Combating the 400.00 weddings

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by stephen_kinosh, Jan 18, 2010.

  1. Have you noticed a downturn in business. More couples looking for ehs 500.00 weddings? Have you changed your marketing to keep your bookings consistant? If so, what are you doing different?
  2. coincidence?
  3. I disagree. I find the more I raise my prices, the more brides book me. For $500 I would expect very little in terms of quality.
  4. A guy at a camera store told me that he was partly to blame for the market downturn. He said we would not believe the number of $2,000 cameras he sells to uncle Bob so that he can shoot the wedding rather than hiring a fancy photographer.
    So Missy, when do you shoot your first $20,000 wedding? :) JJ
  5. there will always be those who are looking for $500 photographers, and there will always be those who are looking for higher end ones..
    It's just a matter of which market you rather go with.
  6. Take better photos than those who offer $400.00 weddings.
    I'm very busy.
    Maybe this old photography called "Classical" is something some like.
  7. The lower end of the market is always very competitive. That is where all the price shoppers are. They are more interested in price versus the higher end that pays more attention to quality and style. Or so I've heard.
  8. I just started my business and feel I have to start low on my prices in order just to get work. I'm certainly going to raise my prices in the future but for now I feel I have no choice.
  9. I usually ask the people what their price range is. If it's $500 fo something I usually tell them about craigslist.
  10. No, actually having one of my best years and may take on a few associates. $500 shooters and the brides who contract their high-megapixel snapshots aren't part of my reality. It's all a matter of taking the red pill, Neo.
  11. Up until 2 months ago I was one of those $400 photographers. My rates have increased, but I'm still under $1k for 8 hours. What's great is...I'm still getting plenty of work, and I have to do less to make the same amount.
    It took me a long time to decide that the finished product I give to clients is worth more than $500 for 6 hours.
  12. Where I live, there is a lot of $500 and under wedding photographer. If you want to find them, just look them up Craiglist. It had some what hurt and de-value my work. Just recently, a bride wanted 6 hours of coverage and the high res. DVD. Her budget, $600.00. Did I mentioned it is an out of town wedding?
    I kindly declined the offer. She replied, "I am having a simple wedding." Her wedding maybe simple but she does not understand the post process, wear and tear on the equiptment and me.
  13. It's well known that a $2,000 camera will take pictures that are four times as good as a $500 camera.

    I wonder how much this has to do with the economy -- the trend sems to have started a long time back.

    Surely the emergence of simple digital photography has encouraged Uncle Bob. But there have always been Uncle Bobs, right?

    The NYT had a piece several months back about how people have become comfortable with (my phrasing) low quality. The cellphone/MP3 player/can opener/camera does a so-so job of everything, but it's "good enough." It's sort of the opposite of the 1970s and the advent of the three-head quad sound reel-to-reel, or the expensive SLR. Why should prospective brides be immune form this trend?
  14. The fact that (some, not all) established photographers are still doing okay, or even doing well, is incidental and antidotal information ... and perhaps not indicative of what is actually happening. Plus, it can vary widely depending on geographical location. Just because I am doing fine doesn't mean I think everyone is.
    However, I do not think the $500. wedding is the issue here. There are always going to be clients in a low price situation ... perhaps a lot more now with the huge economic down-turn ... so the amount of shooters doing those is naturally going to increase to meet the demand. Perfect for the occasional shooter with that $1,500."Swiss Knife" digital kit that doesn't rely on this work to make a living.
    Frankly, "good enough" has generally become more prevalent in our society as people adjust to the realities of the new economic world they live in. Just look around you for proof of this. Economic compromise is everywhere you look ... and weddings are not immune.
    Where the issue may lie is in some the regular bread-and-butter wedding work ... where clients are cutting back on those mid-range packages that fill out a year for many wedding photographers ... or are a staple for middle price range shooters. So in turn, they try to move up to cover the short fall and put pressure on the upper-end price range.
    It's very odd these days ... where a couple who clearly have a preference for my work but just can't make the stretch, and then compromises over $300. ... while another signs for my biggest package without blinking using very odd criteria (in this case because they like my work AND because I use a Leica, having heard that was the best camera? ... a first for me, but who am I to argue with him ... LOL!).
    Very odd times indeed.
  15. It's interesting how people perceive value based on price. If someone charges more for something, then clearly that "must" be a better product, right? I once had a dean of a law school tell me that he was thinking about having the school raise tuition because there were students who thought the school must not have been very good because it was modestly priced. This sounded crazy to me. Law students should be skeptical thinkers--to assume something is better based on price is a logical fallacy (at least a decent part of the time). Drinking water is free compared to Cognac, but drinking more of the former and less of the latter will keep your liver much happier.
    As an interesting experiment, a new shooter might consider charging an insanely high price for his work and market it only to the rich. He could be the equivalent of a Louis Vuitton of photography, even though his work might actually be mediocre. People will just assume he's an artistic genius based on the price.
    I think the lesson for experienced photographers is that they actually lose by trying to compete with Uncle Bob and Johnny High School with a DSLR. Jack up your prices, work less, make more, and focus on selling the fact that you are an artiste!
  16. As a musician, I do not compete with those who would service a wedding for $400 or $500. I set my prices based on the expertise of the musicians and their time included in the package. I tell people who were "hoping to pay less" that I am sure a high-school group would be willing to play for less and offer to give them the names of some local high school music teachers.
    Also, something that musicians have that I'm unaware of in the photography world is the existence of a union. We can debate the pros/cons of unions, but I'd rather not. The point is that there's a larger body of people who act in unity to protect the interests of the individual. This is important in cases where a client might try to take advantage of a situation.
    In any case, I'm not suggesting that you form a union - that's not really practical in every situation. But what I would do, and what I have done from time to time, is call my friends in town - the ones I really respect (not the uncle bobs and those types) - and we talk about the current situation. We discuss whether raising rates is practical in the economy, and even compare products and services. That way, no matter who gets a job, everyone is on somewhat equal footing.
    My experience in this tells me that my colleagues appreciate being in on the know and that everyone gets an opportunity to win. There's enough business for everyone, you just have to know how to work it.
    Also - as a side note, I do not shoot weddings at all. Not professionally, not as someone's friend with a camera. On the other hand, I have been a violinist since I was very young and a gigging musician for more than half of my life.
  17. Hello - Interestingly enough, I was writing an article looking at it from the 'amateur' point of view. This is what I perceive as the differences and would share with anyone considering the same. Perhaps it will be useful to you. Cheers!
    So you saw an associate’s photographs on Facebook or another photo sharing web site and you are thinking about asking them to shoot your next event or even your wedding? Or perhaps a well intentioned amateur photographer friend has told you that they can shoot your next event for you at what appears to be a ‘big savings’.
    Well, before you both agree to do something that may not turn out the way you anticipate, let’s examine the differences between an amateur photographer and a professional. Are there real differences between the equipment and approach? And what do you get for the price these professionals are asking? What are your risks if you go the amateur route?
    While I’m sure that the amateur photographer is honored that you liked their images well enough to ask them for their help, and they certainly appreciate the opportunity to gain more experience, make sure you understand why professionals are typically worth every penny they charge and more. I believe you will realize, like with anything, there is no such thing as free lunch; you get exactly what you pay for.
    So if it is a choice between an amateur photographer friend and Uncle Joe who owns a ‘point and shoot’ because you simply have no budget at all for your next event, then yes, perhaps going the amateur route makes sense for you.
    But if you want images like you’ve seen on the web and want to enjoy your next event without concern for risk and interruption due to the photographer fumbling around, I suggest you find a professional and tell them your budget. They can make it work for you; I am sure of that.
    I’ll outline for you below just a few of the major difference between an amateur and a professional photographer. The three major categories that come to mind are Equipment (camera sensor, strobe lighting and modifiers, and lenses), Assistants, and Post Production.
    I’ll also help you understand the investment these professionals make in both equipment and time to deliver their results so that you can see why they are worth what they are suggesting you pay and what the typical amateur has invested in by comparison. If nothing else, you can then ask both the amateur and professional questions to help you determine the qualifications and experience of both to determine what is right for you.
    Reliable, high resolution images - Professional ‘Full Frame’ cameras vs Amateur ‘aps-c’ frame sized camera sensors
    $600 vs $5,000+ (@$2,500 each)
    Full time, professional event and wedding photographers typically have invested ‘full frame’ image sensor camera setups and keep reinvesting in their equipment so that they have the most up to date, functional equipment possible to assure a successful outcome for you. They also typically have multiple compatible full frame cameras so that they have backup for these crucial events. Though the megapixel rating can appear to be similar between the two types of cameras, the detail / resolution is very different in the final images since the sensor size is physically larger in the full frame cameras and able to capture more detail for greater resolution. This is especially true in later, post production, cropped images where small areas of image are magnified even greater.
    Camera bodies with APS-C or cropped sensors owned by the typically amateur have a resolution that is sufficient for most images viewed via web or even printed to 8x10 size. However, if there is a need to highly crop / magnify an image, or print an image beyond 8x10, the resolution will be far less clear. The differences between these two sensors also increases dramatically in low light conditions in favor of full framed sensors. And should the amateur photographer’s camera fail at the event, typically they lack a backup camera to allow for the same lens selection and quality.
    Low light – ISO Settings
    The ISO ratings on these same professional cameras bodies is typically higher (can be as high as 25,000 though realistically up to 6400 may be usable). This typically means they can capture images in lower light with no or little image ‘noise’. This high ISO rating is especially helpful when you don’t want to or can’t use strobe flash to augment the ambient lighting conditions because of the particular situation or environmental limitations.
    In contrast, the ISO ratings of amateur grade APS-C cameras may go as high as 1600 or 3200, and can be ‘noisy’ at times. This means photographers using these cameras will have to either use flash more frequently or will need to compromise on the quality of light or image in low light situations or forego the image altogether.

