Wedding specific boards, aka discussion groups, address common, sometimes frivolous subjects, many times over, ad nauseam.  There are two kinds of boards.  Boards for the Bride discussing her plans.  And there are Boards for the shooter discussing mostly equipment rather than technique.  A thinker would suggest they should read both.  The shooter will understand the Bride better and the Bride will know what to look for. 

In many cases on these boards the answers given to the Bride have no bearing whatsoever to the specific question as it had been posed and/or how it might help the person asking it.  These boards are havens for what we call “ The Mountains from Molehill Theology"  and home to a few Celebrity Wedding Planners who are really bored brides reliving their own story, over and over again.  To most Brides I recommend a good professional local wedding planner.  They know the area the culture and the best locations.


If your Bride is already involved with forums, be cautious she is going to change her mind on a daily basis, this is caused by insecurity, hers.  And the ever-changing reality TV market and forums who follow them.  

Always ask nicely who suggested the theme idea?   Perhaps something like, "Thats interesting did you attend a Wedding where that was done, did you see it on TV or did a friend suggest it?   Careful here, because you do not wish to become a wedding planner nor does your opinion count.  If it's totally screwy and off the wall, suggest she check with the Priest and see if he has objections to them slaughtering the live sheep in the aisle as a sacrifice like from the days of Moses.  Then mention your competitors name and tell her he was a former sheepherder and knows how to do it.  Dump it on him or her for a referral fee.    For the shooter, think before you change your game plan for life and / or sign up for that all day 500 dollar seminar given by some yahoo who has one year in the business.

We all suffer from Demographic Dyslexia. Differing opinions and responses formed because of differences in tradition, ethnicity, location, experience, education, training, etc.  So we get answers on different subjects to our perceived problems and then we act upon them upon the advice of someone who… is not us… Two hours of  REDNECK WEDDINGS will clear any thoughts about all weddings are the same.

You see with so many newbies on forums, at least a very high percentage of the information comes from those with under X amounts of weddings.  These may be low timers, haven’t realized yet the agony of defeat. I call it the luck roll. Three weddings and they self proclaim themselves a PRO. Maybe. Got to respect that word PRO. It’s popular, it’s on every cheap Chinese knockoff imported gadget made.

Copy all the things a pro does, and officially that makes you a pro. Walks like a duck, talks like a duck, thus you might be a duck.  Or learn to duck. Then your camera dies at a wedding, you know nothing about that film camera you kept for backups, and praying that Wal-mart is open and you can buy a Rebel or 50D, late, 10PM at night. 

It just happens that this isn’t your bother in laws freebie and her Daddy is an Attorney. You are a duck all right, a dead duck. I know one guy this happened to.  I still have a pristine Nikon D300 with a pristine Vivitar 285 for emergencies. It will work without a lot of fuss if the crap hits the fan. It's also my choice in really bad locations, like gang territory.

What you can learn from the pro who is willing to teach you, is the art of CONTROL at the Wedding. Doing what others do is the tip of the iceberg; handling years of mistakes and problems that arise separates the wheat from the chaff. And a good pro will teach you how to work with lighting, working on putting the Wedding books together.  Most forums don’t get down to the basics of good business and those tools.  Sometimes you have to endure really dumb stuff.

Excuse me but the strongest questions I usually see on most forums concerns light. Stuff like “where do I plug my Fugazi Strobe that I just ordered into ”. And can you send samples of your pictures you shot because it's just like mine.  Like the shots taken thousands of miles apart at a different time, weather conditions, lighting, etc will have something in common. Too stupid to comment on.  About as dumb as What F-stop did you use?  I once goofed on an old board notifying all those parishioners that I had registered F8 on a patent under the rules of "enema domaine”  (imminent domaine is property assessment by government) and they needed my permission to use it.    What a furor it caused, some even wanting to know what law book it was in.  Some had heard of enema domaine.  No sh*t!

The topic that blows me off the most on forums for photographers, is the ‘Second shooter” issue.  The whole concept of a second shooter only came about with PJ and somewhat of an increased and sometimes worthless, self imposed workload. Somehow we went from 120-180 good shots on film to one who shoots 3500 images shot in an epic Cecil B. DeMille size program.  

