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17 Secrets of Wedding Photographers

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Wedding photographers are by your side nearly every moment of your wedding day. They’re snapping away at your most intimate moments: your first glance at the person you plan to be with forever, your smile as you’re finally wed, and your initial step onto that dance floor. But how much do you really know about how they work—and why they’re so expensive?

1. THEY WISH YOU’D ASK FOR THEIR HELP.

Especially when it comes to the timeline for the big day. “I’d add in more time for photos,” says Gina Cristine, owner and photographer with Gina Cristine photography in the Chicago area. Many times, the bride and groom assume the photographers just need 15 minutes for family photos, she says. But those family photos could easily take 30 minutes, because a family member is always missing. “We need to make sure we have enough time, and that we’re not rushed and hectic,” Cristine explains.

2. THEY ALSO WISH YOU ACTUALLY ASKED ABOUT EXPERIENCE …

This sets apart the amateurs from the professionals, Eva Ho, owner and photographer for Eva Ho Photography in Chicago, says. Her perfect question: “How do you deal with XX situation?” Ho explains that since every wedding is unique, you need to find a photographer that’s perfect for you—and asking about experience will help you make that decision. It will also help you understand the reason you’re hiring a professional wedding photographer, rather than someone who just dabbles in photography, for your big day.

3. … AND ABOUT THEIR STYLE.

Jason Brown, owner and photographer of J. Brown Photography in Chicago, says couples always ask about his price and his availability. But he loves it when the conversation turns to his overall style and approach, and they get to know him as an artist. “Then we can understand if we’re a good match,” Brown says. “Not a lot of clients go there, and I wish more clients would ask me about my approach.”

4. FEEL FREE TO ASK WHY THEY CHARGE AS MUCH AS THEY DO.

Sure, wedding photographers may charge a few thousand dollars for what seems like eight hours of work. But they also met with you countless times before the wedding. And do you realize how many times you emailed? Then there’s the editing process. Those photographers put many more hours of work into those pictures than you ever imagined. Also, that camera equipment wasn’t free (and it needs to be upgraded every couple of years). Stacy Able, an Indianapolis-based wedding photographer with Stacy Able Photography, says she loves it when couples ask why she charges so much, because it offers her the opportunity to really explain everything that goes into shooting a wedding.

5. THEY’RE WATCHING YOUR CHEMISTRY.

When the couple first sees each other at their wedding and they relax instantly, it’s a sign that they’re going to last, Cristine says. “They really enjoy the day together.”

“I shoot 20 to 30 weddings a year, and I can tell when a couple has really great chemistry,” Brown says. “It’s when they’re in sync with each other and when they’re fun-loving with each other.” Once in a while, though, there’s the bride and groom who aren’t really into each other, and don’t really hang out at the wedding. That’s a red flag—as is the couple who are worrying incessantly about everything being perfect during their wedding instead of simply relaxing and enjoying their big day, Cristine notes.

6. THEY LOVE THE PHOTO BOOTHS JUST AS MUCH AS YOU DO.

Sure, the quality of the pictures in there may not be totally amazing, but those photo booths are so much fun. And they even help the photographers do their jobs. “During the reception, we go around and take candid shots, but it’s hard for us to get a group shot because people are dancing,” Cristine says. “We like to know that the photo booths are there.”

7. HOWEVER, THEY DON’T LOVE THOSE TABLE SHOTS.

Going from table to table to interrupt your dinner and make you pose for a photo is the worst part of shooting a wedding, Ho says.

8. WHEN IT’S TIME TO POSE, LOOK AT THEM, NOT AT ANYONE ELSE.

At weddings these days, everyone is taking pictures with their phones, and it’s getting harder and harder to compete for the attention of the bride and groom. If wedding photographers don’t get those key shots, however, they’ve failed at their jobs. So look at them when they’ve got the cameras up, not at the phones.

9. ONCE THE WEDDING IS OVER, THEY AREN’T DONE.

Being a wedding photographer is a full-time job, and photographers work nearly every day of the week, writes photographer Lauren Lim on PhotographyConcentrate.com, a site dedicated to all things photography. When not actually shooting weddings, wedding photographers are editing photos, meeting with clients, creating photos, sending invoices, and marketing their business. And because it is a business, after all, they’re also dealing with the accounting end of things.

