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Questions about wedding photography?
Old 07-01-2010, 06:41 PM   #1 (permalink)
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My daughters friend asked me to photograph her wedding in December. She has seen some of my work from my daughter. I'm mostly an amateur, I have a Canon Xti with a Tamron f2.8 28-75 lens and a 430EX flash. I have taken one of Rolando's workshops.

OK, here are the questions;
Do I have the right equipment to do this? If not what other equipment would I need? Maybe a flash bracket?

Not sure if I have the experience to do it. Should I pick up a book? Any suggestions on a book?

How much should I charge? I know I'm an amateur and I won't charge her anything near what a pro would. I just wanted to get a ball park figure. And I would love the experience.

Should I get a contract?

Thanks for any help or tips you guys & gals can give me!
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Re: Questions about wedding photography?
Old 07-01-2010, 09:28 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Lumpy,

You'll likely get a pretty wide range of answers here (or maybe none at all - seems to be pretty quiet around here). Most will tell you not to do it unless you have done it before. Of course, if we all did that then there wouldn't be any wedding photographs ever taken.

You have to have a first time. So the question back to you is: do you FEEL ready? Are you comfortable working with the bride (and her mother) to sort out what they want when they have no earthly idea except that they disagree fundamentally on whatever it is? Are you looking forward to setting up the posed formals when some key family members wander off and the wedding coordinator is poking you about how little time you have left? Are you confident that you can live up to this young lady's dream of the most magical fairy princess wedding everrrr?

If you want to do this thing, then first things first: yes, get a contract. Don't screw around with it just because you're not Jasmine Star. You need a contract just as much as any other wedding photographer.

Step two: yes, read a book. Or a few books. Better, read as many books as you can read between now and the wedding. And study the work of other wedding photographers. Study every day.

Step two (part two): practice every day. Try to use the techniques that you see in the work you study. Try to replicate some of the looks, compositions, etc. You can't possible practice enough between now and then, and I say that without any idea of when "then" is. But you can't. So practice as much as you can. Practice in low light (church w/o flash), bright sun (outdoor wedding), outdoors at night, etc. If you know the timeline for the wedding, you can target those conditions in your practice.

Step three: gear up. I'm sure Jasmine, or Rolando, or half the guys here could shoot a brilliant wedding set with one Fisher Price camera. But they wouldn't. They would have a spare everything so that when something goes wrong (and it will) they can keep shooting with their spare gear. I just picked up my rental gear for a wedding I'm shooting this weekend. It's everything I need to make sure I have a backup for everything. Even if I don't whip it out, it's worth the expense just to know I can. I don't think it's about the brand, model, or price of the camera, but about having gear that works and you're comfortable with so that you can focus on the images, not on the gear. So maybe rent another Xti? Get whatever (renting is good), as long as you don't step into the ring without a backup that you know how to use. If you have some cash left, yes, get a flash bracket. Love them. The second shooter for the last wedding I did had to switch to backup gear (!) during the reception, and didn't bother to switch the frame. Now we're fixing red-eye and shadows in post.

Which brings me to the subject of a second shooter. I strongly encourage you to find a capable second shooter. It's essential. Despite the best intentions, you can't be everywhere, and always catch the best angle, and never have any downtime. A full-scale wedding is too big, and too important, to try to photograph alone. In fact, get a helper too - someone who can run to your gear stash and grab you a (fill in just about anything) that you need immediately.

Charge $10,000 but give her a steep discount. Rates vary greatly, so that's a tough one to answer and be helpful. I have options at $1,500 and $3,000 but I'm flexible based on what we're doing for the client. Whatever you come up with, charge her the standard street price for the services you will be providing, and then give her an explicit discount down to where you feel you want to charge.

Last piece of advice: don't skimp on the pate. It takes a lot to cover even a small wedding. If you go small scale and cheap, you will get commensurate GWC results, and you'll make that little girl cry. Do the job for real, and you'll have a fighting chance.

That's my two cents. Best of luck whatever you decide!

