I went on a vacation to Bali just a few weeks ago with my friends. It had been a big deal and we were all looking forward to our villa getaway. But because my friends had an Annual Leave restriction to live by, they could only stay for 4 days. Even though I (embarrassingly) knew nothing about Bali, I questioned the point of becoming my own boss/ business owner if I couldn't even stay an extra day or two if I wanted. So I did. And with the lovely suggestions of my Indonesian clients , I decided to spend 2 nights in Nusa Penida. I booked a humble little hostel and took up their guided tours because it was reasonably priced and easiest to get on. On my last morning in Nusa Penida, I joined a basic (and in my initial opinion, somewhat ... shabby?) snorkelling tour in Nusa Penida (Bali) to snorkel with the Manta Rays for just 150k IDR (USD 15) .

Now, let me preface this by saying I've never been a water baby, not a strong swimmer and only ever snorkelled once near the shoreline. But I also love travelling alone and trying new adventures. These elements don't always work together.

The language barrier and many other factors made me anxious as I wasn't sure if my concerns were understood. These uncertainties only served to feed my anxiety and brought me the closest I've ever been to death.

So what happened?

Basically, nincompoop me jumped into the open waters without a life jacket and properly fitted snorkel because I FOMO , drank a few gulps of the saltiest water ever, temporarily suffocated and went through a terrifying couple of minutes while I struggled to swim to the nearest boat and was "rescued" . Yes, I know, I'm such a drama queen. Writing these on hindsight felt so trivial but that was definitely not how I felt in those frightfully blue waters.

So what did I learn about running a wedding photography business from this 'near death' snorkeling experience? 

Direction & Communication :

I jumped into the sea without putting my snorkel on because I saw my guide (and everyone else) swim further & further away while I was contemplating and I panicked. I didn't even know something as basic as wearing the snorkel correctly!

Which is why I always over-communicate and give my Wedding clients clear instructions every step of the way. Sometimes photographers forget their clients are not models, expects them to know exactly how to pose or worse, scream at them for not being natural enough. A kind word, clear instruction and demonstrations goes a long way. This is also the number one thing my client thank me for after their session!

My snorkelling guide expected me to know how to use the snorkel and life vest (which had broken buckles and needed to be manually tied) and when I couldn't, tragedy almost ensued. When my couples are uncertain of what to do, they fail to do well, we fail to get the perfect picture we wanted and "tragedy" ensues. 

Comfort & Emotion :

Whenever I lost sight of my guide & boat mates in the water, anxiety kicks in and my windpipe starts to constrict - essentially suffocating myself even though I was using the snorkel correctly just 2 seconds ago. I didn't dare to keep my head in the water for more than 10 seconds because I was afraid my guide would forget about me and leave me behind. I couldn't enjoy the gorgeous blue waters as much as I wanted.

If you feel anxious inside you will look anxious outside. 

Find a photographer that you know have your best photography & emotional interest in mind, can perform under pressure while also being your very own cheer leader in all the wedding chaos. Don't under estimate how important YOUR FEELINGS are because they play an integral role in the whole experience and they affect how you LOOK in your photographs as well! 

Trust : 

The biggest factor that binds everything together is trust. if trust is not established it can make the entire experience a strain at the back of the couples's mind while they struggle to be in the moment on their big day.

Which is why I always try to jump on at least a call with my clients & get them to fill up a questionnaire. And if possible, I'd love to photograph their pre-wedding portraits too so we can work together to find their most comfortable pose and angles. This will make wedding day portrait session a BREEZE because we know what each other is capable of.

Weddings are big and expensive events with no 2nd chance. I want my couples to enjoy the wedding that is meant to celebrate them and trust me if I suggest we scoot over to another spot because it has a better background or light or etc. I want my clients to ENJOY their wedding photographs for years to come with their loved ones because it was authentically & ARTISTICALLY taken. It almost breaks my heart when my friend told me she never looked at her wedding photographs after the wedding because they just looked ... meh. She felt they were not taken with care (nor aesthetically) and was merely taken to "document" as a bystander without any emotion.

Find a photographer who's style aligns with yours and you trust can help you obtain your dream wedding photographs. If you cannot trust your photographer, that's a sign she/he is not right for you. 

If your curious about how my snorkelling experienced ended, I'm happy to report I overcame my fears and slowly adapted myself to eventually, somewhat, enjoy it.

After the first "near death" snorkel, I quickly realised my problem came from being unable to utilise the snorkel properly - I was not used to breathing through my mouth. When my nose couldn't breath, I freaked out and my entire windpipe blahblahblahs (insert biological jargons) started to seized up and shut down. I spent the rest of the time on the boat practising breathing through the snorkel while en route to the next dive spot.

To conclude fairly, it was a great and affordably priced snorkelling tour. Not only did they provided all the equipments we needed, brought us to 4 different spots, allowed us to see Manta Rays, they even provided GoPro footage of us in the water and clean towels for us to dry up afterwards.

Which partly inspired this blog post as it felt like such a shame that they were providing such good value to their client yet, because of a communication and expectation mis-match (which was largely my fault) , the client didn't enjoy the experience as much as she could. I quickly realise that in a service + product based business, it is not enough to provide good value, you need to let your clients KNOW you are providing good value through good service.

The crystal clear, vibrant aqua blue waters of Indonesia is just gorgeous, no wonder people can't shut up about Bali! I hope to visit Indonesia and explore it's numerous islands again! Next time maybe, with friends and maybe our own private snorkelling guide! 

P/s: Hope you enjoyed the photographs in this post. They were all taken by me with the exception of the shots of the Manta Ray and myself snorkelling.