Written by Martin Neeves
I was having a chat with a guy who writes articles for various publications and we got round to discussing whether I had any funny stories about weddings I had attended. I said there were one or two, but there is a wealth of stories I has heard from others. I realised he was fishing for ideas for an article so gave him some ideas and some tales I had heard. I thought nothing of it for a while then my brain started churning up other “funnies” I had seen or heard over my long career as a photographer.
Whether they are all true or not are not the issue from my perspective; because I realised they had actually defined the way I work. Each time I heard a tale of woe related to the fear of failure it made me more determined to be systematic and to avoid mistakes by planning meticulously.
I have not used any names or anything that might identify the individual wedding, happy couple, photographer or any other one involved. I am also not going to talk about the well-publicised incidents that can be found by googling “are these the worst wedding photographers of all time”.
So here we go:
- Went to the wrong church. This has, I believe, happened a few times. But I am aware of one photographer who went to Saint Mary’s Church, as he was supposed to but found no wedding party and a locked church. After about 15 minutes the penny dropped, he was either at the wrong place or on the wrong day. Luckily he had the presence of mind to call the florist who he knew and was cheerfully told it was Saint Mary’s but 2 villages away. After a frantic drive he arrived not long before the bride feeling pretty hot and sweaty –he got away with it by the skin of his teeth. Yes I am fanatical about making sure from the couple which town, village, street etc the venue is located in.
- Someone stole the bride and groom. There was one photographer who had taken a few photos at the registry office and then went to the reception venue for the main photo session. He found most of the wedding party there, but no-one knew where the bride and groom were. Despite a lot of searching – still no bride and groom. About 35 minutes later the bride and groom came strolling across the rather large grounds with one of their relatives (cameras strung round his neck). He fancied himself as a bit of an amateur photographer and didn’t want to be cramped by the professional wedding photographer’s style so he had hijacked the couple. He had taken them to a remote part of the grounds that he felt would do his photos justice. The poor old wedding photographer was then left to play catch up, allegedly with some sideways comments of “let’s see if his photos match up to mine”.
- The bride and groom had too much to drink. Whilst it is not unusual for this to happen during or after the reception, they had taken a few “warmers into the bank” before the wedding. Both had quite rosy faces as they arrived for the wedding and were not steady on their feet. They managed, with some prompting, to get through the ceremony. However, when they came to the first photos outside the church the poor photographer was “in charge” of 2 very giggly and frisky people. She managed to get sufficient photos after taking many images – but it is fair to say that all of them had over developed smiles on their faces. The photos at the reception were duly taken, before the groom fell asleep. But it left the couple with a set of less than inspiring photos of their wedding day.
- Photographer forgot to take lens cap off. UTTER TOSH! This is an urban myth. It could never happen as the photographer would realise immediately if the lens cap was still on. With an SLR (single lens reflex) camera the image viewed through the eyepiece would be completely black. It could temporarily happen with a rangefinder camera but as soon as the photographer checked the first photo on the back of the camera, it would be obvious that the lens cap was still on so the mistake would never be left to continue for a whole wedding. It may have occurred years ago when rangefinder film cameras were used, but there would be no excuse in this digital era.
- Down came the rain. The bride and groom had hired an open top horse and carriage to get from the church to the reception about 10 miles away. The heavens opened and they arrived absolutely drenched. The weather with its usual sense of humour compounded the issue with the sun shining when they arrived at the reception venue. Everyone else had travelled in cars and were dry as a bone. I understand that the photographer started trying to take some photos outside but it was obvious that the couple were soaking wet. But it shows how some businesses can really display great customer service. The couple changed quickly into their “going away clothes” and started the reception, meanwhile the hotel venue managed to get their sodden clothes dried in an hour (how I do not know) and returned to them for the speeches and the subsequent photo session before the daylight disappeared. In my view, the adverse weather and the soaked couple would be all part of telling the story of the wedding and would make some great photos.
- What no memory card. The poor photographer had arrived at a well-known castle in Oakham and taken what he thought were some great photos. Bizarrely he had not checked them after one or two shots – the excuse was that the bride and groom were running late so he tried to help them make up the time. It was only when the couple were about to drive off that the found the offending memory card tucked in his pocket. Although he did redeem the situation a little with some great photographs at the reception, the sad truth is that he never got to take the photos at Oakham Castle. All my cameras have dual card slots to safeguard against card failure. I also set them to lock if no card is inserted so I know immediately if there is no card in any of my cameras.
- The film was loaded back-to-front. This may sound far-fetched, but I know a photographer who was used to shooting only 35mm film (before the days of digital cameras) and he was asked to photograph a friend's wedding even though he didn't normally shoot weddings. He borrowed a medium format camera for the wedding as it would be better quality than 35mm, but he was unfamiliar with it. Consequently, he loaded every film back-to-front and exposed the backing paper instead of the film. Needless to say that none of the photos came out. I'm not sure if the photographer is still on speaking terms with his friend!
- The cardinal sin – not taking back up equipment. I know of 3 instances where photographers have not taken spare cameras, batteries or memory cards. The biggest problems were the photographers who did not have spare cameras or batteries. NO PHOTOS!!. The lady who only had one memory card did have her laptop, so she was able to recover the situation by downloading the photos onto the laptop as she went along. I always take spare camera bodies, lenses, memory card, batteries, flash, tripods etc. People sometime smile when they see all the equipment I have in my car, but I feel that I owe it to the couple to have minimal chance of failure. It is their once in a lifetime day.
There are more stories, but I do not want to make it appear that wedding photography is a business that suffers from constant faux pas. These stories have been picked up over my long wedding photography career. At this moment I am touching wood, stroking my rabbit’s foot, turning 3 times to the left and throwing salt over my shoulder – so far I have been able to avoid being the subject of such a story. As I said, every time I have heard about something going wrong I have added to my system of fastidious planning and allowed that fear of failure to motivate me.
If you want to choose a wedding photographer who is going to plan to avoid these mistakes and produce some great images for you, then contact me at Martin Neeves Photography or call me on 01455 271 849 or on 07973 638 591.