But, this is to be my biggest wedding year yet, with 10 weddings already scheduled for 2014. I couldn't be more excited or feeling more blessed. There's nothing like photographing a wedding. It's scary, yes, but also thrilling and joyful and humbling. I love love love being a part of something so instrumental to a couple's life.
In the fall of 2011, just a few months after I opened my doors as a professional photog, a friend of a friend needed a wedding photographer at the last minute. They had no budget, and they were getting married at a church in West Virginia with a reception at the local VFW. I told my friend that I had no experience whatsoever shooting a wedding. I didn't know how to use flash indoors. I couldn't shoot motion, only still portraits.
But somehow I found myself agreeing. Why not, right? How hard could it possibly be? (Hahahahahah famous last words!) I didn't charge the bride & groom since I didn't feel right charging for something I'd never done.
I prepped in the few days I had as best as I could. I learned how to make a quick diffuser for my cheap flash. I had my two little Canon Rebel cameras with three lenses (a telephoto, my 50mm portrait lens, and a macro lens for bling). I had my friends practicing walking down the aisle so I could learn motion photography. I read up on crucial elements of wedding photography, what to have with me, what to be prepared for. I felt...mostly ready.
I figured that I could take most of the pics outside and to wing it with the rest. Well of course, as we drove to the mountains...it started pouring. It rained for most of the day, which canned my plans to do most of the shooting outdoors.
I walked in and met the bride. I was relieved to see how sweet and pretty she was and how gorgeous she looked for her wedding. I wasn't nearly as thrilled when I saw the tiny classroom with the nearly sealed window where she had to get dressed, with the bright blue cement block walls...with about 15 people (not all bridal party or immediate family) and several children, all crowded in.
I snapped photos as best as I could, dodging people, trying to listen to everyone's "suggestions" for what photos I should take. Brian waited patiently outside the doors, reading a book since he couldn't help me. I worried because I had no idea how to make the blue color cast from the walls stop making my bride look like a smurf or how I could make the mess in the room created by too many people go away.
As hectic as it was...I liked it when I had the idea of asking everyone to leave the room and give me a minute with the bride. I gave her a hanky to dry her tears on and some Tylenol for the headache she had. It made me glad that I had come prepared and even more glad that I was able to give her a little peace and comfort before she walked down the aisle to the love of her life.
I was relieved when we moved on to the ceremony. Well, relieved and also scared. I'd never photographed anything like that. I checked and rechecked my camera settings a million times and made Brian go up and down the aisle a few times (or 10) and crossed my fingers.
I managed to snag a clear, nice photo of my bride on the arm of her father, coming down the aisle. Score! :)
I was so happy when I saw the massive wall of glass behind the altar. It provided enough light in the otherwise windowless, dimly lighted church for me to shoot with a very low flash. Imagine my shock and horror when, after the bride made her way up the aisle and to the altar, they closed the window...with a heavy black velvet curtain! It totally put the church in near darkness! To this day I still wonder why they would close off that beautiful, natural backdrop...it was raining outside but it was still pretty!
I quickly adjusted my camera settings, pulled out my slightly higher powered flash, and prayed. A lot. Which fit in with the rest of the wedding. :)
I snapped a lot of photos that looked clear and good (until I saw later, blown up, how grainy they were from my too high ISO) and some that were kind of blah. But I managed to get a good exit one, and then took some fun ones in the lobby of the church as guests were congratulating the bride & groom.
Then I was so thrilled to see there was a break in the rain. I quickly got my bride and groom and their wedding party outside to take some couples portraits and wedding party and family photos.
I didn't realize the entire crowd of guests would follow us out...and act not only as spectators but hecklers. :)
I learned something valuable that day, that I needed to get my couple away from the crowd quickly so that we could use as much of our time before the reception started, and that also, the couple needs to have that private time to just take a breath and allow themselves to just enjoy being married! I also like a little privacy...I generally prepare a list of photos I would like to take before every wedding, and I get through them as quickly as possible, without the "help" of anyone else. :)|
They had a lot of fun posing near and on the limo they'd hired for the day, and involving their two daughters (one each from past relationships) and there were lots of smiles that I really enjoyed...that's probably one of my favorite elements of a wedding...the smiles. It's nearly impossible not to be happy at these beautiful occasions.
However, I was nearly in tears when we arrived at the reception venue, a VFW in West Virginia. It was nice enough inside (though no windows to be found), but the outside of the building was old & falling apart and there were only run down store fronts and a weedy parking lot next to it. Where was I going to take the rest of the romantic portraits?
This is when I realized that in order to be successful at this type of photography, I need to use my brain and be creative. I looked around and spied an adorable house with a covered front porch and porch swing a few blocks away. Even though it was drizzling, I convinced my bride & groom to run across the street with me, Brian holding an umbrella over the bride's head and dress. No one appeared to be home at the cute little house and I figured even if someone DID come out, who would turn away a bride & groom on their wedding day? :) We got some really sweet photos that I loved, on the porch swing, next to their little garden, against the brick of the side of their home. And then it started to rain again in earnest so we hurried back across to their reception.
Where I took dancing photos and bouquet toss photos, made lots of mistakes and got a few really beautiful shots that made the bride & groom smile. And the family kept trying to feed us, thanking us profusely. The bride & groom kept hugging us and telling us how much our presence meant to them.
It was the longest 8 hours of my life. When all was said and done, I only got about 20 photos I was really proud of, but I gave them 150 photos and they were pleasantly surprised by the quality and just overjoyed that their day had been captured. I was so happy I could make them happy.
I immediately went home, cried with exhaustion and relief that it was over, that I had come through it successfully, and immediately wondered when I could possibly shoot another wedding. :) I was hooked. Brian was hooked. My focus as a photographer had officially changed.
And the rest, as they say, was history. I've shot everything from a vow renewal to a military elopement to a full scale black tie DC wedding and everything in between and I have loved every single moment of every one for different reasons. I learn so much each time, I grow so much as a photographer and an artist with each one, and I fulfill a void that was lost when I stopped performing onstage three years ago.
Thank you, brides & grooms, for choosing me as your wedding photographer. It is truly an honor. And now that Brian is fully at my side not just as my assistant but as my trusty second shooter AND business partner, I feel like we're ready to take on the world. :)
I never stop trying to be a better wedding photographer. My spreadsheets have spreadsheets. I give out pdf files to the bride & groom a month in advance of each wedding and have their data electronically organized. I write out notecards. I hire a back up photographer to stand by and take my place in case of emergency. I devour wedding mags and blogs. I get involved in the process and am always ready to lend a helping hand or an ear for a bride who needs to talk or vent. I carry everything on me...from lint brushes to safety pins...TUMS to oil blotting sheets...extra jewelry...hair accessories...ribbons, even whitening strips! If someone needs something-I've got it covered. :)
I end this with a photo from Paige & Bobby's wedding from this past weekend. We were on the balcony at Bristow Manor Country Club, with the snowy lake and a gorgeous sunset behind us. But nothing is quite as beautiful as the in love bride & groom. :)