The Other Side of the Tracks

        Last night I had a wedding to go to. But this wedding was different… I was not the photographer and my wife was with me to enjoy it. After going to so many weddings as one of the vendors, my perception of a wedding as a guest is completely changed. What I see and what I do is not the same as when I went to a wedding before I was a photographer. I do remember the last wedding I went to before becoming a photographer (my cousin Lisa’s with my wife who at that point was just my girlfriend) and it was a completely different experience.
        The absolute first thing I noticed as we walked into the wonderful country barn wedding site five minutes before the ceremony (not three hours before the ceremony), was the photo and video equipment that was set up. This wedding actually had quite extensive setups for preserving the memories of the day; boom stands with remote operated cameras, light modifiers on stands in different positions blocking or reflecting sunlight, and a four person staff. It was much more that I bring or setup for my wedding jobs, not better or worse just different work styles. However, the whole evening I couldn’t help notice the photographers working. Because of the extensive amount of equipment staged around the ceremony, I don’t know if it was that or me being a photographer that had my attention on them so much, but before photographing wedding I never noticed the photographer at the wedding.
        A rustic barn, an old Ford truck, handmade programs, family keepsakes… All things that I notice when photographing a wedding, however, I enjoy them in a much different way without my camera at my hip. This wedding had a wonderful theme and many Pinterest worthy ideas. The way everything came together was spectacular. Old bottles and jars for flowers on the table as well as down the aisle, burlap table runners, handmade programs and napkins, lots of old furniture, and an Arnold Palmer bar served with sugar rimmed mason jars all pulled together in this rustically contemporary cowboy theme. Yes I would SEE these things when photographing, but I was able to experience them as a guest.
        When I went to my last wedding as a non-photographer, I was able to spend time socializing. And though I didn’t know very many people at the wedding last night, I was with my wonderful wife and the kids were at the babysitters. As much as I love my job taking pictures for so many different people, it was great to experience the other side of it… and with the one person I wouldn’t want to be there without!

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Do You Have Backup Equipment?

I know it may be common sense for a professional photographer to have backup equipment be a high priority on their must have list, but you would be surprised how many shoot events with only one camera…  Even if they have more than one in their arsenal.  All photographers will always say backups are a must.  Not just for cameras but for memory cards, lenses, batteries, etc.  Not one will say “you don’t really NEED a backup” even if they never have backups.  However, even a casual shooter should have some kind of backup unless they are not worried about missing the photo opportunity due to broken / malfunctioning equipment.

Now, I am not just writing about this topic to have something to write about.  I have been photographing weddings, events, portraits, and more for about six years and not once have I had a major camera malfunction…  Until a couple weeks ago.  Not only did I have a camera failure, but it wasn’t at a lesser important job like a family portrait shoot, it was at a wedding!  Talk about needing to remain calm and composed; this was the epitome of needing to stay calm.

While at a wedding, right at the end of the ceremony (after the kiss thank god), my Canon 5D locked up and would not continue to shoot.  No error message, no reasoning, just gave up.  I always use two cameras simultaneously at weddings so I continued with the other until I had a chance to check out the issue.  When I had a minute (and you rarely have that much time to stop at a wedding), I looked over my 5D and found that the mirror had detached itself and lodged into the lens track.  I managed to get the lens off, get the mirror out, and secure all the pieces.  Then finished the wedding with one camera.

Everything the rest of the day went smooth, but my main concern was that I was leaving for an out of town job a day and a half later and kind of needed two cameras; that was what was nagging at me the rest of the day.  I was racking my brain of what to do.  Risk shooting with only one camera body, rent another body and cut into my profits, find a fellow photographer to borrow a body from?  Luckily, my answer was simple.

I had just upgraded my old Canon 20D to the newer 50D and sold the 20D to my parents who had wanted something better than a point and shoot.  The wedding I was at was 3 hours from my house, but partially on the way to my parents house who lived 6 hours from me.  I called them up and explained the situation, and they drove to meet me half way to deliver the old 20D.  That camera body has been through a lot with me being my first professional camera so it was only fitting that it was the camera to save me.  Now with sufficient backup, I felt a little more at ease leaving town for the job.

Now, this situation played out and resulted in no major business repercussions.  But needless to say, it could have been a lot worse.  I have great parents, I have great colleagues, and I have a great camera system in Canon (who reattached the mirror at no charge).  But not everyone has the same at their disposal.  Which brings me back to the topic of saying ALWAYS HAVE BACKUP EQUIPMENT!  No excuses…  Always!