“You are now the bookkeeper, the accountant, the marketing department, the graphic designer, the customer service department, the secretary, and pretty much any other title you can think of,” Lim writes. “There’s a dangerous myth that floats around suggesting that [wedding photographers] only have to work one day of the week and they make tons of cash.”

In reality, wedding photographers work a normal five-day week, plus meetings and engagement shoots in the evenings, and weddings on weekends. They are some of the hardest working people you’ll ever meet.

10. PHOTOSHOPPING ISN’T EASY.

Many people will ask photographers to make them skinnier, taller, younger—and to add people into photos, Able says. But, she explains, “People do not realize what that entails.” Yes, she can do that. Just not for every photo.

11. FORGET TRYING TO MAKE IT LOOK LIKE IT DOES ON PINTEREST.

Pinterest is getting really annoying to wedding photographers, and they’re sick of trying to re-create what you saw there. Spoiler alert: It never looks like the perfect shot you saw on there. Chances are, that was a once-in-a-lifetime shot or a freak of nature. That photographer got lucky because their groomsman happened to be an Olympic gymnast and could be flipped upside down, or something. Not going to happen at your wedding.

12. IT’S HARD TO PAY THE BILLS.

Since weddings are seasonal—most people get married between May and September— many wedding photographers find themselves out of work from October to April, according to PhotographyConcentrate.com. “No surprise that that makes it difficult to pay the bills,” Lim writes. “You can either try to make enough in the wedding season to get yourself through the rest of the year, or find ways to keep bringing in money when the weddings stop.” That may include shooting photos for holiday cards and taking pictures for birthday parties.

13. THEY USE A BLEND OF PHOTOGRAPHY STYLES.

Wedding photography is a blend of different types of photography—often used all at the same event. “We’re a blend of a product photographer, a documentary photographer, and fashion photographer,” Brown says. Able agrees, saying she might use landscape photography, portrait photography, and even macro photography to capture a wedding.

14. STAYING FOCUSED IS KEY.

Wedding photographers have to stay mentally and creatively sharp for a really long time, Brown says. Able notes that they also deal with a multitude of challenges, including weather that can change in an instant and drastically affect lighting. “You have to be skilled at adjusting quickly on the fly,” she notes. And, she adds, the pressure is heightened because you have limited time to capture countless moments.

15. SOMETIMES, THAT’S SCARY.

“Each wedding may have a completely different dynamic, and you do not know what you are walking into,” Able says. Sometimes, you can step into a very tense situation, and other times, the mood might be jovial revelry. You never know. “There is a certain level of stage fright as you have to be on your best game for 12 hours,” she says. “Every work day for us is someone’s biggest day of their lives.”

16. THEY DON’T LIKE COPYING OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS.

Lori Sapio, photographer with Lori K Sapio Photography in Chicago, hates hearing the dreaded question: “Can you make my pictures look like …” That’s because she has her own style and her own touch, she says. “They usually want images they like re-created exactly,” Sapio explains. “[But] each photographer has their own style and voice and most, like myself, tend to shy away from recent trends and approach each wedding in a unique manner.”

17. WHEN IT’S OVER, STOP BUGGING THEM FOR THE PICTURES.

Ask them once, and then wait for the process to happen. Your photographer should explain the process to you, and most will take about 4 to 6 weeks, Brown says. “Trust the process,” he says. Now that he’s married himself, Brown understands how emotional you are and how excited you are to see those photos. But the photographer needs time to edit them, and if you keep bugging him, it gets annoying.

All images via iStock.

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15 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Pool Lifeguards
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Pool lifeguards do far more than just work on their tan: These trained professionals can detect sometimes-subtle indications of distress, shut down dangerous water activities, and keep visitors safe from harm.

But jumping to the rescue is only a minor part of their routine. To get a better idea of what their job entails, we asked several career pool lifeguards about their duties, from working with dangerous chemicals to dealing with poop emergencies. Here's what we learned.

