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.

Why Your Wedding Photography Initial Consultation is So Important

You are recently engaged and embarking on the hard yards of planning a wedding. The Service and Reception have been booked, and you come to the Photography. This is where the nightmare starts!

Wedding Photography is a mine field – so many products to chose from, so many photographers to chose from. Where do you start?

The internet is the place of choice these days. The thing to remember with your Google search is that the businesses on the first page are not necessarily there due to being the best – sometimes they are there as they pay big bucks to Google to be there. Getting a good page on Google is big business – and more competitive than the actual photography market!!! Moreover, it might pay to have a look further down the list rather than focusing on the first couple of pages – you might find better value for money this way.

Next step – getting a ball park figure. As a consumer, we understand the need to have some idea of pricing, so as to not waste the time of either party. Therefore, we like to know and work with a ball park figure. As business owners, many photographers are happy to give a ball park figure, however, are reluctant to send a price list via email. The reason for this is due to the fact that generally, price lists do not cover the detail of the products that are available. Also, when you buy a car, would you even consider without first having a look at the physical product? Photography is the same. To see and feel a physical product is vastly different to seeing it online. Hence, get a ball park figure, and if this is within your budget, make an appointment.

The next question is “How many photographers do I see?” Well, you have the choice on being overwhelmed on one or two occasions, or on lots of occasions. See, the thing with Wedding Photography is the number of choices. Knowing what you want is a good place to start when going to see a photographer.

You tell them what you want, and let them give you a quote. Doing the research online is a good way to find out what products are available. When you go to see your photographer, have a list of questions ready.

It is human nature to want to compare. However, if when you go to see the first photographer, the following is true, then consider if you REALLY need to confuse the issue by seeing another one-You LOVE the style and quality of photography, You LOVE the album design concept, You have a good rapport with the photographer (make sure it is the photographer you will have on the day!!!) and The package is within your budget -Makes sense hey!

During the initial consultation, the wedding photographer will provide you with loads of information. There are so many products available, and so many variations on each product, it becomes very overwhelming.

The photographer will be trying to get an idea of your needs by asking a series of questions. At the same time, you will begin to build rapport with the photographer. It is very important that you feel comfortable with the photographer, as they will be with you the whole day of the most important day of your life.

You are also going to spend a lot of time with them after the wedding. If the energy between the two of you does not work, then move on! Allow at LEAST 1-1.5 hours for the Initial Consultation, and remember to take a list of questions.

Don’t skip the initial wedding photography consultation.

Traditional Vs Modern Wedding Photography

Traditional photography, also called classic photography involves posing for a photograph in a sit-still manner. It has been used in weddings for many years. To most people, traditional photography is an old-fashioned method of photography because the wedding pictures are not spontaneous. On the other hand, a modern photographer concentrates on producing artistic pictures where a person can freely relax. Traditional photography requires a person to set up the camera each time one wants to take a picture, which is quite tiresome and monotonous. A person should make wedding photos look artistic while covering the different wedding sessions. A traditional wedding photographer may produce pictures, which are organized photo shoots. Traditional photography bases its quality on sharpness and lighting. This makes it of poorer quality than the modern wedding photography. Modern cameras capture clearer pictures due to the improved screens. A wedding photographer who uses the traditional cameras has to focus on a still image before taking the picture.

If the image is moving, the wedding photos may produce blurred images because the cameras cannot capture moving images. Wedding pictures taken by the use of a modern camera are much clearer and the wedding camera operator does not have to wait for the couple to stand still. The modern wedding photography should appear candid because modern cameras can produce clear wedding pictures, even of a moving object. The styles expected with each type of wedding photography is quite different; traditional photography concentrates on portrait production while modern photography concentrates on producing candid images.

Mississauga wedding photographers tend to be creative based on their visual perceptions. The results usually are emotional and astounding pictures, which depict the essence of a wedding. When a person views the albums, one may feel as if they are reading a storybook as opposed to looking at pictures taken the traditional way. Graphic designs work well with modern photography due to their compatibility in terms of technological development. Mississauga wedding photographers take wedding pictures in unique venues such as beside a river or a lake to diversify the backgrounds.

A modern wedding photographer does not have any strict rules to follow because the photography solely depends on their ability to take outstanding pictorials during wedding ceremonies. The only things they have to observe include lighting, framing and the angle at which they take the pictures. Wedding photos taken in a traditional setting are suitable for instances where a person wants to pose with the bride of when a person wants the photographer to direct the entire wedding. A Mississauga wedding photographer may advise a person to have a traditional wedding photography done in cases where one intends to pose with family and friends.

