Dear me, you, us,
The Islanders Conference 2018 held in Kilkenny shook our industry from bottom up. However, before we all got to that point collectively, I was skeptical up until the morning of the conference. Hell, up until the moment when the sound reverberated, for the first time, through the entire theatre filled with 200 amazing people.
I had no idea I would feel this connected to the industry. I observed creatives in photography and videography to be somewhat as weird as me (or weirder, not that I ever thought it was possible). I had no idea how kind and open to conversation everyone was. People were shaking hands, hugging, smiling, opening up about their true feelings and thoughts.
I know, I've a habit of digging deep and being far too sentimental about these things but trust me, I am not alone left feeling like that. As the conference progressed, even though we all felt pretty much talked out, we felt as inspired and as united as ever. You'd really think we created some sort of a cult by the end of it. On the last night of the conference, dance floor was filled with crazy people (some crazier than others) dancing their excitement into new chapters of their businesses.
I did want to mark this event, however, by outlining a few things that I hastily jotted down in the midst of each speaker's presentation (15 in total, forgive me if I miss someone). This is for a personal and, perhaps, a public record that will be helpful in the next while to others and to me.
There aren't any favourite speakers as I though every speaker shared something very significant.
So let's get right to it then... (Note: these notes are mine and may be interpreted by me in my own way. Not all of the info supplied at the conference is reflected in my notes and in now way is duplicated word for word.)
Speaker 1: Petar Jurica (long section)
This speaker spoke to me on a deep level of sensitivity more than anyone in the entire conference and by sheer luck he was the first one to speak. I was sold. No more skepticism.
A wedding photographer has a unique voice and perfect clients.
Include everything you are in wedding photography. Think of why you became a photographer. In your work use all of the knowledge you possess as a person along with your experiences in art and photography.
It is important to begin shooting for yourself as you feel it, not as you want it to look like.
If you want to start shooting differently, it means that you will have to start shooting honestly. This means that you will have to avoid comparisons and stop looking for recognition because none of that defines your work. The only measure of success is our own progress.
When looking for inspiration, try finding it in art, books, movies and music. Make an effort to notice what resonates with your style, with your feelings. Make the photos full of meaning for YOU, not for everyone else.
When curating your work: The key is selection. Be careful putting out photos that will reflect the satisfaction of your ideal client. Curate photographs. Don't push yourself into an area you're not comfortable with either. Sell your story through your blog. Every time you blog a wedding, blog a wedding that is a step forward for you as an artist and as a professional.
Getting Clients: 1. Previous Clients | 2. Networking | 3. Customer Service. Petar did not expand much in this area only to say that you should worry about the clients that you already have and that networking should be viewed as making new friends.
Storytelling: A wedding is a movie, with characters, a plot and most importantly, love. Remember that by focusing on emotion will help you make up for crappy light and venue. Emotions can mask all of that. You don't need massive venues and amazing locations, all you need is people who trust you and your imagination.
Goals: When you know your bigger goal, something along the lines of a lifetime quest, then your job will acquire meaning.
Practice: Observing everyday light and how it falls on people's faces and bodies and how it lights up spaces. It's the easiest way to practice light. Build yourself as a person who is hungry for art. Everything is just hard work of practice after that. Note that the results will be slow.
Rules: Communicate what you want to the client. Learn how to define what you want. Break the rules of photography because everything is allowed! Weddings can be different and they should be different.
- Thanks for your deep talk to my soul, Petar.
Speaker 2: Eric Savo
Eric spoke about the dignity of sharing our images and getting paid for our professional work accordingly. Here's what he mentioned as a result...
Sharing images boils down to our passion.
A lot more on the subject of why our service costs money and why we, as an industry, collectively, should recognise the fact that we should start getting paid for the images can be found here on Eric's blog.
Vendors realised that the necessity for having the imagery has increased. They need it for social media usage. This leads to their entitlement and expectations that stem from the fact that if you're taking photos of their art, they are entitled to it.
Vendors aren't respecting photographer's rights.
Why is photography rarely recognised as a product? Vendors are contacting us for favours to use photography without having an initial valuable pitch in return.
We should consider ourselves and our work before giving it out for free because vendors aren't understanding. They make low effort to obtain the images. They think that it's already paid for meaning that they can use the images as they please and ultimately we are enabling all of it to avoid confrontation.
