Thursday, February 18, 2010

When Things Go Wrong: Is Your Photographer Prepared? (Part One)

A wise person once said, “Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.” Here, L.A. photographer Damien Smith shares his advice about the backup plans a good photographer should have in place to prevent anything from going horribly awry on your big day.

Extra Cameras and Flashes On Hand

I've had all kinds of equipment fail on me while photographing a wedding or other event. I've had cameras and flashes completely quit. Therefore, I always carry at least four cameras and four flashes, including a camera and flash for myself and a second photographer, plus a backup camera and flash for myself and a second photographer.

I keep my backup equipment close by, so that if something fails, I can get to it quickly, or just take my assistant’s camera while she fetches a backup camera to use herself. Having backup equipment at hand is very important, and it does no good if the backup camera is in the car, especially if the wedding is being held on a yacht or at any location where the car is not nearby!

In addition, I always keep extra lighting equipment and reflectors in my SUV in case I need them. If the wedding is held on a yacht or at a similar location where I won’t have easy access to my vehicle, I carry them with me.

A Second Photographer Onsite

One of the main reasons I always have a second photographer work with me is in case of equipment failure. The chance of both our cameras failing at the same time is highly unlikely. One of the main reasons I always have a second photographer work with me is in case of equipment failure. The chance of both our cameras failing at the same time is highly unlikely. This way, one of us will get the picture, and my clients will have perfect wedding photography to cherish forever.

Multiple Memory Cards

I remember hearing last year about a wedding photographer’s camera that was stolen during the reception, with all the pictures from the entire wedding on it. The story was all over the news. The photographer and the married couple pleaded for the return of the memory card. Note the phrase “memory card.” As far as I know, they never got their wedding pictures. Later that day, I received calls from my photographer friends, who told me I had been right all along.

Right about what, you say? Well, they all used to tease me because I use between 10 and 15 memory cards per wedding. They told me I could shoot the entire day using just one memory card, and this is true. But my reasoning is that memory cards can fail. This happened to me in the past, and luckily, I was able to recover the pictures by using a recovery program after the wedding.

But if you use just one card and it goes bad, you can lose EVERYTHING on the card. If the pictures are spread out among several memory cards, it's not possible to lose everything. Had the photographer in the abovementioned news story used several memory cards, the wedding couple would at least have most of their wedding pictures today. For that reason, I recommend making sure your wedding photographer uses at least five memory cards.

Have you talked with your photographer or other vendors about backup plans? Are there any wedding day hang-ups you’re especially concerned about?

(Photo Credit: Damien Smith Photography)


  1. Unfortunately I don't think we'll be able to have 2 photographers at ours but definitely insisting on the multiple memory cards. Recently heard a horror story about those! Thx for the tips!

  2. Glad to be off service! Also, be sure that your wedding photographer is bringing more then one camera. Have an excellent wedding! ~;o)

  3. Woah, I am so happy that I'm not a wedding photographer, that's a whole lot of work. But I'm happy to already know that our photographer carries at least 3 cameras with her to the weddings she works. I think I would just die if we never got our photos back. Great advice!

  4. Damien Smith rocks. These are all such important tips that I wish all photographers would stick to! (Sadly, you know that not all of them do.)

  5. Wow. I wouldn't have thought to ask my photog any of these things - I'm sure she's prepared, but it's better to ask than not and be sorry!!! Thanks for the great tips!