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06-25-2013, 06:28 PM   #1
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Help! Asked to Shoot a Wedding

I've been doing digital photography for 5 years as a hobby. I'm at the point now where I consider myself good enough to start making the transition to part-time professional, which I only considered doing after I kept getting asked to do shoots. I never wanted or intended to shoot weddings, and every time someone has asked me, I've turned them down.

Well, today I got a call from a relative telling me about a couple she knew who was getting married, and despite not having a lot of money decided to have a wedding and wanted a photographer. She wanted to know if I could do anything for them and for how much, and told me they weren't looking to go all out but just have some good pictures to remember their day. I didn't want to commit right off the bat, so I told her I *might* be able to put a package together for them and to give me a few days to get back to her. If they were okay with the price/package, then I'd sit down with them and do shot planning, etc.

I know this is kind of working backwards, but their main concern is price. So if what I quote them is too much for them, in my mind, there's no point in even meeting or going forward. What I need help with is putting together a bare bones budget "essentials only" wedding package and some pricing suggestions.

I'm thinking that if I can pull this off, it could work as a niche and make me some money on the side, because EVERY REQUEST I've ever had for a wedding was #1) word of mouth from mutual contacts and #2) involved couples with tight budgets of less than $5,000 (small weddings). They're just not being served by the wedding photographers here, by and large. And, when they do get one, because of the low budget, they get pictures that anybody with a halfway decent point and shoot and a tripod could take -- the photographers really don't put any effort into the pictures, not even in PP. I think that if I can get the right packages and prices set (no variances/substitutions allowed) that I can provide a MUCH needed service and also make a nice little side income.

But, I don't know a THING about what the "must have" wedding shots are or how to price them, let alone putting shot packages together. Like I said, I'm not too keen on doing weddings, but since these are small weddings with people who have humble expectations and they keep trying to give me their money I may as well make it. Please help, and thank in advance.

06-25-2013, 06:46 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by NiftyFifty Quote
small weddings with people who have humble expectations
Nope, they want professional, posed shots. Otherwise, they could get some third cousin with a P&S. They will tell you they just want some basic shots.

How much is your time worth? Figure 20 hours of labor, plus three times print and album costs. I would not give them a CD of "all" images for them to mess up in the printing :-)
06-25-2013, 08:38 PM   #3
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Chances are it will go well. But if they're not 100% pleased with the photos, they will forever know you as the one who ruined their once in a lifetime day. That's why it's a bad idea to work for friends or family.

There's probably a good reason why wedding photographers charge so much... I also wouldn't do it without at least two camera bodies and a another spare in the car.
06-25-2013, 08:47 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by SpecialK Quote
Nope, they want professional, posed shots. Otherwise, they could get some third cousin with a P&S. They will tell you they just want some basic shots.

How much is your time worth? Figure 20 hours of labor, plus three times print and album costs. I would not give them a CD of "all" images for them to mess up in the printing :-)
Those few words were ALL you got out of my post? Anyway, thanks for your input - I'll take it under advisement. Have a nice evening.

06-25-2013, 08:54 PM   #5
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I have to agree with SpecialK, cameras are so good these days anyone can take a well exposed picture. If that's really all they want, then they don't need a photographer, they need uncle Bob with a digital camera and a Walgreens. Everyone says they want simple; everyone lies.

Do yourself a favor and don't try to undercut the competition, they charge what they charge for a reason. Otherwise you're likely to get your wish, word of mouth will spread that you are an inexpensive wedding photographer, and you'll have no shortage of clients. But all you'll have to show at the end of the day is gray hair. Quote them your price based on what it will cost you, (look at the costs of printing an album for starters, your time, gas, equipment rental, assistants, then figure in for a small profit) and if that is too much for them, then you were better off not shooting the wedding. Also, and I can't stress this enough, get a limitation of liability contract. Basically it's an "at most, money back guarantee", (i.e. they can't sue you for more than they paid you).
06-25-2013, 08:58 PM   #6
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Here's some food for thought, probably the best episode of Digital Photography: One on One ever

06-25-2013, 09:06 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by NiftyFifty Quote
Those few words were ALL you got out of my post? Anyway, thanks for your input - I'll take it under advisement. Have a nice evening.
Those few words are your premise, and they are not realistic so I guess that is what SpecialK was pointing out.
I donīt understand this "essentials only" wedding package idea if you donīt know what a wedding shoot consists of. Perhaps you could work with a experienced photographer to learn how itīs done before trying all by yourself

Last edited by carrrlangas; 06-25-2013 at 09:23 PM.
06-25-2013, 09:17 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by calsan Quote
Chances are it will go well. But if they're not 100% pleased with the photos, they will forever know you as the one who ruined their once in a lifetime day. That's why it's a bad idea to work for friends or family.

