I’m sure we all wish we lived in a perfect world where everything always runs perfectly and nothing ever goes wrong or strays the slightest bit from perfection. Actually, that sounds kind of boring. Where’s the fun in predictability? On the other hand, your wedding day is one time when you really do just want everything to go smoothly. But it doesn’t always happen.

My own wedding day had only a few small hiccups. Due to a complex set of circumstances, two of my early 20s cousins from New Jersey were borrowing my mom’s car while my mom, my sister, a few friends and I had our hair and makeup done. These Jersey boys discovered that Pittsburgh wasn’t quite as easy to navigate as they thought, and we found ourselves waiting and waiting for them at the salon, when we should have been driving to the wedding site. Eventually a friend and I set off in someone else’s car. Only one problem… my shoes and undergarments and my sister’s shoes and undergarments were all in the missing car.

No matter. Otherwise we wouldn’t have this photo of my sister and me with our boots. (Pardon atrocious quality – it’s a picture of a picture)

My cousins did show up in plenty of time before the ceremony, and of course were both forgiven and mercilessly teased.

As a wedding photographer, it’s my job to be sure I am as prepared as possible for anything that can go wrong. This means backup of everything, and an ability to stay calm, troubleshoot, and quickly come up with an alternate solution if something stops working.

Here are a few real life examples of times when Something Went Wrong.

  • Just a few minutes into shooting a wedding, my camera displayed “ERR01” and would not shoot. I quickly switched to my second camera, and handed my camera to my assistant, who removed and replaced the battery, CF card and lens. ERR01 appears when something is amiss with the lens contacts, so all you should have to do is remove the lens and reseat it, and also possibly clean the lens contacts. Fortunately it only happened once and then didn’t act up again.
  • Only about half an hour into shooting, my camera’s battery meter indicated that the battery was low. And this was a camera with a battery grip, meaning it has two batteries in it, and should easily last an entire wedding and more. I swapped out the batteries with new ones (even though I almost never run through batteries, I always bring several spares) and it still indicated low battery. At this point I realized that the battery grip had come loose. I tightened the connection and voila, full battery.
  • After arriving at a reception and starting to set up an off camera light, I couldn’t find the transmitter that attaches to my camera and sends the signal that fires that off camera flash. At the time, I didn’t have a backup transmitter (but I do now!) so I used on camera flash and available light. I suspected that it had fallen off my camera at the hotel where the men were getting ready, so I called to ask if it had turned up. I was thrilled to receive a phone call a few days later from someone in housekeeping – they had found it in the lobby! I am so grateful to the hotel staff for taking the time to look and call me and even mail it back to me. I had already ordered another one so that I would have a backup. I also devised a better system to be sure that the transmitter doesn’t fall off.

I have a number of other “just-in-case” backups and items on hand…

  • A full spare set of clothes, just in case… you never know when you might trip and fall in mud (or snow!) or someone might spill a drink on you.
  • A grooming set with scissors, mirror, etc., available for anyone in the bridal party who might need it.
  • A few single dollar bills and quarters, for parking, tips or bribery. I recall a single dollar saving the day when a full bridal party was assembled on the church altar, ready for their formal photo. The full bridal party, minus one rambunctious ring bearer who had decided he’d been in enough pictures. I offered him a buck if he would kindly return, and presto, back he went.
  • Snacks and water. It’s a long day and I have to keep my energy going – and stop me from eating all the cookies!