The Friday Night Ritual

7 10 2011

Before every big shoot, I charge each and every battery I own, just in case I need them. See the white Eneloop batteries? They are special batteries that will hold 75 per cent of their charge for a year while sitting in your camera bag, so that you never end up with batteries that have discharged from just being in your bag. I've only found one place to get them in Canada, and have been buying lots.

The night before every major shoot, be it a wedding or a tournament or commercial shoot, I go through what I call the Friday Night Ritual.

All the photographers I have trained over the years have become intimately familiar with it, and indeed, one told me the other day she is now doing it herself.

So tonight, a day early, I am going through this long-established ritual.

I got the idea from soldiers preparing for battle. For time immemorial, soldiers would sharpen their knives, clean their guns, and make sure everything was exactly where it is supposed to be.  That way, in the heat of battle, they can reach for it instantly and not be left empty-handed at a critical moment.

I do this with my camera gear.

Before every big shoot, I go through every single piece of kit of camera gear I will be using. Every single battery is charged, which is considerable, because as a general rule of thumb, I always make sure I have three sets of batteries for every piece of hardware. I just counted 12 chargers on the go tonight – eight doing AAs, and four propreitory Nikon chargers for the cameras. The total weight of these batteries in my bag will probably come close to seven pounds, maybe more. The next bag I get will have wheels for this very reason.

While the batteries are charging, I go though the cameras and lenses, cleaning each one. I discovered many years ago the hard way that if you are shooting in bright sunlight with the lens stopped down to something like f/16 or f/22, each and every spec of dust on both the sensor and back element of the lens will appear on the pictures. This includes the dress and bright blue sky. So to avoid cloning out 70 specs of dust out of every picture, cleaning becomes very, very important.

This also applies to the camera sensors. I have very specialized swabs for each camera that cost about $7 EACH to clean their sensors, and they can only be used once. These are not your grandma’s Q-Tips.

Are all the memory cards cleared, formatted, loaded in the cameras or in the spare carrying case? Do I have a minimum of two cards per camera?

Then I go through my numerous studio bags. Are all the light stands in the right place? Do I have both tripods, and three tripod heads? Is the flash bracket there, along with the all-important monopod for fast moving ceremony shots? Are the PocketWizard flash triggers ready, with their special cables? Are the studio strobes each prepped, with their SuperClamp and power cord? Is the spare cord ready.

Then it’s the laptop computer. Is there enough room on the hard drive for downloads? Do I have the card reader?

More recently, I have added my dye-sublimation printer and photobooth. Do I have extra printer media, that had to be special ordered weeks or months in advance? What about power cords and USB printer cables? I better thank my wife for picking up the special roll of 6-ft. wide seemless backdrop paper for Don’s Photo in Regina for use in the booth. Don’t forget the bench, too, because normal chairs appear in the photo.

Last but not least, all this is loaded in the truck. If fills my mid-sized Buick Rainier SUV right to the roof in the back. With the addition of the photobooth, I now have to fold down the seat.  The truck is fueled up, and tires are checked.

All told, it’s about a three to four hour process. And that’s before I’ve taken one shot.

So when considering who you should get to shoot your wedding, including Uncle Bob, you might want to ask him what his Friday Night Ritual is.


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