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12-30-2013, 02:26 PM - 6 Likes   #1
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so you have been asked to shoot a wedding?

A very common question around here: "my friend at work/family member/friend recommended me to shoot a wedding for them. I'm excited! What do I do?"

The answer:
DECLINE

Why?

The biggest reason is that this day will only occur in this couples lives once (hopefully) and it will go by so incredibly fast that the couple will probably only remember fragments of the day by the time they wake up the next morning, if they remember it at all. The number once advice I give to my friends before they get married is "slow yourself down and enjoy the day. it will go by faster than you think." What I found after shooting my first wedding as a hired photographer? "you don't have time to slow down". So with a day so fast paced, and you being so inexperienced with wedding photography...unfortunately its recipe for disaster.

Then there is the bridezilla index... this is scary stuff. The bride is relying on you to capture this day for her as perfect as you can so she can show all her friends and look back at how beautiful she was. This is her day, her one day to be a princess, and if you screw that up, you will be her most hated individual on the planet. There have been life breaking lawsuits over this...

Which leads me to my next point... the expectations of every bride, I don't care how long you have known her, is that her images will turn out just like those in the hundred bridal magazines she has been studying. She will assume you know what she wants (because she won't have time to tell you), and that you have done your homework. If you fail to deliver, well...see point about the bridezilla index. It is no different than you walking into a McDonalds. You have an expectation that if you order a Big Mac combo with a coke you will get a Big Mac combo with a coke. If you don't get your fries, your going to complain. Easily enough, the person behind the counter will give you your fries... you can't reshoot a wedding.

Setting expectations, no matter where you are in your photographer career, or any career where you are providing a service is mandatory. Make sure your client has a pretty clear picture of what they are getting. Every photographer has their own style and personality to their work, and you need to make it quite clear to the customer what they are going to get. If you are a "traditional" style photographer and you ask your client to describe or show examples of what they expect from your work and they are modern or journalistic, decline the offer. If they are traditional in nature, then your in the clear.

Now with that being said, if the bride and groom still want you to take photos for their wedding, price yourself high. Price yourself at a minimum of $2000 for a full day, anything less is not worth it, trust me I know. I did my very first wedding solo for $200, and I wish I would never have. My client (family) was very happy with the product, but the amount of time I put into this was unreal. I was dead tired by the end of the day. I was up before the bride going over all my gear and making sure I didn't forget anything the night before, then I showed up at the brides house as they wanted photos of the women getting ready. From there we went to our photographic destination and shot for four hours, then to the ceremony, and finally to the reception. Four different locations, and about 8 hours of total shooting. This is normal for a wedding by the way... but also add on the travel time and setup time, etc. etc. It was 14 hours of my life that went by in what felt like 2. That is $14 an hour for my services, and I haven't even processed the photos yet.

I then took 2 hours to go through all the photos myself and weed out all the duplicates, the ones where peoples eyes were closed, out of focus, or whatever. Then another hour to bring that down to what I felt were the best images. I then sat down with the clients for two more hours to pick the photos they wanted in print. And finally another 6 hours processing all the photos and sending them to print. Thankfully I hired my printer to build the books for me. However, I still had to frame a few images and pay for those frames. Total time invested? 24+ hours, around $8 an hour. Not including cost of the prints or frames...which was about $150 in this specific example.

Now that you have declined this offer to shoot this wedding, and the bridge and groom have hopefully found a professional shooter after you have explained to them why it would be a bad idea for someone inexperienced to shoot it, what do you do? You still want the experience to maybe do this yourself one day. Well, befriend the professional.

I do this with every wedding I goto where I am not already hired to be there. I ask the professional and the bride/groom if I can come along to do the wedding photos and just observe and take a few snaps, and make it clear that if I'm in the way to just let me know. I always make sure I never give advice unless asked, and I also make sure I'm behind the photographer. I usually even get him/her in the shot as well and offer it to the pro shooter for their website. I also only use a medium tele zoom for this. What this does is give you examples of poses, and also lets you watch how a pro interacts with the subjects. Watch how the pro gives directions to the subject and how it changes the photo. But don't ask, your only there to be a fly on the wall.

