Help me achieve my goal to shoot weddings for family and friends

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by athena_cupp, Feb 10, 2014.

  1. I have been asked to shoot 3 weddings this year, the first one being in May. I came upon this site in an effort to gain knowledge and advice. There are lots of great tips but I have to weed through so many negative and even hostile comments. Every single one of you has been a newbie at some point in your career and had to have that one person(s) who saw something in you or your pictures and wanted to give you that chance or perhaps you saw a way that you could use your photography to bless or help someone else.
    I have basic equipment. A Nikon D5100. A 70-200mm lens, a 50mm lens 1.8f, a basic speed light on camera flash. I have done many portrait shoots for friends and family. I am taking online photo classes and read as much as I can and then try to practice those tips in order to improve myself and my photography.
    The three weddings I am shooting are all for friends for family members. One I am getting paid for, two I am not. I don't think it is irresponsible (as I read in one persons comments that is irresponsible to accept a wedding with no experience) to accept a wedding for someone who otherwise wouldn't have one due to finances, etc. I know that I am not a professional and do not claim to be and all of these people know that.
    With that being said, although I am not a professional, I do have some experience and my goal is to continue to improve myself and to deliver the best wedding photos that I can possibly provide. I would love to hear your comments and tips to help me with that goal.
    The main question asked by the Originating Poster is for assistance and advice regarding shooting weddings.
    The Thread's Title has been edited to reflect that theme.​
  2. Athena. Back in 1997 I was working for a newspaper and our receptionist was to be married in three days. Her photographer backed out. I had never done a wedding. I stepped in. To make a long story short that single wedding grew into a six year business that I cashed out because I could not handle the wedding workload. It is for you to judge whether you are responsible or not. Go for it. I would suggest you at least rent some back up equipment like another body, a camera mounted flash or two and a 24-70 or 105 zoom. I don't know what lighting you will run into. I found the normal focal lengths I used were the full frame equivalent of about 24mm to 105. I used 70- 200mm sometimes to do head shots and dancing so as not to stick a camera in someone's face. Just shoot a lot of pictures, pick the best and process them properly. Even after I had done a number of weddings I still found I had to be careful about the basics of exposure, shutter speed and ISO particularly with changing light. . I would go to your venues and shoot some pictures before hand to see how your equipment works. Do some test shots in what you think will be similar light if the weddings are indoors. I wish you the best of luck. My customers were satisfied from the beginning but I found as I went along that there was much to learn.. Good luck.
  3. Athena,
    In general on this site we are very gentle and supportive of anyone that has been learning the way you are. Yes at some point we all moved from learning to working. We are trying to help new photographers not blow a job. Sometimes, someone comes along that is almost completely unprepared and we tell them not to do it. It is not harsh to yell at someone about to stick their hand in a fire. It doesn't matter if you tell customers you are inexperienced, if you screw up bad enough they can sue you and win big enough to destroy you.
    BTW get back up equipment. 2 flashes, two bodies, 2 lens normal range lenses. Insure the equipment and liability.
    Keep learning.
    I suggest getting a job working for a photographer before going into business.
    Good luck in your pursuit of doing photography as a business.
  4. Athena, I've shot a few weddings for friends (unpaid) as you're about to do; and I learnt an awful lot those few days. First of all, I do not want to be a professional photographer, or at least a wedding photographer (and I am neither indeed). Second, I learnt to understand where the negativity comes from. No matter which way you put it - you're taking on a pretty big responsibility and will have no second chances at these pictures. You have to perform, no excuses.
    When I agreed, I thought I had a decent amount of photographic experience. Let's say: it was sufficient, but no more. I knew how to use my gear blind enough to be fully focussed on getting decent compositions. I was (and am) mediocre at using flash, and that's a bloody important tool. I knew way too little on how to really deal with event photography, though. Very intensive, hectic days and I was totally drained after each one of them. Editing photos afterwards was another good chunk of time, not to be underestimated.
    What none of us can judge is how ready you really are. A lot of people get their main feedback on their photos from family and friends, and Facebook "Like" count, etc. A lot of people feel great photographers because all their friends tell them so - but their photo have never been scrutinised by somebody who can really lift your level up a few notches (note: I am no better, just a persistent amateur!). Harsh, relentless analytic feedback - a lot more rare, but it is needed. Because making a mess of a wedding will be worse to deal with.
    So, that's where the negativity creeps in. Is that a good or a bad thing? Honestly, if the negativity gets you down, then probably it's better not to dive straight into wedding photography. If you understand the nature of the negativity, do give it a try, and be ready to be extremely hard on yourself because you will have to play at the top of your game.
    In the end, "professional" in the strict sense is about making an income out of it. Professional attitude is what this is really about. When you say "my goal is to continue to improve myself and to deliver the best wedding photos that I can possibly provide", I think you show the proper attitude to dealing with it professional. Set the expectation and price right, get a simple contract, do the best you can and learn. Put aside your ego, and work for your customers.
    Practically, as Dick said, you will need a second camera, second flash and backup of the principal lenses (on a D5100, a 17-50 f/2.8 would be my first choice; only a 50 and 70-200 leaves you with too little wide angle for group shots etc.).
  5. Athena,
    I don't think there's any true hostility or "negativity" to new photographers here. I came here when I was brand new and generally found good information and a lot of encouragement. The more experienced folks here donate their time to share their expertise. That's "positivity" in my book.
    We see here the consequences of a lot of badly prepared newbie photographers. This forum is not as active as it used to be, but not too long ago, we saw a fairly steady trickle of threads with one or more of these three themes:
    • Person who's just gotten their first DSLR, has fallen in love with photography (good so far) and (here it comes) thinks they're ready to start charging $1000 a wedding. These posts can be heartbreaking.
    • Bride who's having terrible problems because she hired a photographer with little or no experience. These posts are even more heartbreaking.
    • Bride and/or photographer who are having serious problems and have no contract to guide them towards a resolution.
    There is of course a certain amount of economic protectionism, that is, experienced photographers would prefer that "cheap labor" not flood the market. Brides are still paying $15K or $25K for their receptions for food that's going to be gone before midnight but increasingly they balk at paying $3000 or even $2000 for a skilled, experienced photographer who will give them beautiful memories that will last a lifetime (or until the divorce becomes final, whichever comes first).
    But I see that protectionist impulse more in the forums of the PPA. Now that's not surprising nor do I mean to criticize it. The PPA is a guild. It sets standards and promotes those standards to clients. So it's natural that the PPA would be skeptical of photographers who disregard the PPA's standards. But this is not the PPA and for the most part I think the experienced pros here are quite open to everybody. The people who do most of the heavy-lifting here do it out of the goodness of their hearts. And if they give a newbie a hard time, they do THAT out of the goodness of their hearts, too. Wedding photography isn't a good line of work for the faint of heart or those whose feathers are easily ruffled.
    Best wishes,
  6. I have gotten many good tips on here but I did see a few posts in various forums where someone new was "bashed" for not having experience and accepting photography jobs. There is a big difference in constructive critisism and someone being completely rude. I know this is not going to be easy and I don't mind constructive critisism or someone giving me the hard facts. This is exactly why I came to this site. Most of the shoots I have done have been for free or less than $100 regardless of the time and effort that were put into them. I paid a very big price for my Sons senior pictures a few years ago and I noticed that several of his friends were not getting senior pictures because they could not afford it so I studied up on portrait photography and then tried my best to give them something decent. Were they the same quality as my Son's pictures..of course not. The last portrait session I did was at Christmas for a lady at church who just had twins then her husband lost his job. I did Christmas pics of their children. All of these weddings that I am doing..these people aren't skimping on pictures to pay higher prices for other things, they are just trying to have the best wedding they can on the budget that they have. I think I am a pretty decent photographer with a good eye and a creative streak, God gave me this talent and I wish to use it to bless others. I don't think people should be without the opportunity for memories because they do not fit into a particular income bracket. One of the things I see over and over in the forum is that the bride should increase their budget to get a more experienced photographer, that is not a reality for everyone. I do appreciate all of your comments and advice!
  7. When I got started I did a lot of two hour five hundred dollar weddings in today's dollars. Throughout I kept my prices below going wedding rates for the area as I built up my name in the business. I think you are doing the right thing. Your customers will let you know about your quality. And, I agree with you that there are a lot people who cannot afford the big time who will appreciate anything they can afford. That was how I got started so I think you are taking the right approach. My only caution is that it is important to understand how to make a decent picture on a reasonably consistent basis. That is where referrals come from and I believe is really how to grow a business--happy customers.
  8. While I'd rather encourage new photographers and give them information, it's also essential to consider the clients.
    Keep in mind that most states and cities have incredibly stringent requirements for training and licensing for hairdressers, beauticians and cosmetologists. But the money involved is only a fraction of the cost of many weddings, even at the most expensive hairdresser. And most hairdresser mistakes will fix themselves in time.
    Even if those licensing requirements for beauticians seem excessive, at the other extreme usually no training, credentials or licensing are required for photographing a wedding, which costs much more and cannot be "fixed" later for large weddings with guests.
    That said, I have shot weddings and other events as gifts at no charge for family members only. And even then I did so only when the alternative was no photos at all because the budget was so tight. I always explain that I don't consider myself to be a good wedding photographer, but I'm a pretty good candid photographer and have a knack for capturing the moment. Just don't ask me to set up formal poses. So far, so good, every family member and friend has been happy with my photos.
    Nowadays I don't even do that because everyone shows up with their own cameras, ranging from cell phones to professional quality dSLRs - better equipment than I own! So nobody needs to go without wedding snapshots. Often those casual snaps by close family and friends are as good as anything I can do (kids and teens are especially good at capturing fun candid photos), so I haven't needed to shoot a wedding for family since 2006, and have done only a few other portrait sessions such as maternity photos.
    If anyone were to offer to hire me to shoot a wedding as a pro, I would politely decline and offer the names of real pros I know. Because I don't have liability insurance, am not set up to pay the appropriate taxes, and don't differentiate between my personal and professional equipment and expenses. I know my limitations and I'm not going to risk something so important when there are already so many highly qualified professionals who actually need the work.
  9. I for one agree that a newbie should not accept a wedding without prior experience. That experience comes through assisting someone with experience and putting in the time to see all that can go wrong. Then you can start to second shoot and when you feel confident go for it. It only takes one screw up to give you a bad name. Not all weddings are back yard or in the church basement. My wedding was a backyard by the way. lol Those small venues are no stress but when you do one that the people spent some money then thats a whole different story.
    As far as your booked weddings for your friends, congratulations for those jobs. I would highly recommend making up a contract and stating you are not a professional and will not be held responsible for any loss of images including images that are not technically correct. You will be surprised at friends who sue friends.
    Back 20 years ago when I was breaking into the wedding scene we did not have the online forums so we had to confide in one person face to face. Here you get to speak to the multitudes of people you don't even know and everyone has there own twist on things. Some are more passionate than others. LOL Good luck Athena
  10. Oh and welcome to the forum Athena. I see you just joined today. It is always best to speak about what has happened to you on this forum instead of what you read about someone else. The moderators are good here and will step in when the conversation is going the wrong way or inappropriate.
  11. Oh and did I mention general liability insurance? You can work in a reception hall or hotel without it.
  12. Athena,
    I'm sorry, but the vast majority of 'negativity' I see on this forum is a result of hard learned lessons - and is expressed in the interests of preventing you (and more importantly, your client) the heartache and cost we see and hear about all too frequently. Now some of us (myself included) do get in the occasional tit for tat little disagreement, which are, admittedly a bit immature, but for the most part, the advice we profer is a result of actually seeing things firsthand.
    If the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it. The only person you have to answer too is your client. If you've been honest and forthright with them, then they must bear the blame when it all goes to heck and they end up with a few dozen poor quality pictures. Your sole responsibility is to be honest. It sounds like you are, and I can't fault you for that, but frankly your kit is a step, or a trip, away from disaster. In a worst case scenario, A court very well could find you responsible if, as you are backing up (you know, for a group shot, you know, because you don't have a lens wider than 50mm! ! ! (on a crop no less!)) you trip over a chair, your camera, and yourself hits the ground, and the concrete damages it, and you loose the pics you already took, and the ability to take more.
    The reason I mention a court's decision is because friends become the worst of enemies. And while it would be hard to convince a judge you were liable if you hadn't accepted any monies (though not by any means impossible), once you've taken a fee for your services, and once you've taken payment, you can be considered a professional for all intents and purposes. If you plead "I told her I wasn't a pro!" The judge will simply say "Then you shouldn't have been taking money for your services."
    IMprofessionalO you should not be shooting weddings for payment. (Freebies for friends and family are of course a different category.) The reason I say that is because a) you do not have gear capable of capturing a wedding at all. and b) you do not have the experience to manage the flow and required tasks of a wedding. --by all means, shoot the freebies (after heartily and seriously recomending an actual professional), you will learn soooo much! perhaps at the expense of your friends wedding album, but perhaps not. Who can say?
    You NEED a wide to mid zoom. they are kit lenses on every el cheapo camera body sold, and I can't fathom why you don't have one, but one won't cost you more than $100 and will save your behind! With a 50mm on a crop as your widest lens I'm not sure what makes you think you can capture even a moderately sized group photo without backing up across the road. If you are shooting inside, you will likely not be able to do it at all (and the added distance will kill off your flash's ability to light a scene.)
    What concerns me most though is NOT the lack of equipment, it's the lack of knowledge that you even need the most basic of equipment. a 50 on a crop is fine for portraits, a 70-200/2.8 is great too. But those don't even form half the battle line in a wedding. A wedding is a portrait shoot, yes, true, but it is so much more. kind of like saying the space shuttle is a glider. Yes, true, but the experience is just a tad bit different....
    I'm sorry my post is so 'negative' but sometimes the truth sucks. When our pediatrician sat us down and said 'This is a pretty clear Leukemia situation' It sucked. But I thanked him for being honest and straightforward with us, I didn't complain about how negative his attitude was (considering I know it ruined his day too) while he was being brutally honest. Don't take it personally. don't blow the negative ones off. you learn as much if not more from them than you will from the sappy sweet ones, assuming you are willing to learn.
  13. Marcus you are so right!!! Anyone can take a picture especially now with digital and iPhones. Its everything else that goes on at the weddings that makes it difficult when you don't have experience. PRESSURE when everyone is late and you have everyone breathing down your neck because you only have 5 minutes to take the family pictures. How about the procession and your flash starts acting up right when the bride is coming down the aisle or your pocket wizzard is not working or your lens locks up. You did not have time to set up room lights and you can't bounce your flash cause the ceilings are black and you did not have a booster pack to juice your flash. Your room lights go out right at the cake cutting or camera failure. I can go on and on and these are things that has happened to me but I was prepared cause I saw it happened before when I was assisting and I made mental notes. I do not wish this on any new photographer. Thats why I am here.
  14. Athena, It is a kind and thoughtful gesture to offer to take pictures for someone who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford it. However, not all kind and thoughtful gestures are returned as such. What happens if:

