At this moment, I’m a photographer caught somewhere between amateur and potential pro. I’ve poured my heart into photographing often, even in the sub-zero temperatures and wind chills we get so often in this lovely Chicago winter. I spend hours reading blogs, Formspring accounts, photojournalism sites, fashion magazines, and Flickr sets for inspiration and guidance. I’ve pretty much put one of my arms (and a leg, too) into starting equipment that is capable in low-light situations. I’ve even bothered my fair share of photographer friends, who are wonderful enough to put up with my non-stop questions and chatter (thanks guys, you know who you are!)
But none of that means much without a portfolio. There’s this terrible in-between place when a photographer doesn’t feel comfortable charging for their time yet, but clients aren’t exactly lining up. In fact, pretty much the only people who are willing to take a chance on such an untested photographer for an engagement shoot are the Craigslist set.
Why is this a big deal? Because it shows. I know it’s not nice to say – after all, I think everyone deserves beautiful photos, even if they don’t have thousands of dollars in their budget, but when you’re looking on Craigslist and for free offers, it usually means photography is not a priority. Sure, maybe there are gems – those people who love photography or are excited about photos but are just that broke – but they’re a rarity.
And to be honest, when you don’t care about your photos, you don’t invest anything into them. It’s like the people who walk around in sweatpants and Uggs all the time with crazy bedhead hair – you don’t look put-together, you look like you just woke up. Off-days around the house are one thing, but judging by the state of my college campus, off-days seem to be everyday for some people.
Why not just bite the bullet and shoot shoot shoot no matter how little someone cares?
Because when a couple looks for a photographer, they often pick those who shoot couples similar to them. I’ll be the first to admit that we did. Our photographer features lots of diverse couples who aren’t necessarily traditional. Their photos show them in places that mean something to them, and their personalities shine through. Part of that is skill on the photographer’s end, but part of it is the couples’ level of excitement and attachment to the photos. If you’re taking engagement pictures as a way to shut up mom and dad, you’re going to put less into them than if you plan to treasure and display them.
I’ve been trying to find a way around this conundrum for awhile now. Even more challenging is that crazy winter weather that make it kind of dreary and unbearable outside. I flipped back and forth about writing this post, but I’m curious to hear what you all think. If you’re recently married or heading that way, what things did you look for in a photographer? Are there any websites that you scouted most for photogs? And if you are in the industry, how did you get over the initial portfolio hump?