The Three Worst Things That Have Happened To Me During A Photo Shoot

Upload from May 07, 2012

Photo sessions are a pretty crappy time for things to go wrong. It’s embarassing, and stressful, and just the thought of mishaps can give you nightmares.

But half of the battle is knowing that things will probably go wrong at some point. As weird as that sounds, if you are prepared for that eventuality, it won’t be quite as terrifying if it does happen. The other half of the solution is being as prepared as you can. With that in mind, let’s jump right in to the reason you are reading this article: hearing my embarassing stories!

1. Camera/Lens Breaking

We were shooting our very first destination wedding in Mexico. It was the day-after session, and we were all playing on the beach, taking some fun shots. I noticed my shutter was sounding a bit funny. A few frames later, and it just went “CLUNK” and stopped working. I tried turning it on and off, removing the lens and putting it back on, throwing in a new battery—nothing was working. I took a few moments to silently PANIC, and then walked over to our camera bag, grabbed the backup camera, and went right back to shooting. I don’t think our clients ever knew that we had a technical malfunction (until, perhaps, right now if they read this.)

Another time I had handed my camera over to Rob to hold on to as we were standing in the parking lot outside the reception venue. The details are fuzzy, but somehow he managed to drop it right onto the concrete. And my favourite lens just happened to be on the camera. I can only imagine the look he got from me at that moment—I don’t think it was a very nice one. My camera was ok, thankfully. But only because my favourite lens took the majority of the force, and was now completely broken. Time to switch to the backup lens!

So long story short, you can pretty much expect your camera gear to break at some point in your career. Chances are it will be during a shoot. You absolutely, positively must have backup gear, especially at a wedding. Even if you only shoot portraits, you’ll still want to seriously consider having some backup. It definitely won’t look good if you have to cancel in the middle of a session because your camera goes down.

2. Pants Ripping

The classic blunder. I was shooting in my photographer crouch position, stood up, and heard a pop. My zipper had just decided it didn’t want to stay closed any longer, and was now completely open and broken. Awesome.

This, of course, happened during the receiving line, when everyone is hanging around right after the ceremony. I awkwardly walked over to Rob, with my camera held ever so carefully to conceal the problem. He immediately hustled off to the car and grabbed my spare pair of pants out of the trunk.

That’s right—I had a spare change of clothes in the trunk for just such an emergency. It’s an absolute must for wedding photographers. That very small bit of preparation saved me a whole lot of embarassment for the rest of the day!

3. Kneecap Dislocating

Yep, my kneecap once popped right out during a session!! No warning—it had never happened before. I was lying on the ground shooting, went to get up, and BAM! Kneecap is no longer where it should be! I fell back to the ground, put my hand on my knee, and, well, put it back in place. After a couple seconds of intense pain, and everyone staring at me, I said I was ok, shakily got to my feet, and kept going with the session.

Now, the lesson here is that you can get hurt during a shoot—you might get sick, or injure yourself. It’s not a fun thing to think about, but you need to be prepared. Some Gravol and Tylenol in your bag is a good start if the issue is relatively minor. If it’s a major problem though, and you’re shooting something like a wedding where you can’t just reschedule, you need to have a backup plan in place. This usually consists of having the phone numbers of local photographers in a file, so you can call around to find a last minute replacement in an emergency.

So, the big takeaway from these lovely stories is that the more you can be prepared for possible problems, the easier it will be to bounce back, and keep on taking amazing photos!

Have you had anything crazy happen to you during a shoot? How did you handle it? Share with us in the comments now!


Lauren Lim

Hey friend, I’m Lauren! I’m a photography ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I’m downright obsessed with photography, and love sharing it with super cool folks like yourself. When I’m not shooting, or writing, you can find me cooking (and eating!), traveling, and hanging out with wonderful people.

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31 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. Wow, you're tough. I got a papercut once.

    I had an umbrella and flash stand fall in to a creek once. The flash and trigger haven't been the same since.

    But really no disasters yet. I'm sure I'm due at some point.