1. THEY CAN TELL HOW WELL YOU SWIM BY HOW YOU GET INTO THE WATER.

Paul, a lifeguard at a private pool facility in Reno, Nevada, says that he can usually evaluate a person’s swimming abilities by how they enter the water. “People who are less skilled and experienced typically lower themselves into the pool or use the stairs or ladders,” he says. “More skilled swimmers do this thing where they jump into the pool, fully submerge, then push off the bottom and start swimming immediately. It's surprisingly common.”

2. THEY SEE A LOT OF CRACK.

Swimming trunks may be some of the least-intuitive apparel items of the modern world: Get them wet and they’re likely to make for an anatomy lesson no one asked for. “Kids, especially boys, have the strangest inability to notice when their trunks are falling off,” says Marek, an indoor lifeguard in Washington state. “It's usually not a big deal and gets handled when the kid's parent notices and scolds them."

3. THEY’RE AMATEUR CHEMISTS.

Responsibility for maintaining the pH balance of a pool and adding or reducing chemicals to preserve a clean environment is usually the duty of head lifeguards. According to Darrell, a 10-year veteran of indoor pools, handling these substances requires additional training. “This is done at the end of the day and I typically add chemicals twice or sometimes three times a week,” he says. “I add either calcium chloride to control the hardness of the water or sodium bicarbonate, baking soda, to control the alkalinity.” For germ-killing, chlorine and muriatic acid are delivered to the water through a computer-controlled delivery system.

4. SOME VERY GROSS THINGS LURK AT THE BOTTOM OF POOLS.

Some lifeguards are charged with vacuuming the bottom surfaces of pools, which usually produces a composite muck in the canister that Marek refers to as a “diaper”: It’s typically full of hair and gray sludge. But things can get worse. Much worse. “At the summer camp I work at, I've had the pleasure of fishing dead things out of the strainer baskets,” he says. “Frogs and rats. Having seen what comes out of those pools, let's just say that I'm not a big fan of recreation swimming anymore.”

5. THEY DISLIKE LANE HOGS.

Some regulars who use private pools as part of their fitness routine can get a little too self-confident in their skills. “Narcissistic lap swimmers” are a pet peeve of Paul’s. “They can't share lanes and always brag about how they're the best damn person in the pool. It's like, man, I've seen 5-year-olds with a better breast stroke.” (Another way to get on a guard’s bad side: sitting over a lane and dangling your legs in.)

6. THEY’RE NOT ABOVE PEEING IN THE POOL.

It’s a testament to how potent the chemicals are in pools that some lifeguards offering swim lessons don’t mind relieving themselves when nature calls and they don’t feel like getting out. “I know plenty of swim instructors who will relieve themselves in the pool because they don't have much time between lessons and they might be stuck in the water several hours,” Marek says. “One of my former coworkers, and a good friend, has always said that there are two kinds of people in the world. Those that pee in the pool, and those that deny it."

7. IT'S HARD TO PREDICT WHEN TROUBLE WILL STRIKE.

While some lifeguards subscribe to a 15-minute rule—most questionable swimmers are going to get themselves into trouble within 15 minutes of entering the water—Paul cautions that there are always exceptions. “If you're a weak enough swimmer that you would have a problem, you're going to have that problem pretty quickly,” he says. “Though that is only most of the time. Some people get tired and get into trouble later on and some people have heart attacks halfway through their swim. You've got to be ready for anything.”

8. NOSEBLEEDS ARE COMMON.

Irritated nasal passages can be a problem at pools, which means that lifeguards are frequently charged with handling biohazards on or near the deck. “We see a lot of nosebleeds,” Darrell says. “We cover the areas with signage. Hopefully the patron has found a guard quickly if we didn't see it and hasn't left a 50-foot trail of blood on the deck. We then spray the blood with a disinfectant solution designed to kill blood-borne pathogens, wait 10 minutes, then hose directly with water.”

9. THERE’S A PROTOCOL FOR POOP.

It’s the emergency every lifeguard dreads: a fecal deposit in a pool full of swimmers. When that happens, it’s time to “shock” the pool by turning it into a chemical bath. According to Darrell, who considers himself a “poop whisperer,” solids come out first. “Dispersed poop? Everyone out. Scoop and vacuum. The pool is closed for a minimum of eight hours as we now have to chemically burn the water. [That means] basically bringing the chlorine levels up to where even cockroaches would die.” Vomit is slightly less dire: the pool is closed for 30 minutes while the chlorine goes to work.

