Monday, January 21, 2013

that time I really messed up...



Oh hey! Remember that time that I lost the memory card from an ENTIRE wedding? Or that time I dropped the bride’s wedding band under a bricked in porch?
Oh, you’ve never heard that story? Well, it’s probably because I am still very embarrassed (and ashamed) about both situations.
As a wedding photographer, you are in charge of the most important day in a couple’s life. You are in charge of the memories. They pay you and trust that you will produce beautiful photographs from their special day.
As a wedding photographer, you never want to disappoint your clients.
So, I am swallowing my pride and telling you about two particular situations where I fell completely flat (and hard) on my face…
April 2010 – I was set to photograph the wedding of an awesome couple. I had already worked with them on their engagements and I also did the bridals. I was super excited and ready for their wedding day. I was ready – gear, back-up gear, tons of batteries, extra SD card…
I spent a lot of time before the ceremony capturing all the photos, including most of the formals. My second shooter arrived right as the ceremony started so we just jumped in.
The bride looked stunning and the groom looked at her with pure adoration. The first dance and father-daughter dance were beautiful. The cake, the flowers, the rings – all perfection.
Halfway through the reception, I ran out of memory on my card so I went over the swap it out. I was in a hurry, so instead of zipping it up safely in my bag, I just popped it in my pocket and continued shooting.
The drive from the wedding venue to my house was about 45 minutes. I got home, unloaded the car, and headed to my office. I was too excited to wait and upload them in the morning – I wanted to see them now! I reached in my pocket… and the card was gone.
I tried not to panic but I grabbed my husband and we searched my car, bag, and the house from top to bottom. Vincent was so kind and drove me the 45 minutes back to venue so we could search the grounds. He knew I was too emotional to make the trek alone and I wasn’t going to wait until morning. We spent an hour searching the grounds.
Nothing.
The next morning, I called the venue and begged them to look all over. I even asked if I could search the trash.
Nothing.
I cried and cried. I was so mad at myself for being so slack and I was utterly ashamed. This couple trusted me.
Monday morning, I messaged the bride. I told her that she deserved a phone call but I didn’t think I could talk to her without bawling the whole time. I offered to give her her money back. I told her I would do a free session at anytime (for the rest of my life if I had too!). I told her my second shooter had a lot of shots, but they weren’t my shots – as the main photographer. I told her that I was sorry to have failed her.

Side note: I should NOT have messaged the bride. I should have called her or met with her in person. When this happened I was 20-years old and lacked major business skills. I may have been ashamed and terrified but it wasn't about me...
I prayed and prayed after I sent that message.
Then, something amazing happened. She messaged me back. She was kind, gracious, and…. understanding. I’m sure she was angry and upset, but she was so sweet to me. I knew she wouldn’t rip me a new one because, like I said, I had worked with her before and she was so laid back… but still. I didn’t deserve her kindness, patience, and understanding – I deserved to be publicly flogged.
It’s going on three years, and we still haven’t found the card. I pray, one day, it’ll show up.
We are still friends of Facebook and I still am amazed at how compassionate she was. I believe that God put her in my life for very specific reasons. She didn’t kick me when I was down.

Loosing that memory card was by far the worst thing to have ever happened to me as a photographer. I have learned so much from it - mostly to not be so careless and take the time to protect all of my gear.
 ---------------------------------------------------
Ready for another doozy?
April 2012 (clearly I shouldn’t do weddings in April…) I was shooting a beautiful wedding in this super cute, quant town. Like all photographers, I snagged the wedding rings and went to work photographing them. Well, right in the middle of a shot, my clumsy fingers hit the rings and I dropped them. No real biggy right? NO, wrong. The brides DIAMOND wedding band started to roll. It hit a divot in the porch and *plunk* down it went.
Oh. My. Gosh.
I tried so hard not to panic or let anyone know what had just happened. The bride’s parents walked up and figured it out instantly. Did they freak out, yell at me, or call me an idiot? NO – they calmly went into parent-fix-it-mode. We were going to go under the porch but it was bricked in, not to mention we were near a lake filled with water moccasins (very dangerous and poisonous snake).
I told my second shooter to keep shooting the wedding so we wouldn’t alarm to couple. Then the bride and groom walked up onto the porch. I. Could. Die. But once again, I wasn’t reprimanded or yelled at – the bride just said, “it’s ok, just get it back.”
I was trying to figure out how to get my step-dad to get up here and rip this 100 year old wooden porch up, but then we located it using a flashlight on my cell phone. The caterer’s son used an old wire antenna to bring it up. HALLELUJAH!
My second shooter told me she was impressed that I wasn’t panicking but she only saw my external demeanor – inside I was losing it.  I thanked the parents before I left for being so kind and for helping me. All they said was, “its ok. Things happen. Just glad we got it back.”

 ---------------------------------------------------
Now, why am I telling you this? Simple, we, as wedding photographers, are mere humans. I know that my client’s reactions were ideal and rare, but at the end of the day, I still failed. At the end of the day, we have to be careful. There isn’t any time to cut corners or rush because we are responsible for very precious memories.

Here are some of my tips:
- Have a check-list of things you need for every event so you don’t forget something,
- Don’t rush
- Put things back where they belong
- If possible, have a second shooter and allow them to get the “big” shots too
- Wear comfortable shoes
- Be aware of your surroundings – I should NOT have been photographing rings on a porch.


 
If something goes wrong:
- Don’t panic if something goes wrong, stay calm, and try and fix the problem. You panic, client panics.
- Ask for help if you need it – the caterers and other vendors will help you
- Be humble and gracious
- Pray. I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason.


 

These two particular events have shaped me into the photographer I am today. I was fortunate to have such kind clients and I know it won’t always be like that. I have had difficult clients as well.

To this day, only a handful of people know about me losing my memory card. I didn't allow my situation to be a lesson for other. I want new (and established) photographers to feel like they can talk to me and use my experience to make themselves a more prepared photographer.

I have no problem acknowledging my shortcomings and saying, “Hey, I’m human and I’ve messed up!”

If you ever fail and want someone to talk to, feel free to email me at callantinsleyphotography@yahoo.com or PM on my Facebook page! I am here for you – for support, advice, and a open mind!


2 comments:

  1. Um, I'm pretty sure I was a guest at both of those weddings. I'm positive I was at the one April of last year. Did the Clemson Tiger show up at the 2010 wedding?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The memory card one from 2010 was in New Bern, NC. Are you talking about Tracy and Evan's wedding? They had the Clemson tiger and it was in April of 2010 :)

      Delete