Otto was visiting Dallas, so we met partway in Waco at the Common Ground's coffeeshop for about 2 hours. I recorded the meeting on my iPhone, and it was pretty interesting.
He shoots 18 wedding a year, and he starts at 5k. And he said a lot of things which went against what I've picked up from the Austin photographers here, like he doesn't use off-camera flash. Which to be honest, I don't like using, and it's a pain in the butt to set that up during the reception.
I like his work because he isn't so over-lit, and I feel like a lot of wedding photography is just boring, lit in the same way. If my work looks the same as everyone's, why hire me?
He said I was very talented and my composition is very balanced. I joked about him saying that in all his mentor sessions, but he said he doesn't, so I choose to be happy that someone of his talents think my work is fantastic. He said that I could easily become a successful cookie-cutter wedding photographer if I choose, but otherwise, to find my own voice and style, it would take several years. He told me to figure out how to brand and market myself. This is pretty interesting stuff to me, because even though I just booked another wedding yesterday, 7/20, and I do feel like I can be reasonably self-sufficient in this field, like any artist, I want my work to be great, to be different.
He went over his post-processing with me which is a bit crazy. He photoshops and individually work on every single image. It takes him a month to edit a wedding. That's very unusually time-intensive, especially since he delivers 700 images or so.
I think the best part is that I've walked away with a sense of confidence in my work, and being able to do wedding photography my way. If I don't want to do off-camera flash, I don't have to do off-camera flash. If I want to do photo-journalistic, unobtrusive, then I can.
I've been complaining that I haven't found a style yet, because my post processing changes with every blog post. But he shook his head and said I do have a style, and the way I see things is consistent. So that is good to hear.
He did suggest that I start to follow more photographers outside the wedding world, and to get a medium format film camera, and do more street photography.
The best part is he said that we now have a relationship, and he'll be happy to tell me anytime how he got a particular shot step-by-step. And if I think I've a money shot, I can send it to him and he will process it for me. I think having a mentor at his level, with his attitude, is a great investment.