    -- ten minutes into the wedding your camera or strobe stops working?
    -- Grandma trips over your camera bag, falls, and breaks her wrist ?
    -- your pictures, while perfectly adequate in YOUR eyes, do not meet the bride's (or groom's) mother's expectations? And she is MAD AS HECK.
    -- your camera bag is stolen at the reception?

    All these things have happened (though hopefully not at the same wedding!) to professional photographers who were prepared for these and many other eventualities by way of planning, training, and insurance. This is a mark of professionalism.

    Question One: were you invited to these weddings BEFORE you offered to shoot them?
    Question Two: If you were to pull out of shooting these weddings, would you be dis-invited?
    Question Three: if you were to pull out of shooting these weddings would the bridal couple find a professional photographer and pay him/her to shoot their wedding?
    Question Four: Would you shoot their wedding as a guest?

    Honest answers to these questions might be of help deciding how to handle this situation.
  15. I know all 3 of these couples and their situations and no I don't think they can afford anything better and with that being said at least with me having a personal connection to them they are getting someone who CARES about their wedding and is going to strive to do the best job I can do..if I back out now I can't say that some guy they hire from craigslist is going to give them that. I am totally committed to doing this. I realize that I don't have the best equipment nor do I have the experience. I have also thought long and hard (and maybe had a few nightmares) about the things that can happen. It does sadden me that we live in a world where a good deed can turn into a nightmare but if I let that fuel my decision than I would never do anything out of fear! One of the weddings is my nephew. He and his fiance have postponed their wedding for a year due to lack of funds. They both work hard and are paying for the wedding on their own. They like most couples want to have the wedding of their dreams. He is one of the main reasons I decided to take the photography classes online through Improve Photography. I have photoshop but I purchased Lightroom and I am taking a Lightroom class so that I can be proficient in editing these wedding sessions. I LOVE this kid and I want him to make his day special. And in response to the comment about my lens...I do have other lens but I was reading an article on a photography blog that said those were the BEST two lens sizes to shoot a wedding with...I guess it all relative to each photographer and what there style is..etc, etc.
  16. Athena,
    You're about to go jumping through a landmine-laden field on a pogo stick, and the best intentions in the world aren't going to protect you. The admonishments you are receiving are justified and in the best interests of you, the couples getting married, and the integrity of the photography industry.
    Go and shoot these three weddings, then come back here to re-read what people are trying to warn you about. It's not made up. Wedding photography is probably only about 50% photography. The rest of it is intangible people skills, troubleshooting techniques, and playing psychiatrist to make sure everyone is relaxed and looking their best for the images. That is nowhere near as easy as it sounds. So many things can go wrong at a cataclysmic level, which is precisely why it is critical to apprentice first. It's also a ton of work. I joke with my couples that I run marathons in order to train for weddings.
    Free or not, friends or not, make up a contract which sets the expectations. When I first started for people in the beginning of my learning process, I actually had language in the contract that indicated I promised to deliver nothing.
  17. You're about to go jumping through a landmine-laden field on a pogo stick, and the best intentions in the world aren't going to protect you. The admonishments you are receiving are justified and in the best interests of you, the couples getting married, and the integrity of the photography industry.​
    Pretty much sums it up.
    If you prefer: those who need to ask the questions are unlikely to understand the answers.
    I haven't done a wedding for thirty years and wouldn't take one on now. There are enormous problems which didn't exist, when I went off on a Saturday morning with a couple of TLRs, a big flash and two packs of Ektacolor in my jacket pockets. Get yourself an apprenticeship and do a small business management course, then you might be safe in the minefield.
  18. I guess I should make myself clear also on the fact that I am not trying to break into the wedding photography business. I work full time and my most important job as Mom. We own a dairy farm in a rural area. My husband and sons work 7 days a week, some days very long hours farming and this affords me a lot of free time. I love photography and helping people. I have often thought of trying to take my photography to a more professional level but I don't intend to do that for at least a few more years when my youngest in out of school. I am perfectly content with the way things are slowly work my way in that direction while gaining experience and trying to expand my knowledge and work on my skill. I have served as wedding director for many friends weddings and I do understand the time and attention that goes into a wedding day. I do appreciate all of your comments however my mind is made up. I intend to do these wedding as stated. I know the risk but I think to help others it's a risk worth taking. I will certainly keep everything you said in mind and make a contract but I am not going to allow myself to become so cynical that I turn my back on these good friends because I am more concerned about myself than others. Now back to my original question...I am looking for tips and advice on shooting a wedding and would appreciate feedback on that.
  19. I didn't read through all the comments so I'm not sure how much of my two points have already been covered. I only have two points for advice.
    1: KNOW your equipment.
    2: Have backup gear for EVERYTHING. I've shot several weddings over the years using a backup camera or lens because my main one was acting weird. Not wanting to take any chances I bagged my main camera and finished the job with one of my backups. Fairly recently, I pulled up to a wedding job, got out and was putting my gear together and discovered my main lens had some type of moisture leak, a lens I used several days before without issue. No problem, just pulled out one of my backups and finished the job with no issues. I'm telling you, backup EVERYTHING.
    Have fun.
  20. ...I do have other lens but I was reading an article on a photography blog that said those were the BEST two lens sizes to shoot a wedding with...​

    That advice is worth exactly zero - maybe that means something to the author, but to even form such an opinion, it implies that the author has copious experience (experience you do not have). Simple things like: Where does he/she shoot? and Is he/she using a FF or crop sensor camera? Are absolutely critical to making that assessment! I know people who use a 35+50+85, those that shoot crop w/ 17-55 & 70-200, those whom shoot the 'standard' FF kit of 24-70/2.8+70-200/2.8 (plus a couple primes), heck, even a guy who loves the 16-35, plus a 85 & 135. Regardless, no sane wedding photog would ever go to a wedding w/ 50mm on the crop being their widest option!

