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Surviving Zombieland A.K.A. The End of Wedding Season - PPA Today

Surviving Zombieland A.K.A. The End of Wedding Season


I pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, our carpool rendezvous point, to collect Trish for


 our third wedding of the weekend. Twelve hours earlier I had dropped her off to retrieve her car, twelve hours before that, the same. The days, the weddings, the people blended into one never-ending wedding reception with the despicable Old Time Rock n Roll looping horribly in my addled mind.

"I look like crap, I have huge dark circles under my eyes," complained Trish, slumping back into the seat.

"Aww, I bet it's not that bad," I said, lifting my sunglasses to get a good look at her.

We gasped in unison at the sight of each other's faces.

"You've got them too!" she cried.

"We look like a couple of zombie photographers." I said, defeated.

It's that time of year, October, and we feel like zombies too. Big, dumb, lumbering, drooling, driven to put one step in front of the other without thought or reason zombies. We are zombies hell bent on our one desire: to finish the weddings!

It didn't take a neurotoxin, virus, brain parasite, or tainted meat to turn two relatively attractive photographers into zombies. No, all it took was some overly ambitious booking, leading to forty three weddings to execute. My bad. But hey, what's done is done, right?

So we'll go ahead and slather a little more makeup on our faces to cover the dark circles and hope we can blend in with the rest of society; much like Bill Murray in my favorite zombie movie of all time, Zombieland. (Spoiler Alert) Bill has an excellent cameo role where he makes himself up to look like a zombie in order to blend in with the zombies and survive the zombie infested world. Okay, well that's actually the opposite of what we are doing but you get the idea.

Since it's almost Halloween and we are already on the topic of that great piece of Hollywood cinema, Zombieland, I have adapted some of the rules for surviving in Zombieland as they apply to wedding photographers surviving the end of wedding season. The hero of the movie, Columbus, has 32 rules for surviving Zombieland. Before meeting his friend Tallahassee who has also survived the infestation, these rules kept Columbus alive and well. Therefore, they must be true and henceforth I shall share nine of them (and two of my own) with you to help you survive the apocalypse that is "The End of the World Wedding Season."

Rule #1: Cardio

In the movie, we see a plump human running across a football field with a zombie hot on his heels. In Zombieland it's important to stay in shape because you are constantly running for your life. As Columbus says, "Zombies lead a very active lifestyle and so should you." It's the same with brides. They've spent an entire year running and bridal boot-camping and they expect you to keep up with them. It's a long day from bridal prep to dance floor craziness, and we are working for an average of twelve hours with travel. You'll never make it if you let your fitness routine fall by the wayside because it's the end of the season. Even if you do manage to make it through the twelve hour day, can you wake up in 8 hours on Sunday and do it all again? Make time for yourself during the week, it's tempting to sit in front of your computer eating muffins (again, my bad) and editing, but make time for some cardio too because you need to have the stamina to outrun those zombies brides.

Rule #2: Double Tap

In Zombieland, Columbus advises, "Not sure the undead are really dead-dead? Don't get all stingy with your bullets. One more clean shot to the head and you could avoid becoming a human happy meal. Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda."

Shooting a Zombie with a gun is the SAME as shooting a wedding with your camera. NAIL YOUR SHOT. And then, nail it again. This time of year it seems that no matter how hard I think I am concentrating, I start to make mistakes. Just yesterday I had an engagement shoot with perfect elements; beautiful subjects, a beautiful location, and gorgeous light. I was excited and started shooting away. Five minutes into it I looked at my settings and realized my ISO was set at 6400 from the last shots the night before. Rookie mistake. In Zombieland, a mistake like that could cost you your life. In Weddingland, it cost me five minutes and the embarrassment of asking to redo those shots. Make sure to double check everything before and while you are shooting, double tap it.

Rule #3: Beware of Bathrooms

In Zombieland, the zombies are clever. They've figured out where to find you when you are most defenseless. One of those places is public bathrooms. Columbus warns us with rule number three, "Don't let them catch you with your pants down." I dedicate this rule to my partner in crime, Trish. Trish is in the Guinness Book of World Records for world's smallest bladder. It's true. Look her up.

Sitting in church at our last wedding, she leaned over and told me she was going to go find a bathroom. "Now? You'll miss the recessional!" I scolded. (I have an annoying habit of doing that). "It will only take a minute!" she promised. Well, that minute was thirty seconds too long and sure enough they kissed and came down the aisle without Trish. Not a big deal since I was there to shoot it, but since we usually double up for the recessional Trish was also in violation of rule #2, the Double Tap. Because she made it outside in time to get them coming down the church steps, she gets a pass on this one, but the idea is not to fall asleep at the wheel. We are all tired. It's easy to be distracted. Try to stay off your cell phone, stop chatting with the wait staff, and stay out of the bathroom! Force yourself to pay attention even when all you want to do is sleep. No one wants to be caught with their pants or their camera down.

Rule #4: Seatbelts

This rule is all about focusing on your own survival. In the movie (and in my opinion the funniest zombie scene ever), a mother drives up to a little girls birthday party presumably to pick up her daughter. Instead a gang of brain-thirsty, flesh-eating princesses attack her. She drives off wildly with murderous six year olds clinging to her bumper. Columbus says, "If the girls in your neighborhood are suddenly f%#'d up little monsters, maybe it's time to stop driving carpool."

