A photographer is hired for a wedding and delivers an amazing collection of images. Is this what it is all about? Is the job only about the ability to produce well composed images that tell a good story? That goes without saying, of course, but is that all?
The other day I took a walk on the beach not far from my house, and saw this text written in blue on the rocks. It reminded me of a story. Imagine it is New Year’s Eve in New York City. It’s almost midnight, and the temperature outside is close to freezing, and windy. You are at Greenwich village, inside a local bar, packed with people and smoke. Music is loud. Something from the 80’s. The Joshua Tree perhaps. All the seats at the bar are taken, with two lines of people pushing to get a drink before midnight. You are the bartender tonight. A girl manages to squeeze close to the bar and shouts; “DO YOU HAVE SEX ON THE BEACH?” You know it is a drink, but you just started tending bar and you don’t know what’s in it. What do you do?
Why am I telling you all this? Because what you need to understand is that when someone walks into a bar and orders a drink, they don’t come for the alcohol. They come for attention. They are paying for the drink, but they could have gotten it a lot cheaper at the corner store. What they want is to feel important!
“Every single person on earth walks around with a sign on his chest saying; I Want To Feel Important!” – David Beahm
The customer at the bar is happy to pay extra for the same drink because the bartender is paying him special attention. There is a conversation, a flirt, eye contact, time is shared, and memories are created. This is what they look for.
A Photographer Needs To Think Like A Bartender
Photographers hired for various assignments, be it wedding photography, or any other photo shoot, often forget this. Sometimes they don’t even think about it. The assignment is to produce images, but it goes way beyond that. A commercial artist should be able to make the client feel secure, content, happy. The legendary Helmut Newton had put it very nicely.
“My job as a photographer is to seduce, entertain, and amuse” – Helmut Newton
So back at the bar in New York City. New Year’s Eve, and the temperatures are low. You might not know what’s in that drink that she asked, but you have a couple of options. The simplest is to ask her. Either that, or you can ask your colleague behind the bar. That is not the issue. Not knowing is not a problem. The attitude is what will make or break this interaction.
Client: “Excuse me, do you have Sex On The Beach?”
Bartender: (smiling whimsically) “Of course, but not this time of the year” (wink)