    I am sooooo glad to hear that you have other lenses to select from!

    If you would like advice on how you can do your best, you'll need to provide us with all the relevent information. The most important bits of info are: a) how many weddings have you shot? b) what is the sum of your other photographic experience?, and c) what is a complete list of your available equipment? and d) how much time do you have to prepare?

    Obviously, you've told us that you do a fair amount of portraiture, but implied no weddings. You've got a D5100 (crop sensor nikon I assume), and a 50/1.8 and a 70-200(2.8?).
    But that's all we know! And that is neither enough experience, nor enough eqp. to expect good results!
    As far as pay, and 'for broke friends/family' Well, I'd say you should refuse any and all payment. It's not that your time is worth nothing, it's called setting a specific expectation. You are not paid, this is a gift, and you are giving what you are capable of giving. Their expectation should be set as low as practically possible. I would continue to recommend a professional (even a cheap one), but advise that you will do your best regardless. I don't know that, in this situation (ONLY!), I would even recommend a contract, just a friendly witness to your conversations.
  21. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    On the point of assisting friends and relatives: you might be 100% certain that they are on the same page as yourself and your assistance might flow perfectly and your immediate friends and family might be very happy with the service and the product that you supply.
    But I would underscore one point that has already been made variously - and that is that you take into consideration the third parties who are involved. For example the Hotel or Reception House where the Event will be staged: that venue might require you to have Public Liability Insurance (the exact title will vary).
    There may be other "clients" who have expectations of you and your services and goods which are inconsistent with the expectations of your most direct friends and family. For example, you might know the Groom and his Mum and Dad, and also you might have met the Bride, but not met the Bride's Aunty (who made the cake) . . . and that Aunty might have expectations of you, which you are unaware.
    So I think that it is very solid of you to want to help you family and friends, but keep in mind that there is usually more than just those family and friends who are your "clients" and who will have expectations of you and possibly demands on you.
    "I have basic equipment. A Nikon D5100. A 70-200mm lens, a 50mm lens 1.8f, a basic speed light on camera flash"​
    Your gear is ill-suited compared to what mostly all Wedding Photographers would choose to use.
    For example - The Nikon D5100 is an APS-C Camera and when either your 50mm lens or your 70 to 200 zoom (used at FL = 70mm) is on your camera, you will be about 20 feet from the B&G to make a nice Half Shot in Landscape Orientation - which is OK . . . ONLY IF you have that 20 foot of space, to move back.
    A 17/18 to 50/55mm zoom lens would be more appropriate for your requirements.
    You need to know if you can use Flash (in the Church/Worship Place) - AND - if you NEED to use Flash you NEED to have at least one more flash.
    Your 50mm lens is s Fast Prime Lens, which you can use for Available Light Shooting, if you cannot use Flash, BUT - on an APS-C Camera a 50mm lens, is a Short Telephoto Lens and for Wedding Work usually a wider fast prime is more useful, if one only has one prime lens to use - a 28mm to 35mm Fast Prime would be a useful investment, if you think that you will need to shoot Available Light.
    A second Camera Body is mandatory.
    "...I do have other lens but I was reading an article on a photography blog that said those were the BEST two lens sizes to shoot a wedding with..."​
    Although there is much more to shooting a Wedding than the gear one uses: but being a Novice and asking preliminary questions, it would be best if you did help out the respondents and disclose exactly what is all the gear that you have to work with.
    The one single area that I have noticed where a Novice makes errors is attempting to do too much, what I mean is take too many photos.
    It is far better to have a plan to get the images which are on your priority list first.
    The most important element in achieving that aim - is to be in the correct position and ready to shoot. So in this regard your knowledge of the Wedding's Procedure; the Venue layout and any Local Rules is crucial.
    Once you have got the priority shot then you have either a few minutes or a few seconds to expand your shots always watching for the next priority shot.
  22. .... but keep in mind that there is usually more than just those family and friends who are your "clients" and who will have expectations of you and possibly demands on you....​

    So true! Especially when shooting for friends and family, You should expect to be constantly badgered by your friends and relatives to 'sit down!' 'relax!' 'have a drink' 'you aren't hungry?' sometimes they are insistent, sometimes they get offended... be prepared regardless, and be ready to walk all over their feelings, because you may need to.

    I've done more than a few of those, even one in which my kids came too... more stressful in some ways than the nicest most gorgeous high dollar events I've shot..."Daddy, why can't you pick me up while you take pictures? You do at the zoo!"
  23. I understand where you are coming from and you have all good intentions of blessing everyone who can't afford to pay the higher prices. Understand that once you accept money you are responsible for your work blessing or not. The dollar amount does not make the responsibly more or less. You are better off truly blessing your friends and family by doing it for free to gain more experience. Online classes can not provide this training.
  24. I am only getting paid for one of the weddings and that is only because they would not accept it for free. I didn't even quote them a price, I just told them they could give me a "donation" based on what they thought was acceptable and affordable. I have put a call into my insurance company to pick up liability insurance and I have also began to research contracts so I can put together something suitable for me. I do appreciate all of your advice and I am taking to heart. Thanks again for your help.
  25. Good luck, Athena. You seem determined to do this regardless of our advice to the contrary, so I'm not sure why you're asking for that advice. You might as well be saying "My friends can't afford a real doctor so I'm going to take out their appendix for them as a favor. What advice can you doctors give?" Most doctors would tell you not to do it, and why it's a really bad idea.
    While that is a somewhat absurd comparison to be making, it is meant to highlight that your request for advice is being overshadowed by your refusal to follow any of it that you don't happen to like.
    Here's my "You're a fool if you don't follow this advice" list of advice for your situation:
    1) Get contracts. I don't give a wet slap how friendly you are with them.
    2) Obtain backup equipment in case something happens to yours.
    3) Obtain a backup photographer in case something happens to you.
    4) Obtain liability insurance in case you do something that causes damage.
    5) Communicate thoroughly and save all communication with the client, in which you state more than once that you are not experienced in this line of work and that they agree to hold you inculpable.
  26. Wow! I totally get that 99% of you feel like i should not do this. That you have made obvious. I have numerous times in this thread explained the situation.
    1. I have sit down with each of these couples and explained the extent of my knowledge and the lack of equipment compared to a pro.
    2. I have a personal connection and know all of their situations. Where you assume they can pay a professional when I have already stated that financially it is not an option.
    3. I have made a commitment (which I do not take lightly) to these friends and intend to honor that.
    4. Instead of just showing up with my camera I am taking as many steps as I classes, purchasing lightroom, taking a lightroom class, reading every article I can get my hands on. Doing free portrait sessions with my other friends just to get more experience with my camera and with editing.
    I have indeed found much of your advice helpful and you have raised points that I had not considered. Points that I am following through on like insurance, contracts and backup plans. Just to be clear however, I am not disregarding anyones advice nor am I only accepting the advice that I like. I did NOT ask for advice on whether or not I should accept the job I asked for advice on Shooting the wedding. For photographer friend told me to tell the couple to hold there kiss because a quick peck could easily be missed. I read maybe here or somewhere else to get a list of the important pictures the couple wants so you don't miss any poses with special family or friends. These are the types of things I was asking for in order to be prepared for the task at hand, my apologies if I did not make it clear what I was asking for.
  27. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Telling the B&G to hold their First Kiss and making a list of important pictures that the couple wants so that there no poses are missed with Family and Friends, is a sub-genre of Wedding Photography which requires Direction and Prescription by the Photographer.
    If you follow that course, then you will need to have above average people management skills and be able to execute those skills under the pressure of time and under the pressure of those people possibly being in an highly emotive state.
    The general trend in Wedding Photography around the world today, is toward a more journalistic approach and it is my expectation that very few Wedding Photographers nowadays would ever direct the couple to hold their first kiss: and when any did that direction would have to be expertly managed to have the best result.
    As for a list of “formals” – be aware that, that of itself creates more expectations of the Photographer as once the list is made then realistically it is expected that the list will be completed successfully irrespective of any situation which arises and who causes those situations.
  28. An interesting thread and Athena - I'm impressed you are still reading and still fighting to do these weddings considering some of the advice you have been given! With regard to this advice, I'm a fairly new wedding (amongst other things) photographer myself and I'd be interested to know how to go about getting someone as a backup for me, as the photographer, which is recommended in a post, above. Insurance, two bodies, spare batteries, cards etc (some overlap in lenses, but I don't carry two copies of each - can't afford to, and besides, I literally couldn't carry all that weight - I'm one of those three 2.8 zooms people): all these I understand and have reasonably well covered. But someone to cover for me if I am ill has been a question I've had for a while and one for which I don't have an answer. Perhaps getting to know a few more photographers is likely the answer (joining an association?) but if anyone has more thoughts about this particular aspect of a** covering, I'd be very pleased to hear it! I'm honest when booking weddings and tell clients that I don't have a backup photographer, though I also say that I'd have to be very very unwell indeed before I'd even consider not fulfilling my responsibilities.
    I hope this isn't butting in on your thread Athena. As I say, I don't have much experience, but from the little I do have I would say that being a bit nervous is a good sign - it doesn't mean you shouldn't do it, but really, it is only when you think about all the things that could go wrong that you realise the enormity of what it is you are setting out to do. Another thing that rings true from what has been said, above, is that you are often taking pictures for many more people than the bride and groom and this can lead to difficulties. With this in mind, if you are making up contracts I'd strongly recommend including something along the lines of the fact that you NEVER share all the photos you take and that you cannot guarantee to get all the shots requested (things happen, timings go out of whack, one person changes their mind...) and, if the wedding is a reasonable size, nor can you guarantee you will get shots of all the people in attendance (group shots, perhaps, excepted, though even then Uncle Ted pops off to the bathroom and hey presto, someone's complaining!).
    Anyway, sorry if this all adds to the doom and gloom - it really isn't meant to :) - weddings are beautiful occasions and the feeling when you nail a shot you are pretty sure no one else would have seen or anticipated - well, that's part of what keeps me going back for more.
  29. Athena, I think you are absolutely correct, nearly all of us feel that given your lack of experience, you are not ready to do this.
    However, you seem bound and determined. Whether that ends in a glorious success, or an unmitigated disaster, only the future will tell.
    At this point we NEED additional information to give you decent advice. I'm not sure why, but it seems that you do not wish to share what additional lenses/equipment you have access to.
    To be absolutely honest the quality of a kit lens's (18-55) output far outshines the quality of your 70-200 (or 50/1.8) if you can't fit everyone in the frame. If it makes you feel any better, my first wedding was shot on an EOS650 with a 35-105 kit lens. no VR/IS, questionable quality, no flash, film. I hated that camera, but the green box seemed to work alright, as my prior experience was w/ an all manual K1000.
    When I first started shooting digital, my widest lens was a FF 28-70/2.8. On the crop, that had a miserable widest FOV of ~45mm. I quickly snapped up a 17-85, and it was like I could actually zoom out again (quite reassuring, believe me!). The first group picture w/ the digital (XTi) I had to stand against the far wall, and still have the group squeeeeeze together, it was frankly a bit embarrassing. (and I ended up using the Elan (film) after one attempt)
    I'm going to go against the grain here and say that backup is not the most important thing. Don't get me wrong, you may regret not having it, but 1st and foremost is actually having something to backup. You have a camera (check), a flash (check), a long tele (check), and a fast 50 (actually 75mm FOV). You absolutely can NOT do it without something (anything really) that is WIDER. The very best of us would have a very very hard time shooting a wedding with that kind of limitation, and many of us have hundreds and hundreds of weddings behind us.
    An 18-55 VR lens shouldn't cost more than $100 used, a non-VR no more than $50. I'd heartily recommend the VR (given the speed), but even with the 18-55 non-VR it puts you into the realm of possibility of maybe capturing decent shots (by cranking the ISO, and hoping for good light). And how hard is a group shot, really? You can put a lot into it, but you can also make it very simple. The results will show your work (from beautiful to a line of people), but at least the essentials are documented.
    My other advice would be simply. crash a few weddings - ones with pro photogs. Go... simply to watch them work. See if you can get invited to others. bring the camera, and see how it feels through the lens. If you are invited, no one (even the photog) will be offended if you spend all your time snapping pics. It's a world of difference when you loose all your peripheral vision.
    One of the first weddings I did w/ digital (and w/ film) we did the ceremony in a dark as heck church, then walked out and did some group shots out in the glaring afternoon sun. Stress was up, we were moving fast, I was significantly less experienced. I forgot to switch from ISO1600 to ISO1/200. Since my camera was on shutter priority, my 1/4000 sec exposures were completely blown. Every last one was utter sh--. Thank goodness I was still shooting w/ the Elan's at that time. Even though I had only an exposure or two of each group, it was something, and I was more careful w/ the film. Even though I had done scores of weddings at that point, inexperience with that equipment led to a simple, momentary error, an error which could have been disastrous. If you can't see yourself doing that, or think it won't happen, you are wrong. it WILL happen, and the only thing that will save you then is your preparedness.
    IMO the insurance for you, in this situation, is largely a red herring. I can count on one hand the number of times I've been asked for proof, and those were all at uber-snobby hotels... I highly doubt that it'll be relevant given the context. And as long as you aren't being paid, your liability is minimal.
    So again, we come to 'getting paid'. I would say that if your friends are as broke as you have implied, you didn't try real hard to turn away their money. Simply saying "I'm willing to take money for my work... if you like your pictures" eases your responsibility, saves face, and puts you out of 'professional' territory (someplace you do NOT want to be given your experience)
    All that said, I can't give you any more advice if you don't share some information with us. For all practical purposes, all this is 'common sense' stuff every wedding photog knows, but to obtain more helpful advice, you must share details. A thank you would be appropriate every now and then too.
  30. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Patrick, one of the best methods of securing a "back-up" Photographer is to involve oneself in a collegiate of Photographers. That can be done in several arenas and by several methods, for example, ranging from within camera clubs to professional associations.
    Whatever the arena, the activity involves networking: and networking not restricted internet activity, but rather one to one; face to face and toe to toe human social intercourse.
    It occurs to me that the default for new entrants to this profession is to seek mostly all answers ‘on-line’ and also address mostly all the technical aspect of their photography via methods of ‘post production’: for example I note the priority mention of the product “Lightroom” in this thread.
    It is my opinion that the value of time spent with other Photographers and doing Photography practice to a structured program is overlooked or disregarded.

