Beginners Wedding photo questions

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by levi green, Feb 23, 2004.

  1. Hello All,

    I just tonight had a friend ask me if I would be interested in
    shooting his wedding in July ('04). I think the prime factor in
    asking me is that they didn't care for the $1200 price tag of a
    professional, and I am the only one going that has any real
    interest/experience/illusion of grandure in photography. Bearing in
    mind that I am an intermediate amature (looking to some day be a
    decent photographer), with no wedding, and little portrait photography
    experience, here are my questions:

    1) First and foremost, as much as I would like this experience, should
    I pass this on to a pro? I know this is an important occasion and
    have doubts I could do it justice.

    2) Is a single (maybe two if you count my Pentax K-1000) 35mm camera
    good enough to shoot this type of occasion? I just recently purchased
    a Nikon N80 and a Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8. Do I need a longer lens in
    addition to this? I was considering getting a Sigma 70-200 f/2.8,
    would this round things out? I've heard that portrait photos do
    better with a longer lens as is slightens imperfections.

    3) I'm presuming most of the photos will be in color (though most of
    my experience is in B&W), should I shoot on slide film, negative film,
    ISO 50 (or is 100 or higher enough), brand of film, about how many
    rolls (for an amature)? Should I stick to B&W, I doubt it?

    4) Is this hopeless?

    5) If the answer to 4 was "not necessarily", what kind of filters
    should I aquire? From the few wedding pictures I've seen, it appears
    that a diffusion filter was used often.

    6) Any suggestions for good books on this subject?

    7) Posing? I have some ideas... but I would rather try some creative
    in additon to generic... any suggestions?


    I would _love_ to shoot this for them. They are a great couple and
    wouldn't want to ruin things for them by shooting not a single good
    photo, but would love to produce "the moment" for them. I have a lot
    of doubts given the event, but think (minus the specific experience,
    big minus) that I could potentially do a good job.

    I doubt my experience thus far, and equipment is adequate for this
    "assignment". Should I ask them, more importantly, what they are
    looking for in photos and compare that to what I conservitaly think I
    can provide?

    How do "Pro" wedding photographers start? Should I ask a "Pro" out of
    the phonebook if I could shoot along side them (or simply observe) a
    couple of times to see if I have a standing chance, though this may
    not provide enough time to arrange a good photographer if I dont think
    I would do well?

    Do I pass the buck given the respect I have for this couple, or do I
    take into account their goals and shoot (no pun intended) for it?

    Need advice,

  2. EricM

    EricM Planet Eric

    "Do I pass the buck given the respect I have for this couple, or do I take into account their goals and shoot (no pun intended) for it?"

    I think hiring someone that's walked this path before is a good idea Levi. But still participate along side with some NPS, NPH, and T400CN
  3. It sounds like your friends either don't have the money, or really haven't considered what
    goes into photographing a wedding. $1,200. is not a lot (depending on the area), and
    probably is a basic package. The average end cost is often higher than that, especially
    when re-prints are taken into consideration.

    You can calculate what expense will be incurred. figure 10 to 15 rolls (probably more with
    a beginner) of 36 exposure film (mixed ISO 160, 400 color and some B&W) processing the
    negs, proofing the rolls @ 4X6 (at a good reliable lab, not Wall-Mart), then selecting
    images to print, paying for around 30 to 40 8X10s for the album = ? in your area. Then
    there are batteries to pay for, and in your case, maybe a flash bracket, off-camera TTL
    cord and a diffuser for the flash.

    Only you know your skill level and depth of confidence. At a wedding, the events unfold
    relentlessly, and you have to be ready for each one. When the bride walks down the aisle
    with her dad, you usually only have one chance to get the shot. Same for a number of
    other events at the average wedding. Your amount of "Keepers" has to be a lot higher than
    just 2 to 4 per roll. I know really good professional photographers who won't shoot a
    wedding because of the pressure. But others thrive on it.

    If you do take on the responsibility, take it dead seriously and start reading up on it and
    practicing now. The learning curve is pretty steep for just doing a friend a favor. But, hey,
    that's how I got started shooting weddings, so you never know. You may take to it like a
    duck to water.

    Best of luck.
  4. Levi,

    I would suggest being fully open with your fears/doubts to the couple and explain to them your experience. If they have seen some of your work and are still comfortable then all presure if off of you. Then go and learn, have fun and, more than likely, you will come away with invaluable experience and a good start at building your portfolo if you decide to pursue wedding photography. I agree with others here, the $1200.00 price tag is a low price for a full service wedding package. If they cant see or understand this, then they simply don't consider "Photography" in general a high priority. This tells me that their expectations for you to Perform exceptionally well isn't high; so i see a good oportunity for you to experience this field with minimal stress. You will need to put some thought into your "Syle". I myself shoot mostly a photojournalistic style and try to capture all those essential spontanious moments. You will need to do a little research and discover those "Must" shots...the formals, the kiss, cutting of the cake, walking down the isle...etc. Begin now to develope your game plan. Your equipment questions will really depend on your style. Decide your style and then begin building your equipment to make your style a reality. kindest Regards, Jammey Church
  5. You would benefit greatly from shooting a wedding for practice if you could manage to get yourself invited to one before July.

