One of the really enjoyable things about running Lensrentals is getting to work with lots of photographers who are taking their hobby professional and entering the field of wedding photography. We have numerous regular customers that we’ve worked with since they rented equipment for their first big shoot, seen them grow over the years, and now help them outfit their second and third shooters. It’s amazingly gratifying.
One of the really awful things about running Lensrentals is getting to work with lots of photographers who are taking their hobby professional and entering the field of wedding photography. We have numerous irregular customers who we worked with on their first big shoot, watched it blow up in their faces, heard from them a couple of times when they begged for their money back because the bride’s family was armed, irritated and dangerous and then never heard from them again. It’s not at all gratifying.
Sometimes we see the tsunami of disaster sweeping towards us in the distance and try to warn the photographer, but usually they just keep building sand castles on the beach. Other times the photographer, trying to appear superbly professional, never lets us know what’s coming and the first thing we hear is something like “That 18-270mm f/6.3 lens is defective. The bride is furious that all the images from the candlelit ceremony in the coal mine didn’t turn out.”
At any rate, this kind of situation is so common that here at Lensrentals we have a series of acronyms to describe the various disasters that commonly occur. We’re sharing these, not to make fun of other photographer’s misfortunes . . . OK, yes we are making fun. I can’t lie that much. But there is a purpose. We hope to show those of you about to embark on this path what not to do.
The Wrong Person in the Wrong Place for the Wrong Reason
Sometimes the problem is general rather than specific. Someone who just doesn’t have the right personality or mind set to do wedding photography is going to do it anyway.
FWIGTEW (First Wedding, Isn’t Going To End Well)
This is when we see the Tsunami coming so clearly that before the order is even filled, it’s flagged for the inevitable complaint that is coming. All FWIGTEWs have one common characteristic: they have never done this before, but know exactly how to do it and are happy to tell us and everyone else how it should be done. There is no hope for these photographers.
Having your wildlife images published in National Geographic and your sports photos on the cover of Sports Illustrated doesn’t mean you’re prepared to be a wedding photographer. Nothing, other than a significant learning curve and a certain type of personality, can prepare you to be a wedding photographer. One should view their first attempt at wedding photography as they would getting into the ring for their first professional Mixed Martial Arts bout: without a lot of planning, preparation, and advice you are likely to get hurt.
DIFF (Doing It For Free, AKA Doing It For Family)
All these conversations start with something like “They can’t afford a wedding photographer and are going to be happy with whatever they get.” That’s about four lies for the price of one. They aren’t going to be happy with whatever they get because, let’s face it, if the budget is that tight, by two weeks after the wedding they aren’t going to be happy, period.
HINAP (Hope Is Not A Plan)
Seeing the venue for the first time the day of the wedding and hoping the light is OK, seeing the equipment for the first time the day of the wedding and hoping it all works, taking a lot of shots and hoping some of them turn out, hoping the exposure is right. When anyone has two or more of NIVDAR, LOPP, IGEL, or ALM (see below) they are automatically promoted to HINAP.
TEOs: The Errors of Omission
These take various specific forms, but all involve a lack of preparation, planning, or orientation to reality. Our emotional response to a TEO is LOPINME: your Lack Of Preparation Is Not My Emergency. There’s nothing that can be done to help anyway, because, by definition, a TEOs can’t be fixed short of rescheduling the wedding.
ALMs (Arriving at Last Minute) and ENTOs (Equipment Not Tried Out)
Correspondence from an ENTO begins “I didn’t get a chance to check out the equipment until I arrived at the wedding”. Really?? There’s no reason to read further. That says everything.
By definition an ALM is an ENTO with an excuse. A really bad excuse that usually goes “I agreed to shoot the bride’s $30k wedding for $200, so to save money I had the equipment arrive at the last minute and didn’t get a chance to check it until I arrived at the wedding”. Looked at another way, an ALM is someone who plans ahead to be an ENTO. So see ENTO.
