The opportunity to shoot my first wedding ever was not something that was planned, advertised or even desired at the time… Definitely not something that I was even thinking about until the day that I got the call in late 2002. I was living in Memphis and working full-time in accounting. Up until this point, I had done a few photography jobs but they were family sessions outside and a couple of team sports jobs.
A sister of a friend of friend was planning her wedding and so far she was really unhappy with all the photographers that she had met with. Her brother (first let me explain that up until this point I had never met her brother – he was simply a very good friend of one of my best friends and he had only heard about me) told her that a friend of a friend was getting into photography. I might also explain at this point that the brother had also never seen anything that I had shot… I can not even remember clearly how I contacted her first but we ended up meeting at Barnes & Noble. One of my main questions was “why on earth would you want to hire me to shoot your wedding”? I might also add at this point that I was still shooting film on a Canon Rebel and I had never used a mounted flash nor shot with flash indoors at night. The bride explained that the photographers she had met with were all men and they had their packages and they were not customizable. She felt very uncomfortable with them. Despite my bad sales approach that day and knowing full well the extent of my experience, the bride hired me.
Then came the trepidation, the sickness in the pit of my stomach and the sheer lunacy of what I had just agreed to. Geez!! There were a ton of things that could go wrong and then there was the sheer fact that I could not simply reshoot at another time. It was her freaking wedding day that I would be solely responsible for documenting. I would be working blind (using film) and with a mounted flash (I bought one immediately). At that time I was living in Memphis and did all my photo processing, etc at American Camera(sadly I heard no longer in business). They had been great on other projects with helping me pick the correct film, suggesting ways to improve my photos, etc. And thankfully American Camera came to the rescue again. They talked me thru what lens to use, what exposure, what film speed, aperture, and even sold me a flash. I had been to a lot of weddings so I was kind of familiar with that aspect and what photos to take. I hired a girl I worked with to assist me that day but really just to stand beside me and give me moral support. I checked out the venue days before, at the same time of day the wedding would take place and did test shots. Thankfully, it was an old restored historic mansion and all the walls were white – woo hoo!!
The wedding day arrived and I packed everything up with all my shot lists and schedule of the day. It was a beautiful old house with simple decorations. The bride and groom only had one attendant each thankfully. Today I would shoot this wedding totally different but at the time I did what I knew and had seen… the very traditional wedding shots. The wedding party arrived and shot them quickly as the guests milled about outside. Once the shots were finished, the wedding party was sent upstairs to wait for the ceremony time. Then everything stopped… With 15 minutes until the ceremony was to start the guests were still outside. No one had told them to be seated. So my second nature took over and I quickly asked everyone to start being seated. Then someone told me the father of the bride (FOB) was missing. Really!? this was like the movie The Wedding Planner, but seriously he was missing. I went quickly thru out the house looking for him and finally someone told me that he was with the minister in the room off the ceremony spot. I had to walk and smile thru the guests to find the FOB, happily telling everyone we would be starting shortly. I sent the FOB upstairs to the bride and thankfully the ceremony was ready to begin.
The rest of the wedding went smoothly without any hiccups except for me… I got all my shots but slowly I started noticing that my flash only worked ever 3rd shot. What I had failed to realize was that I could not take flash photos quickly without allowing time for the batteries to recycle so my batteries were being drained completely. Then I realized I made one of the most common and stupid mistakes – I did not pack extra batteries. So I went to plan B and used the flash built into my camera. All in all the wedding was a hit! Of course, I was completely drained from stress, heat and nerves. Several days later when the photographs came in, I was completely relieved that they all looked ok not great but ok. The ceremony shots were a little orangy but the bride and groom loved the effect because it made the photos look old. And they even ordered a ton of those orangy shots plus I received a bonus for helping with the ceremony events.
Nine years later, I still remember the lessons that I learned that day, but mainly I remember how a lovely young woman trusted me with one of the most important days of her life. I also remember why she picked me over other photographers so much more experienced and I strive to give that comfort to all my clients. I was humbled then and still am each and every time a client trusts me to capture their special moments.
Today I shoot with a Canon 50D and yes in many ways my shooting style has evolved but in some ways it is still based on classic shots that show the beauty and happiness of the client.
Below are a few scanned prints from that very first wedding in Memphis Tennessee at the Junior League of Memphis Community Resource Center (constructed between 1919-1921 as the home of Mr C.R. Boyce, a successful Memphis cotton buyer and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places)…