Something you may not know about me: I am an okay vocalist.
I’ve been singing on a church worship team on and off since high school, so you’d think I’d be accustomed to the sound of my own song.
NOPE. When our worship pastor Gentry first mentioned the idea of recording services so we could listen back to “game tape,” my reaction was yeah, HARD pass.
Pridefully, I didn’t want to listen back on what I knew would be a mediocre recording.
But then Gentry started the conversation about recording some the songs he & worship team members had been writing. Gentry’s background is in the music + touring scene, and he’d been in talks with a producer friend who was on board to help us record our first EP, Children & Kin. In a move of total generosity, Gentry asked myself and another of our female vocalists to sing two of the songs he’d written for the final album. We recorded over a period of a few days in February 2022, and the EP came out a few months later.
For someone who’d been avoiding feedback for years? I was really, really nervous. But as it turns out, the experience was incredible.
And the effects of what I learned in that first recording session has had reverberating effects in how I lead worship ever since.
So when we recorded a new single, Save & Send, this past summer, I knew I needed to take notes. Because what I was learning in the recording booth goes way beyond any individual song.
My first recording attempts in Feb 2022 for the song “All Things Praise Thee” on the six-song EP was… fine. Our producer, Adam, gave me some feedback along the lines of “I need you sing this less perfectly.” Which I had no idea what to do with, because, what do you mean, less perfectly.
Gentry and Adam made the final track emotive despite my somewhat wooden vocals, but listening back, I can hear what Adam was trying to get me to do, which was to RELAX. To inject something more raw into the track.
So when we came back together to record “Save & Send” this past summer, Gentry told me ahead of time they were hoping to get a softer, “breathier” sound from me, because it was a better fit for this particular track.
Because the purpose of worship music isn’t to make much of ourselves as artists, it’s to point others to JESUS.
As brand photographers, your work is not about you. Brand photography is about creating visuals that point others back to your CLIENTS. They are the main focus here, not our own portfolios.
So sometimes this means a client will ask for something that you know won’t fit into your IG Top 9 (is that even a thing anymore?). Brand photography requires you to be flexible, to place the client’s brand vibe over your own need for 100% portfolio consistency.
When we were prepping for Natalie Franke’s second brand shoot of 2022, her graphic designer had a specific vision for high-key lighting and colorful seamless backdrops. So we rented a studio and brought in rolls of paper backdrops, and I shot the entire thing with studio lighting. And you know what? The final product doesn’t look like most of what’s on my website. But it’s what the project NEEDED, in order to allow Natalie’s brand to say what it needs to say.
As a wedding photographer, I knew that the wedding planner’s word was [mostly] law. As a brand photographer? I’m usually the one running the show, acting as both photographer and creative director.
But sometimes, there’s another vendor DOES know better. I’ve had a few projects over the years where the client is working on a book, and the progress they’ve made on the book design so far absolutely influences how I compose my shots on the day of their session.
For Mary Marantz’s session, her editor actually flew out for the shoot to give input in real time. And it was REALLY helpful, because I got to see the first proofs of the book pages and get an idea for where the photos from the should would fit in, and what sort of compositions would be most helpful given the current layout and design of the book.
Ceding authority doesn’t mean abandoning your own expertise, and it doesn’t mean you can’t stick to your guns if you really and truly believe something won’t work, but I’ve found brand photography to be even more collaborative than my past work in weddings.
I won’t mince words: listening to your own game tape is a vulnerable experience. So is asking for feedback from brand clients once their project is complete.
It doesn’t feel GOOD for someone to tell you “that wasn’t as good as it could have been,” but outside input helps identify areas you weren’t aware you were struggling. And as painful as it can be, when they put their finger on an issue you KNOW isn’t strong but you’d been hoping no one else had noticed? It forces you to get real with yourself and your own work, and to stop pretending that “good enough” is sufficient.
Hot take: ignorance isn’t bliss- it’s laziness. Especially when people are paying for your expertise. Pretending your weaknesses don’t exist doesn’t then make you strong, it just means you’re apathetic about the possibility of getting better.
And when you’re asking for feedback from trusted sources, you learn not to take it personally when the results are less than what you’d hoped for. You take it as an opportunity to get better and grow a stronger business with your next project or client.
As photographers, working in the service industry SHOULD be a humble position, but too often forget that it isn’t about us; it’s about the people we serve. By being willing to adapt to the needs of a project, sharing the lead, and listening with a critical ear, you’ll be better equipped to use that incredible set of gifts I KNOW you have for the good of others.
Check out Save & Send here!
Find the full EP, Children & Kin, anywhere you love to listen to music-
Or, y’know, just ask Alexa to play it for you.