wedding coordinator

What's In My Camera Bag (That's Not Camera Equipment): Capturing Smiles Instead of Stresses

A little behind-the-scenes of me attaching the sleeves to a wedding dress in the midst of photographing my bride getting ready.  

Being a wedding photographer doesn't necessarily mean shooting pictures throughout the whole day.

It means getting the shot no matter what it takes.

Sometimes that means putting the camera down for a second to help my brides get into their wedding dresses. Sometimes it's folding pocket squares, opening bottles of wine, showing them where to sign their marriage certificates, or bustling a train.  The reality is, I am with my couples all day, and very much so on the front lines of whatever action takes place.  Weddings have a way of bringing out the best and worst in people – emotions are high, sometimes there is family tension, a lot of opinions, and various moving parts.  

My job is to take beautiful and compelling pictures.  

It is also to make sure that my couples feel excited, at ease, and most of all PRESENT in the moment.  The day goes by so quickly, and it is easy to get wrapped up in greeting guests, checking on the caterer, and obsessing about timelines.  Now, I am by no means a wedding planner.  I am not a day-of coordinator.  And I have no intentions of ever becoming one... but sometimes the planners are busy doing their jobs and situations arise.  In those moments, it's about serving my couple.  Sometimes that means taking pictures and sometimes that means lending support to keep things running smoothly, camera-in-hand.  

The Importance of Hospitality...

I've worked as a bartender while building my wedding business cause you know, girl's gotta eat, and I do believe that it helped me become a better photographer.  It has made me more sensitive to my client's needs.  It could be as simple as realizing that my out-of-town couple from sea level is getting dehydrated up on top of a mountain in the Rockies and grabbing them a few waters.  Basic needs sometimes go out the window when weddings are in motion and catching small stuff like that can prevent much bigger problems.  It has given me a better sense of where the action is at in a busy room while only visually seeing things through my small viewfinder on my camera.  

Additionally, being a great wedding photographer also means caring about your couples.  So many of our clients have become friends, and this has just as much to do with the pictures themselves as it does with the ability to provide good service.  It's also about empathy, understanding, and the ability to listen closely and read between the lines.  Being able to put small fires out as the day unfolds is oftentimes what sticks out to couples as above-and-beyond the call of duty.  It is something that really shows that we care about them as much as we care about making beautiful pictures.  As a result, I always throw a few things in my camera bag to keep the day running smoothly:

What's in my camera bag besides camera equipment?

  • A wine key.  No, I'm not a raging alcoholic.. this is actually out of utility.  I've had countless couples want to pop a bottle to celebrate or toast with, and find themselves without a bottle opener.  Pulling one of these out on a whim is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser and keeps the good times rolling!  Also, the knife edge on them has come in handy for a myriad of non-alcohol related tasks.  
  • A lighter.  Another crowd-pleaser!  Sometimes, it is as simple as somebody wanting to step outside for a quick smoke.  But mostly, I find this super helpful for staging my detail shots before the room is actually set.  Venues and rental companies usually prefer to light the candles last (because they don't last that long), but I cannot wait until last minute to do my room shots and details because it is already too late.  So I'll light a few candles on the table, snap the shot, and then blow them out.  No hassle and no harm. 
  • Oil blotting sheets.  Summers are hot and sometimes wedding dresses are even hotter.  Nothing ruins a shot like a shiny face, but after your makeup is set, the last thing you want to do is take a tissue or cloth to your face.  Oil blotters are easy, compact, and so helpful in these moments.  
  • A sewing kit.  Why would a wedding photographer need a sewing kit?  You wouldn't believe me if I told you how many dresses that I have last-minute mended!  Nothing puts out a fire like being able to repair a dress right before the ceremony is about to begin.  Buttons pop off, beads snag, zippers jam.  Knowing how to solve these mishaps can prevent a full blown crisis in the moment. 
  • Bobby pins, hair spray, safety pins, small scissors, and rubber bands, fashion tape, and white duct tape.  I literally wear half of these on my expodisc around my neck when I shoot!  This is how frequently I find myself needing these items.  Hair pops out, wind takes over, bow-ties are too big, tags need to get cut off... And the white duct tape?  Let's just say that sometimes wedding dresses are more see-through than we realize and the built-in bra doesn't do the trick ;)  A little square of duct tape can work wonders.  

 

Again, stuff happens.  To be able to put these fires out quickly keeps my couples happy and on schedule.  If they are happy, the pictures are better.  If we stay on the timeline, we have more time for pictures and we capture smiles instead of stresses.