So what do you do with these photos? Well, chances are the pro has better photos than you do, so unless asked I wouldn't bother providing them to the bride and groom, your just infringing on the professionals work. Keep them, edit them, play with them in photoshop, but whatever you do... do not post them online unless given explicit permission from both the pro and the bride. (Notice I said the bride, the groom's opinion in the matter does not count)

Now at the reception, if the professional is still around, and if you have been able to build some good rapport with them over the day, feel free to chat. Learn more about them, and use your shared interest in photography as a stepping stone. Don't talk about your work unless they ask you specifically about it. People want to talk about themselves, they don't want to talk about you. Hopefully, if you play your cards right this person may ask you to aid them in future shoots, which will get you some great experience, and after a while... get paid.



Now, once you start shooting weddings, and your the main shooter... there are a few rules when it comes to gear: pack two of everything, lots of smaller memory cards, lots of spare batteries. My solo kit looked like this in 2013:

Pentax K5 x2
Pentax DA*16-50 f2.8
Pentax DA*50-135 f2.8
Pentax DA*55 f1.4
Pentax FA 43 f1.4
Pentax FA 77 f1.4
Pentax 540 flash x2
Induro carbon fiber tripod
2 lighting stands
Elinchrom EL Skyport transmitter (x2)
Elinchrom EL Skyport universal receiver (x4)
18" reflector
grey card
dozen 8gb cards
8 batteries


The FA primes were backups for my DA*50-135, a lens I should really have 2 of. If I had a second DA*50-135 I would not bring any prime other than the DA*55. Not only does it save on weight, but I usually find I don't got time to swap lenses. The DA*50-135 pretty much lives on my camera for the day.


Last edited by Wired; 12-30-2013 at 03:00 PM.
12-30-2013, 02:46 PM   #2
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Two thumbs up! Fun and informative! And reenforces my decision to never do weddings or take money for my photos!! Bridezilla!
12-30-2013, 03:00 PM   #3
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What a great write-up... I manage large weddings, and watch the real photogs from a distance... (often two or three person teams) Almost always shooting the Short 2.8 zooms, 24-70s in the canikon world.. and a longer 2.8 70-200 (we are a large 4 story atrium) The only other lens I see consistantly from them is the 50 f1.2 that they use for the artsy wedding ring/cake shots... and for some of the portrait stuff inside... (I see you have these ranges covered pretty well with the pentax glass)

They are working non-stop. Even getting us images to play on three computer/projectors during the receptions...

I have had friends ask me to shoot their small weddings and I always tell them to get a pro... I am happy to bring my cam along for the rehearsal dinners or just for fun to the reception... but I leave it in the bag during the Ceremony.

Thanks again for a very honest post...

Would love to see a link to some of your wedding work.

Last edited by Billy Joe; 12-30-2013 at 03:15 PM.
12-30-2013, 03:25 PM   #4
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Fantastic post, I personally hate doing weddings for all of the reasons you covered so well. I did a couple for friends during the 70's and found the experience to be more frustrating than satisfying. I love taking photos, but on my own terms. Let people that like doing it, do it.

12-30-2013, 03:33 PM - 1 Like   #5
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I just did one for free. 10 hours of one for free. 700 keepers of one for free. Hours and hours of post processing for free. All for family. Everyone loved the pictures. I don't think I will ever do that again though. Its much harder work than I would have thought.
12-30-2013, 03:40 PM   #6
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Amen. I may at some point be confident enough to charge money for my work, but I have zero interest in ever doing a wedding. Our photographer was great, except he spent sooo much time doing formal portraits of my wife with his medium format film camera that she missed about 1/3 of the reception, and we still haven't gotten those photos back (our 1 year anniversary is in 3 weeks). But he got a hundred or so shots to me the next day and had the entire wedding and reception processed, completed, and sent to me (in RAW with the lightroom catalog to retain all his work) quite quickly… I think it was less than a week, but it might not have been completely done til I got back from our honeymoon, I forget.
12-30-2013, 03:42 PM   #7
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I could not agree more - great post. I was asked. To me photography is something I do for fun and I sure a wedding would take the fun away for me. My response was as follows (paraphrased) - I am extremely honored, we should meet and talk about it. My advice to you is as follows: If finances are a concern I would be more than willing to help out and capture your special day the best I can. I understand a good wedding photographer is expensive and there are reasons for that. If finance is not your main concern I strongly recommend you hire someone that is a professional wedding photographer ..yada yada.