  31. for example I note the priority mention of the product “Lightroom” in this thread.
    Really? I guess trying to learn "Lightroom" is frowned upon too since it was a priority I mentioned it. Is it not in the habit of most photographers to do post production work on their photos. I only mentioned to bring attention to the fact that although I am a highly unqualified ameateur photographer with no experience and sadly underrated equipment I do care enough about my work to try to not just hand the them the memory card at the end of the night.
    Maybe in lieu of shooting their weddings I should just buy them each a case of disposable cameras and call it a day!
  32. I guess trying to learn "Lightroom" is frowned upon too since it was a priority I mentioned it... ...Maybe in lieu of shooting their weddings I should just buy them each a case of disposable cameras and call it a day!​
    William wasn't expressing disapproval because you mentioned it. Indeed, he didn't even express disapproval at all. Rather, there was a response to someone else's commentary and noted, accurately, that many novices place undue amounts of priority on post production rather than matters which have more effect on achieving success. Its reasonable to infer that such an issue could be taking place here. Its not a conclusion to that effect however. In any event, Its not an insult to make the possibility known. In fact, its helpful to take it in to account. William has given and will continue to provide good advice. One of the things mentioned was that....

    "you will need to have above average people management skills and be able to execute those skills"

    Indeed, further acquisition of these particular skills may be needed for the shoots to be successful considering the unnecessary resort to lashing out as seen here. It may be the most valuable advice given.
  33. Thanks William - I've been, and remain, guilty of way too much time spent online and do not get enough face-to-face interaction with others. In many spheres, not just this one, it would be good for me to get out more and meet people.
  34. You are correct I did lash out in frustrationand I do apologize. I have been trying to maintain a positive outlook but It's
    never easy to be told over and over that you are doomed to fail when you are determined to succeed.
  35. What kind of advice are you looking for. If you want tips or posing examples you can find find plenty of examples by simply googling "wedding posing". Find what you like and practice it until you can do it in your sleep. At least then you will have some decent posed shots of the B&G.
    Just keep things simple don't try to get too clever on the wedding day concentrate on people having fun. Sure most of the shots might not be masterpieces but thats OK you're not a Pro you're trying to help out some friends or family members who would otherwise have no pictures at all.
    If you really want to get into wedding photography and start a business someday them find a local pro to assist and build your skills that way.
  36. the best thing you can do is follow the bride and groom around and take shots of them with there family and friends. I would recommend to have them turn around to the camera for a nice clean shot and at that point if you want to take a true candid of them interacting then do so. watch your shutter speed and keep it minimum 160sec to insure every shot is salvageable. There is nothing worse than a great shot that is out of focus because of camera movement or subject movement. I would rather have a underexposed or overexposed picture in focus than vise versa. when using your 200mm lens then up the speed to min 200 or faster.
  37. Athena - have you read Jasmine Star on becoming a wedding photographer? I know this isn't what you want to do but her thoughts might nonetheless be of some use to you:
    She's not to everyone's taste but there is no denying her positivity and commitment.
  38. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "Really? I guess trying to learn "Lightroom" is frowned upon too since it was a priority I mentioned it. Is it not in the habit of most photographers to do post production work on their photos. I only mentioned to bring attention to the fact that although I am a highly unqualified ameateur photographer with no experience and sadly underrated equipment I do care enough about my work to try to not just hand the them the memory card at the end of the night.
    Maybe in lieu of shooting their weddings I should just buy them each a case of disposable cameras and call it a day!"​
    John H has responded adequately and has also expressed my opinion to your words that I have quoted above.
    I’ll just add that the thrust of that comment was to underscore that one must have a technically good shot to make the most of Lightroom (or any Post Production Tool) and my point was that one cannot rely on Post Production to attain that technically good shot.
    "You are correct I did lash out in frustration and I do apologize. I have been trying to maintain a positive outlook but It's never easy to be told over and over that you are doomed to fail when you are determined to succeed."​
    Firstly, your apology is welcomed and accepted, though not really necessary.
    Secondly, it occurs to me that you would do yourself better service if you had a little introspective look at your own viewpoint.
    I don't really read any text on this thread which categorically expresses that you are "doomed to failure". The portions of this thread which it seems you wish to term "negative" are in reality only words of caution from those who have already MADE MISTAKES. The first title of the thread was "Why so much negativity directed to New Photographers?" Maybe one is reading all the responses from that perspective, that is to say one is simply seeking out what appears to be ‘negativity’, rather than reading what the words mean: and reading the advice which is contained in those words. So if I were in your shoes I would re read all the advice, but from a different standpoint.
    I also note that there is not yet list of the other lenses which is at disposal for the tasks you outlined. On the other hand, however, valuable time has been taken to express ‘frustration’. Surely, we all understand that (as only an example) Marcus Ian and I, who have asked for a list of other lenses that you have, would be frustrated by the non-response.
    I mention these elements specifically because it is “advice”: not only about how you will best extract the many good hints and tips which are in this thread, but, also it would bode well in general to have a positive viewpoint about (your) photography generally, before you venture into these tasks, and I think that if you continue to read this thread as “negative” some of that perceived negativity will have an affect.
    Personally, I would like all the chatter and conversation in this thread about negative advice on forums to newbie Photographers, simply to cease. As I understand, it was never the stated intent of your opening post to explore that topic, anyway – so why would one want to continue to pursue it?

