Have you ever noticed it seems that every professional photographer’s career is marked by one moment when they are faced with a life changing decision? This is a moment when the culmination of all the hard work is compressed into a single tick of the clock. While only a single passing of the second hand, a deep breath, a click of the shutter, a step forward, it is at the same time the culmination of an arduous affair of life’s work compacted into that quick blink of an eye.

Photographer Sarah Zimmer recently experienced this slowing of the earth when she stepped onto the media riser—under the gaze of a sea of eyes—to shoot the first wedding of 2016 in Times Square, on New Year’s Eve. “How exactly had I arrived at this moment?” She confessed asking herself. “And, had my 8 years of experience as a wedding photographer been enough preparation for me to survive it?” Here is the journey Sarah took to place herself at the first wedding of the year in New York City.

Landing the Opportunity

A few months earlier, during a quick trip up to San Francisco for a wedding, Sarah stopped by for a cup of coffee with her father—famed entrepreneur and spokesperson, George Zimmer. In the midst of heated discussions about the evolving SF Niner’s season and the amazing homemade matzah ball soup for dinner, her dad commented about a little “wedding thing” his new company—Generation Tux—was hosting in New York over the holidays. Intrigued, Sarah pushed for details. A contest? For newly engaged couples? To get married in New York City? In times Square? On New Year’s Eve? UNDER THE BALL DROP?!

“Dad! Sounds like you need a wedding photographer!” Sarah smiled across the kitchen table.

At first, George dismissed her suggestion, unsure that his “little girl” could shoot such a huge event. Typically, over the last 31years, Sarah would have just let it go. But, this time it lit a fire in her, and she wasn’t about to let this opportunity slip by. So, she pushed—hard—finally persuading him to give her a shot. He’d let her into the board room of Civic Entertainment Group in New York City for a meeting and if she can handle the rest, then she deserves the job.


That October Sarah found herself hailing a cab on 5th Avenue for her first meeting with the entire Civic group. Dressed in her most professional outfit (Lululemon leggings and a black Target blazer) she took the elevator to the top floor of a high rise on Park Avenue. The corner boardroom had views for days. Intimidating, for sure. The women of Civic were like models, literally. Dressed to the nines in their pant suits, silky blouses, and red statement lips. It was the single most intimidating room to walk into as a 31 year old woman from a sleepy beach town in San Diego. She held her head high to hide the fear.

Related: How did Sarah Roshan overcome tragedy to unify her community?

Thankfully, the Civic team were real people and the meeting went swimmingly. Shortly after, Sarah was off on a PR tour with her dad. Both seemed to have something to prove. It was the first time ever they were working together. A tough childhood relationship worried Sarah, but she knew she would be able to maintain professionalism, and maybe, just maybe, this might enhance their relationship. Sarah wanted to step up and away from being “just a wedding photographer.” George wanted to recreate a new brand, especially after the way he left Men’s Warehouse, a company he started at 24 years old. They both were fueled up and ready for this adventure.

Related: What’s something you wish you did your first year as a photographer?

Shooting in the City

When Sarah landed in NYC with the wedding only days away, her confidence began to wane. The days leading up to the wedding were a blur. Engagement sessions in Central Park and the Brooklyn bridge, photo opportunities at the ball drop, city hall appointments to get marriage licenses, and late nights of editing to get images to press immediately took their toll on her body and mind. It was obvious that this was NOT her average shoot. She was exhausted before the wedding day even started.


Image Compliments of Sarah Zimmer

After a swift police escort through bustling Times Square and a million people, Sarah walked up the stairs to take her place on the media riser. Immediately she noticed the company with her: ABC, CBS, National Geographic, Getty, the painfully handsome Anderson Cooper. These weren’t just news reporters or paparazzi; they were bulldogs showing their teeth and lunging across each other. In one corner she observed aggressive, feisty, masculine, and territorial photographers as she stood as an unassuming Southern California girl politely waiting her turn.

“For a moment I freaked out. I thought me? Who am I? What am I doing here? But just as quickly as those negative thoughts flooded in, something shifted and I realized I am here for a reason, and I EARNED it.”

Everyone was there for the same reason, she determined. Everyone was shooting on the same playing field with the same gear; they were all jockeying for the same angle. Sarah decided that she wasn’t going to let someone ruin her shot and take away everything she had spent months working toward. This was the moment when the culmination of all her hard work was compressed into that single tick of the clock, a passing of the second hand, a deep breath, a step forward, and a click of the shutter. She moved in, threw a few elbows, gave a few winks, and with more than a little persistence, made her way to the front of the stage. There, she found her clear shot, her undisrupted view of the stage, and her father standing under the bright lights… proudly smiling.

Capturing the Most Important Shot

She was locked in. The bulldogs she had been standing behind gave way, and not without a few looks which seemed to say, “who does this girl think she is?” Without hesitation, Sarah held her ground and got THE shot. She was there to prove to her father, the big bad scary Getty guys, and to herself that she was no longer intimidated by anyone. She was there to capture the moment, and found the courage to take control and be her own bulldog.


Image Compliments of Sarah Zimmer

The journey Sarah took to capturing the opportunity is one which can inspire you to achieve your larger goals for your photography business. Becoming a fearless photographer who takes chances can help you rise above and reach the next level with your business. Learn the benefits of outsourcing your wedding photo editing needs and how you can create the best business possible with our How to Grow Your Wedding Photography Business Guide!


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