“The principles you live by create the world you live in. So when you change the principles you live by, you can change your world.” – Stephen Covey.
Begin with the End in Mind
One of favorite books EVER is 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Momentarily stop reading this post and click the link to go order it- life changing!
One of the concepts Covey talks about in this book is ‘begin with the end in mind’. He talks about how important it is to think about where you want to go and to deeply envision what destination you hope to reach. By beginning with the end in mind, you give yourself clarity to think about the steps that are necessary to get where you ultimately want to go.
A Personal Mission Statement
One way we can practically help ourselves to begin with the end is mind is by creating a personal mission statement. The goal of the mission statement is like a simple road map, always reminding you of the place you are hoping to reach. There’s lots of freedom in how exactly you want to craft your mission statement (maybe it’s a bulleted list of values, maybe it’s written in paragraph form, etc.) but the point is that you are thinking about who you want to be and then putting that in writing.
That’s when it hit me. How do I want to be remembered on a wedding day? And after I pondered that question, I decided to make a ‘wedding day mission statement’ that is composed of five core values for my attitudes & behaviors when photographing weddings. I coined this my “Five Wedding Day Values.”
Over the next few weeks I am going to share all five of the wedding day values that I created for myself. I review these values before each wedding as a way of recentering my brain, so that I can be focused on these mindsets while I work.
THE FIRST VALUE: Look for the Opportunity
The first of my five wedding day values is: look for the opportunity. This value is composed of two sub-points that work together, they are:
1. BE RESOURCEFUL
2. TRAIN YOUR EYES TO SEE
Let me explain.
On a wedding day there are obviously opportunities all around you, but sometimes it’s hard to see them. Especially when you’re first starting out, you might be photographing weddings that aren’t *exactly* your style. Maybe you dream of gorgeous, light filled getting-ready images, buuuuuuuuuut the bride is getting ready in a hotel room with one window. Ugh. That doesn’t exactly look like the opportunity you wanted.
Or maybe you’re really looking forward to photographing the bride and groom, but it starts raining during portraits. Now what?!
Or maybe you want to photograph a beautiful invitation suite, but the paper details the couple gives you are less spectacular than what you imagined. BOO.
In all of the cases above, your focus is on the thing that you don’t have.
You don’t have a perfect lighting scenario to take getting ready portraits. You don’t have the right light conditions to take bride & groom portraits outside. You don’t have the invitation suite to take beautiful detail pictures.
That’s where this value comes in. Instead of focusing on the opportunity you wished you had, LOOK for the opportunity right in front of you.
What do you have?
Is there enough light coming out of the one window that, if you frame the picture correctly, you know you could get a gorgeous picture? Is there a spot outside of the room they are in (maybe the hotel lobby, maybe an open space somewhere else in the venue) where you could move the bride to take pictures of her finalizing her wedding day look? Do you have a clear umbrella that you could use to take the bride & groom portraits in the rain? Could you bring your own styling details (like a ring box, some cute ribbon) and create a beautiful styled picture with or without the paper details that the couple gave you? BE RESOURCEFUL. Look for what you could use, and use it!
Look for the opportunity.
At the heart of this value is the belief that even if you don’t have the perfect lighting scenario, even if you don’t have the most beautiful details, even if the style of the day is a little bit different than your ideal, that you can look for opportunities to make great pictures, and make them.
This value puts the responsibility back on you.
That can be tricky because when you’re responsible, you’re accountable (if only to yourself) for the outcome. But it also liberating because you have the power to look for opportunities instead of being at the mercy of your environment. Instead of arriving on a wedding day and being disappointed or complaining about the environment/style/circumstance you are presented with, you can look at a ‘less than ideal’ environment as an opportunity to grow your resourcefulness muscles.
Even as you start to shoot weddings in more ideal environments (when there actually IS good light in the getting ready space, when the couple DOES give you beautiful paper details to take pictures in) you can still use this value to make a great situation even better. That’s where the second part of the subtitle comes in: train your eyes to see.