  39. Athena, you are NOT doomed to failure. Stuart Moxham and Michael Mowry had some good advice in my opinion. You don't need to worry about incredibly artistic photographs at this point, but if you see one grab it:). Focus on getting decently taken/exposed/framed shots. If the b/g want formals etc than find out before hand what they have in mind and have them assign a person for family shots if they want them. That way you don't have to "herd the cats". If there is a wedding coordinator, chat -them-up well before, even get a schedule. Its good to know what's going to be happening during the event and when, that way you can stay ahead of the action and anticipate where to be while keeping an eye on the b/g. You also have a couple of big advantages that no-one has mentioned. It sounds like you know the people and the families to a certain extent. This can allow you to relax and participate in the great atmosphere that a fun wedding is while you are taking photos. Make sure you get to eat:) Just get into the flow of it and have fun while focusing (no pun intended) on making sure the photography is basically solid. Good luck and have fun with it. Like others have said if you are intending to make this a business then their are several already stated steps you can take to be able to work your way into a professional business.
  40. Athena,
    I'm going to wade into this a second time and try to be helpful as I can. I'm going to start with very mundane stuff (equipment, insurance, contracts) and end up with the really serious stuff.
    1. Don't fret about your camera body.
    I agree with those who've observed that the D5100 isn't a Professional Wedding Photographer's camera. But the truth is, there's no such thing as a Professional Wedding Photographer's camera, and in any case, you're not a professional wedding photographer. If you know your camera inside out (and all the rest of your gear) there's no reason the D5100 can't take fine photos.
    Only 1 tip here: Be absolutely sure that you shoot raw, or if you wish, raw + jpeg.
    2. On the other hand, the rest of your equipment may not work so well for you.
    The focal lengths of the two lenses you mention are popular with wedding photographers, but more with those who shoot with full-frame bodies.

    As William W pointed out, the 70-200 is a bit 'long' on your APS-C D5100. The corresponding focal length for an APS-C body would be 50-135. You may have good luck with the 70-200 for portraits, but a wedding is not a portrait session. It may be useful during the ceremony, when you typically can't get too close to the bride and groom and the celebrant. On the other hand, it probably won't help you much before (say, in the dressing room) or after (say, for the formals or at the reception). That's a lot of lens to carry around if you're going to be staying at 70mm all day.
    Even the 50 f.18 on your APS-C camera is a "near telephoto" lens, but of the two lenses, I would consider this the more useful one. More often than not in the past I have worked with primes only. But achieving success with primes involves thinking differently — being aware of the limitations imposed by the single focal length and trying to turn those liabilities into advantages. If your experience has all been with zoom lenses, you may not find this easy. And when I'm working I always have two cameras hanging around my neck, each with a different focal length. Changing lenses is a big problem while shooting a wedding for a whole slew of reasons and I avoid it or at any rate plan changes ahead of time and keep them to a minimum. If I were in your shoes, I'd go to the rehearsals, see if the 70-200 can be useful at all for the ceremony, but I'd probably end up working with the 50 exclusively. I'm not saying this will work for you or that it will be easy. I'm just saying that it's doable.
    Did you say that the only flash you have is the on-camera flash? No hot-shoe/removable flash at all? If that's the case, my advice would be to immediately start working with your camera's auto ISO options and see how well your camera can do up to, oh, ISO 2000 or even 3200. Then plan to shoot the entire wedding without flash. This too will be a challenge but it will be less of a challenge than trying to take usable photos with the built-in pop-up flash.
    To recap: a wedding can be shot with success with a single body, a single 50mm lens, and no flash. Jeff Ascough could do it. Tony Korbel can do it. It ain't going to be easy, but the truth is, if you were to buy a good hot-shoe flash (or better two) today, it wouldn't be easy to master flash photography between now and your first wedding, either.
    3. Second body? Second lens?
    I've said this before in this forum: You can shoot a wedding with a single body and no backup. The question is, should you? How bad would it be if your one and only camera stops working on you? I can help you a little by saying, it won't be the end of the world. You may cry, the bride may cry, but life will go on. My brother-in-law shot my wedding and lost most of the photos. I'm still talking to him. ;-)
    Now it's unlikely that you'll experience a failure. But when I say "unlikely," I absolutely do NOT mean it won't happen. My feeling is, anybody who hasn't had equipment fail on them is either inexperienced or living a charmed life. Curiously, I've never had any piece of camera equipment fail on me when I've been shooting on my own, say, on vacation while hiking the Grand Canyon in extreme weather. But I've had just about every item in my kit break on me while I'm working. Lenses have stopped communicating with the camera. Multiple flash units have broken on me during weddings or graduations or first communions. I one had an odd, unexpected problem with a camera body: it just sort of froze. I've broken 2 tripods while working. Batteries have failed on me — not run down, but failed. Remote control units have jammed. I ripped my pants once, shooting a wedding, and that was the only time I did NOT have a backup. I actually do take an extra shirt.
    SO it's dumb or at least reckless to work without backups of everything. Dumb like, say, driving around without wearing a seatbelt. If you were a pro, working without backups is item #1 in the list of things that constitute professional malpractice, or would do so, if wedding photography were a regulated professional field of endeavor. But again, you're not a pro, so if you feel comfortable taking the risk, well, God bless you.
    I will admit, that having extra equipment complicates your working. That's why many pros bring backups but leave the backups in the car or in a storage room nearby.
    4. Insurance: equipment and/or liability
    Both good to have, but not essential. Again, these are pro concerns. You'll know when you need liability insurance. As for insuring your own equipment, you can insure yourself easily enough. I would suggest however that you keep your eye on your equipment. ABOVE ALL don't let the SD cards that contain the images get off your person. I shoot now with 32GB cards. I have backups in my pocket but I haven't needed to change out a card during a wedding in the last couple of years.
    5. Contract vs letter of understanding
    As a non-pro, you do not need to have a document with the word "contract" at the top of it.
    But you do need to come to a detailed understanding with the bride, about what you expect, what she expects. And this really ought to be in writing. An email will do. You'll want to give her at least a general idea about what parts of the ceremony you're going to cover, what exactly you're going to deliver to the bride and when (say, 150-200 high-res jpegs within 30 days after the wedding). Avoid promising to take specific shots. State explicitly that the bride will NOT get every shot that you took. Make the memo or email short, sweet, friendly. You don't have to ask the bride to sign it. You just need to be sure that she gets it, that you discussed it, and that she accepts the terms up front.
    The whole point of contracts — or memoranda of the sort I'm describing — is to avoid misunderstandings. And misunderstandings arise very easily, especially among friends and family. "I thought you were going to be here to take photos while I was getting dressed!" Or "I thought you knew that I wanted a picture of me and Aunt Edna!" Or "It's been 72 hours since the wedding and you haven't yet shown me a thing!"
    6. Preparation
    Wedding photography takes a very wide set of skills: technical photographic skills, obviously, but various personal skills are almost more important. Wedding photographers need to know what's happening next and make sure they're in the right place at the right time, anticipating their shots. They need to be able to melt invisibly into the background a lot of the time, and then take charge of a crowd at other times. You need to be able to keep your cool while working with people who themselves may be quite stressed.
    How do you prepare for this? Well, ideally, by working for a good while as a second shooter. I never did that myself. My preparation came from years of shooting events that vaguely, kinda-sorta resemble weddings (particularly school graduations, first communions and confirmations, graduation parties, fundraising parties, etc). Even with those experiences, I was nowhere as well prepared as I would like to have been. I think it was Roberto Valenzuela (but it might have been Hiram Trillo) who said, in a seminar I attended last year, that he shot a couple dozen weddings for free before charging for the first time. You get experience by getting experience.
    If you can't work as a second shooter, the next best thing might be to get a job as a war correspondent, preferably someplace where there's shooting with live ammo. Failing that, practice in every way you can think of. Photograph your husband cooking dinner.
    Think ahead of time about the group shots, which are a somewhat specialized problem.
    7. Execution
    I choose the word “execution” as a bit of black humor. Come the morning of the wedding you may feel a bit like a convict walking to the gallows.
    Anyway, about the actual shooting of the event, I can only offer a couple of pieces of general advice. Well, I could offer lots of specific advice but you’ve gotten some of that already, and in any case, you’re not likely to remember much of what we say. The skills you bring to the wedding aren’t going to be in your memory, as if you’d crammed for a test. They’re going to have to be in your muscles, in your habits, in your personality. That’s why preparation is really so important.
    But here are the general tips.
    Make friends at your earliest opportunity with the wedding coordinator and the disk jockey or band leader. Ask them if they can help you know in advance when things are going to happen at the reception.
    The famous quote ascribed to the Roman emperor Augustus comes to mind: festina lente “make haste slowly.” That is, you will need to move a lot to be everywhere you must be, but you MUST at all times remain calm and deliberate. Move quickly but don’t allow yourself to feel rushed. SLOW DOWN. Breathe.
    And be deliberate about your shots. LOOK before pressing the shutter button. Scientific research has shown that it is in fact quite possible — in fact, downright easy — to take 800 photos none of which is any good. Don’t shoot to be safe. You absolutely will miss lots and lots of shots, that’s life, don’t be bothered by it. But if you look and wait — or if you are willing to work deliberately to set them up, then do that — and try as often as possible to take a shot that you know in advance is going to be be worth taking. As one great photographer advises, STARE. (Was that Walker Evans?)
    Even knowing your camera inside out (as you should), you’re still going to be feeling a lot of pressure, from many directions. For that reason, keep things as simple as possible. Stow gear that you’re not using somewhere safe. And don’t be embarrassed to shoot in P mode or even Auto. Nobody is going to notice or care that you shot in M if the pictures are lousy; and nobody is going to notice or care that you shot in Auto if the pictures are great. The camera has a lot of intelligence built in. Let it help you. You never want to be waste precious mental energy worrying about exposure settings, flash settings, focal lengths, depth of field, focus, etc.
    The most important things for a photographer to get right at a wedding are (a) light and (b) composition and (c) the moment. Get those three right, and the camera will take care of everything else for you, at least to a degree that will be satisfactory.
    Finally, be a stranger at the wedding. You’re there to work, to apply whatever skills you have to get a job done. You cannot be The Photographer and A Guest at the same time. Do not think of yourself as a guest. At some point, especially late in the party, you may be able to relax a little. But basically, for somewhere between three and six hours (maybe longer) you’re going to work your rear end off trying to capture memories of a great party that you did not take part in.
    8. Post mortem
    As soon as possible after the wedding — ideally the same night — copy all the images from your card or cards. Do NOT erase the cards. Put them away someplace safe and don't touch them again until you've delivered the final photos to the bride.
    I always take the next day off (usually it's a Sunday). I like to let my head clear before I tackle the processing. If the bride is still around, and if I remember a shot that I think is good, I might email just one or two quick shots to the bride. Otherwise, I take 24-48 hours off before getting back to the processing.
    Good luck.
  41. "I guess trying to learn "Lightroom" is frowned upon too since it was a priority I mentioned it."​
    Quite the opposite. Lightroom is a terrific tool. I wish it had been available when I did weddings and events as gifts for family and friends several years ago. Lightroom is easy to learn, intuitively designed and helps ensure continuity in the overall look of a session or series of related photos. In fact, LR is so good I'm gradually returning to my backlog of photos dating back to 2005 to re-edit them in Lightroom.
    Editing is the easiest part of Lightroom. Download a few freebie presets from Matt Kloskowski's site, modify them to suit your tastes, and off you go. That's what I did to get my feet wet in Lightroom editing in 2012.
    The tricky bit is using Lightroom effectively for organizing your photos. I'm still working on that.
    But Lightroom may be the best tool ever developed for photographers who have to edit lots of photos quickly for weddings and events. And you can easily interface with tools like DxO Filmpack, Nik and Perfect Effects for custom effects beyond Lightroom. Perfect Effects in particular is a nifty utility that works well with Lightroom, although it is a bit more resource intensive than Lightroom itself, or DxO or Nik software. But Perfect Effects has a great support team and regularly scheduled free online tutorials. I sat in on one for Perfect Effects 8 recently and got a lot out of it.
  42. By the way, I'll take a slightly different angle on the backup camera advice:
    Get a really good point and shoot digital camera as your backup. There are some outstanding P&S digicams that are so good you'll actually *want* to use them for certain types of photos even in preference to your dSLR. Yeah, sounds weird, I know. But, for example, the Ricoh GR digital cameras are so good -- particularly their flash photos -- that you may even prefer it for candid snaps.
    This is the golden age for P&S digicams, comparable to the 1980s-'90s golden age of 35mm film compact cameras. Right now there are many good choices of affordable compact digital cameras in APS-C format (same as your Nikon DX sensor dSLR): the Ricoh GR digital; Nikon Coolpix A (too expensive, IMO); several Sony NEX and other models.
    If I was starting out with one dSLR as you are, I'd grab something like a Sony P&S with APS sensor, built-in flash, and use it as my backup for candid snaps and direct flash snaps. The smaller, lighter camera gives you so much flexibility - you can be spontaneous, weave in and out and around intimate moments such as couples dancing, or kids interacting with each other, and get truly spontaneous photos.
    Don't consider it a replacement for a serious backup camera, but a valuable extension to your toolbox. And if the budget right now is tight, something like the Sony NEX 3N is very affordable.
  43. The equipment I have is
    Nikon D5100 camera body
    Nikon 18-55mm lens
    Nikon 55-200mm lens
    I originally stated 70 -200mm lens in error, I was referring to this lens that came with my kit. I rarely use the kit lens as I also have a Tamron 18-270mm lens. This is the lens that stays on my camera most of the time.
    Nikon 50mm lens
    Nikon SB 400 Speedlight
  44. Finally, be a stranger at the wedding.​
    You can be very professional and not be a stranger. Not mutually exclusive. Just do your job but have fun. You know the people, its an advantage, just don't forget why your there.
  45. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Thank you for the list of gear.
    I suggest that you use the Tamron 18 to 270mm lens and the Nikon SB 400 for as much of the Wedding as possible.
    The rationale is that, that lens is the most familiar to you and also will give the range of Focal Lengths that you require. Also you do not want (at least I would not want) you to waste valuable time changing lenses un-necessarily.
    I suggest that you learn and practice Flash as Fill (mainly for the outdoor shots) and also look at making or buying a Flash Diffuser or Flash Bounce Card (mainly for the indoor shots) - you might consider making a DIY White Bounce Card.
    (already mentioned) You need to know if and when you are NOT ALLOWED to use FLASH and have a plan to accommodate that - (most likely inside the Church) - so for that period you WILL need to use only available light - and as the 18 to 270 is a relatively slow lens (i.e. not a large maximum aperture), you might have to use the 50/1.8, which as we have discussed is a short telephoto lens on your camera - so you need to reconnoitre to ensure you will have the SPACE to use the 50mm lens.
    I concur that for the pro bono assistance jobs that you are doing a P&S will suffice as a back-up camera, perhaps you could borrow one which also is compatible with your speedlite - I have two (Canon) P&S cameras and it is very useful that they both fit into my (Canon) DSLR kit in so far as they use the same ETTL metering system.
    I am still unclear about the exact arrangements for the wedding for which you are being “paid” – but suffice to say that my opinion is if any money or gift is being transacted to you, then you should be aware that some folk would consider this a ‘professional engagement’.
  46. It's never easy to be told over and over that you are doomed to fail when you are determined to succeed.​
    There's a risk of course but to say its a forgone conclusion is silly. The irony is that those comments turn out to be helpful because now you know what type of issues or problems to be aware of. At least on a conceptual level. This can help when you shape some of your goals and then incorporate techniques and information others provide that where useful and manageable. Plus asking questions is good. Its not like your just blundering in all clueless here.

