📸 Skai Chan Photography

The Worst Actual Day Wedding Job for a Photographer

My friend signed up for a wedding package and a professional photographer was included for her actual day wedding. She told me he was the same photographer who had helped her to do her pre-wedding shoot, which she wasn't satisfied with the editing.

An amateur photographer
A photography hobbyist who had been paying models to do portrait shoots had also offered the bride the ridiculous price of $20/hr for her wedding photography. I assumed since he was usually paying models to shoot, it was a rare opportunity to be paid instead, and moreover, my friend was one of the top finalists in a beauty pageant, which meant that this market spoiler would have many pretty girls to shoot. I wasn't sure if my friend was going to engage his "photography services".

The easiest wedding job
She engaged my photography services to hang around her to help her with her group photographs. When I questioned about her main photographer, she told me her mother-in-law had "booked" him to help her to take group photographs with her relatives. Since my only job was as easy as sticking around with her for the group photographs, I didn't probe about the programme outline; basically, it was meant to be a night to chill up with her and our mutual friend (as the HMUA) and to take simple group photographs.

No response
On the night before the wedding, I texted her through WhatsApp, which was our usual way of chit-chatting and she didn't reply. I assumed she was busy. On the actual day I texted her before going over and I supposed she was doing her makeup and thus didn't check her phone. It was the first time I didn't get any response from my client since the night before the event.

Early bird
She hired me only for three hours, which was from 7pm to 10pm. Her solemnization was supposed to start at 6.30pm. I missed a shuttle bus and arrived at the location at around 6.20pm. Therefore, I was still very much early for the shoot, although not as early as I had planned.

The nice background with sunset
The solemnization location was quite beautiful although wasn't as nice as the website had claimed. The trees had blocked the view of the sea but it was still good for sunset shoot.

Many "photographers"
There were quite a number of weird people around, including some who were holding cameras. A few of them were quite polite but one of them was overly-outspoken (or boastful) and I suspected he was one "photographer" I had seen online. He seemed to have been turning up at events like beauty pageant competitions, car shows and IT fairs, and had been taking photographs together with all the models involved. I was praying hard that they wouldn't notice me as I didn't want to be associated with them.

Mysterious main photographer
Throughout, I was very curious where the main photographer was but I didn't seem to be able to spot him. I recognised my friend's brother although it was the first time we had met, but he didn't know where the main photographer was as well.

Into darkness
The bride (my friend) had arrived only at around 7pm when the sun had set almost completely. It was getting darker and darker and I knew the photography for her solemnization would almost end up in disaster (can't get the high quality photographs I would expect). Many guests were still surrounding her to chat and take photographs with her. I started feeling worried for her main photographer.

The impossible guest appearance
I was greeted by a mutual "friend" of the bride and I. He was my good friend's student, who was suffering from mental issue. In fact, he was just one of the few thousands of random guys who had added the bride in Facebook. I had warned her about his mental condition, although he wouldn't pose any harm. Since there were many weird "photographers" present, I thought this guy's presence was not impossible.

I was a hero
When the couple finally began sitting down at the table with the justice of peace for their solemnization, I was still busy looking around to locate her photographer. I noticed something was wrong and since there was no sight of a photographer, I quickly rushed over to volunteer my service.

Not my wish
Since I wasn't prepared and didn't have my colour gel and light modifier attached on my speedlite, I didn't fire any flash with the strong orange spot light shinning from the back of the couple. Throughout the solemnization, I was praying hard that her main photographer would arrive quickly and at the same time, I wouldn't get into his frames. I was also extremely worried that I would be accused of being arrogant for snatching over the main photographer's role; I didn't want to be accused of being a photographer-wannabe or someone who would overstep.

Total lost
I was in the most shocking state of my photography career, like as if I was being randomly picked to do an important performance on the spot. I was totally lost and my brain froze.

The crowd
After the solemnization, which was already being delayed by half an hour, I witnessed one of the most shocking things - there was a super long queue of guests wanting to take photographs with the bride on the spot. The weird thing was that they seemed to be only interested in taking photographs using their mobile phones. I could tell that most of them were more enthusiastic about uploading the photographs to their social media accounts instantly to show "I was there", regardless of the quality of their photographs.

