Hiring Uncle Joe
A fictional story based on real events - Hiring Uncle Joe
The names and locations in this story are fictional. BUT, it is based on real and devastating horror stories that other wedding professional and myself have heard from real Brides and Grooms. Sadly, by then, it's all too late. You may have heard one just like it... Here is the sad story of Hiring 'Uncle Joe'.
It always starts the same..
"My Uncle Joe just got an amazing new camera. Weddings are so expensive and our budget is running thin so we're just going to ask Uncle Joe to take our photos for us. He said he'll do it for £500 so we'll save so much money. Then I can buy the wedding favours I want!"
At this point, my heart has already hit the floor. I just know what's coming next. As we've talked about before, Wedding Photography is SO MUCH MORE than just having a fancy camera. And that's on the basis that you do actually understand how to use it. All of it. Properly. Uncle Joe's camera may be expensive and it may be brand new, or maybe he is a hobby photographer and goes out a few times a month to shoot landscapes on the weekends. He probably brings it to family parties or something too.
So lets just go with that theory for now - we'll give Uncle Joe the benefit of the doubt. He has a cool camera, gets up early on the weekends to take photographs of building and landscapes and you've even seen a few - they're pretty good. Already here we are assuming that Uncle Joe is 99% better than most of the Uncle Joe's out there.
Your wedding day arrives and you are excitedly getting ready with your girlfriends, sister and Mum. Uncle Joe is having a lovely time outside shooting your wedding venue and everything is looking good. Uncle Joe is happy. It's a later mid-afternoon ceremony so there has been plenty of time to relax this morning. Uncle Joe comes inside to where you are having your Bridal Preparations. The room is buzzing with a mixture of excitement and nerves. To be honest, Uncle Joe looks a little bewildered and out of place - I mean, with all these ladies chatting make-up, hairstyles and walking around in their dressing gowns!
Deciding not to let it phase him, Uncle Joe starts snapping preparation shots. He doesn't shoot in manual mode and uses the Auto setting on his camera. This means the camera sets his exposure and everything for him, right? One less thing to think about - he's pretty busy at it is! He quickly realises that his lens isn't wide enough for inside so he nips back to his car to grab another one. By the time he gets back, the Bride's hair is finished and she is having her make-up done. He takes a couple of photos of the Bridesmaids having their hair done as he missed the Brides.
As is usual in hotel rooms, it's pretty dark with funny yellow lighting and Uncle Joe doesn't have a speedlight or any additional off camera lighting so he bumps up the ISO on his camera. Everything looks good on his little LCD screen on the back of the camera. Little does he know that the Bride & Groom won't be able to print the images bigger than a 4x6" due to all the noise and grain in the photo.
Feeling a little awkward now as the ladies are all starting to get in to their dresses, Uncle Joe checks his watch. He didn't take any time before the wedding day to think about the timeline for the day and before he knows it, he realises he had better rush over to see the Groom before the ceremony. He hasn't had a chance to grab any photos of the bouquet, jewellery, perfume, shoes or other details yet, but he's sure he can grab the flowers later in the day.
Over with the guys, Uncle Joe relaxes and feels more comfortable again. He adjusts his settings based on what the camera reads - cameras these days are pretty smart, hey? Unfortunately only to a degree. Because of all the black in the suits, the camera over-exposes the scene to get more light in to the image. The suits end up looking grey and anything lighter is completely blown out and useless. Uncle Joe doesn't notice and keeps snapping away.
It's almost ceremony time and Uncle Joe finds a great spot and gets ready for the big moment. He wishes there was a second photographer who could get the photo of the Brides' glorious dress from behind as she walks up the aisle with her Father. but, there's only so much one photographer can do and he readies himself for the grand entrance as the music starts. The Vicar has already popped over to introduce herself and mentioned that I'm sure he is aware, but they don't allow flash photography in this Church. Well he doesn't have one anyway as he has never needed one before so that's not a problem! He check the ISO is set high enough for a bright image and the Bride makes her entrance.
As she comes down the aisle, her Dad is looking very proud. The Mother of the Bride wipes away a tear and the Groom turns to see his beautiful Bride. Uncle Joe doesn't notice these things though, as he is busy snapping away 50 shots of the Bride and her Father. The only problem is that all 50 shots are out of focus as he hasn't upped his shutter speed or changed his focus setting settings correctly for moving subjects.