    Come up with a manageable game plan. Take it out for a spin and practice. Make adjustments as needed at the time. You'll get useful images. By the third one you'll have three weddings under your belt. The naysayers will rue the day they said you couldn't do it.
  47. The equipment I have is
    Nikon D5100 camera body
    Nikon 18-55mm lens
    Nikon 55-200mm lens
    I originally stated 70 -200mm lens in error, I was referring to this lens that came with my kit. I rarely use the kit lens as I also have a Tamron 18-270mm lens. This is the lens that stays on my camera most of the time.
    Nikon 50mm lens
    Nikon SB 400 Speedlight​
    Phew! I am sooooo relieved to hear that!
    Given that gear, I would say that you have adequate primary coverage, and even redundancy for your primary focal lengths. At this point, while your lens selection is kind of slow, you are well positioned from a gear standpoint with the exception of flash and camera body.
    I think you should plan on the 18-270 being your 1st line shooting w/ one camera. It has VC, and it's versatility will make up, in large part, for it's speed. It's versatile zoom range will give you good opportunities that many kits (even ones 10x as expensive) would be hard pressed to catch. I carried that particular lens for awhile on my crops, and the flexibility of an 18-270 zoom allowed me to catch shots that even switching cameras (much less switching lenses) would have caused me to miss (though obviously not in a wedding situation).
    I would say that, given your likely setup, the 18-55, and 55-200 should be with you - only as backups should you need them, and as such, kept in the bottom of the bag and out of the way, and out of mind. Neither are advantageous over the 18-270. I don't see any situation where they will give preferable IQ or speed over the 18-270.
    But be prepared to forgoe it in low light situations. In a dark church it will be less than helpful - same goes for dark/late reception duties. Keep the 50 handy, but stick w/ the 18-270 for most of your 'average' wedding duties. Suffice it to say that if you had started the conversation w/ "I have an 18-270 and a 50/1.8" I would have been vastly less concerned about your capability from a gear standpoint. I have seen several weddings covered adequately with that very combination (though they all were daylight/daytime affairs).
    I would add that given your gear, in your shoes, I would say a second body and a second flash rank pretty high up there as things you really do need. For a few hundred dollars you should be able to acquire units which will serve. An older Nikon (rebel-equivelant) body should be easy and cheap to find, and the same goes for a flash.
    The advantage to a second DSLR body as a back up can not be understated. One advantage which you may not have considered is that you can mount your 50/1.8 to the older body, and if you find yourself in a pinch where the light is not adequate to use your 18-270 effectively, but time is of the essence, simply grab the back-up body to grab snaps. You will be capable of doing due-dilligence, and very well may be pleasantly surprised at the effectiveness of such.
    As far as a flash setup goes, your flash is the single most unreliable, yet can be the most important component of a system. In a wedding environment, I have damaged or destroyed numerous flash units - they hang off, get caught on things, and are the easiest component to damage - (not to mention they burn through batteries like there is no tomorrow!). Always frustrating, but rarely disastrous. --Only because I always have a back up. Always be prepared to loose a flash! The thing about flash units is that often, your first clue there is a problem is when they failed to fire & if your eye is looking through the VF, since the mirror goes up, you may not even notice! Sometimes even the camera doesn't know there is a problem. When using the flash, gimp, and gimp often!
  48. If you're determined to do this then...
    1. Get a second D5100. I know for a fact that there's nothing wrong with that design because I use one myself. However, test both cameras before leaving home.
    2. Get two spare batteries and make sure all batteries are fully charged.
    3. Get a second speedlight. SB14s are dirt cheap these days and will do everything you need.
    4. Start out with the 18-55 on one body and the 18-270 on the other, speedlights on both cameras.
    5. Before the day - practice using each camera/lens alternatively on something like birds in the park. Your goal is to be able to switch from one camera to the other without thinking about it. When you get home, analyse the pictures to make sure that they look as if they came from a single camera.
    6. Now follow your partner, kids, friend around for a couple of hours shooting with alternating cameras. Your aim is to forget about the cameras and the switching and concentrate on getting the best pictures. Once again, analyse the results carefully.
    7. On the day, check everything again.
    8. From the moment you arrive, switch cameras for every shot. That way, if there's a camera fault, you should have at least 50% of the images safe.
    9. At that point, try to forget all about the technicalities and concentrate on taking the pictures.
    This is actually how I work when I do anything that I regard as important and it seems to work well.
    I hope this helps.
  49. Hi Athena. As I stated earlier I literally stumbled into the wedding business by taking on a wedding at the last minute when the contracted photographer backed out. I think it important that you understand basics before you do the weddings. These include the relationship between shutter speed, lens opening, and ISO and the relationship between aperture and depth of field. You should also understand how to use a flash that mounts on the camera. Find a friend with some kind of camera you can use in case you need a back up. You have said nothing about the locations where these wedding are to take place so it is hard to figure out what you need in the way of flash. I have used LR for a several years. Sit down now and practice editing on some of your current photographs in the Develop mode. Make sure you know how to upload from a card and how to specify a file to upload to. Two things that saved weddings for me when I started were shooting a lot of pictures and fill flash when stuck in difficult lighting conditions. When you think you have shot enough pictures shoot some more and if you are going to shoot groups get someone from each side of the families to help you get groups together. I think the 17-55 is fine as long as you have enough light. You will use it the most I think. Make sure you get at least thirty minutes to shoot the wedding parties between the ceremony and the reception. I have tried to do this before weddings but too many times critical people are late. I think you can do it with the forgiving groups you are starting with but please, please, take some of the advice others more experienced than I have given. There is a background among them of thousands of weddings and the great number of lessons learned through theirs and my mistakes. The most important thing is to have a good relationship with your customers and a relaxed attitude during the wedding. Expressions really count.
  50. Athena,
    The reason these admonitions are taking place are as warnings so that you don't do what too many people do, which is either ruin someone's wedding or get themselves into legal trouble by not being properly prepared. There are far too many horror stories out there which start out exactly like your post did. The advice is there to help protect you, to help protect the couples, and to help protect the industry. These are not "you are doomed to fail" responses, they are "many have failed miserably doing the exact same thing you are doing, so you'd best get the following in place if you hope to avoid calamity" responses.
    You said you sat down with them. Great. Now get it in writing. If you don't, you are setting yourself up for a serious falling out and potential legal trouble.
    Get the insurance: Backup equipment, backup people, commercial liability. Minimum. Someone earlier asked how you get backup people: you call around and you forge relationships with other photographers who could potentially step into your place if needed, at your expense, regardless of what you are being paid or not paid.
    Communicate with the couple and find out what their expectations are for their wedding photography. No two weddings are alike, and assumption is the mother of all mistakes. If they say "the usual" do not let them go with that. "The usual" to one person is usually completely different than it is for someone else.
    Understand going in that the following will very likely happen: You are doing this for little or no money, thus you are not considered a real professional, thus they will treat you as such and inexplicably expect the world from you for their little or no money paid. There is a perception of low value attached to your "favor" and it will probably cost you in time, money, or both. Don't be upset if this happens, you pretty much are asking for it. No good deed goes unpunished, as they say.
    If you think something is going to take fifteen minutes, schedule forty-five. If the wedding day is going A to B to C on a strict deadline, you're probably going to be screwed. Put that into your contract: You are not liable for photographs not taken if the schedule of the day gets altered due to lateness.
    If your start time is 1:00pm, you'd better be there at 12:30 if not 12:00. If you haven't been to the locations before, scout them out. Find out where the trouble spots are going to be with lighting. Nothing is going to mess you up more than showing up to do family portraits on that staircase they all like, which is poorly lit and which no amount of bounce flash will rectify. If you suddenly find yourself having to boost your ISO to overcome such a situation, your shots are going to be really grainy and you may also get motion blur because you cannot hand-hold for a 1/10th of a second shot (few people can). Bring a tripod. I don't care if it's a pain in the neck. Bring it.
    If you are still using the Auto function of your camera, you have from now until the first wedding to master at the very least, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, or (best of all) full manual. If you don't understand the balancing act between aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, learn this to a level that you barely have to think about it.