10. A CROWDED POOL CAN BE SAFER.

The more patrons in the water, the harder it might be for a lifeguard to keep track of everyone. But, Marek says, having too few people can be just as much of a problem. “Crowded pools have the benefit of holding your attention better. If you've got two patrons in the water, it's easy to get bored and zone out."

11. ARM BANDS REALLY ANNOY THEM.

Those inflatable arm bands worn by children? Lifeguards hate them. “They may pop, which would probably be unusual, or they may leak slowly,” Darrell says. “But that's not the real danger. Although they will keep a small child afloat, this is assuming the child has the strength to keep their arms down in order to keep their head above water.”

12. THEY DOUBLE AS JANITORS.

At Paul’s private pool, lifeguards are expected to perform tasks that would usually be reserved for a maintenance crew. “Cleaning is a part of the job,” he says. “Many pools don't have janitors so the bulk of making sure the pool looks presentable is up to the lifeguards.” They’ll even set up tables for parties and clean the bathrooms.

13. THEY HAVE STRATEGIES TO KEEP FROM ZONING OUT.

Guards have all kinds of tricks for not letting their attention wander from swimmers: they keep their shoulders square with the pool, they count how many times a song plays on the radio, and they rotate positions every 15 minutes. “A wandering mind is a dangerous thing to have while actively guarding,” Darrell says. “I count patrons. I go through scenarios in my mind.” Cell phones are usually prohibited: getting caught with one can be grounds for termination.

14. POOL NOODLES ARE THE BANE OF THEIR EXISTENCE.

While people are welcome to bring their own noodles to public pools, Darrell prefers they didn’t. Instead of being used as flotation aids, they wind up getting used as chew toys. “They end up with bite marks and chunks ripped out of them,” he says. “I often wish we could purchase noodles made out of foam that tastes like something rotten to discourage this.” Darrell will not directly seize a noodle from a tiny guest, but if he happens to see one abandoned, he will grab it. And he will not be sorry.

15. THEY’RE NOT BABYSITTERS.

“I think my single biggest peeve when it comes to guarding is parents who assume that we are there to babysit their children for them,” Marek says. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Lifeguards are there to supervise and ensure a safe, and hopefully fun, environment for all. It's incredibly selfish and irresponsible to assume that we are there to watch your one child when we've got hundreds of other people to keep track of. We are there to mitigate risk and respond if something does happen, not to babysit.”

All images courtesy of iStock.

This story originally ran in 2016.

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10 Secrets of Ice Cream Truck Drivers
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Ever since Good Humor founder Harry Burt dispatched the first jingling ice cream trucks in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1920, kids and adults alike have had a primal reaction to the sight of a vehicle equipped with a cold, sugary payload. Today, ice cream trucks spend May through October hoping to entice customers into making an impulse beat-the-heat purchase. To get a better idea of what goes into making ice cream a portable business, Mental Floss spoke with several proprietors for their take on everything from ideal weather conditions to police encounters. Here’s the inside scoop.

1. IT CAN GET TOO HOT FOR BUSINESS.

The most common misconception about the ice cream truck business? That soaring temperatures mean soaring profits. According to Jim Malin, owner of Jim’s Ice Cream Truck in Fairfield, Connecticut, record highs can mean decreased profits. “When it’s really hot, like 90 or 100 degrees out, sales go way down,” Malin says. “People aren’t outside. They’re indoors with air conditioning.” And like a lot of trucks, Malin’s isn’t equipped with air conditioning. “I’m suffering and sales are suffering." The ideal temperature? "A 75-degree day is perfect.”

2. THEY DON’T JUST WANDER NEIGHBORHOODS ANYMORE.

An ice cream truck sits parked in a public spot
Chunky Dunks

The days of driving a few miles an hour down a residential street hoping for a hungry clientele have fallen by the wayside. Many vendors, including Malin, make up half or more of their business by arranging for scheduled stops at events like weddings, employee picnics, or school functions. “We do birthday parties, church festivals, sometimes block parties,” he says. Customers can pay in advance, meaning that all guests have to do is order from the menu.

