Wedding Photography Myths

1. I can’t afford a professional wedding photographer If you have a wedding budget, then you can afford it. Plan to designate 10% towards your photographer for a basic service. If you require more options, such as all-day coverage or an expensive album, consider increasing that percentage to 20% or more. Many photographers, including yours truly, offer a gift registry option to help cover a wedding package or even funds for extras beyond the big day, such as that album that seems a bit beyond financial reach at the moment. Anything is possible. If your ideal photographer seems beyond your budget, let them know. They might be able to tailor their services to meet a lower price, particularly if the date is either coming soon or in the “off-season.”

2. Digital photography makes the job easier In some respects, yes. No more clumsy film changes. Easier to spot errant camera settings, check results of lighting setups on the spot, etc. Digital photography still requires a significant amount of post-wedding work to achieve professional results, however. In the days of film, this would be performed by a lab (with the costs passed on to the client), and the photographer could go about shooting more weddings or spend week days shooting in the studio or working in their “day job.” Most digital photographers handle their own post-production work, however, and need to include allowance for this time in their package prices.

The busiest photographers can afford to outsource the post-production work or hire staff to perform it instead. In this case, however, you’ll likely still be paying a premium for the busy photographer’s valuable time. Realise your photographer also needs to account for time spent before the wedding in consultation, visiting clients and venues, doing any pre-wedding shoots and associated processing and printing, readying themselves for the day, etc. Finally, the apparent “ease” of digital photography means most photographers shoot significantly more images and spend considerably more time at weddings than during the film days. This reality actually increases the time and therefore the costs in post-production. One day of wedding photography can occupy a decent professional photographer for a full working week.

3. Digital photography is cheaper than film photography Digital storage is cheaper than film, archiving is easier, and nothing is wasted if you just delete a frame. It’s free, right? That’s only a portion of the equation.Digital technology also means that a camera’s lifespan is much shorter than film cameras of only a few years ago. Technology becomes outdated quickly, and the disposable mentality of modern manufacturing ensures that a photographer will simply purchase a new model rather than replace a worn-out shutter after 150,000+ frames.

The same can be said for high-end computer equipment required for professional digital imaging. Acquiring proper gear to do professional work requires more financial outlay than it did a few years ago. Keep in mind that for a professional, time is money, and the post-production work referenced above in number 2 requires more time of the photographer than was required in the days of film. Finally, the other costs associated with running a business don’t discriminate between digital and film: overhead, staff, insurance, pension, paid vacation. A freelancer must factor in all of these costs when charging for their services.

4. Our snaps can just be fixed in Photoshop to make them look “professional” Photoshop can indeed cover many sins. Clean up the rubbish and balance the lighting in formal portraits? Clone out the busy and distracting background elements? Open the groom’s eyes? No problem.Unfortunately, it becomes a problem when one has to apply this practice to 500 photographs (or considerably more in some cases).

Creating professional results from problematic images takes a large investment of time, when it can be accomplished at all. Hiring a professional retoucher to “fix” amateur photos can end up costing as much as hiring a professional photographer in the first place. The right professional photographer will be able to control a scene with selective framing, composition, and lighting. Professional lenses will ensure sharp, detailed images without resorting to drastic digital sharpening to create an artificially sharp look. Your images will enlarge beautifully without requiring a digital artist’s skills.

5. Competition in the photo market is fierce, so I can shop on price and expect similar results Make sure you ask lots of questions and look at actual prints and albums before you even begin to decide. A weekend snapper shooting with entry-level kit might be able to produce reasonable looking images on your backlit computer monitor, but large prints will suffer in comparison to similar images taken with professional-level gear. The cheaper photographer might not have the proper insurance to cover themselves and any staff working with them should something happen.

The cheaper photographer might not have back-up equipment to cover them in case their primary camera fails or a lens breaks. The cheaper photographer might not have an appropriate colour-calibrated monitor to ensure colour fidelity, plus proper contrast and detail in your images. The cheaper photographer might not be able to deliver your product within the time specified, if indeed they can stay in business long enough to deliver at all.Most bargain photographers underestimate the cost required to do business and stay in business. Be certain of your choice before you hand your budgeted funds over.

6. An album doesn’t really matter to me. I’ll be happy with the photos on a disc. How many of your own digital photos make it beyond the memory card? Or see any light outside of the “Photos” folder on your hard drive? Think very carefully about what your wedding photographs and the associated memories will mean to you after the day has passed. Will 4×6-inch prints from Jessops suffice? A mass-market digital book?Of course albums decisions don’t necessarily need to be made before the wedding. A professional photographer will generally store and archive your image files so they may be accessed later for enlargements and albums.

Check with your photographer, however, as some will only keep files for a specified time frame. Also, make a duplicate copy of your disc and store it in a safety deposit box, just in case. If the bargain photographer you hired can’t afford to stay in business, or the photographer suffers from some sort of catastrophic data failure or theft, you might find yourself a year from the wedding without his or her support to fall back on.