    Now for the really obvious (or what should be)
    1) Act professionally, but keep things fun.
    2) Take control of family portraits and don't let the subjects get distracted by other people photographing them. Manage the people photographing behind you, or be prepared to deal with people not looking at you.
    3) Take more than one picture of people posing for you. They will blink or get distracted by a shiny. Don't give the couple all of those - give them the one of each that worked out.
    4) You are the photographer, paid or not, and you must have priority position for each thing to be photographed. The guests, especially Uncle Bob who has been called in to "back you up" are not more important than you. Unless you're 6'7" like me, you'd better get in front.
    5) The word of the day: Breathe. That's for the couple, not you.
    6) Hydrate. Eat. You need fuel as well.
    7) Do not photograph people eating or drinking. That's not flattering. Photographing the group take shots together is a moment and thus okay.
    8) Do some research on posing techniques. Nothing screams amateur like standing there not knowing what to do with people who are looking to you for guidance.
    9) Don't forget to photograph the boring table in the back. They're wedding guests too.
    10) Watch your backgrounds. If there are windows or mirrors, shoot at an angle or you will get reflections of you, other guests, or worst of all, your flash. Make sure Uncle Bob isn't scratching himself behind the people you're photographing.
    We all started somewhere, and the warnings you are being given are good advice. You should very carefully take it all to heart.
  51. Sorry, one more thing. Know the day in and out. It can happen (it has happened to me multiple times) that the couple can recess down the aisle, look at you, and say "Now what?"

    Be ready with the right answer. Every time, at every possible moment.
  52. Thanks again for all of your advice. I am truly grateful and I am taking it to heart.
    I am shooting in RAW. I generally use Aperture priority, I do shoot in manual sometimes.
    The online portrait class I am taking right now mostly covers lighting and posing. I am finding it very helpful.
    The three weddings are in completely different type of locations. One is outside at a farm, one in a church with a restaurant reception and one is at the beach. The church / restaurant one will be the most challenging as it is a 10 hour drive so I won't really be at all familiar with the location aside from attending the rehearsal the night before. I have asked my poor husband and sons who so LOVE being my guinea pigs to let me practice with them in our own church, I know all churches are different but it least will give me some type of experience shooting from the aisles..etc.
  53. Watch out for the barn - lighting conditions in them can frequently be awful.
  54. How many disasters have happened when inexperienced photographers agree to shoot weddings for family or friends? Countless. "Oh, I explained my inexperience and he/she is such a good friend, they really understand, so I'm safe. They'll be happy that I saved them lots of money!" OMG, I'm glad I'm not you.
    I'm a pro-photographer and I wouldn't agree to shoot anyone's wedding, ESPECIALLY a family or friend's wedding!! I shot two weddings, both for friends, 3 years ago and 5 years ago, and I was an experienced photo journalist, but let me tell you think your friends are cool and understanding? THEY ARE NOT and they're going to get VERY DEMANDING BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER. If I didn't go 1000 extra miles in my wedding shoots, I would have lost both friends......and I'm still a little resentful on how abrupt and demanding they got with me. I had to push back and it was uncomfortable to say the least. Think about this before you do it. The amount of time and money you're going to spend on these 3 weddings will be absolutely staggering.
    And with all due respect, your lenses and flash unit are all inadequate for shooting a wedding.

    Did you talk about prints with your clients? OMG, shooting with a cropped sensor camera you'll need to compensate for the 8x10 print crop while you're shooting or you're headed for disaster.....something that is EASY to forget when you're in the chaotic midst of shooting a wedding.

    God be with you.
  55. While the scenario Thomas J described does seem to occur, my own experience in shooting weddings and events as gifts for family and friends has been completely positive. When I shot film I simply had a local pro lab do the processing and printing of small proofs, and gave the negatives and prints to the couples. I didn't even keep copies for myself. When I shot digital I just burned the photos to discs and gave them to the families to distribute as they chose.
    I didn't worry about copyrights, usage or anything else. These were gifts and I didn't place any restrictions on them. No complaints, no problems.
    I may be luckier than average. But I had the same experience when settling my grandparents' estate after they died. Instead of the anticipated mad rush and family spats over who got what, I had to beg family members to come over and take what they wanted before calling in the auctioneers. My grandparents had some really nice stuff, but our family simply didn't indulge in the cliched grabfest catfights. It was quite refreshing and a relief.
  56. Thanks Lex! I am not going into this with blinders on. I am definitely the type of person who gives people the benefit of the doubt and always try's to see the best in people. Even if the first one is bad I will go into the second one with life lessons learned and more experience than I had!
  57. The farm will likely be the easiest (ceremony at least), especially if they have a covered (but not enclosed) area to do portraits and group shots. If they utilize the barn (likely, especially for dancing) You will be hard pressed to get good clean shots inside. Not only is it dark, but there is rarely a nice clean ceiling to bounce off of. The plus side is that it will give good to great backgrounds.
    Be ready for high ISO, and f2 w/ the 50. I'd advise taking more, not less, pictures. Don't be afraid to spray and pray in those instances, and shoot in shutter priority to control your SS.
    The Beach is it's own set of challenges. See if you can convince them to hold the ceremony until late afternoon/early evening. You'll want the light mediation. Bring a polarizer or ND filter to kill the glare/brightness if not. Some people like to use HSS flash to cut the shadows, but that might be a bit above your experience level. OTOH you have time to practice.
    You must know whether the church is going to mind you using flash. You'll want to be able to do either. Hopefully you'll have something to bounce off of. I wouldn't worry about walking the church to far ahead of time, even an hour ahead of time is enough to scope out FLs and framing, and taking some test shots. If it's a small church/ceremony, you could even take some painters tape. why? to X an aisle seat ( and put a bag there) so you can duck out of the aisle but still have position that utilizes your fixed FL 50mm effectively.
    I wouldn't worry about printing 8X10s w/ your 16mp crop camera *rolling eyes* a clean file is a clean file, and making clean files w/ your lens set and lighting might be challenging, but if they are, they'll print fine.
  58. *rolling eyes* cropped sensor image files are not WYSIWYG when you print to 8x10. If her framing is too tight, heads and feet will get cut off printing 8x10's and there's really not much you can do to fix it. It's a fail. Of course there's nothing wrong with the IQ of cropped sensor cameras, especially 16mp and above.
  59. I am happy to see this thread loosed up a bit from Doom and Gloom to some helpful suggestions. LOL. Who crops for 8x10 anymore? With todays digital design albums there is no 8x10 cropping for your layouts. Some shots you don't have time to give additional space. The environmental shots is a different story but I am not thinking 8x10 crop. I put many full frame images in my albums. As long as I did not cut off the feet in my composition then I am not worried. I do however like to leave room as a general rule of thumb.
  60. I leave room in just about everything, only because you can always crop in during post. Not quite so easy to invent stuff you didn't put in the picture in the first place.
  61. One thing I have not seen suggested here is that you get yourself a Stroboframe or something equivalent. These devices don't require any more skill to use than a regular hot-shoe mounted flash, and will produce much nicer images. You don't get red-eye, and shadows drop down behind the subjects. This is particularly useful when shooting in portrait orientation when someone is standing in front of a wall, which otherwise tends to result in really hellacious shadows to one side of the subject. This device alone will make your images look substantially better than those of the casual snapshooters in attendance, and while you could of course do better with softboxes on light stands and radio-controlled speedlights like a real pro, that's not where you are at the moment.
  62. Backup body
    • I like the suggestion that you shoot with the 18-270 on a single body. Keep it simple. Work with what you know.
    • You could forgo the 2nd body. Just tell them up front. "I'm thrilled to help photograph your wedding. I'm happy to do it for free. It's unlikely something will happen but I'm not a professional photographer and if the camera breaks then we are just out of luck." - My contract has a line that reads "This limitation on liability shall also apply in the event of camera or other equipment malfunctions or any other circumstances beyond the photographer’s control"
    • Try to get a backup body anyway. Is it possible another guest would let you use their camera in a pinch? Is there someone you know who can lend you something?
    • Worse case is buy a used body at KEH for about $325. But if you were spending that much, a better use of the money would be to buy a new SB-700. Shoot with the SB-700 and use the SB-400 as a backup.
    Memory cards
    • Make sure you have a memory card that is large enough. I use big cards that are large enough to hold the entire event. The rational is that I don't have to worry about losing cards or damaging them while changing them. Others will argue that you should swap.
    • Format the card in the camera before the event. NEVER EVER DELETE PHOTOS DURING THE EVENT. Do it after copying everything to your hard disks. In the unlikely event you need to do data recovery because you accidentally format the card, you can almost certainly recover everything. Even for certain other card failures, data recovery could still do a lot.
    • Bring a backup card just in case. After the event, you can do your regular shooting with the backup card and save the event card for a little while as a backup to hard disk.
    • At least two spare camera batteries. You are more likely to exhaust a camera battery than for the camera to fail.
    • Buy the backup batteries now so you have time to try them out and confirm their capacity. Especially important if you go with third party batteries.
    • Battery reliability is important to me so I use only the hugely expensive Nikon brand batteries.
    • Bring your battery charger. Do your first battery swap early. Don't wait for the first battery to deplete all the way before you begin charging it. The sooner the first battery is on the charger the sooner it gets fully charged again.
    • I never bring a battery charger. I just bring too many batteries.
    • I was referring only to the camera batteries above. A lot of people, myself included, use rechargeable NiMH AA batteries. Make sure you bring enough batteries for the flash equipment. NiMH batteries last longer than alkaline batteries.
    • Someone pointed out that flashes are more likely to fail than the camera. So it makes sense to buy a backup flash before getting a backup body. The SB-700 is a good choice. Possibly the single most essential piece of equipment that you should buy.
    • The 18-55 is the backup to your 18-270.
    • Accept that you won't capture every shot. Tell your friends that you won't capture everything but you'll do the best you can.
    • It's not the end of the world if you miss the kiss or ring exchange or anything else.
    • I put another line in my contract that says "Because events are not fully controlled, the Photographer cannot guarantee delivery of any specifically requested images."
    • Your friends are asking you to do this because you take better photos than any of their other friends. Most likely they will be thrilled with whatever you produce for them because it will be better than anything they could have had otherwise.
    • They've probably seen the kind of photos you shoot so you know they already like your style of photography. You are already working through on-line courses to improve your photography. Don't try to absorb all the shooting tips you've received here.
    Data backups
    • Writeable DVDs can degrade after a few years. Make enough backups. What constitutes enough is a completely separate issue that you don't want to get into here.
    • For now, keep a copy on your hard drive, a DVD copy, and third copy on an external hard drive.
    Hope this helps. Apologies for repeating at least some of the stuff that's bee repeated several times already.

