October 25, 2018

Wedding photography III

A few folks have sent in stories about successful photographers they know. For example, this one from reader Bernard Jansen:

My wife’s cousin (also a South African) has based himself in Colorado from where he runs his wedding photography business. He has positioned himself at the super high end market and have asked $90,000 for a wedding shoot.

That doesn’t sound like commodity pricing to me! Perhaps, there is hope for photographers, yet :-)

One theme that cropped up in a few messages was that it seems many of the togs who can charge a lot for wedding shoots don’t position themselves as wedding photographers... they do edgy photojournalistic work and maybe pick up a high paying wedding gig here and there, presumably from fans of their artsier work.

This got me thinking... does Annie Leibovitz (i.e., the most famous photographer I know of) ever shoot weddings? Sure enough, she was in talks to shoot Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s big day in 2014. It didn’t end up working out, but clearly Annie is open to the idea of doing a wedding shoot.

I’m guessing she wouldn’t shoot a wedding for peanuts. Why? Because she’s Annie Leibovitz. THE Annie Leibovitz. She’s a legend. A category of one.

Are her pictures the best in the world? I don’t know, I’m no expert. They look pretty good to me, but that’s not the main reason I’d hire her. She has a story, a point of view, and an incredible body of work.

Having her take your picture puts you on a list with the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon, Jim Morrison, Michael Jackson, Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth, Richard Nixon, Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and on and on and on...

So if she says it’s $100,000 to shoot your wedding, you’re not going to say:

“Are you crazy? Joe Blow Photo says he can do it for $1200. Tell you what... how about $1500 and three free drink tickets?”

Ha! I think we can agree that Leibovitz doesn’t need to work with folks who are price sensitive or who try to low-ball her.

But here’s the thing...

I know very little about Annie Leibovitz, but I feel it’s safe to guess that she wasn’t born THE Annie Leibovitz. For a long time, I’m sure she was just plain old Annie Leibovitz. Over the years - somehow or other - she turned herself into a household name. A category of one.

And guess what? Now she doesn’t have to race to zero against every amateur shooter with a Rebel T6 and pocket full of a maxed out credit cards.

She has set herself apart from the pack. She stands out. She’s different. Unique.

That’s what you have to do if you want to stop competing on price.