It’s only the beginning of the year but it seems that wedding season is already underway. I receive quite a lot of calls on a daily basis, and while I don’t necessarily book all of them (I obviously can’t), it’s quite flattering for me, when you consider that I’ve only been doing professional shoots for weddings in Nigeria for about two years plus.
Of all the weddings already booked this year, two stand out easily for me; and that’s because both are going to be in dangerous locations. while I won’t say exactly where they will hold, all I will say is that one is located in Nigeria and the other while outside the country is in Africa.
As a photographer shooting weddings in Nigeria, I get to see all kinds of things, and believe me, these two locations are dangerous places; not just for shooting weddings but for any kind of photography, really. Just the other day, a fellow photographer was regaling me about a recent wedding he shot in one of these places. Apparently, the wedding cake was stolen just minutes after the couple had cut it! While at first this was funny, I sobered quickly when I realized that I would be shooting in the same location in a few weeks.
I don’t know how many of you are familiar with James Nachtwey. He’s a photojournalist and war photographer I admire very much, because he goes all out, even to putting himself in the line of fire just to document the various happenings in war zones. Now I’m no James Nachtwey, not by a long shot (pun intended). I only shoot weddings so I’m going to avoid danger as much as I can. (Am a lover not a fighter)
I asked various colleagues for tips on how they handled this sort of situation and got a lot of feedback. After reviewing their answers, I decided to put together a little guide to assist other photographers who have to shoot in unpredictable locations. Please note that this list is by no means exhaustive; they’re just a few common sense suggestions we all tend to forget or overlook. I hope this will inform and refresh your memories.
So here goes. My common sense tips for wedding photographers and all photographers in general when you have assignments in volatile locations
Number 1 and most important…
Turn down the job! This is a no-brainer. Just turn down the damn thing. But if, like me, you want to live a little, this isn’t an option.
Research, research, research : do a lot of research about the location you will be shooting in, talk to friends who know the area well, talk to colleagues who have shot in the same location , you might be able to pick some pointers from them. If all that fails, turn to good old google for information, a photographer like yourself might have posted some helpful information about the location at some obscure website, google will find it.
Get insurance for your gear and yourself. It’s amazing how many wedding Photographers in Nigeria don’t have personal insurance talks less of insuring their gear even for local shoots. All my gear have been insured since the first year I turned pro and started charging for my photography services in Nigeria. Insurance is crucial if you will be photographing at highly volatile locations.
Use Less Gear : If you are like me then you probably shoot weddings with 2 camera bodies and about 6 standard lens, 2 sb-800 flash units and a massive lowpro travel bag, then this is a no no no no !!! For this sort of situations less gear is best gear, get rid of the second camera body and stick to just one. On the one get ride of the battery grip if this is an option, get a nice messenger bag and keep all your accessories in there, 2 lens only, maybe the 24-70 and the 70-200 but this will depend on your shooting style, some might swap the 70-200 for a 85mm, it’s a faster lens, smaller and lighter too. In summary use fewer gear for a number of reasons, it allows you to move/run faster if you have to, it let’s you think less and frees you from clutter. Less gear also attracts less attention to you.
Dressing : Dress smart and causal. This would not be the best time to bring out your very best wristwatch. Dress functional, bottom-line attract very little attention to yourself, blend in as much as you can.
Try to look confident and friendly, don’t look confused or like a visitor.
Keep all your gear on you at all times, don’t drop lens in a hidden position with the hope of coming back to it after you get your shot. This is where the messenger bag comes in useful, keep everything in the messenger bag.
Get one of the many available mobile card transfer hard drives. This saves you a lot of worry if your camera gets stolen, always have the unit strapped to you belt. Once you have a full memory card, simply transfer the pictures taken to your mobile unit( no computer required) and keep the card in your bag. Keep camera, messenger bag and hard drives separate at all times. I can’t tell you how many times i have been saved by this units. A few well known brands are Hypermac, Epson and Vosonic.
Leave your laptop and iPads at home.
Don’t stay at some cheapskates hotel, stay at a well known reputable hotel with ample security, doesn’t have to be expensive too.
Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged and you have a couple of emergency numbers ready to dial, you never know when you have to get out of a tight corner fast.
If you a tourist or shooting some small event, then your biggest camera might not be the best bet, a simple point and shoot or one of the new micro third cameras might not be a bad choice. If you have to user your big dslr, then you don’t want to go around flashing it all over the place it could attract a lot of negative attention, keep it hidden. Get rid of the optional battery grip if this is possible.
Avoid shooting in lonely or deserted places like alleys, try as much as possible to move with a crowd. Avoid night shoots where possible too.
Always have some sort of Identification on you to identify yourself as a photographer.
This is just a list of things I put together myself based on my personal experience and from talking to fellow Photographers based in Nigeria please feel free to add your views and tips in the comment as well, am sure this will make a great resource for both wedding Photographers and Photographers in general out there.
My name is Kayode and i shoot weddings for Nigerian brides.
For bookings please send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or talk to the brains behind my operations, my wife Tosin on +2348023702640