Educational Outlets for Photographers
Photographers looking for educational outlets are flooded with options these days. Yet, as a group inundated with workshops, styled shoots, and informational videos, it is hard to find a photographer bold enough to get out of the comfort of a studio and provide a genuine look into the experience of shooting an actual wedding.
Noticing this wide gap in the industry, Pinhole Pro collaborated with ambassador Luke Walker of Clark + Walker Studio with the idea of creating a collection of educational videos that was filmed on location, at a real wedding, all while not allowing the project to interfere with the wedding day. The risk paid off, yielding a strong, tangible resource for photographers who desire an honest experience over a staged setting.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Luke about his experience creating these videos, as well as enjoy his contagiously passionate ideas that drive his successful business.
Briana Moore: I LOVE that you filmed these on an actual wedding day. It’s so easy to simply pull in models and create a setting where everything is guaranteed to look amazing. This was unique!
Luke Walker: Absolutely! When Pinhole Pro approached me they were like “we want to do this as an actual wedding, NOT a model shoot”. There’s not an open field with lighting assistants. We are not doing a fashion shoot for a magazine. This was about how you deal with actual clients. Actually seeing it used practically, in a real shoot, makes this a little bit different.
BM: You are so energetic and open with your clients. There is obviously a feeling of trust between all of you. What is your approach to client relationships, and how do you build that rapport?
LW: When we had our initial viewing in the studio, to get photographers feedback, the biggest question was “How did you end up photographing them during that perfect light?” What sets you apart is educating your clients. Getting to know them ahead of time, exchanging emails, and making yourself available all the time. You establish that trust when you are willing to be available. Being viewed as more of a friend, less intimidating, kind of breaks that barrier down.
I think that’s half the battle of our work, just laying that ground work down before hand.
BM: It’s perfect how you believe that it’s YOUR job to tell clients that. They won’t know that on their own. You provide the info, not all couples take it, but you need to communicate that.
LW: Oh absolutely! When we did the premiere here in the studio, one of the local photographers said to me “what do you do when someone wants you to shoot outside in the middle of June on a 90 degree day at 2pm?” … and I’m like, “I DON’T.” That doesn’t happen, because if it does happen, you aren’t doing your job.
BM: Exactly! If they want the same quality of work that they are seeing from you, it’s no problem for you to say, “this is how I do it”.
LW: Right. From the first conversation, it shouldn’t be about packages, or F-stops, it should be about their wedding, learning about it, and actively helping them out. It’s not like I’m some magic photographer. If I’m shooting in an open field at noon in June, my photos are going to suck just like anyone else’s. I don’t put myself in that situation. It comes back to educating the clients, and telling them, “I wouldn’t pull you out if it wouldn’t be the coolest shots from the whole wedding.”
BM: Education and interaction completely pays off. Watching you interact with the bride and groom felt very authentic. A great balance of totally encouraging, but not over the top… Would you say that comes from being so collaborative in the beginning?
LW: I think it’s two-fold. I think that 1) it’s actually BEING that excited. The day I’m out there shooting one of those sunset portraits with those types of couples and I DON’T get excited, is the day I need to be doing something else. That’s why I do this. That (excitement) and 2) the fact that I’ve gotten to know this couple. They’re excited that you’re there, you’re happy to be there.
BM: Do you still get nervous?
LW: YES (laughs). Every time. Once I get less than 30 minutes away, it kicks in. I think the blog actually has a huge factor in that. You know everything you shoot is posted, it’s public now. Obviously, you want to do a great job for the client. But I know for me, we have a huge blog following and there is a certain expectation. This is a job that is going to be viewed by the client, their friends & family, my friends & family… yeah, that still gets me nervous. With social media, there is always people viewing your work, all the time.
BM: And all of your work is being compared, for those consistently following it…
BM: Were you nervous doing this whole workshop, having the cameras there, or was it better because you had your own team?
