It’s been a year since I threw my back out. Not an Oh man, I need pain meds kind of throw my back out. I was down. Hard. I couldn’t move.
I had worn my back out over the past decade- a mix of pregnancy, chasing around and picking up my daughter, poor posture, and holding all my stress in my back, and carrying around way too much camera gear. I’d switched insurances 10 months earlier and hadn’t been to the chiropractor since. Also, I was notorious for single shooting weddings. I love single shooting weddings. It’s my jam. I love running around like crazy and the challenge of the wedding day.
And it all came crumbling down. My back started hurting really bad at a wedding, but I didn’t want to seem like I was being lazy and sitting down, so I pushed myself like I always do. The next day things went downhill fast. By that night I was barely walking.
The next day was a Monday and I couldn’t move out of bed. Any slight movement resulted in searing pain from my back across my entire body. Josh had to hold me up to get to the bathroom, which took about 5 whole minutes to make the 10 foot walk.
I had an engagement session on Tuesday and I thought I was all big and bad. I just had to push through the pain, right? I had Josh come with me to carry everything (and cover for me if I collapsed, quite frankly). But he grabbed the wrong camera bag on the way out the door, so while he drove back to get it, I went ahead and started the session. About 10 minutes in, I fell onto the bride and groom. I nearly dropped my camera. I couldn’t get up. I was terribly embarrassed.
I was proud of myself though– even though I was in searing pain, I feel like I delivered a great product (see above!).
But… I had another engagement session the next day and I just couldn’t do it. The bride had already said it was perfectly fine to reschedule, so I decided that was best. I had a wedding that Saturday (4 days away) and I desperately needed to heal.
The next morning I couldn’t move at all. I was crying, laying in bed, and had Josh call my doctor, who prescribed something absolutely magical.
I had already been in touch with my crew of photographers– the ones I give referrals to, and rely on. If I couldn’t shoot a wedding, I needed to have one of those ladies in my place! Thankfully, two of them were available– one for the whole day and one for half the day.
I spent the next few days in bed, finally getting out of bed on Friday to force myself to move. I was scared. Was this the end? Would my back ever heal? I know it sounds dramatic, but for the first time, I didn’t trust my body.
I bought a back brace and armed myself with lots of medication for the wedding. I had the fabulous Emily Gibby as my second photographer, and also hired an assistant to carry my equipment (literally, all of it, except when I was using my camera).
It was a hard day, I won’t lie. I was so thankful to have built relationships with so many other local photographers, that I knew I could have not even been at the wedding and any one of them would have shot the wedding in my style for me.
The thing about the whole special sauce of our business? It’s not guaranteed. People aren’t ever guaranteed. So we make ourselves replaceable. We find or train others who can step in for us if something terrible happens. Or if I throw my back out. Or if we have to jet across the world at the last minute to meet our adopted son. And even sometimes if we have a client who really wants us to be at their wedding, but we already have a wedding booked. We’ve done that a few times, and have another one coming up!
The whole community over competition thing– it’s real. Don’t get me wrong, we are each others competition, but at the same time, I can’t photograph every wedding in Hampton Roads by myself, so there is plenty to go around! I was heartbroken when my dear friend Megan announced her wedding date and I already had a wedding booked, but I knew referring her to Maria Grace Photography would be a perfect match! And the wedding where I threw my back out? Emily did a fantastic job, and you could never guess which photos were hers or mine (The beach one above? I don’t know if it was hers or mine!). A month after that, Josh and I had to be out of the country during a wedding. It was totally unexpected, as we were told at the beginning of the adoption process that we could have some flexibility in our travel dates. As it turned out, “flexibility” meant more like we could put the entire process on hold for 2-3 months, or we could travel when they said for us to travel. But I had Ashley + Emily cover for me without missing a beat (see the pictures below!). Those ladies are amazing! Ashley + Luke had covered for us before as well- when Josh was violently ill on a wedding day. And of course Dillon does this on a regular basis. For fun, click all the links above to see the work that they covered for us!
The thing is, if you do this job long enough, things will happen. You’ll get sick, or worse, and need someone to lean on. We’ve done around 120 weddings in the last 7 years, so the odds are something will happen. I’m thankful that we’ve put safeguards in place, and that we are part of a fantastic community that will rally around each other. More than a few times we’ve been called in at the last minute to cover a wedding, too! At the end of the day, none of our clients lost out on the quality of work. The colleagues that can cover for us have similar personalities and similar shooting styles- it’s a must!
Bottom line, I take care of myself more now. I go to the chiropractor weekly, I have an assistant or second shooter at 90% of my weddings. I still love shooting by myself, but try to keep it to a minimum. If I’m going to keep doing this for years to come, I have to take care of myself! But no matter how much I try to prevent things, it’s crucial to have a great community around you, ready to jump in and help out when needed.