I have never, ever been one for awards. Here and there I might enter something for a bit of fun, but in general, I don’t give two hoots about them. I’ve always believed that the best reward you can receive is knowing that you’ve simply done your best. That you know, deep down, that you’ve thrown the kitchen sink at a wedding or photo shoot and there’s no way you could have done better that day. Photographing people isn’t really like playing a game of rugby where if you turn in a poor performance this week you can always up your game next week. Oh no buddy-boy, you simply have to turn on the juice week after week, end of story. There’s no space for mistakes. Anyway, before I amble way off subject, back to awards. So I’m sitting and editing some photos when the phone rings: ‘Hi Warren, this is Gug’s from Cape Talk – are you available for an interview with John Maytham tomorrow afternoon.’ My heart skips a beat. John Maytham? Uh-oh, what have I done wrong? Here comes trouble. What next? Carte Blanche? So I wrack my brain, trying to think who I’ve offended or what I’ve done wrong. Have I missed a wedding I was supposed to be at perhaps? Gug’s continues: ‘You’ve been nominated for the Cape Talk/Softline Pastel Small Business Awards.’ For the next 24 hours I’m a complete bundle of nerves. Helen tells me that Tamlyn whose wedding and Trash the Dress I shot nominated me. I want to kill Tamlyn. I’m excited but not relishing having to go live on air. Anyway, the next day comes, 5.12pm arrives, my phone rings and it’s Cape Talk. I’m shaking, peppermint in mouth, glass of water next to me. I listen to Tam giving a virtuoso performance while John interviews her as to why she nominated me. And now I’m thinking: ‘Jeepers, this chick is good, how am I going to match what Tam is saying here?’ The next thing I’m on air and I chat to John about Trashing the Dress and my approach to wedding photography. The man is a complete pro and makes me feel quite relaxed throughout.
A week later it’s the awards ceremony. We arrive, are ushered upstairs, meet some of the other finalists and drink some champers to calm the nerves. Africa Melane is standing on the red carpet, microphone in hand and each finalist gets to be interviewed by him on camera. We meet the Program Manager of Cape Talk and everyone is in good spirits. Then we go downstairs – a band is playing, snacks are being served, there’s some beer. We laugh, we chat, Patricia de Lille, the Mayor of Cape Town arrives , I meet John Maytham, life is pretty good right now. Helen keeps giving me small words of encouragement and I can see she’s rooting big time for me to take the title. Then the speeches start…
Now I’ve heard some quite amazing speeches at weddings and I’ve seen grown men cry as they deliver them (and I’ve seen Helen cry too as she listens to some speeches). But while wedding speeches are generally emotional affairs, the speeches at the awards were nothing but absolutely and utterly inspirational. Each and every person who stood up to speak had me hanging on every word. And what they said, left me leaving the awards knowing that my vision for Warren Williams Photography and how I run it are spot on. To me, however, it was the really, really big cheese of Softline Pastel that had something very telling to say. He said: ‘Running a business is not about the money. Sure, money is important because you have to pay the bills. But, running a business is about passion.’ And boy, was he ever right. Because let me tell you, when you have a passion for what you do, when you really love your job, you absolutely cannot go wrong. Allow me to explain this through a typical wedding day…
My contract states that I’m (generally) at a wedding from 2.00pm – 10.00pm. But that’s not entirely true. I usually wake up, have some breakfast and hit the road at about 10.00am. Once I get to within artsandhealth.ie/fluconazole/ striking distance of the venue, I amble around the area stopping here and there and usually rethink some of the shots I was going to take in specific areas. Often, the weather on the day will dictate what I change. Then I get to the venue, pop in to see how the décor is coming along and take a few shots. Then I walk around some more. In most instances the weather is ridiculously hot so I check out whether my plan to keep guests in the shade as much as possible is feasible. Then I go and see the bride. I assess whether she’s calm or nervous and how I’m going to make her rock the party! Then I look at her dress and accessories and work out where and how I’m going to shoot them. Then I get to work on her in the way I think is going to get the most out of her. By the time I leave for the ceremony I always know that my bride is ready to head into the biggest day of her life like a rock star.
The ceremony and congratulations I always find very easy to shoot. Ja, it’s a pressure situation, but you get used to it and experience helps a lot here. So let’s move on. After the ceremony and congrats comes the ‘formals’ and this is probably my strongest point at a wedding. I cannot begin to tell you how much this part of the proceedings floats my boat. I get to really interact with everybody and add to the celebration. And I think in most instances it’s why people get me to shoot them – because they want their OWN personalities to come through. So for 90 minutes we go through the motions – all of it driven by passion, not money. And at the end of those 90 minutes I know that everyone has had a bloody fine time. I know this because people tell me so. And THAT is reward. Then it’s reception time. By 10.00pm, everything has been covered – speeches, cake, throwing of the garter and bouquet, dances – the whole caboodle. By now I’m completely knackered and sadly, it’s time to go home. The average drive home is about an hour – so I get back anywhere between 11.00pm and 11.30pm. But it’s not over yet, because now I download all of the photos and I start editing. Eventually I climb into bed at about 3.00am. That’s a 17-hour physically and emotionally draining day.
The next day, I might have off, or I might have another wedding, or a Trash the Dress – and so it all starts again. But here’s the thing – not once have I ever woken up and complained about the day ahead and not once ever, have I had a Bridezilla. My couples make my job the best thing since ‘Pa fell off the bus’ – and they are truly the one’s who continue to fire me up and provide the passion I need to keep going.
We’re almost finished so stay with me here. Back to the awards. So ja look, I didn’t win, but that makes no big difference. There were 548 entries, so to make the top 30 was pretty darned cool. And to have been in the company of other businesses who are also so passionate about what they do and who deliver incredible service was quite amazing. The eventual winner was The Little Fisherman and flipping well done to them for the achievement – I have absolutely no doubt they deserve it 100%. And finally, I know some of you want to become wedding photographers and others want/or have their own small businesses – so here’s my advice… put your heads down, work like a person possessed, back yourself completely, believe in yourself no matter what anyone else thinks, treat your clients like gold, treat them like friends, be unreservedly loyal to them and love them to the ends of the earth. If you do that you’ll have proved you have passion (and hopefully the money will follow). Thanks Cape Talk and Softline Pastel for a great experience indeed. Right, another wedding season beckons – let’s go do this thing!