Branching Out (03/17/2014)

Growing pains? Yeah, there's a reason for that term. 

As I type this, my legs are on fire and limp like wet spaghetti noodles. I feel like I've done 500 lunges + 500 squats. In short, I've branched out my services to begin photographing weddings. After seeing others do it, I felt that it was the natural next step to grow my business. If you're a photographer and are thinking of branching out to expand your capability, here are some tips I'd like to share (photographers who exclusively photograph weddings - feel free to chuckle at my thoughts):

1.) Stretch. There's lots of crouching, stooping, bending, and walking. Eat bananas for potassium (to alleviate muscle soreness) and sugars (for that boost in energy), and drink lots of water. Photographing an all-day event is like getting back into running after being out of the game for a while. It's a workout, and if you're not in the routine of working out a few times a week, your body will definitely feel it once you do. The growth potential isn't just in the skill set, but also in muscle mass.

2.) Charge your batteries. Because of my insane paranoia of running out of juice during a shoot, I tend to pack an obscene amount of batteries when I'm doing a photo session, even if it's a family vacation. Although I have the batteries on hand, if they go unused for a while, they may lose steam if they haven't been charged. The day before photographing an all-day event, charge all of those batteries for the camera bodies and flashes. Some of those AA batteries, while performing well after a recent charge, may not do so well if they've been sitting unused in your camera bag for a few weeks.

3.) Pack multiples of everything. Yes, everything. Lenses (have a few different ones). Camera bodies, if you can. Batteries. Memory cards. Flashes. Pens. Business cards. When doing an all-day photo session, there's generally zero chance of having an opportunity for a do-over. There were a few times when my memory cards were running out, and had I not had extras in my sling strap pouch, it would have been game over.

4.) Keep that shot list handy. Carry that thing everywhere. When photographing an all-day event, the premeditated images you want to capture will escape you in the moment when rushing from location to location. For stuff like this, I'll sit down and create a shot list of what I want to produce throughout the day. However, I find that most of these images elude me when I'm caught up in the hustle and bustle of directing and people-moving. Having that shot list on a clipboard with a pen to cross out the completed captures is crucial. You'll thank yourself when seeing those images uploaded in Lightroom, knowing that you got what you were out to capture.

5.) Know those camera settings. Doing a family or newborn photo session is completely different from an all-day event. Photographing a large event such as a wedding requires you to know those manual camera settings to the point where it's completely intuitive. Weddings require you to be a portrait, family, newborn (if people bring their kids and newborns to an event, which many will), event, food, macro, and landscape photographer all in one. The lighting will always change from place to place, and knowing how to intuitively create a proper exposure in the moment has to be a given, or there will be so many captures that will slip away.

6.) Having an assistant is an invaluable asset. Had I not had my buddy Brian Moore with me during some photo sessions in the past to act as an assistant, I would have missed some of the best shots that are a permanent part of my portfolio. Having someone to hold a reflector, position flashes, keep a diffuser out during a sunny day, bounce thoughts around with, and be a second photographer is an absolutely invaluable asset to nailing all the shots at a large event. Having an assistant with whom you work well is even more invaluable, shaving seconds to minutes off of every moment captured.

7.) Snacks will save your growling belly. When photographing large events, there's little to no time to eat anything. With the wedding that I photographed this past weekend, it was only a ceremony and cake reception. No buffet or waiters serving dinner. No DJ. No all-night dance floor with an open bar. However, the day from start to finish was still about six hours, and the only time I had to eat was in the car from the ceremony site to the reception site, which are within five minutes driving distance from each other. Having a backpack with water bottles and snack bars is crucial to have the energy to keep going. Trust me, carbohydrates are your friends when doing a long photo session, so PowerBars or other high-carb snacks will give you the fuel to photograph all day long.

8.) The devil is in the details. Sit in your head for a while before your event, thoroughly contemplating the items that will complicate your upcoming photo session. Are you on your feet all day in uncomfortable shoes? Did you wear that heavy camera body with a neck strap that's making your neck hurt, rather than a comfortable shoulder sling strap or double-strap harness? If in a dry climate, did you forget your chapstick? Are your sunglasses or diffuser sitting in your house while you're out photographing this event on an unusually sunny, cloudless day? Creating a physical paper checklist with all of the tiny essentials is key if you want to make your session enjoyable. As a photographer, you love what you do, and these are the details that make the difference between an enjoyable gig and an endless, painful austerity.

Remember, growth is good, and any opportunity to try something that promotes personal growth and growth in one's skill set is a step in the right direction. Be prepared.

Respectfully,
Matt