Can I tell you about my first wedding for a second? Oh my goodness, was it ROUGH. And no, not because of the couple (who was amazing!) or the photos (which I actually think were pretty good for my first wedding!) - what made my first wedding rough was all of the things that I didn’t know going into it. That’s true with anything, but for a girl who had only been to one wedding my life (as a flower girl when I was four), you could say that there was a lot I didn’t know about weddings.
The truth is, I didn’t have a whole lot of grace for myself in that initial learning period. Maybe you can relate: you start something new, you give it everything you have – and, still, your expectations for yourself fall a little flat. You know what you want, but you don’t necessarily know how to get there yet. Truth be told, that’s a lesson I am still learning, and one that I’ve dedicated a big portion of this year to learning. And in honor of this lesson that I’m learning, I want to share four things I wish I would’ve known when I first started photographing weddings – or maybe, more aptly, four ways I wish I would’ve given myself grace that first time around.
1. It’s going to take some trial and error.
You know what the funny thing is about doing something for the first time? YOU’VE NEVER DONE IT BEFORE! Or, maybe from a different perspective – you really have little to no experience. When I shot my first wedding, I had second shot with a few other photographers before, but nothing would fully prepare me for my first wedding as lead photographer. I felt so much pressure to make sure everything was perfect, and in the process, totally forgot (or really, neglected) to give myself the grace of knowing that there would be a bit of a learning curve. And you know what? I’m still learning six years later, and I'm still having to practice giving myself grace with every single session.
2. Learning from other people is a necessity!
And speaking of learning – learning from other people is a COMPLETE necessity! I used to feel embarrassed asking other people for help, or even just asking clarifying questions to people who were kind enough to teach me. But when I photograph my first wedding, I had to seek out people who could show me the ropes, and even more importantly – I had to be willing to hear their critique and learn from them with an open mind so that I could improve faster!
3. Know your gear inside and out!!
Here’s a funny story for you – for my first wedding, I rented some new gear that I had never used before. I had seen it online, I had read the reviews, watched the tutorials – but when I got said gear in the mail (including a camera), I noticed that the camera I had rented took a different type of memory card than what I had! I had literally no idea what to do because I never even knew that there was a different type of memory card out there that I could use!
After shedding a few tears, I ordered a few memory cards that I could use in my fancy rented camera and overnight shipped them to myself. By the grace of God they made it on time, but shortly after, I realized that I had actually spent more money renting gear and buying memory cards than I received in payment for the wedding. And since I didn’t know how to use that gear – I fumbled through the wedding day with it. Looking back, I realize now that it would’ve been more to my benefit to use the gear I already had and was confident using instead of renting a bunch of gear that I didn’t even know how to use, just because it was “fancy!”
4. IT’S OKAY TO TAKE A BREAK.
One of the hardest things for me to do during that first wedding was to sit down during dinner (when there was literally nothing going on to take photos of!) and EAT. And hydrate. And go to the restroom – like a normal human being. I remember Nick (my now husband) physically forcing the camera from my hands and coaxing me to sit down at the spot my couple had so graciously reserved for me to eat dinner. I didn’t realize that it was not only okay, but necessary for me to give my body a teeny tiny bit of rest and refuel – I believed that I had to be taking a photo every five seconds, even while people were eating (and who wants their photo taken while they’re eating?!). Breaks are not only good, but necessary!
What about you? Where do you need to give yourself a little bit of grace? Is it time to give yourself the rest you need? Maybe you need to bow the knee and give yourself the grace and humility to learn from those around you. Or maybe you just need to let yourself fail so that you can pick yourself up and try again next time. Whatever your “thing” might be – give yourself the grace to do it at your own pace. Decide to hold yourself to a standard of grace – not perfection.