Welcome to the unabashed boot camp and survival guide for the Photographer new to Weddings and other events with compelling issues that tend to surface causing great pain and possible financial losses. 

These hints and suggestions have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and we make no claims it will cure any disease, or malady caused by shooting Weddings or you being shot at the Wedding by the Brides Father.  On the other hand a good laugh will sometimes prevent suicide.  

No photographers were injured during the writing of this book and if you can afford an attorney, my nephew will be available at the usual attorney fees for malpractice cases. I will get a referral fee if you do use him.

This is the first of several sections.  The first section is the most important, it being about your relationship to the bride and the event. The second section is the relationship of you to the business.  

A section on Equipment is noticeably absent.  It changes so often and most of the reviews and stories are bullshit with those hoping to receive a freebie, so I don’t bother with it.    It is not what this is about.   I rate equipment as secondary because without a knowledge of weddings in general, lighting or negotiation you have nothing.  

I once said the most important part of a hand grenade is the pin. Till you pull it it nothing but a paperweight.  I generally talk about the need and usage of gear rather than get into long debates over whose over gimmicked toy is better because most of it is advertising and few fish are caught on hooks without bait. And I do like fishing!

The technical relationships between you and your gear are your choices. No two people think the same in this respect and gear branders are hilariously protective and usually quite loud and party lined in the brain thinker department.   They have to be,  they bring nothing else to the table.  With gear I speak generically. I also will delve into lighting theory, locations and of course the Jacobs Dictionary of all those photo terms confusing to some.


Maybe the reception would have good food.  
I got the call, a good friend with a five man operation needed a pinch hitter, they were booked, flu was abound,  and an emergency took out one of their shooters and they were good battery pack customers of mine.  I said Ok for grins, and also to keep a shooters eye.  In the old days who cared, extra gigs were three hour weddings and off we went and dumped the job at the lab.  Grabbed another, sometimes three in a day. 

This call was different… a modern day “marathon” complete with sibling competition, intrigue over-budget,  intervening aunts and in-laws.  They had plucked this one from another studio who probably did not get along with the Bride, or couldn’t get along with her and they were going one shooter short.  

The 2nd shooter was green and this was asteroids above her pay scale.  This wedding was already in containment with tears, changes, exchanges and a host of tainted Estrogen only a few days away.  And this was a late botched booking with little info sourced, acknowledged and in writing.  There were several red flags, red… more like the entire Russian Army in Parade Dress.

The other photographer bailed on them and that explained the late booking.  I’ll never know totally what happened.  But this was all to familiar about what I wrote about thirty years ago when I spoke of the Devil in the Black Dress. There is no replacement for experience and I had nothing to lose, not my gig so I went in, trying to help the new gal. shooter #2 who was in trouble already almost in tears.  

Just watching the folks arriving tells you a lot.  You’ll see who is directing others, and who is "the stick”.  One of the critical points in the Wedding Game.  In the carnival business, business dealings, scams, almost any meeting of the minds involves decisions made by the leaders. The true leader or boss always ”carried the stick” or made the decisions.  Thats who you want to deal with.  The other players need to be doing something else.  

I went to the ladies dressing room, and met the Bride for the first time.  Not my usual procedure, in my Bridal world, by wedding time I usually had been with the Bride that I booked and sold, at least two or three times.  We were established as a team.  You do that when shooting high dollar weddings.  200 to 400 dollar DVD shoots don’t warrant that attention but some contact can avoid problems.

Even a casual lunch plus two rehearsals makes you a friend, and puts everyone on the same page and outsiders and problems get handled swiftly.

REMEMBER: To some 200.00 is as important as 4000 dollars is to others.

After we exchanged pleasantries on my behalf and some unpleasantries on her behalf, aided by her confidents,  I just sat down and didn’t say a word.  I listened carefully and realized the problem was the entourage.  If these women had been on the other side we would have lost the war.  

I got ten minutes of face job and her list of things that went wrong. Enough, I stood up and I asked the non-essentials (aunts and a future in-law)  to leave “ Politely”  as I wished to speak with the most important person here, the Bride alone since this was her day.   I do not negotiate with three screamers.  I knew they were distressing the Bride, and my remark stunned them.  

I was about to use my last threat, “ Let me explain things, if you don’t start to listen instead of  bitching, I will walk out the friggen door and you will have nothing because it won’t work” .

They left...

I sat down and chatted pleasantries with the Bride, asking what was she looking for, she calmed, and I carefully made an issue of wrapping up my gear and headed for the door.  She said something like "Where the hell are you going"?   I said, “  I have done Bridal work for forty years, some in featured Bridal Magazines and thought this Wedding had great potential since I had heard how pretty the Bride was”.  Obviously, I’m at the wrong function.”  They must have screwed up the assignments. 

Your crew has managed to turn me off.   I said to her,  “I came to make the most important day of your life a magnificent one” and I told her “ I felt bad because she was beautiful, radiantly stunning, invitingly wholesome, and had quite a healthy look that would really be expressed in the photos and a winner but the whole attitude by outsiders here was ruining my creativity”.  And that was the truth, I wanted to shoot her...

"I explained we could make the photos the center of her experience that day like a model photo shoot and keep her focused I would be doing the posing. She should not be overwhelmed by small things and the mistakes and the regimen her supporters had tossed on her.   This was her day and all the others do not count.  She is the Bride the most important figure in the room, not her mother, not her aunts, not her future mother-in-law".

Nothing was said for about two minutes, and she was shaking, turned to me and asked, You really think so?   I said yes, she was drop dead gorgeous, and if I were armed with a point and shoot, she could have gotten married in a potato sack and pulled it off.  I explained, this is the time for her to be the star and I was there to help her achieve that.  A wedding is all her, all about the day and it’s now.  

Her next remark was  ‘ **ck Them”.   She had enough negativism,  I got a hug, a really nice hug and an apology, they got started on the hair and makeup,  she and the gal listened to many of my suggestions and we had formed a bond.  We let the others in, I think I heard something like, “Mother, I can handle it and bud out”,  the other two got the message. 

Amazing what coaching, an underliner, reverse shadow,  and some simple makeup tricks can do working with her friend doing the preparation work.  You learn from every job you do and you know what looks good.  And those shots with digital allowed me to show her what we needed to do.   Both confidence and trust.  And it went as smooth as butter left out of the fridge on the table all day. 

I still do her kids and family shots and I get occasional brochure and product work from the hubby.  No one had taken the time to show her a little human compassion for the job she was about to do.  She still is drop dead gorgeous, and only a few shots missed, tons of kids got in the way, 99% of the shots worked, few throw outs.