Trust has a seriously simple definition. According to Merriam Webster:

trəst/

noun

  1. a:  assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something

          b: one in which confidence is placed

Yet, it can be unbelievably hard to put into practice. Another dictionary used the example “good relationships are built on trust.” In the wedding photography business (or just wedding business in general), I’m not sure truer words can be spoken. I get it; weddings can be stressful! There are so many moving parts and vendors to coordinate. Not all vendors are created equal, and if you’ve had a bad experience with one or two, it’s easy to lump us all into the “just do your job and we’ll be fine” category. I’ve seen this happen to perfectly nice couples more than once.

But photography is different.

How?

You can’t not trust your photographer and still get great photos. You can get good photos, and you might even like them, but to truly love your wedding photos — a higher level of trust isn’t just suggested, it’s required. I’m reminded of a quote by Ansel Adams “The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.” You have to trust the person behind the camera. You have to believe that they know what they’re doing.  Couples should trust that they know the lighting, their equipment, poses and everything in between. If they say “this isn’t going to work,” you have to be know that person well enough to be able to work through it and that what they’re saying is a fact, not just their opinion.

I feel like trust is the absolute best gift you can give your photographer. Trust them to help you set the pace for your timeline and then enough to listen when they ask you to do something. There’s always method to our madness, a reason for our requests. While it might not make sense at the time, just know that we wouldn’t be asking if it wasn’t to get the perfect shot. 

That’s Why I Love My Clients

I have been so blessed to have clients who trust me to capture their day in the most amazing way I know how. It’s not like we talk about this process and trust, it just happens. And it’s mutual. My point is, first, that it’s really important to find vendors for your wedding that you trust. Secondly, if you have hesitations, it’s important to voice and work through them. Trust me, you won’t be sorry!

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It’s funny sometimes how life has a way of teaching you lessons . . . more than once.

It’s been awhile, but one of the first weddings I ever photographed at Sofi Seck Photography, there was an incident that made me reflect on my own professionalism, specifically in the way I dress for work. When I went to weddings I would dress like a guest. I wore something nice and comfortable, really just whatever I felt good in that day. In a sundress or whatever I wore, I wanted to blended into the crowd.

I was photographing the first day of an Indian wedding (Indian weddings are typically three days of celebrations), when the bride approached me to ask if I could wear all black the following day. I said yes, but in retrospect, I might have sounded offended because she followed the request up by telling me that everyone was wearing black the second day. If you’ve ever been to an Indian wedding, you know how unusual this seems. The weddings are typically colorful and bright, vivid and beautiful. I was staying at a hotel, so I had to go buy something black to meet her request. I fully expected everyone else to be in black the following day, but when I showed up, I was the only one.

A-ha Moment

It didn’t happen right then, but eventually it dawned on me that the bride didn’t think I looked professional. And from that moment on, I began wearing plain, muted colors. It was a harsh realization that I’m not a guest and I probably shouldn’t look like one, either. I’m there to do a job, and I need to be OK with that. This was a tough lesson because a lot of times, I do become friendly with clients. And though I’m sure the bride didn’t want to come off as judgmental or mean, it was her request that changed my entire wardrobe.

I’ve always thought photography, being an art, allows for more spontaneity — you can be louder, brighter, more fun. For a long time after that incident, I was really self-conscious about my wardrobe. Over time, as people got to know me and, more importantly, my work, the feelings of insecurity went away.

Until recently.

Relearning Old Lessons

A few weeks ago, I dyed my hair purple. Though I love the new style, it brought back some of those feelings of insecurity. Do I look unprofessional? Will my hair color cost me work? How will potential clients react? What even is professionalism? Even if I don’t want to admit it, looks do matter in this field.

Since my hair transition, I’ve had a realization that while looks matter, professionalism matters more.  The color of your hair doesn’t matter. What determines my professionalism is how I treat clients. What matters is responding in a  timely manner, helping people through their timeline, taking amazing photographs and continuing excellent service after the wedding day. And if my hair color loses me a client, maybe they weren’t my client in the first place.