    Strobe lighting – TTL functionality and remote triggers
    ($300 vs $900+)
    Full time event and wedding photographers have invested in higher quality strobe lighting that works in support of their cameras. They have highly dependable remote triggers that work in concert with these strobes and can span long distances (300’+) and support TTL camera functionality. This means they can place strobes ‘off camera’ for the best lighting effect, while the flash and the camera electronics communicate to measure the amount of light reflecting back to the camera sensor to adjust the camera settings automatically. And with these same remote triggers, the strobe flashes can be located in advance strategically and fired remotely with the same TTL support.
    Most amateurs will use either built in camera flash or have limited off camera flash capabilities. The on camera flash units produce stark, unflattering ‘mug shot’ lighting effects that are common to these limited lighting configurations because the flash is direct and head-on to the subjects with limited range and coverage, so are of limited use at best. If these same amateur photographers do have flash strobes that can be fired remotely, they still may not support TTL functionality and the camera and / or flash will have to be adjusted manually, which causes critical missed shots in these fast moving event environments or many annoying flash photos will need to be taken in order to ‘get it right’ in more static environments. Their remote triggers typically are lower grade (100’ range or less) and can misfire more frequently.
    Light modifiers –
    ($150 vs $400+)
    Professionals invest in light modifiers and equipment to further enhance the lighting quality and control the light in a given environment. They will have all the necessary light stands, grips and umbrellas to support flash photography for portrait/group shots. They also typically have soft boxes and light rings that allow quality light conditions in the most demanding indoor and outdoor environments.
    Amateurs may have limited light modifying equipment in form of light stands, but typically require a much more controlled environment, that cannot stand up to much wind (due to umbrellas) and require designated areas they can setup in advance and control in order to get acceptable lighting and background.
    Lenses – aperture settings
    ($1,750 vs $7,000+)
    Professionals spend thousands and thousands of dollars on high quality lenses. They invest not only in varying focal lengths, but also in the ‘speed’ of the lenses to accommodate low, natural light shooting when possible. They also have ‘backup’ lenses in case of failure of these electronic devices.
    At a minimum, the pro will require at least four lenses and their associated capabilities to cover a typical event. By way of an example, this may consist of a 10-22 wide angle zoom, an 18-60 medium zoom and a 70-200 long range zoom as well as least one ‘normal’ 50mm prime with macro capabilities. They will also possess many ‘prime’ lenses for their low light quality and high resolution and backup. All of these lenses will also be ‘fast’ sporting ‘f stops’ from 1.4 to 2.8.
    This allows full coverage of each situation encountered such as long distances, (from back of church, indoor, outdoor guest shooting) wide angle, (interior of churches / buildings, and large groups) and mid range, (portraits of the people) as well as extreme close-up ‘details’ of rings, hands, and other small items requiring a ‘macro’ mode lens.
    Amateurs may lack a sufficient range of focal lengths to support the various situations at weddings and other events that range from up close, detail work to longer range telescopic photos. They will lack backup of these highly electronic devices that can fail unexpectedly and most of their lenses will have limited capabilities in low light with f stops more in the f4 and higher category. This means fewer quality shots in low light and fewer shots over all since lighting conditions and motion of subjects will restrict the feasible range of these lenses and their resulting images.
    Assistants – attending to the details
    Priceless! (As the commercial goes)
    Professionals almost always have experienced assistants for important events providing them and you with, you guessed it, assistance ! They will help with equipment and help direct you and your guests, the subjects, and arrange the environment to make it easier on everyone and allow the photographer to focus on the shot and getting the job done more quickly and easily for you.
    Amateurs typically will try and do it all themselves and this can result in shots lacking careful arrangement, confusion for the subject participants in terms of following photographer directions and typically requiring significantly more time in order to capture the image adding frustration on an already stressful day.