B
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Re: Questions about wedding photography?
Old 07-01-2010, 09:59 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by briankdonnelly View Post
Lumpy,

You'll likely get a pretty wide range of answers here (or maybe none at all - seems to be pretty quiet around here). Most will tell you not to do it unless you have done it before. Of course, if we all did that then there wouldn't be any wedding photographs ever taken.

You have to have a first time. So the question back to you is: do you FEEL ready? Are you comfortable working with the bride (and her mother) to sort out what they want when they have no earthly idea except that they disagree fundamentally on whatever it is? Are you looking forward to setting up the posed formals when some key family members wander off and the wedding coordinator is poking you about how little time you have left? Are you confident that you can live up to this young lady's dream of the most magical fairy princess wedding everrrr?

If you want to do this thing, then first things first: yes, get a contract. Don't screw around with it just because you're not Jasmine Star. You need a contract just as much as any other wedding photographer.

Step two: yes, read a book. Or a few books. Better, read as many books as you can read between now and the wedding. And study the work of other wedding photographers. Study every day.

Step two (part two): practice every day. Try to use the techniques that you see in the work you study. Try to replicate some of the looks, compositions, etc. You can't possible practice enough between now and then, and I say that without any idea of when "then" is. But you can't. So practice as much as you can. Practice in low light (church w/o flash), bright sun (outdoor wedding), outdoors at night, etc. If you know the timeline for the wedding, you can target those conditions in your practice.

Step three: gear up. I'm sure Jasmine, or Rolando, or half the guys here could shoot a brilliant wedding set with one Fisher Price camera. But they wouldn't. They would have a spare everything so that when something goes wrong (and it will) they can keep shooting with their spare gear. I just picked up my rental gear for a wedding I'm shooting this weekend. It's everything I need to make sure I have a backup for everything. Even if I don't whip it out, it's worth the expense just to know I can. I don't think it's about the brand, model, or price of the camera, but about having gear that works and you're comfortable with so that you can focus on the images, not on the gear. So maybe rent another Xti? Get whatever (renting is good), as long as you don't step into the ring without a backup that you know how to use. If you have some cash left, yes, get a flash bracket. Love them. The second shooter for the last wedding I did had to switch to backup gear (!) during the reception, and didn't bother to switch the frame. Now we're fixing red-eye and shadows in post.

Which brings me to the subject of a second shooter. I strongly encourage you to find a capable second shooter. It's essential. Despite the best intentions, you can't be everywhere, and always catch the best angle, and never have any downtime. A full-scale wedding is too big, and too important, to try to photograph alone. In fact, get a helper too - someone who can run to your gear stash and grab you a (fill in just about anything) that you need immediately.

Charge $10,000 but give her a steep discount. Rates vary greatly, so that's a tough one to answer and be helpful. I have options at $1,500 and $3,000 but I'm flexible based on what we're doing for the client. Whatever you come up with, charge her the standard street price for the services you will be providing, and then give her an explicit discount down to where you feel you want to charge.

Last piece of advice: don't skimp on the pate. It takes a lot to cover even a small wedding. If you go small scale and cheap, you will get commensurate GWC results, and you'll make that little girl cry. Do the job for real, and you'll have a fighting chance.

That's my two cents. Best of luck whatever you decide!

