The log of one working week in the life of an actual working photographer
Get up to check the call sheet packing list for a local wedding and to test all equipment. This follows the check yesterday afternoon as well when the initial packing was accomplished.
Have a decent breakfast. Always. Every day when you have an assignment.
See bride is tapping away on her mobile so send her a message congratulating her on her big day and to assure her I will see her at the hairdresser at 8.00 a.m. as arranged. Calm her fears about the cloudy weather in the same message with a quip that assures her the photos will be all the better for it.
Pack vehicle with all kit as per pre-prepared equipment checklist for the specific booking (I have a list for each assignment) - there is nothing worse than reaching for something you thought you packed while on location - check and check again before you go!
Depart for first location. Photography hopeful that asked to shadow on the shoot was to arrive at my studio by 7.00 a.m. but is late. Tough! Will have to meet me at the first location. Place a quick call to their voice-mail to this effect while en-route using car hands free system. Just as I hang up there is a call from a former client now living in a city 370 miles away. Asks if I can fly up to them on Monday to help out with a brochure shoot.
Turns out a "pro" nearby had taken the job on but has (a) Not shot to brief on the first attempt and (b) cancelled the re-shoot appointments twice and (c) Now wishes to bill them extra for deep-etching images from the shoot which they will only deliver in 6 weeks in any event as he is "very busy with other clients"! After alerting the photographer - as a professional courtesy - to the fact that my (original) client has asked me to do their work again, I agree to assist this client who insists they will take care of all the travel arrangements. Later in the day the other guy sends me a text to say they are a "difficult bunch" and I am welcome to have them back!
At hair salon to start the day's coverage for my bride. No sign of aspirant pro who asked to tag along but my wife is working as second shooter in any event. Reliable. Dedicated. Far better looking and more pleasant company...
Wrap at salon after getting photos and videos by recording 5 minutes of ambient sound.
At reception venue as bride's family is hectically putting finishing touches to decor - I heard about this while the lady of the day was taking calls in the salon. Decided to pop around and get some coverage of the action and stress.
Pop around to chapel to see exactly what has been put up, strung about and festooned by the bridal decoration team which could possibly affect lighting or cause echo on the soundtrack of the video. Rig microphones and fill lights. Test remote control system of lights and cameras. All OK.
At bride's final prep location to cover make-up process. Find sheepish looking aspirant pro who apologises for being late but offers excuse of having had a late night the evening before and is a bit worse for wear. Ask if he has had breakfast. No. Ask if he had been drinking the night before? Yes. Ask if he checked equipment, charged battery of camera etc? Err...not yet. Wants to loan a memory card (left his in laptop at home) and asks if I have a charger for his Nikon. Asked him to please go home and think about what he wants in life as I am not prepared to foist a hung-over and ill-prepared camera handler on my bride, her family and guests.
Hopeful gets indignant and uppity but leaves. Good riddance - a wedding shoot is a serious responsibility and I cannot be baby-sitting someone or waking them up or, worse still, wondering what they are up to on my shoot if I cannot see them at any given moment.
Whizz around to groom's location to cover them getting ready. Boys will be boys and they are still playing video games when I arrive. Good shots of that and then they get ready in 10 minutes flat!
Back at bride's location. She gets her dress on, I get into car, off to chapel.
Waiting at chapel. Get guests and other filler shots and B-Roll. Another hopeful who asked to assist has actually arrived. Correctly dressed, camera checked and ready to roll. Ask her to sit in church and get reaction shots of groom as bride arrives. She agrees without question after asking if there is anything else she can do? Bride takes her time and arrives at 3.10 p.m.
Bride hides in car and we discover reason for delay is apparently due to the chapel PA system not being set up. She wants her special song played as she enters. Frantic discussion about sending someone off to find a mini hi-fi from home. Tell her not to stress.
We are back on track as I have taken my portable PA system from the boot of the car and let them use it. It has a battery back up system which is fully charged and ready to sail. Happy bride again. I also have spare wedding car ribbons, needles and different coloured thread, zippers, velcro, safety pins, different shades of foundation and eye-shadow plus lipsticks as well as shoe polishes, water, analgesics, sanitary items, energy bars and a first aid set in my "just in case" bridal toolbox. You never know...
Service gets going at last.
Get all footage and shots as needed throughout service. Up and down the length of the chapel at least 20 times as well as up and down the gallery stairs four times. Use Olympus OI share app to control two cameras set up in front of couple and preacher to get shots and video in addition to two cameras I am carrying.