NIVDAR (Never Inside Venue, Didn’t Ask Rules)
Yep, that 18-200 f/5.6 zoom isn’t going to get great pictures in that candlelit church when you aren’t allowed to use the monster flash you rented. Nor is that 17-55 lens going to get the close-up you want, when you have to shoot from the back balcony. What’s the most common NIVDAR? Walking into the reception hall, looking up at a domed roof 60 feet away and realizing your plan to bounce flash off the ceiling may not be happening.
SWIONWIN (Sent What I Ordered, Not What I Needed)
This one is rather specific to the rental business, but it’s amazing how many people order the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 and are shocked that it doesn’t work on their Nikon D300. Or my favorite “I couldn’t use the 85mm f/1.4 lens you sent me because it wouldn’t zoom out sufficiently to take the group shots I planned to use it for. You should say more clearly on the website that it doesn’t zoom.” And the runner up “I had no idea the camera I ordered to shoot this wedding didn’t come with a lens. I wanted one with a lens.” Uhm. the part where the page said “This camera doesn’t come with a lens” didn’t provide a hint, huh?
LOPP (Lack of Proper Planning)
This is rather a catch-all for TEOs that aren’t SWIONWIN, NIVDAR, ALM or ENTOs. It involves comments like “I didn’t realize the batteries weren’t fully charged”, “I didn’t have a wide enough lens to get shots of the bride in the dressing room, that girl was *big*”, “I never thought about the strobes not providing good light for shooting SLR video”, and my favorite LOPP ever: “No one would give me a ride from the wedding to the reception hall.”
ERFLOKs: Errors Resulting from Lack of Knowledge
There are probably more specific ERFLOKs than stars in the sky, but we try to group them by severity.
IGEL (Inadequate Grasp of Equipment Limitations)
Far more subtle than an IEFT, this is not the kind of thing that ruins an entire wedding shoot, but it may ruin some shots. Common IGELs are things like “I didn’t realize the flash could overheat with an external battery”, and “I didn’t know that lens had enough barrel distortion to make the bride look fat”. IGELs can often be overcome by long and arduous post-processing, often resulting in an AHLE (Another Humbling Learning Experience). But they are rarely fatal, and, in fact, if all you have is an IGEL, you’re probably a pretty good wedding photographer.
IEFT: Inadequate Equipment for the Task
An IEFT is of moderate severity. It is pretty common on first weddings, especially when photographers haven’t spent any time as second shooters. (It should be noted that all DIFFs will inevitably be IEFTs, so using both terms for a single wedding is redundant). Minor IEFTs involve not having a lens with wide enough aperture (or a camera that won’t shoot high enough ISO), insufficient range of focal lengths, or the most severe form of IEFT—planning to use the on-camera flash for lighting. The most common IEFT, though, is not having backup equipment. You don’t need two of every lens, but a second camera IS a necessity, not a luxury, as are spare batteries, spare memory cards, spare everything. Skydivers usually don’t need a reserve parachute either, but sooner or later . . . .
IGOR Inadequate Grasp of Reality
These are the most severe of the ERFLOKs (sometimes called a malignant ERFLOK ). While we aren’t absolutely certain, we believe committing an IGOR should serve as a warning that wedding photography is not a good career choice. For example, attempting to serve as both photographer and videographer by yourself, using two cameras, is an IGOR. So is shooting 800 images onto a CF card and then asking where you can get them developed because you don’t have a computer.
SIONWINs of sufficient severity may become IGORs. It’s rather a judgment call. For example, ordering a Zeiss lens and not realizing it doesn’t autofocus is a SIONWIN. Not realizing it doesn’t autofocus until you’ve shot the entire wedding with it and see the pictures on the computer is an IGOR. But certainly there are gray areas in between. Similarly a Double ALM (equipment or photographer arrives after the wedding) could be considered an IGOR.
Which brings up our last abbreviations:
DWISNWID: Do What I Say, Not What I Did. Learning from the mistakes of us older, mistake-ridden photographers may mean not having to replicate those errors. Or better yet, drop over to Wedding Photography Workshops and get some in-depth information.
And, by the way, if you’re thinking “I’ve been considering shooting weddings, but I’d never do any of those things”, then you’ve already taken the first steps toward being a potential FWIGTEW.