If you haven’t already done so, click here to read part one!
…Whew! Smooth sailing from here on out, right?
Sure, if you’d categorize the premise of the movie White Squall as “smooth sailing.”
You’ve never shot a wedding professionally before, so you don’t know what the f*ck you’re doing.
Once again, you call up your old friend, Google, and you say, “Hey, Google. Want to hang out for a few days?”
You watch tutorials on posing to generate ideas for the wedding party and couple’s portraits. You look up wedding photo checklists to make sure you’re not missing anything important. You watch videos of other ceremonies in the same category as the one you’ll be shooting (e.g. Catholic, Jewish, Greek Orthodox, Hindu, secular, same-sex, etc.), so you’ll know ahead of time how it’s all going to go down on the day of the wedding. You’re specializing in weddings now, so you do everything in your power to become an expert.
The wedding is out of town, so you use your Monopoly money to book your hotel and, depending on how far out of town, your flight and your rental car.
You call your couple-to-be to discuss talk timeline and figure out what types of photos they’re looking for (you haven’t really formulated your own unique style yet, so you’re still a marionette.) Among other things, this will dictate which pieces of equipment you’ll need to pack. Does the bride want photos of herself getting into her dress? If so, is she okay with you, a male photographer, taking these photos? If not, you’ll need to bring along a female second shooter. Will you do family photos before the ceremony or after? What time will the sun set? Is the wedding outdoors? If so, is there a backup location in the event of inclement weather? Is there somewhere secure for you to stash your valuable equipment while you’re shooting? What about the other 427 things you don’t currently have the answer to (and don’t even realize are things yet)?
Sounds like it’s time to make a trip to the venue (if it’s not too far afield). So you call up the on-site coordinator and leave her a message. After a week-long game of phone tag, you finally nail her down and set up a time to stop by. She takes you around the premises and shows you where everything will be happening and answers all of your questions to the best of her ability. Then she leaves you to your fate.
You spend the rest of the afternoon location scouting the wedding venue and surrounding environs, meticulously prioritizing your photo ideas. You’ve brought your camera along so you can take test shots, keeping in mind that everything – and I mean everything – will change on the day of the wedding. As a result, you formulate contingency plans and label them A through somewhere in the neighborhood of double-Z. You test lighting and note the trajectory of the sun, bearing in mind that since the wedding is taking place next summer, it’s going to be completely different at that time.
You leave the venue with an electric feeling in the pit of your stomach because the creative juices are flowing. This is finally happening!
Fast forward to the week of the wedding. You prep your equipment. You charge your batteries, format your memory cards, update your cameras’ firmware, clean your glass, test your lights and your radio triggers and check, double-check and triple-check that you have everything you need, including backups of the important items, which is every single thing.
If you’re flying, you arrive two days early to eliminate any chance of missing the wedding because of flight delays or, God forbid, cancellations. You brought your thousands of dollars of camera equipment through two airports (or more), which is an exercise I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. You picked up your rental car and navigated your way to the hotel. Time to relax and go into zen mode. You focus on the task at hand and envision yourself going through the process of shooting the wedding, running it through your mind over and over again. You sleep a total of ninety minutes.
Fast forward to the day of the wedding. You leave your hotel two hours early, in case of car trouble and by the time you arrive at the venue, your heart’s beating a mile a minute, because after all of this – all the education, all the equipment purchases, all the business and marketing research, and all of the prep work – you’re finally shooting your first real wedding!
These are the hours for which you’re paid.
After the Wedding
It was a whirlwind, but you knocked it out of the park, if you do say so yourself!
Each of your cameras sport two memory cards, so you separate them, effectively creating a backup for all of the images you took. But one backup isn’t enough for your very first client’s wedding photos, so you bust out your portable hard drive and upload each individual card, a process which takes around four hours. You start this while you’re driving back to your hotel, because you won’t be able to breathe until you have as many backups as Michael Jordan has shoes.