The line that became my motto for the entire conference and will remain with me for the running of my business was said by Eric: None of us can do it on our own. We are a team that will instigate change. (thank you Eric you're a legend)
So the steps to take towards raising the perception of value of our work will be included in the thing that's called a cycle of change:
Shock - setting out our conditions after the initial vendor image request | Denial - they WILL be looking to get it somewhere else Awareness - seeing that everyone has the same value they will begin to see a pattern and begin to follow a business etiquette | Acceptance - when the change has been implicated, respect for that change will come soon after
Eric went on about how we should respond to such requests and said that we should 1. Be upfront about what to expect from us | 2. Ask what's in it for me | 3. Measure our success.
A first step towards change is to create a price list that outlines prices for commercial use of the imagery.
- Wrapped up well. Thanks.
Speaker 3: White Cat Studio
Egle from White Cat Studio really shook me with her openness into her personal life. This really made me think throughout the entire conference and the thought that I came up with was this:
I always wondered what is the right way to showcase your vulnerability and the reality of your life online. You know how some people that have large followings, that are quite established in the industry tend to share a lot of their personal hardships and stories. So when Egle went out on stage and started speaking it suddenly clicked in me. The reason those people are willing to share is because they are willing to take us on a journey. Our life and everything we do within it is a story. It has a beginning a middle and an end.
So if I truly want to express my hardship (and dude, of course the winnings too) outwards, I will have to be able to commit to the fact that I am following through on finding an answer, staying positive and staying in tune with the accomplishments on this very journey. (it's a very self aware way of living, mind you) And of course remembering to share your story. Because guess what, people like stories. They can connect with them and there is nothing more connecting than real life lessons.
Egle touched on the simple things such as, find your triggers by turning your weaknesses into your strengths. It really made me think about my weaknesses and strengths all over again in a new light. She said that in a time of hardship you should write a fan letter to yourself. Look for validation within your own reality, a reality that is unveiled, true and personal. Such validation can hide in things such as grateful customers, thank you cards, thankful emails and other things. That is exactly why I think that by empowering each other's work within the industry will help us stay positive and grow faster.
- Thanks Egle you've solved a tormenting question inside of me :)
Speaker 4: Maru Films
Damn this couple is good. A few nights before the conference I helped my brother and his fiancee look for wedding videographers. We stumbled upon Maru Films online, fell in love with their work and only a while after they were standing on stage at the conference I realised who they were. Like, what are the odds?
Maru Films touched on storytelling and took our breath away by showcasing this add. Watch it, it's worth it. This was an introduction to what they were trying to say about storytelling.
Make Me Care: It's about engaging people in a visual and emotional way
1. Characters - gathering empathy. Getting real moments on a wedding day. If you don't feel anything yourself about those scenes and emotions, no one will. Think emotions and love. 2. Location - Environmental, raise questions and after showing the personality of the character, drop them into the scene. 3. Intention - the concept of what you are going to tell 4. Plot - structuring the story.
To gather those building blocks you should get to know your clients. Gather the history of their relationship. Photograph (or video) their engagement. Compile a questionnaire with things they like and the things that they don't like.
- Thank you friends, you made the subject of storytelling a bit less scary.
Speaker 5: Sascha Kreamer
I think he charmed us all with his desire to eat Sushi and live in Bali. These two things were pretty much the driving force of his business (did I mention how weird we all are?).
Amongst other things Sascha has spoken about comparisons and if we do decide to compare ourselves with others we have to look at a bigger picture. Taking an entire website, for instance, and comparing their entire website with ours not just small elements of it.
People hire you for the pretty stuff they see on instagram but then when everything is over, they appreciate the moments.
As photographers we need to show up for people and to focus on people and their family. To prove the point of what's important to your client, have every client pick their top 20 photographs and see the pattern of their preference.
He emphasised on the fact that a big story is made of lots of small ones. So at every stage of the day focus on the little stories that are going on in the moment.
Then Sascha told us how to sell albums in a cheeky way. I'm not going to reveal that here because it's way too valuable. :D
- Thanks dude, life's less complicated than we make it out to be. Think Sushi & Bali as your business vision.
Speaker 6: Dreamcatcher
Gavin's speech was short I thought. There was very little I could pick out for my own business, however one thing stood out boldly. The kick off phase for Gavin's business was a personal project based on passion, enthusiasm and creativity.
Focusing on what you love, what makes you feel alive and what brings joy to your photos or your videos is what will result in more business, more opportunities and more exposure. I think this point, per se, was very valuable and the brave attendees will take it with them in their gold sack and will pursue the adventure within their lives on the path of becoming better artists resulting in more money ... Yes money is important too, lets not forget about that.
