Purpose : the reason why something is done or used: the aim or intention of something.
- Miriam Webster's Dictionary
Today I was mindlessly checking my Facebook for the umpteenth time when I came across a great blog post that my friend and fellow photographer shared from Jenna Kutcher's blog.
Yes, I admit it, I mindlessly click on the FB app without even realizing! It's like the social media fairies fly into my brain and force me to scroll through my feed even though I already saw the same 15 posts less than an hour ago! I like to think I am smart enough, social enough, creative enough, strong willed enough to go without the drug that is social media, but I am not.
The post was about the things that 'no one knows about wedding photography' and it is 100% accurate! Jenna candidly describes the dreadful fears of losing memory cards, the night terrors of camera malfunctions, the crazy hyper-focus moments we go through in a day, and the dreaded non-alcohol related "Sunday Hangovers." But her final two sentences are the all-encompassing truth about why, after I shot my first wedding I was hooked. "As we live and breathe and move through your day, we are pretending as if it is our own and documenting it in such a way that it will be impossible for you to forget it. The thing about being a wedding photographer is that at the end of the night when I hug you and say goodbye, I am secretly praying that this won’t be the last time our paths cross, because I have lived this entire day through your eyes and I never want to forget it or forget you."
Three years after second shooting my first wedding I started my little business. My one and only goal has been to create a memorable experience for my clients. I want that experience to result in imagery that will serve as a constant reminder of the amazing gift of marriage. I don't care if my images make it into a magazine or get the most likes on Instagram. Yeah, it's pretty cool to get recognized for my work, but that is not the true PURPOSE for my images... Think back to the days of our parents and grandparents. The purpose of their wedding photos was not to post them on social media to show off their 'dream wedding' to people they hardly even know! When you were a kid you didn't click through grandma's Facebook album to see her professional wedding photos mixed in with the crappy iPhone shots that your second cousin snapped. No, you sat and flipped through a beautiful album or held prints in your hands as she told you her love story. The purpose of those images was, is and will always be to tell a story. And while I am still learning how to make this 'experience' better and more memorable for my couples, I can guarantee that getting "likes" and "shares" isn't where I am spending my time.
Getting back to Jenna's post, nothing could be more true than her last two sentences. I have said it over and over again, truly KNOWING my clients is so important to me and to my process! By the time I arrive on a wedding day, I have already invested months of my heart and soul (and time) getting to know my couples. Most of the time it truly feels like I am walking into a friend's wedding, and by the end of it I don't want the friendship to end.
One of the best examples of this feeling came on the night of Andrea and Miles' wedding. Andrea was a bride who truly knew the purpose of a wedding. When we met to talk about her photography timeline she told me she could care less if I photographed the flowers or her shoes (even though I did because they were amazing!), she told me that my presence was important because we had become friends and because she knew I would capture the day as it happened and I would get the photos of her and Miles together on their wedding day, starting their marriage together. She knew that the moments of the day are what she will look back at, not the things. Andrea and Miles knew my purpose, the purpose of the photos and most importantly, the purpose of a wedding.
The purpose of a wedding is not to have magazine worthy photographs or the best hashtag so everyone who wasn't there can feel like they missed out. The purpose of a wedding is first and foremost a marriage. The reason a bride and groom take vows in front of their family, friends and God is to make a promise as a foundation for their marriage. I am so thankful that I have clients who know this and value it. In this day and age, social media is a blessing and a curse. My business wouldn't be where it is without Facebook and Instagram. But just like I must remember that my purpose as a photographer is to create an experience that allows my clients to remember why they had a wedding, we must also remember the purpose of social media. It's a means of connection, not comparison.