    Post Production – Time and experience involved
    $300 vs. $1,700 + post production time @ 40 hours +
    To begin with, the professional typically owns the necessary image software, computer, hard drives, monitors and color matching equipment and has a relationship with an existing lab to develop and deliver electronic and printed photos and final albums. They also have the necessary training and experience to not only arrive at an accurately rendered image, but also to add artistic flair to transform something from simply an image to a cherish photograph.
    Your ultimate satisfaction with the final photographs is typically related directly to the quality of the post production work. Beyond the equipment and the photographers ‘eye’ is the creativity and quality of the post production work performed on your behalf. This post production work is a function of both time and talent.
    The time required to capture 1,000 to 3,000 raw images at a special event spanning 3-12 hours pales in comparison to the time required to manage, review, select, edit and produce 10-20% of these images. Typically, this function can easily be budgeted at a 3 to 1 ratio for an experienced professional. This means that the professional, or their post production assistant(s), can easily spend 36 hours or more in post production to simply arrive at a final, accurately rendered photo. (i.e. white balance, cropping, sharpening, selective blur, touch up, color adjustment etc). After that, they will apply their creative talents and more time to achieve a particular ‘look’ that is so often desired by customers today.
    The amateur, by contrast, may have a computer and a copy of Photoshop, but may not be experienced with the more advanced features of the software or have the time or inclination to add the important artistic qualities to the image. They may not be able to devote the time to the project after the shooting is over, or if they do, it may take several months for them to devote sufficient time to getting you your images. And this still may leave you with the responsibility to find a printer and buy the necessary prints without any guarantees of quality in the process.
    In the end, you may receive a selection of accurately rendered images, but you are not likely to receive an artistic renditions of the event that compare to what you have seen on your favorite websites. Those beautiful web images on that professional photographers site caught your attention for a reason: the professional that made them, knows how to do it well ; they are different and compelling.