The idea of the second shooter is angles and it is borrowed from the film industry.  Shooting a scene from different angles to create a three dimensional image of the occasion, with changes in lighting, perspective, range and sensitivity, and expression. It's also a backup for a weak shooter though two yahoos do not equal a professional.

It's called selling overkill.  What is the value of 3500 worthless pictures.  If I went to someone’s house and sat through 3500 images of a wedding, I would probably leave right after I got a migraine headache, or some other form of illness.  More bragging rights for the shooter on the forum than common sense would dictate you would hand a bride.  He's just impressing the boys with a hot trigger finger and many trips to the Canon or Nikon service center for shutter repairs.

In the pre digital days when you sweated each wedding to know if you got image… a big wedding, called for a helper, AKA a schlep, a loader, an assistant, the hired help. This is what you get paid, that’s the end of discussion. You load, I shoot. In a year, I give you a shot at things.  First prove your loyalty and value to me. One of the differences was he worked full time for me.  Today some shooters at one wedding per month can’t afford paying someone for forty hours a week plus comp and overtime.  Some can’t afford to pay themselves.

What do you do when someone asks for a critique of their photo? Maybe, just maybe, the answer to this quandary is quite simple but being mortal we look to our parents and at our upbringing. We were always told to "tell the truth even if it hurts".

So the problem doesn't lie with the pictures, nor the critique, it lies with US. We don't want to paint ourselves as being the bad guy in front of others. We don't want to criticize someone else’s pleasure, dream, world, creation, inspiration, manipulation or imagination but we have the choices to make. Follow what our parents taught us or just lie…of course its a little white lie and not perjury.  

So the compliments are understandable. Almost every picture is wonderful and possibly a small correction would make it perfect but that is the usual extent of the strangers critique. It’s a religious thing…The Twelfth Commandment. "Thou shalt not bust another’s bubble". The Eleventh?  “Learn to laugh at thyself, you might just be hilarious”.  Maybe the best bet is to respond with the following before or preclude your opinion with something like this.

"It's only professional to respond with the truth about the work you presented to this group" . Photography is about as diverse as the universe. You ask to be judged by those with differing opinions as to concept, quality, artisticness reality, message, lighting, composition, subject matter, position, and movement. Compliments may be either positive or negative and it is nothing personal. It is just one persons opinion."

Concerning judging your work. Be it known that most forum or internet groups consist of semi -  professional photographers, advanced amateurs, budding alcoholic enthusiasts and a large congregation of dorks and weirdo's with differing skills and backgrounds some known only to the FBI and most Pedophile cops. Thus opinions and estimations will differ even those that are semi-consious.  If they didn't this would be an awful dull place. Like most large families, squabbles and beliefs run hand in hand, sometimes right off the end of a cliff. But the next day all is forgotten because no one really gives a shit.

The negativity on some forums is so bad; I actually find it emotionally disconcerting.  Cowards like to hide behind anonymous names. Some folks will never grow up and some folks embarking on something new get discouraged too easily. Just an aberration of the web, sites turn that way.   But with that said, the failure of some of the Usenet photo sites if any of you remember the battles, threats, a few actual law-suits and black-eyes when some egos followed up on things .   One thing I will say about the contributors is while there are raging debates concerning equipment, everyone seems really positive when they make comments about other people's posted photography. There are certainly criticisms, but they are all well-intentioned and respectful.  


  • I saw your work, I guess doing portrait work for the Ukrainian PD really was good experience. 
  • You’ll have to work on getting nicer smiles though in your shot and a few wooden teeth might help.
  • I saw your work hanging in the Louvre in Paris. Nice touch, stapling it to the body of the guy who hung himself….
  • I just received some of your pictures, just wondering were they meant for me or if you missed the delete key?
  • Your work is outstanding. It's raining heavy here and I have it OUT standing in the rain.
  • Your work is a breath of fresh air... in a garlic factory. No one will notice it….
  • The workers in the salt mines really appreciated the contribution of photographs you made. They really spruced up the Gulags ….
  • Gosh, why did you wait so long, the magazine that prints this stuff went out of business?
  • It's not what you say, it's how you say it!  But few understand Klingon.
  • Work like this is an inspiration to everyone who thought of cutting their ear off.
  • What colors in your photos!  You were serious about that job offer at CRAYOLA
  • Your work exemplifies the meaning of “starving artist”. With work like this you will starve.