There's probably a good reason why wedding photographers charge so much... I also wouldn't do it without at least two camera bodies and a another spare in the car.
If they can afford my fee, I'll be meeting with them to tell the EXACTLY what I can and cannot do for them. Their expectations WILL be set and managed.

I'm not going to do it if I can't make any money out of it. This couple is NOT family or friends and even if they were, business is business. They'd get a modest discount, but I would NOT be taking a loss. If I can't make a profit, I'm not doing it. I'm not a charity, and I do charge most family and friends for my time and services for other things. Those that have businesses charge ME, he77, LOL. Yes, I get a discount, but not so much that they take a loss or make no profit at all - and I understand that. If that couple doesn't, they are welcome to find someone else. I'm not hurting for money. I'm financially stable and this is EXTRA money I'd be making.

I do have two camera bodies - K-5 and K10D - and am actually considering buying a K-30 body, or maybe a K-50 body, to be my backup. The K10D would become that backup to the backup you talked about. I don't know if I'll have the K-30/50 by the August wedding date, though. But, I should be safe with the two bodies I have until I get it. Thanks!

06-25-2013, 09:24 PM   #9
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If you've not done a wedding shoot before, I'd seriously consider doing it for free. You'll build up a valuable portfolio and it will give you a better idea of what to charge in future. The couple will potentially also have more realistic expectations with "free" pricing.

If you go on to do more wedding shoots through word of mouth, your free price won't be a price anchor.

If you're not sure about free, then do the shoot for free and offer the photos on a disk at no charge, but a printing service at a decent but not ridiculous margin.

However, if you're taking this seriously, I'd consider befriending a wedding pro and working as his second assistant (potentially for free also). You'll learn a lot more and you may well pick up work for the couples who are too budget for the pro.
06-25-2013, 09:29 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by carrrlangas Quote
Those two words are your premise, and they are not realistic so I guess that is what SpecialK was pointing out.
I donīt understand this "essentials only" wedding package idea if you donīt know what a wedding shoot consists of. Perhaps you could work with a experienced photographer to learn how itīs done before trying all by yourself
Why isn't it realistic? What do you all have against poor people? Don't they deserve to have their special days commemorated too? Like I said, this would be a side gig for me. Not my bread and butter. I don't need to be judged. I need help putting together an essentials only package. If you don't want to help me - and apparently you don't or you would have - then at least don't judge me. My area has a need that nobody is meeting or willing to meet. I may be the only option for a lot of people. I'll make a profit or I won't do it, but somebody still needs to step up and serve this niche. Their money is green, too.
06-25-2013, 09:53 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by maxfield_photo Quote
I have to agree with SpecialK, cameras are so good these days anyone can take a well exposed picture. If that's really all they want, then they don't need a photographer, they need uncle Bob with a digital camera and a Walgreens. Everyone says they want simple; everyone lies.

Do yourself a favor and don't try to undercut the competition, they charge what they charge for a reason. Otherwise you're likely to get your wish, word of mouth will spread that you are an inexpensive wedding photographer, and you'll have no shortage of clients. But all you'll have to show at the end of the day is gray hair. Quote them your price based on what it will cost you, (look at the costs of printing an album for starters, your time, gas, equipment rental, assistants, then figure in for a small profit) and if that is too much for them, then you were better off not shooting the wedding. Also, and I can't stress this enough, get a limitation of liability contract. Basically it's an "at most, money back guarantee", (i.e. they can't sue you for more than they paid you).
Thank you. My time and the PP and albums, etc is the biggest thing for me. I don't need to rent any equipment and because we're talking very small weddings I don't need an assistant. I never said I'd be inexpensive. My price will be reasonable (there's a difference), and if that's too much for some people then it's unfortunate, but I'm not the photographer for them. I think if I set their expectations at the first meeting, and reinforce them in the contract, that things will be okay.

