom, like, Mrs. Seymour, can I take you outside? I just wanna take a great photo of you, I think that Danny, I think he'll love it for years to come. And all of a sudden you elevate her, and by elevating her you actually calm her down. Be like, I'm gonna get some great photos of you and Danny. And let me tell you something, for the rest of the day myself and JD are your personal photographers. So I know you have friends from out of town coming, Indiana, right? So they're coming from Indiana. During the cocktail hour you pull us aside. We're gonna be around the party until 10 or 11, you set your cousins up, you set your girlfriends up, we're gonna take very good care of you. That changes it, and so all of a sudden if the bride notices that, you know, the squawker in the corner calmed down, her experience is better. She may or may not know that that was me, and I'm okay with that. Again, the better her experience is the better she likes my photos. Thank you. Are there any other questions? I know there's a second mike. We have a question here, yeah.
I was just gonna ask, like have you had clients after your shoots or weddings or whatever actually approach you like, maybe they're just, they struggle with their own appearance or whatever and they actually don't like what they look like in your photos, even though you've kinda brought out whatever you can, like, to make them look beautiful, and like what do you do in that situation when they just have maybe something about themselves, maybe it's their arms or whatever, and they're just like, just don't like my arms, and yeah, so then what do you do in that situation?
Okay, so I will say that for me I try in advance, I think it's very important for us to pick up social cues before the editing has even begun. Because a girl just doesn't look at her photo and then randomly is struck, oh my gosh, my arms look big. Right? She will probably throughout the course of it make some sort of reference. At least my brides do. They're like, can you Photoshop my arm? The minute they say that's like red flag, red flag. Because of that I will do things that will save me time in post. If I think that my bride is self conscious of her arms, a lot of the poses will be the two of them and then where is the groom's hand, or her fiance's hand? Boom, instant Photoshop, right? I don't have her arms (mumbles) here in posing, I will have the groom take a step in front of her or behind her, why? Arms here don't look as good as arms here, arms here. But to give a bride an arm here, awkward, and to stay away from like that kind of, forgive me, I'm just gonna rub people the wrong way, there is like this cliche that I did for years I rocked the cliche. Okay, I owned that cliche, and now that I get moving more in my business and in my style I realize that that's not what I like, and I know that's not what editors like. How often have you looked through a wedding magazine or a feature of a blog and the bride's like this? No, it doesn't happen. It's the natural stuff. So try to think of that type of things in advance, and then also in post, my rule of thumb when it comes to retouching bulges, extra skin, things like that, is if it was my pose that accentuated the thing she does not like, I will fix. If it is, I gave her the strongest pose and it is what she looks like, that is what you get. I'm not in the business of reconstructing you. I will eat it if I did something that compromised it, but other than that, no. So thinking in advance of that, and then have there been times where a client like, I got an email from a client, she was like, I love it. She made like save the dates, she made hey we're getting married, she made 60 day invites, 30 day, I mean she just used her photos for everything. And I was like oh this is so amazing, and then we ended up having an email correspondence and then she was just like, I can't believe that half the photos I was making the face that I was doing, what was I thinking? And I was like, half your photos? Half your photos you were making a face that you didn't like and yet you're the bride who I've never seen use my photos as much for engagement photos. So it prompted me to say, what was it about your face that you didn't like? I mean that sounded awful, but I did it way more nice. (audience laughs) In the email I was very pleasant, it was (mumbles). But I needed to know, and I told her, I was like, I need to know that for your wedding day what things I should stay away from. So it prompted the conversation to change, so I don't know if it answers your question, because once things are done and said it's kind of like, well what do you do? It's, you either offer another session, if it was that bad, but you also wanna protect it and stand by it, it's like I did everything. Now, let's talk about what we can do for your wedding, that's the kind of change in the conversation.
Okay, cool. We'll give you the mike, and then we'll take your question, 'cause you have the mike.
My question is kind of off her question about making jokes with the bride about potentially awkward situations. I had a bride a couple weeks ago who just kept apologizing to me for things and I try to take kind of a hands off approach during the getting ready and everything, so it kind of made me wonder like what I was doing to make her feel at ease without being overly involved and without making it awkward for her? So I was just kind of wondering like what you would do in that situation and what you feel like possibly is being presented to make her feel the need to apologize to you, but still be hands off?