- Thanks Gavin, very moving!
Speaker 7: Rubi Style
I cannot say that Amy's style would be something I can resonate with but she did emphasise on Framing. Framing with leaves, arches, trees, people, stairs. Using leading lines and light. I think she introduced a new craze in the whole industry with reflections. The iPhone reflections that create an interesting effect to the images. Everyone's using this thing now. It looks cool though not that I'll ever use it.
I found her presentation fascinating because it's way beyond my style of shooting and I would never be interested in pursuing it, just because. But I truly admire the skill and the passion that goes into that way of creating imagery so I was pleasantly relaxed into the presentation admiring the skill of creating that sort of art.
- Thanks Amy, very entertaining and very inspiring.
Speaker 8: Rafal Bojar
Ooof.. Rafal is truly something else. Again waaaaay beyond the things I'd be into but very emotionally evoking. It was the weirdest shit I've ever seen. I mean it. Voluntarily I would not sit through that but I paid money so I had to... I was so engulfed in his way of creating art and telling stories and reaching the point of connection with his clients... I couldn't stop looking. Mesmerising.
I know that when I get a bit ratty and when I start having this inner voice in me saying all the silly things that aren't in favour of the opponent, I know that the opponent has hit a nerve. A very deep nerve. So setting those ratty things aside I want to say that Rafal is very in tune with the surrounding world around him. And I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs saying that, hey dude, I get it. I get all of what you're showing.
So everything that everyone else said at the conference before and after Rafal's presentation ads up to being able to see the world in its finest detail. And if you want to learn how to do that, you should start by studying Rafal's work. It may not be everyone's cuppa tea but definitely a way to see the world as it is. Raw.
- Thanks dude, with a lot of admiration.
P.S. My question stood unanswered because I was very nervous and didn't bother asking it. The question was... how do you actually generate revenue with that approach?! (spending 5 days with a couple I mean).
Speaker 9: Cinematic Tide
This couples holds a warm and fuzzy space in my heart. And even if I won't get a chance to hang out with them over tea ever again, I will always have that fuzzy space there for when we did.
So these guys were amongst the people who shook me making me wanna scream letting them know that I felt like I was spoken to directly. I get it, I get what they were trying to put across. Anyways, Sam and Dani spoke...
Mindset Change (in the context of implementing change to the way your business runs)
1. Poor Mindset - Adapting to conditions and believing that life just happens to you. | 2. The Middle Class Mindset - Work hard, pay your taxes and have a semi-successful life without any risk. | 3. The Wealthy Mindset - You can do anything you want. Think about your existence and realise that it is indeed limited. You are creating your own change. You are changing when you're learning from the experience.
Ask yourself what you want to build and what you want to focus on. A wedding is a big deal and a special day for the couple you're working with. It's an honour to be picked as their wedding photographer. Understand that there is no such thing as a bad wedding but you cannot settle and you have to keep learning.
Moving Your Business Forward:
Building a friendship with your clients, creating a deeper connection. Maru Films have touched on that aspect too.
- Surround yourself with winners. Try to pay attention to what you are consuming and who you're interacting with, all of that is an influence on you.
- Try saying no to jealousy and say yes to inspiration (my exact reaction to Rafal's presentation. My first reaction was jealousy and then I dissolved it in inspiration and fascination)
- Take risks and explore creative opportunities, take on projects, go for the things you're afraid of.
- Delegate your weaknesses. (yes this screams out at me because I've been holding on to things like SEO and FB ads and accounts for so, so, so long... it's bizarre if you think about it. Holding on to your weaknesses makes you weaker, not stronger.)
I had an epiphany during their speech but again, I'm going to hold it for myself as it is a jewel yet to be tested.
- Thank you, beautiful people.
Speaker 11: Mark Pacura
Amazing person with a great sense of humour. He made us do stupid moves we wouldn't normally do on a dance floor and I think after that episode no one took themselves seriously. Well.... more people stopped taking themselves seriously for sure.
So he began his conversation with this:
Why do you want to be a wedding photographer?
Are you doing it for the right reasons?
Answer that. I know I have to, again and again.
If you're taking out your camera once a week, you're not going to get better at being a photographer. Full stop. (PRACTICE EVERYDAY!!!!)
Remember: it is more important to give value to people.
Know your goals. They don't have to be complicated.