    The introduction of highly capable amateur equipment has led to some confusion about the similarities and differences between the amateur photographer and the professional photographer in terms of quality and cost.
    At first, it may appear that the investment in a professional photographer and their services is unreasonable while viewing the photographs on the website of other amateur photographer associates.
    However, when you examine the quality, risk, time investment and your satisfaction in what is ultimately the artistic expression of photography, you will see that the increased equipment quality and experience of a professional photographer is really more cost effectively than ever. A skilled professional photographer can now deliver unique and precious photographs of your next event in ways not previously possible.
    Amateur Investment:
    Camera body $ 600
    Lighting and modifiers $ 450
    Lenses $ 1,75 0
    Post Production Equipment $ 300
    Assistant $ NA
    Post Product Work/Art $ NA
    Printed Images / Albums $ NA
    Professional Investment:
    Camera body $ 5,000+
    Lighting and modifiers $ 1,300+
    Lenses $ 7,000+
    Post Production Equipment $ 1,700
    Assistant $ 120 (12 hours @ $10/hour+ travel)
    Post Product Work/Art $ 800 + (40 hours @ $20/hour)
    Printed Images / Albums $ Based on your options
  18. "Have you noticed a downturn in business. More couples looking for ehs 500.00 weddings?"
    I have noticed a downturn in business since 2008, but I don't think it has much to do with cheap wedding photographers. More folks are considering inexpensive, DIY weddings, but what this means is they don't hire a photographer at all. Everyone has a camera and will be snapping away, and there is always at least one photo enthusiast friend around with fancy DSLR. Why pay $500 for mediocre pics when you can get it for free?
    This year I've had a lot more last minute calls from brides in the few weeks before the wedding. They all said something along the lines of "We were just going to have a friend do it, but then I visited your website..." In the last quarter I picked up 6 weddings.
    I've had several odd calls from concerned Moms. They say their kids don't want to hire a photographer, but they are trying to talk them into it. The parents will pay for me and everything, but the bride and/or groom insists on no pro photographer.
    I don't worry about trying to educate folks on why they need a pro. If they can't spot the difference in my portfolio with their eyeballs no amount of yakking is likely to change their minds.
  19. So Missy, when do you shoot your first $20,000 wedding? :) JJ
    lol I wish!
    Professional Investment:
    Camera body $ 5,000+
    I disagree!! Jessica Claire shoots with a 5d. You can get a used one for $1100. Jasmine Star shoots with a MK2, those are $2200.
  20. oops..i see that I lost my parenthesis after the $5,000. It originally read: Camera body $ 5,000+ (2@$2500 each). Certainly prices come down, but at issue is that compared with a $600 investment for the amateur, the pro invests more heavily and continuously in order to assure the quality and reliability of the images for the client.
  21. You can you compete on price, as many have noted. If many couples are happy with $500 wedding shoots... or if $500 shooters can deliver enough to satisfy many couples... that is just the way that it is. The higher end pros will need to compete harder for the rest of the couples. It is certainly happening in wedding cakes and flowers. The good people will do OK, the low end will do OK, the average and less able pros may have a harder time and be squeezed by the $500 shooters.
  22. I will disagree about APS-C cameras vs. full frame. Full frame is great, but there are many things APS-C can do just as well.
    I know of some excellent professional wedding photographers who use APS-C cameras on a regular basis (for one of those photographers it is their only format) because they simply don't need the narrow DoF for everything. A shot can be well executed with an APS-C camera and come out equally as good as a full frame camera could deliver for the same shot - provided the shot does not rely on the visual effects that a full frame camera provides.
    Also, APS-C gives extra reach you can't get from a full frame sensor without a much larger lens. For instance, the 70-200 f/2.8 IS gives you 320mm at f/2.8 with IS, so you don't have any reason to carry around a 300mm lens. Although it's not a necessity for most cases, it could be useful for a ceremony with mobility restrictions. The 7D is a very capable APS-C camera that captures as much or more detail than the original 5D classic (which to this day outresolves the Nikon D700 and D3 at low ISOs), and with a comparable or better noise level at similar ISO settings. Even if it isn't the pinnacle of current high ISO noise compared to the 5D II, D700 or D3/s, it's still much better than anything preceding it and is sufficient 99% of the time. Wedding photographers had to cope with far less in the past.
    I also question the accuracy of TTL-supported remote triggering with distances of 300' or greater. Although, as of 2009, radiopoppers and pocketwizard's ControlTL do offer this, the majority of professional photographers I've seen still use radio triggers that don't provide TTL support, such as the original pocketwizards thru plus II, elinchrom skyports, or alienbees cybersyncs; these all have ranges from 150' to 1500' and are quite reliable (pocketwizards being the least reliable, by reports from pro photogs). And the photographers still do a great job with them. You must be referring to the very inexpensive Cactus V2 triggers and related varieties that are sold on ebay, in which case I agree that they are unreliable and poor quality.
  23. I agree Joey. Slapping an f1.2 lens on an APS-C body will still provide a very narrow DOF. Not a huge difference between that and FF. The opposite is true against FF....with my 7D, I never have soft edges and corners that some of my FF fellow photographers get. I hate mushy edges and corners....and I never get them on APS-C.
    And yes, used 5d bodies are going for about $1000.
    Oh, and to the OP....the easiest way to combat the $400 photographers is to charge $1500 and up.
  24. Great post by Mr. Harris. As an amateur landscape photographer, I am sometimes asked to do this sort of thing and turn it down since I not only lack the equipment and the talent and the experience, but the inclination as well. I have a lot of respect for people who take on this sort of high pressure work. And I suspect in addition to the above, there is also the skill you have all developed in applied psychology, getting the trust of the people in the wedding, finding the right shots, blending into background to let the events happen and so on. Even when the amateur had been taking pictures for years, none of my experience taking landscapes prepares me for this sort of thing any more than being an amateur painter would prepare you for sculpting.
    And as you say, people with NO experience in any kind of photography usually are quick to underestimate the time involved sitting on the computer trying to post process (and my post processing is nowhere near as complex as a wedding would be). I'd say you get what you pay for.
  25. It's not just that the f/1.2 lens will still provide narrow DoF on an APS-C body, but in fact some photos don't require a narrower DoF in order to be technically excellent. In my opinion, that's more challenging than having a narrow DoF because you have to make all the elements harmonious instead of being able to blur them away.
    I agree about soft corners, they are much more common with full frame sensors - however most shots don't need the corners to be sharp because the point of interest is not usually in the corner.
  26. @Steve Harris:
    It's great that you took the time to write an article like that, but I think dwelling on equipment and technical details is the wrong thing to do.
    You're incorrect about APS-C versus full-frame cameras. Please stop spreading the full-frame FUD. There are plenty of professionals using the smaller, lighter cameras and there are APS-C bodies built ruggedly enough for professional use. There are plenty of wealthy amateurs wandering around with full-frame bodies, f/1.2 primes and f/2.8 zooms -- just check the Canon or Nikon forums for a daily post from someone who wants blow $5k on a system.
    If your article is aimed at non-photographers the amount of technical detail will just make people's eyes glaze over. You should focus on key points. Capability of equipment is likely to be much better when using a professional photographer. They will have backup gear for if something goes wrong. A professional will have experience of finding the best shots and knowing when and what to shoot. Post production to make images pop. Liability insurance, etc etc. These are the points that you should emphasize; I think multiple paragraphs of gear-head stuff that only photographers will understand misses the mark.
  27. It's misleading to imply that full frame bodies have no advantage over APS-C sensor bodies though. Yes there are some great professional APS-C sensor bodies, but there's a reason that Nikon bowed to the pressure to produce a full frame camera. All things being equal (which they seldom are) larger sensors tend to give you lower noise and are capable of higher effective resolution. At a certain point, there are only so many pixels you can cram into any given size sensor. And a full frame, professional body with 20+ MP might not be a guarantee of your photographer's talent, but in the hands of the right person, that resolution just might give him or her some cropping options he might not have with an otherwise excellent APS-C sensor camera. So it's just as wrong to say it doesn't matter as it is to say that it's a sure sign of a professional right? It seems a reasonable point to me.
  28. We discuss whether raising rates is practical in the economy, and even compare products and services. That way, no matter who gets a job, everyone is on somewhat equal footing.​
    Nice idea but collaborating to keep a similar pricing structure is illegal here in the U.S.
  29. Steve H.--well done but I doubt you will get your target audience to read it. It needs to be much shorter and much more general, with the points made succinctly.
    Stephen's last question, in the meantime, has gone unanswered. Obviously, if one has not been affected by the $500 photographers, one would not change one's marketing, but if one has, I'd like to hear the answer.
    I have noticed a downturn because I work the middle market, but I don't compete with the $500 photographers. Most of my clients came to me as referrals, so most already know I charge more than $500. I also shoot for a local wedding studio, so between the two, I manage. I haven't changed my marketing.
  30. I think this forum would be better as combating overpriced weddings IMHO
  31. Also I do truly believe it is the ability of the photographer and not the price range at all!!
  32. Hi Joey Allen ...
    You wrote ... "... Also, APS-C gives extra reach you can't get from a full frame sensor without a much larger lens. For instance, the 70-200 f/2.8 IS gives you 320mm at f/2.8 with IS , so you don't have any reason to carry around a 300mm lens ..."
    Sorry to disappoint you but a 200mm lens remains a 200mm lens whether it's on a FF camera or a crop. A FF lens on a crop body simply gives you a different FOV (Field of View). A 200mm does not physically become a 320mm lens (or whatever the crop factor is) because it's on a crop camera.
  33. Howdy!
    Sorry to disappoint you but a 200mm lens remains a 200mm lens whether it's on a FF camera or a crop. A FF lens on a crop body simply gives you a different FOV (Field of View). A 200mm does not physically become a 320mm lens (or whatever the crop factor is) because it's on a crop camera.​
    On full frame cameras, the pixels are bigger and less dense. Cropped frame cameras have more reach because the pixels are smaller and packed more tightly together. Therefore, a 200 mm lens has a greater magnifying power (and potentially more ability to resolve detail) on a 12 megapixel cropped frame than it does on a 12 megapixel full frame.
    On the other paw, this is also the reason why full frame cameras exhibit less noise.
