The night before the wedding is always a little bit like I would imagine a knight would feel the night before a big battle. There’s a mixture of emotions floating around: What if something goes wrong? What happens if I forget something? Did I oil the knees on my armor?
While I’m sure knights of ye olden times had “people” to take care of their rusty, creaky joints, most photographers don’t have the luxury of having someone cover the all-important task of prepping–and most of us, truly enough, would do it ourselves even if we did have people. So many little things can happen that could ruin a wedding day and someone has trusted us to make sure those little things don’t happen. Prepping is all part of the process and, when done correctly, can actually ease the mind of the artist enlisted to capture your wedding day.
You make it sound like war. Are we going to war?
Kind of! We’re going hunting, in a sense: out to capture those images that make our hearts flutter, and everything has to be in excellent working order so that we can perform our jobs correctly. The last thing we want to happen is for a piece of equipment to fail at that crucial moment, whether that’s your first kiss or your first time seeing each other or your grandmother getting a face full of wedding cake. We want to make sure that every moment that will undoubtedly make you smile for years to come actually makes it onto the film…..er, card. So what do we do, exactly?
We make sure everything is clean.
From shutters to gels to cards and, yes, even the cleaning supplies themselves, we have to make sure that everything is freakishly clean. Four times a year the whole pile of gear gets carted off to a camera maintenance and repair store, where everything gets a once-over…sort of like the bi-annual cleanings you get at the dentist. When you’re working in fractions of an inch (in terms of the shutter), teensy little specks of dust look like monstrous clouds. One tiny morsel of dirt on a sensor is game over for a camera. I’ve even found dried buttercream icing on a CF card once (don’t ask me how it got there!). Inbetween those four cleanings, most photographers service their gear themselves, and the day-to-day stuff gets gently blown off with a special brush pen.
We make sure everything still works.
Nothing is scarier than the thought that, one day, inevitably, a sensor or shutter will fail. It can happen at any time and without warning. Most photographers have learned how to make minor repairs out of sheer necessity; I once troubleshot a broken lens while a second shooter continued with formal family portraits after a ceremony. Stuff like that happens all the time, but for professionals it doesn’t spell “disaster,” but rather “annoyance.” Professional photographers will have backups upon backups, and yes, they all have to be cleaned and inspected for performance. If something doesn’t pass the test, it gets replaced immediately.
We review everything you’ve ever sent.
Shot lists, details of touchy family dynamics, your entry questionnaire, your invoice and contract…the list goes on. Ensuring that each client feels like the only client can be difficult, but it is so worth it to take an extra five minutes while batteries are charging and bags are being packed to review exactly what has been agreed upon beforehand and re-familiarize ourselves with you and your loved ones. Don’t hate us, though, when we still refer to your dad as “dad.”
We pack the bag, and then repack the bag, and then repack…
There’s always something forgotten. Some teensy little thing, like a spring clip or a sandbag or a flash trigger, that always gets left out once or twice. Going over and over and over the checklist of gear helps but it never hurts to check twice…or maybe more than twice.
We make sure all cards are clear and batteries are full/fresh.
There’s nothing more embarrassing than showing up with batteries that need to be charged (or changed, if we’re talking about flashes) or memory cards with other people’s pictures still on them.
We say a little prayer/send good vibes/manifest.
I personally pray over every piece of equipment that will be with me on the actual wedding day. Things happen but I like to think that asking for a bit of extra protection, be it from a Higher Power or the Universe or whatever, never hurts.