In the spring of 1982 a tenant who lived in the apartment next to mine asked if I would be willing to be the photographer at her wedding. She asked because she had noticed that I took my Canon AE-1 with me everywhere I went. Being the impulsive, plucky guy I was back then, I immediately said I would. I had owned the camera for a couple of years and believed I had shot photographs in enough situations that a wedding shoot wouldn’t be much of a challenge.

Later, I reasoned that a professional job is not equal to shooting rolls of film at Yellowstone Park or clever scenic pictures taken around town and the countryside. The Internet was not a social reality in those days, so I resorted to boning up about wedding photography by checking out library books and purchasing a magazine at the local newsstand.

I soon realized that I was in over my head. I suffered through some sleepless nights; wondering if I should decline the job. I decided to talk to my neighbor about my quandary. She said she knew I was a rank amateur but she liked the photos in the albums I had shown her earlier. She reminded me that she and her fiancé could not afford to hire a professional photography service for their wedding. The neighbor believed my skills would be more than sufficient for her event.

A month prior to the wedding, I practiced shooting portraits and group shots at various places, including at work, friends gatherings, and of my room mate. I scoped out the church and reception venue and snapped a test roll at each place. I felt capable of doing the job, but still felt overwhelmed because the job had to be done well with no chance to reshoot later. I wouldn’t know if the photographs would be satisfactory until after the film was developed.

On wedding day, I packed extra batteries for the camera, flash, and power-winder. I purchased extra film just in case of mechanical failures. I grabbed my Sears tripod and headed to the church. Once there, my neighbor’s mother briefed me as to where she wanted photographs to be shot along with who was to be included in each picture.

Today, I don’t remember the sequence of events nor much about the actual picture taking because the level of concentration was intense. I shot most of the film except for the emergency spares. I didn’t need to swap batteries. There were no major snafus while maneuvering around the church’s sanctuary.

Setting up the post ceremony formal shots was easier and more relaxed. I actually enjoyed doing those. The reception was shot sans tripod with the photos being more like snapshots. After the wedding activities, I dropped the film rolls off at my favorite developer company.

One week later, the packages of photographs were ready for viewing. With trepidation, I examined each picture. There were only a few flubs. Most of the photos exceeded my expectations. Next, I notified the new couple that their photographs had arrived. This would be the moment of truth.

They expressed happiness and satisfaction as they relived their wedding day through my photography. They paid more than my asking fee when I gave them the negatives along with the prints. They eventually had several of their favorites enlarged and framed to display in their living room.

A few months later, the neighbor asked if I wanted another wedding job because one of her cousins was getting married. I tactfully declined the offer. I explained that even though I was happy to photograph her wedding, it was going to have to be a one-off job. I was already situated in broadcasting work that I loved and that shooting weddings could be construed as moonlighting. That was forbidden by my employer.

I sometimes reminisce about that wedding gig, especially when I look at the old, retired Canon camera displayed on a shelf in the living room. I wanted to keep photography as a hobby and not as a profession–at least for the foreseeable future. I don’t want to feel overwhelmed about any photoshoots. I like taking pictures for my own enjoyment. It’s also fun to share a few with other people from time to time.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes entrepreneur and conspiracy theorist, Clay Clark. “If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the daily decisions you have to make, it’s time to automate something.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Friendship, Hobbies, Hometown, Meanderings, photography and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Overwhelmed

  1. Alien Resort says:

    One time I agreed to do sound for a documentary as a favor. Like in your situation I spent a lot of time figuring out all about mics and finding equipment. I was never so tired as I was after each of those production days wrapped up. And like your experience, never again.

  2. Morning. What type of camera do you use for your Friday floral essays?

    • swabby429 says:

      I vary between a Sony Cybershot DSC-H300 and a Canon Power Shot SX420 IS. I picked both of them up at the local pawn shop. I’ve been using the Sony a little more because it has some manual features. I use the Canon outside when walking around because it’s a smaller camera.

  3. I can imagine your stress and especially in the days of film when you can’t check the pictures and can’t take an unlimited amount of shots. You put so much work into their day, you’re a good friend.

  4. bloom|time says:

    What a wonderful story. And what a gift that you went to such trouble to take good photos. I am friends with a few professionals and have other friends who are very talented amateurs… both amaze me. (Especially as I also remember the non digital days!) what a talent to have!!!

    • swabby429 says:

      The cameras “ate” a lot of cash as well, so photographers had to learn to be discerning and patient when shooting. For some reason, photography with film still feels more authentic. I’m thankful for digital, though.

  5. That is a real compliment that your neighbor trusted you to take her wedding photos. It says a lot and not just about photography skills.

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