*This is a paid post from an APW Sponsor*
Earlier this week, Meg and I were chatting about the shortcomings of the wedding industry, when she said something that perked my ears. “For a service-based industry,” she said, “the wedding industry is remarkably short on customer service.” AND HOW. Which is why it’s always a pleasant change of pace when a wedding professional emphasizes customer service as much as Beck Diefenbach in San Francisco does. In fact, even if his photos weren’t complex, emotional works of art, I’d argue that Beck’s commitment to clients is reason enough alone to hire him.
Beck Diefenbach is one of the few wedding photographers I would classify as a true photojournalist. His unobtrusive and out-of-the-way approach to wedding photography shines in both his finished product and the process by which he does his work:
Photojournalism is all about trust. Before I can make honest images of people, I have to earn their trust. This involves getting to know my clients, all while keeping my eyes and heart open. In many cases, I have developed strong friendships with my couples and still keep in contact with them well after the images are delivered. But the reward is not the images themselves. The images are merely the combination of hard work by myself and trust of the couples I work with. The real payoff is the reaction I get once my clients see the images I deliver to them. Individuals cannot possibly process all of the amazing moments that happen on their wedding day. It is just too overwhelming. My job is to capture as best I can and deliver those future memories to my client. The reaction I get from these amazing people is everything to me and is absolutely the best part of my job.
But what I really want to high five Beck for, is how he views the relationship between you and your photos. Beck told me, “My business model is built on service, not sales, thus all clients have unlimited personal usage of the digital images I deliver. Couples can receive their images multiple ways, but what is most important to me is that there are no barriers between the couple and their photos. Prints and albums can be purchased through me, but that is not required.” As photography becomes an increasingly accessible medium, I see a lot of photographers holding onto the old school belief that the only way to make money is to hold onto the product and make you buy directly from them. So it’s particularly refreshing seeing someone who’s been a professional for as long as Beck Diefenbach working to change that.
Which brings me to: Beck Diefenbach, all around good guy. I don’t know how else to say it, Beck Diefenbach is just… someone you feel good about hiring. On a personal level, he volunteers as an Assistant Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 14 in San Francisco. “I am an Eagle Scout and have loved working with kids since I got my first job working as a camp counselor at thirteen years old,” says Beck. “In addition to assisting the boy-led troop of fifty-plus scouts, I also document our activities the same I would any assignment or wedding. Having developed a strong bond with many of these boys over the past three years, they feel comfortable with me photographing them in a natural, candid state. Even after three years of documenting and volunteering with the boys of Troop 14, the activities never get old and the experiences are different every time. Just like with my wedding photojournalism, the images I make on these Boy Scout outings aren’t meant for consumption immediately. But instead are intended to be enjoyed years or even decades down the line. And not only are they intended to serve the boys themselves, but the future generations of our organization. Troop 14 will be celebrating its one hundredth anniversary in 2015. I have had the pleasure of scouring through old photo albums of alumni in the ’30s and ’40s and the visual record is just astounding. I like to think my photography of Troop 14 is continuing the tradition. Not only do I feel it is important to invest a strong sense of character and a concern for the outdoors in our youth, but the photography is an investment as well. There is no other record that can match personal, natural photojournalism.” (You can see photos from Beck’s wok with Troop 14 over here.)
Beck also shoots regularly as a freelance photojournalist for Thomson Reuters, the Associated Press, and the San Francisco Chronicle. His assignments have taken him from the glory of The World Series to the conflicts of Occupy Oakland. Carrying his experiences over into his wedding work, Beck explains, “I have learned my trade under the smell of tear gas as well as confetti. I will never complain and I will never judge. I am an observer, a documenter. I live to tell the story. In neither weddings nor journalism do I get a second chance. Preparation is everything. Seamless adaptation is essential.”
So what does this mean for you? It means working with a photographer who is calm under (literal) fire, who won’t complain when the plan changes, and who can translate his years of experience with Troop 14 into wrangling your unruly family into portraits. And it means he does all this while making you feel like you’ve got an old friend by your side (and while producing flawless documentary-style photos that look like he was never even there.)
Beck is available to shoot your wedding for just $2,400 for six hours of coverage, but also notes that “many weddings don’t fit along the confines of standardization, so I am very willing to work with couples to find the right balance of coverage and price. I also have an hourly rate of $450 per hour with no minimum. For all APW readers I am also offering a 10% discount on all weddings booked before my birthday on April 20. Your wedding can be whenever, but if you choose me as your photographer before my birthday, I want to thank you in a special way. I turn twenty-nine this year and I hope to end my twenties on an amazing year with incredible people.”
In our guide to choosing a wedding photographer, Meg mentioned that “the trick is to figure out what balance of strengths and weaknesses will work for you.” In the case of Beck Diefenbach, I’m not sure there are any weaknesses. But I know the strengths are an impeccable eye for photojournalism, the ability to adapt to whatever you throw at him, and customer service that centers around your needs instead of his bottom line. Personally, I’m sold.