A renowned American painter and successful British wedding photographer agree and share an interesting take on the notion of waiting for inspiration.
“Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and work,” a blunt and perhaps piercing quote first spoken by acclaimed American painter Chuck Close.
Yet, these words were recently echoed and re-emphasized by British wedding photographer Hannah Millard at a Way Up North Wedding Photography Conference. Her intentions were clear; to prevent the audience from any form of creative complacency and rather steer them toward continual productivity.
But just how relevant is this idea to wedding photography?
Hannah continued on asserting her position, “I can’t think of a field that it’s more apt for.” This is “because it’s their [your client’s] wedding; it’s their one and only day so you have to show up and get to work every time.”
In addition to Hannah’s take, I often like to remind professional photographers that they are more than just great picture takers – they are also professional artists.
Yet, these two identities, 'professional' (implying business) and 'artist', can often be conflicting. Worse yet having a one-person studio or enterprise often leaves these professional artists delicately having to balance between the two ends of the spectrum: business and art.
Hannah’s words certainly speak to the business, or professional, end. Often artists can be too creatively stubborn for their own good and refuse to operate in an environment where conditions aren’t as they envisioned; or if feeling empty of an idea wait for some form of magical vision to spur a productive session.
But as Hannah expressed; for a wedding photographer this is simply not an option.
“If you wait for everything to be just right – Oh when the nice light comes then I’ll switch on’ - well you can’t because it’s their wedding.”
She then continued to emphasize the all-to-real importance of the wedding photographer, reminding, “you have to show up and turn it out every single time. You don’t get to have a shitty day at work and have happy clients.”
Even when having a bad day, as a professional wedding photographer staying in bed is not an option. Instead, Hannah confirms you have to just put in the work to get through it.
So what to do when the actual, inevitable, slow wedding occurs, or an important event takes place on one of your mentally ‘off days’?
“In those situations I always find it’s much much better just to go in and shoot through it,” Hannah suggests, “then all of a sudden you find yourself in a situation finding moments, finding natural things happening that you would’ve missed if you just stood out on the outside feeling this creative block. You’ve just got to get in there and be amongst it.”
We see a consistent theme being played out in Hannah’s words: in off-moments or adverse situations don’t sit and wait (hope) for an inspirational epiphany, instead just keep working and things will work themselves out.
In fact, it’s a message that drives home Close’s original words even more sufficiently as he continued to state: “If you go to work – everything comes out of the work itself.”
Ms. Milliard couldn’t agree more concluding that professional photographers can never ease off the reins as clients depend on them to deliver.
So even in the worst of times “...you just need to go and shoot the hell out of whatever you’re going to shoot. Whether it’s a wedding or even a family session, people’s time is precious so you owe it to your clients to always give it your best no matter what the adverse situations are just be that problem-solver….”
Be a problem-solver.
After all, you are and always will be an artist, but as a professional photographer you’re also a business person with your own interests at stake and clients to satisfy.
So the next time your stuck, in a slump, or having a bad day don’t stop and wait for inspiration or some creative spark – that’s for amateurs and you’re a professional. Instead, keep at work and look for problems to solve.
After all, in the words of a prominent American painter and British wedding photographer; that’s what professionals do.