  34. In case no one's noticed, there are quite a few well-qualified and talented commercial photographers who've waved better-paying clients goodbye in this tremendous economic meltdown. Some of them would no doubt be delighted to shoot weddings and burn a disc to hand off at the end of the reception for $500 clear. Many places, that's considered pretty good money these days for an afternoon's work especially if your baby needs shoes. Shrewd brides may also be very aware of this market opportunity (It's a buyer's market for a lot of goods and services right now. Priced used medium format gear lately?)
  35. I think the equipment part is overstated above. In wedding photography, people skills are the most important. Photography skills and vision are important, too, but people skills and caring about the subject are crucial. You can make a variety of equipment work for you if you have the know-how.
    That said, a full-frame camera does work better in low light not only because of the better signal-to-noise ratio, but also because a 12 MP full-frame sensor samples the image projected by the lens at a lower spatial frequency than a corresponding 12 MP DX/APS camera, leading to higher detail contrast and better image quality especially evident at wide apertures. And almost all fast lenses (with a handful of exceptions in the major manufacturer lineups) are designed for full-frame coverage. True that corners in many wide angle images are soft but for people photography this is rarely an issue and there are lenses available which do not share this problem, it's just a question of how much money you want to spend. On the other hand if you use lenses designed for DX/APS on DX/APS typically the corner problems return, as most people are expected not to care about the corners and these are largely lenses and cameras intended for less discerning use. But if you use and are confident with elegant use of flash, certainly small sensor cameras can be used with great results in wedding photography. As for DOF, full frame users always have the option of using a higher ISO and smaller aperture to compensate for the intrinsically shallower DOF, leading to comparable image quality and DOF; whereas the small sensor user does not have comparable shallow DOF options (because the really fast lenses have low MTF wide open at high frequencies required by these sensors) but at 4x6 print size anything can work ;-)
  36. Hi Paul Thomas ...
    You wrote "... On full frame cameras, the pixels are bigger and less dense. Cropped frame cameras have more reach because the pixels are smaller and packed more tightly together. Therefore, a 200 mm lens has a greater magnifying power (and potentially more ability to resolve detail) on a 12 megapixel cropped frame than it does on a 12 megapixel full frame ..."
    I've never had that explained in that manner, it makes sense but somehow I'm not grasping that this provides "more reach".
    The sensor size on a FF camera is 24mm x36mm. The sensor size on a 50D is 22.3mm x 14.9mm. Looking through an EF lens, the 50D will see the center 22.3 x 14.9 mm of the 24 x 36 mm that the EF lens is capable of providing. The lens does bring you CLOSER to the subject because it's on a crop camera.
    Are we saying the same thing????
  37. Equipment doesn't make a professional photographer, nor an assistant. While I have a significant investment in the tools I use, people hire me because they like my photos and trust I will do the job well, wether I show up with a Diana or a M3. I don't always use an assistant, either.
    Just about anyone can take a few good snaps at a wedding. It's not that hard. Couples, on their day, have generally spent more time and money to make themselves look good than they ever have before. They're in a great mood. If you have any talent at all, it's easy to get some great snaps. What separates a pro from an amateur is the quantity of quality photographs a couple gets. It's not dependent on equipment or assistants, even though having good ones certainly helps. Experience definitely plays a part, too.
    The intellectual side of the digital world is still developing. Photography is now as immediate as drawing- you take a picture and there it is on the LCD. If something is wrong, you can change it right away. As a result, it has become much easier to learn the craft. In addition, in the past 2 years cheap digital camera have really upped the bar- you can get good results from them. I think these two circumstances have worked against pros in general. No longer are they unique darkroom alchemists and everyone has a decent, inexpensive digital camera these days. Add to this the devaluation of intellectual property that has been going on in the past decade (why should you pay for music when you can download it for free?) and it only makes sense that the wedding market would go high and low with an ever- decreasing middle area.
    I think it's as bad an idea to compete with others based on the equipment you use as it is to compete on price. It should be about the photographs you want to take.
  38. If I may provide a more modest concept. That while there may be more $500 photographers for weddings out there, There are absolutely no clients anywhere whatsoever who, when looking for a photographer are going into it prepared to pay north of $3000,$5000, $10000, who then say.
    "oh gee" You can do it for $500? and I can print them myself?
    These are not the same clients, never have been, never will be.
    I propose that if you are losing work to a $500 photographer, that you never had that work in the first place. It's not clients being cheap, it's a budget conscious bride/groom who simply don't have the money to pay, they aren't hiding it as if by magic all the $500 photographers disappear they will suddenly cough up another 3-5 grand for their wedding.
    What I might say is more to blame, or to be fair in part, is the inflation of the idea that a bride must have every token, every chatchkie, and every scaled down element to make it look like one of the big magazine celebrity weddings. I think as a working professional, and someone who loves taking wedding pictures, it is in our interest communally, to show people that simple is not just good, it's art of the highest order. If I may digress, when did we see the art from the Renaissance really take off? When the Bruges Brothers starting painting everyday folk doing everyday things. The public identified with that.
    so......We should show really good work that is about people, talk to our clients, even the ones we don't ultimately sign, about how special and singular they are no matter what they surround themselves with on their wedding day, because the best pictures from their day are going to be the ones we are seeing the day's emotions pass in front of thier eyes.. IHMO
  39. The lens does bring you CLOSER to the subject because it's on a crop camera.
    No. The closeness is determined by the distance between the photographer and the subject. The image from the small sensor camera is magnified more when the print is made (i.e. ratio of print dimension vs. sensor dimension is greater), so you can use a shorter lens for a given shot (which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what you're trying to do and available lenses).
  40. Ok then, I am dropping my price to 499 to keep in biz.
    ...and giving unadjusted jpgs straight from the camera on a CD/DVD. Great.
    Seriously though, what it likely means is that you and I will either adjust to meet the new market, or we will fade away as we become obsolete. Talent will only get you so far in a poor economy. Even those who can afford it will begin to expect more for less eventually.
    If enough people value what you sell to compete for your services, your price can increase. If not, well perhaps they feel they can get the same quality/quantity elsewhere for a better deal and your price will have to drop.
    I have not adjusted my price the last two seasons, up or down. Must be that I fall in that gray area of "good, but not great". Not enough people asking that I feel I can raise prices (not that I really want to either), but enough to keep me happy with what I am booking so far.
    In a typical year I will have booked most of what I shoot by the end of the previous year. Not this year though, more than half of my bookings to date came in the past month and I anticipate another 30% will come in the next two months (I hope). That is late for my norm, so it seems people are holding back at least on the timing.
  41. While I'm not a wedding photographer, I get the feeling I read a form of this post every month or so. I think the reality is that the wedding market settles where it settles, so if people value the product they'll pay more than $500.
    Of course, I think much of the problem is that people don't really understand what they're missing. When a "photograph" usually means a mugshot-like party snap from a P&S, I think people are generally conditioned not to expect much and therefore not value it much. Like many things, I suspect its a matter of education and recalibration of expectations, which is ultimately a marketing problem. That is, if you can teach the customer to value the product and see the value in the product, then you can induce them to pay for it. My sense is that this often is not the case. For example, for kicks I shot a friend of mine's 40th birthday party the other day, the guests of whom are all in the top brackets of education, income, wealth, etc., including a recent Oscar winner. But I guarantee that with a few exceptions (including the Oscar winner), most don't really value quality photographic product much more than crappy Facebook party snaps, mostly because they haven't been conditioned to. The guest of honor himself was surprised at the quality of the shots, although of course he thought it must have been because of the camera technology, rather than my use of bounce flash and a few hours of PP in Lightroom. But alas...
    And of course the other problem is amateurs intruding in, almost fecklessly offering their services. A friend of a friend had some headshots done by a sometime photographer/something else whose shots are only OK, but her website offers her as a wedding photographer as well, despite no experience, as if it would be a fun experiment for all. I found that quite disturbing. But I guess when your core product is cheap headshots, then your target customer is not that discerning.
  42. ...interesting to me is the fact that these issues transcend photography. In a world that is continually becoming 'flatter' as the book said, it is happening to almost every market sector. I am a Exec. VP of Sales in ERP Software, and the issues are actually quite similar. This discussion helps all of us think more clearly about our desired clients, and that is always good for business :)
  43. It's misleading to imply that full frame bodies have no advantage over APS-C sensor bodies though.
    I fully admit that full-frame sensors have advantages over crop sensor cameras, advantages that you outlined very well. I said "please stop spreading FUD" because I object to the assertion that crop sensor cameras imply someone is not a professional.
    The way this thread has been taken over with discussion of sensor formats, field of view, compression/distance, etc, shows you just how easily us photo nerds like to get into a techie discussion. This kind of thing really has no place in trying to convince the buying public that they need a pro photographer instead of an amateur. Steve Harris put a lot of time into his article, there's some great content there, and I really just wanted to give a little nudge towards the non-camera-nerd aspects of his piece. Good editing is as important in writing as it is in photography.
  44. Daniel - I found your post insightful and accurate. Must say I agree with everything you've said, and it reflects my understanding and experience too.
  45. I know of some excellent professional wedding photographers who use APS-C cameras on a regular basis (for one of those photographers it is their only format)
    E.g., the fully pro-capable Canon 7D. Brand new at $1700/body. Fully pro.
  46. Or my current flavor, the D300s.
  47. I know of some excellent professional wedding photographers who use APS-C cameras on a regular basis (for one of those photographers it is their only format)