  2. I've dropped a lens to have it smash all over the client's floor. I forgot to turn my camera off and a button was depressed in my bag, so completely dead battery at start of session! Both lessons learned at the start of career about spare gear! Had backup for the lens, but had to reschedule the session for the battery – now I have extras that remain in the bag and make sure I turn my camera OFF. My favorite was stepping in the largest pile left by some animal that completely engulfed my sandal. Luckily, I was shooting alongside a brook and could wash it in the brook. What else can you do but laugh it off?

  3. Ok, #2 I kind of expected but #3…OUCH! That is a true professional!

    Now..What about Rob? I'm sure he has a few. Is that going to be Part 2?

    I love your articles guys!

  4. Wowzers!! I'm glad I'm not the only one with a few blunders. My most recent one was at our first wedding this season, and if I was Bee's assistant, I would have been fired come the next day, thats the beauty of a married team i suppose :)

    I had gone to get my spare shoes for the reception at Fort Edmonton out of the trunk of our car. Because I didn't bring my own keys I borrowed his, as I was balancing to get shoes on I placed the keys on a bag in the trunk. Super excited about how the day was going and not even thinking I closed the trunk and as soon as it hit the latch I screamed out a giant NOOOOOOOOO! Searched for the keys hoping they were in my bag not the trunk, a few profanities later (and frantically trying to open every door hoping we forgot to lock them, I ran back to the reception. Carefully called him over, and quietly said "Please do not be mad or yell at me" The look on his face was one that could kill me! Trying to keep this all under wraps from the bride and groom, we luckily found someone who could help us break into the car, poor bee out there for about 2 hrs before he got in (in March, thank goodness for a mild winter) and most people didn't know any better!

    Lesson here: Always bring two sets of keys… :)

  5. Oh yeah… I've fallen off things, walked into sound systems; but hands down, my worst moment was when I dropped a grooms ring off a bridge ledge into a creek ((oh yeah… No word of a lie… Sheer panic ensued) I jumped into the creek and thankfully fished it out; it's now one of those funny.. 'Omg you did what?!' Stories, But I felt so bad…

  6. Worst thing that happened to me was having my car towed midway through a portrait session during a wedding because I had forgotten to renew my insurance. If only I had a spare car with me.. :/

    Luckily I was able to borrow the groom's car. Embarrassing to say the least.

    A year later the groom e-mailed me to remind me to renew my insurance.

  7. Cynthia says:

    I had my first "worst" moment this past weekend. Probably not the worst compared to everyone else but it's a first for us.

    It was supposed to be a 2-hour family portrait session but we had to cut it short because…we ran out of memory cards LOL Yes we somehow did not forsee the amount of photos we were going to take. We offered to do another hour at a different time. We felt very bad. Now I truly understand "never have too many backups"!

  8. Cynthia says:

    I forgot to add, this post came at the right time because this just happened this past weekend and we just felt horrible – we're still relatively new to this.

    The upside of this is we did get a lot of great shots in the first hour or so, so all was not lost.

  9. I haven't had equipment break, or injure myself, but had the battery run out at the very instant when the bride and groom took their first step out of the church. I literally had 5 seconds to change batteries, fire off two or three shots, and they were moved on from the front of the church!

  10. Mike Pianka says:

    I got the knee pop last year during a family shoot. I didn't dislocate my kneecap but I did something horrible to it. It was so bad that I couldn't walk on it at all and was like that for a week and a half. Luckily it happened near the end. I of course told people it was an extreme sports injury. Watch the knees people!

  11. uh, you are a TROOPER! I dislocated my kneecap once (not at a session, thank goodness!) and I couldn't stand on it the rest of the day.. and it caused some serious issues down the road. I'm pretty sure if it happened at a session, I'd have to have them drive me to the hospital, it's the worst pain I've ever felt. you are a beast!

  12. Jocelyn says:

    I have a similar experience to Phil. At a very lovely, intimate wedding at an inn, my camera battery died right before the bride was going to walk down the aisle. I was at the front of the room but my camera bag was at the back! I quickly but discretely hustled to my bag, got a spare battery popped in and was back in action in the nick of time! My heart was racing like mad for quite a while afterwards though.