The final verdict on the 5D camera body (which hasn’t come back from Canon yet) was not only the detached mirror but the shutter was way over it’s maximum shot count and had to be replaced.  That could have been the reason for the mirror detaching.  Until then, my old, trusty 20D is getting me through the jobs I have lined up currently.  So, do I need to say it again?  ALWAYS HAVE BACKUP EQUIPMENT!  No excuses…  Always!

The New Backyard Wedding

The backyard wedding:  Everyone has been to one, been in one, or knows someone that was married in their (or someones) backyard.  My parents were married in the backyard of my grandparents house.  For a long time, the backyard wedding was used as a way to cut expenses or to hold a more low key celebration than a traditional wedding.  But times have changed and trends have come and gone and the backyard wedding is being popularized more and more as a mainstream wedding venue.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether a couple is wealthy and holding the most extravagant event ever seen or penny pinching to make the most of their budget, using a backyard as a wedding venue is becoming a very popular trend.  Hell even Kendra & Hank Baskett were married on their reality show in a backyard…  granted, it was Hugh Hefner’s mansion backyard, but still my point being made.  There are pros and cons to the backyard venue, however, I will find pros and cons of every venue; and every couple looking for a venue for their wedding should look to find the pros and (especially) the cons before booking.  It is just good practice.  Not to disregard anyplace that has something wrong or a little off, but so you know what you are getting before hand rather than finding out on your wedding day.

I love backyard weddings personally.  They are challenging to work, they make me think more creatively, and they have some of the most fun environments.  All of which make me strive to produce the best possible images I can.  It is difficult most of the time (mainly for portraits) but just like anything that I do, I don’t want to be able to fly through it with ease.  That’s when you get sloppy or bored or lazy.  Why are puzzles so popular for kids?  Because they have a challenge and give great satisfaction when completed.  So yes, in a way, backyard weddings are like the puzzles of wedding venues… as weird as that sounds.

You don’t need to be on a budget and be forced into having a backyard as your venue (you should never be forced to do anything for your wedding, always make it a choice), and even if you have a ridiculously high budget you can consider a backyard venue.  It just works.  Below are a few images from various backyard weddings.  Some with higher budgets than the others, but all unique and wonderful in their own way.  And because of the great time I had at each one, I know the brides and grooms will remember their day maybe even more than if they were married at any other “traditional” venue.

Smooth Weddings Are Not A Result Of Extensive Planning

       Now before anyone jumps on me, I’m not saying wedding planning is obsolete or wedding planners are pointless.  Planning does help, but it does not directly relate to a wedding running smoothly.  I have been to plenty of weddings, both as a photographer and as a guest, and two things are certain…  They always run late, and some one is always worried that the schedule is off.

       What is more important is having vendors that can roll with last minute changes and not freak out when something varies from the written schedule of the day.  Anyone that is calm and collected when planning the events of the day will be more valuable than the schedule of the day itself.

       I recently traveled out of state to photograph my cousins wedding and was very comfortable with the flow of the whole wedding, but most impressed with the setup and organization of the reception.  All of the typical activities took place one after another (entrance, toasts, cake cutting, dances) all while a room of catered stations was available for guests to access at their leisure for their meal.  I had never seen this before, and while at first I was a little thrown off, I came to realize how this setup enhanced the entire flow of the reception.

       I don’t know if this was the work of the wedding planner hired for the day or the parents of the bride & groom, but I am going to credit them with it.  I have a love hate relationship with wedding planners and sometimes dread hearing that a couple has hired one.  A good wedding planner is hard to come by and a bad wedding planner can ruin the wedding from a behind the scenes point of view; not to mention drives me insane as a photographer.  My job consists of thousands of split second decisions and can not always fall into a time schedule by the second.  I don’t care if they are to be introduced at 7:00 sharp, if the setting sunlight is reflecting off of the lake to create a perfect light falling on the meadow while I am photographing the bride and groom then they are going to be introduced a minute or two late.  No one will mind and it’s not worth being pushy or stressing out about.

       But back to the people who planned this wedding…  They did a wonderful job of keeping me updated without forcing me to stop doing my job, and all of this not because they planned the entire day perfectly, but because they were calm, collected, and able to roll with the flow that is created by each individually unique wedding day!  If you are ever planning a wedding in the greater Owensboro, KY area, hopefully you are blessed to have parents as great as Ellen & Matt’s, however, I suggest you look up Lesley Cart with Welborn’s Events to be your wedding planner.