Pin me baby. - Why I love and loathe Pinterest. (But mostly LOVE)

Note: I wrote this post a couple years ago, when Pinterest had really made it's mark and changed everything. Say good bye to bookmarking web pages and hello to "Pinning" your life away.  It had taken over the way the wedding world does things. At first it was great...and then....whelp, not so much. I have decided to update this and repost because many brides are still addicted to it and I think this may help brides understand how to use it better and help photographers and even all wedding vendors communicate with their clients a little better when it comes to using Pinterest as a TOOL for planning your day.

I've been an avid fan of Pinterest for about a year and a half now. (at least I think it's been that long)  It is pretty much mandatory for my couples to be on it as well.  When they sign their contract the first thing that I do is send them an invite to Pinterest.  I explain to them that by joining and actively "pinning" things that they love, I can see more about who they are, what their taste is, what details they may be doing and so on. It also allows me, as their photographer, to turn them on to things and give them ideas that I may have in terms of style, details and even more about my personal life as well as theirs.

If you have been living under a rock and have no idea what Pinterest is, let me try and explain it to you.  Oy...that's tricky.  But here goes.  Or better yet, I'm going to paste via the actual description the Pinterest site.  They can explain it better than I can.

"Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.  Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests." 

You must be invited to be a part of Pinterest and at this time, it's really hard to just join anymore.  This is why I invite all my clients the minute they say, "Will you be our photographer?"

Sooooo....what can you do with Pinterest? Here are some examples of what I have done with it thus far.  I have provided links to my boards if you want to follow them.  I have many of them but I'm only using a few for examples.

Remodel your Home  - At this time my husband and I are playing around with buying a piece of crap house, tearing it down and building a house that is completely centered around a kitchen.  My husband is a chef and the 5 year plan is to offer photography workshops with cooking classes or just a simple catered dinner after the class.  With a Pinterest board that I have created called "The Living Kitchen Project" AND another board called "House Porn" when we are ready to hire a team to help us bring this dream to fruition, all our peeps have to do is look over our boards so they can get a sense of our style. (this is actually happening as of next week...well the moving part and the house we bought isn't a piece of crap, it's just tiny...for now.)

Rebuild your brand - This one is key! Especially for my photographer friends looking to rebuilding their image in terms of logo and branding.  When I was looking to re-design my logo and branding, I just made a board called "Branding that inspires me".  From there my awesome designer Sarah Trainor at Sarah Trainor Design, was able to pull up my boards and start following them.  She told me that within a week of following them she was able to narrow down a bunch of designs that helped her create my logo and what it is today.

Plan your wedding and let your vendors know your vision - This part is tricky and I have a love hate relationship with how Pinterest helps but can also make photographers and other vendors a little frustrated.  This is really the inspiration of my post and I will get to the bad stuff about the Wedding Boards and Pinterest issues a little later.

Here is why I love it!  - I love sharing ideas with my couples via Pinterest.  For example, I have a bride in December of this year who told me that she really loves pine cones.  So one night I searched around on the web for pine cone bouquets, center pieces and and even cake decor.  From there I pinned all kinds of beautiful images to my "wedding ideas" board and then "tagged" her so that these images on my board were sent to her board directly as well as sending her an email of the actual "pins" that I just put on my board. I know, that sounds a bit confusing but if you are a Pinner, you get it.

Here are some of the images from Pinterest that I sent her.  They are small because I literally copied them from Pinterest.  You can go to my "Wedding Ideas Board" to see them and find the links to them.




I have another bride who is having a HUGE bonfire/lamb roast for her rehearsal dinner this Fall at her wedding.  We met up for lunch a week ago and I told her, "hey have you thought about maybe doing a s'mores bar for the bonfire?"  She loved the idea and asked where I came up with it.  "Pinterest need to follow my boards more".  So I went home and just pulled my "wedding ideas" board up and tagged her with a few ideas for the bonfire so she could see the style I was talking about.

I had one bride who was thinking about using vintage typewriters as a way to create a sign in/guest book.  When I was browsing through her boards one day, I saw this and emailed her asking if this was in her plan and she said yes.  Now I know that there will be a table with beautiful antique typewriters for her guests and it's now a great photo op for me.

Here's the image that she sent.



So that's why Pinterest is great for weddings. It's awesome.  But here is why, as a photographer, it can get a little "less awesome".

My job as a photographer, wedding, portrait, fine art, (insert photography style here____) is to be creative and come up with an image that not only represents my vision but captures a moment for my client that is frozen in time.  An ORIGINAL.  Images that belong ONLY to that subject - whether a bride and groom, an infant, a portrait, whatever.  No two people are the same and therefore I try hard to not capture any two weddings or images the same way.  Now, I can borrow inspiration from my other images, but I can't and won't recreate them.  And that is the problem with Pinterest.

Clients have begun to email photographers images from Pinterest saying "Can we do a shot like that???".  So why is this a problem?  Well, first of all it's stealing.  That image you are sending us was made by someone else.  That other photographer created it and now couples are asking photographers to "make their photo cool like that one"  You know when you hear of songwriters ripping off other songwriters because two songs sound so similar?  It's basically the same exact thing.  When you as the couple find the photographer of your dreams and hire them you are going by the images that are in their portfolio, not the ones that someone else took on Pinterest, only to think your photographer can recreate it for you.  They can't.  Many WON'T.  Why????  Because they have ethics (well at least the photographers I hang out with do) and they don't want to steal someone's idea and pass it off as their own.  Another reason some won't do it is simply because it's not their style you are sending them, it's somebody else's.  I know that sounds harsh but I feel that it's true.