Group photograph with the solemniser
I had to intercept to let the justice of peace had a photograph with the couple, which was more crucial than taking with any of the guests. In fact, I was very glad that he was very patient since I had witnessed one who was furious because the couple turned up late for their solemnization. This gentleman even waited for some time for the missing bridegroom to return to the scene.

Free "professional" photographers
The group of "photographers" was also crowding at the front of the impromptu photo-taking queue, acting like they were the official photographers. They probably knew each other and thus they were loud like as if the guests, including many hot girls, would be impressed by them.

Persistence at the wrong time
There were a few announcements to advise the guests to move into the ballroom for their dinner but they didn't want to give up. I was quite lost because the bride didn't signal me to help her with the group photographs and at the same time, I knew they shouldn't be continuing with it. I felt like telling them that the sun had already set since long ago and they would be capturing only black background, which was meaningless.

Lack of food and seats
It was a very high class buffet style dinner and it was free-seating. Unamazingly, the turnout was too great and probably with uninvited people. The couple had to top up the food on the spot.

Her mother-in-law caught me
The bride went back to her dressing room very soon as she was very tired and I told her I would go around taking random photographs on my own. My mind was still in a state of shock. Very soon, I was being caught by a lady to go around taking group photographs for herVery soon, I was being caught by a lady to go around taking group photographs for her. When she asked me if I were the photographer and I replied the same (to others) that I was just the second photographer. Later, I confirmed this lady was her mother-in-law.

Group photographs in very bad condition
The seats were in rows and there were huge decoration (flowers) on top. For group photographs, I had to increase the depth of field and thus I had to fire flash. Since the flowers would be occupying wide space and would catch more light because it's lighter in colour, I had to avoid them. It was pretty fine to have the guests moving over to the one side of the table for small group, however, there was a case of an extreme big group and they weren't very pleased with my arrangement.

There was a live band and an entertainer who helped to spice up the night. Out of a sudden, I happened to get to see the bride who was ready to march in. I was also taken by surprise when the spotlights appeared to shine on the couple, although I was trained to react to such situation. Perhaps it was just me but I usually would want to be mentally prepared beforehand.

Many photographers
Throughout the rest of the wedding, I was annoyed by the photographers around. It was good in a way that the couple might be able to get more photographs, however, the disadvantage was far greater. Perhaps, not everyone holding a DSLR was a professional photographer.

Some of the problems were that the photographers had (1) taken up some of the better angles and they (2) drew the eyes of the subjects away. Besides, (3) the multiple cameras aided in dragging the time taken for the group photographs at the end of the day.

The drawing away of attentions from the subjects was so bad that despite I had already directed the subjects to look at the extra cameras first before I shouted to for my turn, a few pairs of eyes were staring at elsewhere.

As anticipated, the crowd stayed way beyond the official ending time, however, I didn't expect it to be dragged till over an hour. As I saw the final shuttle bus leaving, I resigned to my fate that I had to call for a cab to get me out of the island.

Ex wedding photographer
Perhaps, one of the friendlier "photographers" spoke to me and proclaimed that he used to do wedding photography. I wasn't impressed at all because I knew a professional wedding photographer wouldn't have brought out his camera to do excessive shooting without being requested by the host. I personally took up very limited projects and I could already feel the exhaustion and thus refraining from shooting for events with friends and relatives; perhaps, this photographer likely didn't have many chances to do photography.

Truths untold
At the end of the night when most guests had left, I followed the bride to the big makeup room in case she needed photography. We got to chat for much longer time and I finally got her to solve the puzzle of her official main photographer. She told me she had sacked the fellow after he got into a quarrel with her mother-in-law during the tea ceremony during the day. She did engage the cheap hobbyist as well but he was kind of weird.

I was still very lost because she had engaged me from 7pm onwards and her solemnization was scheduled at 6.30pm. She didn't inform me that she was going to assign me as the one and only photographer for the night.

I didn't speak up on the issue of the self-volunteered photographers that night because it was supposed to be her happy day and that she was already exhausted. However, after she received the photographs and understood my displease that I had ranted on my personal Facebook profile after the wedding. She explained to me she had actually instructed the photography hobbyists to not bring their cameras along.