B
Nice response Brian!
I am in pretty much the same boat as Lumpy, but with a little more equipment to work with. Your advice hit the mark for me and truly some handy ideas for my shoot to come. I also played the back-up shooter for another photographer on a wedding shoot two weekends ago and was a great help as well.
Thanks guys for the info...
Much needed!
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Re: Questions about wedding photography?
Old 07-02-2010, 01:01 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Thanks for the info guys. I think I will do it. I have until December to study up and get some practice.
But please keep the info and tips coming.
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Re: Questions about wedding photography?
Old 07-02-2010, 02:02 AM   #5 (permalink)
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My first "wedding plunge" was interesting to say the least. I decided it was do-or die time and jumped into a huge, 8 bridesmaids, 8 groomsmen, 600+ people, 8 hour wedding extravaganza. Here's what that first wedding taught me...
  • Contracts are required, up front. As well as a deposit. I did this, and I'm thankful I did. With a deposit it locks you in, they don't get flaky on the price later if they get cold feet, and you get something for your time. The contract will cover you later on if it's needed. Also... the deposit can help cover a rental fee of yours, or help you get another piece of gear you may be missing.
  • Get that second photographer. I did. Worth every penny. Imagine how often in life you wish you could be in 2 places at once? Now you can! (well... for a bit anyway.)
  • Don't be afraid to rent! It's not that expensive compared to buying, and you get lots of options. I admit, I started out with a Canon Rebel XSI, the 18-55mm IS kit lens, and a cheap Tamaron 70-300 Macro. Before the wedding hit... I'd bought a 7D, battery grip, 580ex II flash, diffuser (highly recommend something from Gary Fong's line), a new memory card... and I rented the Canon 17-55mm F/2.8 lens, which I used almost 95% of the time. Also, like it was previously mentioned, having a backup gives piece of mind!
  • Bring more memory (cards) than you think you'll need. This is one thing I didn't do. I figured 16 gigs would be enough for pre-wedding, ceremony, and posed shots. I was wrong. I needed about 50 or so more shots. Luckily, for me, my second photographer brought some extra memory cards!
  • Relax! Smile plenty. Remember that wedding days are super stressful to pretty much everybody involved. The more professional you act, the more you smile, and the more you can be flexible and "go with the flow" the better the shots will turn out for you. Stress can be seen in the eyes, not the smiles.
  • Be efficient! You don't get much time, and especially after the ceremony where you're taking the family shots and all that... they all want to leave. They're hot, uncomfortable, and soon, tired of smiling. Have a system in place.
  • If you can, find a wedding party member (not the bride or groom) that is open to the idea of "helping" you. IE... someone who knows distant family members and all that, and has enough sway to coral the masses for you. If this can't be done, it can't be done and you have to do it on your own... but it sure has helped me out when it works.
  • Don't do a gigantic wedding on your first go if you can help it. It's just too easy to botch and pretty stressful. Mine turned out pretty well... but I spent just about every dime I made from the wedding to assist myself. I got equipment, paid the second photographer, brought in a professional wedding coordinator to help me set up some of my shots... and on and on.
  • Make sure that in your contract you give the happy couple an up front timeline of when you'll have their pictures available to them. Give yourself PLENTY of time (which you'll have to consider, given the number of pictures and whatever other obligations you have in day-to-day life) to get them done... but have them done on time! It's important to remember that the final payment for pictures is the last bill that usually hits their doorstep... don't give them a reason to try to "Suddenly" decide they don't like what you did because they don't feel like paying the bill anymore!
  • Charge more than what first comes to mind. Like the other person said... try to be competitive with other photographers... but don't short-change yourself!

Since that wedding, and boy did I learn a lot (and, thankfully, it turned out well), it's gotten much easier. You'll build a routine (if you decide you want to keep doing this) and get your pricing worked out. Good luck!
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Re: Questions about wedding photography?
Old 07-02-2010, 11:14 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lumpy53 View Post
My daughters friend asked me to photograph her wedding in December. She has seen some of my work from my daughter. I'm mostly an amateur, I have a Canon Xti with a Tamron f2.8 28-75 lens and a 430EX flash. I have taken one of Rolando's workshops.

OK, here are the questions;
Do I have the right equipment to do this? If not what other equipment would I need? Maybe a flash bracket?

Not sure if I have the experience to do it. Should I pick up a book? Any suggestions on a book?

How much should I charge? I know I'm an amateur and I won't charge her anything near what a pro would. I just wanted to get a ball park figure. And I would love the experience.

Should I get a contract?

Thanks for any help or tips you guys & gals can give me!
So far, I seem to be the first one to take the opposite view of this.

It seems you are asking questions that indicate you might not be ready to shoot a wedding, and no disrespect intended, because I have not seen your work. However, after shooting weddings for over 35 years, there is no way I would consider shooting a wedding without having some real world experience first. Some will say, you have to start somewhere, but to be honest, shooting a wedding on your own is not the way to start. You should try to work with someone else as an assistant.

Again, with no disrespect intended, to say to go for it and for you to hire an assistant makes no sense to me. The assistant can only do what you tell them, and you should be in charge.