Of course I want to be professional and present myself in the best way possible, but that comes from the way you speak to people, being there when it matters and delivering images to my clients that they love.

My purple hair has made me rethink some of my business choices, and that’s never a bad thing. There are some things I should probably reevaluate, even. But it’s also made me so proud of how far I’ve come in being myself. I’ve never been more comfortable in my decisions, and for that, I couldn’t be more proud.

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Please excuse the iPhone photo. 😉

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Lately I’ve been reveling in the beauty of religious wedding ceremonies. And while the actual ceremonies were gorgeous, more than anything, it was the messages that left their mark. 

The Messages

I was photographing a Christian wedding ceremony recently when the pastor was talking about God’s love and how it’s translated into love for each other, our families and friends. He gave the couple advice for speaking each other’s love language and talked about how to love each other.

I know that this won’t sound as good coming from me, but the pastor told the groom that when he looks at his bride not to say “I love you,” but to share his love for God. He talked about the measure of love and how it’s important to tell each other when they’re doing something right. The pastor reminded the couple that their marriage isn’t just about the two of them and their love for each other, but the love they have for God and how they emanate that love to others.

At another ceremony, this one a Muslim ceremony, the imam started the ceremony by talking about how God has blessed America with something so beautiful — freedom. He talked about how people should be sure to pray for this country when they pray. He continued to talk about all of the good things that America has done for people around the world and how lucky we are to live (and love) here. That’s not something you hear at most wedding ceremonies and I thought it was so beautiful. Like the first message, it stuck with me and I’ve been reflecting on the words for weeks.

A Different Approach

Both messages were so beautiful, I think because they were outside of the love two people have for each other. I like that no matter what religion you practice or what faith you have, there’s this idea that you come from love and give love to others. A couple always has to work to fill their glass, not just with their own love, but with the love of God and others. Love is universal. And while a wedding day might be celebrating two people’s love for one another,  a marriage isn’t just about two people. It’s about family and those who support the couple and give them strength. A marriage is about a sense of community, togetherness and belonging. It’s about love in all of its roles throughout our lives.

I feel like I’ve had an epiphany over this wedding season. It has never been more clear to me that although faiths can be very different, the idea of two people coming together and loving each other is the same. This thought has hit me stronger than ever. I love that I get to witness this private moment in a couple’s life and see two families become one. And I love that no matter how many weddings I photograph, I get to see an abundance of love and admiration, joy and peace on wedding days. I love all religious ceremonies because its about the love of something greater than self. I love feeling uplifted and moved through someone’s gift of speaking and sharing in a message that lives long beyond the end of the ceremony. And I am so grateful to do that weekend after weekend. 

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My journey to health has been a long road, full of forks, hills and sometimes mountains. About eight years ago, I weighed almost 300 pounds. I don’t equate the number on the scale with overall health, but I wasn’t healthy. I couldn’t move around freely, my joints throbbed and I spent a lot of effort hiding the amount of pain I was in from my friends. Even walking short distances exhausted me.

I was constantly out of breath. Occasionally, I had blood clots pop up. I didn’t know it then, but they would come and go from my inactivity. When I began moving, they would go away, but I didn’t make the connection until years later. I just knew I was tired and my body was tired.

One day, I was sitting on the couch and couldn’t get up. I’m in my early 20s, mind you, but I could not will myself to get up because I knew how much pain I would be in. For me, getting healthier and losing weight wasn’t about “being pretty” or having the “perfect figure.” There’s no wrong way to be yourself. But for me, things had to change because I was putting myself in danger. It’s been such a long road with many ups and downs.

Baby Steps

After the couch incident, I hired a personal trainer and started going to the gym. But I didn’t change my eating habits. So for a long time, I exercised but was still not healthy. Nutrition is the most important part of losing weight, but I found ways to justify trips to fast food restaurants because I would visit the gym.