    If your friend understands that you are inexperienced and is still willing to pay for your services, then go for it. But don't under estimate the value of your services. It could easily cost you a couple of humdred dollars to do the job and it is a lot of work, so be sure you are paid fairly for your time. I got about tripple my cost for my first paid shoot and I thought that was fair, but realised why wedding photographers charge what they do (and what I do now) - a good job is worth it.

    You'll need a longer lens for portraits. Your zoom will work well for general coverage of the event, but it's just not long enough for flattering portraits. If you like Sigma, I think there is an 'EX' series 105mm prime - that would be my choice. If you do more portrait work later you will love this lens. I use canon primes and the 100mm gets lots of use. You'll need a good flash - preferrably on a bracket so you keep the flash above the lens and seperated a few extra inches, and a reliable backup is a must.

    Good luck!
  6. Consider the possibility that friends can become former friends if you are the sole wedding photographer and you screw up the shoot.
    I suggest you search the archive for ideas and guidance on wedding shoots - this came up recently.
    That you heard a longer lens is useful "... that portrait photos do better with a longer lens as is slightens imperfections" is troubling. Have you not experienced this? Perhaps you should be up front with your friends regarding experience in regards like this.
    All that said, I have one bit of advice - find one or more weddings BEFORE the big day and discreetly practice. Don't train on your friends.
  7. For some reason weddings are the first thing that begginers want to shoot,and the first thing that seasoned pros want to stop shooting.They require good instinctive camera handling skills,a good eye,lots of shooting skill,and people handling skills.I have seen well intentioned would be pros,shoot dozens of weddings and come away with complete sh-t.I have also seen first timers,come away with some great shots(around 50%).This can go either way depending on the shooters skills and ability.Being able to shoot 100% great shots over an 8 hour day,takes years of practice.If the couple were very poor,and wanted barely passable images.I would say go for it.If the couple wants decent images to look back on,hire a pro.Would you attempt to cater a wedding with modest kitchen skills?Then why would you even consider shooting a wedding?
  8. I would say get out to your local studios and volunteer as a assistant. It's very
    important that you work in this capacity for at least several weddings before
    you try to shoot one on your own. If you can do this, you will pick up some
    technique about posing, dealing with people (especially the family members),
    whats expected & the time flow throughout the day. It can be difficult to do
    what you need to do to have professional results, so a little experience would
    help you. If you can't do this, and if you're friends have high expectations, you
    should pass on the job. (you might be able to find a pro to shoot it and hand
    over the film, then you could shoot over his shoulder to learn a bit)
  9. fju


    a lot of pro wedding photographers are guys who are gadget freaks but don't have a better eye than someone else. your equipment should suffice. all you really need is something longer than 100mm for the ceremony and formal portraits of the couple. for the reception you need something close to a 35mm lens and that's it. if you do a good job of taking pictures at parties then you'll be fine at a wedding.

    shoot 400 speed negative film and have extra batteries. plan on shooting as much film as you can afford (at least 6 rolls). regardless of how much you shoot, the bride will always wish you had shot more. you can develop and get proof prints and then hand everything over to them and let them decide what to make enlargements of.

    the most important thing is, (and many pros are guilty of this) you have to remembder that this is a celebration, a party, not a photo shoot. aside from the formal portraits, try to go as unnoticed as possible. candid shots will be the most cherished so don't just go around having everyone pose for you, although you can do a little of this too. since you have a nikon n80, i'd consider renting a couple of nikon primes, maybe a 35 and a 135.
  10. More free advice.
    I missed the obvious - SHOOT THE REHEARSAL. It will help(1) to know what is going on on the wedding day, (2) you have some backup photos.
    Shoot the preparations! Bride getting dressed, parents stressing. Take pics.
    A photographer at my wedding shot 1000 pics in 8 hours.
    Budget for that.
    You had better have a spare camera.
    Hand out disposable cams to guests as backup:)
  11. Levi,
    I found myself in the same situation 18 months ago. Two friends whom I introduced were getting married. One was an art buddy and the other a travel buddy. First, they asked me to do announcements and then, the bride's portraits. I had no experience with either and am really shy about my photography (ie. self-critical).
    I was very open with them about all of the concerns you mentioned and we kept some very good communication going on...almost.
    We made it through the announcements and bridal's (because it was under controlled conditions), but I still didn't feel confident in doing the whole event of the wedding and reception, etc. I told them to hire a professional and assumed they did. The groom later asked if I wouldn't at least just come around and take some candids.
    "Sure," I said, and showed up on the day of the wedding and found no professional. I was kind of upset just because I was caught off guard (I felt obligated to do it all) but I did it and they love their pictures.
    They gave me about $500 above my costs (10 rolls of NPS and TCN 400 plus a few batteries) and I was very happy for that. I haven't done a wedding since.
    Oh yeah, I did borrow another camera body as a back up and used that while the best man took mine and caught some very intimate shots of close family whom I could not approach.
    Bottom line....Communication. Be sure you both know what NOT to expect and you'll be satisfied at worst but most likely pleasently surprised.
  12. Thanks All for the advice.