    Good luck. You'll do fine.
  63. ...cropped sensor image files are not WYSIWYG when you print to 8x10. If her framing is too tight, heads and feet will get cut off printing 8x10's and there's really not much you can do to fix it. It's a fail...​
    Crops have the same Aspect Ratio as FF cameras. Why would a crop camera not be just as able as my 5D2s to execute 8X10s? They pretty much all have a 3:2 , not a 4:5. (and certainly her camera is no exception). You are of course absolutely right that too tight of a shot can loose the ends if you then print on 8X10 - But then the vast majority of printers offer 8X12s now too. Since the OP does a fair amount of portaiture, I'd expect she'd know that she'll need to frame so she can cut the ends off. But even if she forgot to, given the availability of 8X12 printing, it'd hardly be a disaster, or even a fail.
  64. Tom brought up memory capacity. I had totally forgotten that you may not have enough. I'd say if you are shooting 16mp RAWs, that you should should have at a minimum 2x 32gb cards. Figure that's about 13-1400 shots per card (varies of course). It is easy to do 2k+ in a day of constant shooting. Of course it depends on the event, and it's duration, but I frequently will do 3k+ in a wedding day (13+ hours).
    If for some reason you feel like you are getting low on memory, switch to JPGs immediately. It's better to have a JPG than nothing at all.
  65. I am afraid that Athena, with all the diverse information offered in this thread it may like trying to drink from a fire hose and it may be very confusing. It is probably time to take some of the things you have learned and go out with a camera and try some things out and then bring some pictures home, process them, and see what you have. Good luck.
  66. Athena:
    Wow! Long thread! Well, although I've taken on a few commercial assignments, I've yet to book my first wedding. Of course, that won't stop me from adding my own $0.02! Here's some of the things I've been doing in preparation for my first wedding:
    1. I've been building up my entire gear inventory so that I have at least two (or more) of everything. Quite a substantial investment, but now I'm pretty much covered--one less thing to worry about.
    2. My gear uses half a dozen or so different types of batteries. Make sure you have plenty of charged/new/spares for each type required.
    3. Although not essential for your immediate needs, the liability insurance offered through the vendor, Ellis Insurance, is one of the most affordable professional liability and equipment polices available.
    4. And, lastly, but I think, most importantly, I've been testing all of my equipment in every possible type of scenario I can think of which may be encountered at a wedding: hotel interiors, daylight exteriors, dark reception halls, etc. I've also devised specific technical approaches, as well as specific equipment set-ups for each scenario.

    For example, we happened to go to Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago. So what I did I do? I brought a bunch of gear and performed some tests in the hotel! My specific goal was to hone my ambient + flash technique (often referred to as "dragging the shutter") in a real hotel environment. Here's one of the test exposures with a couple of women who kindly offered to pose for one of the tests:

    Exposing for ambient + flash (i.e., "dragging the shutter"):

    Nikon D3s + AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/4.0 VR.
    Assistant-held, pole-mounted Profoto 3' octa + Nikon SB-800 + Quantum Turbo + PocketWizard TT1/TT5 RF triggers.
    ISO: 1,000; f/4.0 @ 1/25th.

    Do a dry-run:

    Along the same theme as practicing with your gear in environments similar to what you'll be expecting on the day, performing dry runs helps iron-out any detail-oriented gear issues. For example, it's always good to do a dry run a day or two before a shoot. Tomorrow, I have a portrait session with an on-air broadcaster. Last night, I set up the exact gear I'm planning to use, and shot some test frames. It turned out that I needed a piece of grip equipment that I had to retrieve from the garage to keep my strobe from slipping on its boom (a baby pin, which needed to be inserted into a grip head, vertically). I kind of knew I needed it, but this confirmed that I did, and made me go get it, and pack it in the kit for tomorrow.


    Doing all of these tests without any pressure is one thing. Performing complicated, fast-changing technical duties under pressure is quite another. I've also been shooting various types of non-wedding events to train myself to work under pressure, and within extreme time-constraints. If you're not 1,000% sure of any given technique, there's a high probability that under pressure, you may not be able to figure it out on the spot. So again, the mantra is practice, practice, practice! Good luck!
  67. That was way to much too read. Here is my small list of tips:
    1) Shoot the entire day, from the bride and groom getting ready through the bride & groom driving off. That way you have captured their story.
    2) Shoot, shoot and shoot with two bodies and different lenses. Take mundane details, kids, grandma, flowers, funny things, table settings, ANYTHING.
    3) A good time for you to take a break is when people are shoving food in their mouths.
    4) If you have no time to figure out creative settings, turn it to auto.... that will still be better then missing the shot. Make sure you know how long the ceremony is. I once took my sweet time and before I knew it, the ceremony was over and I barely had time to get the kiss.
    5) Cat-herding: Make sure there is time to take pictures of the bride and groom. Ask for 20-30 minutes exclusively for these shots. The bride spend money on her dress, make sure you capture it. Usually directly after the ceremony if they do not see each other beforehand. You HAVE to be scheduled into their timeline for their formals. Start with the biggest group so their attention is still fresh. 20 minutes for these formals, best time is usually when the bride and groom are done with their session or before you take the B & G on their solo session. Be prepared to take them away from the reception site. Try to take pictures they have requested: B & G with great-grandma, special aunt, etc. Have a designated person keep track of this list. Don't waste too much time on shots with either the bride and her family or the groom with his family. This is tiring and these family members want to take pictures later with the couple, not just one of them.
    Ok, that's enough for now. Let me know how you did. I think this is an excellent way to get experience. Looks like they know what they are getting into so their expectations should be accordingly. Maybe you will blow them away! They do NOT need to know how many pictures did not turn out. Keep that to your self.
  68. "IMO the insurance for you, in this situation, is largely a red herring. I can count on one hand the number of times I've been asked for proof, and those were all at uber-snobby hotels... I highly doubt that it'll be relevant given the context. And as long as you aren't being paid, your liability is minimal."

    If there is any indication or suggestion that you are there as the "official photographer" with an agreement between yourself and the bride and groom (no matter how casual or friendly), paid or not, then it is quite possible you could be held directly liable for any loss or damage to people or property. You would not need a specific written contract in order to fall into this category.
  69. Good luck and have fun! I think there's nothing wrong starting out to shoot for free or little experience, as long as the brides trust you with it and accept the experience and background you have. Chances are they dont have much expectations as well. A few weddings later, I think the biggest challenge is how to establish your business and start charging what you think you deserve.
    Me and my wife started out doing this as a passion, shot the first 7 weddings for either free, $600, $1000 or slightly more than that, built up somewhat of a portfolio. Invested about $50k into the gears, all full frame with every piece of lighting gear imaginable. Everyone love our work , appreciates our hardwork, give excellent reviews and say they will refer. We love being in weddings and are real passionate about what we do, just like all the newbie photographers are. But it's such hard work, we started to think if we want to keep doing it, especially when brides find it hard to pay above $1200 for a wedding, at least in our network. Often times you hear them wanting to pay $500 or 300,a nd that's just discouraging, with all the abundant cheap cameras out there everyone can claim they can take a picture. We have decided to not shoot any weddings under $1k with our investment, time, service, insurance etc., and then the bookings all sudden stop. So I think our passion side job pretty much stopped there, as we can easily make more from our day jobs.
    How you market yourself, network , brand and knows how to run a good business has a lot more weight in becoming how successful you are. Where you start, with what equipment to start, has little to do with it. How good you are at the craft definitely helps, but if you dont know business you will still starve. In southern California where I am at, if you throw a rock 5/10 you will hit a photographer or a general contractor. If the bride is paying under $1000, what we found from experience is that they can't really tell the difference between good and bad photographers anyway.
    My little sad story :)
  70. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

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