    One of the masters of wedding photography uses a rebel....or at least he did when shooting the wedding that was showing in the video
  48. Moderator Note: While the discussion of APS vs. full frame sensors is interesting, it is perhaps, best for another thread, if one of you who is interested in the topic would like to post a question. Let's keep this thread about marketing and the $500 wedding photographer.
  49. Throughout this whole debate I noticed that everyone seems to be doing digital. I guess at $500. it is not possible to use real cameras and film, etc.
    It is true, however, that few clients, if any, understand or recognize what photography is (composition, lighting, etc.) having been exposed to the $1.99 portrait specials by a real Wal-Mart photographer. And that sad fact has opened up the field to many self-proclaimed "professionals" who produce their credentials on their home printer (not referring in any way to anyone who uses this website).
    It is regrettable to note that, at one time, a wedding photographer insisted on medium format, usually Hasselblad, with the best lenses to produce the highest quality work. When it was discovered that the public didn't know any better, the camera mfg.ers started selling point and shoots over SLRs and the "IFPO-weekend-photographer-crowd" started using 35mm doing the $500. wedding. Then it went from that to digital.
    The golden age of everything is over. Maybe the next step is to set up a webcam at the back of the church and let a Chinese photographer do the wedding via the web for a $29.95 wedding package special (sort of like how they want to let an India based doctor diagnose patients in the U.S. over the web).
  50. "It's interesting how people perceive value based on price."
    You pay for what you get mate.
    I do driving instructing for a living in australia, and those that charge peanuts money for training such as $45/hr will give you just that: sit at the gutter, talk only and not working on the client.
    I charge $60/hr like most of the respectable schools and transform a novice into a competent and confident driver.
    Same in photography. I doubt that those charging $400 will be running around and make art out of their work.
    Pay $400 get cheap and nasty photos.
  51. Moving past the 100% semantic comments about "APS-C does not give you a longer focal length" thing that so many people love to bring up - including myself when it has been said by others before....and, incidentally, the difference is the filling of the frame and the number of pixels involved with the subject, which are both absolutely relevant and undisputable...
    I noticed a downturn in business in the second half of 2009, but I am 99% sure that was related to my own advertisements being less effective. Since I changed the wording and photos on my ads, business has returned - within a month I quadrupled the number of bookings I had for 2010, and they are all solid jobs, mostly full days.
    Before I revised my advertisements, I was genuinely believing that the competition of budget photographers was infringing on my business. And, it's possible that it was...but that depended on presentation, and when my presentation improved business returned.
    For the record, I am only a little more expensive than the $400 photographer. Are my photos nasty? Sure, compared to Ed Pingol, Tony Hoffer, Jerry Ghionis, Christian Oth, etc...but they're much more expensive than me, they use assistants, have better cameras, use more powerful lighting than I do (nice to have an assistant lug the lights around), and lots more experience, skill and knowledge. I don't feel like I'm competing with them, because they outclass me so much.
    If your work and services provided are genuinely much better than the $400 photographer, you shouldn't have anything to worry about.
    Budget work cycles in and out: people go back and forth between the inexpensive option. Each time someone has a bad experience with a cheap photographer, it generates a ripple effect and encourages others to spend more on photography. Then people forget, take the cheap route, and somebody gets burned again. Back and forth it goes...
  52. Welcome to the consequences of the digital revolution. Everything digital places low cost high technology in the hands of everyone to benefit from - not just the professional elite. It has changed the face of music, digital studios are in all budding musicians homes, the internet provides the exposure and the downloads, CD's are dead, film is dead etc etc. The internet and the overall consumer market is flooded with digital images that can be accessed easily, photography is now in the hands of anyone who can press a button and operate a computer mouse, so get over it and adapt or die. Anyone can now take digital images, download them, email them etc. All that remains for the professional is atitude, manners, relating, visual perception, composition - everything in fact film demanded.
  53. Hi Ilkka ...
    The lens does bring you CLOSER to the subject because it's on a crop camera.
    No. The closeness is determined by the distance between the photographer and the subject. The image from the small sensor camera is magnified more when the print is made (i.e. ratio of print dimension vs. sensor dimension is greater), so you can use a shorter lens for a given shot (which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what you're trying to do and available lenses).
    Of course you're correct. I meant to write the lens does NOT bring you CLOSER ... thanks for picking that up.
  54. The thread started as a discussion on the wedding market and became a battle over technology. Your battle with the $400.00 dollar wedding photographer is not unlike the recent surge of computer professionals. As an old system administrator I experienced the same situation. All of a sudden every fly by night collage and trade school made bored housewives and high school grads system administrators in 12 weeks by cram coursing them past the tests. It blasted our jobs for about 2 years until the industry realized they had no talent for the work.
    Welcome to your digital 12 week photographers. With time they will go away as I haven’t seen the camera yet that gives you a signal when the lighting, composition, and mood of the photo is correct. After they get sued a couple of times for botching the photos for a wedding there done. The prints are the performance and it dose not take too many bad notes to kill a bad band. You just need to live through it. Being a little cynical maybe you could go for repeat business as the couple is probably writing there pre-nup agreements while selecting you as the photographer. You could give them a 25% discount on their second marriages. Kind of get three shoots out of one (I know that’s bad on me). It will come back around.
  55. There are a lot more people with $500 in the bank, and a limited few with $5000.
    Just sayin'.
  56. Maybe your in the wrong price bracket? It might sound silly but maybe try raising your prices so that you are no longer competing with the $500 photographer.
    Even though the clients might be looking for the right budget, they will notice quality. So the question is, is your quality better than the $500 photographers that you feel are taking all the business.
    Its just basic business, if someone is selling something better or equal, but cheaper...that is where the people will go.
  57. (Not sure how the tangental tech discussion helps answer the OP's original question).
    How does one combat the "lower priced spread" in a down economy? Not necessarily against a $400. photographer, but perhaps against a less established photographer charging less for a similar level of service (i.e., hours and deliverables).
    Forgive the ramblings of a confirmed "Mad Man" with 30+ years of marketing experience for a lot of brands you probably use yourself (at one time or another : -)
    In advertising and marketing this issue is a classic case of competitive positioning and tangible support.

