So I photograph weddings. To date, I’ve shot about 200 weddings. This July will mark my 10th year of being a professional photographer. Can you believe it? I can’t. I started off doing weddings for free in hopes of building a portfolio all while not being fully responsible in case my photos sucked. Some people go into the business being an assistant to an established photographer and others, well others, do what I did- tip your toe in the water and then dive in, fully submerging yourself all while having no idea what lies in those murky deep waters below you.
Wedding days are long, editing is exhausting and missing your weekends starts to make you feel like less of a human being. THAT being said, I wouldn’t trade my job for any other job in the whole world.
As a wedding photographer I make thousands of decisions all day. I decide where to take the photo, how to adjust our camera settings, who to put in the photo, how to pose the people in the photo, all while understanding where the light is coming from and how I want it to factor into the picture. I go through this routine about 2500 times over the course of eight to ten hours. So now you know what goes into making a great photograph but what do I photograph? I cover the bride getting ready, her dress, her shoes and her jewelry. I have a second shooter that backs me up and also focuses on the groom. He or she needs to get the groom getting ready, his groomsmen and any details that are unique to him. Then I need to make sure we have the bridesmaids, the groomsmen, her family, his family, her on her own, him on his own and of course the two of them together. Then we need to make sure to have any details like favors, table decor, their flowers, the cake, the food and the rings. These are things we have to get OUTSIDE of what actually takes place during the day such as the ceremony and the reception where traditional moments take place.
*Photos from my first wedding of the 2016 season last weekend at Lighthouse Point Park in East Haven. It didn’t hurt to have a kick ass bride and groom 🙂
I also have a non-shooting assistant that is my superhero. She is a friend who became a bride and then became an employee. I shot Melissa’s wedding in Key West three years ago. Since then we realized that she would be an amazing asset to Capture Photography. During any given wedding day that is full of energy and sometimes straight up stress, Melissa keeps me in check. She’s the type of person that knows what I need before I even know! It’s hard to imagine my life before her. I’m not sure if other photographers have non-shooting assistants but I feel bad for you if Melissa isn’t part of your day. She no only helps me, but she is there for every possible need the bride or groom have throughout the day. No job is too big or too small for her.
*A screenshot of Melissa holding the plate of food that she got for the bride and groom who need a snack mid-shoot. It’s a long day and our bride and grooms need to be fed!
The truth is, to be a wedding photographer you not only need to be a talented photographer you also have to be very good at marketing, business, accounting, client relationships, finances, advertising, psychology, social media, sales and bookkeeping (just to name a few). My point is that unfortunately anyone who isn’t really great at most of this stuff, regardless of their talent, will soon find that wedding photography isn’t for them.
I can say one thing: it is for me. I never second guess my ability at this point, 10 years into it I know I can handle anything that comes my way. Are there some aspects I am more confident in than others? Of course! But the main thing is, like anyone who is good at their job, I feel confident in the majority of what I do.
Have I mentioned that passion that comes with it? No? Well shit, lets talk about it. I love weddings. I can say that with a huge amount of honesty-I love weddings. I love that I get to photograph one of the most memorable days of people’s life. I love that these people’s family and closest friends are under one roof to celebrate true happiness! I feel like we should all have a lot more celebrations in our life that call for these wonderful people to gather, but alas, I will settle for a wedding.
Now… have I seen some crazy shit? The answer is 100% yes. But you know what, that crazy shit is what makes the story of the day. And at this point in my career I’ve never encountered a wedding that had so much crazy shit it couldn’t take place. Remember, the only thing you TRULY need for a wedding is the bride, the groom and a justice of the peace. But just for fun’s sake, here are some of the things I’ve encountered over the years and once again none of these ruined a wedding, no matter how bad they were. I was at a wedding where the maid of honor fainted during the ceremony. I was at a wedding where the grandmother passed out in the bathroom and was taken to the hospital via ambulance during the reception. I was at a wedding where I wasn’t allowed to go in the church because I was a woman and I was wearing pants (I can’t make this up.) I was at a wedding where the best man was so drunk he gave a 17 minute inappropriate speech and had to be cut off. I shot a wedding where a hurricane prevented about 75% of the people from attending the ceremony, not to mention the reception hall had to close because of the storm. One time, in January, the fire alarm went off because it was faulty causing all the guests to stand outside on the coldest day of the entire year (bride and groom posed in front of a fire truck because they were kick ass!). I had a bride find out the morning of the wedding that the florist had no receipt of their order and wasn’t able to fill it the day of— leaving them with no flowers! I had a father of the bride show up to reception standing and carrying a sign that said, “I wasn’t invited!” One time the limo driver go so lost the bride showed up 45 minutes late to the church. Another time while I was shooting on a grassy area of Mystic Seaport, all the sprinklers went off soaking the bride, groom, the entire wedding party AND my equipment. On the way to a Newport wedding we stopped at subway. When we got to the wedding I realized I left my purse and wallet there and neither my second shooter nor my assistant knew how to drive stick so I had to have my friend from Newport find the subway, find my purse and deliver it to the wedding. I had a wedding where they weren’t sure if they should do it outside or in because the forecast was iffy. They decided to do it outside and I kid you not- as soon as they said, “I now pronounce you man and wife,” thunder and lighting came over the ceremony site and rain poured down. As if that wasn’t enough the fire alarm went off in the building, making everyone who ran inside— come back out into the rain. Oh did I mention the bride and groom who posed with their guns pointing at me for a photo! I could go on and on! I think one day I’ll just have to write book.
*The bride and groom who rolled with the punches that cold winter night when the fire alarm went off!
*The bride and groom packing. I have to admit it was a pretty f*cking badass pic. Identities concealed of course!
As crazy as that stuff was none of it could have prepared me for the news I got earlier this year. One of my grooms had died. My heart sank to the bottom of my stomach when I heard. I remember him being one of the most ecstatic grooms I had ever met. I remember his overwhelming happiness was contagious. At one point while everyone was dancing, he stopped and took the microphone from the DJ to simply express his feelings of gratitude and happens. Everyone stopped what they were doing and listened to his words that were clearly so genuine.
I suppose I can say I’m happy I was able to photograph one of the best days of his life but it’s hard to see any positive to a crazy situation like that one. Neither me or any of his friends or family should have to be thankful for those pictures for that reason.
I will say that news hit me like a ton of bricks. I can say that now, every once in a while when I’m shooting I remember what happened to that couple and I shoot a little harder. I work a scene that is already over, I shoot a detail that might seem insignificant to me but probably means the world to them. I remember to get shots of everyone by themselves, especially the older folks as its so important for us all to have a photo that truly represents us and remind us of how beautiful we are.
So is my job all rainbows and butterflies? Well no, but sort of. I would happily take all this craziness as a part of my job everyday because it’s what I love to do. Photography makes me feel alive and when I can capture some of the greatest moments of someone else’s life I thank god for giving me the talent to do what i love. As I mentioned before, these moments all become part of the story of the day. I try to remind my couples ahead of time to not sweat the small stuff. I try to remind them to live in the now and take each moment as part of a greater experience and truly treasure it. So for now, well who are we kidding? Forever — I will do this job and be grateful that I can call my passion my career.
And this post is brought to you by a song that I loved when I was growing up and I love even more as an adult.