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I’m a wedding photographer in Philadelphia. When you shoot a wedding, the main photographer usually has an assistant or second shooter. As second shooter, I get to hang out with the men, who are a lot more fun and way less stressed than the ladies. They’re usually drinking and watching TV and drinking some more. They don’t have to get their hair or makeup done, so they’re just there, hanging out.
People just get really wasted. At one venue, which was outside the city, this groomsman blacked out, and he wandered outside and fell into a ravine. At the same wedding, the groom pulled down his pants and the bridesmaids got down on the ground between his legs for pictures. At another wedding recently, the bride’s brother got really drunk and he caught the bouquet twice. The bride had to throw it a third time.
I’d say 75 percent of the couples do really seem to like each other. But the other 25 percent makes you ask, are these people really getting married? Do they even talk to each other? Some couples complain about kissing for the camera. They’ll just do a peck. Some couples just aren’t into PDA but you can tell they’re still in love. But sometimes it really seems like the couple doesn’t even like each other. Also, nine times out of ten, the bride is more attractive than the groom.
Catholic weddings are the most tedious because they’re usually really freaking long. And the Communion kind of freaks me out, as a non-religious person. I’ve also met a few super uptight priests at Catholic services who don’t allow free range to shoot in the church. Perhaps they’ve interacted with disrespectful photographers but my boss and I are extremely careful about attracting attention during the service. It’s a funny dichotomy when you’re at a Catholic wedding, because everyone’s getting drunk beforehand, and then you get to the service and it’s so religious and uptight.
Some reception venues, like fancy, corporate hotels in particular, can treat photographers like crap. A lot of them won’t give us a glass of water from the bar. They’ll send us to some vending machine in the basement if we want to get a glass of water. They treat us like we’re staff of the hotel, which we’re not.
Recently, I was having a snack in the ceremony hall, before anyone was there. I was eating a pre-made salad out of a plastic bowl and they complained to my boss that I was sitting in the reception hall eating out of a plastic container. I mean, who cares!
It’s easy to steal a piece of cheese or crudité during cocktail hour, but you do have to sneak into a corner to eat it. The best are the little bacon-wrapped hors d’oeuvres.
Then, of course, there are the guests. It can be pretty awkward taking photos during cocktail hour, before people are really drunk. There was this one bridesmaid who kept going around whispering, “That photographer is following me!” Like, oh yeah, I’m really ONLY following you.
During the reception, I dance around and snap people’s photos on the dance floor. I smile at people so they smile at me. I’m smiling all day. Dudes always want to dance. So you take a 45-second break and dance with them. But then you move on. One guy said, “If I didn’t have a wife, I’d totally ask for your number.” But the only people who’ve ever actually asked for my number were a security guard and a trumpet player. I do get a good number of Facebook requests though.
Also, people really don’t tip very well. Out of the 40 weddings I’ve shot in the past year, I’ve only been tipped twice. When I go to weddings even as a guest, I specifically always tip the bartender because that’s the person who does the most work. We’re working for really wealthy people — you can tell based on how extravagant the wedding is and what they’re wearing — but they just don’t tip.
All in all, I do love my job. You’re basically a wedding crasher that everyone wants there and at the same time, you’re creating art.
As told to Hillary Reinsberg.