Overcoming Shyness to Find Success as a Wedding Photographer
So we are going to 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 (clearing throat). And I was like, um, 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, ohh, nobody will talk to me. Like, I, I know who I am. But I also know, tha...
t 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, shhh. (laughter) No. I, it is not in me right now. So this is, these are the things that I know. Now, having known this about myself, what people see is one percent 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 intro, being an introvert. I was gonna say introvertatism, but I just don't think that's right. Being an introvert. Now, being around people, it, 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 want to be at a bar. I want to be, I want to be at a concert. I want to 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 can work in my sweats, and I get in to my computer, and I can listen to my music, and I get to take a break when I want too. 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 kind of build up the energy to give off the energy that you're gonna 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's 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. That 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 when we're together, JD looks like the calm, passive, docile. And I look like the "Hey guys, how's it going?" (laughter) 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 at 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." (laughter) 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 wall flower. I am like the wall flower 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 talk with, and engaging with. I know who's going to make me feel like less of a person. I know who I'm gonna 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 want to 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 innate characteristic. Or being introverted. Even though it's innate characteristic, something had to change. At least a tiny bit. After a few failed photo, I don't want to say failed. After a few not so great photo shoots, in 2006, I realized that the, 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 the 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 the cycle. Like, "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 CreativeLive 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 CreativeLive since 2010. It has been a wild and amazing adventure. I am 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 have ever taught. Because even when I see like a promo, I'm like, "Do I sound like that in real life?" (laughter) I'm 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 groom 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 it, it was because I wasn't giving my clients what they needed. I, 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 direction. 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 can not be a pace setter if I'm going to take the role of wall flower, or the gardener of the wall flower garden, right? I can't. I'm not afforded that luxury to be like, I'm sure, you know, like, 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 suffix 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'm driving, I'm thinking about the things that I can envision my clients doing. Nine times out of ten, 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 archway, and if there's a door, and if I can use the rule of thirds, right? It's just I'm having a conversation in my mind to get me in the frameset 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 kind of 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. (laughter) 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 (laughter). So, because I become flustered in how I speak, because I become frustrated in not getting the thing that I want from 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 them 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's 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, woe, 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, (silence). (laughter) I go back to the WB frog. Like 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, (grunting)." (laughter) Like, bring it on back. You guys think that'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 inverted, 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've 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, a photographer's in really great areas you don't want to look like it's the Olin 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 want to meet my clients and be like, "Hey guys, where we going?" Like, I want to 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 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 just kind of see what's going on." No, show up and say, "Great, I want to start the session here. I really love this area, but let's leave it to 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 to go. Already before the camera has even been clicked, my proclivity to introvertism, to being an introvert, my tendencies to being flustered when I speak, my tendencies just to completely close down on 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 my life, I have been the person who prefers watching not engaging. You all 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 away 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, 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 it's like, "Ah yeah guys, wasn't it such a fun weekend? Oh that's so great. And I can't believe that 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. (laughter) So it was kind of like, I was like, okay. So then I was like, okay I have to change my approach for this, 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 everyone's kind of leaning in. 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, (gasping) "Oh my God." Okay, that photo of them like laughing and the after effect was far better than I could have 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 can not 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 have come into the session, 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, maybe Shane should be standing a certain way. No. You're a photographer, but in this moment, you're, 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. I, or during our session, 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 the 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 their just like, we can do that. That's great. Now, what I think that I am doing, what I know that I am 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 more insight into how I work. But more so, what you can do to bring out the true soul of your subjects behind the camera. Confidently, J*. Now, what I've noticed after that email, and after these types of these 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 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. But there's this thing that happens, when you, 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, the things that I looked for like the most things I was excited for growing up and being 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 like somewhere cool, we'd be staying at like, I mean, if we, if my family was going somewhere high-class, we'd spend the night at like Holiday Inn Express somewhere right off like a freeway. And we're like whoa, there's a pool here. But before we could actually get to the pool, we had, my mom would say, "You have to unpack, it sets the tone of this vacation." And I'm