Do-It-Yourself Weddings: Photography and Related Subjects

Do-It-Yourself Weddings:  Photography and Related Subjects

For the Ultimate Stressful Experience

Part IV

The single most stressful thing you will do all day is the formal photography of your family and bridal party. For approximately an hour and a half, you will need all those folks in one place, ready to step up when called upon to feel a little bit dumb (See Rule #2), so they will look great in your pictures.

Good luck with that! It is like herding cats. No one is there to work except for your photographer. People come to a wedding to have a good time, to see people they haven’t seen for a while, to celebrate a mile-stone in your life, to enjoy the party. So, there is always someone needed for a photograph that is not where they should be. Your dads will be off somewhere telling stories on you guys. Your brother will be off flirting with one of the bride’s maids. Someone will be in the parking lot smoking a joint or sipping from their flask. For the most part, that is as it should be. And is an important factor in selecting your photographer.

I maintain that 50% of wedding photography has nothing to do with photography, but with managing crazy people. Everyone is excited, anxious, worried, nervous, exhausted and tightly wound at the same time; all of whom have the attention span of a gnat. The best and the worst of family dynamics surge through the whole day. A good wedding photographer is someone who can get the job done without raising the level of craziness any higher than it is already or adding any more stress to your Base Line. Indeed, your photographer should make it fun and easy to move through the day’s photography.

It may be apparent, but let me say this anyway: Wedding photography is a highly specialized profession.  It is not for the faint of heart or the impatient. An abnormally high level of People Skills is necessary. Most professional photographers are NOT suited to it at all.

A normal commercial shoot is done with professional models and items that sit still under controlled lighting and stable climate conditions. Support staff know their jobs and perform them well and in a timely way. There are definitely challenges in commercial photography! But the challenges faced by wedding photographers are from an entirely different can of worms. I have many friends who earn their living making photographs for catalogs, magazines, and travel agencies. Some are journalists and sports photographers. They shoot everything from wine bottles to Mac Trucks to the Portland Trailblazers. Most have shot a wedding or two, and will never do it again.“Those people are NUTS!” they say. These photographers have no patience with people who need to go pee while forty people stand posed and waiting. Fussy babies, tired toddlers, snotty teens, grumpy fathers, anxious mothers, tardy brothers, drunken groom’s men, late flowers, intruding snap shooters, interfering cinematographers, badly fitting tuxedos and arbitrary changes in the day’s schedule will drive most professional photographers completely over the edge.

Some of us, however, actually enjoy photographing weddings. We must be nuts, too.


Oh… my cousin (my uncle, my girlfriend from work, my friend from college) is doing my photography,” said the bride. She was a sweet woman, about 25 years old. Bright and attractive, wrapping up her Masters in Teaching and excited about her September wedding.

The color must have suddenly left my face, because she looked a little surprised at my reaction. “Has he ever shot a wedding before?” I asked.

No, but he’s really good with scenics!” A patch of hair fell off the left side of my head leaving a bare spot over my ear. “Is something wrong?” she asked.

What? Why? Oh no… nothing’s wrong.” My left eye began to water and twitch rapidly, and a tear ran down the side of my nose.

Something’s wrong! What’s the matter?!”

Well… I don’t doubt your cousin’s skill with a camera. I’m sure he has many fine photos of Barns with Mt. Hood in the background. The thing is: Mt. Hood and the Barns stay in one place. You don’t have to go looking for them every five minutes. They don’t do anything crazy or give you attitude or run twenty minutes late. You just set up your gear and wait for the light.” My nose began to bleed and I could hear ringing in my ears. “My best advice is to get a pro who knows what shots to take and how to take them. Besides, your cousin may want to enjoy his dinner and spend some time with people at your reception. He can’t do both things at the same time.” The ringing began to subside, but I saw another patch of hair hit the ground.

But, he will save me about $2000!”

There are good reasons wedding photography costs what it does.”

I’m sure he can do this,” she said curtly.

I just shrugged and smiled sweetly back at her. “I’m sure you know best.” But in my mind, a voice was saying, “She has no weddings, you have two thousand… She has no weddings, you have two thousand… She has no…” I excused myself, went to the closet and got a hat off the top shelf; the one with big ear flaps to cover the patches where the hair fell out. I went into the bathroom to wash the blood from my face. My eye had stopped twitching, but one of my front teeth was loose.

When I returned, she was gone.

In late September, there was an article on a back page somewhere in the Oregonian about a young man who went stark raving mad at his cousin’s wedding. Apparently, he was trying to save her some money by doing her photography. Patches of hair were missing from his head, and he was bleeding profusely from his nose and ears. He kept giggling nervously and muttering, “Those people are crazy… those people are crazy…”