shoot what matters ~ deep thoughts for the photographers in the crowd

 

I had a moment over the weekend. 

And before visions of Barry White singing and me in a Snuggie holding a glass of champagne start dancing in your heads, it was actually a much different kind of a moment. 

 

I showed up to shoot a wedding and had made it past the initial greetings, the chest bumps, the high fives, and the three mimosas that I usually begin wedding days with and had wandered off to play with the bride’s dress, which sounds way more scandalous than it actually was. It was a gorgeous dress, in a gorgeous bedroom, with gorgeous light. I was happy. I was really happy, actually. And then I noticed a little blue cloth anchor sewn into the fabric of the dress. At that exact moment the bride had walked in, either looking for something or checking to make sure I wasn’t actually trying the dress on, and I asked her about it.

 

And that’s when everything went all serious and emotional on me.

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Her father had passed away two years ago. She was every bit a daddy’s girl, and she’d spent her childhood growing up at the lake they lived on with him. He loved the water, and her something blue was an anchor made from one of his dress shirts so she could have him close her entire day. And as she told me this story, the tears started coming. Now, I have zero problems crying with brides. I do it on a fairly regular occasion, in fact. First looks, father daughter dances, when the booze runs out, any number of reasons. But this time hit me a little harder than most. Call it a combination of my dad not being in the greatest of health mixed with having a daughter and knowing full well how badly I want to be present for her wedding day, and also trying to wrap my head around being a bride and not having your dad present for something like that.

And so for ten minutes I stayed in the room by myself, tears flowing at the rate of thank God for autofocus, and it all started to sink in. This was the one thing she’d asked me specifically to get a photo of. Beyond all of the elaborate flowers and the beautiful décor and everything else that made up an absolutely wonderful wedding, a piece of dad’s shirt was what was important. 15 minutes earlier it was a piece of blue fabric on a dress. 15 minutes later, it was her daddy with his arms wrapped around his daughter on her wedding day. 

 

 
If you’re a new photographer, especially a new wedding photographer, you’re going to be inundated with the “shoot to get published” mantra that prances around gleefully in our industry. Thousands of photographers, shooting to hopefully impress the elite few that perch themselves on top of the massive dung heap of vintage, lace, burlap, and faded yellow broken dreams that so many try to climb. 

Always remember this one thing – shoot from your heart. Turn off the background noise, turn off the blogs, the wedding websites, the magazines you want to be in (PS, no one reads those anymore), and remember why you’re a photographer in the first place. If you shoot for you, and create from your heart what it is that you see, not what some intoxicated intern behind a desk at a wedding blog tells you that you should see, you’ll be light years ahead of everyone else trying to get noticed. If you create good, solid work, blogs and websites will contact you and ask for your work. This I promise.

There’s a whole entire industry begging you to be fabulous. Shoot vintage. Shoot flowers. Shoot details. Shoot this. Shoot that. And there’s a place for those things, really. But when a bride calls you around midnight a few days after her wedding crying and asking for any photos you have of a family member that was at the wedding that unexpectedly passed away that day, or you get letters of thanks for the random photo you took of the groom and his dad laughing because that was the last photo they had together, or the crazy reception photos you have of the bride and her sister were some of the last ones they had together, all of the lace, burlap, vintage, and details you took photos of don’t mean jack. 

 

People.

 

Relationships.

 

Love.

 

Those things are why we do what we do. 20 years from now, no one will stare longingly at an artistic sun flare shot of the table setting you took in hopes to impress a wedding blog or magazine. People will look at the laughter, the smiles, the memories of loved ones no longer around. 
I’m not saying don’t take pretty details shots. I’m not even saying don’t submit your work. I’m just saying always remember that grandpa kissing the bride on the cheek, even if it’s a poorly lit, nasty background, no sun flare to be found, no chance in hell of ever being published shot, will be way more important to the bride than that pretty picture you took of the bouquet on the table. 

Shoot for your clients. Happy clients are so much cooler than a happy wedding blog.

happy fourth of july ~ ‘merica ~ birdsong wedding photography

 

 

American Flag on Barn

There’s moments in life that stick out in your brain more than others. 

 

First kiss. First really bad injury. Especially if those two happened at the same time. 

 

This time last year I was able to spend the evening of July 4th on the side of a mountain in Missoula, Montana. I’ve been on the side of that mountain many times, and I’ve seen fireworks many times, but what I’d never seen before was watching thousands of people set off their fireworks all across a huge valley at one time. It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. It almost made the hike up there and the subsequent collapsing and gasping for air while getting passed by entire families of people that were in shape worth it. 

 

Wherever you find yourself this Independence Day, whatever your plans may be, and whomever you may be with, I wish all of you a safe, wonderful, magical 4th of July filled with great memories. 

 

And just in case I have to say it, if your Roman Candle doesn’t go off, do yourself a favor and don’t look down the end of it to see what’s wrong.

 

You’ll thank me. Promise. 

 

Happy 4th, 

 

B

to tani & josh ~ and every other amazing client I’ve ever had ~ poems from yours truly

Here’s to my couples, the guys and the gals
that have enough guts to tip sacred cows. 
That know beyond doubt, at the end of the day
nothing sucks quite as much as ” We did it their way.”

Because ten years from now, when you’re smarter and fatter, 
all those other opinions really aren’t going to matter. 
Being true to yourselves by far will outweigh
Making everyone else happy on your wedding day. 

So hug the doubters, and comfort the criers
If you have to, hand out wedding day pacifiers. 
Do as you will. Go crazy, be bold. 
Because you’ve never been ones to do as you’re told. 

To the rebels, the crazies, the brave, and defiant
You have all my love, you insanely cool clients. 
Go forth, get hitched, bring the mad monkey love
And we’ll graciously tell haters, their opinions to shove. 

 

 

To Tani and Josh. The first couple I’ve seen walk each other down the aisle, just because they wanted to. 

Much love. 

B

 

 

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hey, girl ~ an open letter to my brides

Dearest you,

 Just in case you need a little push in the direction of doing your own thing for your wedding, allow me to remind you that traditions can be started by anyone. They can also be completely avoided by anyone. And a lot of them, in regards to weddings, have absolutely ridiculous and outdated origins that if you Googled for a few minutes, you’d wonder why they’re still around at all.

All that’s technically required is that you’re legally married at the end of the day. What you do with all the time in between is completely and totally up to you.

Some of the happiest brides I’ve ever worked with have thrown tradition to the wind, ignored everyone that said the sky would fall if they dared to be different, and done their own thing. Don’t ever be afraid of that. If you want to have an all day party with a 15 minute ceremony in the middle of it, do that. If you want to hang out with each other before the wedding, do that. If you want to throw a bouquet of gift cards so everyone can participate instead of tossing flowers to the single folk, do that.

Your own imagination makes Pinterest look like the recycled garage sale of second hand ideas that it is. It’s your love story. Not anyone else’s.

 

Be yourselves. Go crazy. It really is your party.

 

I’m Brett Birdsong and I approve this message.

 

*drops mic*