As part of our month-long celebration of wedding photographers in our community, we asked Benj Haisch—world-class photographer, teacher, mentor, and longtime friend-of-ONA—to share what he's learned in his decade-plus as a wedding photographer. From running a business like a CEO to focusing on what's meaningful, here are five hard lessons—and some favorites from Benj's portfolio:
1. Always Have Backup Gear.
Things will always break at the worst times, so if you’re out doing anything of significance that can’t be reshot, make sure you have enough back up gear. This includes cameras, lenses, flashes, memory cards, batteries, and hard drives. If you’re photographing weddings, I’d suggest never having less than two cameras on you during time sensitive moments like the ceremony. I had a camera freeze up on me more than once at crucial moments in the last year, but was able to just drop that camera down and continue shooting with my second camera without any real issue.
2. Communicate Communicate Communicate.
Almost every client issue I had early on came down to not properly educating someone on how I do things or setting good expectations. Anytime I get frustrated about something, I try my best to assume positive intent from the other person and look back to how I could have prevented the issue from arising. I ask myself where the disconnect was and figure out how to better communicate and avoid it in the future. The more information you can give someone about your expectations and policies, the more you’ll have everyone on the same page.
3. Traveling Isn’t As Glamorous as Social Media Makes it Seem.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE traveling and it’s amazing to experience new places and cultures through weddings, but the grass isn’t always greener. Logistically, you’re usually spending a minimum of 3 full days dedicated to one wedding while shooting one locally would allow you to either have a couple days off, an extra work day, or even shoot another wedding in town and double your profits. You also don’t have to stress about flight delays and other travel nightmares. Speaking of nightmares, if you *do* travel, my advice is to book your own travel. That way you can book when you want, get your own points, and make changes if necessary.
4. You’re More of a CEO Than a Photographer
If you do this for a living, you’re going to end up doing far more work as a business owner than a photographer if you work for yourself. Sometimes I’ll have weeks on end where I will still work 40+ hours a week and never pick up a camera. Make good systems, outsource things you hate, and make time for your mental health. Sometimes that means hiring a house cleaner if you hate deep cleaning so you can spend that time on your business instead. Just know that this job provides a ton of flexibility if you take advantage of it and it doesn’t take advantage of you. So save for retirement, think ahead, and embrace running a business.
5. The Most Meaningful Photos Aren’t Always Impressive
The legacy of my work is always going to be viewed through different figurative lenses, but the ones that are most important revolve around the people in them. For the general public, the view of my work will usually center around the epic landscapes and creative portraits, which I absolutely love. That being said, the further removed we get from those initial moments, the more the photographs that really incapsulate a feeling or relationship or moment will stand out far more for the people who have a personal connection to them. Simple family portraits will be so much more meaningful than an epic landscape or portrait in 20+ years and those photos of people who are no long with us will be priceless. Weddings are a celebration of all of the great parts of humanity and it’s an honor to jump into someone’s version of that for a day.