    Not to tell tales but I have a photographer acquaintance who had her camera resting on the ledge of a balcony in a large church during a wedding ceremony. Unfortunately she knocked her camera off and it landed, not gracefully, in the empty pews below her. If you can believe it (I barely can), the same thing happened to her again AT THE SAME WEDDING, with her back up camera! She said that the bride shot her a look of death. Luckily, she had a third back-up camera. I know, hard to imagine.

  13. Believe or not, pants ripping had happened to me TWICE. First time it happened, I spent five hours with sweater wrapped around my waist. Second time it happened, I had a spare pants and I was like eh this is no biggie. Now I always take a spare pair of pants to every wedding I go to shoot.

  14. Once I was hired to do a photo shoot for a press conference with some important people from a political party. I smacked a very important politician in the head with my tripod. I nearly died of embarrassment!!!

  15. Wow, you guys have some pretty impressive stories too!! Things definitely can go very wrong, can't they?

    Lots of good lessons here. Two sets of keys, extra pants, extra batteries, lots of memory cards, keep your insurance up to date, don't drop the rings, watch out when you carry your tripod, and always take care of your knees ;)

    And Kyle, we actually couldn't think of any tough spots Rob got in to. I guess he's not nearly as accident-prone as I am!! ;)

  16. Hayley Kate says:

    This certainly makes me feel better about my mishaps.

    Two really stick out for me…

    Was shooting what was meant to be a winter wedding, turns out we had this amazing sunny weather (very rare in London) Nobody had prepared for this type of heat, which caused me a horrid migraine right before the ceremony. In order to not panic anybody I kept quiet and spent the next 5 hours going to & from the toilet throwing up and doing everything in my power to prevent passing out. I still to this day don't know how I continued to work, but the thought of letting somebody down on their wedding day was not an option.

    I had a portrait session with a musician, stood on a wall so I could get that 'from-above' angle, lost my balance completely and fell with my camera straight in to his face. No damage to the lens, but can't say the same thing about his face… luckily I didn't break anything but he admitted it was very painful!

  17. Robyn Navarro says:

    Um I started carrying an extra outfit as soon as I read this article. However yesterday by second shooter squatted down and her pants ripped right down the middle. OMG lucky it happened as we finished getting ready pics. We stopped by Kohls on the way to the venue. Thanks for the heads up!!!

  18. I had a wedding on the coast. After the ceremony I started showing the bridal party to the pier for some shots there. They all looked great walking together so I ran ahead a little and turned around. As they got closer I walked back a few steps, tripped on the big log right behind me (somehow managed to swing my shoot sac around to my front so I didn't land on my lenses) and fell flat on my back. The bridal party loved it.

    Once we got to the pier I showed them where I wanted them to stand and then went down onto the beach to get a good angle. The groom warned me the sand is a bit soft… I said I could handle it… Long story short… As I stood there on the beach getting the shot, my feet sank down into the sand as deep as my ankles. When I tried to get my foot out. My shoe stayed. RIP shoe.

    I wore thongs (flip flops) for the rest of the day. Luckily the groom was wearing thongs (flip flops) too so I just blended in.

  19. On a major shoot in another country. Lots of equipment in Pelican cases. Go to dinner with team. Return to hotel room. Everything is gone. Stolen. We believe an inside job. Phone call to Nikon Professional Services with FedEx delivery the next day in time for the shoot.

  20. My friend has borrowed my camera ( with a memory card in it ), she did the shoot, gave me my camera back, and before that, she formatted memory card without downloading pictures onto PC…She realized that 2 weeks later.

  21. I was literally almost crying I was laughing so hard from some of these stories, injuries aside. Yeah it's good to know it happens to everyone.

    Years ago when I was doing weddings, I was still shooting film with a Hasselblad. I was wearing a skirt with two buttons closing it, no zipper. As they were about the sign the register I dropped my dark slide (if you don't know what that is, it's a piece of metal that separates the film back from the body and you have to take it out to shoot). I bent down to pick it up an both buttons popped off at the same time.

