|Weddings: They’re a cornucopia of creative possibilities, I find them incredibly rewarding and I’ve never had a ‘bad’ wedding as a photographer. That doesn’t mean everything always goes according to plan, though.|
It was June of 2012, and I had been blackmailed into photographing my first wedding.
‘If you don’t want to take photos,’ I was told, ‘then we just won’t have any photos.’
One of my best friends from high school was getting married in his backyard with around a dozen of their closest family members, and they were adamant about having a photographer they knew personally, rather than a stranger. So it was really quite a friendly blackmailing.
What the heck, I thought. I quoted them the princely sum of $250, and everything was set. Then, just a day or two before the wedding, my car sprung a substantial coolant leak. No worries, my 30-year-old motorcycle would get me there. Probably.
And then it rained on the big day, and though my Yamaha got me there just fine, I arrived slightly behind schedule and absolutely soaking wet. Thankfully, the universe had decided enough was enough, and the day proceeded without incident after I toweled off a bit.
I don’t shoot weddings full time, but I do at least a few every year. I find them creatively challenging as well as rewarding, and so far, there’s not been a ‘bad’ wedding for me as a photographer. That doesn’t mean there aren’t always a few hiccups along the way.
And so, now that wedding season is upon us, we polled ourselves as a staff to find out what sorts of ‘challenges’ we’ve all faced over our years of photographing weddings, and some themes began to emerge.
|A common tool of choice for an Uncle Bob – an older, preferably double-grip DSLR.|
Without fail, most photographers that have shot even a handful of weddings have a story of the affable yet oblivious Uncle Bob. You will know him from the prominence of the large camera dangling from his neck, possibly with his own speedlight attached.
Uncle Bob will good-naturedly ask you what camera you’re shooting with (‘and why is it covered in black tape?’), what aperture you’re using, pronounce ISO like ‘eye-soh,’ and occasionally suggest that you are just doing it wrong.
But while some of us have encountered Uncle Bobs that are more tenacious or hover-y than others, many are friendly, genuinely curious, and if you gently suggest that you need to concentrate and will catch up with them later, you should find yourself in the clear.
Unfortunate urgings of the bridal party, audacious acts of the guests
Many couples will have some idea of the sorts of photos and moments they would like the photographer to capture throughout the day. One of our staff, however, was instructed by the bride to ‘not take any photos showing the front of my face.’ Challenge accepted.
The majority of weddings these days seem to involve a good deal of drinking, and indeed, some guests will refuse to attend without an open bar. An open bar is just common decency (in the U.S., anyway). This is not something that is generally taken advantage of by the photographer for obvious reasons, unless of course the bride and groom confront you and insist that you ‘get wasted.’ One of our staff encountered this from a very stubborn couple, and we surmise that the inevitable crooked horizons were corrected in post.
A common complaint: friends and family holding up phones, tablets and phablets at just the right spot to ruin a photo. The most egregious example of this was a guest getting up and blocking the aisle just after the bride passed him. The photographer missed the father giving his daughter away, but that’s alright, average attendee, you have it in Apple Photos forever.
And finally, there’s the group shots, where inevitably a family member will stand behind the hired photographer with a phone or compact camera, and snap away. This ordinarily wouldn’t be too much of an issue, except it’s the cause of many an eye-or-face swap in Photoshop, just to make sure everyone’s looking into the right lens.
How does this get worse? Occasionally, that family member’s camera will be in Auto mode and fire the flash with every shot, which will trigger any pre-set optically slaved flashes the photographer has set up. This will ruin the hovering family member’s image, drains flash batteries unnecessarily, and confuses the family being photographed; an upgrade to radio triggers helps prevent these sorts of situations, but flashes from a competing photographer are still awfully distracting.
The unpredictable, or just plain weird
|This is a pig at a wedding I attended as a guest, photographed (poorly) with my phone. Any guest was welcome to go and say hello, the pig was very friendly.|
And sometimes, there’s just the crazy, random happenstances that don’t really fit into any sort of reliable pattern or theme. As above, sometimes the wedding venue is adjacent to a restaurant that grows its own food, and there is a pig. This obviously isn’t a grievance per se, that pig was adorable in his own way.
Thankfully, gear failures weren’t all that common for us, but one of our staff had an autofocus motor die just as the bride and groom began their walk back down the aisle.
Another time, a group of groomsmen grew demonstrably angry when the photographer would not sit with them at the reception and drink heavily instead of taking photographs.
A guest videographer at one destination wedding set up an enormous ladder to film video from at the back of the group, which would have been less of a problem were he not wearing a kilt. Underwear status remained carefully unconfirmed.
Everyone’s got stories
In a follow-up post, we’ll be polling some full-time freelance and wedding photogs on some of their more…interesting experiences, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, do you shoot weddings full-time or on the side, or have attended a wedding and borne witness to an unusual event? Let us know in the comments, and maybe we’ll feature your story in a follow up as well!