That's a great question, that has happened way more than I would like to admit. So, knowing that situation I'll take a few steps back. Her apologizing to you is a reflection of what's going on inside. She's trying to like lessen that awkward mom who's drunk before 10. She's trying to lessen the fact that she's not connected with her bridesmaids. She's trying to lessen the fact that she's so wildly nervous to be on her wedding day. So we have to take that and we have to digest it and say, it is not us personally. By mere physical proximity to where she is, she turns to you as a photographer. A photographer is around the bride more than the wedding coordinator is, right, so she might have connected personally far more greater with her coordinator, but you're with her every step of the way, so she's gonna turn to you like an ally, and so everything that happens because you have seen beginning, middle, middle, middle, end, of all the snafus she's gonna be like I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry. I will let the I'm sorry's go throughout prep, because she's just going around and she's flustered and it's not time to have a conversation. I might even let the I'm sorry's go throughout her and her bridal party. When it comes to the I'm sorry's, 'cause she's already warmed up to the I'm sorry, so now I feel substantiated in making this request, and I tell her, Amy, you've said I'm sorry like a thousand times today. I do this every weekend. Your wedding is so perfect. It's so perfect you don't know how perfect it is because you've never been a bride before, so you just trust that this craziness is part of the process. So you stop apologizing, or else, every time you say I'm sorry you owe me a shot at the reception and I will be completely drunk and you will not have any photos from the rest of your day. And it's a joke, I have never, and it's like, caveat so I don't get another email. I have never been drunk nor have I ever partaked in alcoholic beverages at a wedding. But I will say that it tells her what I want her to say, and I kind of add levity, so maybe a little bit of comic relief. I add levity to it, but by that time she has said it enough that I could substantiate the request and say I see it, reassure her that her day is nothing to be embarrassed of, and then I say I'm being serious, no more apologies. And then we just go on from there. I sound like I'm a tough cookie, right? I do, it's like the Puerto Rican in me. Let me tell you something, mami. Shut up, okay. (laughs) Okay, question.
Yes, so you're a shy photographer, and you're at a wedding, and you get those wedding guests or wedding party members, say, like a bridesmaid who keep telling you what to do and what to shoot, and oh you should use a flash, and you should do this, and how do you deal with that?
It comes in different forms. I think in about 10 years there was this one wedding where I had somebody who was like, was behind my shoulder, and then she had a point and shoot, or it was either a point and shoot or her phone and I would set up the bride she would just be like oh I love this photo, and I would be down shooting it, and she'd be right above me. Like literally I'd be, like on the floor and she'd be, oh, I love it. Like, okay, I was like, okay. She would be like, the bride's mom would be zipping her into the dress and then she would say oh hold on, bring it back down, bring it back down, let me do it again. Like, but that was kind of an extreme, and that's not what I get too often. I do get quite often, oh, go get the flower girls, they're playing. And I will either adhere to that, if in that point I'm just looking around for something to shoot, or I will so, oh I just shot them, if I feel like I've seen that JD has shot them or has at another point or if I have a long lens I'll be like (mimics camera click) I just shot them, right? Because we know what we have done and curated up and to that point. Now there has been a point to where there's been like the traditional Uncle Bob who kind of does a lot, and just a couple weeks ago. Oh, this is off topic. Okay, a couple weeks ago I was at a wedding and the bride's brother-in-law is starting a new online business, and his online business is getting home cameras and you just film things as they happen and you turn over all that footage to a company in India and then they make a video for you. So he wanted to be the videographer for the wedding day with no experience and an old-school flip video camera. And he kept on saying, oh, I'm, okay. I'll give away too much if I kept saying the references that he was making. So, I had a conversation with him at the beginning of the day, and I said I just need to make sure that I have the first angle. You can hang out with my second shooter but you must remain over his right shoulder at all times. So we set the ground rules. We did the first look, I saw her coming, and he was just like there trying to do like a pano shot of her. And I was just like, oh no, no, no, no, no, so instead of me being the bad person, who do you think I asked? JD. I was like, JD. (audience laughs) And here's the thing, I wasn't even nice to JD about it. I was like JD, handle it. (audience laughs) And you know, like, for those you guys who've met him and you guys will meet him in the next couple of days, I can be like, steam coming out of my ears and he'll be like, hey man, can I have you back up, you'll stay right here with me? Awesome, I'll show you, yeah. So he'll ease it, and