There are many stressful situations that wedding photographers can experience on a wedding day: being stuck in traffic, navigating well-intentioned, yet annoying, guests who believe they can do your job better than you, disorganized family formals, or just coping with some really terrible reception lighting.
But there's only one thing that can merit the title of worst nightmare for a wedding photographer: gear failure.
I had my first experience with this in the summer of 2017. Because of a mix-up with my rental from Lumoid, I had one camera battery and NO charger going into a wedding weekend. In fact, there were seriously no more batteries or chargers to be found in all of Northern Virginia. I cried a lot, asked a lot of people for help, and somehow made it out unscathed. In fact, the bride and groom don’t even know that I was super stressed behind the scenes, and I think it’s the best wedding I’ve ever shot! Here were the three big takeaways:
1) Have a back up to your back ups back up, in gear and in plans.
My background is in public relations, and a huge aspect of PR is having a crisis plan in place. Even if you have a squeaky clean business, you need to have a specific plan in place for emergencies. I know this, and yet I didn’t have one for my photography business. How insane! But I won’t be caught off guard again.
As a result of creating this crisis plan, I raised my prices. I believe that this plan adds a LOT of value to my business, and so I adjusted accordingly.
2) Pick a capable as heck second shooter, that understands they are there to work and serve.
Their personality and work ethic are way more important to me than their capabilities as a photographer. On this nightmare turned greatest day, my assistant was my good friend Liz. Liz is one of those people that, by nature, thinks of others before herself. Even though she is not a professional photographer, she did a lot of incredible things as my assistant. She navigated between digital and instant photos all day, drove to Best Buy DURING the wedding day to purchase some gear that saved the day, shared her snacks and her positivity with me, and used her unique eye to capture things in ways I never would have thought to. And she was ALWAYS moving, always doing something.
This turned into another reason I raised my prices: I want to pay my assistant/second shooters A LOT more! And now I can. It’s the best investment I can make for wedding day.
3) Shoot with purpose.
I realized that I lacked technical skill in an important area: brevity in shooting. I was constantly shooting 10 of the exact same image. Why? Because I could. I agree that sometimes a very slight difference can make a photo better or worse, but that’s not why I was doing it. I wasn’t being very intentional at all. But when you’re worried that your one battery could die at any moment, you better believe I’m being intentional as heck about clicking the shutter button. This, and starting to shoot film, has made me a much more intentional photographer. I think it’s one of my biggest strengths now!
So, there it is. My nightmare of a day pushed me to create a crisis plan, raise my prices, and really use my brain when shooting. While it made me cry many times in the moment, it ultimately made me a much better problem solver and photographer. I don’t want to say I’m thankful that this happened, but I’m thankful for the long-term growth that happened as a result of it.
Thanks for taking the time to read about my worst nightmare! Past clients, do you know if this was your wedding? Photographers, have you ever had an experience like this?
*Sadly, Lumoid recently shut down. If anyone has a favorite photography rental company, please send them my way!