I first met wedding photographer, Alex Szczesniak of Boutique Blinks at the Serafino winter wedding expo in McLaren Vale. And although my celebrant colleague told me "you're gonna love this guy", he still took me by surprise.
After years of working in weddings, I am all too familiar with the self-indulgent, smug and self-righteous supplier who honestly believes the world wouldn't turn without them.
So chatting with a wedding photographer (to our industry what a lead guitarist is to a band), who is reasonably humble, human and interested in people, is like a serious breath of fresh air.
Mentored by the incredible James Day, Alex is all about connection. His perception of his role in a wedding celebration is not limited to just the art of taking, producing and editing photos, but as a facilitator of wonderful memories cherished for a lifetime.
We were speaking recently about the difficulty in explaining to Brides and Grooms the value of a great wedding supplier and Alex had some thoughts that he wanted to share.
Thank you for your candor, Alex.
Recently I was scrolling through a wedding planning Facebook group. You know the ones I’m talking about; brides looking for their vendors, vendors looking for their couples or ladies worrying about their grooms doing dumb shit at their buck’s parties.
They can be quite funny to read through.
A common theme I see when I scroll through these threads is seeing ladies asking for recommendations on ‘photographers who don’t require you to sell a kidney’.
Yep. Someone actually wrote that.
I can’t help but laugh when I see these kinds of comments. I get it; people work to budgets and that’s totes cool, but should the price be the first and only thing you think about when looking for your wedding photographer? Is there something else to value?
Getting back to my Facebook scrolling adventure.
On this particular day, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, it was a standard “I’m looking for a budget-friendly photographer” post. I had a quick look through the first few comments and found that one person had the opinion that wedding photographers were extortionate charging the high prices that we do, that we make the same amount of money as doctors or lawyers. Now sure, this is one person voicing their opinion and I think it’s important to respect that, but this person's comment got me thinking.
If one person had the guts to say it, then there are probably a few more people who have the same feelings and if that’s the case, then why is it so?
Is it a lack of understanding? Is it because of a bad personal experience? Perhaps they think they could do better with their iPhone 7+ in Portrait mode? Whatever the reason is, I think it’s a pretty reasonable feeling to have.
Facebook groups and Google Ad reviews are full of stories about shonky wedding suppliers. You see it all too often; the tale of a wedding supplier not responding to phone calls or emails for months on end, leaving couples completely out of pocket and pulling their damn hair out.
A lot of the time though, it’s because these ‘businesses’ have gone out of business. And man, that must suck.
What I want to suggest to you is that running a successful wedding business isn’t easy. Hell, I’ve learnt that really quickly being a new small business owner myself.
So why isn’t it easy? Well, for starters is damn expensive to do it right. So what’s the right way? To answer that question, I think it’s important to explain why I do what I do as a wedding photographer. There are so many things that have culminated in me working this out and I feel really lucky to have worked it out this early on in my career because it gives me so much motivation to push on.
So I never really had a very good relationship with my Dad (that’s a whole other story), but not having a close relationship with him has made me really cherish the people, and the moments with them, that I do have in my life. Celebrating life is such an important thing to do.
You really don’t know when it’s going to be too late TO CELEBRATE SOMEONE OR to tell THEM that you love them.
I think the real value in wedding photography is to remind couples of the commitment they’ve made, the celebration they had and the love that they shared in the moments when (potentially) times aren’t so ideal for them. When the moments aren’t so happy, they have those reminders where they can say “hey, people celebrated the fact that we got together and we celebrated the fact that we got together.”
So I think to have images that remind you of those moments is SO important. To get to a level where you can make images like this 100% authentically and organically takes a lot of care and effort. That’s the thing with the wedding industry; you’re paying someone to care deeply about you and your “getting married” event and often that event isn’t for months or even years away.
When you hand over your hard-earned money, you expect us to still be in business when the big day finally rolls around. You hope that we’ve structured and planned our business well enough so we reply to your emails today and in two years time.
Caring so much is an expensive business. I would literally move heaven and earth to make a couple’s wedding experience memorable and this can also mean rescheduling holidays and disappointing family members when I miss their events.
So sure, wedding photography can be expensive, but I take really good care of my couples and deliver back amazing photos for them. I’m still pretty new to the industry but you can expect to see me around for a long time. I’ll be wrinkly, old and awkward but I’ll be an awesome wrinkly, old and awkward wedding photographer!
So I’m hoping you might now have a better understanding of the value of what wedding photographers do, and if you don’t value it, then that’s totally cool too. Running a professional business is expensive and that’s why you don’t find doctors and lawyers advertising on Gumtree....unless of course, your name is Saul Goodman.