Monday, June 10, 2013

Wedding Photography: a shooter's look into the future

This week, the Toronto Star had an article on wedding couples crowdsourcing wedding photos. This past Saturday, I was a guest at a wedding where there was an official photographer (OP) as well as place-cards encouraging guests to upload  to Here then is my take into the future of the business of wedding photography.
As phone cameras (and cameras with wifi capabilities) get better, and image quality expectations go lower, there will be a rapid increase in the use of crowdsourcing as way for couples to obtain their photos for free. As a bonus, crowdsourced photos have a unique look and feel that may be an art form in itself.
In addition, the turn-around time for the images is as fast as the shooter can upload, whereas the OP can take 2-6 weeks to deliver. The excitement will be there when photos show up on Facebook, Twitter, or on the predetermined gallery on one of many crowdsource sites, e.g., and Shootaround. The excitement may not be there when the OP delivers the photos a few weeks later. 
I can see 3 classes of clients:
Class #1: Will only use a professional photographer. Expense is not an issue. Proper decorum is a must and the use of iPhones during the ceremony is looked on as declasse.
Classs #2: Crowdsourcing is tolerated and is encouraged but photo  memories are considered too precious to be left to chance. Expense is a consideration but there is money in the budget for an OP; the best value in photography is sought out.
Class #3: Expense is a primary issue. A budget photographer may or may not be hired, and crowdsourcing is actively demanded.
How does an OP compete in such a scenario. Arguably, the OP will have the technically and artistically superior images but will not have the instant gratification factor. As consumer cameras get better and cheaper, guests (likely shooting over the shoulder of the OP) will take the credit for "wowing" the bride and groom with pics the very next day! When the OP delivers his DVDs in a few weeks, the WOW factor will have dissipated.

The solution is for the OP to offer next-day-edit! The OP's  images will be showcased in the same venue as the crowdsourced ones; the OP's (hopefully) superior images will shine in comparison and will most definitely be primo great advertisement! The OP's images can be rough edits; the colour-corrected, print ready files may be delivered weeks later. 
How is this doable for a photographer tired from a 15-hour Saturday wedding? Or worse, for a studio with a stable of photographers out shooting on a Saturday? Well, time will have to be set aside as I feel that this will be the new reality in the wedding industry. For cameras with 2 card slots, 1 slot will have to be dedicated to  medium-res jpg files. For cameras with only 1 card slot, cameras will have to shoot RAW+medium jpg. The jpg files can be rendered overnight using Lightroom (read: fast computer required),  and quickly edited for uploading on Sunday. This minimalist workflow rewards the photographer who produces "almost-ready-to-go" photos that require minimal-to-no post-processing. A photographer who "gets" the in-camera- metering with a camera that gets excellent AWB is well worth it!

I honestly think that this is a seismic paradigm shift in wedding photography and I, for one, will be rewording my offerings to reflect this new reality!
(Photo taken with a Panasonic Lumix LX3, 1/3 crop from original image. Not bad for a small 1/1.7 sensor... must be the stabilized Leica lens!) 

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