LW: I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be! What I was most nervous about was giving the client an amazing job. I didn’t want to come in so focused on making this video that work was sacrificed. I didn’t want to be missing shots because I was talking to the camera. Fortunately, I had Alicia (my wife) there that day. I wanted to make sure I had someone there to make sure everyone was taken care of.
BM: You have such a great knack for taking advantage of your surroundings. What is your approach to storytelling?
LW: Shooting weddings weekend after weekend, you don’t want to show up and shoot the same thing. I like showing up to different locations and taking that challenge. I’m forced to keep it fresh. There is a way that I go into the wedding (for overall storytelling), but I always adjust it as it goes. One of the things that I enjoy about weddings as opposed to fashion, etc, is you aren’t pigeon-holed. It’s nice to just have a flow to it. It’s fun and exciting!
BM: That attitude keeps with a good, honest narrative, and tells the story of their wedding. If you are forcing what you wanted it to be, you wouldn’t be telling their story.
LW: I totally agree. I’m so glad you said that. I’ve done weddings before where I wanted it a certain way, or brought props to the wedding, and afterwards I realized it didn’t really fit. You have to roll with it, or else the pictures just don’t look good together.
BM: You mention in the video that as you shoot, you are thinking of both the clients desires, as well as shooting images for the album. How do you achieve that balance? Where do have to think about both?
LW: It’s more about details. I know the specific shots that I want. For the bride, if she has mentioned what is special, I make sure to get those. I’m also consistently thinking about the blog… that’s where most people will see these details, and where she will want them.
BM: What did you learn from creating these workshop videos and what stands out the most as you watch them now?
LW: When we were creating the videos, I remember at the reception, I pulled my team outside to regroup and see what we got. We had an aggressive checklist that was totally not feasible. Certain things needed to be sacrificed because of time. We could take the couple out to shoot at sunset, or we could shoot room details. You know what it’s like, you have to improvise on the wedding day. I didn’t think we got what we needed, I thought it wasn’t enough… but my team said I was crazy! It’s funny, I find that I always feel like I need a little bit more, then I get home and realize I had enough. I think you want so much to make sure you take care of your client, and then you don’t realize how much good stuff you’ve got, you know?
BM: Right! But that’s great, because you’re not just becoming complacent. It’s a much better problem to have too much goodness to choose from.
LW: (laughs) I think that was one of the things that I learned the most. If you think what you have is good enough, DON’T. You need to take it a step further. It’s their wedding day! The other thing I took away from this goes back to my earlier point about educating your clients on timelines. This continued to drive home what a huge part of our job that is.
BM: In addition to weddings, you also photograph Fashion Week in New York. What is that like?
LW: We have been doing this with The Knot for about six years now. It’s good to have those relationships with the magazine and the industry. We also have ended up shooting weddings for people who work for The Knot. The main reason we kept this alive was for marketing purposes. When a bride approaches you, who loves your work, but thinks you are a bit expensive and might be looking at someone else… your name plastered all over the magazine gives you a certain level of justification.
BM: I was looking at a post on your blog about fashion week, with you sitting in one location the entire shoot, and in the videos of the wedding you are moving and energetic.
LW: Right. You are sitting there shooting the exact same thing. I don’t mind doing it a few times a year, but, artistically, I would much rather be out in the sunset on a vineyard shooting something fun.
BM: Speaking as your target market with these videos, I would call them a great success.
LW: Thanks! I’m glad we got a chance to do this.
Interview by Briana Moore – Lifestyle Photographer
Briana Moore is a Boston based Wedding & Lifestyle photographer, specializing in delightful, honest, emotional imagery. When Briana isn’t behind the camera, you can find her enthusiastically championing all things jovial and community driven. If you share a love of art, a fondness for wandering, or a deep connection to the Swedish Chef, please stop by and say hello.
Luke Walker is a co-founder of Clark+Walker Studio, a photographic + cinematic wedding studio based in a beautiful storefront in Upstate NY. The C+W team is comprised of a trio of shooters who are regular contributors to some of the nation’s largest magazines+blogs.