Bride gets told by limo driver that he has another job on at 5.00 p.m. so needs to leave by 4.45 p.m. and cannot take them to original photo shoot location as they are running late. Wow! That's news. Quick discussion with bride and we fall back to plan B (which I prepared a week beforehand when I scouted the venue and other locations) and go to a nearby wooded lane with a paddock and horses. A 20 minute diversion while assistant packs up kit in chapel.
At function venue with bridal party portraits in the bag. In my view if you need several hours for the so-called "creative shoot" which seems to be the fashion these days, you do not know what you are doing and do not plan. Keeping the couple from their guests while you faff-about is rude and un-professional. Limo driver a happy chap and off to his next job after asking for my card as he would like to work with me again and promises many referrals.
Do an "all guests" group shot by climbing on the roof of the venue (with permission from the owner of course) and then do the family and other formal group pics using a fountain and a handily parked classic car as a background. Job done!
In the venue for the formalities, dinner, dancing, cake cutting, bouquet toss etc.
Leave venue after the couple leave and we do the sparkler tunnel pic and some light painting.
Back home and copy images and footage from the laptop used during the day to do running backups to the workstation and to the backup server RAID array. Set up battery chargers to get ready for Sunday shoot of a traditional Zulu betrothal ceremony that kicks off at 11 a.m. (nominally). Ensure that all kit was recovered from chapel and tick off kit list for the tomorrow's shoot.
Sleep after a 21.5 hour day.
So? I slept in a little! Get up. Have a decent breakfast. Always. Every day when you have an assignment.
Check mobile calendar and PC to ensure flight booking for tomorrow is loaded after seeing text from client who has made the booking discussed yesterday morning. It is sorted but the flight leaves at 6.15 a.m.!
Send today's bride a congratulatory message and assure her I will see her soon. Send through some rushes from yesterday's wedding to that brides' mobile and do a quick 2 minute rush video edit so she has something to post on social media.
Go through equipment check list for today. It includes sunscreen, sun-hat and water bottles as the whole shoot is outside and it is a hot spring day at about 24 deg C (already) with clear skies and a forecast high of 32. Test equipment. Format cards.
Arrive at homestead location for the day. Nobody there yet from either bride or groom party. There is lots of dust blowing about in the breeze though. No problem for the OM-D E-M1 family as they have shown many, many times. The weather and dust proofing works.
Guests and groom arrive. Bride apparently on her way.
12.55 p. m.
Temperature is now 34 deg C (Who are these forecasters anyway?)
1.15 p. m.
Bride arrives. Things get going.
Three ceremonies have now concluded and a fourth is nearing completion. Light is failing horribly as homestead is on the side of a hill and away from the setting sun. Whack up LED lights using battery power. Final ceremony concludes at 6.45 p.m.
After all protocols have been observed (sharing in the evening meal, greeting the elders etc.) we take our leave of the homestead.
Back at desk doing backups. Do rush edits for today's ceremony and upload for client to share folder.
Checking kit. Cleaning kit. Charge batteries all round for tomorrow's corporate shoot. Pack kit for the day. Package light stands in a carton marked with fragile stickers.
After a 15.5 hour day, manage to get to sleep.
Get up, do usual routines. Have a decent breakfast. Always. Every day when you have an assignment. Then pack carton with stands and my camera bag in car.
Leave for airport which is 90 km away.
Arrive at airport and park.
Arrive at check in desk for 6.15 a.m. flight. Get carton cleared as a fragile (last on first off) item that is handled on an individual basis and does not go through the conveyer system. Go to hand off point to hand over carton and pass through security.
At boarding gate. So pleased I am using m43 kit as this means I have only one bag to take along on this shoot. Two bodies, batteries, grips, three FL-R units, only the required lenses for the day and an LED light plus a laptop all fit into a Tamrac bag that is OK as cabin baggage. Use mobile to catch up on e-mails while waiting to board.
With everyone eager to get going we are loaded and pushed-back from the gate.
Take-off. As this is a full service airline have a second breakfast snack and some juice during the 47 minutes in the air.
Arrive on schedule.
So called "first-off" carton eventually arrives after everyone else has left the baggage reclaim.
Meet company rep in pick up zone. Get driven to the company through big city traffic. Use chance to gather some intel on company and the products to be photographed. Discover owner has a newly developed item of which he is very proud. Do some quick market research on my mobile on this type of item and find out he is a local pioneer in offering this. Useful information.
Arrive at company.