We talked about the wedding a few weeks later and I was told that another person wasn't invited. I was stunned for he had mentioned on that day that the bride had forgotten to send him the invitation card, sounding as if he was invited and the bride was careless.

Keep your photographer updated
If I were to be informed that she wanted to engage as the official main photographer, I would have checked her schedule with her and made advice with my experience, especially on the timing and lighting. I guess things would be better organised.

Lessons for couples for actual day wedding

    There were many challenges encountered throughout the wedding. On the part of the wedding couple, there were things that could be done in order to reduce problems. These are some of the main issues:
  1. Lack of advice from the initial main photographer
    A passionate photographer would try to get the programme outline of the entire actual wedding day from the couple and give advices. For example, he could have advised the couple that 6pm would be a better time to catch the golden hour and yet in time to capture the entire solemnization before the sun set completely.

    Perhaps, it requires time and effort to go to the extra miles to help the couple with going through the programme outline to spot obvious upcoming issues and thus not every photographer would do it. Photographers who are engaged by bridal shops are known to be paid lesser than they do deserve. Therefore, they may have to keep their effort and time to the minimum.
  2. Big delay for the solemnization
    The main photographer would also have to remind and rush for the makeup to be finished on time. Perhaps, the main photographer could have done it (advises the couple to start makeup earlier) while going through the programme outline.
  3. Non-informing of changing of main photographer
    This was a nightmare for the final photographer, which was, unfortunately, me for this case. The solemnization was supposed to commence at 6.30pm but it was delayed for half an hour. The bride had booked my timeslot from 7pm onwards. Imagine if there wasn't any delay and that I didn't turn up early, nobody would be shooting that moment.

    If she had informed me earlier (perhaps, I wasn't informed at all), some of the problems could have been prevented and I would be able to get her better photographs with much better light.
  4. Too many DSLRs
    It's good to have more DSLRs around but inside the bags of the guests, just in case any unfortunate thing would happen. For example, the official photographer falls sick or gets injured somehow.

    I always encourage wedding couples to get at least two photographers if they can afford it. The second photographer will be walking around to capture the special moments and expression of the guests to make the final photo album a complete story. Perhaps, if any good photography enthusiastic is interested, he can volunteer to be the second photographer as well, although the second photographer requires more creativity and it would be better to get the best photographer to take up the role.

    However, if there are extra cameras around to fight over the job of the main photographer, the main photographer will never be able to get the best angle and attention of the guests to be photographed for the group phototaking.

    It's actually very common to have guests wanting to take photograph of the couple using their mobile phones, however, it's very unusual for so many "photographers" to be using their cameras and also fighting over the roles of the main photographer. The usual mobile phone photographers know how to step back, unlike the hobbyists.
  5. Buffet dinner and free seating
    Although it was a buffet styled dinner, the price for each pax was enormous and thus, it was not feasible for the couple to cater for much extra food. I wasn't sure how many extra pax they had already catered for.

    The huge turn-out caught the couple off guarded and they couldn't even figure out who were the extra heads. Perhaps, some people who had turned down her invitation might have turned up, or maybe, some guests had brought along their spouse without informing the couple beforehand.

    Another problem was that it could be difficult for some of the guests to sit together, given that there were empty seats in between the guests who didn't know each other.

    I suppose the usual Chinese style of banquet with food served to their tables by the waitresses would be an easier choice in term of allocation of food and tables. Perhaps, nobody could have crashed the wedding without proper invitation if all seats were to be allocated beforehand.
  6. Big flowers on the tables
    There were two pots of flowers on each row of tables. They were beautiful but definitely big eyesore for some of the guests to look at the stage and also for the photographer to take photographs, especially for group shoots.

    Perhaps, although not within the scope of the main photographer, he could have given proper advice, such as using of smaller flowers or none, given that he was hired to be there earlier to look around.

You may be interested in:
- Actual day wedding photography gone wrong
- Misconceptions and Myths in Professional Photography
- Quality and quantity of photographs - contributing factors
- Reasons to engage a professional photographer

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