    The first indicator of your positioning in the market place is pricing/value. For most clients, you are what your pricing says you are. The question is, how do you establish a sense of value at your price position? One common practice in advertising is to perform as good or better than the more expensive product and prove it ... not to directly compete with the more expensive product, but instead to take the perceptual lead in your own price category. For example, Olay markets some of their skin care products as out-performing the most exotic and expensive ones in the world costing up to 20X as much ... with support coming from 3rd party credible comparisons. The target is NOT users of the exotic products, it is users of Olay's direct price competitors.
    Obviously talent enters into the equation ... however, clients often place a pretty wide swath of talent levels into their shopping cart. While talent is part of your positioning and can be a strong differentiator, the differences may be more apparent to you than your target audience. This can be mitigated by presentation and accolades. To use an extreme example, being selected as one of the top 10 wedding photographers obviously has an impact on client perceptions of your talent verses a competitor ... even if the actual difference is not obvious to you.
    I would say that for the established mid-priced wedding photographer, one way to combat less established shooters nipping at your heels would be to evoke consistency. In advertising this is a technique of creating competitive doubt. Most clients shop more than one photographer before making up their mind. They are not experts at buying wedding photography and you have an opportunity to set the criteria for choice. Part of your "value perception" can be performance at a consistently reliable level of talent, confidence, and trustworthiness. While most anyone that gets into this business gets lucky from time-to-time and produces a killer shot ... it is no guarantee that any given client will get shots like that for themselves. If you present a wide selection of weddings which feature one great shot after another, for a wide variety of clients, and diplomatically make a point of that attribute ... you start setting one of the criteria for the client's decision making process. Less established photographers, or those starting out, have a more difficult time presenting that attribute.
    Go with your strengths and exploit your competitor's weaknesses. Think about the experience you do have that a less experienced shooter would be hard pressed to present ... and leverage it.
    There is more, but that's enough for now.

