A few years ago I started my own business. It is a dream to work for myself, choose the clients I want to work with, and do things the way I want. Over the course of this journey I have learned many things. I would like to share some of them here with you.
Weddings are awesome. From the guest's point of view things are perfect. They are surrounded by their favorite people, free booze, and good music, all in the comfort of a perfect, fairytale-like bubble made of burlap, mason jars and adorable chalkboards. The ladies sip champagne and wonder, in awe, how Jane found the time to make it all happen as they peruse the scene for pinterest-worthy ideas they might like to use for their own wedding someday.
Anyone who has actually been married knows that during the two months before the wedding, Jane was up until 3 am every night frantically tying twine around jelly jars, bleeding from papercuts, desperately trying to separate fingers accidentally superglued together in a moment of exhaustion and poor judgement.
Weddings are a lot of work.
Good couples do their homework. They whittle down a list of vendors, trying to find the magic combination of availability, style and price point. Once a vendor is booked, the couple can relax and breathe easy (or go back to glitter glueing designs on tiny candles).Vendors are professionals. They do what they do for a living. They should be good at it. Right?
Do your research. Read reviews, meet in person if you can and make sure you know what you are paying for. You don't want to end up with the DJ with faulty equipment, the mc who publicly embarasses you in front of 200 guests or the photographer who just got their first camera for Christmas and can't wait to try it out at your wedding. Budgeting is important but booking a vendor solely on price can hurt in the long run. Make sure you like your vendor's style and personality as well as their product. You want your wedding day to be fun and go smoothly.
The term "wedding photography" sounds so sweet. It sounds like the most romantic, fulfilling job in the world. We literally get to photograph people being in love. Yes... and no.
Wedding photography is one part sugar and spice, two parts adrenaline, three parts endurance and four parts problem solving.
When I wrote this blog I knew there was the possibility that no one would read it. I think I just needed to put into words some of the funny things I have seen and experienced in the world of wedding photography. If one of these little gems of wisdom helps even one couple, I feel my mission has been accomplished.
So, take my advice with a grain of salt if you like but here we go. A peek into the dark underbelly of wedding photography...
The night before a wedding, I don't sleep. I just don't. I am excited and a little bit nervous and spend 8 hours mentally setting up gear, putting together shots, and preparing for the day ahead. I worry about everything from a flat tire on the way to the venue to the state of the weather. Clouds. Always pray for clouds. Full midday sunlight is the enemy. It is harsh and unflattering, creates crazy shadows and turns suit-clad groomsmen into sweaty puddles. While you all are hoping for a sunny, beautiful day, I am praying for clouds.
Giant wedding parties. Nothing looks cooler than a huge array of color coordinated ladies and gentlemen but please, be patient with your photographer. We know you are hot and just want to get to the bar for a much deserved wine spritzer, but a 30 person wedding party = 60 blinking eyeballs. Every time one of you sneezes, makes a weird face, blinks, coughs etc... means we have to click the shutter button one more time. Yes, there are photoshop techniques that can remedy a blinky eye or two but it is time consuming. The more time we spend retouching, the more $ we have to charge to survive.
Can't you just photoshop it? I hear this one A LOT. Thanks to the internet, people generally think that photoshop is a magic world where one click of a button can make every couple look like Will and Kate. The truth of the matter is, photoshop takes time, effort and skill to use. Things do not magically appear. They must either exist somewhere else or be created by us. A lot of the photoshop stuff I do literally involves changing individual pixels. How many pixels are in a photo....? Millions. Are we incredibly lucky that photoshop exists? Heck yes! Every time I have to swap out a blinkey eye or remove the glare on someone's glasses I thank the tech gods of mount Adobe for the ability to make digital alterations. Is it something I want to spend 80 hours a week doing? Heck no. In the interest of time, cost effectiveness and our sanity, please show a little mercy and resist the urge to utter the words "can't you just photoshop it". Help us get it right in real life and you will get your images a lot sooner.
Talking while I am trying to take your photo. It usually makes me laugh. Everyone is looking dead on at the camera but one person is moving their mouth, making a comment or a joke. Unless you are a professional ventriloquist, I can see your mouth moving, which means the camera can see your mouth moving, which falls into the weird expression category. Just give us a minute to finish and you can chat away.
