13 years in - 5 things I wish I'd know before becoming a wedding photographer
I’m not much for writing. It isn’t that I’m not good at it, it just… it isn’t fun. I don’t enjoy it. Here we are, me writing and you reading. I feel compelled to say something. But first let me give you a little background. I’m Sean, 1/2 of AFFOB. I’ve been a wedding photographer for 13 years and I’ve started several companies. Some successful, some failed, and one where I was let go. From being an original co-founder of VSCO to starting Tsunami and avalanche. I’ve learned a lot about running a business, creativity, and where happiness fits into all of it. Some of these points are incredibly easy, and some aren’t. I made this for you. Here we go.
01: When you think you’re close enough, take a giant step closer…
…take a giant step closer. I mean this figuratively and literally.I did some time at art school and majored in photography. I honestly regret it and I don’t think photography is something you can learn from a book or lecture. But I did take away one thing. One day in class we had a photojournalist as guest speaker and I am serious when I say this — The moment he said “when you think you’re close enough, take a giant step closer” my whole world shifted. I’ve taken that advice into my photography career and applied it so hard. Working with couples is an intimate thing, and I believe there is no better way to show a couples love than to be physically close to them when you are making photos.
Fear is the number one killer of creatives. Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown. Fear of what others will think. If we succumb to those fears we will never see our full potential. If we can push through our creative fears we can be rewarded by our risks.
So many want immediate results. You see it on Instagram with attention grabbing tactics, purchased followers, and many willing to work for free or close to it. Building a lasting and sustaining business takes patience and working long hard hours. I’ve never regretted working my ass off for this because I cared and I believed in my work, and because it made me happy. I started in 2005, but things didn’t really begin to happen for me until 2011. In 2011 I was awarded Photo District News’ 30 Rising Stars of Wedding Photography. And in 2013 I took the honor of being named one of the Top 10 Wedding Photographers in the World by American Photo Magazine. Because of these features my photography started to bring me around the world. If I didn’t practice patience and work 12+ hour days, none of this would have happened, I’d have quit. If you love it, stay the course and hammer away. If you don’t love it, do something you actually like.
04: My Aim is True
The wonderful thing about working for yourself is you are in control. You get to say yes and no. Be true to yourself and don’t waver. There is no substitute for a beautifully executed vision. Especially when that vision is all your own. Don’t get caught up in what someone else is doing, keep your head down and continue to grind away until you find your path. Be true to yourself and people will respect that.
05: become a beacon…
Become a beacon for those that want what you have. I’ve been in business for the past 13 years with my sole income from photography. And while the landscape of wedding photography is changing, I still believe in an attraction rather than promotion approach. Strive to be so good at what you do that you can’t be ignored. A good question to ask yourself when you’re looking at a piece of your work is, does this make me feel something? If you don’t feel it, don’t expect anyone else to. You don’t have to show everything you make, just the highlights, the frames that make you feel.
Few are listening.
Be true to yourself.
Believe deeply in your work.
Continue to push forward.
Sean Flanigan - AFFOB