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.
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.
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.
Please excuse the iPhone photo. 😉