That time I forgot my memory cards…
One of the delightful side effects of having a profession like photography is the anxiety-inducing reoccurring nightmare that you have turned up to a shoot having forgotten a vital piece of equipment – your cameras or lenses, for example. Or your batteries, memory cards or paperwork containing important details… or, as one photographer once told me, your clothes! I’ve had a few of these nightmares myself and they’re not fun.
I equate it to that awful feeling you might get if you arrive at the airport without your passport – heart-sinkingly horrifying but with the resigned knowledge that there’s not a thing you can do to change it or make things better. Probably why I check my hand luggage about 4000 times before I leave the house and while I’m on my way to the airport every time I go away!
So, imagine my horror when my nightmare finally became a reality one day earlier this year.
That’s right, I forgot my memory cards. Every. Single. One of them. I hadn’t even chucked one in my camera before leaving the house, as I would usually do. I was totally card-less. “Memory card dry”. Impotent. A pretty useless photographer, in actual fact. After all, what good is it having a variety of kit to capture beautiful images and no way of storing them?
My faux pas did not happen at a wedding. Instead it was a short portrait session with a lovely lady I have worked with before and she was incredibly understanding of my clumsy error. I was especially grateful that she lived down the road from a large supermarket and so I was able to quickly pop in and buy more memory cards and carry on the shoot without too much delay. But after six years in business and countless nightmares about just this kind of thing happening, I was disappointed that it had finally become a reality.
So, what can be learned from this story?
Well there’s really no point sharing a story like this if there isn’t some wisdom to impart with it, is there?
And so, here is what I learned… and what you should also remember.
First and most importantly of all, mistakes happen. As human beings, it is in our nature to make cock-ups, whether big or small. Of course, I would always hope for a smallish error that can be quickly fixed with no long-term damage done, but whatever the mistake, you can always be sure that I will learn best from them and will put in place any appropriate actions that I can to see that it never happens again.
Secondly, it made me rethink my preparation for shoots. Instead of the last minute throwing of everything into a bag I had been doing up until that point (behaviour which was largely responsible for this mistake, I’m sure – how it hadn’t happened sooner, I’ll never know), I made it my policy to pack my bag at least 2-3 hours prior to leaving the house or even the night before, if I could manage it. Part of that packing process involves going through my memory cards, making sure they’re formatted and stored in their cases ready for use. I find it helpful not to put them in the bag along with everything else, but I leave them in a prominent place, either in my office or right near the front door, so I will see them right before I leave. And I now have a mantra before leaving the house: “Cameras, lenses, lights, triggers, batteries and cards.” I say each one out loud whilst quickly checking they are, in fact, in my bag. Yep, I look like I’ve lost a few marbles but it works. And that’s enough for me.
Thirdly, and finally, I learned that, while it felt like the most hideous mistake on the planet, in the grand scheme of things it really wasn’t that bad. No one died. No harm came to anyone or anything. Despite my blushes, I was able to quickly rectify the mistake and get on with the job I had gone there to do. So if something similar should happen to you, try not to sink into the deep hole of embarrassment but apologise for your mistake and quickly figure out a way to rectify it. Ultimately, that will be what your client remembers and will equip you with the means to do a cracking job, totally making up for that little error you made earlier!