Lately, my family has been doing some shopping at Whole Foods in order to find some healthier snack and dinner choices (my new favorite milk substitute is Rice Dream. Yummy!) In doing so, it gave me the idea for a blog post. If you’ve heard acclaimed wedding photojournalist and Kennedy-clan photographer Denis Reggis speak lately, this blog post title may sound familiar. In the past few times I’ve heard him speak, this is an analogy he’s used to describe his affluent clientele: that the client he serves shops at Whole Foods, not Safeway. He wasn’t using a typical “high end” vs. “low end” analogy, like when you compare Tiffany’s to Wal-Mart. Instead, Denis was referring to the type of photography his clients want. Real. (You can actually hear him commenting on it in the WPPI recap video).
I originally heard him comment on this back in January during a Los Angeles Pictage User’s Group meeting where we were filming he and Joe Buissink for our upcoming “F-Stop Beyond: In Living Color” series. Someone in the audience asked about flush mount magazine style albums. Denis passionately shared that although those type of albums may be good for some, they don’t fit the taste of his uber-affluent clientele. They prefer leather bound, matted albums. He then went on to talk about true photojournalistic wedding photography. Capturing real moments as they happen, vs. staging moments. He talked about his clients desiring beautiful images that look real, as opposed to the over-Photoshopped, over-actionized images that seem so popular. These are the people who shop at Whole Foods because they don’t want hormone-injected, processed, and synthetic foods. They want “real” food that has not been treated. Likewise, they want real photos that have not been treated, or “directed,” to create a moment.
Real vs. Directed Wedding Cinematography
It’s no secret that Denis commands some of the highest fees in the business for his wedding photography, upwards of $50,000 and more. It made me wonder if there wasn’t a similar mindset among this caliber of clientele around their thoughts on wedding cinematography. Is there a desire among clients who are willing and able to spend five-figures or more on their wedding cinemtography, to have it simple, un-directed, and “real.” When I think about some of the highest paid wedding cinematographers, artists like Robert Allen, Jenny Lehman, Kristin Souders of Bliss Productions, David Williams, and of course, Paul Korver of Fifty Foot Films come to mind. All of these professionals frequently earn in excess of $10,000 for their wedding work, and Paul is famous for getting Denis Reggie-sized fees. They all do solid work, and although their editing styles are different, one thing they have in common is either a lack of stylized “bling, bling” to their work, and/or it’s all pure journalistic in nature. No staging. No direction. (A heavy use of real film is also used).
I’ve noticed this phenomena myself here in the San Francisco Bay Area (where my friend and colleague Kristin of Bliss is located). Our wedding work is definitely journalistic in nature, but we do a fair share of staging to get certain “artistic” b-roll shots. We also do a lot of post-production processing to get certain looks (we love the Magic Bullet, the equivalent of adding stylized actions in Photoshop). Our style and artistry has helped us earn some of the highest fees in our area for our wedding work. But, we’re no where near what some of these others are routinely getting. And there’s a high-end coordinator we’ve worked with a number of times who has shared with me that as much as she loves our work, many of her clients want a more simple, pure documentary style for their wedding videography. (Much of our wedding work tends to be more conceptual in nature, like this “Super Hero” themed video, or this avante garde Persian wedding).
So, here’s the $50,000 question: is it worthwhile to change one’s style of shooting and editing (whether it be photography or videography) in order to bag these elusive clients? Or, do you say “to heck with them. My style is what it is, and no amount of money is worth changing it.” Just something to think about as you map out your pricing and marketing strategies. Obviously, there is no right or wrong answer. But, it is “food” for thought. 🙂