There are many problems that can arise at a wedding, and it cannot be "re-shot". You might not be doing your daughter's friend a favor by shooting the wedding, and if anything goes wrong, you might not only find yourself in a legal situation (happens everyday), but your daughter might loose a friend. I have seen that happen also.. more than once.

You cannot read a book and get the right kind of experience. You have to actually be out there and experience it.

Contract you ask? You bet, and it better cover everything imaginable and unimaginable, to keep you in the clear if anything goes wrong. And if anything goes wrong as far as results, your fault, the bride's fault, or nobody's fault, it will probably be your fault.

With all that said, what are their expectations? Do they want specific shots? If so, and you promise to get those, and then fail to do so, ... well, I won't even go into all that.

I had hundreds of great weddings, but I also had some terrible ones. I know of more than one photographer who was threatened to be sued for missing a shot the bride asked for and the photographer agreed to.

In other words, if you are given a list of specific shots, think very carefully about what you are liable for.

Pricing? You did not state what you would be providing, so how could anyone give a knowledgeable answer?

I noticed one "quote" of $10,000, but give a substantial discount? I doubt seriously if most people are willing to pay a first time photographer even $1,000 for shooting a wedding.

I hate to be a naysayer, but encourage you to think about the ramifications of not providing what the bride and family expect. On the other hand, I do not know what those expectations are. My experience was most want high quality photography, and the photogrpher to perform "miracles" without much co-operation from the family.

One last thing. Do you have any sort of indemnification insurance? Not liability insurance (you need that also), but insurance that covers you for "photographer error", or non compliance?

If I sound like I am over cautious about the legal aspects of shooting a wedding, I am, and for good reason. Photographers, nowadays, are sued all the time for trivial matters, and sometimes it is by close friends.

I wish you well if you decide to shoot it.
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Re: Questions about wedding photography?
Old 07-02-2010, 12:35 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I agree with BenE here. I'm really on both sides. We all have to start somewhere, but it's a big deal, and he's right... there's no "do-overs".

When I said "hire an assistant"... I was assuming that the OP has good photography "skills" and an eye, already, for posing people and dealing with them. The assistant is, of course, under the instruction of the main photographer... but their job is not to grab the "critical" shots, at least not when I've used them... they're there for "filler" shots. When I'm taking photo's of the groomsmen getting ready, they're grabbing shots of the bridesmaids. When I'm grabbing posed shots before the wedding, they're out getting pictures of decorations, shoes, rings, etc etc. I think the main photographer is the backbone and foundation... the assistant assists by "fleshing out" and providing secondary coverage. It was also discussed that the assistant was "capable"... IE knows their way around a camera and people.

Anyway... my point is... there is a reason many EXCELLENT photographers don't do weddings. They're stressful, can easily go wrong, one-shot affairs with most of the eyes on you for flawless coverage and "miracles". It ain't easy... and you've been warned... but do what you gotta do and good luck either way!
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Re: Questions about wedding photography?
Old 07-02-2010, 02:17 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I have to side with BenE on this one. Try to find a photographer in your area that will teach you the ropes before you jump out on your own. But if you do try this make sure you have at least two of every piece of equipment you plan to use.
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Re: Questions about wedding photography?
Old 07-02-2010, 03:35 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I have to side with BenE on this one. Try to find a photographer in your area that will teach you the ropes before you jump out on your own. But if you do try this make sure you have at least two of every piece of equipment you plan to use.
For sure. The last wedding I photographed, I was worried because my backup was an older digital camera. I had never had a problem with the main camera, and did not have at the wedding. However, three months later my main camera died on the last shot of a portrait session. No warning signs, no sputtering, no coughing, no nothing, it just went.......... click.. and nothing happened. Fortunately I was able to purchase a new camera the next day, but had to drive 350 miles.

I used to take two of everything, and enough film to shoot 4 weddings, and then after I started shooting digital, I would take enough cards to shoot that many.
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Re: Questions about wedding photography?
Old 07-02-2010, 11:58 PM   #10 (permalink)
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You guys make some good points. I'm not sure if she is planing a big or small wedding. Also I might check around to see if anyone has any assistant jobs I could do. Maybe do a few weddings as a assistant to see how it is.
Thanks everybody.
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