Backseat drivers. I am always happy to hear suggestions for photo setups and will always, always listen to the bride and groom if they ask for something. I even love it when an auntie darts in to fix an errant collar or hemline. It is, however, not super helpful to have someone standing next to me (or worse, in front of me) yelling at the wedding party and telling them what to do or how to stand. I'll take care of that thank you.
Along those lines...other cameras. Team, when we finally have the 30 person wedding party set up and ready to go, I want to get those photos done as quickly as possible. It is the opposite of helpful when someone is standing off to the side harassing a member of the wedding party (all in good fun of course) or trying to take their own photo, causing some of the members of the wedding party to look at them instead of me. That just means it takes me even longer to get the image I need. Give me a few minutes and I will step back and happily pass the baton to guests who want to take their own photos. I know I don't have a monopoly on photos of the bride and groom but I am the one they are paying. Please, please wait your turn.
Social media frenzy. Nothing makes me sadder than looking back at my photos of a stunning bride walking down the aisle to meet her handsome, teary-eyed groom, with a wall of cameras, phones and ipads behind her. The tech revolution has allowed us to completely detach from human interaction. I love social media as much as the next photographer but I also firmly believe that a wedding is a very intimate and meaningful event. Please, for the love of the bride and groom, put down your electronics and give them your attention. They invited you there to be a part of a momentous and special occasion. They invited me there to take pictures. Put down your phone and be present in the moment.
Photo credit Andrew McNeaney (from my very own "unplugged" wedding). Notice, not an iphone in sight!
Poorly dressed vendors. It sucks when your caterer looks like a hot mess and is standing behind you while you cut the cake. What we would like to be wearing when we shoot a wedding = track pants, compression socks and a sweatband. What we actually wear...a nice dress and a suit. Vendors should be dressed for a wedding or stay behind the scenes.
Mini Lasers. Thats right, lasers. This is one I had never thought about as a guest at a wedding. It was only when I started shooting them that I realized lasers are a menace. DJ with cool, colored lights = awesome for photos. DJ with the tiny spinning laser ball = looks like a sniper is trying to take out the father of the bride.
Unhelpful wedding party. Dear brides, please do yourself a favor and select your bridal party based on people you know are going to be fun and helpful on your wedding day. Choosing a bridal party can be tricky. Maybe you have a huge group of really good friends and don't want to leave anyone out. Maybe your parents are pressuring you to include the awkward cousin (you only see once every 5 years) just because she is a relative. Perhaps you know that if you don't ask Liz, she will complain to Becca and then Becca will complain to Sally... Brides, please remember that this day is about you. Keep it simple. Choose friends who live near you and won't mind coming over at midnight to help you cut out place settings, select a small group of really good friends, or, keep it close and make it siblings only. Surround yourself with the ladies (or gents) you know are going to keep you calm and relaxed on your wedding day and leave the caddy, snarky friend out of it. If they are truly your friends they will be happy for you whether they are amongst the "chosen" or not.
Punctuality and planning. Your wedding day is about you so obviously people are going to wait for you if you are running late. You may even make it to your ceremony on time but if you have to rush and get all stressed out and sweaty in the process you are doing it wrong. Leave yourself enough time. Calculate the amount of time you think you are going to need and then add an hour or even two. Some of my favorite photo moments come from brides who are ready a little bit ahead of schedule and have a few extra minutes to take some really beautiful bridal portraits or impromptu photos with their ladies, mothers, grammies, pets and anyone else who might happen to be hanging out in the bridal suite. Leave yourself time to take a deep breath, have a glass of champagne and make your way out to the ceremony with cool, calm dignity. The first day of your married life shouldn't start with stress and frustration. Give yourself plenty of time.
Solidarity. The day after a big wedding I usually feel like Mike Tyson beat the crap out of me. My whole body hurts. We are literally doing shoulder presses with up to 15 pounds of gear for 8 to 12 hours. The adrenaline and fast pace throughout the day keep us going but eventually we feel it. Just know that when you wake up with a headache from too many cocktails, blisters from wearing heels all day and sore muscles from dancing like a maniac, breakdance fighting and jumping up and down singing "Don't Stop Believing" we are right there with you. And we can't wait do it all over again:)