7. I don’t need an expensive wedding album. I’ll just use Jessops or Blurb. The digital album industry exploded just a short while ago, and now consumers have a dizzying array of choices for their snaps and professional photos. If you’re happy to have your wedding book match your vacation snaps in terms of build quality, design, and longevity, then take your pick. Most services have an online design application to make it easy to design and order your book.A basic wedding album doesn’t have to break the bank, however, and your photographer will know some cheaper options, even if they don’t advertise them in their own materials. Don’t forget the gift registry idea mentioned above. Ask your photographer if this is a feature they can add, and you just might be able to afford that luxury 12×18-inch 40-side leather-bound book.

Still confused on some points? Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your photographer or any other wedding professional. We are in business to provide great service, so it’s in our interest to make sure our clients are well-educated. Best of luck out there.

Wedding Photography Packages to Look Out For

Every photographer has their own special packages that they offer to their clients. However distinct each is from the other, there are certain packages that are evident in all photographers. As you make up your mind on the ideal wedding photographer to select, you need to first of all consider their packages. The most common wedding photography packages include the photographer pricing, equipment used and extra photography assistants. In case you want your wedding memories to outlive their day; you need to look out for the packages during your big day.

The photographer should always let the client choose their very own photography wedding packages. This helps the clients choose a package that is within their budget allocation and of their personal interests. In this case, one can opt to have one or more cameramen to capture their big day. In some cases, the packages provided come in with extra hairstylists, make-up artists and photographers. The more specialized a package is, the higher the clients are made to pay. Though costly, having more than one photographer helps save the day since some of the equipment may fail when most wanted. While choosing a package, one should also consider the quality of the equipment being used. High quality cameras for instance have a higher capability of giving high resolution images than those of lower qualities.

Photo albums are a very important aspect of the wedding photography packages. Instead of having a photo album that is identical to all the rest, choosing photographers who can custom design yours is the best. Most designers allow the clients to take a look at, and discuss about the designs before they are printed out. The images can then be printed on different types of papers like linen, canvas or metallic. The size of the photos is also dependent on one’s preference. Other than just having the photos in hardcopy, an extra package can be offered whereby the images are saved on a DVD and plays on a slideshow and with soft music playing on the background. The rates charged for each of these packages vary. The more distinguished and sophisticated the package is, the higher the rates being charged.

After-wedding photography packages are also offered for the newly weds to their honeymoon destination. The photographers take charge of the transport cost in case the area is within their proximity. If the area is out of reach, the client is made to take responsibility of the travel costs as well as the accommodation and meals of the photographers.

Having an expensive package doesn’t always guarantee the best results. Since different packages are offered by different photographers, the best thing to do would be to come up with your own package and ask the photographer to abide by it. Another way of getting the best package at a fair price is by first researching on different packages before settling for one. Referrals from friends who had a package similar to yours would help cut down the costs of having to go through hundreds of packages being offered by different photographers too.

Getting Started in Wedding Photography

Introduction

Is your photography equipment gathering dust because your desire to be creative is gathering dust as well? Don’t let it! By sticking to some basics, and doing your homework, wedding photography can be a very stimulating and rewarding pastime. People are always getting married, so the opportunities for photographing weddings – and making some cash to boot – are there if you want to inject some life into your hobby.

Wedding Photography Has Challenges!

I’m not silly enough to suggest shooting weddings is a walk in the park. But it is worth pursuing for the artistic and financial rewards. Think of any challenge that makes your senses tingle – mountain climbing, acting in a live play, catching that 12 pound trout with your fly-fishing gear…. it’s stimulating and rewarding. And because these pursuits require preparation, practice, and immediate focus (pun not intended), they require a direct cooperation of your intellect and creativity. Sounds like serious hobby material to me!

This was my reason for going pro. Hobby-level photography just wasn’t cutting the mustard, so by advancing my skills, equipment, and experience, I can still have fun with my favourite pastime, yet increase the rewards ten-fold.

What is “Pro”?

The definition suffers various interpretations, but “going pro” has more to do with acting professionally than it does with owning $20,000 in camera equipment. And you’re pretty well there if 1) your equipment is reliable, 2) you have backups, 3) you can take sharp photos that are well-composed, and 4) you maintain a professional’s attitude that includes friendly respect for your client. There’s more to it than that, but it shouldn’t be shrouded with mystique, snobbery, or elitism – you have the tools. Going pro doesn’t mean you’re primary income is from photography, but rather it refers to your approach, mindset, and maturity. So – want to be a full or part-time pro? Dust off your camera – and creativity – and start your research.