Meet company owner. Discuss his new "baby" and offer congratulations on the development of the item. Get talking about laminar flow, gases and machining. We hit it off ;-)
Have a cup of coffee and discuss the draft brochure they have and what they need and expect from today's shoot.
Set up lighting and remote flashes. Do white balance and test shots. Using FLM-2 on E-M1ii to trigger and control FL50R units fitted with white soft dome diffusers and a FL36R fill light where needed. Sturdy tripod (packed in carton) set up so I can use HR mode with laptop tethered to camera so client can watch things happening on a large screen. OI share app let me work without needing to be at laptop.
First large item moved into place by crew with hydraulic lifter unit.
First image captured and we are off...
Have worked right through and completed the required items as well as added a few additional B-roll type images for them to use as backgrounds in the brochure (they had not thought of those) as well as other generic stuff they can use in different places.
Finish shoot with a fun shot of the employees kids (it is school holidays) doing the adult's work and wearing their protective kit. Everyone has fun and is chuffed with the special shots. So I leave them all on a high, smiling and happy. Get a bear hug from the boss! Says he is well pleased with the fact it all got done and dusted in a less than a day. Says he has a lot more work for me to do in the coming months - lots of new items to launch and a whole new factory to be photographed. Asks if I want to play golf with him and his crew next time? Also wants to know if I do videos as well? Yay!
Packed up and in car being driven to airport.
All checked in and through security.
7.35 p.m. Arrive home after crawling through evening traffic.
Do backups from laptop and cards to RAID array and send rush edits of pics of kids to my contact for her to share with the mums. Check and test equipment, clean it. Pack all away. Batteries on charge.
Start final edits of images and footage from a function the previous Saturday (9 days ago) and upload to share folder for that client. Only due by midday on Wednesday but it pays to under-promise and over-deliver.
Call it a day after 19.5 hours and doing all the needed pic uploads.
Up. Have a good breakfast etc. etc. Even though it is a national bank holiday I have a function to cover at 1.00 p.m.
Check that uploads to client from last night completed properly. They did. Set up auto timed text message and e-mail to go out at 8.00 a.m. to alert client that images and footage are ready for them and provide download link.
Send message to today's client (a 60th birthday).
Catch up on paperwork and e-mails and prepare and upload images from yesterday to share drive. As I used a white backdrop behind all the equipment deep-etching is not too time consuming as there are tricks one can use...
9.45 a.m. Meet couple from completed assignment to drop off their pictures and video DVDs in a gift bag with some wine. I include a pack of tissues on advice of previous clients....
Enjoy some of the holiday and have a coffee with my wife at a garden cafe.
Depart for assignment.
Arrive home. Backup images and footage. Send client some social media scale images from the function. He is very happy to have these so rapidly. Check/clean kit. Charge batteries etc.
Only a 14.5 hour day.
Up to deal with e-mails, marketing feedback etc. Requests from two local camera clubs to do a talk. One is next week Wednesday evening (which is clear) and the other is for Thursday evening (which is not due to a 50 wedding anniversary dinner assignment). Reply appropriately and offer second club a date in five weeks time.
Lectures at Photo Academy to midday.
Back at desk - start edit of weddings.
Monday's client calls and asks if I can deep etch some images for an overseas supplier of theirs. After settling on a rate per hour for editing I download the images (oh dear....oh dear!) and do the work.
Images colour corrected, perspective corrected and deep-etched. Uploaded. Happy client.
Back to my wedding work. Dispatch two previous assignments' materials via courier in amongst other work.
Call it a day after checking packing list for tomorrow. Want an early 'normal' 11 hour day. I try and keep Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons free (where possible) for family time at home.
Up. Breakfast etc. etc.
Drive to first of today's clients.
At factory of safety equipment manufacturer. They have new toys. Need images for a trade publication.
At desk. Backup. Do edits. Deliver via upload to client. Once approved share link with publication.
Attend to mail, quotes, making of appointments, chasing of bills etc. and work on work in progress from weddings and other shoots of last two weeks.
At estate agent to do a real estate shoot. She takes me to location as it is a gated estate and they will not just let anyone in.
Back home. Backups, kit check, charging etc.
Estate shoot uploaded (pics and video walkthrough). Link sent to agent and the property marketing site that uses them.
End of a 14 hour day.
Up. Breakfast. Always etc. etc. Kit check. E-mails. Admin
Leave for airfield. Doing aerial imaging for a factory in nearby city industrial park. Drone quality is no good for client's purposes as they need a better image than that delivered by a zoomed-in crop from a wide angle 12MP camera.