then I'm shooting it. Now it got to such a point throughout the rest of the day that I felt like he was just block, block, blocking, and so then finally I had stopped, it was during family formals before the ceremony, I said okay, everybody. Can everybody please, fictitious name, look at Uncle Jim? Uncle Jim's going to shoot to his heart's content. I will not be having my camera, Uncle Jim is shooting. So Uncle Jim, why don't you tell them what to do and you get what you need so that I can have everybody look at me. I'm putting him in check politely, in front of my bride and groom, who they swore up and down that Uncle Jim will not be in my way. Uncle Jim was like a bee that was stinging me every five seconds. (audience laughs) And so when you turn that over to him, 'cause he kept on saying oh this is so great, and oh this is so great, and he was like, uh, okay guys. How about you kiss? Great, you get that photo, Uncle Jim, you rock that photo. And then he'll say, okay, and in 30 seconds maybe he turns around and he's like okay I'm done. I'm like, awesome. So for the next like 30 minutes can I have you just hang out, you can stay behind JD or you can maybe just like take a little bit of break and I'll handle it. Like was that mean? Probably, but I'm like woah homie, we need to bring this back down. So, giving them time, so the moral of the story is give people time and space to get the shot that they need. Acknowledge it publicly, and I do this a lot during family formals, that I will arrange a family, and I get it, grandma and her disposable camera thinks that she's gonna take the most rocking family picture of all time. It's not my rodeo, it's my bride and groom, so I will say oh grandma come here, come here, why don't you stand where I'm gonna stand. So what people are seeing, me respect grandma, give grandma space, 'cause who do they like more, me or grandma? Grandma, right? (audience laughs) Grandma, take your photo, and then I say can everybody please look at grandma's camera and then grandma's like one, two, (audience laughs) and that's great, I'm like thank you so much. I'm like anybody else wanna take pictures? Anybody? Okay, because I need everybody looking at my camera. I would like for everybody to be looking at my camera. Looking, blah blah blah, and I'm like, I give JD the eye and then JD gets grandma and then she starts talking to him, like I said before, she will give him a goulash recipe at the end of the night, that's J, JD rocks the grandmas. And then I'm like everybody please look here at me. So it's kind of about making, giving them space and then making a public request that it's my time. Great. Are there any other questions? Yes.
Going back to the awkwardness and being a bit of an introvert, and groups, weddings is literally nothing but groups of people, tons and tons of people, and you have to crowd control, and sometimes it can be really overwhelming when those people don't know you and have no idea who you are yet. When I approach a wedding day and I show up in the reception and that's the first time I've had a chance to actually interact with the guests, I find myself really awkward and I don't know how to introduce myself, and get to know these people in a comfortable way because they're going, who is this chick, and yeah I've seen you photographing the bride and groom, but it's like some people just don't have a respect for the fact that I wanna be there for them too, not just the bride and groom, do you know?
Yes, I do. Let's take it back, let's take it back further. Because if you're making a formal introduction of yourself and your face at the reception, I'm going to say that it's too late in the day. By that time they've already gone through at minimum two drinks during cocktail hour. The appetizers didn't roll out when they were supposed to, so everyone's feelin' a little, tiny buzzed, right? At that time you're not gonna wanna go to somebody when they're hangry and slightly drunk and be like let me take a portrait, it's gonna be amazing, right? That has to happen, or how we approach it is we want people seeing us before the ceremony starts. We're gonna talk about the timeline of what the wedding day looks like in a future lesson, we're gonna get to that, but just suffice to know, when guests start arriving we want to shoot the ceremony location undisrupted, so we shoot that, and then instead of running back to the bride who's probably just sitting there drinking with her friends, we're shooting guests as they come, guests as they come, and this serves two reasons. One, it makes us familiar with who the guests are. Two, we get to see who the pow, I say power players, that's probably really rude. You know, the cousins, the godparents, okay. We get to see who the power players are. And we also get to diversify the portfolio, because the mistake that I used to make early in my career was that clients would get back and be like, oh I wish I had more pictures of our friends, and the pictures that they would get would all be on the dance floor, and by that time everyone's sweaty, barefoot, a little not so good looking. So if we can diversify the portfolio in a way that makes them happy, we're killing a lot of birds with a single stone. And then people get portraits that they end up sharing on Facebook from probably my gallery, and we're gonna talk about how we do that in a minute, so those types of photos actually work far better for our marketing, for introduction, and for the bride and groom.