like, "Oh my gosh." And you want to know the ironic part? My husband's the same way. (Laughter) We arrive at the hotel and he has to unpack everything, and I'm like, "Oh my God, I married my mother." Okay, but on that note. There's this idea that, when I was a kid, the thing that 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, and I'm gonna eat dessert." Because I thought to myself that there's 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 blonde with blue hair, who sits, 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 want to see what her body's 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, whoa, what are you doing? I'm behind my camera thinking, go. You give me 100%, I will give you 100%. That is the conversation that I have with my clients again and again. I look 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 I, when, when a, when we end a session, if the bride can walk back to her car with her fiancee 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 we, our photos are a by-product of how we made somebody feel. And if you made somebody feel good, she's gonna look back at 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 go up to your clients like, "I give you permission." Right? You have to kind of create it, put it in a soft kind of 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 in to what we need to do to overcome the shyness and that introvert, introverted tendencies. Now, we'll talk a little bit about 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 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 like mashup. And we thought we were like, "Oh my God, we're so cool." Like in this moment, like Beyonce would be proud. We also like 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 for like 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 kind of 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 lore 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 of this really comes back down to, is like, I'm like one pen shy of like 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, this conversation happened like two years ago. And, we're now almost into our tenth 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 I 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 refuse to speak to each other. Ah, 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 were 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 in those awkward situations, I kind of 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 being, it's all about protections. It's all about using your awkwardness to protect what that experience does for you. And I'm proud to say that I did 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 want to talk about questions that you might have in regards to navigating situations and awkward situations. I want to 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 site 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, the homework then begins then. Is once you 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 mic. Thank you.
[Female Audience Member] On talking about bride's and giving them permission to feel beautiful, do you show them a picture to give them 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 rocking the runway. Do you do that?
Photo from behind my camera?
Never. (laughter) Never. Because you know what? I can't guess. I can not 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 these, like these fly aways. Oh my gosh, I, 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 like 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, mmm, mmm." And I'm like, "Okay, and like I want to tell you right now, you look beautiful, but I need you to trust me that I'm going to make you look more beautiful. So I want you to shift your hips this way. I want you to turn your shoulders this way. 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, make her, make, so something silly. And she's just like, Danny might, may or may not. The thing that results, is her like, (laughing). 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. Ugh, thank you. So good, you're just on fire. Let's go." Don't give her time to not. And make, 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 the tendency of attracting brides who over analyze every single thing. So I don't want to turn that power over to them. I don't want to lose time because she has fly aways. I don't want her to always think now, if 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's not a right way. I know what I attract and that probably wouldn't work so well for me. Yes, we'll pass the mic 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, or the mother, the future mother in-law is being overbearing, that's a good one. Like, they're like, "Oh, get a picture of this. Get a picture of this." Or, you know, she's nitpicking the bride. Like do you kind of 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 CreativeLive, like I'll crack jokes and I'll be like, "Whoa, that was funny." And then I get an email it's like, "That was so offensive. So offensive. Like to left arm farmers in Indiana, of Indian decent, you have offended us all." You know, it's just like, okay. Like I am, that's a fictitious organization, I do not, hope I do not offend the one arm farmers in Indiana. But, it is not in my job to be the comedic relief. It's my job to come in. So, in the cases that there are overbearing mother, 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, it's specifically during prep, right. It's about the bride. It's about the bride's mom. Sometimes the, I've seen more often that the mother in-law is watching the bride get dressed with her mom. So sometimes women, women react in a way that's, they just want to be noticed. Like, "Just look at me, just look at me." And so what I do, and in order to diminish or squash 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 want to 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, 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 mic. 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, 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 kind of 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 like maybe it's their arms or whatever, and they're just like, "I 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 I say that, it'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's the groom's hand, or her fiancee's hand? Boom. Instant Photoshop, right. I don't have her arms smooshing 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's like this cliche that I did for years. I rocked the cliche. Okay, I've 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, or of a blog, and the brides like this? No, it doesn't happen. It's the natural stuff. So try to think of that step of things in advanced. 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 things 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 am 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, 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 like 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 your 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. (laughter) And, and in the email it was very pleasant. It was soften. 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 these 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 want to protect it and stand by it, it's like, I did everything. Now, what, let's talk about what we can do for your wedding. That's the kind of change in the conversation.
We'll give, give you the mic, and then we'll take your question because you have the mic.
