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In 2002 the wedding photography industry was at a crossroads. One path, the better beaten of the two, led to wedding albums replete with portraits of the bride and groom, their family, and all wedding-day participants. The other path was less traveled-upon and definitely less defined. Though it had already been labeled “Wedding Photojournalism,” the general public grossly misunderstood it, numerous photographers abused it, and consequently, it wrought confusion and ambiguity as to what constituted genuine wedding photojournalism. That path needed work!

Enter the Wedding Photojournalist Association...

The WPJA was founded to further define and develop wedding photojournalism, and to encourage and reward photographers who excel at capturing found moments. In addition, the WPJA sought to become a reliable and quality resource for brides and grooms.

It was not long after the formation of the WPJA when testimonials began to pour in, affirming the organization as an insightful matchmaker between prospective couples who understand and appreciate the photojournalistic style of wedding photography, and the highly qualified WPJA professionals who thrive in that approach.

While maintaining its original course, the WPJA has continually broadened its scope of service and influence, and it has increasingly taken strides to form a team of networked, like-minded, professional photographers who press towards wedding photojournalism excellence. I have persistently pushed for the team concept, because no model fits my vision for the WPJA more perfectly than that of a team.... a good team.

Good teams foster unity and cooperation. Good teams possess skill and reflect character. Good teams overcome obstacles.... together. And good teams play to win.

As far as I’m concerned, the WPJA wins when our members book weddings. We rejoice every time we receive testimonials from members who relay their successes as a direct result of their membership. The WPJA also wins when new opportunities for media exposure and recognition for WPJA members arise due to the ever increasing respect, rapport, and good reputation the WPJA has within the wedding and photography industries.

Team WPJA...

I am not trying to sell anyone on my vision for the WPJA; I am simply sharing the mindset and core values upon which this organization was founded, as well as my resolve to ensure it continues to follow the original blueprint.

I don’t see myself as a pioneer, founder, or president; and I don’t seek or assume other lofty titles; but in a way, I do relate to team coaches. A coach lays it all on the line for his players. He’s there for them. He cares about them. He makes decisions with their best interest in mind. He wants to see each player maximize his or her potential while making the team stronger and the victories more frequent. The team coach is the first to roll his sleeves up and work hard; the first to take the heat; the first to uphold the standards by which the team exists and operates; and the one to risk it all. In short, the team does not just occupy the coach’s schedule; it captures a piece of his heart.

Moreover, the coach is the first to defend the integrity of individual players and the team as a whole. Consider the following example: The WPJA strives to provide brides and grooms with a degree of added assurance by holding photographers accountable for not only their professional ability to deliver, but also for their business practices and professional conduct.

Yet, in the extremely rare cases when a bride or groom contacts our offices with product delivery problems or other complaints about a WPJA member, we always give our photographer the benefit of the doubt and approach the situation with the utmost discreetness, dignity, and decency towards the member in question. Why? Because we operate with a team mindset; and team management protects the reputation of the team players.

(Hopefully, you are able to follow my sports analogy. The interesting thing is I don’t even follow any sports...I’m just borrowing good concepts).

Establishing and maintaining a united front is of utmost importance for our team. Though in-house public criticism may be standard in some business settings, I feel it is unacceptable within the ranks of the WPJA. I understand and appreciate freedom of speech—I would never want to thwart it. Yet, I don’t understand why someone would want to belong to an organization that he or she is not happy with, or one that he or she consistently complains about publicly. Members of sports teams, who recognize the value and subsequent benefit in the team’s well being, generally refrain from public comments and actions which undermine other players, managers, and the group as a whole. Should we expect anything less from WPJA Team members?

As we clearly state on the WPJA site, we are not just another ad-driven wedding Web site; we operate with a team mindset. Perhaps photographers looking to buy just an advertising link should look for online businesses that offer just that. Advertising sites for wedding photographers are a dime a dozen; an organization where you can belong is one in a million: Team WPJA...

On the flip side of the matter, I love hearing WPJA team players state their policy regarding cases when they are already booked for a particular date. They direct the bride and groom to the WPJA site, and ultimately to another member of the WPJA team. This is exhilarating for me—they don’t view other WPJA members as their competition, but as a two-way referral network for bookings. Who wins in such situations? Everyone involved wins; Team WPJA wins.

As I reflect on the progress we have made during the first five years of the WPJA and look to our prospects for the future, I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to be a part of Team WPJA!

—by David Roberts, founder of the Wedding Photojournalist Association