When your equipment fails during a wedding, what will you do?

I am a firm believer in the saying "When you fail to plan, you plan to fail."  Think about it.  When you are not planning ahead and thinking of the worst possible scenarios that could happen at a wedding, then you are not planning to succeed in that wedding when things go wrong.  If you are so arrogant that you believe nothing will ever happen to you, I honestly feel sorry for you.  Nothing has ever happened to us that we weren't able to deal with within minutes. We have been tested a few times, like batteries that failed within an hour even though they were fully charged.  A lens that decided not to focus even though it worked the week before at another wedding.  Dropping a lens-and it no longer works.  Strobes not firing, even though again, they worked the week before.  What in the heck do you do in situations like that?  You prepare.

Here's what happened at yesterdays wedding.  We arrived an hour early, set up our lights, grabbed cameras, attached lenses, attached flashes ( as usual).  After about 3 hour of intermittent flash use, my flash makes this huge popping noise, and quits working.  My husband quickly handed me his flash and I continued shooting while he went to grab a spare.  Then a few hours later, my flash only started firing intermittently, even with fresh batteries.  So off comes that, again my husband hands me his flash, and goes to get another spare.  I use two cameras with different lenses attached.  One of my cameras decided it didn't want to work correctly, and wouldn't take pictures when the shutter button was pressed.  I'd turn it off, take out the battery, put the battery back in, turn it on, it would shoot for a few seconds, then decide not to.  I put that camera away then started using my other, seamlessly.  We have 5 cameras.  We have 7 flashes.  We have 4 strobes.  We have dozens of batteries, many transmitters/receivers, and many ways of getting past a bad moment.  

Why??? Failure is inevitable.  The one thing you can absolutely count on, is that at some point your equipment will fail.  How you handle that failure is literally up to you.  I choose to be as prepared as possible.  Even with my Canon equipment, we had multiples of everything.  At any given moment we could switch out if we had to, making sure the job got done.  

Did our bride know that we had any issues last night?  No.  Everything happened so fast, we just kept switching equipment out.  While there was some major disappointment at so much going wrong last night, the fact that we handled it so well, and so quickly, and had prepared ourselves so well for WHEN (NOT IF) things go wrong made my heart swell with pride.  We did good, and I was really happy.  To top it all off, at the end of the night when the Bride and Groom were making their exit, I set up a speedbox with a flash, and the wind took it down.  The transmitter stopped working, but our workhorse of a flash was still alive.  Shane took the transmitter apart this morning and fixed it.  So. Much. Happened.  It did not affect our ability to perform our job in the least.  The Bride and Groom will look at their beautiful gallery and never know what was going on.

Brides, when you are on the lookout for a photographer, ask them about their equipment and if they have backups in case things go wrong.  

When I see posts on Facebook saying, "I'm shooting my first wedding next week, I have X camera and X lens with a flash.  What else do I need?" It kills me.  It really does.  You may succeed, and everything may work perfectly.  But what will you do when that one single camera you owns fails at any moment during THEIR day?  Their ENTIRE day is special moment after special moment.  So what will you do?

Here are some ideas: 

1.  Rent extra equipment just in case.

2. Study all of your equipment and make sure you know it inside and out.

3. Invest in backup equipment as quickly as you can.

4. Join CPS or NPS (depending on your camera) so that equipment can be inspected and repaired quickly.

5. Think about ways you could fail at a wedding OR any job.  Have a plan in place for when things go wrong.

When you take on any job, it is your responsibility to make sure it is a success.  Your camera failure is not the Bride's fault.  Your lack of planning is not the Bride's fault.  The flash popping in your face is not the Bride's fault.  She paid you to do your job.  Now plan on being a success!