Every Photographer Has a Disaster Story

One thing that can’t be emphasized enough is that when it comes to photography there will be days where nothing goes as planned. Nothing is guaranteed to work as planned. When you feel those arrows in your back don’t punish yourself. Every photographer has horror stories about how the photos didn’t come out the way planned or about that missed shot. Here are a few tales that just might make you smile or even feel better about yourself.

1. Anyone who has shot film most likely can tell you about the day they photographed a group of people and promised enlargements by the end of the week. Problem? There was no film in the camera. What are your choices? Admit your mistakes, move to another city, or hope that it’s possible to avoid each and every one of them for the rest of your life! <g>

This very thing happened to a friend who was shooting editorial for a book. His was on tight deadline. Unfortunately, he had nothing to show.

2. In the early days of digital there were plenty of shocks after realizing that there was no memory card in the camera meaning that none of your images exist except in your mind. Thankfully, today’s cameras tell you when there is no memory card when it’s powered. Unfortunately, there’s nothing that can tell you that if you’re miles away from home and your cards are all there.

3. Another friend has extreme jet lag. His assignment was to shoot an important boxing match. His Leica rangefinder was ready to go in the final round and he leaned against the ropes to get the final punches. With film loaded he was clicking on the frames when the base plate fell off the body exposing and ruining those last seconds. There was some suspicion that the lab technician got the blame for it.

4. A compact point-and-shoot camera is stashed in a small case attached to your belt. After a tiring day you walk into the bathroom to change clothes. You pull off your belt and the camera and case drop into an open toilet. (A fast response saved this camera from drowning.)

5. Holding the camera body in your lap as you are headed to a wedding. As you get out of the vehicle the camera falls face down on the asphalt, damaged to the point of no return.

6. The memory card is hooked up to your laptop and malfunctions. No images can ever be recovered even with image recovery software. Or, in my case, it was that the card stuck in the camera and required that in order to remove it without damage everything had to be sent in for service.

7. Remember those proprietary extra batteries that were needed to power the camera? You’re where? And, they’re at home!

8. When lightning strikes multiple times!

One professional photographer from Canada told his sad story about a contract he has all his wedding clients sign. If your photographs are not received due to an “Act of God” it’s the photographer’s responsibility to do a reshoot at his expense. The lab sent the negatives to the photographer and the wedding album to the newlyweds? Guess what? This was one of those well-to-do families with Maids of Honor and Groomsmen who came from all over the world.

With no photos to deliver the photographer paid for everyone to fly back to Canada. All additional costs were also covered. This meant that he had to rent tuxedos, have a new wedding cake made, etc. The reshoot took place. This time the couple received their second wedding album…all at no charge!

But could it get worse? Definitely! Approximately two weeks after the new wedding album was delivered the original one appeared. The husband claimed that there was a loud knock at the door. When he opened it there was an opened and worn looking package dropped at the entrance. No other person was in sight.

This was followed by the photographer received his negatives! And, this is where it gets even stranger. The newlyweds had a free wedding album. Now that they had the first one that meant the photographer should have gotten paid, right? Wrong! They preferred the second album because, in their opinion, the photographs were better. (This was the contractual legal loophole.) In the end, they refused the first album meaning that the professional photographer was not paid

Photography disasters are much like lightning striking unexpectedly. One never knows when or where it will hit. Everyone is a target. With experience we learn how to avoid lightning and let it be just a bunch of smoke!

Do you have any disaster stories you’d like to share?