1) I am not an event photographer.

For a long time I believed that if I were present at an event, and taking pictures constantly throughout that event, that afterwards I would have a collection of meaningful, memorable photographs that I could share with others to give them the thrilling feeling that they had actually been there.

Wrongo!

While I was pretty good during high school and college at documenting the shenanigans my friends and I engaged in, being skilled at ordering subjects to smile and hold up their beers while two of them mock arm wrestle on a dorm bed does not make you the equivalent of an event photographer, no matter how much of that moment you may have captured. Face it: It was not a complicated moment.

My most recent reminder of this fact was during a family reunion I attended over the summer. Being the sensitive, thoughtful photographer I am, I neglected to even pack a camera for the trip, so instead I spent one desperate evening sprinting around during a backyard barbeque, stiff-armed, pointing my cell phone at family members like a fencing sword while telling them to ‘hold it for a second’ as they innocently tried to converse with people they didn’t get to see very often while eating ribs (which is hard enough to do in itself).

The resulting pictures are about what you’d expect. People look confused, annoyed; they are blurry and indistinct walking in or out of the frame. Some have their mouths open in mid-sentence (the sentence was probably something along the lines of ‘oh, no’ or ‘what are you—?’). I got a couple of good snapshots of the younger kids mugging for the camera, their cheeks painted with sticky rib sauce. But little kids are notoriously good at going with the flow where cameras are concerned, having not yet discovered their self-loathing or their bad sides. They also instinctively understand that when someone is pointing a cell phone at them, it is to take a picture; a fact which is not always obvious to older generations.

98% of the pictures I ended up with are useless, which is too bad, since I also went around telling everyone “as soon as I get home, I’ll send you copies of these!” Hopefully they have since forgotten both that statement and my behavior.

Thank goodness I had the presence of mind to engage the services of an actual event photographer at my wedding, rather than just sticking a camera into the unwilling hands of several of the guests as I had originally planned. I now realize what an unfortunate disaster that would have been. Demanding anything of your wedding guests other than that they have a good time and eat and drink a lot is really not appropriate.

There are some jobs that you can do yourself, but there are also valid reasons that certain professional fields exist: because most of us are bad at doing those things and should hire someone who knows what they are doing if we want good results.  It’s time I better learned to differentiate between the two.  Who knows, maybe someday I’ll even stop cutting my own hair!

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