The Wedding Photographer

On the afternoon of my 30th birthday, I began my career as a wedding photographer.


Playmobile Image. Letizia Cambone.

Six months later, it was over.

Her name was Kelli. We worked together in the marketing department of an engineering company.

She was beautiful, and maybe the most photogenic person ever, with a smile that lit up a room.

She knew I was an amateur photographer, had seen my stuff. I proudly spoke of a new 35 mm camera, a Canon AT 1 with assorted lenses and filters. (Vintage 1970’s)

It was a hobby. I already had a job as a writer/editor and proposal coordinator.

She asked begged me to photograph her upcoming December wedding.

Jerry was the corporate photographer who had an office adjacent to mine. He filmed progress photos at construction sites, inanimate objects. He took me aside and gave me the warning,Β  “you never want to be a wedding photographer, it’s the worst”.

I ignored his advice.

The first wedding went so very well, in spite of a few very basic errors on my part as a novice. I never had a backup camera, or an assistant to help set up the shots.

It was a small, intimate wedding that the couple had arranged quickly, with a limited budget. I worked cheap.

I did something no professional would do. I gave her the complete collection of photos and negatives. She was happy to create her own albums, as I was surely not interested. She paid me for my time, and the processing costs. Everyone was happy.

Word got around. We were an office of 1200 people.

Months later, another co-worker named Julie asked me to do her daughter’s June wedding.

The family dynamic was complicated. Julie was recently divorced, recovering from a serious depression. Her ex, my former supervisor, was now living with a woman that I knew, the “other woman” that caused the demise of Julie’s 25 year marriage.

The ceremony went well, there were abundant candid shots that the young bride requested.

And then came the formal group photos.

The father of the bride insisted that his new lady be included. The mother of the bride was furious. The bride was hurt, embarrassed, confused. I was trying to remain objective.

Smile….please ?

It didn’t work. And I began to understand the complexities of wedding photography, the emotional baggage.

It was the last assignment I took. It was fun while it lasted.

I’m glad I never quit my day job.

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88 Responses to The Wedding Photographer

  1. George says:

    There is more emotional family baggage for weddings and funerals than anyone person should be asked to handle..:)
    Getting out when you did was a very smart move, Van. Keep the hobbies fun..:)

  2. Lady G says:

    Oh good grief! I never thought about all of the complex family dynamics that can, and often do arise at a wedding.
    As you said, good thing you kept your day job.

  3. Victo Dolore says:

    Weddings terrify me for that very reason…

  4. I’ve done a few of those πŸ™‚

  5. I don’t think I’d be brave enough to do that! But I’m proud to say we’ve made it through two stepchildren’s weddings and I even asked hubby to dance with his ex-wife at the last one. The kids told me it was the first picture they’d seen of their parents together where their mom was smiling πŸ™‚

  6. I have a friend who is a professional portrait photographer. It took her a while to agree to do weddings for this very reason. People often have a very fixed idea of how they imagine the photos and woe betide you if they aren’t what you can actually achieve. My friend learned very quickly that she needed a back up camera, back up batteries, and lots of memory cards but it took her longer to realize she needed an assistant and – with big weddings – a second photographer. She does it because they can be lucrative gigs but she hates that part of her job.

  7. Erika Kind says:

    OMG!!! No words, you gave us the perfect picture! It could be such a beautiful job but……!!!

  8. Yes I see why Van, an awkward situation to say the least. I only have around four wedding photo’s all taken on a polaroid instant camera which was all the rage in the 70’s .. I had no such family problems lol the reason being we got married with just two of our friends present. Our families were at logger heads with each other and with us.. So we did our own thing.. πŸ™‚ and never regretted it.. πŸ™‚ ❀

    • Oh, those Polaroid pics…they didn’t hold up too well for me, but there were quite a few of those in the early years. I remember. Sorry about your logger heads, but as you say, no regrets, Sue. ☺

      • None.. And wed now 41 yrs.. πŸ™‚ lol and I lost the count of how many white weddings I have seen end a few yrs later .. I bought a serviceable blue suit and wore a wide brimmed floppy velvet hat.. πŸ™‚ and we went to the registrar office.. πŸ™‚ I made the reception by my self and my wedding cake was Christmas cake I redid with wedding things on top LOL.. Happy Days.. πŸ™‚

      • It’s seldom about the celebration, is it, Sue ? Good for you. Congrats on 4 decades. ☺

      • πŸ™‚ thank you Van.. x

  9. Nurse Kelly says:

    Very wise choice, Van! Like you said, chalk it up to one of life’s experiences, you sure have had a lot! I always enjoy reading about them. Have a good weekend! xo

  10. People are people–Depeche Mode

  11. Wow a good warning Van! That must have been so awkward!

  12. kingmidget says:

    Plenty of “dream jobs” like that — where once you give it a go, you realize there are a lot of nightmares that come with being the dreams.

