Thomas Edwards just got engaged. If you know Thomas you’re probably engaged yourself or actively pursuing a path towards love (and lovemaking). A few days ago, we met up for drinks and I half-jokingly asked The Professional Wingman if getting married was “bad for business.” Without skipping a beat, he coolly said, “Being a product of your own service is the ultimate sign of credibility.”
A Choice of Trainers
Using Thomas’ example: Let’s imagine you want to hire a personal trainer and meet with two prospects. Trainer #1 has an amazing physique, optimistic attitude and offers a personal story about how fitness is transforming her life. Trainer #2 is overweight, defensive when you ask about it and insistent that his fitness method is the best. Overall, credibility is our belief in the trustworthiness and expertise of the source.
While it may be easy to judge Trainer #2, I’d be surprised if you didn’t have a little flab that needs toning within your creative business…I know I do.
In 2009, I was the wedding photographer version of Trainer #2:
1. I was easily aggravated and quick to argument.
2. I publicly insisted that my photography/business method was the best.
3. Privately, I compared myself and my work to others and was VERY insecure.
4. Oh yeah…I was also 30 pounds overweight (see below for a photo).
In the winter of 2009, I was introduced to Damien and Nicole after producers from The Biggest Loser googled: “new york engagement photographers” and discovered our studio. Nicole and Damien were contestants on season 6 and their engagement session was filmed for an episode. The shoot took place during the midway point of their fitness journey. Zooming out a bit, you can see camera crew, picturesque skyline and more details about their story.
The Ultimate Sign of Credibility
This experience signaled one of the first times, Nicoline and Damien allowed themselves to be photographed from the neckline down. As Nicole explained, she avoided images of her full-body and generally preferred to be behind the camera (she’s a stylist). Beyond the engagement shoot or wedding day, a remarkable love story was emerging: a story about “letting go” of unhealthy habits and starting over with more mindful practices. A story about getting fit and unlocking relationship potential.
As wedding photographers, I believe we have the opportunity to offer our credibility (trustworthiness and expertise), optimism (positive vision for the future) and personal care to the couples we serve. We also have a chance to explore the credibility of the couples we serve BEFORE committing to working together. Ultimately, your sense of the relationship and personal connection directly impacts how you photograph. Is (insert couples name) story one that you genuinely believe in and care to photograph?
As Seen on TV
For Nicole and Damien, I whole-heartedly support and honor their relationship. Their story goes well beyond anything that was televised. During the show, Nicole and Damien were sent home from The Biggest Loser ranch early on. Working from home and a local gym, they cultivated a fitness regiment. As a result, they lost a combined 259 pounds through healthy diet and exercise. 3 years later, they’ve maintained the weight loss and Nicole herself is a personal trainer.
Nicole’s credibility naturally emerges because we (national TV audience) witnessed her shift in attitude and behavior toward fitness. Watching her in action, I was personally inspired to change my behaviors around diet + exorcise and lost about 35 pounds.
An Inconvenient Truth
As you begin the new year, consider your sources of credibility:
1. Take 5 minutes to close your eyes and honestly reflect on your life and business right now.
2. Consider where you are clearly embodying trainer #1 (what you do really well).
3. Examine your attitudes and beliefs that reflect trainer #2 (where you need fitness).
4. Afterward, take a moment to write out these qualities (without judgement or shame).
5. From a place of self compassion, you can begin creating a plan of action that reflects your studio vision, intentions, and goals for 2012 and beyond.
I’m exploring this process right now. Following up, I’d love to hear what you come up with and encourage you to leave a comment below. You can also find me on twitter and/or post your own response article via blog.
Lastly, here’s a picture of Nicole and Damien on their wedding day:
About Parris Whittingham
A born New Yorker, Parris is inspired by the soulfulness, wisdom and love of his mother and grandmother.
He leads a passionate team of storytellers & craftspeople to boldly explore remarkable love stories.
Bio photo by Jessica Lehrman