3. SOME OF THEM DRIVE A MINIBUS INSTEAD OF A TRUCK.

For sheer ice cream horsepower, nothing beats a minibus. Laci Byerly, owner of Doodlebop’s Ice Cream Emporium in Jacksonville, Florida, uses an airport-style shuttle for her inventory. “Instead of one or two freezers, we can fit three,” she says. More importantly, the extra space means she doesn’t have to spend the day hunched over. “We can stand straight up.”

4. THEY HAVE A SECRET STASH OF ICE CREAM TO GIVE AWAY TO SPECIAL CUSTOMERS.

Customers line up near an ice cream truck
Andrew Cowie, AFP/Getty Images

The goal of any truck is to sell enough ice cream to justify the time and expense of operation, so freebies don’t make much sense—unless the truck happens to have some damaged goods. Malin says that it’s common for some pre-packaged bars to be broken inside wrappers, rendering them unattractive for sale. He sets these bars aside for kids who know the score. “I put them in a little box for kids who come up and ask if I have damaged ice cream,” he says. “Certain kids know I have it, and I’m happy to give it to them.”

5. THEY’RE CREATING CUSTOM ICE CREAM MENUS.

An ice cream nacho platter is shown
Chunky Dunks

While pre-packaged Popsicles and ice cream sandwiches remain perennial sellers, a number of trucks are mixing up business by offering one-of-a-kind treats. At the Chunky Dunks truck in Madison, Mississippi, owner Will Lamkin serves up Ice Cream Nachos, a signature dish that outsells anything made by Nestle. “It’s cinnamon sugar chips with your choice of ice cream,” he says. “You get whipped cream, too. And for the ‘cheese,’ it’s a caramel-chocolate sauce.” The nachos work because they’re “streetable,” Lamkin’s label for something people can carry while walking. “The next seven or eight people in line see it, and then everyone’s ordering it.”

6. THEY DON’T ALWAYS PLAY THE ICONIC JINGLE.

Before most people see an ice cream truck, they hear that familiar tinny tune. While some operators still rely on it for its familiarity, Malin and others prefer more modern tracks. “Normally we play ‘80s rock,” he says. “Or whatever we feel like playing that day. We rock it out.”

7. POP CULTURE CHARACTERS ARE SOME OF THEIR BEST SELLERS.

A Captain America ice cream treat
Doodlebop's

While adult customers tend to favor ice cream treats they remember from their youth, kids who don’t really recognize nostalgia tend to like items emblazoned with the likenesses and trademarks of licensed characters currently occupying their TV screens and local theaters. “Characters are the most popular with kids,” Byerly says. “SpongeBob, Minions, and Captain America.”

8. THEY KEEP DOG FOOD HANDY.

At Doodlebop’s, Byerly has a strategy for luring customers with pets: She keeps dog treats on hand. “The dog will sometimes get to us before the owner does,” she says. “If the dog comes up to the truck, he’ll get a Milkbone.” That often leads to a human companion purchasing a treat for themselves.

9. SOMETIMES RIVALS WILL CALL THE COPS.

Though there have been stories of rogue ice cream vendors aggressively competing for neighborhood space over the years, Malin says that he’s never experienced any kind of out-and-out turf war. Ice cream truck drivers tend to be a little more passive-aggressive than that. “I have a business permit for Fairfield, so that’s typically where I’m driving,” he says. “But sometimes I might go out of town for an event. Once, a driver pulled up to me and asked if I had a permit. I said ‘No, I’m just here for an hour,’ and he said, ‘OK, I’m calling the cops.’ They try and get the police to get you out [of town].” Fortunately, police typically don’t write up drivers for the infraction.

10. SOME LUCKY CUSTOMERS HAVE AN APP FOR HOME DELIVERY.

An ice cream truck driver looks out of his window
Roger Kisby, Getty Images

Technology has influenced everything, and ice cream trucks are no exception. Malin uses an app that allows customers to request that he make a special delivery. "People can request I pull up right outside their home," he says. If their parents are home, there’s one additional perk: "I accept credit cards."

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