She did respond and wanted to meet sometime next year. The wedding is not until the fall of 2014. I am hoping not to do it , however as I mentioned if money is tight I can help out the best I can.
12-30-2013, 05:29 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Billy Joe Quote
What a great write-up... I manage large weddings, and watch the real photogs from a distance... (often two or three person teams) Almost always shooting the Short 2.8 zooms, 24-70s in the canikon world.. and a longer 2.8 70-200 (we are a large 4 story atrium) The only other lens I see consistantly from them is the 50 f1.2 that they use for the artsy wedding ring/cake shots... and for some of the portrait stuff inside... (I see you have these ranges covered pretty well with the pentax glass)

They are working non-stop. Even getting us images to play on three computer/projectors during the receptions...

I have had friends ask me to shoot their small weddings and I always tell them to get a pro... I am happy to bring my cam along for the rehearsal dinners or just for fun to the reception... but I leave it in the bag during the Ceremony.

Thanks again for a very honest post...

Would love to see a link to some of your wedding work.
thanks, it was honest, because I think if you sugar coat this stuff to people and things go wrong not only will the "clients" be very upset, but there is potential for lost friendships, broken families, and broken interested/passion for photography. I love photography, I think about it day and night, and I want to share that passion and have other people have that passion, but the trick is to make sure you don't allow yourself to be put into a situation where you risk loosing that passion. Then again, the best way to grow is to overcome failure.


here are some wedding shots as requested:










(yes, a lesbian wedding, and the most fun I've ever had shooting a wedding ever!)





(Pentax LX 77mm with Extar 100 film)






(hard crop because people got in the way)



(my own wife at our 5 year anniversary)









flower girl




never know when the Q will come in handy










(some mad PF in this shot, but this was one of the preview images before I did final edits)


Anything I've shot as a second shooter are owned by the main shooter and I do not have permission to reproduce his files online. We only deal with prints when we shoot, no digital images get released....ever

12-30-2013, 05:30 PM - 1 Like   #9
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It depends on the wedding and the people, some weddings are very casual events. At my own wedding, 25 years ago, I put my AE-1 and 10 rolls of film in the hands of a friend and told him to take some photos. We ended up with some very nice candid and unforced images that we cherish.
12-30-2013, 06:00 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by monoloco Quote
It depends on the wedding and the people, some weddings are very casual events. At my own wedding, 25 years ago, I put my AE-1 and 10 rolls of film in the hands of a friend and told him to take some photos. We ended up with some very nice candid and unforced images that we cherish.
I totally agree, candids show off some really raw emotions, and stuff the pro may miss because they are focused on the main shot. As a second shooter my goal is to catch the candids.
12-30-2013, 07:00 PM - 1 Like   #11
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I tell folks if they want to get married in my studio, I'll be happy to shoot their wedding.
12-30-2013, 07:36 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by VoiceOfReason Quote
I just did one for free. 10 hours of one for free. 700 keepers of one for free. Hours and hours of post processing for free. All for family. Everyone loved the pictures. I don't think I will ever do that again though. Its much harder work than I would have thought.
I got 4 cases of beer for my troubles.............
12-30-2013, 08:03 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pepe Le Pew Quote
I got 4 cases of beer for my troubles.............
left overs from the reception?
12-30-2013, 08:19 PM   #14
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I did a wedding back in around 1975. Would not and have not done one again.
12-30-2013, 09:40 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pepe Le Pew Quote
I got 4 cases of beer for my troubles.............
I caught a hell of a cold. I also had some alcohol, but ended up being the DD after the reception.
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