Tuesday, September 15, 2009


There's no two ways about it: anyone who wants to be a wedding photographer is short a few marbles. They're 'round the bend. Their cheese is off the cracker. They're off their rockers. They're bananas. They're nuts. They're whacko. They're insane.

They boggle my mind.

Floating about the world, and far too densely congregated in Utah Valley, there are nitwits who think that shooting pictures for someone's special day is an easy way to make good dough.


How would I know? As I'm a self-professed camera no-naught and am not motivated to change that (for I'd rather play with words than images), how is it that I'd know anything at all about what goes into being a wedding photog?

I had the privilege of experiencing a few days in the life.

Ashley Thalman is the real thing. She shoots families, trades, fans, moments, memories, brides, babies, engagements, guests, parties, art, experiences, emotions, and everything in between. Because of her ability to capture the aforementioned with unique perspective and an artistic eye, the singularly talented Jessica Gonacha hired Ash to photograph her engaged joy and wedding festivities. As it was a destination wedding and Ash is one of my best friends, I thought she might need a hand; so I invited myself to tag along under the guise of being her assistant.

Hear this, all: snapping up the tidbits that make themselves marital bliss is no piece of wedding cake.

First, if you want just the right light for an engagement session, it's not out of the ordinary or out of line to inform the bride and groom that they need to be up, alert, and beautiful at 5AM. You might drive down to the beach and trudge through the sand, stepping over kelp, directing the lovers to perch on the lifeguard stand, nestle in in the damp sand, or slowly walk up the steep path. Initially, the two being photographed may feel pretty awkward.

What are we supposed to do?

Just act natural.

What is natural?

Enjoy each other. Snuggle up. Do what you do. Hold hands. Chat. Laugh.

At 5AM?

Fortunately, Jessica and Ryan were pretty perfect as they have a natural physical chemistry, easily make each other laugh, were game for anything Ash told them to, and are, in the first place, attractive. (I think that being retained to photograph ugly people would be a wretched gig. They'd expect you to make them good-looking when what you started out with was, well, not. A weed's a weed; calling it a crocus can't change it.)

The day after engagements, Ash shot the beach wedding.

And here's when I really learned that wedding photography is only for the addled. I wasn't the photographer. I wasn't the one rolling around in the sand to get the perfect picture, stepping around guests to find the right shot, and dashing from one spot to another to grab a different view of the same. No, I was only that person's assistant, and I came home sunburned, hungry, dirty, thirsty, sore, reeking of bonfire smoke, and catatonic with fatigue--and all this not because I was denied shade, sunblock, food, and water.

No, no--along with making sure she was there for each moment worthy of note and even those that would be otherwise forgotten, the photographer kept checking in on me to ask if I wanted food or needed water and encouraging me to sit down and rest. I was there to help her and she was keeping one of her sharp eyes on my welfare while still well-capturing the couple's culmination day.

And this photog didn't just shoot the ceremony and subsequent mingling. She also did the photobooth. The photobooth that involved shipping a 12-foot roll of paper and other equipment to the groom's parents' before her arrival and flying into California with an armory of heavy gear. All that for classic candids of the bride and groom's guests.

Through the events, I followed Ash around, holding things, handing her different lenses when instructed, and while I did, she'd explain to me why she needed certain pieces, what each item was for, how she was utilizing directional light, aperture, composition, and other mumbo jumbo necessary to locate the ideal image.

Due to all her technical knowhow, willingness to run to and fro, ability to work without sleep (thanks to some incredibly fun and satisfying late, late talking we engaged in the night before), on-the-fly problem solving, resourcefulness, and the fact that all of the above was imperative to produce attractive evidences of Jessica and Ryan's day, I reaffirmed my conviction that all the bimbos out there thinking that wedding photography is an easy, part-time, well-paying gig are delusional freaks.

It's not an easy occupation, and for me, it wouldn't be fun. However, my little blond friend seemed to be having the time of her life. And if proof really is in the picture, I'd say the time of her life did a great job capturing the time of theirs.


Ashley Thalman said...

Oh my! We really were so tired weren't we? I couldn't have done the day without your help and encouragement, especially on 2 hour of sleep!

Jessica said...

or "a brick shy a load" as my mother says.

ashley is amazing. my wedding photographer sucked (yeah, i just said that). if only ashley could travel back in time to take my pictures for that day...

Anonymous said...

Oh goodness, Megan, how fun to hear about the day from your perspective!! Thank you for being there and for all your help-- I can't believe how amazing and beautiful the photographs are. I couldn't have asked for more. You two are incredible, and I'm so fortunate that Ashley captured Ryan's and my big day. :)