I smoked a lot pot and played a lot of Mario Kart when I went to university. I was one of 5 guys living in a flat and the only one not taking a business degree. I wanted to be a vet or a dentist or something sciencey…but red shells and reefer prevented me from actually making it to class. I always had early morning classes and then labs all afternoon and that just didn’t fit with MarioKart, pub nights and the laid back schedules of the 4 other guys taking business degrees.
One of the courses I had to take was Statistical Analysis. I took it three times and I don’t know if I ever really passed it. I couldn’t understand the professor and I couldn’t understand the math and to this day I think back to a final exam where I sat down and looked at the paper thinking, “What the FUCK is this squiggly line w numbers around it?” Derivatives?
Flash forward 5 years and I’m dressed in slacks and a shirt and tie, selling pharmaceuticals door to door to doctors. Part of this job was reinforcing the efficacy of drugs using scientific studies. I learned about things like statistical significance, p-values and probabilities. The first few years I just rambled on and on and on and on…saying nothing of any value. One day, mid sentence, I’m cut off mid ramble and I hear, “Liam, this is just a whole lot of fucking anecdotal bullshit. Do you have any statistics to back this up?”
So I tightened up my pitch and dove into the wonderful world of scientific evidence.
Flashforward a few more years to 2009. The slacks and ties have all been burned and I’m a wedding photographer. Who needs probabilities + p-values, right? Statistics? Fuck that. I wanted to trash wedding dresses and take pictures of scantly clad women cutting wedding cakes.
All these photos, year after year, made it into our ‘Best of’ folders and we’d enter our favourites into competitions for awards, judged by other photographers. Hundreds of photographers all over the world did the same thing.
The wildest, the craziest. The ones with tiiiiiiiny little people in a big scene. The ones where I shot the first dance through the bottom of a wine glass and then made a double exposure and added some blurry lights. The multi-shot composites. I was making fucking ART and I loved it. These were our favourites.
List were propping up all over the world. The worlds best wedding photography. Canada’s best. The Best in North America. This blog’s best, that blog’s best.
None of these lists were ever judged by actual clients. Brides + grooms. The very subjects of the art and consumer of the end product.
So in keeping with our objective to do the complete opposite of what everyone else is doing…this year we asked our clients what THEY liked. What were THEIR favourite images from their wedding. I couldn’t wait to compare our favourites to theirs.
So, let’s put down the pot and the playstations and get scientific. Let’s see what happened when we asked all of our clients from all of the weddings we shot (Steph + I and Emma + Lauren) to send us their favourite photos from their weddings.
I wanted to know if the photos that we liked were the same photos that our clients liked. I also wanted to find the divide between candid and posed photographs. What did clients want more of…the real moments or the posed portraits. I held strong to the opinion that our clients wanted real moments more than anything…but was this just me rambling on again without any statistical proof to back it up? Yup.
We received a total of 75 images from 25 different wedding clients (18 clients were shot by Steph + I, 7 clients were shot by Emma + Lauren) for a response rate of 52%. Each couple sent us their top three favourite images.
What we discovered was that overall, there was a 57% (posed) and 43% (candid) split. When we broke it down between photographers, Steph and I had a 58-42 split with the preference going to the posed photos while Emma + Lauren had a 54-46 split, again with a preference going to the posed portraits.
I dug a little deeper and categorized each photo into 7 different categories plus an 8th category for those shots we stole during random ‘in between moments’ like subtle glances just before dinner starts, random adorable grandmothers signing a guestbook etc.
We spend hours shooting prep shots and ever more hours chasing you around dance floors. These don’t necessarily end up being your favourite shots, and thats ok. Your favourites aren’t necessarily the same as our favourites, and thats ok too.
Shocked. Stunned. Surprised. Embarrassed. Elated. I was all of these things. I started this little project a few months ago and realized what I had realized over 20 years ago in Dr. Singh’s stats class: statistics are confusing, so just go home and do what you love to do.
So, instead of going home to smoke pot and play MarioKart with Rob, Ryan, Jack and Chris, (small word side note:, our good friends + halifax wedding photographers, Topher+Rae, now live in that EXACT same apartment we all lived in 20 years ago) we’re going to keep doing what we love to do. We’re going to keep stressing about portrait time and struggle with trying new things in the same ole places. We’re going to show up early for reflection shots of makeup application and dudes putting pants on. We’re going to stay late on the dance floor as you whip and nae nae. We’re going to wait for 20 minutes for this person to walk into this ray of light and that person to walk through that shadow because that might make a really cool shot that we love. We’re also going to continue to get you to look at the camera and smile. We’ll line you up in a row and take your picture…because those are your favourites.
Thanks to everyone who took the time to send us their favourites. I went into this looking for a final answer, a straight line to everyone’s favourite image and the more I got into it the more I realized how absolutely foolish that was. I tried to apply statistics to art and that was just dumb. It’s like trying to find the greatest Pearl Jam song ever…sure there will be divides between popular favourites but it’s still ok to listen to Hey Foxymophandlemomma.
In the end, the answer is always Pearl Jam.