FAQ : The Day I Quit Photography

A couple weeks ago, a girl asked me about a moment during my short career as a wedding photographer when I learned a major lesson. And I was all, Ahhh, yes. The Day I Quit Photography.

Summer 2006
I couldn't sleep the night before. Because it was like THE night before. The night before I was able to second shoot for one of my most favorite photographers. Photographer X was everything I dreamed of being…and more. When X asked me to shoot the wedding as a second, I almost couldn't breathe. It was better than hitting the jackpot…better than finding a four-leaf clover…better than chocolate-dipped strawberries. Combined.

I woke the next day humming the tune of Eye of the Tiger because, like Rocky Balboa, I was ready to kick some photo butt. I rechecked my photo gear, loaded my bag in the car, and arrived to the wedding location with excitement and nerves buzzing in my ears. X and I began the day shooting the bride in a dark room of her country club…and things pretty much went down hill from there. Fast. Like a runaway freight train.

I could list everything that went awry, but this story would be 18 hours long. Maybe 20 if I wanna get all drama. Suffice it to know that when X asked me to photograph the bridesmaids' bouquets, I stepped outside and fell into SHEER AND UTTER PANIC. I prayed and begged God to help me because something was wrong with my camera and I didn't know how to fix it. No, really, something was terribly wrong with my exposure and I had no clue how to address this major issue. Tears and sweat mixed as they slithered down my face. I was screwed.

Things went from bad to worse when the ceremony started and X asked me to photograph the groom's reaction as he saw his bride descend the aisle. The blazing sun was nestled behind his head and I asked X how I was to expose for his face. Because, you see, I didn't know how to shoot manually and had comfortably used Aperture Priority to shoot weddings until that point. X gave me a dirty look and I melted on the spot. X muttered manual camera settings, my fingers fumbling as I tried to figure things out.

Throughout the ceremony, I'd glance at my LCD screen only to see a terrible picture staring back at me. I debated packing up my gear and going home to salvage my ego. It'll be fine, I reassured myself, Once I'm home, I'll fix the images before X sees them…or at least try to fix them anyway!

At the end of night, I packed my gear to go home and then I heard the worst thing in my life. I heard X ask me for my memory cards. I thought I was dreaming, no NIGHTMARING. X downloaded my memory cards before we left the reception and I felt my body go numb.

By the time I got home, I was sobbing. I stumbled through the front door of our home and collapsed on our couch…and sobbed some more. I tried explaining to JD the horrors of the day, but I lost him somewhere in between my dry heaves and insisting my camera didn't speak English. I sobbed for a few more hours and fell asleep.

The next morning I told JD I quit photography. Honest. Hand to heaven. I quit and swore to never return. Because, really, I messed up THAT badly. Then JD reminded me that this was supposed to happen. I was supposed to fail. And learn. And cry. Because that's what the process of building a business is all about. Had Bell, Jefferson, or Foltern quit after their first failure, the phone, electricity, and cupcakes wouldn't be around…and–as he well knew–I couldn't survive without any of those things.

I've come to learn and embrace that failure is part of the process, part of growing and defining who you are and how badly you want something. I eventually picked up my camera again and became DETERMINED to never return to the point of desperation. I taught myself how to shoot manually, how to make my camera speak English, and how to never let anyone make me feel like less of a photographer because of my inexperience. I still have a long way to go to match X's skills and business sense, but I'm happy working hard at not giving up.

In honor of Memorial Day Weekend, here's a photo of iced drinks I hope to be sipping on–preferably at the beach–this Monday! 😉

Whoa, whoa, whoa…some of reader comments are misdirected….I totally do NOT want to make X look bad. At all. In fact, I should have been honest and let X know I wasn't experienced enough to handle the pressure. X had all the right to be frustrated…I accept the entire trial as my own 🙂