Last Saturday, I photographed a wedding. Scared shitless, I was.
The couple are friends of a friend. They weren’t satisfied with all the photographers they’d interviewed. Some were too stuffy. Some were too pushy. Some were too formal. Some just stunk. Some were too expensive.
I stopped by their shop one evening (they own a sign making business) and showed them my electronic portfolio. Those of you who read JimFormation and have scrolled through my photographs might realize that I don’t take too many photographs of people. My portfolio is a lot of flowers and rocks and landscapes and various other inanimate objects. Hardly a wedding portfolio.
They scanneded at my photos and John, the groom, paused and looked hard at one in particular, “I don’t know what that is, but it’s cool. What the hell is that?”
“It’s an egg. Boiling in water,” I answered.
“Anyone that can take a picture of a boiled egg and make it look interesting can photograph my wedding,” he exclaimed and offered me the gig.
I accepted, but made some provisions. Number one, I explained that I needed to make a minor investment in equipment and I wasn’t going to put out all the cash on my own.
Number two, I couldn’t guarentee results. “I’m not a trained photographer. I don’t know the nuances of photographing people nor weddings. Nor the art and sciences of wedding photography nor classical posing techniqes.” They needed to know that.
Number three, they needed to know what they were getting. “Worst case, you’ll get 300 snapshots of your wedding,” I said. “But, if I’m consistent, you should get a half-dozen, maybe a dozen, really nice photographs that you can show-off.”
Number four, “I really don’t know what I’m doing.”
Again John said, “Anyone that can make an egg look good is bound to be able to make a wedding look good.” The couple had more confidence in me than I did. They reassured me, put their arms around me, patted me on the back, lifted me up higher than I expected to be lifter, “You’re it,” John said. “I’m not looking any further. You’re photographing my wedding. I don’t want anyone else doing it.” Kim, the bride, wrote me a check to cover my expenses. “You sure you don’t need more,” John asked.
He left me with one more piece of advice, “Have fun! Trust your eye. Relax.”
That kind of advice is said easily and can even be taken quickly. But I knew that my job was to capture someone’s memories. To take once-in-a-lifetime moments and freeze them forever. And I only had one shot. People’s memories are not something I’m willing to take lightly.
Long Story Short
Over three days, I photographed their rehearsal, the rehearsal dinner, the wedding and the reception. I took 1,191 digital photographs. Almost three gigabytes worth. (“That’s a $20,000 wedding,” my Dad would later say).
As soon as I got home from the reception, I opened my laptop and reviewed the photographs with my wife. I flipped through the photos one-by-one. “Nice,” my wife said. And then “Nice” again and again and again. “Nice. Nice. Nice,” she echoed with nearly every picture.
I smiled. Some-fucking-how, I pulled it off. These shots were nice. Even the ones that were technically flawed were still pretty cool. I pulled it off! I was happier than the bride and groom.
Two days later, I delivered four compact discs to the couple. I also went through the photos with them. They reviewed them in front of me.
They were happy and said that they couldn’t have asked for more and dared not expect as much as I delivered. John said, “I don’t know what you do for a living, but this is what you’re supposed to be doing. Do you mind if I start giving your name out?” I didn’t mind.
While flipping through the photographs someone gave me the greatest of all compliments, “Jim, somehow you captured everyone’s personality. I don’t know how you did it, but they’re all there.”
John left me with one last piece of advice, “Next time, charge more.”