There are beautiful little moments all around you. Moments where the bride shares a genuine hug with her grandma. Moments where you see the ivy on a building inching up a wall in a such a beautiful way. Moments where you notice laughter between the bridal party. There are so many beautiful moments just waiting for your eyes to see them, and your camera to capture them. Be on the lookout for these moments always.
NOW, SOME EXAMPLES
1. The Cool Patterned Floor
Maggie & Alex had a beautiful invitation suite for me to photograph, and I was excited to do just that. I always bring a few ‘styling tools’ with me on wedding days. One of those tools are ‘styling boards’ that are flat, plain, surfaces that I use to place the invitation suite on when I photograph it. But on this day when I arrived to the venue, I noticed this unique floor tile and I immediately knew I wanted to use it as the backdrop for the invitation/styled detail picture.
I of course didn’t expect to find this cool floor when I entered the venue, it was an opportunity that I have trained my eyes to look for. I carried all of Maggie’s details downstairs from where she was getting ready, I propped open a door so that natural light could flow into the space, I styled the invite/shoes/rings as you can see in the picture, and BOOM. Opportunity, captured.
2. Rain Rain, I guess you’re okay 😉
Rachel and Dan got married on a day where the forecast was thunderstorms, all day long. Thankfully, we had a few pockets of time when the sun came out and we maximized those times (look for the opportunity for sun!). But EVEN THOUGH IT RAINED, I captured some of my favorite pictures ever. And to be honest, these pictures wouldn’t have happened without the rain!
The first picture, on the left, was taken when Rachel and her bridesmaids were finishing getting ready. They were getting ready at a house, and we had planned to take pictures of Rachel and her bridesmaids outside of the house, near some of the trees that were there. It had just rained, and the ground was all wet and slightly muddy so we didn’t want to do that (especially before the ceremony). Instead of chalking it up as a lost cause, outside of my control, I decided to look for the opportunity. Maybe we couldn’t do group pictures like we wanted to, but there was a nicely lit porch right outside of the house. It wouldn’t get Rachel’s dress muddy if she were to stand on it, and we could take some bridal pictures of her. And that’s what we did!
The picture on the right was taken when it was LITERALLY pouring.down.rain. I stood under a little covered area of the venue (gotta protect the expensive camera gear haha), and Rachel & Dan inched out of the covered area into the grass and kissed under the umbrella. This moment latest all of 15 seconds before we ran back into shelter, but how seriously cute is that picture?! It’s one of my favorites from their day and it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t seen the rain as an opportunity to take that kind of a picture, instead of an obstacle to be annoyed with.
3 . The Classic Car
Lauren & Jeff had this AWESOME classic car on their wedding day. This is an example of the opportunity being somewhat obvious: THERE IS A COOL CLASSIC CAR, uhmmm, USE IT! But sometimes these opportunities that are obvious, can be intimidating. We know we need to use this opportunity in front of us, but how? Is there a non-cliche way I could photograph this moment?
The rather obvious thing to do with the car is to photograph the couple in front of it (which I certainly did, and I was happy with how those pictures turned out). But part of what I loved about this car, was the opportunity to make a picture that told a story.
With that in mind, it made sense to photograph Lauren & Jeff actually inside of the car. After all, they were using the car not just as a pretty prop, but as transportation. So for this picture, I asked Lauren and Jeff to sit in the car together and go in for a kiss! I framed this picture by opening up the car door closest to me, and positioning my camera so that the door blurred the bottom of the frame (like you can see above).
There are many ways that I lived out my value of looking for the opportunity in this example. For starters, I trained my eyes to see a moment that told a story. And secondly, I utilized my resources by using the car door as the element that framed the entire picture.
Look for the opportunity
There are beautiful and unique moments all around us, that are just waiting for our eyes to bring them to the light. As photographers, we must become experts in looking for those beautiful little moments and highlighting them with our cameras. We must have the mindset that even if the initial circumstance doesn’t seem to be the best, that there are opportunities right within our reach.
I challenge you to create your own list of wedding day values. Feel free to be inspired by the values that I am sharing, but also challenge yourself to make these values your own. Ask yourself, what are character traits that I really want to embody on a wedding day? Once you start to articulate those values, TELL MEHHHHH. I want to hear! Shoot me a DM on instagram and we can talk about it together!