I once had a photographer recount the time she split her pants while shooting a wedding. The horrifying ordeal taught her that if she wants to choose pants, she better bring along an extra pair just in case. While I have thankfully never ripped an article of clothing while shooting, yesterday I did trip over my sandal strap, causing it to break and leaving me barefoot. During the ceremony. At noon. On the scolding hot beach. Tip-toeing, quietly screeching and secretly dying inside, I had no spare slippahs and simply had to keep shooting the elopement, dipping my toasted tootsies into the water every few minutes and keeping a calm, icy cool, mentality. This morning I balance myself on the edges of my soles as I tuck away an extra pair of slippahs alongside the wooden hanger and spare black dress in my trunk, vowing to never be caught shoeless on a hot, rocky beach again. Lesson LEARNED! While I got through the shoot with a bright smile and some images I am uber proud of it reminded me that it was the least that could happen, and I was humbly reminded of all of the things I learned (thankfully EARLY) in my career as a photographer. I actually started a list in my notebook of things I've heard from friends or in forums (or my own tales) and ways to prevent them. And truthfully, I'm not ashamed of the mishaps. I feel that often times we are fearful that if we 'put out there' experiences that we have had that were less than desired others will look at us as unprofessional, or worse our clients will, but truth-be-told, I am thankful I experienced the things I did when I first started because believe me, there are some things that once they happen you know they will never happen again. I learned from those babies. I am fortunate to have good friends I've known for eons who also happen to be photographers who are open and truthful, willing to share the embarassing or horific or OH MY GOSH I NEVER WOULD HAVE GUESSED THAT COULD HAPPEN instances allowing us to evolve our practices to avoid each other's tearful scenarios. It surprises me when others say "Oh my gosh, that happened to you, too?!?" because it's probably happened to all of us but you just don't ever hear it and maybe just one person could be saved from disaster if we all shared. Fortunately every seemingly devastating event either worked out and turned into a cautionary tale or were stories from others turned "mental note: prevent this". I believe keeping quiet is only a disservice to one another so, I'll go first:
Things I learned the hard way (either myself, or from other's trauma): Photographer's Edition
1. Bring back-up gear. It's a given in the photography world but worth saying again: you never know what can happen to your main camera body during the couple's portraits. Have a camera equivilant ready to go in case you need it. And if you don't have one, RENT ONE.
2. Have a back-up photographer. Second shooters not only help round out the story of a wedding day, but also have your back just in case, if you know, you fall on your back.
3. Shoot on multiple cards: I shoot on 4GB cards. When I first started, I shot on a 32GB card. Like, the whole wedding. Sure, it's nice to not have to switch cards often, but if that card went corrupt (something that is totally out of your hands), the whole wedding would be gone, too. (Thankfully that never happened because I was warned early on). It's much easier to swallow the possible corruption of 75-100 images as opposed to a larger portion of the day. Better safe than sorry.
4. Carry on your gear, and always keep it in your sight: I know of a photographer's carry on (full of gear) being accidentally taken by another flight passenger. Thankfully she recovered her baggage, but in the meantime had to rent a whole new outfit for the wedding she was heading to. I also recently read of a photography team on another island who's gear was stolen from their rental house after the wedding. Cards and all. Which leads me to--
5. Upload images as soon as possible on multiple devices: Upload images onto your computer, hard drives, and don't clear your memory cards until you absolutely need to. I upload onto multiple devices just in case, especially if traveling. Always keep atleast one copy of the final images on your person. (I've always thought that was a weird term, on your person). Don't even leave your gear in your car or trunk post wedding to stop at Wendy's late night. ALWAYS KEEP IT WITH YOU until you know it's safe. Treat it like a wittle babbbbbbyyyy.
6. Extra clothes: The last thing I am on a wedding day is diva, it's not my day. I make a special point to look put together for couple's events but in some instances (beach ceremonies for example), you do what you gotta do to get the shot, which could leave you looking a hot mess, or as I mentioned before, with split britches. An extra pair of pants (or slippahs!) in the trunk could be your saving grace.
7. Extras: Along with my personal "emergency" kit for brides and bridesmaids (deoderant, tampons, needle and thread, tissues, blotting papers for in between shots on hot days, safety pins, mints--it's inevitable, someone always needs one of these things and in a hurry, I've got it!), I also bring along a pretty wooden hanger for dress photos just in case.
8. Keep gear safe during the reception: Recruiting the DJ to keep an eye on your gear is usually a great way to do this. I typically stash our bags beside their booth, out of rang of mixed drinks, guests getting down gangnam style and possible disaster.
9. Be careful where you choose to shoot: This may sound silly, but have you ever seen this video? It's our responsibility to really THINK about things and educate our clients, and if everyone on that dock doesn't seem like the best idea, it's your job to speak up and say so. I am super cautious with couples on rocky ledges with water and rogue waves. Let's get the shot, but don't fall in for crying out loud! Nothing ruins a wedding day quicker than a sopping wet Bride.
10. Confirm wedding date with couple again well in advance: Check with Bride and Groom before the wedding, nicely confirming all the details to make sure you are both on the same page. Don't want to have any miscommunications, or scarier, double book!
11. "Sole Photographer" contract: I have heard of photographers being booked for events and the coordinators taking it upon themselves to bring in another photographer. That can get hairy. Make sure everyone is under agreement and you stay in control for the sake of your couples and include a "sole photographer" clause.
Last but not least and totally not wedding related but....
12. Don't instagram while scantily clad: I know a girl who once got out of her shower and happened to notice how brilliant her scattered jewelry sparkled in the light on her dresser and grabbed her phone to take a picture. Days later she remembers to instagram it, only to later realize that her not-so-covered-up image was gleaming in a reflection. She quickly deleted it and no damage was done...or so I heard. Poor girl, what was she thinking??!?
My first priority is a couple's experience on their wedding day, along with their images, and I will go to great lengths to protect it, even if it means scolding my tootsies on sharp, black rocks while the coordinator tries to safety pin my shoe back together (to no avail). Everything in life is a giant lesson, especially the most embarassing of acts, and if it's happened to you, it's probably happened to me, too. All we can do is learn and grow and rest assured the first time was the last time.
Video lighting test shot. I'm capable of laughing at myself, ya see? ;)