    Oh, did I mention I was using a battery pack for my flash clipped to my waistband. It's heavy! See where I'm going with this? My skirt almost fell to the floor. I grabbed it and waved my assistant to come take the photo – as everyone was staring at me, waiting. I thought I had saved it in time but I found out at the family photo shoot I had pretty much flashed the parents and grandparents. So I just used it to my advantage to make jokes about myself and threaten to drop my clothes again if they don't smile good. ;-)

    And more recently, I just bought the Canon 70-200 f4. Got it on Tuesday, on Friday I was in San Francisco and my camera fell off my Blackrapid strap and crashed my 3 day old lens! It's toast. Luckily was a holiday not a paid shoot.

  22. I *almost* fell into a pond. Took 2 steps back, my foot hit the edge and the whole family I was shooting shouted a simultaneous “WHOOOOOOAAAAAH!” “Don’t go back any further!” I stopped, kept shooting and got some good smiles & laughs after that. Oops!

    I also tempt fate by shooting in the water at the Lake all the time… I just know a wave is going to overtake me one of these days. ;)

  23. My knee has popped out MANY times at totally inconvenient times, but *fingers crossed* not at a session yet. It’s really painful, so I’m always really careful on my knees whenever doing a shoot just to ensure that never happens! (Once it happens, you are more prone to it happening again!) good for you for keeping going! You are better than I :)

  24. So happy to have stumbled across this blog post…it’s making me feel better about my horrible mistake this morning:
    Was asked by a friend to do their family photos (which I’ve done for the last couple of years). In the last year though, I’ve made it a point to shoot film-only at my sessions- b/c it’s what I really enjoy shooting, love the colors, no editing, etc) Well, I made a super-rookie mistake this time. After shooting for a good 40 min., their 3 yr old was whining and crying for a snack and so the mom says “I think we’re about done anyway” and I thought “yeah…though funny I didn’t get to the end of the roll…(then in milliseconds my brain is thinking this through…) surely I shot over 36 pics…yeeeeeep…no film in the camera.” I had admitted my absentminded mistake right away and profusely apologized, but it sure didn’t make me feel better!
    Thankfully we got him to smile for 5 seconds, so I might have captured a photo that can serve as the family photo this year…we’ll have to see.

    Other bad mistakes:
    -flip flips are seriously my most comfortable shoe to shoot a summer wedding in. i know it’s not professional, but they really are. well, beginning of the wedding day, kneeling down taking a pic of the bride’s shoes and my sandal busts…oops. thankfully the bridesmaids had a back up pair. lesson learned- always an extra pair of shoes in the trunk now.
    -had my lens come off while doing a maternity session and it almost fell on the belly…could have been soooo bad. it fell on concrete instead- weird to say it, but that was a good thing in this instance!
    -had the batteries on my flash go out as the bride was walking down the aisle (in a super dark huge cathedral, of course!) & at that same wedding had the flash malfunction during their first dance….ugh
    -last month we hit a chunk of metal in the road and got a flat tire literally 2 blocks away from the church where the wedding was. so glad i have my husband assist me- i couldn’t do it alone! he dropped me off at the church and went to a car place down the road. he was back at the church 30 min. later with the tire repaired!

    thanks everyone for sharing. we know we must love photography for sticking with it after these bad experiences! :)

  25. My wife and I were shooting a wedding on the first Saturday of this year. It was a scorching summers day here in Australia and it was 43C degrees (that’s about 110F). The bridal party were signing the register and all of a sudden my wife stopped taking photos and just looked at me. Her face was pale and I just grabbed my arm. The bridal party noticed that she wasn’t looking too well. She said her vision went blurry and her hearing went muffled and she almost passed out. Thankfully everyone was really lovely and got her some water and we sat her down. Thankfully I was able to grab both cameras and shoot the closure of the ceremony. That has definitely been the hottest and toughest weddings we have had to shoot!

  26. Haha just stumbled across this post…

    Made me happy I am not alone in my bad luck…

    I broke my foot walking to meet a client for her maternity shoot….spent the rest of the session limping around trying my best to conceal the pain!