One may also contact a Mississauga wedding photographer to take modern wedding pictures in cases where the bride and groom want to obtain candid pictures. Production of wedding photos, either way should portray a memorable event. Wedding pictures that are not clear may disappoint the bride and groom. Overall, the couple should decide whether they want traditional or modern photography. A good wedding photographer will be able to turn the event into a memorable occasion either way.

Wedding Photography Prices

The cost of a professional wedding photographer is often a source of amazement to couples sorting their weddings out. In this brief article I want to give some thought to the reasons behind wedding photography prices.

The cheapest way to get photos of your wedding is to ask a friend of relative to bring their camera and snap away. With today’s modern cameras even a compact can do a reasonable job “given enough light”. So your wedding photography price could be zero.

Fine – let us see what could go wrong. Memory cards – unless your appointed friend is very prepared, his camera and cards will run out of memory before the big day is over. Well before – even before your vows. That is if the cameras battery does not give out first! Now, assuming your appointed friend has brought plenty of batteries and memory cards, what else could go wrong? What other reason could I give you to up the wedding photography price?

That little detail I mentioned earlier – “given enough light”. Now, weddings are very complex affairs, taking place in a variety of situations from inside a dark church, in a doorway of an anteroom, suddenly out in bright sunlight or pouring rain. It may then move to a reception venue partially lit by neon, tungsten and halogen or worse still the latest energy saving lamps. You get the picture – sorry – idea.

A modern compact is just not designed to deal with this range of situations. Yes, you could dig deep in the menus of that camera and optimise the device for each situation, to a degree, but by the time the switch is made the moment is lost. It is interesting to realise that some of the most emotional moments in a wedding, those very moments that you want to capture, occur during a location change. For example, entering the church (bright to dark) leaving the church to receive confetti (dark to bright) getting into the car (bright to dark again) being greeted at the reception by friends as they arrive (bright to dark) and so on. Ok, why not just leave that compact camera on auto and let the built in flash take the strain? Well apart from the fact that the batteries will go really quickly, a compact camera’s flash will create very ugly photography. Red-eye, bleached out wedding dress with dark shadows all round, blurred movement from lack of shutter speed control – the list is long.

Still not convinced that your London wedding photography should have a price?

Ok, let us say you are really lucky and you have a friend with a big digital SLR camera. And he wants to help you and do your wedding. Great – wedding photography price – zero! Ok, I know you can see all this coming now but let me pull that one to shreds too.

Apart from the memory cards and battery risks ( yes these still apt to big cameras) what lenses does your friend carry? And why would you care? Well if you hired a professional wedding photographer you would not need to care. It would all be handled for you. But we are learning here, right? So – lenses.

Different situations in a wedding may require different angles if view. From wide and ultra wide (whole room shots, groups, etc) to narrow and long (candid shots of guests at a distance, close-ups of details like shoes or wedding cake decorations) many different views come into play at a wedding. OK you could get a lens to do all these ranges, but that flexibility comes at a price. Firstly they are expensive (about GBP 1,500 for a decent wide zoom) and secondly, no zoom that can be lifted by one person could handle low light without a flash.

Starting to sound like your friend might not have this equipment? Let us explore the wedding photographers’ kit bag for a minute, and see how he justifies his wedding photography price.

Kit:
2 professional camera bodies capable of working under rain.
A backup body just in case.
A variety of lenses, 2 main ones already mounted on the 2 bodies.
An organised ample stock of numbered memory cards.
Pre-charged replacement batteries of the correct type for each body.
Powerful flash units for very very dark situations – flash units that do not cause red eye, and that re-charge instantly.
Depending on the photographer’s style he may also carry:
Tripod
Lighting
Reflectors

Finally, he is also insured so should someone get clonked by a lens or trip on a camera bag, all is covered.

Oh one more thing – a car with sat nav and backup sat nav.

My final persuasive argument to justify the wedding photography price is this: experience. Weddings are very complex, very fast and very un-repeatable. It is a long series of once only chances to catch intense moments of emotion that you want to remember forever. A professional wedding photographer knows where to be, when to be there, what position to be in and many many other little tricks including how to relax people, disappear when appropriate, re-appear by magic when appropriate, and finally – remain completely sober as a judge throughout.