Monday, October 19, 2009

International wedding of mystery

Sometimes, I second-shoot for other wedding photographers. It's something I enjoy, and while there's still the pressure and responsibility of getting the shots and telling the story, it's only there on that day. Post-processing, creating albums, client relations? Somebody else's problem. This weekend was different, though.

I had signed up as a second shooter to a wedding photographer from Toronto, who was coming to cover a wedding here in Pittsburgh. On the day of the rehearsal, she calls me. There's a border with the US, and nobody is willing to let her cross it. Now if it were up to me, North America would be one big free trade zone for wedding photographers, and possibly also DJs. But it's not up to me, so a brief reshuffling of roles ensued...

I made some calls. Then the calls made some calls, and sent some emails, and so on, and so on. October 17, 2009 is apparently a very busy day for Pittsburgh wedding photographers. Then, in the car, on the way to the rehearsal dinner, my phone rang. I now had a second shooter. She had some outdoor portrait sessions that had to cancel because of the weather, and was available for the wedding. Even better, she has more wedding experience than I do. Plan B is falling into place.

Now this was the first time I'd worked with this arrangement: acting as the main photographer, but shooting for someone else. It was a bit different. Normally, when I'm under contract like this, I'm a second shooter, and I do my best to be a good second shooter. What do I mean by that? Good second shooters know how to play as part of the string section, not as another solo violinist competing for the spotlight. When I'm in that role, my goal is to add to the story, following the theme and style of the principal photographer. Except that she wasn't there. I was.

What to do? Well, the first rule of wedding photography is: This Is Not About You. This Is Their Day. So: "Hi, I'm Kevin, and I'll be Michelle today." And off we went. More than one of the guests at the rehearsal dinner introduced themselves to me with a tagline like, "so I hear you've come to save the day." Which was nice, because I wasn't quite feeling the crushing responsibility yet. But, in the end, everything went smoothly. The venue was beautifully rustic, if a little cold and damp. Jen, Casey, and their families and friends were a complete joy to spend time with, and that energy came through in every photograph.

Thanks to Michelle for originally reaching out to me as a second shooter, and later trusting me to fill in for you. Thanks to Jessica for coming through at the last minute to fill the role of second shooter in a way that entirely exceeded my expectations, and for putting up with the seldom seen ball-of-stress side of my personality. And I can't let this go without a big shout-out to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service, for providing me with the opportunity to tell this story.