    …had my first wedding 3 weeks later…the day after the wedding was a bucket full of joy…(note sarcasm here)

  27. OUCH! I feel your pain! I had the dislocated kneecap on a trip to London in November 2013. I had just finished a shoot at the top of Hampstead Heath and as I was packing my gear away I dropped a lens cap on the ground. As I bent down to pick it up…pop…It’s happened before but as it was cold and dark and I couldn’t be bothered anymore I just shoved it straight back in. I then sat down on a bench beside my mother and promptly blacked out – that has never happened before! Gave my poor mother the fright of her life. All my lens caps are now fitted with retaining cords so I don’t drop them!

  28. Last fall I was shooting a wedding on the beach and as we went down the boardwalk, a drunk Jack Sparrow impersonator hijacked my shoot for a good ten minutes and ordered everyone around and I, being the too-shy photographer, didn’t know what to do and just took the pictures. But hey it makes for a good story!

  29. Oh my gosh, there are some awful stories here but funny ones too. I guess I have that to look forward too.

    My worst camera story happened last week. I had the camera in my bag by the couch while I looked through my photos on the laptop. Arran, my cat, always wants to sit on my knee whenever I do that (she’s asleep on my knee right now so I have to work over here stretching my arms to the limit :P ) She suddenly became fed up that I was focused on the laptop and not her, jumped up onto the table and knocked the entire contents of a glass of ribena off the table and right into my camera bag! There was a frenzied panic as I dried off all the lens, luckily the bag and carpet took the brunt of it and everything was ok…but wow, I was panicking.

    After all these stories definitely packing spare trousers, shoes, and getting a back up camera :)

  30. Ha ha! Just got my first PAID SOLO wedding photography job (I’ve done paid sports photography solo, as well as a wedding and first birthday, but I had my boss at the latter two, so even though he was filming, I wasn’t really alone). Freaking out a bit so I googled “I just got my first paid wedding photography job help” and found this!

    No awful wedding stories yet. But at the only paid wedding (I’ve shot at friends’ weddings, but that was before I wanted to do this, so it was just coz I loved taking photos – I wasn’t THE photographer or anything) I did I didn’t have a tripod. Not my fault, coz my boss provided all the equipment, but he wanted me to do some filming without a tripod. Not easy. The photography went fine that time though.

    Not so much at my other paid jobs.

    My first ever paid photography job was a national hockey tournament on minimum wage (i.e. not enough to make me go out and get spare gear). I turned up to the second day, was putting my battery in, and dropped it. My camera wouldn’t turn on no matter how much I begged or charged the battery (I had checked it the night before though, so knew that wasn’t likely to be the issue). My boss wasn’t there yet, so I told her colleagues that my camera wasn’t working and that it was hopefully just the battery, so I would go and buy a new one. I got lost on the way to the nearest electronic store, pulled over to check thew map book, and my (sister’s) car wouldn’t start. I had to call my boss, who offered to buy me a battery, while I walked back to the tournament. Fortunately because I had become lost I had actually wound up really close to where I had started! My boss couldn’t find a battery, so I walked back to the car, got it started and drove home, to dump the car and bus to get a battery. The car broke down again getting onto the motorway, but two women stopped and helped me get the car started so that I could get off at the next exit and take the long road through the back streets home (I did NOT want to break down on the motorway, but couldn’t turn around on the one-way on ramp). I got a new battery and my camera was fine.

    Then at a first birthday (working for the same boss as I did for the wedding) the flash batteries started dying just as the parents were blowing out the candles. I had been told to change the batteries if the flash started taking ages to load, but after changing the batteries it was even worse! It meant that I ended up getting heaps of dark or grainy (when I upped the ISO and reduced the aperture) images and I was never asked to work for him again!

    But now I’ve got a wedding for March, so I’ve got plenty of time to iron out the creases! (yes – I’m going to have a back up camera and battery, pants, memory cards, shoes and lens!)

    Thank you to everyone for calming me down with your stories!

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