The wedding ceremony is beautiful and Joe gets some great still shots when they say their vows. He wants to zoom in closer on the Bride & Groom buts realises that his zoom lens i in his bag in the corner of the room from when he changed it earlier. He has 2 choices - either walk towards the couple and get in the way or nip to the side to switch lenses. He chooses the latter option and quietly disappears for a few minutes to change lens.
By the time he is back and has checked he is on Auto setting still, he realises that everyone is cheering and he's just missed the first kiss as Husband and Wife.
After the service he follows the Bride & Groom out of the Church. He would have liked to have taken a beautiful Newly-wed photo of them walking back down the aisle as Mr & Mrs, but he just can't be in two places at once. hmm.. Maybe there is something to this second photographer thing he's been hearing so much about. There was no way he could have run around them in time lugging his bag!
It's time for the Group Portraits and Uncle Joe gets the families together. Bride's family, Groom's family and everyone together. Oh and a shot of the children playing. He only takes one shot of each image - without realises that the Groom was talking at the time and the Bridesmaid was fixing her dress. Uncle Joe picked a gorgeous spot in front of the Church so you can see it in all it's glory. The subjects are facing the sun so everyone is nice and bright and he remembers to turn down is ISO. He doesn't realise that everyone is squinting with the sun in their eyes.
It's time for a few wedding photos of the new Mr & Mrs and Uncle Joe picks a lovely spot under a tree in the graveyard. The sun is still high in the sky and streaming through the leaves in the tree and is creating harsh shadows on their faces and body. It's known in the business as 'dappling' and can be hard to see in a tiny LCD screen on the back of the camera if you don't know to look for it. It can also completely ruin a photograph. Uncle Joe has know idea about this as he likes taking landscapes normally. Everyone moves on to the reception venue, just down the road and Uncle Joe takes a couple more photographs of the newly-weds in front of a gorgeous landscape with the sun setting behind them. The sky looks beautiful, full or summer oranges and reds as the evening draws in. Unfortunately our 'smart but can't know it all' piece of equipment is exposing for the couple and the sky is completely blown out in every photograph.
Uncle Joe goes around ad takes a few shots of people eating , talking and laughing together i-between chatting to his family & friends. He remember the bouquet, but when he goes to find it, one of the flower girls had been playing with and some of the stems are broken or have fallen out in all the excitement.
The wedding breakfast arrives ans that's his cue to quit for the day. It's been a long day and he's been shooting for 8 hours already. His back is killing him, he's not sat down much and he hand has cramp! He's doing this as a favour and the couple aren't paying him much so he figures it's time to enjoy the party.
Uncle Joe doesn't have professional photo editing software, equipment and wouldn't know how to use it anyway - he's not a computer person, he takes photos in his spare time when he has time from his 'proper job'. He uploads all the images from his camera on to a DVD - there are over 2000 so he's pretty pleased with himself. He drops the disc off to the couple and says his goodbyes.
The Bride & Groom have been waiting for this moment for 4 weeks. They've just got back from their honeymoon in the Maldives (they could afford to go with all the money they saved on a photographer) and they have both sets of parents round to look at their gorgeous photographs with them. It was such a wonderful day and everyone is really excited to see how all their planning an hard work had paid off. The Bride hadn't even seen the Church or Reception venue before the guests were in it so wanted to see how all her beautiful decorations looked! Excitedly, they pop in the disc and sit down.
100 photos in to the 2000 images in the disc and the Bride is in tears. She soon realises that all the photographs are either too bright, too dark, too blurry or just not that good. And why do they look like they have sand all over them? She wonders where Uncle Joe was when she was getting her make-up done or when Mum was lacing her in to her dress. They notice missing details like the first kiss and the cutting of the cake. There are no photographs of the gorgeous flowers that her and her mother had picked out together and just a bad shot of their wedding rings in a box. She could have done that with her phone. Crying, she realises that all the wonderful memories from their special day are ruined. All those moments that she had expected to be capture and immortalised forever in beautiful photographs would never be there. They would have no wedding album to show their children and grandchildren.
The reality is that Uncle Joe is not a professional wedding photographer - and never claimed to be. He promised to take some photos for them on their wedding day and he did do that. He is also their Uncle and it sadly puts a strain on their relationship that shouldn't be there. The Bride & Groom end up disappointed, angry and deeply regretful. They can never get their wedding day back.