Nervous about photographing weddings (but you want to do it!) … Just be like Adele

Two things happened recently … and I feel like they go hand in hand.

1. A friend and fellow photographer contacted me to say that she had a wedding to shoot the next day … and she was so, so nervous. She’s in the middle of trying to grow her business, and she doesn’t have a lot of weddings under her belt as the lead photographer. But the thing that touched my heart is that her reason for feeling so, so nervous was that she reeeeeally wanted to knock it out of the park for the couple. She wanted to succeed so that they would have amazing images. It wasn’t just about her. It was about someone else.

2. Just a few days later, Adele took the stage at the Grammy’s to sing a tribute to the late George Michael. And by now, we all know what happened. She stopped the band and restarted because things weren’t quite right. And if you look at her face, you can see it. Written all over her face was the pain she was feeling because she wanted to do her best … but not just for herself. It was about someone else.

That face. It pulls at my heart. I see the face of someone who wanted so, so badly to perform in a way that would truly honor George Michael. And when things didn’t go quite right, she stopped, admitted things were off … and started over.

Here’s what she said:

“I know it’s live TV; I’m sorry I can’t do it again, like last year. I’m sorry for swearing. I’m sorry for starting again. Can we please start it again? I’m sorry — I cant mess this up for him. I’m sorry, I’m sorry for swearing! I’m really sorry. Sorry.”

I couldn’t help but think that both Adele and my photographer friend had so much in common. Both of these ladies just wanted to do their best under high pressure situations.

Now, is shooting a wedding the same thing as performing at the Grammy’s?

I’ll be honest … even after 10 years of shooting weddings, I still get nervous. I feel a little queasy the whole morning before I arrive at the wedding. I usually feel like peeling out of the parking lot just as I’m pulling into a spot. (All the while sighing with relief because I didn’t get stuck in a freak 4-hour-delay traffic jam.) But then I get into the groove of the day and the nerves calm down.

I’m pretty sure performing at the Grammy’s trumps photographing a wedding as far as nerves go, though.

But that’s not really the point. The point is there’s a lot to be learned from how Adele handled things.

We can learn a lot from Adele

If you are like me and my friend and get really nervous about shooting weddings because you care about the couple and because you just couldn’t live with yourself if you messed up their big day, remember Adele. Remember what she did. She gracefully and calmly handled the situation. You, too, can gracefully and calmly handle a wedding mishap, too.

Before we go any further, let’s all agree that there’s NO EXCUSE for negligence. Cards should be formatted. Cameras should be clean. Backup equipment should be present. Hours spent second-shooting and learning lighting situations should be under your belt. We’re professionals … so we should be properly prepared.

Adele was prepared … but stuff happens.

So ok… you’re prepared. But still, during a fast-moving day where people’s emotions are running high, you have blisters forming on your feet, and you’re hungry (because I’m ALWAYS hungry during weddings!) and you feel like you’ve been doing Pilates while simultaneously trying to solve a hard math problem while trying to be creative for hours … STUFF can happen. And that’s just YOU. Then there’s the hundreds of people in the vicinity who can all cause STUFF to happen. Wedding photography requires you to be on your blistered toes.

In talking with other wedding photographers, I think the thing people worry about most is missing key moments. “What if I miss the first kiss?!” “What if I don’t get a great shot during the cake cutting?” “What if I can’t get a candid moment with the bride and her Grandfather and she specifically told me how important that is?!”

I’ve never missed a first kiss at the alter. But that doesn’t mean I won’t sometime. And it doesn’t mean I don’t get super nervous thinking about the possibility of it happening! We’re all human. Things can happen. But from here on out, I’m going to remember Adele’s example. If I miss that moment, or any other moment, I’m going to HANDLE it. Like Adele.

Here’s how to handle a missed moment at a wedding — like Adele!

  1. Don’t freak out. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. Your stomach may be flip flopping inside as the couple is walking back up the aisle towards you and you know you didn’t get a good shot of the first kiss … but stay calm.
  2. Keep shooting. You’re the only one who knows you didn’t get that shot! The wedding isn’t going to stop for you. Keep capturing moments.
  3. At an appropriate moment, pull the couple aside and say something like, “I’m SO happy for you guys! Everything is going beautifully!!!! I don’t feel like I got the best shot of your first kiss, though and I want to make sure you have amazing photos of that special moment. Can you go back up to the alter so I can grab a few more shots.” You’ve just admitted that you messed up a little. But all the couple sees is this …All they see is someone trying to do their absolute best … for THEM! So of course they’ll say “yes”. And I highly doubt they’ll be upset. Because only you know that this do-over is necessary! The couple just thinks you’re trying to give them some more great shots.
  4. Grab a few more shots at the same place where their first kiss took place.
  5. Carry on.
  6. Mix those photos in with the ones you took during the actual ceremony in their final collection of images.
  7. Voila. You’re Adele.

(Ok, not really. It would be awesome, though, right?!)

Having a perfect shot of the actual first kiss would be great. But when all is said and done, and they’re flipping through the gallery, they’re hardly going to remember that there was a slight do-over. Because you were graceful. And you showed them that you really cared and wanted them to have the BEST.

What’s the point of this strange comparison between Adele and wedding photography?

Aside from the fact that I often make strange comparisons, like these:

Pain, Lepers, and the Business of Photography

My Bra Almost Killed Me But it Led Me to a Very Important Realization About My Photography Business

The actual point is this: It HAS to be scary walking out on a stage and performing live like that! It HAST TO BE. But I’m so glad Adele is willing to do it. I’m so glad she’s willing to give us her heart even though the stakes are high.

And you? If the only thing stopping you from pursuing wedding photography — or any other kind of photography, for that matter — is your fears, please do the world a favor and push through them. Accept that you might make some mistakes along the way. But know that if you handle them with grace, all will be well.

“#Adele taught us a all a great lesson just now. If it’s not right? START OVER AND NAIL IT! And she did. Love you, girl,” Bette Midler, Twitter.


Kate Callahan is an on-location photographer who LOVES to capture authentic memories for families. She’s available for weddings, senior photos, child photo sessions, and family photography. Kate works with clients throughout the Hudson Valley, NYC,  Delaware (and the tri-state area), and beyond. She also writes motivational books for photographers. Find them at Dear Female Photographer.

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