Sage advice. Take care of yourself. This advice is two-fold. First, the obvious; wear your seatbelt, stay of trolley and train tracks, the front seat of stretch limos and taxis without seatbelts. You do not want to end up like the mother in that scene, flying through your windshield and doing a face plant on the pavement. Secondly and less dramatically, unless you have a live in cook, no one else is going to make sure you are taken care of so eat well. Pack your snacks and dinners when working. Keep your fuel healthy so your engine can run at top performance. Standard vendor meal fare is not going to cut it. Neither is a Twinkie. Plan an extra 20 minutes into your prep time and pack some decent food. This is a marathon and you aren't going to finish if you aren't safe and fueled up. In the words of Tallahassee, "Nut Up or Shut Up." In this instance, we can interpret that to mean pack yourself a Peanut Butter and Jelly on Whole Wheat. It doesn't need to be fancy; it just needs to get you through the day.

Rule #17: Don't Be a Hero

In the beginning of the movie Columbus' rule is not to be a hero. He believes in staying out of harm's way at the expense of others. By the end of the movie, he's found someone who is worth being a hero for. Wedding season is kind of like that, but in reverse. In the spring we are all rested up from a long winter of no shooting, and excited to apply all the things we've learned in workshops during our hibernation. We have creativity stored up just waiting to burst out. We go the extra mile, and then we go another mile for our clients. We are heroes.

By fall, um, not so much. We are depleted. We don't feel creative. It is VERY tempting to phone it in and do a solid but uninspired job. Don't fall prey to this slump. Be a hero not a zero. You must dig deep into what's left of your dried-up creativity well. Find it in yourself to give your clients something fresh. Your creativity is regenerative, but if you don't use it you'll lose it.

Rule #18: Limber up

Columbus stretches before any potential zombie encounter. He thinks it's important to limber up before battling zombies. His cohort, Tallahassee says, "I don't believe in it. You ever see a lion limber up before he takes down a gazelle?" Good point Tallahassee, but maybe while the lion is laying around for 23 hours a day, he's limbering up his ...MIND. Maybe that lion is thinking up new and ingenious ways to trick that gazelle and make him easier to catch. Mind blown? Don't let your brains turn to zombie mush just because it's almost the end of the season. At least once a week, listen to a business podcast, read the PPA blog, or an article in Professional Photographer magazine. Keep sharpening those mental skills and keep your brain limber.

Rule #22: When in Doubt Know Your Way Out

It's important to know where the exits are when fleeing zombies. It's also important to know your limits at this time of year. This is not the time to take on new projects or extra work. It is not the time to do favors for friends or family. Practice saying no with kindness so when asked to do one more thing, you know the way out.

Rule #31: Check the Backseat

There is nothing worse than driving along and having a zombie pop up from the backseat and give you a nice nibble on the neck. Do not get into a dark car without checking the backseat for zombies. Also, do not drive away from your house without checking the backseats for your equipment. If you follow my adventures on this blog, then you know I did this a few weeks ago. An hour away from home and minutes before the ceremony I realized I had left our entire lighting bag at home. Lame. Check the backseat.

Rule #32: Enjoy the Little Things

Columbus and Tallahassee blow off steam by taking a baseball bat to a minivan, shooting guns in the air, and trashing a cheesy tourist trap. I don't suggest doing those things, but I do sympathize. It's been a long seven months. Your family barely remembers who you are because you are away so much. You never went to the beach all summer. You missed the fourth of July completely. You think you might have had a birthday in there somewhere but you were working and no one baked a cake. If you don't find little slivers of joy where you can, you risk falling into depression and burn out. So where can joy be gleaned? You can find it while you're working if you look.

After finishing a shoot at an apple orchard, Trish and I stuck around to pick some apples that we will turn into pies for our families and while at the beach with a bride and groom, Trish stuffed a couple of pieces of driftwood in our camera bag for a future craft project. When we have a destination wedding, we go early and stay late carving out a mini vacation for ourselves. When we get a thank you note or a gift from our clients we really savor them. Plan a real vacation for the winter and spend some time daydreaming about it. Sometimes it's even as simple as looking around at the beautiful locations your job takes you to. Feel the wind in your hair and the sun on your face and remember it could be worse. No one is trying to eat your brains, it's not Zombieland.

So to summarize: take care of your health, double check to avoid mistakes, pay attention, dig deep, exercise your mind, and know when to say no.

In conclusion, I would like to add two more of my own rules for surviving the end of wedding season.

Rule #33: Pamper Yourself a Little

Get a manicure! Your fingers are in front of your camera all day. You don't want your fingernails to look like you've been clawing your way out of a shallow grave.

Rule #34: Breath Mints

This is you on wedding number thirty five: Looks like a zombie, feels like a zombie, does not need to smell like a zombie. Always have a tin of mints in that camera bag people. 

About the author:

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for winter.jpgMariah Ashley is co-owner of Snap! Photography in Rhode Island. She is blonde, loves to bake fruit pies, wears flip flops way past the summer season, should have been born in the 50s, paints and writes when the mood strikes her, is mother to Jacques and Vianne, vacations on Block Island, is vegan, never has proper or stylish outerwear, fears frogs and toads but loves turtles, has really skinny legs, personal Style- Bohemian Chic, wants to own a VW van,  grew up on a cranberry farm and is happiest when snorkeling is happiest when sipping a rum punch under a palm tree.

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This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on October 14, 2014 8:53 PM.

Meet September's Benchmark Prize Winners was the previous entry in this blog.

Copyright Update from Capitol Hill, October 2014 is the next entry in this blog.

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