Photographing a wedding is so much more than just knowing how to use your camera.
My first real wedding photography experience came after a period of photographing families and senior portraits. I worked on my photography skills through college, just playing around at various local events and doing portfolio work for friends, all FREE I must add, but had never given much thought as to what I wanted to specialize in.
In 2007, I was asked by one of my husband’s coworkers to photographer her wedding. I was jumping for joy at the chance to document a wedding (and getting paid for it was a plus). However, the excitement was short lived as the feeling of fear and nausea set in. What exactly was I getting myself into? Yes, I had been a second shooter at a wedding (once and with few responsibilities). Yes, I had photographed a (super small) backyard wedding for a friend (for free), but was my skills, knowledge, and gear adequate enough to photograph a wedding?
As I began to process the assignment, which I quickly agreed to do, I realized that wedding photography goes way beyond just taking pictures. There are countless hours of preparation, meeting with the bride, scouting portrait locations at the venue, expectations for the pictures, and SO much more. I just kept thinking, “You only get one shot at a wedding – just one shot to screw it up.” There’s no recreating the shots because your settings or lighting was off…what you capture is what you get! You get the lighting you get, you get the weather you get, and you only have one chance to make or break it.
Now that you’ve gotten a smidge of the backstory, I want to tell you about the wedding (and share a few of the super embarrassing wedding images).
The bride was extremely unorganized and had planned everything only a couple of months in advance (my first warning sign). The ceremony was taking place in Boone, NC at a tiny mountainside chapel and the indoor lighting was horrendous. I spent the next hour trying to get my camera settings spot on for the ceremony and the arrival of the bride. A violinist played softly in the corner of the chapel while guests were being seated and the wedding party was lining up for the processional. It was ten minutes until wedding time and no bride in sight! Thirty minutes had passed and the ushers were making frantic phone calls to the bride, with no answer.
FINALLY! The bride and her father pull up to the chapel and the wedding party makes their second entrance. Just as the bride begins to walk in, she realized that she had forgotten her bouquet! I know, right?! She proceeds to get back in the car, drive to the hotel to pick it up, and arrives back at the chapel an hour later than the scheduled ceremony time. Oh, it gets so much better!
When the bride arrives for the second time, she spots her 10-month old son screaming and crying. Does she let one of the family members take the child outside to calm down so the ceremony can begin? NO! I’ll tell you what happens…she proceeds to put the screaming child on her hip and powerwalk down the aisle! TRUE STORY!! The special music and unity candle were eliminated from the ceremony and the vows and rings are exchanged in a matter of 3 minutes!! Keeping in mind, the child is still having a meltdown! The bride and groom quickly exit the church and are not even walking arm-in-arm. Get this…when she gets outside, her first remark to me is, “You can just edit him out of my arms right?” Uh…no I can’t!
By this point, I am on the verge of a meltdown myself! The ceremony lighting was terrible and there were only a handful of images that were halfway decent. AND during the chaos of it all, the bride didn’t let me get any onsite portraits with the beautiful chapel. She felt that the reception area would be just fine for portraits. Why didn’t I speak up? Why did I go along with this idea? I knew the hotel reception area wouldn’t provide a tasteful setting for portraits, but I went along with it anyway.
I left the event exhausted, in tears, and feeling like a failure as a photographer. I knew that I should have taken some initiative to control the situation and get things back in order, but I froze. My entire 2-hour drive home was filled with thoughts of quitting. I knew that there would be pressures on the wedding day, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be faced with challenges like this.
After a couple of weeks of contemplating my future as a professional photographer (and many pep talks from my husband), I decided to push on and give it another chance. I needed a better game plan and I needed to learn how to take control of a situation. For most brides, their own wedding is their first real wedding experience, so it is my job to make sure that a bride is trusting of my decisions and that I will be able to execute a plan for flawless portraits.
Ten years later, I’m still photographing weddings. I still learn so much from each event, and being able to turn a challenge into something positive allows me to provide a consistent service with consistent images.
In my next post, I plan to share some before and after images as well as what my images looked like when I first started and where I am today.
Remember, you don’t have to be a photographer to be a part of the fun and interesting wedding experiences! I would LOVE for you to comment and share your unique wedding experiences with me!
Thanks for reading!