Learn as I did, if nothing else, one thing in this chapter. The word upfront, first page, "find the stick".  You treat the Bar or Bat Mitzvah the same way as a Wedding.  Especially Bar-Mitzvahs, the boys get a little rowdier and you’ll have a larger percentage of kids around who think a little more chaos is fun as they are not as structured sometimes with their parents not there.

The other thing you will learn as you read on is something I mentioned before. Find out who is running the gig and who is ultimately responsible. I really went against everything I teach and it taught me a harsh lesson. Honestly, I have been blessed this is the only job in six decades I really had a fight over, and lost my cool on.

I knew the person I thought was the host, a friend of my mother, belonged to my temple, so I never bothered with a contract.  No substantial deposit, just $100 for film, she said,  “she was treating for the film”.  It was her sister’s grandson. I was not dealing with the boss, (Violation of rule one).  No contract  (Violation of Rule Two).

One of the other guests a sister attending was on an unsupervised weekend leave from a Mental Institution on Long Island, NY.  I am not joking about this as it’s not something I would joke about.   She got enamored with the camera and upset every picture she could get into.  Funny faces, devil fingers, the birdie. I asked the mother to see if she could calm her a little and I got a speech.  Not her job, “Let her have fun”.  No designated persona in charge.   (Violation of Rule Three)  

Uncle Samuel brought his Minolta and almost knocked me over.  I did not know the sister in law had insisted he did.   No Contract stipulating prime shooter (Violation of Rule Four

Then the rest of the Paparazzi showed up.  It ran long, kids got restless and they headed for the banquet.  Even the Rabbi was trying to bail. And the real party for the adults was on the second (next) day which I was never told about. (Violation of Rules 5-7, no contract, no outsiders, time stipulation, Paparazzi under my control etc.) 

What should have been in those days was a fifteen-hundred-dollar job reduced to the 400 I quoted for the one day... I just wanted to get it done, over with and learned a valuable lesson.  

I did the work in our lab, and told her (Moms friend) the proofs were ready. I wanted this thing done. Gut feeling.  All of a sudden, she has nothing to do with this entire affair.  OK I reach the other fly-in sister, the step mother. She tells me to forget it as (you guessed it) Uncle Samuel had done such a good job! 

The two had not coordinated and my services were no longer required. (Rules 2,3,4,5,6-37)  Here I am, ticked off looking at 6-36 exposure rolls of 35. I called my attorney, basically he tells me, I got borscht!  It usually boils down to what’s in writing. 

Or as he said it, “NO WRITE, NO RIGHT!   He felt it was not worth pursuing. He instructs me to send them a registered letter telling them all the negatives and proofs will be unavailable if not paid for and picked up (or destroyed) within 48 hours.  

Since they voided the verbal agreement. He calls the witch as a last resort, and she tells him where to go.   I am not generally a vengeful person, but this one got to me and a week later I sliced and diced the prints and negatives in my new criss-cross paper shredder with the proofs and mailed them the trash.  Almost ruined the machine.   It was little consolation and stupid to do so.  (Rule six)

But if ever there was Divine Intervention, G-d the almighty, user of burning bushes and synch cords sent a plague through Uncle Samuel’s Minolta on a shutter speed (over 250) too high for the flash which only synched at 1/80 or 1/125. You probably did it one time or another, each picture was a half frame and people cut off, not one useful print since the Bar Mitzvah by was dead center in all shots and now had half a face.  Revenge is mine saith the Lord!

Uncle Samuel, you know him as Uncle Fred, blew the synch speed rule!  He had pictures, but only one-half of each of them. I get a call a couple a couple of weeks later from Uncle Samuel suddenly my new best friend, he needed the pics to save face.  And I told him to shove the Minolta in the exit tunnel for his alimentary canal, the opposite end of the face he was going to save and take the bitch with him. I lost it…. I told him they were destroyed, they were, he got the truth and I really didn’t give a sh*t.   Then the mother calls me and I politely told her there is no sunshine where the negatives went to.  I’m usually not like that but very happy after I told the b*tch off.

The next call I got was from the real Dad, not the poor bastard married to her now.  This was the kids real father and he and I had chatted briefly at the Bar Mitzvah.  Sorry, nothing I could do There were no negatives to save, something I would never do except when she really ticked me off.

He turns out to be a real nice guy. I lost, they lost.  And this meant a lot for the real Dad and the kid.  It was a treasured moment with their child that went unrecorded that was the bad part, it bothered me.  I wrote this off as an experience and that’s why I’m telling you how you must approach this thing as a business and forsake the amateur attitude if you are serious about making this a career. 

