Uhh there was no cleaning lady in our flat – the same mess around as we left it 4 days ago. (By the way, we have never had a cleaning lady here.)
It’s been a long wedding photo editing process before this great event Way Up North. There was no time for daily things. But I am better photographer now, better than four days ago. This was one of the best learning experiences. A lot of new things to do, a lot of smiles, tears and aha moments. Good conversations, coffee and warm autumn sun in Stockholm. I want to share some thoughts and lessons learned from this wedding photography event. Maybe it will be more interesting for photographers, but others can get at least some visual insights from Stockholm.
A few months ago, when Nordica guys announced this photo summit, there were mixed feelings. So many great names in the speakers list, the best of the best wedding photographers and more – almost all my favourite ones. And the event takes place in Stockholm which is only 1 hour flight from Riga. Almost next door. The only thing – the price of the event ticket + plane tickets, hotel and other travel costs were around 1 month salary. After some discussions with my friends we decided we should go. Even wedding photography legend Jonas Peterson (yes, we had a chance to meet him twice this year), Samm Blake, Ed Peers and many more whom I have followed for many years were on the speakers list. It was too hard to resist and speakers are too good to miss them out and definitely we would have felt sorry if we had not gone to this event so close to us.
Tickets were in our pockets, but there were more months to wait. Before the wedding season it was confusing why such a great event takes place in autumn. Now I know, it is better because now there will be more time to do those new things and improvements.
It was a bit easier to wait for this summit, because there was a podcast for every speaker. That gave a chance to get know the speakers better and keep in mind that they are great personalities first and great photographers after that.
After a busy September (a lot of wedding shootings and long editing hours – my workflow is not that good as the one of Ed Peers :) ) the day had come. A small vacation and a hard learning experience at the same time.
In the plane I was a bit worried. There would be more than 400 great photographers and 11 Top wedding photographers from all around the world. I am not the first person in a crowd – networking for me can start after some glass of wine. I didn’t know what to expect, this was the first summit in Europe of that kind. Worried not to be a rat in a big rat race. There is a feeling that everybody wants to be a destination wedding photographer, the best photographer in the world and they are better than I am. Hmmm writing is like an AA meeting, maybe I’m thinking so, because I want to be the best from the best and somehow I put all others in this basket.
The plane was preparing for landing. I love flying – a golden autumn landscape of Sweden from the plane’s windows was giving this warm feeling. I was together with my friends and I said to myself – we will spend a great time in Stockholm.
The first things first – after dropping bags in our AirBnb flat we went to the event place to register. The first people which we met were Cole and Jacob from Nordica – I was so happy, they are real life persons – yes, I glorify them (the top photographers) too much. In my mind I have a perception that I know them, because I have followed them for the last few years. Internet gives us an illusion that we are closer than we actually are.
Good dinner and sweet night sleep. The lectures can start. One sad thing – in this old cinema house there was no WiFi and it turned out to be great thing at the same time – we had a full attention on the artist talks.
Crazy Mexicano friend Fear Juristi was a really good choice for the opening speech. The Mexicano spirit for Northern Europe was fun and refreshing. The biggest take-aways were “We need to practice every day” and “Love is more than Kiss-Kiss, guys!”
James Moes – a quiet stranger from America. The first impression – quiet waters run deep. Good thoughts – we all need weekly adventures and we as photographers don’t need to please everybody. We need love our clients as much we can, bet keep it in our mood and way.
Nessa K – the speech was one of the technical ones. It made me think more about lights and the plan of a wedding day. Useful information that reminds me how more often I got this golden sun photoshoots this season, because I was talking about it with my wedding couples.
Kat Williams – one of my favourite podcaster from WUP podcasts. She is not a wedding photographer, but she has a great wedding blog – Rock’n’roll Brides. Uhh I love writing. My native language is Latvian and it is a bit harder and slower to express myself in English. In this global world I should and I want to move on. To blog a bit regularly and improve my language skills. She was a great speaker, too. Reminded me about being yourself and share stories more often.
Ed Peers – “Every wedding is an adventure” – he represents me as a traveler, adventurist. His love of landscape and traveling is so understandable.
“Traveling makes you modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world” G.Flaubert
He teaches me about what is important for me as a photographer and how to show what I love.
