I’ve never shot a wedding before, but Lewis says it’s easy. Maybe he’s just trying to be reassuring, because he’s belting me up with more equipment than I’ve ever carried for a photo session—and I’m the one who spends weeks backpacking in the Sierras, waiting for the perfect lighting for just the photo I want.

I’m wearing exactly what he told me to: black slacks, black tank top, black shoes that don’t make too much noise—I asked him if I should wear a black hat, too, but he said that was too hipster for this particular wedding. He just put a black vest on me, and it’s heavy. It’s covered in pockets, and I’m wondering why he didn’t let me pack it myself so I’d know where everything is. Instead Lewis buckles a heavy belt around my waist and positions me directly across from him in the hotel bathroom where the bridesmaids will be getting ready in about fifteen minutes.

“Okay, listen carefully. I’m telling you this once, and only once. The moment everyone starts arriving, we won’t have a moment to spare.”

I’ve never seen Lewis so serious, but I guess I’ve never seen him at work. “You know, when I asked if I could shadow you at work, this isn’t exactly what I had in mind.”

He sighs, puts his hands on my shoulders, and drops his head in defeat. “Look, Carrie’s on a well-deserved vacation, and my backup assistant called in sick. Besides, this is easy.”

I frown. “See, I think you’re just saying that. People make a living doing this. You make a living doing this. It can’t be that easy.”

Lewis sighs again—I’m trying to be funny, but he’s so stressed out that he’s just reading it as his little sister being difficult. But let’s be honest, I am scared shitless to be photographing people who are paying my brother to capture the timeless memories of their perfect day. That’s a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. Mountains and trees don’t throw fits when the photo doesn’t come out right… but I guess mountains and trees also don’t pay me to take their photos.

“Okay, okay,” I say. “Talk to me. What am I supposed to do?”

We’re running low on time. He quickly runs through the equipment attached to me: various lenses in the holsters along the belt, flash assembly in a waist pocket of the vest for convenient access, a light meter clipped to the belt, a handful of extra memory cards in the left chest pocket, spare batteries in another vest pocket—it keeps going on, but everything is so logically arranged that it all makes sense and suddenly I’m the wedding photographer’s assistant.

“The full memory cards and dead batteries go on your right: right pocket, right holster. I know you hold the camera with your left hand when you’re swapping anything out, so whatever you just removed with your right hand goes in the right pocket. Just remember that. It becomes automatic. It’s just a motion.”

I nod. Lewis is an incredibly efficient teacher, although he’s generally just a more effective person. I mean, he’s even equipped me with a Nikon digital single-lens reflex camera—a variation on the one I have—to make it easier for me to adapt and shoot the wedding today.

“Wait,” I stop him as he returns to the outer room to grab his own equipment. “What about the wedding? Where do I go? Are there specific things I’m supposed to photograph?”

He stares at me blankly, like I’m speaking some other language. “Just follow me when we enter or leave a space.” He slings his bag over his head and shrugs. “Other than that, you’re a good enough photographer to get the good shots.”

I throw him a look of disbelief—but before I can ask anything else, a keycard swipes in the door handle and in come the bridesmaids. I plaster on a smile, lift the viewfinder to my eye, and start shooting.

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