Eventually, though, I developed a habit of going to the gym. It was the first baby step in my health journey. I found that I don’t love, or really even like, cardio. It was hard to do without being in pain because I had so much mass. So I started lifting weights and found that I’m actually strong. Surprisingly strong. I could lift alongside everyone else at the gym. It was a pivotal moment for me, because I love the feeling of strength. I love that my body can do so much and be so powerful.

Progression

Losing weight has been a progression of baby steps — life goal after life goal. I realized that at the end of the day, I just need to be in motion. I need to be active and help my body get blood flowing. It took some time to realize that my body is not a machine. I can’t just take off the weight in a week or a month. It took years to gain the weight, and it’s taken years to get back to a healthy weight for my body.

I’m still a big girl, and that’s ok! My weight loss goals are simple: I want to be able to move and not be in pain. I want to eat in a way that still makes me happy and live an active lifestyle. While fitness is a journey that never ends, I’ve found a healthy balance for me. I play volleyball three days per week, lift weights five days per week, walk and run every single day. And while it seems like a lot (and it is!), I’ve decided that I would rather be active and still enjoy the foods I like to eat. That said, I’m going to keep it 100% and say that I eat very “clean” 70% of the time. 

What I wish people knew was that as long as they’re happy, that number on the scale is worthless. At this very moment, I am still a big girl. I’m also a powerlifter, mountain hiker, sprinter, volleyball player, and SO much more. The number on the scale does not define me and it should not define you! There’s not only one ideal body type or way to be healthy. You have to find what’s best for you. I love sharing this part of my life with people because it’s been such a wild ride, with many more miles to go. If you want to see some of my daily workouts, visit Sofi Seck Photos on Instagram and click “Instagram stories.” I would also LOVE to hear your health story so feel free to send me a message and tell me everything! 

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Most people think wedding photography is about taking photos at a wedding… which would be correct, but it’s also not that simple. Despite all the planning and good intentions that go into this a wedding, sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes they’re minor, sometimes they’re major. And truth be told, solving problems is a huge part of wedding photography.

Besides documenting a couple’s life, one of my main goals is to be there for them, now and in the future. I don’t want the type of relationship where I provide a service, you pay me and then we never see each other again. I want to grow with my couples, but even if that doesn’t happen, I want them to feel comfortable coming to me to ask for anything. . . ever.

Solving a Problem

Not long ago, I had a former bride (now happily married) whose grandmother passed away. It was horribly sad, because she really is a grandma’s girl. A lot of families don’t get updated family photos. As older people in their family pass away and they begin to search for photos of their loved ones, they turn to their wedding photographer. Distraught, my bride couldn’t even bring herself to look through her wedding photos for a nice photo of her grandmother. She just knew I had some.

One problem is that she lives in Chicago. I’m headquartered in St. Louis. The other difficulty is that she needed them for the wake, which was happening in days. Time was not on our side here. I was able to lean on my photo lab to get a print quickly. Then, I personally drove it to her home to deliver it before the visitation at the funeral home. That’s the level of relationship I want to have with my clients.

Above and Beyond

I could have just taken a few group family photos at the wedding and called it a day. But I knew how important grandma was and how close my bride and her grandmother were. I knew that the portraits of grandma would be so valued and important. Did I take a few extra minutes taking portraits of grandma? You bet, but it was all worth it when I could see the appreciation this family had for the photos. Side note: Family photos are really important. I had no idea that these photos would be the last nice portraits of this special person. What matters most is that despite a sad situation, I was able to help during a difficult time.

Of course wedding photography is about tangible photos of your day. But it’s also about going out of your way to make sure clients have a good experience. It’s about being able to be counted on. Sometimes it’s about bringing light to a dark situation and helping someone get through a hard time, even if it’s just a small gesture to show that you understand and care.  If I can be there for people  through my photography, that’s great, but if it’s through service, then that’s a role I’m happy to be in too.

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