Your best “A” rig goes bad during the processional. Unlikely you are going to stop the whole thing telling the bride to stand still while you fix the camera. Don’t think so. The pro reaches over and grabs the backup camera and continues.                        

The amateur has just lost the battle… There will be lots more on this subject but briefly a few points. Just a short sample of what we will discuss and how fast you can get in trouble. 

My worst day came being part of the press team covering President Bush at MacDill AFB in a huge backlit hanger with two Nikon D3’s, brand new, not 24 hours old, first job, just received them day before, first day out and close to 5000 people in attendance.  The entire base turned out in one of the huge WWII hangers on base.  Both cameras after ten minutes went dead.   They failed in metering, locked into speed and I switched to manual.  

These were $3200.00 pro bodies less than 24 hours old.  Had no time to pre-test them. All I had to work with was 1/15 of a sec and manual aperture. The entire metering and control system was down on both.   Knowing this was an important shoot and having full-float credentials, actually more access than anyone with the media had. 

 Back to the President.  I pulled my out my trusty D100, NIKON’s first digital prosumer camera out and finished the job.  I ducked under the stands to get away from shooting into the glaring sun and get to the other side, I ran into about four SWAT teams in the staging area under the grandstand and had more red dots on my forehead and chest than when I had measles.   

Secret Service TEAM Alpha,  Hillsboro Sheriff, Tampa SWAT and MacDill Ops.   My 300 F2.8 looked like a shoulder missile.  Made a great impression on them till they checked me, my gear and my security clearance and badge.  The bad shot totally exposed wrong made a hell of a cover for an article. The regular shots went to the paper.  Best profile I ever took with a broken camera. 

Three days later I was in Las Vegas at the Photo Marketing Association, International show making a scene at the Nikon booth with two dead bodies in my hand.  The personnel at the counters denied any problems. Hadn’t heard of any problems from any dealers about malfunctioning D3’s.

Before I got on the plane, little did they know I was on the web on every forum I could find and secured thirty-five plus emails and letters from others who had the same problem. I asked again anyone else hear anything about a problem with the brand new D3’s out only about ten days?  I received more replies a few minutes before we left for the airport.  I pressed on. 

I approached the nice reps in the Nikon rotunda at the show and had not heard about any problems.  The two folks then called for a for a supervisor and I asked him the same question.  

At that point, I spotted my arch enemy MR. RON SXXXXX, the PR guy for Nikon who monitored the web. He claimed to know nothing, so I played the tapes from Nikon Long Island Repair, California, and Canada.  Had I had my shotgun, I was furious, I would have blown his xxxx xxx.  I was planning when I got to my room to post all these conversations on my website and the forums.

The repair stations who wouldn’t acknowledge it being systemic but if I had a problem, they would look at it.  OK, but I knew already the extent of the problem. I was not the only call 

I lost it loud, I said you people are not being honest (more like what kind of bullshit is this) and demanded to see the top guy at the show.  I started in the business with Joe Ehrenreich who started Nikon, and this was not how he handled things.   A big scene ensued, couple of other dealers and friends gathered who knew me, I owned a store too. 

Then a friend came by who was our rep for twenty years, and now the National Sales Manager and as usual his subs and underlings denied any problem with the D3 because they were not aware was the story I got.   

I pulled out transcripts from the various sites on the web with the names of close to fifty other pros and letters with names and awaiting authorization for repair who were having the shutdown meter problem.  You only could shoot in manual.

He apologized, and reminded me his job was sales, and certainly the press and dealers were very important, and he called Mr. Tadashi, one of the techs at the show who took me to a private room behind the scenes, boxed and packed the cameras, took all my information, walked over to FEDEX with me in the LAS Convention center, and overnighted them to Memphis (?)   

What’s with Memphis?  Nikon was on both coasts and Canada.  Sony who makes the Motherboards and internal Chips for Nikon and Canon opened up a quick repair facility in Memphis since that’s close to national flight services for FEDEX. That's how mine got fixed so quick.

We had some two more days to kill in Vegas, when I returned home, I had notice from the post office of a very expensive insured package that I could retrieve at the post office.  Less than three days from the time I handed him the cameras.  Amazing, very fast turn and pro service.  I told everyone on those lists what I had done what to do to get the repair facilitated.  I never spoke to anyone at Nikon after that and when I retired I sold my Nikon and went to SONY after 45 years with Nikon.

Later, I found out secretly from Mr. Tadashi that the motherboards (made by SONY) had to be installed on the D3’s assembled in Japan with an insulator on a certain part of the board that was very close to a capacitor or heat source which caused a split in the board to form.  Someone sent a whole batch through not adding nor testing sufficiently the completed camera.  The insulation and this raised a heat crack and shut the system down.  

They did not like the pictures we took of them denying anything wrong.

Problems don’t always come from the wedding, the wedding party, the caterer, the wedding designer, the mother-in-law, sometimes they come from companies and suppliers you put your reputation on and they fail to be honest, that bothered me more than them actually not functioning. Anything can go wrong but lying and denial breaks trust.

Some newbies are so hyped up with their newfound toys and minor successes they have nothing to fall back on. When I learned to shoot weddings, I went out with a gaggle of pros for almost four months. 

Four different guys to observe, grasp and learn to gain something from each of them. They each had a style and other than the required shooting for the albums did things differently.  But they all had backups.


When I first started, the satin dresses were the hot item, the newer synthetics may be just as shiny but you will find out what a moiré’ is.   So, if you haven’t a clue as to what happens to bridal dresses with high Rayon or shiny Silk content or don’t know how to meter a Black Tuxedo, learn quickly.  The Rayon will create a moiré’ or specular pattern and a Black Tuxedo can throw the whole scene off if you let the pipper in the viewfinder land on it.   

Know your gear, what’s that error message? Simply put you don’t have the time to drag out the book at a Wedding. No time outs in this game. Is your gear suitable for the job at hand? That 50mm lens won’t work from the back of a 200-foot Catholic Church with dim lighting.

Neither will a 300 if it’s a F 5.6, has no image stabilization, you forgot the tripod. No FLASH allowed as is the case with most Catholic Churches. And if you are into gizmos, never shoot a FONG under a glass chandelier.SIR MURPHY-LAWS
Backups? Failures are not uncommon and there are things you can do to prevent double trouble.  St. Murphy is the Patron Saint of all Photographers. He wrote many Laws. Like, if it can break, sooner or later It will break usually sooner.  Borrow or rent a spare camera if needed for redundancy. You’d hate to have to finish the Wedding with a disposable. 

At onetime all flashes were not equal. Few manufacturers units hit over a guide of 120 realistically. Many pros shoot with guides of 160–200–400 watt seconds, but today things are different. Higher ISO’s from the camera, faster lenses, and / or rent a decent flash unit. Ever wonder why Pro’s spend as much on their lighting gear as they do on their cameras?  Now we have cameras that will work with lesser strobes with a few tricks. Later, I will unravel my sleeves and show you frugality can work.