We had the good fortune of connecting with Kurt Boomer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kurt, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk is an interesting topic and is one that has taken up a good amount of thought process for me over the years. Interestingly, I feel that among my peers, I seem to an outlier. Perhaps I’m just a worrywart or perhaps there are some tangible risks with being in the wedding photography world. In the big wide world of wedding photographers, you can divide everyone up into three broad categories. The first being the entry-model, low-budget world. This is where you start, gain experience and hopefully move out of. Weddings are many times based on the lowest pricing and couples know that simply asking for discounts usually works. Then comes the mid-range world. Photographers here have a more established portfolio and set of skills and pricing tends to be higher. Lastly, you have the high-end or luxury world. A few hard-working and talented photographers will land here after years of grueling wedding seasons. It’s a fast paced and often insanely competitive field. Work tends to come from professional relationships. There are certain risks to being in any-one of the above categories. In the low-end, you aren’t making much money, the sheer number of photographers you are up against is intimidating and the possibility of getting stuck there are all things to consider. In the mid-range, the competition has lessened in mass but increased in talent. There’s a high chance that you will never advance to level three and time is not on your side. In the luxury market, the insane stress that high paychecks and mind-bending wedding budgets can create. You may never feel your work can justify the zeroes. To me, there are a few areas of risk that still have me rethinking my decision to enter the industry during the 2009 financial crash and whether it was worth it or not. As much fun as it may look to shoot high-budget weddings in Europe, Asia or even the US, the truth is, it’s very stressful. It takes a toll on you both mentally and physically. The pressure to present the clients and more importantly, the wedding planner with perfect photographs has affected a few of my friends to such a degree that they simply leave the industry and never look back. Physically, weddings are surprisingly demanding on your body. I have more than a few friends that now have bad knees, backs etc from years of running around with heavy bags of equipment for 10 hours a day. You also your own small business. You have the same risks as say, a CPA or bar owner. You are responsible for getting your clients and making them happy. Some months are lucrative, some not so much. While sitting in a beige cubicle at a large corporation may not seem like a dream job, there’s always the upside to knowing how much money will be in your account at the end of the pay period. As a wedding photographer, you simply just never know. Should you buy that new flatscreen tv? Will you book a shoot to cover its cost relatively soon? Lot’s of financial unknowns. Perhaps the biggest risk I see is simply time. Time it takes to make your business a viable to successful one. And the time that you have in the career. Wedding photography tends to have a short life-span. There aren’t a whole lot of 50+ photographers rocking it out there. I know of very few personally. Most seem to burn out around 40. That translates into me really wondering what I might be doing in say 10 years. At the age of 40 currently, I’d just be really hitting my stride for another 25-30 years of work in most careers. In wedding photography, Im well, simply nearing the inevitability of an end. Clients also tend to book in their age range. So, the older you get, the less weddings you’ll generally be in the running for. With said time risk, Im still happy with the choice I made way back in 2009 when I was laid off in the financial industry. I have spent more than 10 years away from a cubicle and out traveling the world and capturing some truly stunning events. Stresses that are important and need attention pale in comparison with seeing places that I would have never seen had a client not asked me to shoot there. The simple satisfaction of living on your own terms, not having a boss dictate your day and simply having a creative outlet is very important to me. The stress about being on my death bed and not taking the risk of entering this world is one I didn’t want to wrestle with. If I could give some advice to budding photographers thinking of making the same plunge I did it would be as follows: Make a business plan. Review your business plan annually. And most importantly, find and invest time into a career to retire to.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
In a nutshell, I hope my photography looks just as current twenty years down the road as it does now. Simple and natural. There are many styles that come and go and date wedding photographs. Avoiding this is important to me. A lot of where I got today was just putting in the hours. I started out advertising on Craigslist and moved on to making important vendor relationships. Theres a few aspects to being a successful wedding photographer. The first is just some natural talent in the arts. Second, putting in the hard work. And third is time. Time seems to be the hardest factor for people to get through. They want instant success. Unfortunately, you can’t bypass the 5+ years it will take to really get going in the industry. I look for clients that have a good style and put an importance on their photos. Clients that trust me and allow me to create as the day goes along.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I think I’d take them through the Arts District in Los Angeles. It’s a fun place with lots food, art and architecture to enjoy.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I just want to thank all of the photographers in my little niche that are still shooting weddings on film. I love the medium of film and I can only keep shooting it if others keep doing the same. So, thanks to all of those old school photographers!
All images @kurtboomerphoto