Feeling Seen and Being Valued

My engagement and my wedding were shot by an amazing photography company. They do beautiful work; it's clean, it's soft, it's lovely, it's personal. I love love love love LOVED my photographers, they were so game to do absolutely anything we came up with (including our engagement session in an abandoned processing plant where I'm pretty sure we all actually died of hanta virus, AND shooting our wedding portraits in an industrial yard that looked abandoned, breaking several trespassing laws in the process) without batting an eye. They were excited, they loved it, and I love all of our prominent wedding photos. I even love them now, despite being 15 pounds heavier in the wedding pictures and 25 pounds heavier in the engagement photos, which is really a testament to the solid work put into the shoots. They posted our sessions up on their website blog, as any good photographer should be doing, but given the uniqueness of our sites both for the engagement AND the wedding portraits, I was disappointed that we were never put on instagram, or added to their website gallery.

Like...really disappointed. They puts lots of photos on their instagram, it isn't just the award winning ones, so why not ours? From a marketing perspective ALONE we seemed like a really good pair to feature. We're an interracial couple, Derek is in the military (plus he’s gorgeous), we have a very niche interest in photography, and our backdrops weren't the ordinary "we-live-in-Colorado-so-watch-us-kiss-in-front-of-rocks" that saturates the market. I was a little shocked to never see our photos on their feed, and I really really looked. I have thought about asking them why we didn't make the instagram cut, but I never got around to it. Mostly because I didn't want to look entitled.

My boudoir shots were taken a few years later. My boudoir photographer, like my engagement/wedding photographers, is very talented, and I was utterly utterly THRILLED when she responded to my message about shooting in Austin and changing her plans to meet me there instead of Alabama (where I absolutely would have driven to so she could shoot me there). My shoot with her was difficult, for a number of reasons. I really wanted something that felt more authentic to me, and my own shoot didn't feel authentic to me, it felt authentic to her aesthetic, but I erred to her judgement because she has far more experience than I do. I figured she ultimately knew best. After the shoot was over, she contacted me about writing a testimonial for her, and I wrote her one, a very gracious one, and said she could use my photographs if she wanted to. She said she'd LOVE to use my photos on her instagram!......and then she never did.

Here's my tie in to my photographers: I cannot speak for Derek, but both instances deeply wounded my ego. I think my boudoir shoot hurt more than my nuptials, though. To me, as a client, not seeing my photos posted on social media, or just relegated to a blog that very few people probably read unless it's the entry they're in, makes me feel like my photos were half assed, and that, as a client, I was too ugly to be heralded as social media worthy. Half the purpose with my boudoir session was to feel physically worthy of being seen as sexual and sexually interesting and beautiful, and to see the words "I'd love to use your photos on my social media!" but then never see my face on her social media, felt like a really silent way of saying "go fuck yourself, you’re ugly, but thanks for all this hot hot cash". Being written about on my wedding photographer's blog like they had never experienced as adventurous a couple as Derek and I and then never featuring such interesting photos felt like I was just fed lip service.

And I mean, look.

Let's not kid ourselves. A good marketer makes you believe the truth, and a GREAT marketer makes you believe the lie. I do not at all hate the game being played, it's marketing 101. I've got it. The difference for me is, clients believe me because everything I do proves that I'm not lying. If I tell a client they're a dynamite mermaid, you can bet your ass they're going on my instagram, and I'll have a caption that champions them. If I tell a client they are doing a great job, and they tell me I can use their photos on my instagram, you will ONE THOUSAND PERCENT see their photo on my feed, echoing the sentiment of their greatness. I understand how CRUSHING it can be to never see your session in a photographer's insta oeuvre and have to reason it by saying that you understand because you're not a model.

Man. Fucking FUCK THAT.

I've had clients that have had positions of power and do not want their boudoir shots posted because their public image doesn't allow for that kind of thing. Clients in the military may not want to be posted because sensual shots could potentially violate some such code and they don't want to push their luck. Some people just aren't confident enough to have their photos plastered on instagram because of things they're working through. This happens, and of COURSE you won't see those photos on my instagram. This is something I discuss with clients before they shoot with me. When there's nothing impeding them, I always post their photos. Always. Because I can tell you from the back end that it feels hurtful and invalidating and just plain cruel to have someone shoot you and then they deem your images unworthy of being featured on their social media. From where I sit as both a client and a photographer, it says that any given client just doesn't sell you properly, regardless of the fact that they gave you their money, and all they're ACTUALLY worth is a notch on the experience belt, and whatever profit made off of them.

Maybe photographers don't realize this. Maybe to other photographers, it's easy to just justify this away as smart marketing. I’ve definitely heard photographers mention this...to only post photos taken of models. This is insane; to not showcase clients who have no problem being showcased is more likely to hurt their feelings than not, and I just...I don't fucking want to do that to people. It feels lousy having had it done to me TWICE. Three times, really, because my wedding and engagement were two different shoots done almost a year apart.

Here's my outlook:

If every single session I do isn't worthy of being put on my social media pages, I am ripping off my clients and I am no better than a snake oil salesman. If I don't put at LEAST one photo from every shoot I do up, it's going to look like I just hate the product I'm producing. Nobody wants to buy from a snake oil salesman that doesn't even believably buy into his own snake oil. Making people believe in you is critical, and I just...I don't believe the lie I was sold by my photographers.

Should the photos from my sessions be enough? Maybe? I don't even know anymore, because I seriously look at us not being featured on any of either business’s social media as them recognizing that our photos are not among their best. That the people they are shooting are not attractive enough to garner them new interest in their services. I cannot speak for all people, as I'm sure I am far from the only person that hasn't been posted by these studios, despite giving the go ahead to be put on instagram AND despite being told enthusiastically that using my photos on instagram would be great. Maybe 99.9% of the other people whose photos have never seen the social media light of day shrugged it off without thinking twice about it, and I wish I could do that, too. Maybe it's because I’ve had to scrutinize photos from sessions to determine which ones are “worth” posting, maybe that gives me a different perspective than other clients have. Whatever it is, I have it, and I can't shake it off.

I truly do not think there is anything more necessary for photographers than to have their own photo shoots done. It's so humbling, and such a learning experience, and I refuse to believe that there isn't a single soul that wouldn't come out of it with a better approach to their clients. Either how they talk with them, or how they approach retouching, or how they approach contracts, something. They would all learn SOMETHING.

I was taught to always treat people the way you want to be treated, and I think we all take the line that we want people to do that with us, but when we're gruff or blunt it's only because WE would want people to be blunt with us if we were in their shoes, so being less than kind is excusable. I don't really think that way . I would totally want my photos to be put on a pedestal by the people who took them, we all would if we were confident enough to have them shared. It's a kick to the emotional dick to have that rug pulled out from under you while someone tells you that you're good enough to be on that rug. I really don't want to do that to clients, and to my knowledge, I have only done it once. Of all the people who have allowed me to post their photos, there is only one client that I haven't, and I feel really ashamed of myself for it as I've written this. My only grace here is that this was six years ago, and I've learned and grown and had my own karmic retribution for this thrown at me, so I know to be a better person today, but like...thinking about all this? I understand why a lot of people hate photographers. This industry is so MEAN. I promise you, I am not a mean photographer, and I truly value you as a client.