My Worst Wedding Photography Nightmare

Jan 16

The Wedding Photographer’s Nightmare

Last night I experienced my worst wedding nightmare…literally! I’m a pretty vivid dreamer, and last night was no exception. When I woke up from the dream, I was pretty much laughing. I’m sure that you’ll get a kick out of this nightmare too. Now it’s time to enter the world of wedding photographer dreams…

It was Jacqueline and Joe’s wedding at Eolia Mansion aka Harkness Memorial Park (in real life, Jacqueline is one of my photography assistants…maybe they ended up being the couple in this dream because their anniversary is coming up!). In the dream it was a beautiful mansion but set alongside a big hill (which in real life it’s all flat land). I am photographing their wedding, and in this dream this is all happening one hour before sunset, what we photographers call “the golden hour.

The dream starts right after the ceremony and we are about to do bride and groom portraits during this golden hour. Jacqueline, Joe, and I are excited to do these photos, but we all need to use the bathroom. I decide I’ll go to the bathroom too because nothing’s happening at the moment and I know I won’t miss a moment especially if the bride and groom are taking a quick break. I go use the toilet, and the toilet doesn’t look like a toilet, and it’s this weird shaped toilet that I can’t figure out, and it’s taking me forever to figure it out, and I’m freaking out because it’s going to SPRAY WATER AT ME! Time is ticking and I can’t miss this golden hour!

I get out of the bathroom, and then Jacqueline is NOT wearing her wedding dress anymore, but she CHANGED OUT OF HER WEDDING DRESS! In fact, even Joe changed, and they’re both wearing matching satin emerald green jumpsuits. They look really nice, but I’m feeling kind of disappointed that Jacqueline would not want to wear a white wedding dress especially for these golden hour bride and groom portraits!!! Crap I MISSED THE OPPORTUNITY to take bride and groom portraits with Jacky in her wedding dress!!!! However Jacqueline did not care, it wasn’t that important to her. So I told myself that it was OK…if the couple doesn’t care, then it doesn’t matter.

We walk up the hill. The golden sun is GLIMMERING through all the windows and walkways of the mansion. I’m trying to capture the essence of this beauty with my camera, but there are a MILLION PEOPLE IN MY WAY, and Jacqueline and Ben are not in the right position or angle for a perfect photo without the people.

We get to the top of the hill, and all of these wedding guests including some people from church (all I remember is Wendy C.) are sticking their arms out in front of me taking pictures with their cell phones or iPads of the bride and groom. I get this idea that I’m going to shoot through those people’s arms so I get a cool perspective and take a photo of a person taking a picture. Instead, everyone moves and I NEVER GET THE SHOT. I’m still trying to shoot, and then I realize I need my 70-200mm lens. I’m telling my assistant (who is my sister, May), “I need my 70-200mm lens!” So May grabs the second camera with that lens on, and hands it to me but I’m like, “NO, not with the camera, just the lens, hurry up!” She’s fumbling around trying to figure out how to take the lens off the camera, when I realize that the camera in my hand is NOT the camera that I normally shoot with! Instead of a Canon 5d Mark III, it has just metamorphosed into a SONY CAMERA! Oh my gosh, I CANNOT and WILL NOT shoot with this weird Sony!!!!!! So I yell at May, “don’t try to take the lens off, I need that Canon camera with the lens!” And we immediately swap camera bodies/lenses.

The sun is disappearing fast, it’s almost time for the reception, and all of a sudden I look at Cathy Walker and think, “OH MY G-D I FORGOT TO TAKE FAMILY FORMALS!!” All of a sudden it’s like what people call karma (is there a non-new-agey word for that?), when I realize that now I’M like that photographer that I was disgusted with at a photobooth event who said “it’s sunset and I didn’t get any portraits yet”!!!!!!!!!! (which indeed was a real encounter for me in real life)! I feel awful that I’m realizing I shouldn’t have felt so upset inside at that new photographer, because now I’m experiencing what she was experiencing. So I’m freaking out, because I am always awesome with planning timelines, but THE SUN IS SETTING!!! Then I think, we could just do bride and groom portraits now, and then family formals later with off-camera flash, and I think that’s an excellent Plan B.

I grab Jacqueline and Joe to do “moving portraits” alongside the hill. But instead, we’re interrupted by more wedding guests and church people. Joe runs into the church tech guy Dennis S. and says he wants to take photos with these acquaintances and friends, starting off with Dennis! I say, “Okay”! But inside I am BOILING and inside I am screaming “WE HAVE TO DO BRIDE AND GROOM PORTRAITS NOW BEFORE THE SUN SETS!”

So I am trying to get Jacky and Joe away from the guests into a nice lawn area. Jacqueline is ahead of Joe, and so I decide to do bridal portraits before Joe arrives. My assistant and sister May comes along with a giant bag. The sun is setting, and I need light on Jacky’s so that I can expose for all the colors in the sunset. I ask my sister to get me the ice light (which in fact is an LED light that I use in real life). She opens this giant bag which is full of light stands with flashes, a giant stool, and more meaningless crap, and she is taking forever trying to find it. She says, the ice light IS MISSING! Oh my gosh, so I grab a lightstand which already has a flash on it, and use that instead, but now I need the little flash trigger. After I pulled out the lightstand, I now see the ice light, hooray, it’s there!!!! So I decide to use that instead, what a RELIEF.

Meanwhile, the sun is setting and the dream ends because I need to use the bathroom (in real life) so we may never know if I ended up getting the perfect golden hour bride and groom portraits or not. When I woke up, I was pretty much laughing! And if there’s a sequel to this crazy nightmare, I will let you know!

The Reality of Wedding Photographer’s Fears

This dream was so funny because it really does exaggerate common fears of wedding photographers. People spend so much money on a once-in-a-lifetime celebration and it’s our goal as photographers to capture this day so that couples can remember it. Many couples hire a photographer based on the style of the bride and groom portraits, which we know CAN be most beautiful during “golden hour”. A lot of couples tell their photographer that they’d love sunset photos, but the reality is that quite often on a wedding day, the bride and groom forget the time, and keep on “putting off” portraits during times when the photographer sees the most glorious light falling on the landscape. This is why I loooove my awesome watch and look at it all the time, and sometimes poke my couples to remind them (which they appreciate!) LOL.

Not only that, but candids are important, and there are times when we have no control over people’s own desires to take their own photos which their devices…this is why I LOVE unplugged weddings. This is also why I like to bring cards for each wedding guest that provides the online gallery link and password. This way, guests have peace of mind knowing that they can download and share images, and buy prints to their heart’s delight.

It’s also a horrible feeling when you have checked your list twice, and spent so much time prepping your gear for your wedding, but your assistant cannot find the gear that you need at such a key moment. (Which is why I like to use the same assistants for weddings, and also like to think ahead in real life at what gear I will need)

There have been a couple weddings, a couple years ago when I did not realize the bride was going to change out of her dress, and have been sooo thankful for already finishing the most important portraits in the actual dress. This past November, I photographed a Harry Potter themed wedding where the bride did change into an emerald dress, but we knew this was going to happen when we were planning the wedding timeline together. (I loved Melissa and Mike’s wedding, it was incredible you should check it out!)

Have you had any crazy dreams like this that related to wedding photography? I’d love to hear some more funny stories, where when you wake up, you’re like, “Thank the Lord this was only a dream”!

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