As Always: the Basics

The major elements to consider when shooting a wedding are no different than any other subject matter: lighting, film choice if you’re not digital yet, and equipment. Emphasis on preparation is needed for weddings for obvious reasons, so, cover the basics by doing the following:

-a recon visit to the chapel/church/synagogue/whatever 2 weeks before and knock off a number of exposures.

-have 2 camera bodies at your disposal, and preferably the same for lenses and flash

-install fresh batteries in all equipment

-make sure you have more memory cards or film than contracted

-hire an assistant to re-load your film camera if you’re still shooting in this medium

-have a signed contract with the couple which covers the checklist of photos to be shot by you, and various disclaimers (see the reference section below)

-beg/borrow/steal/buy a 28-200 or 28-300 zoom. (You’ll love me for this).

So, that’s most of it. A wedding isn’t a formal portrait sitting, so although posing is involved, keep in mind every shot isn’t gonna be a keeper.

Equipment

I assume that if you’ve read up to this point, you’ve got some good equipment, with hopefully more than one camera body. Duplicating your equipment is a good idea if you’re stuff is between consumer and “pro-sumer” level. A Mamiya or Hassablad medium format with a Metz flash will likely not fail you, but that’s the stuff of a full-time pro who has lotsa $$$ for equipment. Your gear may be cheaper than this, yet will create images comparable to the more expensive – BUT but it doesn’t have the lasting power. Anything mechanical suffers from what’s called MTBF: Mean Time Before Failure – it’s an engineering term that basically separates the high-end well-designed gear from the cheaper grades… Don’t argue – I experienced this principle on the very first wedding I shot. Please duplicate all your equipment.

Have your camera bodies cleaned every year or so. More often if you shoot a lot. Dust and dirt create havoc in the best equipment, because every time you change lens or film roll, environmental contaminants (dust and flying particles being the worst…) will find a home in the nooks and crannies of your camera. The expensive high-end cameras that Nikon and Canon make have amazing dust and moisture resistance… as long as they are closed shut!

Also, I can remember instances where not having complete command over my equipment caused hiccups in the photo shoot. Whether it’s a manual flash for which you can’t remember the gain number, or a piece of failed equipment that you have a backup for at home (like a sync cord!), excuses don’t cut it. If this is what you want to do, then practice enough to gain the knowledge and respect for your inventory: you need to master every technical aspect of your equipment.

Remember I mentioned using a zoom? It’s a life-saver if the officiator gets crabby when you get too close for his or her liking. You can be 12 feet away, yet zoom in on the ring exchange, the “kiss”, etc. The added bonus is that people’s faces look more natural when shot a distance away, because you’re avoiding what’s called perspective distortion. Too close, and noses look bigger and more prominent.

Do Your Research

Find the wording for a contract that suits you. Include disclaimers for failed equipment, botch-ups at the lab, etc, stating that you’ll refund on a pro-rated scale if not all was lost. Also, get paid before-hand. Don’t do the job unless they agree with this arrangement. Pre-plan with the couple using a detailed checklist; there are many examples to be found on the Internet. Agree on the various family shots and portaits, as well as the standard ceremony pictures. It’s well worth doing a dry-run before the wedding. By dry-run, I mean travelling to the location, finding a parking spot, and take a few exposures of a human subject at various distances. Then you’re familiar with the environment, and will feel prepared on the big day. You won’t need to do this as you gain more experience.

If you’re shooting film, brand and type is a personal choice. Print film, when processed and printed at a good lab, will include colour compensation, which is great for removing colour-cast produced by light sources such as fluorescent bulbs. And the bride’s wedding dress will be pure white. I’ve read on the net that Fuji film adds a green hue… I’ve yet to see it! Their Reala film is sharp, with nice skin tones. Other films to look at are mentioned in the reference section below; only use pro film stored in a refrigerator.

Let me emphasise the importance of using a professional lab for developing and printing the photos… so many one-hour shops and chain stores do not maintain the quality control they’re supposed to. The general public seem to be satisfied with grainy, out-of-focus prints, mainly because it’s status-quo I guess. After getting introduced to the quality product of a pro lab, I’ve never gone back… VERY sharp pictures, far less grain, nice colour balance, etc. My subjective experience is that Fuji film printed on Fuji paper is awesome. Now that I’m digital, my proof albums are printed by uploading the high-res photos to my favourite local lab. Most labs now have a web interface for uploading photos for printing, and are often ready in a couple business days.

Another good exercise is to look at others’ wedding albums to get ideas of where to stand for the important shots. Remember – you’re the pro, so don’t worry too much about being conspicuous during the ceremony. Research the net for “wedding photography”… you’ll get tens of thousands of hits, most with example photos.

Practice

Try and get invited to as many weddings as possible! Bring your camera equipment, and you’ll find that the shots you take may not be covered by the “official” photographer. Give your prints (or copies of…) to the couple, and you may be surprised at the results. Word will get around, or at least you’ll have a reference or two when you take the plunge.

