What does Wedding "Pro" Even Mean?

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I’m really fascinated with this idea of the photographer being in charge of a lot of the tone for a wedding day. While obviously there’s a lot more going on than just whatever the photographer is doing, the photographer(s) is part of all the main events and therefore contributes to the overall attitude of the flow of those involved in making the event happen.

What does it mean to contribute to the overall “vibe” or attitude of a wedding?

I talked a little bit about that last week in regards to group photos, in which the photographer is almost entirely in charge. What about the rest of the wedding day process? What’s the photographer’s job in regards to stress level?

And look, there have been times where I work with an incredible wedding planner that helps the whole thing run super smoothly, but I’ve also worked weddings where there is no wedding planner, and as the photographer, I’m supposed to be in charge of keeping things on schedule.

That’s the problem though, right? We always tend to plan for things to go perfectly, and then when they don’t (which is almost always) we get bogged down and frustrated. I’ve been a guest at plenty of weddings where I can tell if a photographer is unconsciously planning for perfection, or if they are open to almost inevitable changes. The difference is generally pretty obvious: when a photographer gets frustrated with guests or starts to get into a rush and stops paying attention to the details, as opposed to when one “uses” the changing nature of a wedding as leverage for a better work creatively, but above all, just has a better attitude.

Attitude is everything right? Forget wedding photography a second (which is a useful illustration because it can be a very stressful job), but almost everything comes down to how we respond to it.

Ever since moving to Upstate South Carolina I’ve been blown away by the amount of real pros that I’ve met here. In my mind, a real pro is someone who not only loves their job, but someone that can hold it together during the most stressful parts of their job and still do excellent work.

When I was five or six years old living in Pensacola, FL, I vividly remember the first time I was introduced to the idea of handling immense pressure: I was laying the dentist chair as a terrified child, and the hygienist kept asking me to open my mouth wider. Now, obviously, I was probably pretty difficult to deal with, but it should be excused to some extent because of my age at the time. Eventually, she yelled at me, grabbed and yanked a handful of my hair until I did what she asked.

As someone who has a job where they probably have to deal with children on a pretty frequent basis, that hygienist, probably wasn’t really cut out for her job. I’ve never forgotten that, and it, along with other experiences over the years have really colored how I see the real responsibility of my job. Being a wedding photographer is less about the kinds of photos you take (although excellent technical and creative skill should be bare minimum), but the attitude you give off under pressure.

Things almost never go as planned. I’ve actually written about this a while ago, because I’m fascinated by those who plan for a perfectly smooth event, but are then gobsmacked and unable to improvise when things go wrong. Things going perfectly to plan are always great, but almost always, it’s a rare bonus. When you shoot a wedding and the natural light ends up being perfect at every point, everyone is ready on time, it doesn’t rain, and so on, it feels amazing. Chances are though, it feels amazing because it isn’t always the case.

That’s the key though too, right? It feels amazing either way, whether it’s hard or not. That’s why I keep getting out of bed for this whole photography job, because even on the hard days, it’s just sooo good.

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