COVID-19 isolation is a difficult time for wedding photographers. Upskilling could already be on your radar if you think about investing time in your wedding photography business during this time when weddings are banned around the world. But I want to suggest some out-of-the-box ways that we as wedding photographers can improve on during this time that you may not have thought of.
# 1. Document your life inside
If you’re something like me and have been shooting for a while, you may have broken that habit and 99% of the time you pick up a camera to be creative is for “work” or for “Client”. When you are constantly busy with your business, photographing and editing for clients, it is easy to forget to keep records of your personal life.
Something I feel obliged to do when I’m isolated is pushing myself to document my everyday life. In its most mundane form in a way that shows the beauty of it. I will force myself to pick up my camera every day. As I write this, it’s sitting on the coffee table in the living room, ready for anything that might inspire me.
It could be the way the light hits the flowers next to the TV. It could be the way the rain gently creates new paths in our window pane. This is what my wife could look like when the window light kisses her cheek while reading her book. These things may seem irrelevant at first glance. But they accomplish a couple of goals for me.
First, there is something very powerful in finding gratitude at times like these that I want to hold onto with all my might. When I have a camera in hand, I see the world differently and I notice things. I pay more attention to light, movement, and even how a moment feels. It helps me stay present and creative in a season where it would be so easy to just numb myself with Netflix and scrolling social media.
Second, I can’t speak for all of your weddings, but most of me are not perfect in every way. Sometimes I have to work really hard to hide the ugly parts of the room while finishing photos or work really hard on the angles to take in reception details to make sure they look good. On a wedding day, all you need to do is react quickly to these situations and do your best in the 10 seconds you have before the moment is up.
Documenting life at home gives you time to slow down a little and think. Often times, that extra minute of thinking is the bit that activates the creative center in your brain and allows you to play that muscle and really think about how best to grasp this scenario.
You don’t focus on standing in front of a guest or interrupting a speech or trying to think about the 30 moments you can’t miss in the next 10 minutes before the paperwork is done. Your mind is clearer, you are limited in subject matter, but you have time on your side. Take the time to flex those creative muscles.
Here are some examples of what I have documented during my time of isolation in my house and on my little walks with my wife.
# 2. Limit your equipment
Like me, you probably have tons of wedding photography gear in your study that is just gathering dust while you’re not shooting weddings. It’s a little daunting to think about taking creative pictures of your home and having your entire kit bag with you all day, and chances are you’ll do nothing at all.
If you can get more excited about shooting with 6 lenses, then I’m not saying you don’t. But my personal recommendation is that you limit yourself. Both in the amount of equipment you use and the quality of the equipment you use. When you have to buy an old mirrorless body on eBay that is super dated for that. I give you full permission to send this article to your spouse to justify it.
Here’s why. When you have all of the equipment you can quickly get into a pattern where you know exactly how to take on each scenario. Because these days your equipment allows it. If it’s pitch black and midnight and you want to take a picture, don’t even think twice now because our cameras have crazy low light capabilities that they see better than we do. But I don’t think this is the best way to expand your creativity. I think that using those creative muscles in your brain is usually one of the best ways to limit yourself. And that’s because it incorporates your problem-solving skills.
When shooting with an old Fujifilm X-Pro1 or something similar, you have to deal with things like slow autofocus, limited dynamic range, and ISO functions that make you stop and think a little more about how you proceed will shoot. The way you capture a moment with the “right” gear just doesn’t work.
You need to find a workaround – think differently about light, how to position a subject, and how to position yourself. This will do wonders for your creativity and give you the opportunity to really improve your wedding photography when you return to weddings with all your gear.
I challenge myself to a mirrorless body and a solid 50mm lens. And a couple of film cameras that only have fixed focal lengths of 50 mm. Which leads me to my next tip.
# 3. to shoot a film
Shooting movies is such a valuable practice that I think every photographer should have some capacity throughout their life. This tip is currently optional as I know that many wedding photographers are currently struggling financially and filming movies isn’t cheap. They don’t say “Stay Broke Shoot Film” for nothing.
As with the last point, a lot is about limiting yourself. The film sets you a lot of beautiful boundaries and drives you to work within its limits or to get really creative and still break out of them. It reminds you to stay present; You don’t always have to look at the back of the screen to make sure you enjoy the shot. You need to take your time and think about your framing. They know that doing something wrong (like not focusing on the bridal party) is an expensive mistake.
The film has such a beautiful visceral process. It’s all manual, convenient. It really takes you back to the joy of first discovering photography, and that physical enjoyment factor in creating a picture can often be half the battle in getting out of a creative fear.
In this time of fear and uncertainty, it is also something absolutely wonderful to have something to look forward to. For me, that was waiting for film scans to come back from the lab. And I feel like a little kid waiting for Christmas to come back.
# 4. Stop following wedding photographers on social media
Okay, you might want to argue with me about this. Seriously though, just give me a minute to explain. I know, I know. You want to be inspired during this time without work. But there is one thing I know for sure when I speak to so many creative minds in this difficult season: fear is at an all-time high.
Even some of my photography heroes feel very bad and talk about getting other jobs or quitting this profession. It’s crazy to me, but I understand. The thoughts also come to mind. When there is no work on the calendar for 6 months that has not been canceled or postponed, it is really difficult to stay positive and watch every other photographer in the world go through their best of archives and all of their Icelandic elopements released is not what he is going to do to help improve your own photography during COVID-19 isolation. Believe me!
Now if you are watching other people’s best highlight roles, you are going to feel crappy about your work. 99% of the time, unless you have a concrete ego. You will feel it. Just let that go of your life. Focus on what you are doing. My incredible friend Teppo Happoja made an artist profile video of me a few years ago that explains some of these things better than I will likely do in writing. But seriously, if you are a wedding photographer and you follow me on Instagram, you have my full permission to stop following now.
# 5. Take in alternative inspiration
If you’re not taking inspiration from Instagram, which I think is one of the worst places to get inspiration from, where should you get it from? It is a little difficult to answer as this is different for everyone and will inspire you. Usually for me this list includes a lot of nature and being outdoors, which is pretty problematic for now.
But maybe it means picking up a novel for you. Check out some documentaries or award-winning films. (Maybe even some foreign films where you just watch visual storytelling. Maybe leafing through old magazines (not necessarily photography) and watching them tell stories. If your brain can find something in an alternate story loving it as the guy you usually say has to figure it out how you’d do this in your own way.that is the gold!
Now let’s all agree not to fill our eyes with comparisons of other photographers’ wedding work and seek inspiration that we cannot copy. This is something that we have to translate into our own work and filter through our own lenses to create something unique, something that only we could have done.
About the author: Joshua Mikhaiel is an Australian wedding photographer working for New South Wales and beyond. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Mikhaiel’s work on his website, Facebook and Instagram. This article was also published here.