ALTHOUGH....Here's something to think about when you and your photographer are browsing through Pinterest together.  And I have to say my clients know this before I send them their invite.  Pinterst is used as INSPIRATION for me.  For us!   How does this work?  Well I'll go back to my dancing days to explain it in a way that everyone I hope can understand.

When I was a dancer there were so many people I dreamed of dancing like.  I wanted to be just like them.  I wanted their style on my body.  But it wasn't possible because my body was NOTHING like theirs.  So here is what I did.  I studied all of my friends who's styles of dance I admired - OK, obsessed about, and then started by copying until I found out what I had done was make it my own.  Their style didn't look the same on me because I had different training, a different sense of rhythm than they did, etc.  So instead I was INSPIRED to be like them but in turn I created my own style by being influenced but NOT copying it.  Therefore, I found my own voice in dance taking other styles and combining them to make it my own.

It's exactly how Pinterst SHOULD be used for not just photographers but for just about anything.  I have a "Photos That Inspire" Board.  I love photographers like Terry Richardson for his edginess, Ellen Von Unwerth for her playful erotic style and I use her images to explain what I am "going for" before I do my dirty work sessions.  (That's a little add on I do before the bride gets dressed. Kind boudoir style but really spontaneous)  I look to Annie Leibowitz for inspiration when I am doing my bridal party group shots because I think she is the master of capturing a certain type of energy when she photographs large groups.  Yeah, I know sometimes they are all photoshopped together to make the perfect group photo, but it's still super inspiring.  Those photos, that board, they get my creative juices flowing but THAT'S IT.  As badly as I want to copy those photos, I can't.  I don't have a huge crew to light it.  I don't own a $35,000 medium format digital camera. Not to mention most of the time we wedding photographers have literally minutes to photograph the formals for a wedding.  And like I said before, it's kinda stealing someone else's work.

Here is the other thing that gets interesting when a client sends us an image that they want via Pinterest.  The client may want an image that doesn't actually fit the client's personality.  Does that make sense?  Let me break it down a bit. If I have a client that's more subdued and they show me an image of a bridal party flashing/mooning the camera, I scratch my head and think, "hmmmm....I would never in a million years think that this couple would not only want an image like that, but have the balls to literally DO THAT."  And even if I let them try to do it, 9 times out of 10, it doesn't work.  It looks forced and not real.  So I tell them I'm not sure something like that is really their style and then I suggest, "let's think of something else that's edgy but is more like YOU".  And they love that.  Whew.

So why have I chosen to write about this subject?  Because there are about a dozen images that brides are obsessing about right now.  If you are a bride and you love an image you see on Pinterest, here is what I suggest.  Instead of sending it to your photographer and saying "I want THIS image".  Rephrase it and try this.  "Hey awesome photographer that I am trusting my super important day to - ok well maybe not that ;-), I love the energy of this image and I was wondering if we can come up with something with the same vibe?"  What this does is create a relationship with your photographer that is now a collaboration and working together, which is an amazing feeling.  It's the only way I work.  It's a great way to get the ball rolling in that direction if you want it to be that way. I mean, why do you want images that EVERYONE else is trying to recreate? Some of the most popular photos on Pinterest are so over saturated that NOTHING is original anymore. You know what's original? Just trusting your photographer to capture images that are all about YOU. Not someone else's ideas that you are trying to copy.

Here are some examples of how I use Pinterest to inspire me.

This is an image created by Annie for Vanity Fair.  I love how relaxed everyone is in the photo.  I also love the room and how the subjects are arranged.  I've always wanted to capture the essence of how Ms. Leibowitz does a large group shot but I needed the right subjects, the right light and the right location.  About two weeks back I was at a location, with the right light and not only the right bridal party but the actual moment in time to attempt a shot sorta like this.

Here it is....

So it's SORTA like that, but not really.  But I love it and the client loves it.  I'm happy, they're happy and Pinterest helped me by inspiring me to create something similar but not the same at all.  At least I think so.

The shot above was taken years ago. Here is a group shot that was inspired by my board "The Great Group Shot" for  a wedding I photographed two weeks ago at an overnight camp. As you can see my style has changed a bit, but the inspiration is the same.


Here is another shot I used for inspiration directly from Pinterest.


I love this image but I wanted to do something different.  There are tons of iPhone images in shoots so how could I make it my own?  Here is my version of it with my couple Kim and Chris.  Yes, it's similar, but not the same thing.  At least I think so.


So that's kind of it.  But I thought I would share some of the images that I see couples sending countless photographers asking them, "Can We do that?"  They have found all of the images on Pinterest.  And they are great images.  But they are someone else's not your photographers.  So how should your photographer respond when you send them an image that you are obsessing about on Pinterest or anywhere else for that matter?  Well,  I think a good photographer will answer by saying "That images is so great.  I saw we use that for a little inspiration".

BTW...did you know that the majority of all the images you see on Pinterest, especially the wedding stuff is ALL STYLED SHOOTS? Yup, not real. Models, stylists, lights, days of planning and hours of pre and post production with big budgets. So don't believe the hype! Stay true to who YOU are and just let the photographer work with what you give them.

Feel free to follow me on my  Pinterest board if you are there.  My favorite board of the moment is "Those Were the Days".  It will tell you a lot about what I loved from my childhood.  I'm a little obsessed with it these days.  :-)