This year is my 17th year shooting weddings. Over the last decade and a half I have attended over 350 weddings from every cultural background and religious tradition. It’s a safe bet to say any weight I have gained since college is directly related to the amount of wedding cake I consume annually. But being a Seattle Wedding Photographer isn’t what you’d think it would be. To illustrate this fact I’ve created a pros and cons list for your amusement. (hopefully)
Pro: I photograph approximately 60 days of the year.
Con: I can’t remember the last time I was able to sleep in on a Saturday or vacation during a holiday weekend.
Logically brides and grooms plan their weddings most of the time on weekends. The most popular wedding weekends in the year tend to be Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, New Year’s, and shortly before Christmas or after. Every Saturday in summer is always booked, along with many Fridays. A lot of photographers will work Sundays as well. For religious and personal reasons I chose to take Sundays and Mondays off. After all this time, my mother still can’t figure out why I won’t come visit on the weekend in July for her birthday or show up at any family reunion out-of-state in August. While we have no jewish heritage, she has perfected the routine of the passive aggressive mistreated mother, which she launches into whenever I mention I won’t be in attendance because I have to work. This also means I haven’t been to a good friend’s summer barbecue since 1999. However I have loads of free time on Thursdays. Making dentist appointments is super easy. So there’s that.
Con: My advanced skills in Photoshop make it hard for me to look in the mirror without thinking about what I would like to clone stamp off of my own face.
Pro: I have the advantage of going back and rewriting history.
Someday I’ll get my hands on all of my school pictures and Photoshop out several bad hair cuts, and one very bad permed mullet from the third grade. (Do not request photos, I will not be sharing until after said digital editing is complete.) I’ve also gotten really good at knowing exactly what clothing and makeup brands photograph the best. I’ve stacked my wardrobe and bathroom with these products so I’m always camera ready.
Pro: Being a wedding Photographer in Seattle allows me to work from home.
Con: Once the wedding is completed, there are several weeks of sitting in front of my computer required to complete the images into a final product.
Let me describe my workstation for you. As a mom of 4 children it’s important that I am accessible to my children while working on editing photographs. That means my office and family room are combined into one. At one end of the room sits my very powerful desktop, laptop, iPad, and television. Behind my computer screen (of 32 inches), sits 10 USB external hard drives. Together they make up 20 terabytes of disk space. To date I have seen every episode of “My Little Ponie: Friendship is Magic” against my will. (Note: they do play outside, when bribed. )
Pro: Because of the nature of the job, I am readily accepted into the inner circle of a family with unfettered access and I have learned a lot about relationships because of this access. (I expect to have an honorary psychology degree when I retire.)
Con: Learning over 15- 35 new names in one day means that at least one bridesmaid will be called “Amanda” even if that’s not her name.
Without fail every wedding I’ve learned one name wrong. And sadly once I have a name and my brain no amount of correction will fix it! However I will remember names forever and faces longer than that. I often find myself staring at random people in the grocery store only to come home and realize that I photographed them as a guest at a wedding 5 to 6 years ago.
Pro: I get so wrapped up in a wedding that I barely sit down, eat or drink because I love every minute! (And yes, I am being totally sincere here.)
Con: I am VERY hungry/tired after.
You know that adrenaline feeling like you could lift a Buick and throw it over your shoulder? Now imagine that for 12 hours straight. This last summer I photographed a wedding during which I severely damaged muscles in my shoulder. Because I was so enthralled in the work I didn’t even notice until I got home. I spent the next week and a half icing my shoulder just so I could go out and shoot the following weekend. If it wasn’t for really good assistants I would probably die of dehydration during the height of the summer wedding season. The strangest part is during the off-season of January and February, I miss it.
I guess the moral that I’m searching for in this narrative is simply this, no matter what you do there’s good and bad. The difference is that realization that you would put up with any amount of adverse side effects in the pursuit of your career. I guess that’s how you know you found your calling.