Had I been professional and not lost my temper or destroyed the images, I would have put a REAL HEALTHY price tag on the pictures. One of those D4X price tags.  But it bothered me.   

I have a heart under all this humor.... I called the father back and told him when he came down from NY to see his kid and we were going to a few places to reshoot what I could, inexpensively.  Well ex-wife and her new husband agreed he could have the kid for a week during spring break.

I knew the Rabbi and asked to borrow the Temple and a few friends of the kid, I shot some good stuff, portrait work in the temple I would not have gotten before.  On the beach, Khakis, blue shirts, Sea Oats, sand, at a Pitch and Putt, and a private room at a restaurant with a couple of the kid’s friends, Busch Gardens, batting cages, deep sea fishing and handed him 140 plus portrait quality shots of Dad and Son with friends that hopefully the way his biological father really wanted it.   The dad treated the kid and his friends to four great days and I shot all of it.   

Time to leave, the father had to go to the airport, he was going home, I took him and when I dropped him off, he handed me an envelope.  He told me to open it when I got home.  He paid me triple in cash for what I had originally charged for the Bar Mitzvah. I called him in NY and joked with him after I saw the generosity and his comment was, "Now you know why I am not married to her, and I feel sorry for the jerk she married”.  The best part, is none of her, her family, the whole crew is not in any of my son’s pictures.  It’s just him and me and when he turns 16 he’ll come to live with me, till then I have great shots, that’s the best part.


Today, one of the trends for some in the industry is for the Hollywood over the top production consisting of the couple’s life in their childhood past usually on a slideshow timed at the Wedding Banquet, Bar or Bat Mitzvah party and I have even heard of one at a funeral which reduced the occasion to being heralded as The National Kleenex Championships. 

It can work beautifully or it can backfire horribly.  The part that cracks me up about these self-gratification efforts and presentations is that they have nothing to do with the couple sitting at the dais on this their most important day.  

Sometimes, it is done behind the Brides back and can cause problems or emotions. And there is the potential that invited guests came for the party, the food, the booze, the glitz, dressed up glamour, the guys hitting on the Bridesmaids, and in some cases, a celebration since some other guy gets to listen to her hopefully for the rest of his life.

The Wedding Planners make a killing on this production since they utilize a a lot of assets to produce the high-end scanning needed for these slide shows, rental equipment screens etc. It should be done with the Brides consent and the pictures cleared ahead of time.

It can be so ridiculous to you because you know the behind the screen that the photos are in no way representative of their personality, their appearance, and their social demeanor during this over the top production. 

What do we mean by over the top.  It’s popular, if you have the money.  Mega dollars. I witnessed an exceptional 60 Minutes’ Type live quality twenty-five-minute presentation at a Bar Mitzvah I had attended and to say it was spectacular is an understatement.

The NFL halftime show could take lessons as football was the theme and the Bar Mitzvah boy was a great football fan, both on the TV and in his junior league.  The only thing missing was Howard Cosell as the announcer and I’m sure since money was no object, if they could have brought Cosell back alive they would have had him there.   

It was earned as a reward for a job well done. From real NFL Cheerleaders, five cameras shooting, master of ceremonies, everybody working dressed like referees, life-size posters of his pro team, the place done up like an NFL stadium… It was the most over the top celebration I have ever seen.

The most important factor is a child is becoming a man in the community, is celebrated and consecrated at the Bar Mitzvah by reciting a specific section of the Torah determined by his birth month.   His was long, mine was sixty-one years ago and medium in length.

He was polished, confident and in control at the dais in full control of his teachings.  I understand reward and that seemed appropriate for the hours of his presentation and the job he did.             

After a lengthy Haftorah in the temple, the focus of the occasion shifted to an  a wonderful party, it went way over expectations and I was honored to be a guest, but nothing like my Bar Mitzvah or the fifty I shot since then. 

Fifty-nine years ago, I had to make a speech, ask those with gifts over five dollars and/or a new Parker fountain pen to stay…. and my mom shuffled me away. and checked my jacket pockets to see if I was keeping any of the cash.  It was in my shoe.

I know that a lot of couples go for the scrapbook slideshow, the baby pictures and so forth because it is socially a grandiose step up in the entertainment side of the wedding.   Others will go for the better food, a nicer place, better entertainment… It’s their choice and a huge job with a huge payback if you get to do it.  Just don’t bite off more than you can chew, you don’t want to choke on it