When I decided to start a photography business, I had a lot of questions. Most of them involved how to handle the legal and financial requirements every business faces. A few of them were about how I should market myself to my clients. But there was one question I knew I was going to be asked, and I already had an answer ready: I don’t shoot weddings. Not yet, at least.
Let’s be honest here for a moment. Wedding photographers are expensive. For most weddings, the photographer needs to arrive early so they can start capturing the setup, preparations, and anything else they can manage to point a camera at before the guests start arriving. Then they’re taking pictures of the guests as they come in, looking for special moments and reunions. Then the ceremony starts, and they’re clicking off frames as quickly and unobtrusively — well, sometimes unobtrusively — just as fast as they can manage. After that, it’s the formals. Then the reception dinner and receiving line. Then the dancing and the celebrations. It’s eight to ten hours of constant work before the pictures even make it to the processing stage, and then it’s days or even weeks of work to be done once they get to that point. And this entire time, they have the knowledge and pressure that there’s no second chance at this. They won’t be able to go back and do it again next Friday because they missed a shot. It’s go bold, no take-backsies, make it work time.
I wasn’t completely against the idea of being a wedding photographer. It’s decent work, and once you’re established, it’s decent money. It’s a little slow to get started, but this is still a second job for me right now. But I had no experience. Right now in my browser, I have the addresses for four wedding photographers in the area, and I had every intent to contact them and make myself available as a second shooter or assistant if they needed so I could get used to the rhythm and process of the job. I may still do that. I didn’t want to be responsible for mishandling somebody’s cherished memories. So, when my coworker Trey asked me about shooting his wedding, I said “no.” I comisserated with him over the cost and and pressure of a wedding. He told me about the photographer’s he’d talked to and what they had quoted him. Yeah, wedding photographers are expensive. Yeah, that sounds like a pretty low price for somebody who’s experienced. I told him what a normal price would be, and he balked. And then I could see how much stress he was feeling. I felt bad for him. And me, being the softy I am, I made him an offer.
“Understand,” I told him, “this isn’t something I have experience with. I want to be honest with you about that. If you still think I’m the right choice, then let’s talk.” I told him what I would charge him for doing it. That seemed to strike a chord with Trey and Kellie, and soon I was sitting down with them discussing their wedding with them, going over what kind of pictures they wanted and what would be best for them. They paid their deposit, and that was it. I was feeling nervous, but it was too late to back out. That thing I said I wasn’t going to do? I was totally going to do that.
On their wedding day, I brought all of my camera gear along with my lovely wife Theresa for reinforcements. Together, we came up with a plan for what we were each going to be doing both before and during the ceremony. We took pictures of the setup, the preparations, and the arriving guests. We became mutual shutter-clicking blurs during the ceremony. We shot formals. We caught a short break while guests were eating, and then we were back to the reception and the receiving line. We got pictures of the dancing, the celebration, and before we even knew it, the getaway. It was exhausting work with yet more to be done ahead of me. But at the same time, I had this sense of fulfillment from having captured this day and knew I would remember it for a long time.
I have to say that Trey and Kellie are two of the most loving and genuine people I have ever met. Their wedding was an emotional sea of happiness, pulled to and fro in the tides of the immense and palpable love that they share for each other. Taking pictures for them was a joy, and I’m looking forward to taking their family portraits in the future. Many times during the wedding, I was moved to tears by what I was seeing through my lens. And the entire time, I had my wife to share those moments with. There’s no replacement for these kinds of moments. I was watching Trey and Kellie dance, but I was also thinking about the first time I had danced with Theresa, and the that we were locked into a sort of dance of our own. The kind of love that Trey and Kellie show for each other, it makes people think about the things they love the most.
Theresa and I were married ten years ago last October. I had felt more in love than I had ever been during that time, but it was just the beginning of learning the incredible depths of love we would grow to share. Today, we have a daughter together, making that love even more ever-present. And on the day of Trey and Kellie’s wedding, the two of us working together and trying to stay out of each other’s shot, I felt very close to her, like our love was being enriched and strengthened by the incredible demonstration of love that Trey and Kellie were giving to each other. It felt right. Correct. It felt like something I should be doing with my life, that this was the kind of emotional connection that I pursue in my work.
When I delivered the photos to Kellie, I was still nervous, and I told her that up front. I reminded her of what I had said months ago, that I wasn’t experienced. I told her how honored my wife and I were, how close we felt to each other, and that I think she and Trey were going to have a long and happy life together. I’m very happy to say now that Kellie was more than pleased with the way my wife and I had captured their memorable wedding. My stance on shooting weddings had been broken. Do I shoot weddings? Well, let’s talk about that. Sometimes you find yourself in moments you didn’t plan on having. But some of those moments are the best parts of life.