Yeah I was gonna say, thank you for mentioning that, 'cause that was another thing. I know that utilizing weddings is a great way for word of mouth, because there's so many people that you get to meet and they get to see your photos, and they have photos of them that they can share of your work, and that's so powerful, but I find my problem right now is I guess I feel like a hermit and I show up to the wedding date and I wanna photograph these people and give them amazing images that they can use for their profile pictures and talk about the wedding day, but I, like I said, I just can't bring myself to talk to those people and be like, hey, I wanna photograph you and get you a nice profile photo, you know?
Well I probably wouldn't say that, because then if you say I wanna photograph you for a nice profile photo, even though that's what you ultimately want, I wouldn't say that because it kind of puts me in the position of a novice photographer, because people get their profile photos updated by their iPhones, by their friends, you know, and (mumbles) so what I want to do is I believe that something happened to my life, to me, 10 years ago, where the person who I was, the person who couldn't go up to a person, person who couldn't be in control or comfortable talking to somebody randomly, when I had a camera in my hand I had a freaking passport to social interaction, so on a wedding day when people are sober and they're walking down and you're smiling. And I wear a satchel, a side bag, you know, like, I'm wearing flat shoes, I don't really look like a guest, right? Have a nice camera, I'm like hey, how are you? I'm a photographer, can I take a photo for you? Everybody, for you, of you? Both, I don't know. Whatever I'm feeling like at the moment. And then they might say okay, and then to show my professionalism if the light isn't good I will say one of two things. Can I have you stand this way? And I don't say the light is better, I'm like oh, I really love this background. Or, oh, can I have you stand here? And all of a sudden they make these slight modifications. As they're walking down with a glass of water, I say can I hold your glass of water? Oh, that's fantastic. Can you remove your sunglasses? The things that I made, those changes that I made, made me look like a legit photographer, and I didn't have to say anything.
I like that, thank you so much.
Thank you. Okay, let's go right over here, we'll give, okay, we'll pass the mike, awesome.
So earlier you talked about how you're an introvert and you derive your energy from being by yourself or with Polo or JD, so from, I still work full time and I have two kids and so I'm a little busy, but do you sort of block out time specifically to do those things in your schedule and make it a priority for yourself, is that part of like your business plan or your goals for yourself, or--
That's a good question, thank you. The answer to that question is yes, and yes, and yes. Now, I understand that being a mom changes that. All of a sudden all my selfish tendencies will go out the door, out the window, off the roof, I get it. But for right now, because I do not have children, I absolutely make time for myself, and I prioritize it in such a way that I want to make sure that it's a pattern or behavior that I really take on with me when the opportunity for me to become a mother happens. I practice yoga every day. That's my time. That is a space that I have carved out to bring my mind back down, to do a lot of self healing. I will absolutely admit that the past few years have been really hard for me, and diving deeper into just taking time for self care has been amazing. I also have had some like health issues and two years of going back and forth to doctors and people saying different things and then I went to a acupuncturist in Newport Beach and I started acupuncture, and then she had said you need to start taking hot baths in Epsom salt, and I was like oh, I don't do baths. Would you believe, baths with Epsom salt have changed my world, changed. So between yoga and a hot bath I'm giving myself about 75 minutes of me time, almost every day. I do yoga every day. I take a bath, I try to, every day if possible. That time brings me back down to completely, it's on me, on my mat, or in my bath tub. That is it. It is the greatest gift that I can give myself. I'm a better wife, I'm a better daughter, I'm a better business person because I'm taking care of my insides before I can give other people the limited things I might have as an introvert. It's a great question, thank you so much for asking it. On that note, thank you guys again for being here, I'm really excited for what's in store. (audience applauds)