    When we got married, my wife planned a Saturday night wedding. (It’s kind of hard to get married any other time in a Jewish ceremony since you have to wait until the sun goes down.) Our colors were black and white. The reception was to follow at a nice hotel in town. My wife planned on a sit down dinner, given the time. Not necessarily a served dinner, but a nice buffet at least. When we sat down wit the hotel caterer to go over the menu, my father-in-law started talking with the caterer about deli trays and sandwich meats. I wonder what the caterer thought when my wife-to-be stormed off in tears because she wasn’t haven’t deli trays at her fancy Saturday night wedding and I had to follow her to calm her down. I wonder how many times things like that happen for people in the wedding industry.

    By the way, my wife got her way. Of course she did. Although we had to have herring in cream sauce because, according to my future mother-in-law, a Jewish wedding without hearing in cream sauce is like a day without sun. I should have run then, but I didn’t.

    • It wasn’t a dream of mine, it just sort of happened organically. I blame it on my camera enthusiasm. Sorry to hear of your wedding issues, King. It is stressful for so many. After this last one, I ran from it ! Thanks for sharing.

  13. I have done one wedding and it was fun, but due to rain they moved it inside, and I was no prepared for shadows or being cramped etc. I love taking photos but find I like doing intimate photo shoots with one or two people. Birthdays are ok, but taking photos of each gift they unwrap is a bit on the boring side!

    • I understand that…the environment changed everything for you. And about that taking photos of each gift opening…ugh. There are tons of family videos that should have been edited. Boring is right. ☺

  14. LaVagabonde says:

    I used to work catering at weddings, so I was a witness to the drama that so often arises. I believe you made a wise.

  15. Yikes. Never occurred to me that it could be so highly emotionally charged and complicated-I’m not sure why though lol. Glad you got out. ❀
    Diana xo

  16. polymath0 says:

    Oh my goodness. That sounds like a nightmare. I read the “Dear Abby” columns (though not Abby, I don’t remember the name of the one I read), and a surprising number of them have to do with weddings. How is it that a day of happiness could be such an ass-pain?

  17. TanGental says:

    I’m sure you would have been fabulous (darling) so the world of weddings is the poorer!

  18. Val Boyko says:

    Love this story and the discomfort Van! A wise decision indeed πŸ’›

  19. I can imagine, Van, how complicated it can get. Do you still enjoy taking photos?

  20. Thanks for the warning. I’ve always imagined that wedding photography is difficult.

  21. Wonderful backstory. I too imagined that wedding photography would be challenging.

  22. Reblogged this on HarsH ReaLiTy and commented:
    I have heard similar stories and sadly these types of independent business ventures depend greatly on the attitude of the clients that generate the income for the business! People can be hard to please and hard to work with! What a great post! πŸ™‚ -OM
    Note: Comments disabled here. Please visit their blog.

  23. amommasview says:

    I have never thought of that but it makes sense of course. Must have been a nightmare. Poor bride… It bet it was hard on her…

  24. Weddings, Funerals, and Christmas Dinner are said to be the events where most family rows erupt. Yes, I’ve witnessed all three where families have had rows but never been in that position of being there as somebody who is doing a job. Glad you kept the full time job, Van.

  25. dgkaye says:

    I can well imagine Van that family politics often get the in the way of the joy when it comes to photos and seating plans. At least you got some experience and some good stories. πŸ™‚

  26. megdekorne says:

    You’re so cute Van ! I love you , megxxx

  27. Great post. Hey, I still have a Canon AT-1! Hard to find a flash unit these days.
    Why didn’t you just take up some other form of photography and give up photographing weddings?

  28. Gee! And what a window into the baggage they were taking into the marriage!

  29. joey says:

    Oh so much yes. I can imagine. I don’t even have to imagine. I KNOW.
    Good for you, you’re an excellent writer.

  30. What a jam! You painted the picture so well that I could see pinched mouths, glowering, and simmering eyes’. Ha,ha! Funny and not so funny πŸ™‚

  31. KLIKQQ says:

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  32. Tell future gigs you only use a Kodak instamatic camera with replaceable flash bulbs for wedding photography and that should incentivizing prospective clients to look beyond your photographic skills and services to a modern digitally trained DSLR professional. Make certain you keep a straight face when you show them the instamatic camera! πŸ™‚

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