My question is kind of off of her question about making jokes with the bride about potentially awkward situations. I had a bride a couple weeks ago who just kept apologizing for, 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 was 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, having, 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, 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 lesson 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 use personally. By mere physical proximity to where she it, 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 were 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 if 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 then 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, it, 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 can 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. Maybe, I sound like I'm a tough cookie, right. I do. It's like the Puerto Rican in me. Let me tell you something, mommy, shut up. (laughing) Okay. Okay. Who, question.
Yes, so you're a shy photographer, and your 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. "Oh you should use a flash, and you should do this," and how do you deal with that?
It comes in different forms. I, I think there was, in about 10 years, there was just one wedding where I had somebody who was like, who 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 like the bride's shoes, and she'd be like, "Oh, I love this photo." And I would be down shooting it, and she's be right above me. Like literally I'd be like on the floor and she's be, "Oh, I love it." Like okay, I was like okay. She would be like, the bride's mom would be like 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, 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 say, "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, cha-choo, I just shot them, right. Because we know what we have done and curated up into 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, so we set the, 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. And it wasn't, here's the thing, I wasn't even nice to JD about it. I was like, "JD, handle it." (laughing) Like, I'm done. And you know, like for those of us who have met him, and you guys will him in the next couple days, I can be like, steam coming out of my ears. He'll be like, "Hey man, can we, 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 balk, balk, balking, and so then finally I stopped, it was during family, family formal 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 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. And so, when you turn that over to him. Cause he kept on saying, "Oh, this is so great. Oh, this is so great." He was like, "Okay guys, how about you kiss." Great. You get that, you get that photo, Uncle Jim. You rock that photo. And then he'll say, 30 seconds maybe, he turns around 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 could maybe just like take a little bit of a break and I'll handle it. Like, was that mean? Probably, but I'm like, whoa, homey, 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 knew, 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, because who do they like more? Me or grandma? Grandma, right. Grandma take your photo. And then I say, "Can everybody please look at grandma's camera." And then grandma's like "One, two." And that's great, I'm like, "Thank you so much." I'm like, "Anybody else want to take pictures? Anybody? Okay, because I need everybody looking at my camera. I would like for everybody to be looking at my camera. I'm looking, blah-blah-blah. And I'm like, I give JD the eye. And then JD gets the eye, gets grandma, and she starts talking to him. Like I said before, she will give him a goulash recipe at the end of the night. That's JD, JD rocks the grandmas. And then I'm like, "Everybody please look here at me." So it's kind 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 chic?", and, "Yeah I've seen you photographing the bride and groom." But it's like some people just don't have the respect for the fact that I want to be there for them too, not just the bride and groom. Do you know?
Yes, I, 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 feeling a little tiny buzzed, right. At that time, you're not gonna want to go to somebody when they're hangry and slightly drunk and be like, "Let me take a portrait, that'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 this wedding day looks like in a future lesson. We're gonna get to that, but just suffix 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 power, 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 with 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 friend." 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, 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'll talk about how we do that in a minute. So those types of photos actually work far better for our marketing, for our introduction, and for the bride and groom.
Yeah, I was going to 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,
Yes. that they can share of your work. And that's, 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 day and I want to 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 want to photograph you and get you a nice profile photo," you know?
Well I probably wouldn't say that. Because and it, if you say I want to photograph you for a nice profile photo, even though that's what we 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, in Lake Havasu. 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 come, go up to a person, the person who couldn't be in control or comfortable talking to someone randomly. When I had a camera in my hand, I had a freakin' passport to social interaction. So on a wedding day, when people are sober and they're walking down, and your 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, be 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, 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 you make these slight modifications as they're walking down with a glass of water. 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.
[Female Audience Member] I like that, thank you so much.
Thank you. Okay, let's go, let's go right over here. We'll give, okay, we'll pass the mic. Awesome.
So earlier you talked about how you're an introvert and you derive your energy from being by yourself, or with Pola, or with 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, 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, a pattern, or behavior that I really take on with me when the opportunity for me to become a mother happens. I practice yoga everyday. 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 two 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 heath issues. And with two years of going back and forth to doctors and people saying different things. And then I went to an acupuncturist in Newport Beach, and I started acupuncture and then she had said you need to start taking hot baths with epsom salt. And I was like, "Oh, I, I don't do baths." Would you believe that 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 everyday. I do yoga every day, I take a both, I try to everyday, if possible. That time brings me back down to completely. It's on me, on my mat, or in my bathtub, 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, 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 very excited for what's in store. (applause)