Leaving your comfort zone as a photographer

They say life begins at the end of your comfort zone, but what does that really mean? As a photographer you are confronted with this decision everyday. Do you continue to create and shoot what’s comfortable or do you expand your horizons and take steps to become a more complete artist?

A few weeks ago, a friend asked if I would be apart of her friends wedding day. They needed a photographer to capture the groomsmen before the wedding. At first I was hesitant and asked myself, “Do I really want to go down this path?” Yes, it was paid gig but did I really want to start doing weddings? After some thinking, I said, “What the hell” and accepted the job. At best, I will discover something new and actually enjoy it, and at worst I’ll be doing my friend a favor and getting paid in the process. If I didn’t like the experience, this would be my first and last time dipping my feet into the multi-billion dollar wedding industry waters.

So how exactly was this job different from others? Well, for starters almost all of my work relies exclusively on ambient light in urban settings. In other words, I don’t use a flash and rely solely on the natural light available at the time. Secondly, I rarely photograph people. I love having humans in my shots because they add a certain unexpected chaos in an otherwise mundane composition but, for the most part, my work doesn’t usually include humans as the focal point.

As I explained above this job was different for many reasons but ultimately my job is always to “get the shot(s).” With that in mind, I decided to divide my shoot into three sets:

  1. Candid shots of the groomsmen getting ready
  2. Solo shots of the groom getting ready by himself
  3. Group shots

With that said, it’s crucial that you have a plan going into any shoot. With my shot list in mind, I was ready for the uncharted waters of wedding photography. If there’s one over-arching theme to all my posts, its preparedness. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you aren’t prepared, you’re going to struggle. So what other steps can photographers take to prepare? Once the shot list was finalized, I had to make sure I was familiar with the location (ask for photos if you can’t make a site-visit) and then, from there, make sure I had the right gear.

One thing that will never change with photography jobs is that you and your client must be on the same page. Once I arrived on location, I let them know what my plan was, asked if they had questions, and then asked for any things they didn’t want captured. Once that was out of the way, I just began shooting like I was any where else.

In the end, this was a very different type shoot for me, but some things just don’t change as a professional photographer. Once you prepared and have clear lines of communication with your client, being out of your comfort zone begins to feel a lot more comfortable. In the end, I was extremely happy with the end results and the client was even happier.