I may have to "deconstruct" their mental image from what their financial reality says, but if they really want their day commemorated with more than snapshots they'll get with the program because the truth of the matter is is that if they could afford it, they'd be booking someone else. They can't, so they're not, so they can't expect to get what they'd get if they paid $2,000+ dollars. If they walk, it's no skin off my nose because #1) I really don't even want to do wedding photography, period and #2) I don't NEED these people's money. I believe I mentioned in my initial post that doing photography for money was going to be part-time.

I'm even only considering this because there is a need where I live and NOBODY is meeting it. I think couples with low budgets should have the option of more than Uncle Bubba whipping out the P&S. There is an undercurrent of classicism that I'm detecting in the wedding photo industry. I don't like it.
06-25-2013, 10:00 PM   #12
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Nobody has said anything against "poor" people. Where are you reading that?
Everyone here is saying that wedding photographers are charging what they charge because that's what they need to charge. They have to cover costs and make some (probably small) profit. They're already in a competitive environment against each other and on top of that they're competing with amateurs like us and people willing to work for free. I highly doubt they are deliberately charging too much in some conspiracy against the poor. I bet many photographers ARE the poor.
06-25-2013, 10:02 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by ikershaw Quote
If you've not done a wedding shoot before, I'd seriously consider doing it for free. You'll build up a valuable portfolio and it will give you a better idea of what to charge in future. The couple will potentially also have more realistic expectations with "free" pricing.

If you go on to do more wedding shoots through word of mouth, your free price won't be a price anchor.

If you're not sure about free, then do the shoot for free and offer the photos on a disk at no charge, but a printing service at a decent but not ridiculous margin.

However, if you're taking this seriously, I'd consider befriending a wedding pro and working as his second assistant (potentially for free also). You'll learn a lot more and you may well pick up work for the couples who are too budget for the pro.
I don't want to be a wedding photographer. I'm just thinking of trying to fill an ultra low budget niche that nobody else in my area wants to touch. I don't mind having set prices for 2-3 wedding package options that are set in stone. I'd be doing this part-time, as requested. I just want to make extra money while providing a much needed service. Win-win for everyone.

I just really can't believe the amount of negativity I'm getting in SOME of these replies. I really wish I hadn't even asked for advice and just did what I was going to do.
06-25-2013, 10:06 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by SpecialK Quote
No, that was the important part.
I wasn't trying to be smart , but since you seem to want to go there this is all I'm going to say and then my exchange with you is over. That wasn't the important part to me, and THAT'S what matters. If you aren't willing to answer the question, then please just quit responding. You're wasting my time and yours. Have a nice night.

Last edited by Ash; 06-25-2013 at 11:28 PM.
06-25-2013, 10:12 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by calsan Quote
Nobody has said anything against "poor" people. Where are you reading that?
Everyone here is saying that wedding photographers are charging what they charge because that's what they need to charge. They have to cover costs and make some (probably small) profit. They're already in a competitive environment against each other and on top of that they're competing with amateurs like us and people willing to work for free. I highly doubt they are deliberately charging too much in some conspiracy against the poor. I bet many photographers ARE the poor.
I made it plain that in my area the couples I'm talking about are not being served at all. Nobody will touch them. So, as far as I'm concerned, other photographers can't complain or gripe about competition, etc. There is NO COMPETITION in the niche I'm talking about. These people aren't underserved - they're not being served at all. They are priced out and iced out. How is my stepping up to do what nobody else wants to do a threat? That is petty if I ever heard it. And, yes, there is an undercurrent of classicism in this line of thinking. If there wasn't, these couples would have other options besides the ONE PERSON WHO DOESN'T WANT TO DO WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY AND HAS REFUSED ALL PAST REQUESTS.

I'm not yelling, but people are seeming to read and focus on only what they want to focus on, not what I've actually been saying.

Last edited by Ash; 06-25-2013 at 11:29 PM.
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