Take a moment to appreciate where you are now. Two years ago I would have dreamed to be where I am now. A fact.
If someone doubts your worth, then something is wrong with either your presentation, your website or your instagram...
Remember. One wedding is always more than none.
Make an effort to do something for your business once a day.
And finally, be the best version of yourself, not someone else.
- Thanks Mark, for hitting all the right spots in all the right ways.
Speaker 12: Enchanted Brides
I think we will all agree on one thing here. She set the record on the amount of 'fucks' said during her presentation.
I admire her raw-ness. I really do. A beautiful, wonderful, endlessly weird woman, Jo.
So not much I can talk about here either. I was enchanted by her doubtlessly. Her work is breathtaking, raw and real. However she mentioned a couple of things that stood out...
The driving force of your business will be motivation. Ask yourself why. (similar to what Mark was talking about)
Why-s come in different stages including vision, goals and what drives you (perhaps your responsibilities)
What you can do for yourself -
Write yourself a letter. Think about what makes you happy. What are you afraid of. Recollect the happiest memory of your childhood. Think of who you love spending time with. What change do you want to make in your life. How can you make that change/s.
Think of this. If your website froze on a certain image, would you be proud to call it your own?
And of course. Photographers (and videographers) are artists. We are vulnerable, full of dreams and full of passions.
- Thanks, you really showed us how important it is to retain our own individuality.
Speaker 13: Story of Eve
This man pays attention. A lot of attention mind you. He tests, tests, tests and he always has results.
Small things that are consistent in branding make a big impact. Consider your branding throughout your website, through your contracts.
When it comes to finding your voice try testing it on instagram. Think of this: What would I display if I was to set up a different feed? (and oh, no one's stopping you from doing it, boo)
One handy tip: FB messaging - switch it off and drive the clients straight to the form on your website.
Tip: Include a testimonial before and after the price list on your brochure.
Tip: No one's going to pay 12k unless you make a 12k package.
Tip: Try making a €2000 wedding look like a €40,000 wedding.
- Thank you Michael, I thought you pushed so many things here even though it was very short it was, oh so, to the point!
Speaker 14: Awake and Dreaming
Nearly there lads. You think it's hard to read, try typing it.
So Laurie and Dave made a real good point (similar to what Gavin from Dreamcatcher) that personal projects will make our career. Mark touched on this fact that shooting everyday matters. Make an effort, think outside the box because there's a lot more to tell about who you are than just a wedding day.
They have also given us a way to rate ourselves after every wedding day to improve our work. Again a US photographer has touched on that too, Katelyn James, it just happened that Dave and Laurie have put it into a much more concise structure.
Rate every wedding you do out of 10 in the categories below and try to focus on the category with the lowest mark on the next wedding to improve your skills.
1. Morning Preparations | 2. Ceremony | 3. Family Images | 4. Location Shoot | 5. Guest Candids | 6. Speeches | 7. Dancing | 8. Editing
Having these as a guideline will become less overwhelming when mastering your skill and your art.
- Thanks guys, short, sweet, to the point and valuable tips.
Speaker 15: Ross Harvey
I liked him. He could really get through to the crowd and he likes cats. I like cats too.
Continuing from another photographer's patronising talk about choosing a type of brand. Lets say we all chose to be a high end brand. Ross says: look at your brand and compare it to the high end worldwide brands. Does it fit in? Answer that, evaluate, make changes.
People who've got money, always have money. Fact. Recession or no recession.
Reversing from what another said that morning on pricing:
Put your highest price first, then as you go farther down the brochure reduce it.
Lots of photographers touch on this: when you book 10 weddings, raise your prices. When you are at your higher price you have less competition.
Include things in your pricing such as 'features' - unlimited coverage and 'benefits' - as a result you don't miss anything.
Ross touched on something that Cinematic Tide has already said. Meaning. Fear indicates a negative belief system and needs reprogramming or needs to be changed.
To top it all off with... Train your creativity. Simple as that and a point repeated by many spoken above.
- Thanks Ross, for showing us how whapper photogs think.
Okay so this is the end. I sort of have my feedback between each speaker's notes and I think that the conference was everything I expected it to be. Even though I was a skeptical brat at the start.
Once I saw the topics of everyone's talks I realised that this will have a heavy focus on the spiritual, moral and creative side of things and I'm glad it did. I was ready for that and now I am ready to be seen.
And once again. A marketing strategy doesn't function without every single wheel turning in it. No one effort brings big results.
Your Friend In Creating,