    Yeah, the $1200 is not for a full setup. This basically covers the key moments, and just negatives. Nothing beyond that as far as I understand, no reception either. No, they don't have an aweful lot of money to spend, and I dont think photography is extremely high on their list.

    I don't have much experience beyond the artsy black and white abstract stuff, so no, I dont have first hand experience with a telephoto and portraits and their affect. But it will be something on my short list of things to learn and get experience with. I doubt wedding or portrait photography is something I will want to do professionally, but this was an opportunity that perked my ears.

    I think I am going to stick with Sigma EX series lenses for the moment. I dont really have to budget to get much more than that. I think I may splurge at some point for a nice 100ish Nikon prime. Until I get to the semi-pro-amature status I think Sigma best fits my price to performance ratio. Im pretty suprised I just dropped $650 for a new lens and camera already, and it looks like Im going to drop another $700 in the coming months for another lens and decent Nikon flash with more to come later Im sure.

    I would love to find a studio/photographer that would let me do a mini-apprenticeship type of deal. I think this is something I need anyway and will start to persue that as an option. So if anyone out there happens to be a photographer in the greater Denver/Boulder area and would be willing, let me know. :)

    I'll probably be spending the majority of my time until July working on portraits and trying to caputre candids, rather than the nature photography up in the mountains that I was planning.

    At this point, with the level of experience and comfort I have, I think that I will offer to shoot the stuff that the pro wont be doing. More of the days story rather than the event. Taking candids, capturing the feeling/stress/excitment/joy of the day. Ill probably stick to black and white, leaving any color stuff for the pro. After looking at some books on the subject, I think this may be the better end of the deal anyway. Since the pro wont be shooting it regardless, I doubt the expectations from me will be much more than providing some fun "snapshots", but I hope to deliver something much more (important) than that. Ill probably ask the pro if I could shadow him throughout parts of the day and see if I can produce the same quality photos that they come up with as a test of my abilities. The best I can ask for is for my friend to be upset with me at the end of the deal because I didn't accept the assingment and he was happy with my pictures.

    Its funny that someone mentioned catering... I even offered to make the cake, but warned him that it may be lopsided, dry and lumpy... he laughed.

    Thanks again,

  13. Levi-- After taking into account prep time, film handling, bookkeeping, film costs, equipment costs and wear and tear, and all the other elements and costs that go into shooting a wedding, $1,200 comes out to something near minimum wage, if that.

    Have a back-up camera. Have a back-up flash. Have several of each. Go to every wedding you can, whether you are a guest or not, and look at what the photographer is doing. Get several books on the subject. Beg local pro wedding shooters to let you carry their gear (I know one studio manager for a top shooter who actually supplemented his income by making assistants PAY for the priviledge--with the photographer's blessing--and he had to turn away takers). I'm certain classes in wedding photography are probably available at your local community college or recreation department, so try to take one there. Get someone to assist you on the wedding day, as you'll need it.

    The most important advice I can give you equipment-wise is to get a top-class flash bracket that allows the camera to pivot between horizontal and vertical while still keeping the flash directly over the lens (this eliminates the dreaded "side shadow" and reduces red-eye) and get a supplementary battery that will have your flash recycling faster. Do not scrimp on those two, and you will be halfway home.

    -Bill C.
  14. Levi i also was in the same predicament as you were. A couple who were good friends of mine asked me to do there wedding. I would consider myself an amateur and up until that point had only been interested in landscape photography. I was nervous as hell and thought about advising them to go to a pro but the other side of it was they decided to have the wedding very quickly and so probably couldnt get one available. So i took the plunge and enjoyed every minute of it, the pictures came out great and now i have more bookings as a result of the pictures been seen by other people in these peoples famlies and circle of friends . So my advice is just do it. I have to say though i did do a lot of research first of all and found this site and its members extremely informative, helpful and supportive which was cool.

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