Series: What Wedding Photographers Can Learn From The Music Industry

Series: What Wedding Photographers Can Learn From The Music Industry

If there’s one thing we know about Robin Thicke, it’s that he recently put out a VERY controversial music video, and he’s taking over the radio waves with this sexy song! To many people he’s an overnight success, but he’s been in the business for over 13 years! How can you become an “overnight success” like him?

Let me start by stating that I am not supporting Robin Thicke’s song, it’s video, his demeanor, nor his choice in shoes. He is a fantastic musician and he and his marketing team have come across a goldmine of publicity. I would also say similar things about artists like Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, and many other artists who have really figured out the system of marketing and publicity in the music and entertainment industry. There is something in common with successful album launches and music careers, and that’s what I’m going to be writing about in this series.

This is a huge topic, and I don’t intend to completely explain my vision in this single post. I will be continuing this topic for a few posts in the following weeks, covering one aspect of the topic in each post. We as photographers can find so many parallels with the music industry in our own art. We can see it in our image making and editing techniques, as well as in our delivery and business strategies. Our business is just as much of an art form as our images are, and we need to figure out our identity as a business artist.

Let me start by explaining the skeleton of my example, which is how we line up as pieces of the puzzle in our respective industries.

Who is the Artist?

In music, an artist writes and creates something from their thoughts and experiences in an effort to convey a feeling to a listener. They are the originator of the content, and it is the artist who is the focus of the attention in marketing and publicity. The artist has a story, and they are trying to share it with everyone by creating something unique.

For example, Metallica is a band (or a group of artists) who have come together to make music. They create melodies and rhythms that suit their topic and intentions in their music. The lead singer, James Hetfield, is often seen as the front person for the band and will likely receive most of the attention of the media.

In Photography, it’s not as you may have thought it would be. You are not the “artist” when it comes to a wedding, although there is an art to what you do. Your client is actually the artist. In most cases, for the sake of the analogy, the bride is even seen as the “Front Man”. This is really important to understand when it comes to marketing in the wedding industry.

So where does that leave you? Did I just take the title of artist away from you? Not in the least!

You are the Producer and Engineer!

All of the sudden it doesn’t sound so glamorous does it? After all, it’s the guitarist who always gets the groupies isn’t it? Producers and Engineers often don’t even get public credit for what a huge role they played in the final product of the Artist’s career.


The artist couldn’t be nearly as “successful” without the producer and engineer that helps them produce their art in a way that can be loved by the public and cherished forever. I’m sure we can even think of a few one hit wonders in Photography!

So, now comes that chance to embrace the role of producer and engineer when it comes to your photography and the creation of the Bride and Groom’s story that is their wedding day. You might even consider their Wedding to be their sophomore album that will be followed up by many other releases that you can have a part in, that is, if they like you as a producer.

OK, enough about you. Let’s talk more about your couple who is the artist. They have a following of devoted fans, many of which have enjoyed parts of their story in small clubs and social events for many years. Some of their best fans, possibly even their fan club leaders, will be included in their album that you’re producing. Their parents and close family have supported them since they got together (hopefully) and have seen them go through ups and downs in their life together. They really have something to say, and an identity together that they want to convey to the world.

When it comes to their wedding, they go all out. They will create decorations, choose lighting to enhance the mood, and even have fun things for all of the guests to go away with. Their intention is to enjoy the best day of their lives with the people that mean the most to them. The more originality and personal touches they put in to their story, the more critical acclaim they will often see by blogs and social networks.

A musician recording in their basement with little gear and know-how will often produce a sadly embarrassing product, but if the core of the art they are creating is great, then with the help of a Producer and Engineer, they can put out a masterpiece. Likewise, with the help of a great photographer, a Bride and Groom’s story can be told in a beautiful, evocative way and may result in an equally charming masterpiece.

With all of this said, I urge you to think of yourself as helping your Brides and Grooms tell their own story. It’s not about you; it’s about them. Put THEIR watermark on the images! I kid.

Become a great producer. Learn how to get to the heart of what the story is and find the best way to convey that to the rest of the world. Use your artistry to bring out the natural and personal touches that the couple wants to share with the world. Coach them in to showing their best selves, and encourage them along the way. I would encourage you to look up some of the music producers that your favorite artists have used and see what you like about them. See what other artists they have worked with and if you can find any similarities between them and if you can see them as an artist themselves.

Become a great engineer. Learn your craft and how to best use the tools at your disposal to create a polished product that your couple will be proud of. Study techniques of other engineers and incorporate them into your practices if they fit your vision. Don’t embellish or fake anything that will make your artist lose their integrity (Liquify is the new auto-tune and head swapping is the new lip syncing!)

There is so much more to be said about this, but I’m going to leave it at that for now. As I said earlier, I’m going to be expanding on the correlation between the music industry and the photography industry in future posts, so stay tuned. For now, start shopping around your portfolio to potential artists out there, and maybe even co-engineer for a producer in the meantime!




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Honestly, you lost me at "Robin Thicke is a fantastic musician." :-o

hahaha, as a musician, he is very talented...his music...meh ;)

He's terrible! But I like where you went with the whole thing, great article. :)

Most of my friends work in the music industry. I can totally relate to this! thanks!

Great article Matt. Love the analogy used.

Right on man, I am a former musician turned photographer, I cannot agree with you more on this. As for Robin Thicke, catchy sells. His previous albums contain much more soul and were not nearly as popular as his new single. Excited to see if he pulls a John Mayor and goes back to his roots after this.

Good Call! Thanks for the comments Steven!

Anytime :)

We're you awake when you wrote this crap? Just curious!

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