Life after photojournalism & a yacht wedding

gary_vianey1Tomorrow will be 5 years to the day I gave my 2-week notice to my former employer, the newspaper.

Last November they offered a buyout to all its employees.

Some took the offer, others thought they’re bullet-proof, indispensable and safe.

I figured out had I stayed on I would have been eligible to $50K minus Uncle Sam’s cut.

I kicked myself, of course, for not staying on.

Actually it wasn’t that hard a kick I gave myself.

In the time I left, I easily made that much.

The silver lining in this is: I learned never to be complacent again especially not in today’s job market.

Vianey and Gary dance during their reception on board the Dandeanna.

Had I stayed on and taken such a buyout in November, I’d be just another digital photographer with 20 years of newspaper experience.

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot of newspaper photographers out there–some with more experience than yours truly.

laughing_guestWhen I walked home after turning in the keys to my company-issued car, along with all the gear, it opened so many more doors and I have never looked back.

That weekend, I shot Gary and Vianey’s wedding on a yacht named the Dandeanna.

A wedding guest of Gary and Vianey enjoys herself during the reception.

So I better send them an anniversary card or email now that I reminiscing.

Officially they were my 1st clients.

You see, while under the employ of the newspaper, it was mandated that I could not do any freelancing, even if it had nothing to do with photography on my own time.

Not only that, they wanted to know all sources of my income. Why? Well, to make sure there were no conflicts of interest in my journalistic coverage.

Nothing personal. That was their way of saying, “it’s their way or the highway.“

Very recently, the newspaper cut more folks. This time the photography department wasn’t spared. They lost 3 photographers and 1 middle manager/picture editor.

Of the 3 photographer casualities: one was my replacement, the other a relative newcomer and the third, a veteran who is a good friend.

I am saddened that it has come to this because I still have some very good friends who work there.

Instead of hiring people who are knowledgeable about web technology, they promote from within. That is in itself is not a bad move, but when they don’t make the commitment to send personnel for any sort of re-training, it’s a guarantee for disaster.

So it means the on-the-job training is going to cost not only money, but time because those “newly-promoted  technology’ managers end up buying gear or technology which they have no clue how to use. This means they are often walking down hallways which are dead-ends and having to retrace their steps.

It’s a truism which we can’t deny: the Peter Principle.


Vianey walks down the aisle with her son during the ceremony on board the Dandeanna.

Back to the wedding… It was on a yacht which cruised the harbor for the 4-hour wedding.

There’s always a first time for everything as they say.  For me, shooting a wedding on board a yacht seemed like it was going to be different. I relished the challenge.

But boy was I surprised! My early years of flying school taught to always mentally prepare. The instructors used to  call it “bunk flying”.

You visualize in your mind every detail, step-by-step to help you prepare. So in applying this in photography, I knew in advance that if I didn’t have something with me on the yacht when we departed, I will have to improvise and do without it. The skipper is not about to go back just because I forgot a spare battery or more memory cards.


After the last of their guests disembark, Gary and Vianey share a quiet kiss on the dock.

What you should know when shooting a Yacht Wedding:

  • Bring everything you think you need
  • Expect to have very little space and room to work
  • Most weddings are short because the cost is very high chartering the vessel and crew
  • There’s a lot of  herding of the guests from one deck to another while they set up for ceremony or reception
  • You won’t have as much ability to control where you shoot, so backgrounds may be an issue
  • When it’s time to leave the yacht, no lollygagging, you have to hustle or it will cost your clients more money
  • When doing the formal portraits, expect the light to be changing a lot because the skipper is actually circling the harbor, so you have to light!

If you’re anything like me, go on… you’re probably thinking where’s the picture of the bride and groom at the bow ala Kate Winslet and Leonardo Di Caprio in Titanic?

Well, for that picture, I would have to have access to a helicopter or another yacht. I can only dream of having such a budget, can’t I?

10 thoughts on “Life after photojournalism & a yacht wedding”

  1. Hi John,
    Thanks for sharing that URL. I’ll need to look it over closely. Hope you’re having a great summer and staying outdoors with your cameras.

  2. Just today noticed a hit on my website from the link here in my earlier post. Regarding the pricing discussions, I’d like to recommend that folks read the Burns Auto Parts blog – Leslie is a very well respected photographer’s photographer’s consultant – her posts will help with your pricing, self respect and confidence.

  3. Tracy,
    Pricing your work is never an exact science. You may think you actually spent an hour shooting but in reality, depending on how good your camera handling skills are, you may have an hour of post-production and miscellaneous running around to the local lab or online uploading. After you figure out your cost and time you actually spend on a job, you need to factor in the wear and tear of your cameras and computer.

    If you don’t mark up your prices to account for that depreciation, when it comes time to replace that gear due to their breakage or obsolescence, who is going to pay for it? Don’t forget everything you make, you have to pay taxes on.

    As they say an 8 x10 may not sell for the same price in the same neighborhood. Sorry I can’t give you an exact formula. You could do some comparison against the various local labs and see what your competition charges.

  4. Brian,
    Thanks for your input. It’s not a pretty picture out there for staff photographers at newspapers. Not sure where you are in the US but the LA Times has been cutting their staff every few months. It may come to this: they’ll make their reporters take pictures.

    I’m lucky I left when I did. The timing couldn’t be any worse now for my friends who lost their newspaper jobs.

  5. Pixel Pete,
    Twelve years ago I left my job in state government and began my own computer consulting business. When the consulting market went bust long before the stock market, I decided to spend my time pursuing my first love: art, and especially photography. Though I have yet to earn a living from photography, I steadfastly refuse to return to the 9 to 5 doldrums, certainly not in a public service job. Keep the faith !

  6. Pixel Pete, thank you for this wonderful story. Reading it and John’s comments pushed me one step further to the edge of the diving board, staring at the water way below, holding my nose and ready to jump, saying good-bye to the corporate world. Talk about office politics! Now I just need to learn how to swim down there. Do you have any advice on what to do after taking the plunge? How to price, where to market? This was the first story I linked to from the Canon Linked In Group; maybe you’ve journaled about this in other areas. Looking forward to reading your site and hearing of your experiences!!
    Thank you! Cheers,

  7. John,
    How nice of you to one-up me! I appreciate very much your sharing that. Glamorous as it may seem at times, working for a newspaper can be very frustrating. Example during “team coverage.” The best picture doesn’t get the play it deserves because of office politics.

    This blog is my journal in many ways. It’s intended I hope to give those who are new to photography a look at what might be ahead. Since nothing is ever comprehensive, I hope my readers’ contribution such as yours can fill in the gaps.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to comment John.

  8. Good story Pete, thanks for telling it:
    Not to one-up you or anything, but a few days ago, while making an entry in my journal, I realized it was 20 years from the day I turned the Hasselblad over to Security and walked out of my government office for the last time with a minuscule buy-out pension and a dream of living in the country and surviving as an independent photographer.
    That was the happiest day of my life up to then. Every day since has been happier.
    Do what you love. Keep a journal.

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