Samm Blake – an emotional boost for this first day. 5 magical words which defines me as a photographer. She definitely makes me think about me, myself and why I do what I do. Now on I will enjoy confusing silence with my couples. I will give permission to the clients to be themselves.
After the first presentation day we played this game with friends. Each of us wrote down 5 words about each other what represent us. My top 5 was Simplicity, Honest, Emotional, Good use of light and a lot of forest :D My own version was Exploring, warm feelings, heartly, natural and live/emotional pictures.
But this is only a small part of the homework. Now I must revise my artist statement and think more about my way of doing things.
After long day of walking in Stockholm, visiting Fotografiska and writing this late at night I stopped and went to bed. I saw a strange dream – I moved to Japan and it was a struggle how to be a wedding photographer in Japan, how to write using hieroglyphs. There was a hurricane outside and my Play Station was left in Riga. Then my alarm clock went on and I woke up, because today I had some work to do.
The first day of speeches was so good and I was so thankful to be there. Second day’s opening speech was Andria Lindquist – I know her very little – the night before going to Stockholm while finishing our last retouching works we listened her podcast for the second time. I didn’t know what to expect -her topic was about the client experience. The main lesson for me – there must be more than just great wedding pictures. Couples should feel special and I as a photographer should always be improving my skills. Andria is a great speaker and performer – stage loves her :)
Ben and Erin Chrisman – they always smile and we should, too. An important thought was about slowing down – they are crazy shooters, I was confused about my 3000-4000 frames per wedding (very often we shoot 16 hours in Latvia), they shoot 3x more in less time. This works for them – they get those key frames. A good wedding is when I cry, when I feel as a friend to the wedding couple. Ben and Erina create the same feeling, and this is the way to go.
Shiny Jasmine Star – I had a feeling I knew her, because for years I have watched her Creative Live lessons so there was a person in my mind. She is a great spiritual talker. Probably her father and church community have had a big influence on her. There were many smiles and tears. Focusing on our strengths, being ourselves and it is not what we get, but what we sacrifice to get that. A good point is to not forget about life. To meet your friends, to get healthy lifestyle and be great people, because we are better photographers is we feel good.
The wedding photography legend Jonas Peterson – I had a chance to meet him twice this year. In spring he visited the Baltic wedding contest, and we had an opportunity to talk to him in a small group.
Definitely Jonas is a tear master. He has a great talent to tell stories and make audience to be in tears. The main goal for Jonas is to tell stories, in every wedding there is a unique story. Great story tellers are great story listeners. In nowadays the storytelling is a must, a default. Everybody tells stories – the main tipping point is to tell your true self. To find out your main strengths and not to do something because it is cool, to be you.
After this event there was a party. A little bit of small talks, photobooth fun and dancing. Our Latvian gang was the first one on the dancefloor. Ok, it is hard to call it dancing. It was great to see how friendly the speakers were. Everybody had a chance to say Hello and talk a bit with them. Open and friendly evening. When you’re in your group, it is easy to stick around, to stay in your comfort zone. I had some steps outside of it and I deserve some cookie for doing it :)
When emotions have settled down, now what? So many things to improve. Where to start?
This longest blog post for me is a first step to combine my notes and think about the biggest lesson learned.
I have promised myself to blog every week, yes, I know I had a similar promise this spring after the Baltic wedding show, now I am more serious.
The most important lesson could be paying bigger attention to my couples and give them a better service. No more delays in my picture delivery. Experimenting more and defining my favorite things, my taste in photography. Too broad decisions – sounds to general.
Let’s be more precise. In next 6 months I will:
- Under promise over deliver
- Define my 5 words about my photography style
- Blog every week
- Shoot every day (at least with my iPhone)
- And writing my book – I got this fun book in Fotografiska, after the first pages I fell already curious what’s next. We will see.
Those 4 days in Stockholm felt like a fresh start. There are so many thoughts in my mind, hope to stick with this feeling and find a way to become a better photographer, better person to myself, friends and family. This sounds and looks easier than it is. Small steps every day and if I miss a day, it is not a big deal, the most important is to follow the path.
Hope to not to sound boring. If you are reading this last line, thanks for your time. I will reread this after 6 months, let’s see in what stage I will be. Thanks to my great Latvian Gang and big thanks all Way Up North team for this event. Hope to see you all again!