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3 Things I Learned From My Last Wedding Shoot

As I continue my journey as a photographer and videographer, I was encouraged to keep a journal of my experiences. Since most of my education comes by way of trial and error, and error, and error, I will track my increasing knowledge in the field by way of my failures.

Over the years of exploring different passions and businesses I've learned a very valuable lesson: Don't be afraid to be terrible. In high school, my best friend and I were pretty good musicians. We were better than most of our peers, especially in jazz band. So when we heard one of them taking a solo and hitting all the wrong notes we had our saying, "Oh, he's terrible." While we sat and criticized them for missing key changes and playing the 4th instead of the root, 3rd, 5th, or dominant 7th, they were learning a more valuable lesson: how to learn from their mistakes. I truly believe the bigger the mistake, the bigger the lesson. And these musicians were making big ones. These concerts were being recorded, and they would have to relive these missed notes for years to come. But amidst all the wrong notes the thing they didn't do was stop learning from their failures. After a while, those missed notes turned into hit notes. And those hit notes turned into slick jazz licks. And those licks turned into transcribed solos. Before we knew it, our frowned up faces were not there because of how bad they were, but because of how "bad ass" they were. I can name numerous recording artists that we laughed at that weren't afraid to be terrible.

I can look at some of my early video and photography work and say, "Oh, that's terrible." I'm sure in a few years I'll look at my current work and think the same. But what I won't do now is be afraid to be terrible. I'll just keep hitting the wrong notes until my album is on store shelves.

Here are three "Oh, that was terrible" lessons I learned while shooting my last wedding.

1. Know your gear

As I planned for the wedding, I rented extra gear to make sure I'd be able to cover all my bases. I decided to try out a new camera that was similar to my current setup. The only difference was 50 megapixels, which was more than double my current camera's. In my mind, that could have only made the images better. Right? Well, yes. But there's one caveat - you need twice as steady of a hand. If not, the extra megapixels will catch the smallest movement while shooting. Now this difference isn't going to be noticeable to my client because I will work my magic in post-production. But to me, it was a lesson in which gear works best in each situation. More doesn't always mean better.

2. Do a data test run

I hired a second shooter to cover the pre-ceremony and ceremony. We went over the particulars of the shoot and settings and were all uniform in camera. Throughout the wedding, he showed me some shots he had taken, and I was very happy with what I saw. As we sat for dinner, I took his memory card to transfer the files to my computer. After putting the card in my card reader, the dreaded message appeared, "No Files." "Da hell you mean, 'No Files!'" He took the card back and put it in his camera and no pictures were available for viewing. I took my card from my camera to see if I was able to view mine and the same "No Files" message appeared. At this point, I considered how quickly I could leave the country and send a message to the couple that I wouldn't be able to deliver their most valuable pictures. But the photographer assured me that it must have been something wrong with the card reader and the cards were just corrupted. As much as the word corrupted didn't sit well with me, he assured me there was a fix. I broke out a new card and inserted it into my camera and finished the rest of the night with it. When I got home I did a search and found out this is a common problem, and there are many software programs designed to recover corrupted cards. Whew!!! Lesson learned - well I still don't know the exact reason for the corrupted cards, but I will make sure that we do a test run before we put thousands of pictures at risk.

3. Use your shot list

My wife made a list of shots for each part of the ceremony. She knows I'm a visual learner, so she helped by making the list in picture form. All I had to do was look at the printed images for each section and make sure to grab those poses. With schedule changes and time crunching I lost track of the list and took whatever shots I could get. Many of the group poses had to be cut short because the venue needed to stay on course with food prep. Trying to gather all members of the party after the reception starts is almost impossible. I was fortunate enough to steal the bride and groom away during the reception to get more shots of them. Even then I wasn't mindful enough of my list and thought about it too late. I know it's difficult for everything to go as planned, but at least plan to stay on list, Jamel. (just a note to self)

I was really excited to get the opportunity to get this wedding under my belt. The style, the venue, the beautiful couple all came together to make for a perfect night of photography and portfolio bliss; but not without a few "terrible" moments. Now, on to the next big mistake... I mean wedding.

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