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I Am, Whoever You Say I Am

I recently attended Shutterfest, a photography conference held in downtown St. Louis, Missouri.

The Shutterfest Vendor Floor.

I've been to several conferences, but I gotta tell y'all, this was nothing like I had ever experienced before. Multiple classes a day, the best vendor show I've ever seen, non-stop opportunities for photo sessions, food trucks (oh, the food trucks!) and a Who's-Who lineup of instructors that all made for one heck of a week.

Cinematic Photographer, Michael Anthony, working with model, Baylee Wemhoener, behind Union Station.

During one of my classes, famed Senior Photographer, David Beckham, (no, not that David Beckham) started off his presentation with this:

You are not the Photographer that you think you are.

Your brand is not what you say it is.

You and your brand or what your clients think of you.

Hmm, well THAT caught me off guard.

I mean, I comb through my website and curate my social media. I work on my copy making sure it portrays me accurately, but he's kinda right.

I can make claims and watermark images with my logo, but if my clients don't feel it...if they don't rush to tell others, then is it really effective?

He then had us take out our phones and text the following simple message to a few of our clients:

“I’m at a workshop right now.

I need three words that describe me as a Photographer.”

That was it. Short and simple.

He told us not to look at the answers until the end of class and he went on with his presentation. Over the course of a couple of hours, I could feel my phone alerting me of the responses that awaited.

David Byrd working with The Most Intriguing Man in the World.

When he was finished, he had us look at the answers on our phone and we shared them with the class. These are some of the responses I got:

  • Spontaneous, relaxing, comforting

  • Fun, thoughtful, creative

  • Creative, passionate, incredible

  • Photophile, Artistic, Patient

  • Poetic, Storyteller, thought-provoking.

Go figure.

I think if I were to make up my own three word list, creative would definitely be included.

Artistic was nice to see.

Storyteller really surprised me. As a matter of fact, it was during this conference that I listened as the "true pros" discussed their workflow and the topic of storytelling came up a few times. I had already told myself that it would be one of the things I would work on when I got back home. Yet here was a client of mine who believed I was already doing it!

The other words don't even have anything to do with photography, or maybe they do. They have less to do with creating an image and more to do with the overall client experience - which coincidentally, leads to creating better images. To see words like relaxing, comforting, fun, and patient on the list warmed my heart, as they describe how I made the client feel during our session.

As photographers we tend to get caught up in cameras, lenses, lighting techniques, posing, and editing software. While all of those things are important, we have to be reminded of the photographer / client connection and overall client experience.

And thanks to David Beckham and a handful of clients who responded, I'll never forget this lesson.

Selfie with THE David Beckham.


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