Back at the room, you indulge in an adult beverage (or two) because you’ve earned it. You make a third backup of the images on your laptop and possibly upload a fourth to the cloud, which will take all night because you have nearly 10,000 30-megapixel RAW files.
In the morning, you head back home. If you’re flying, you separate your four data copies so that one is in your camera bag, one is in your “personal item,” one is with your second shooter and one is on your person. You have a small panic attack when you’re forced to put the backup that was supposed to stay in your pocket the whole time onto the conveyor belt and through the x-ray machine.
You have another beverage on the plane. It costs 13 dollars.
You get home around 9:00 am and by now, the couple is super excited to see some photos from the wedding. You can’t just post random photos willy-nilly, so you sit down and sort through your 10,000 images and pick out the best ones, making sure to delete the “outtakes” along the way. You edit your favorites and publish them to your wedding photography blog along with a couple paragraphs of text telling the story of the wedding.
You update all of your social media accounts with something like “awesome wedding in Aspen yesterday!” along with a cool photo, which you have resized differently for each and every site because there is absolutely no image spec uniformity in social media. You also spend 30 minutes figuring out who all the other vendors were at the wedding (e.g. coordinator, DJ, caterer, florist, videographer, etc.), which is no small feat because you have only the vaguest sense of what actually happened at the wedding (a wedding is like the breeze during the opening credits of Forest Gump, and you, the photographer, are the feather). You link to all of their pages so they can see how good of a job you did and recommend you to all of their future clients. If you’re lucky.
Back to your equipment. You have an engagement session tomorrow because, hey, that was only one wedding and you need to pay the bills. Same process from before the wedding: you charge your batteries, format your memory cards, clean your glass, test your lights and your radio triggers and check, double-check and triple-check that you have everything you need, including backups of the important items, which is every single thing.
Other shit to do
Also, let’s face it, camera equipment is fickle and something probably malfunctioned during the wedding and/or portrait session, so it’s time for another date with Google, during which you do your best to figure out just what in the heck went wrong. If you can’t find the answer on your own, you send it back to Nikon and if you’re super lucky and it’s miraculously still under warranty, they fix it for free. This “only” takes four to six weeks (you won’t need it in that time, right?), so you go out and find a replacement for the interim.
After your portrait session, it’s back to work on your wedding shoot. You have 800-1,000 images to edit, which takes you 2-3 weeks. Once you’re finished, you start figuring out how you’re going to deliver the images to your client, which entails – among other things – making an online gallery so the couple can download the high-res images from the comfort of their own home.
You also send photos to all of those other vendors you looked up earlier, so that they’ll share them on their blogs and social media pages.
Now it’s time to print some photos! After all of this time and effort, it would be a shame if your couple only looked at their wedding photos on a 5-inch iPhone screen. If you haven’t already done so, you find a good printer in town or online and order some complimentary print packs to ensure quality. When you’ve finally found the printer that best fits your style, you get to work on laying out the photo album. This takes a day or two because you’re meticulous AF and you allow another week or so for the album to print and ship. You have it shipped to your “office” because you want to make sure it looks good before handing it over to your client. When it finally arrives, surprise! The box looks like the UPS guy dropped seven anvils on it then used it to play kickball with the neighborhood kids. Needless to say, the album is damaged. So you get on the horn with your printer and, if you’re lucky, they say, “We’re so sorry about that! We’ll send a new one immediately!” Another week goes by and you receive the replacement album. It looks great! You deliver it to your client and they love it. Job well done!
Well, almost done. There are still a couple miscellaneous items to be addressed. Since your client loved the photos so much, you ask if they’d kindly be willing to write you a review online and tell all of their friends who are planning weddings about you. You also field a phone call or two from an elderly relative who’s upset that you didn’t get a group shot of “all the Johnsons” or who can’t quite figure out how to order a 4” x 6” print on your website.
But now you’re done! Time to swan dive into your roomful of cold hard cash like Scrooge McDuck!
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