Assisting an experienced photographer is a good way to get your feet wet as well, although you may not get paid. I didn’t start this way, but I occasionally see ads here and there from people offering to assist. Give it a shot if it interests you at all.

Once you feel prepared, create a web site and advertise. Look on the Internet for other examples, and if you’re not web-savy, have a friend do it for you, or hire someone. I’ve garnered enough business from my own web site to justify it’s effort and expense for the next long while! Plus it’s another creative outlet if you’re at all slanted towards graphic design and creative writing.

Pricing

Typically, wedding packages are offered at three levels: basic, deluxe, and premium. The first is for the budget-conscious, and can range anywhere from $400 to $1,000. This will cover the basics of the ceremony, plus some before and after shots, candids, preparation, etc – all at the prime location, all taking up somewhere under 250 exposures. Level 2: $800 to $1,200 or $1,500 will generally include pre-ceremony shooting of the bride and groom getting ready (at home or the chapel), bridesmaids, etc, and some of the reception. It will also cover portraits during that time. Running time: 2 to 4 hours, up to 350 exposures. These figures are very general, and some wedding photographers charge way more, and shoot tones of exposures.

The big kahoonah is the whole day: pre-ceremony, ceremony, and formal portraits including travel to some outdoor park with luscious greenery, many shots of relatives, etc. Could very well include portable studio lighting. Then you’re at the reception till the couple leaves… that could be 10 o’clock in the evening! Be prepared to shoot up to 400 exposures or more. The price for such a day of shooting can start from around $1,500 and go as high as three to five thousand, depending on a number of variables such as whether there’s a second shooter, custom leather album, etc.

The majority of wedding photographers fall within these price boundaries, but there are also exceptions… this is just a rough guide. Some photographers (such as myself) simply charge by the hour.

The Big Day

Show up early so you can get candids of people arriving, getting prepared… or perhaps even the bride getting ready at her home. The more expensive packages will involve a lot of pre and post wedding shots, so again, whatever is contracted, have enough film or memory cards available. Just before the bride arrives, check your remaining exposures (film or memory card), and swap it out if you’re getting close to capacity… this is where having an assistant is invaluable, handing you another rig so your coverage is seamless.

I won’t go into every shot you SHOULD take; there’s lots of other places to find that info. I’m just covering the high points; the important things to have prepared, and to remember. This is HER big day, and you’re answerable to the bride for the results. It’s important the couple see a professional doing his job, covering all the important shots, and producing an end-product they’ll rave about.

If your day includes shooting the reception, stay alert, low, (don’t drink…) and take tons of candids of people smiling – using that zoom I mentioned! The reception may be where the relatives are photographed; remember – you’ve checked the place out, right? So you know where people will be standing for the various mother/father/grandparent/sibling shots.

Oh – and by now, you might need new batteries in your flash unit. You DID bring extras, right?!?

Shoot away like mad, but make sure you get the couple leaving. This’ll be the last shot in the…

Wedding Album

There are as many approaches to this part as there are weddings you’ll shoot. But a good formula to start with is to offer an album with all the good shots, start to finish, as part of the over-all package. For film shooters, the negatives are sometimes handed over, but some times kept. Professional studios will not release the negs, as they stand to make significant income on reprints for the in-laws, etc. Another good reason for this is creative control – the client only sees your best work, making you look better, so – the approach it up to you. For digital shooters, provide a burned CD-ROM of the photos, less any garbage shots.

A tip here… provide something extra over and above the agreement as a gift to the couple… giving is better than receiving. I usually print a ready-to-frame 13 x 19 enlargement for the couple.

You may ask – “Should I shoot digital?”

Well, DUH! This article was written a few years ago, long before I began shooting digital. The answer to the question is an emphatic “yes!”. A good DLSR made by Canon or Nikon is a perfect match for wedding photography, as the turn-around time is decreased significantly. I simply offer a burned CD-ROM of all prepped images to my client as part of the package. By prepped, I mean adjusted for color, contrast, highlight/shadow, sharpness, and any cropping or straightening that may be required. And do shoot in RAW format, as it gives you a couple more stops of wiggle room both ways. I picked up a 4gb Extreme II card on eBay for less than $60.00, so there’s no reason to not shoot RAW. With my 8 megapixel camera, I can shoot over 400 exposures!

As for the wedding album, use a reputable lab that offers uploading over the web, or just bring them in on CD-ROM. The lab I currently use only charges 22 cents for a 4X6, and they can turn around a 300-exposure job in a couple of business days.

Conclusion

Why go through the bother and expense it takes to photograph weddings? The thrill. It took my favorite pastime to another level, and although I’m not athletic, the challenge and the experience must be similar to going “extreme”! If this sounds interesting to you at all, then do your research, get prepared, practice, hang a shingle, and make history. You’ll love it.

Jim.