There’s a myth that being a wedding photographer is easy and glamorous. Now don’t get me wrong, I feel extremely lucky I have the job I do, but the job is TOUGH. I don’t want you to think I’m just having a moan, as I don’t actually mind all the tough bits. I just wanted to give a sense of what the job is really like and how it’s not the plain-sailing job I’ve heard people think it is.
*Long hours: Some weddings we’ve done 14hr days which can feel like working two days in one (and before you go thinking that’s the only hours I work, I work between 40–80 hours a week depending on what month it is!).
*Physically draining: You almost spend the whole day on your feet. By the end of the evening my eyes normally pack in and go fuzzy. I normally crouch down during ceremonies and speeches to avoid being in people’s way, which my knees don’t thank me for. We both have camera bags to carry as well as our cameras so the next morning feels like you’ve been out dancing all night.
*Mentally: We can’t take our eyes off of anything; always searching for the next shot so it’s no wonder my eyes go fuzzy by the end of it all. As we try to bring something different to each wedding (and not relying on the same ‘safe’ shots at each one), it can be hard work coming up with new ideas. Before every weddings James and I discuss new ideas and things we’d like to do but when we’re there on the day that normally goes out the window as the day unfolds. You have to work with what you’ve got and find inspiration quickly.
*Food: We don’t always get to eat for long periods of time. Normally we bring fruit and snacks with us to keep us going. Bananas are good because you can eat them quickly, they give you energy and don’t go soggy when left in the car. We grab food when we can, as quickly as possible without drawing attention to the fact you’ve just put a whole banana in your mouth in one go. Sometimes our couples offer us lunch, which is absolutely fabulous (sorry banana). But once, a bride promised us she had organised lunch for us and her bridal party, as well as dinner (it was a 15 hour day) so we didn’t bring any food with us. Unfortunately she forgot to order lunch so aside from a bowl of porridge at 7am, we (including the whole bridal party) went without any food until 8pm. By that time I was ready to eat the tablecloth I was so famished. There wasn’t any time to grab food earlier in the day because by the time we realised no food was coming, we had to leave for the ceremony. Now we make sure we always bring snacks and anytime we’re offered food we’re exceedingly grateful.
*Bathroom + Makeup: You can’t go to the bathroom easily. I have to plan when I go to the toilet so as not to miss anything important. This means I don’t want to drink too much so I don’t need to go that often. Not surprisingly I don’t drink enough water, which can make the next day a bit tougher. Any make-up I put on in the morning has to last until the end of the evening, as I have no time for touch-ups. Unfortunately I’m no make-up pro… at one wedding this season I finally made it to the toilet during the dinner to discover most of my mascara had run leaving me with panda eyes and my hair was sticking out everywhere so I looked like I’d been dragged though a hedge. Bobby bins and hairspray, which I don’t normally use, have now become my friends.
*Weather: We’re at the mercy of the elements. If it rains, we still have to do our job, unlike a studio-based photography job where weather doesn’t matter. Cameras and rain don’t mix so things do get a little tricky when it’s wet. As long as the cameras and the bride, it can work! If the ambient light is bad, it’s too windy, too hot or cold, there’s nothing we can do about it. We just have to do the best we can with the conditions we have.
*Uniform: Smart and comfortable are key but that doesn’t stop me wanting to wear something very glamorous and completely impractical. I’d love to wear heels and wear my hair down but heels are complete no-nos and I’ve made it 2 hours into a wedding with my hair down, before I’ve given in to a hair tie. Me, cameras and wind just don’t mix. Whatever I wear has to be flash-proof if wearing a skirt or dress, crouch proof, mud-proof and keeps me warm and cool at the same time. So functionality over fashion which means cardigans and boring black flats. One day I’d love to find a comfortable fashionable pair of flats I can wear all day without getting sore feet. Until then, sensible shoes it is.
So there you go. A few things that make our day not so easy or glamorous. Again, I want to stress that I LOVE my job and the trickier bits make it all worth the while when the couple are over the moon with their photos. Sometimes we don’t realise how tired or sore we are until we’re getting in the car to go home. Adrenaline has worked its magic and kept us going. It’s just all in a days work!
Jel Photography – Alternative Photojournalist Wedding Photographers – We are James + Eleanor and we photograph weddings with a twist! Based in Auckland New Zealand and specialising in creative wedding photography.