  58. Having a lower priced competitor goes back many many decades. One had the same gripe except the number was lower; ie 250 bucks; 150 bucks, 100 bucks; 75 bucks; 50 bucks.
    The Uncle Bob factor is old too.

    The competitor may also be just not so rigid; maybe the B&G want a video; a CD, images for their website; facebook. You might be clinging to the past and dream thatr you hold an iron clad control over the images.

    A casual competitor has less overhead; they often do not understand why one really needs backup cameras and strobes. The 400 gig look like pure profit to them.

    One has a down economy; folks are looking for ways to save money.

    *****You need to sell why your services are better.

    There were 40 and 50 buck wedding shooters when I shoot for a wedding chap in Indiana. We used MF for candids and 4x5 for formals. Our prices were higher. The newer technology then was 35mm; goobers on the low end used 35mm and then delivered a lower quality image.

    One can takes this thread and just divide by prices by 2, 3, 5, 10 etc and get the same whine as in the past.
    Rangefinder magazine back in the 1973/1974 down turn had an article about low end wedding shooters.
    My pro neighbor in Detroit was bitching about this back in the 1958 downturn too.
  59. The part Marc says about consistency - that's absolutely my own issue as well. In my opinion, I can put out a consistently acceptable product right now (nothing is really bad), but it is not consistently spectacular or excellent. I have gotten a few of those really great shots, but they have been accidents and I can't duplicate the experience. I know it comes down to knowledge and skill, and I'm not there yet - that's why I don't charge the big bucks. If I could get those killer shots every time, I would move myself up into another price bracket.

    I'm currently only one step above the $400 bracket, and will stay there until I get good enough to deserve otherwise.
  60. Hello everyone,
    I have been a wedding photographer for 30 years and for the last 25 have been a full time photographer. I guess you can call me one of the $600-$900 wedding photographers. But I am only at the wedding for 3 hours, give 4x6 proofs, a few 8x10s and a DVD, either low or high res. I only do color correction on the DVD and that is it. I am not busy but work the weddings I want, normaly 10-15 a year. I think you must price yourself on what your market demands. If you are new and charge $500 for a wedding and are making money then you are getting more photos so show clients and your name is getting around. Charge $1500 and you may do less weddings, less photos to show and your name gets around less. Charge what will get you the work to make ends meet and get over the thought of "I am worth that". You may be worth nothing if you go down the tubes. The market will come around then charge what the market will allow.
    I have to agree with Bill Clark, classic will always live longer than trendy.
  61. Simple - take the groom aside and ask this simple question: Would you rather have a $5 hooker or a $500 hooker? It's the same service, but a MUCH different skill set and experience level.
    I know that's crass, but it's very blunt and will get the point across.
    I'm kidding - DON'T say that. But, find a better metaphor and give them an idea of why your service is worth the extra.
  62. Price range does not or should not be an issue,it's the skills of the photographer that matter some very very talented people do not overprice their work, & thank God for these individuals,by the way there are still people out there with big bucks to spend please don't fret so much about the photog whose trying to make a living doing 500$ weddings!!
  63. Interesting thread, the $400 wedding doesn't exist in my area - more like the $200 wedding, that's why I have given up trying to compete with the gee-whiz crowd with their new DSLR's who are overnight pros. Of course, there are usually a few I get nabbed to do every year for friends or those who flatter me to pieces, at least I get to pick and choose them.............
  64. I am one of those photographers, busy for the past 2 years already, learning a lot as I go on about wedding photography, I feel that one should be carefull, we are attempting to capture their most important day, not wow everybody with our expensive equipment. Furthermore to justify higher rates because of more expensive equipment is, and a possible lack of natural talent, is grossly unfair. In all fairness, I would love to have the expensive equipment quoted, but we do get the job done with less expensive equipment and the most important, my client are happy and keeps on booking.
  65. Where I live there were some adds on Craigslist from photographers willing to do weddings for free. I was once asked to shoot small birthday in my area and the lady called back the next day after she got the quote saying that she found a guy that will do it for free. I wished her good luck and said that I hope she'll be happy with the product she will receive. I do not shoot weddings I shot two weddings in my life, but I do not believe I have enough experience to shoot more so I just try to stay at the level of small birthday parties or portraits.
    As how to deal with the $400 weddings, I dont think you can actually win the war against those who shoot low budget weddings this is just a different niche. I think it's like worse and better neighborhoods if people cannot afford to live let's say in Glenco, IL they look for a house in Des Plaines. Same here if you charge $2000 for a wedding you will not have clients willing to pay only $400 therefore there is a need for low budget shooters, and if the client can afford $2000 and is willing to pay that much because they think it will yield better service they will come to you instead of the $400 guy. Unless of course the $400 guy gives them better results and better service then there is something totally wrong with the $2000 guy.
    I do apologize if I repeated some of the responses but I didn't read the entire thread.
  66. I've invested thousands of dollars in equipment, but I'll be one to give credit where credit is due, I've seen some impressive work done with an entry level slr, but definetely the lesser few will achieve this, and usually winds up being those who turn pro in a matter of some time. If we lower our standards and prices, it will lead everyone to think our service is cheap and artless. I say take a stand and begin to educate about the extreme difference in Uncle Bob and the artist. Publicly.
  67. I have seen it coming this way --last year. The lower prices just means less work for us and less value to the B&G. In the $500 range I just hand them the card(s) from my camera > no post/no fuss . They receive all the RAW and L Jpegs ...& nearly 4 hours of coverage ~one location ( under 20 miles ). One camera/one lens. Small town ~small market. Think that is the price I started in the late 70's --has come full circle :)
  68. Is the question about "combating" the $400 weddings or the $400 wedding "photographers?" If you have the superior talent and offer a $400 wedding then you basically eliminate the wannabee photographer because they can't offer the level of product that you do. And let me tell you just because you charge $400 to show up and shoot the wedding, doesn't mean the customer should get "everything" for that.
    All that said, my full package runs in the neighborhood of $2,000 or so, here in Oklahoma. More with added options, less without. But basically the bride gets everything she could want with the higher level such as a print package, digital negatives, video montage, engagement session, etc. The lower level prices get the same "coverage" of the wedding... full day coverage, unlimited images, free online gallery, lifetime retouching. But they DON'T get a disk, don't get downloadable images and print prices are much higher. But they DO get the photos of the day, safe and secure in an online gallery that never expires. And I let brides upgrade their packages at anytime in the future as funds become available or through referrals. This means that two years from now, that $500 bride can pay to upgrade and lower her print prices or get a disk, etc. An extra $1,000 arriving in the mail "out of the blue" for a job that is already finished is really nice!
    Quality of the product remains high. Lower budget brides can get high(er) budget coverage of the wedding day. Brides with the money can get what they expect at the price they expect to pay. Everybody is happy.
    I never understood why so many photographers feel that lower prices should mean lower service... less time on the job, fewer images, etc. I have photographed so many events that have paid off year after year as people keep ordering from the galleries that never expires. (yay for my smugmug account!!!!).
    Anyway, anybody wanting to see what I have come up with for my business model is welcome to view the site and online galleries. Those galleries in their entirety serve as my portfolio.
  69. I think the main difference between the pro and Uncle Bob is that pros are paid to get the pictures every time and amateurs can take a "win some, lose some" attitude.
    For most photographers, the unsolved problem is how to find brides with money. The destruction of the middle class is very real, and if that is your market you are going down with them.

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