The Hard Reality we’re Facing with Instagram as Wedding Photographers

This winter we sold our things, bought an airstream, and started living on the road. During this adventure we’ve decided to change the way we think about our business, the way we interact on social media, and most importantly, how we live our lives. It’s important to us that we’re real and honest as we grow with our business and as we learn how to put ourselves out there.

So, this is a post about what we’ve learned.

(Photo by Hannah Shea Studios)

Somehow a large part of the wedding photography industry has become more about trying to be a celebrity and more about your status within the community, rather than what wedding photography is really about: creating beautiful images for your clients as memories on their wedding day. For us it’s been hard to be on Instagram as wedding photographers without the feeling that we’re stuck in a game of comparison with other photographers.

We’ve been following 350+ wedding photographers on social media for the past few years while we were living in St. Louis, Missouri, running our business. We have only met and made real connections with about 15 of the 350 photographers that we were following. Most of these people were traveling more than us and photographing in stunning locations that we had yet to travel to.

In making a decision to explore the country together, we’ve had the chance to start photographing in these epic and Instagram famous locations. We’ve had the opportunity to experience photo shoots that we’ve seen on Instagram for years. We’ve met up with photographers that can help our portfolios and our social media look like the dream we’ve been following and seeing online.

In these two months, we’ve realized that you can so easily lose grasp of what feels fulfilling in running a photography business. You can find yourself getting sucked into the comparison game, the jealousy game, the Instagram “success” game. The game that distracts us from what is real.

The reason that Jamie and I know that we’re running a successful business is because of the reviews we get from clients about who we are as people and the images we create for them. That’s all that should matter to us, and because of social media, it hasn’t always felt like enough for us.

 

We want to share a story with you. It’s a story about what should be a “photographer’s dream”, but for us, was a major wake-up call.

We met up with photographers in one of the most beautiful parts of the US: Page, Arizona. Some wedding dresses were borrowed from a boutique and our friends were game for dressing up and modeling for us. It was an amazing opportunity for our portfolio. Because of some hiccups that came up, we all arrived to start shooting with only the last 30 minutes of good light during the day. Me and another sweet photographer friend hopped on Jamie’s shoulders, taking turns to get some shots. We worked around each other with all of the time we had, and when it was too cold and too dark, we headed to our cars. The next day we toured a different part of Page in the morning, and frantically got awesome shots of each other with the time we paid for in the tour. During these two days, there were hundreds of tourists all trying to take their selfie, crammed in next to us. The stunning photos that we got don’t connect with the actual experience we had.

It was a whirlwind of an experience and when it was over, Jamie and I both had our own breakdowns. We felt icky about it. We felt icky because to us we had experienced these beautiful locations with the undercurrent of Instagram success being behind the shots. It felt like desperation. This isn’t to say we’re ungrateful for the experiences we had and the beautiful photos that came from these shoots. This just gave us an understanding that we need to shift where our priorities are, and get back to why we started this business in the first place.

 


(Photos by us. Not pictured: hundreds of tourists to our left and right)

 

Jamie and I sat down over breakfast yesterday morning, to talk about *why* we are in this business and how we can continue to run a business that feels good to us.

Instagram:

We’ve decided to change the way we scroll on our business page. We are now only following people that we’ve connected with in a real way, or people that inspire us for sharing their own authentic voice and art.

We can’t escape the aspects of social media that are hard, so we’re going back to social media with the goal of understanding that we want growth and we want awesome clients finding us, but in growth, we want to be real and we want to be giving.

Intentions for our photography:

We’re shooting first, for our couple. It’s about them and their celebration of love. And second for ourselves, because we’re the artists and friends behind the camera, getting inspired by the love.

Photographing in beautiful locations:

We are committing to experiencing beautiful locations for ourselves and our own hearts and not just for the hope of a viral image.

 

None of this is to say that we’re above the social media game and the issues that come up with comparison. This is just more of an honest reflection about how we want to utilize social media as a business tool and work on creating a sense of community around realness and purpose.

We’d rather talk about the real parts of being on social media as wedding photographers rather than continuing to play the Instagram game without recognition of it. We’re here to figure out how to share our authentic voice and to help you share yours too.

If you’ve been struggling with these same feelings, our hearts are with you. Know that if you’re creating images that make you and your clients happy, in the end that’s all that should matter. At least that’s what we’re going to try to remind ourselves as we move forward on Instagram.

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