What Was Your Worst Photoshoot Ever?

We have all had our fair share of smooth photoshoots where everything goes like a dream and probably a few not-so-smooth shoots where it feels like one never-ending disaster you can't escape. What was your worst photoshoot? This fun video features a photographer discussing his and offering some of the lessons he learned from the experience. 

Coming to you from Evan Ranft, this great video features him discussing his worst photoshoot ever and the lessons it taught him for future work. My worst photoshoot was definitely one in which I got a little too confident in my abilities and did not bother to check everything properly before getting underway. When I was first getting into photography, I offered some free headshots to my fellow music students to build my portfolio. I went out with some friends the night before and took my camera, during which time I set my Canon 7D to ISO 3,200. The 7D was a rugged, capable camera, but a low-light champion it was not. The next day, I didn't bother to check my settings before getting started, and let me tell you: I did not have to do much retouching to all those headshots because there was not any texture left to retouch. I learned a few good lessons that day and haven't made those mistakes since. Check out the video above for Ranft's story. 

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Dominic Deacon's picture

Have to be the day I had 3 strobes and a speedlight fail on me in one shoot. I had 20 clients to shoot in one day, each client requiring I take about 120 shots of them in a short period of time . The lights just started overheating and giving up the ghost. By the end I was down to my last two strobes praying neither was going to fail as a single light was really not ideal for the high glamour look we were selling that day.

Ric Szczepkowski's picture

Husband was going to jail, dog was dying wife was really pissed off, kids were not happy, get the family photos they look great, wife wants shots with no dogs in the photo, move the dogs to back of the studio, suddenly there is a retched smell, dying dog took a huge dump. No one offers to help clean it up. Took all day to get rid of the smell.

Jacques Cornell's picture

It all wound up OK, but it was a close call. I was shooting a fundraiser at a major museum, and three of my on-camera flashes and two battery packs for them just quit for no apparent reason over a period of minutes. Fortunately, I had a FOURTH flash (powered by AA batts) that got me through the night. Yeesh!

Pam Foster's picture

I have had a series of some crazy shoots, but one stands out as the worst shoot ever. I showed up for a wedding to a house where the bride was getting ready. I am on time, even early. There is beautiful light and a gorgeous tree outside so I'm thinking great~ but I ring the doorbell and no one answers. No one comes to the door. I ring again and again no one opens it. I wait another 20 min. and I'm losing light and time, so finally someone answers the door and stands there looking at me as I'm explaining I'm the photographer and I'm here to take photos. I get a "wait here", I'm outside and I'm not allowed in. I wait another ten minutes until someone finds the person who knows who I am and why I'm there. I finally get some shots, some of the bride, some of the girls. But as I'm shooting, she tells me, oh not all the girls are here. They are on their way and the mother of the bride is at the church. At this point, the wedding is probably in less than 15 minutes, so I have to hurry outside and line them up as best I can, and I start shooting, only to have the last of the bridesmaids come up, but the other bridesmaids have left. We all climb into our cars to hurry up to the church, which I have not had one minute to assess or figure out and I'm kind of in a frenzy because there are all these rooms in the back of the church and the wedding party is everywhere. The groom is in the church and so I have to go there, then the groomsmen are in the hallway and I have to go there, then the mother of the bride is in a small nursery with the bride and I go there. Terrible lighting, garish stuff on the walls, concrete block background, no place to put the guys, the girls or anyone else for that matter. Wedding is beginning so I go into the main building and then I realize, there is NO Place for me to stand, sit, or set up anywhere. I literally cannot go behind them to get to the other side and the pews are up against the back wall so no going up the sides of the church either. But I try to manage and maneuver without looking obtrusive which is nearly impossible but hey, have to get the shots. I have the mindset that I can run outside and go to the front in order to get the shots from behind the altar but realize that I'm really too far away to get anything during the ceremony so I have to run back out and around and come in from behind them...not very easy to do. At first inside the church the lighting is just ok. There are no windows and only florescent lighting with spotlights at the altar which has a huge white movie screen behind the bride and groom. Not to mention all the band equipment and speakers as well...I'm still able to get a few shots, but then for some unfathomable reason that I will NEVER understand the minister turns on the back spot lights which are blue and red. Now I have the bride and groom bathed in blue and red lights and their grey jackets are turning purple. I decided, well, this is going to go as it's going to go, I didn't have time to talk to the minister or check out their lighting, so oh well. After the wedding I gathered everyone up and went through a shot list and tried to get most everyone in line, by family and wedding party and all was ok with that, and even managed to turn off the red and blue lighting. But the one thing I forgot to remember was the bride and groom were special needs and the groom was socially awkward and hated his photo taken. So shot after shot after shot, he made a weird face, every. single. time. I thought I was going to lose my mind. I didn't get one photo of him NOT doing it so I was never able to get a head swap~I ended the night exhausted and, frustrated but figured if I could survive THAT wedding, I could survive anything!

Jacques Cornell's picture

If they were going to put up seamless, why didn't they hang the sheet from the stands & crossbar kit? Did they show up with no way to hang the seamless that they weren't able to buy???
I've encountered some horror stories where I can sympathize with the victim's astoundingly bad luck, but Evan's story sounds like the to-be-expected result of a bunch of poor choices, lack of experience, and lack of preparation. I mean, GAFFER TAPE on an OFFICE WALL??? Uh, no. That's what painter's lo-tack blue tape is for. Even pushpins with toothpaste to fill in the resulting tiny holes afterward would be better.
At least Evan comes clean about all this. I hope viewers won't regard this as a bad-luck story and instead take it as a warning about the dangers of taking on too much without relevant experience or thinking through - every - single - step - of the job, and formulating a Plan B for each, in advance.
Sorry, but in this case the one I feel sorry for is the client.

This kind of stuff is why I assisted experienced pros for a few years before taking on these kinds of jobs on my own. There's just so much that can go wrong. Yeah, amateurs may be as talented as pros, but there's simply no substitute for experience. Murphy's Law should be written above the door of every photography school and on the front page of every tutorial website.