At airfield. Meet charter pilot and we do a briefing on the assignment. A lot of the e-mail activity mentioned earlier in the week involved getting the clearances for today's flight. After final briefing points are all agreed he sets about filing his flight plan and calling local air traffic control to get final clearances. Thereafter, a check shows weather still on our side and so we repair to the airfield restaurant for some refreshment and a snack pending our take off at 11.40 a.m.
Yet again, the m43 system is a boon here. I have three bodies (M1ii x2 and M1X) with 50-200 SWD, 12-40 and 17mm and no bag to take aboard. This will let me move from side to side in the rear seat of the C210 we will be using with ease. This aircraft offers the best performance and value for money for this type of work as it has a retractable undercarriage (nothing worse than a wheel in the view at just the wrong moment...), a high wing and no dirty great wing strut to muck up your field of view, unlike its smaller cousins.
Back at airfield, shots "in the can". Backup to laptop and then back to office.
At office. Backup to RAID array, check on other batteries and packing list for tonight.
2.00 p.m. To 4.00 p.m.
Get shots out to factory client. Send them the upload link. Their driver waits for DVD carrier. Get call from European TV station asking if I will do the camera work and provide my studio for their local correspondent from Johannesburg who is to interview a local ex-politician who is in the news for all the wrong reasons next Tuesday. As I know this politician, we will have to go to her. Eventually turns out I am right but appointment and booking made. Game on!
Off to Mehendi ceremony. Am only doing the video work on this one. Have tried in vain for two weeks to get the photographer involved to call me so we can chat and ensure a good working relationship for our mutual client. No joy. So we will see what happens when I get there.
Appointed time for the function to start. No photographer.
Still no photographer. Bride to be has called his mobile several times but got his voicemail. She reckons it is due to him still driving to the shoot. My experience of my town and the photographers who do these ceremonies tells me this is not the reason.
Call from the "photographer". His shifts at work have been changed and he cannot get there until 8.00 p.m. Is that OK? I ask to have a word with the guy. I offer to do the shoot on his behalf. I am there anyway... He is much relieved. I explain the arrangement to brides dad.
Bride has refreshed her make-up and calmed down. I have two OM-Ds on tripods doing video and I have a third with the FL36 doing stills and B-Roll clips/cutaways and close-ups interchangeably. The great thing about the dedicated video recording button and custom options on the OM-D E-M1 series is that you can be shooting stills and instantly go to FHD by pressing the record button. The Fn switch can also be used to get different set ups when shooting stills and video at the flick of the switch. Win!
Photographer guy arrives with an entry level DSLR, kit lens and no added flash to do the balance of the ceremony. As it is all done he is rather puzzled. We have a chat anyway and he assures me he will be at the function tomorrow evening and the actual wedding on Sunday. He asks me what I am going to charge him for the images I took and I explain the details of copyright and that he needs to speak to our client as I will be giving her the images directly.
He is puzzled by the fact that I have not bad-mouthed him to the client and that I am not going to bill him. I explain that we both represent the professional photographic industry in the eyes of the client. Her needs come first. Tell him that he is welcome to get in touch with my admin assistant if he really feels he owes me anything and she will give him banking details, otherwise, ask him to up his game and forget it... You never know when these little interactions could turn into marketing capital for my work.
All backups done. Rushes uploaded. Check kit for tomorrow. Family shoot in the morning and then the second ceremony for my Hindi bride in the late afternoon to late night. Has been a 17.5 hour day.
The whole week involved around 115 hours of being on the go. Some weeks are less if there are not assignments every day. Otherwise, this is the life.
And the whole thing starts again...
in the following week I had two sports assignments, a Zulu betrothal ceremony and White wedding combination for the same couple, a corporate annual report shoot and two school concert videos to do in addition to the news interview and camera club talk plus the 50th anniversary dinner mentioned previously.
Oh, and of course, lots of admin, backing up, editing and the rest.
It's a breeze of a job.
If you are passionate about the work and your clients, fit, disciplined and place your clients first. However, I am only this busy as my career heads towards its final years. It takes a long time to build a client base, reputation and network.
It has taken decades to be an non-overnight, reasonable success.
By reasonable I mean the lights are on, we eat and can afford fuel for the vehicles. Extra house on the Algarve it is not.
Good luck if you really think this is a career for you.
There are very few Youtographers that will tell you all about this reality.
Perhaps you actually need to work as a photographer to know?