Is our advice responsible?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by shawn_mertz, Jul 22, 2013.

  1. The last few posts about, " I'm about to do my first wedding "
    These people have been clueless.
    they are like people about to walk across a rope over a canyon with their eyes closed, saying well once in a parking lot i walked across the top of a curb stone.
    Why are we telling them anything but a very loud NO!
    I know why they will ignore us, so you try to help.
    I'm all for helping the ones that are at least near ready. But Come on, a point n shoot camera and a portfolio of 6 photos of their on kid sitting in the sun. Tell them NO.
  2. No I would of had four years to help her fix the car and teach her how in the process and i i know how to fix cars. In fact my sons first car we paid $ 100 bucks for it. It was missing a wheel and had the engine apart.
    My my son had said he was going to buy a fixer upper limo and take a job driving a bride to her wedding in seven days. I would have said NO.
  3. I can think of quite a few achievers who dared to try and triumphed.
    It doesn't come without failures and a few hard lessons, but isn't that a part of any process?
    Michael what bride and groom deserve to be the customer for someone's failure and hard lessons?
  4. Well, I often wonder myself, but I then decided to give a simple concise answer and maybe a little more comment after
    and that's it. There is already a whole section on wedding photography to read under learning, and there are plenty of
    tutorials on YT if they are so inclined or motivated. I can only relate to my son who is 26, about two years ago their friend
    got married, it was super low budget, I gave them some coaching and about four people used p and s and phones and
    posted everything up, and it was really pretty admirable. So, that's how I look at it.

    Years ago when we were shooting with $15,000 worth of Blads and lights and all that, it was a more exclusive business.
    Not so today. It runs the whole gamut now from phone weddings to full production crews. Personally, the whole thing has
    gotten so out of hand with people expecting thousands of shots and low prices, I'm out. I do my commercial and editorial
    work, a few small parties, my personal projects and some portraits. NO weddings any more.
  5. I see your point, Shawn, but good judgement comes from life experiences which is usually a consequence of lessons learned from failures.
    A failed wedding photography experience is not the end of the world, and it's their prerogative if someone wants to try it without experience.
    Rather than an emphatic NO, I'd rather share a laundry list of overwhelming details, what if's, cautions, and let them make their own judgement, at their own peril.
  6. "Michael what bride and groom deserve to be the customer for someone's failure and hard lessons?"
    Shawn, no bride or groom deserves to be such customers, but someone hellbent on doing it will do it regardless, and the bride/groom shares equal responsibility in their due diligence to weed out potentially disastrous results.
    Another consideration is that not every wedding is a high society affair demanding the best results. Plenty of events occur in rural areas where there are no expectations at all, and with a corresponding photographer's fee.
  7. We don't know anything about the circumstances of these jobs. A fair share are probably small or informal, very low
    budget affairs where there is no money for a regular photog anyway. That still doesn't mean it's any less important, just
    that the couple is making do with what they have available and are willing to take the chance. In that case, that is not our
    problem or concern. That is between the b and g and the newbie.
  8. Nothing wrong with that. Especially with those that appear close to ready.
    but often i see advice like "go for it" and no mention of the dangers.
  9. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    You ask a very good question, Shawn.
    I think it is very important to appreciate each contribution as it applies at that particular time in the conversation.
    Very few of these types of questions are detailed and precise and they rarely contain anywhere near adequate information for a detailed answer.
    One approach is to engage to get more information – that sometimes works, however, it occurs to me, that it is more often the case that nearly responses to these types of questions: offer assistance and comment, based upon some assumptions.
    Also, if one comment from a person with several years' of experience, raises a concern or a doubt and that concern is seemingly not heeded, addressed - or even questioned with an open view to initiate further conversation apropos some alternative or work-around by the OP . . . then, in my experience, it will achieve very little for a plethora "don't do it" comments, to follow.
    Also, and this is just a guess based upon a broad understanding of general human nature, it would be rare for any Originating (new) Posters, to vigorously interrogate the bona fide and background of the Author of each comment.
  10. It has also been a fairly regular circumstance that after the OP posts their turmoil, they never again return to the
    conversation. So, as a result, there is no chance of getting better information as William alluded to.
  11. Well we can stomp around and shout dire warnings but that does nothing to address the fact that they are going to do it anyway. And then there is the very real possibility that we are talking to a real talent. We may be able to help them survive a few and come back to inspire us. If I had not run into a former Nazi party photographer with a great deal of talent and experience but most importantly the inclination to help a young GI learn how to take a passible picture I might never have had the joy photography has brought me over the years.
    Then there is the Bride and Groom. Our advice helps them too. If our little tidbits help to get them some decent wedding pictures that is all for the good.
    I have no problem calling BS on someone. I do it with equipment all of the time. People trying to buy a game make me want to hit them with a wet sock. There are far more photographers over gunned than under gunned for that reason.
    But if someone asks me how to take a picture, and I think I know how, I will tell them every time. Every time. Why? Because every single shot I publish or take for enjoyment is a direct result of someone who was probably tired and wanted a beer, taking time to share their passion and expertise with me. Most of them probably wanted to say..."Photojournalist? You have about as much chance of doing that as you do of becoming an astronaut. You can't shoot the cover of a major news magazine or cover a major election cycle without decades of experience. Give it up." "Cover the society wedding of the year? You can't do that! Get someone who had done 100 of them to do it."
    People took a chance on me and I need to pay it forward. That doesn't mean that we don't need to scare the bejesus out of them and warn them of pitfalls. Though my knowledge is limited to just a few areas, I think it is my responsibility to help the next generation of photographers to the extent I know how. It is no less than the last generation did for me.
    And just for the record, even though I have been taking pictures for half a century, I learn some pretty good stuff from the advice that this forum gives to others. Just the other day something Sarah Fox said came to mind as I was shooting a wedding and I enjoyed the result.
  12. On the whole, I'd suggest that those who wish to help others, continue to do so and those who feel that negative advice is best, continue to post the same.
    Sounds almost like the definition of an internet forum, doesn't it?
  13. "On the whole, I'd suggest that those who wish to help others, continue to do so and those who feel that negative advice is best, continue to post the same."
    That's a reasonable notion, but it does come at a cost - the dwindling participation which will eventually spell the demise of that forum.
  14. Nothing wrong with that. Especially with those that appear close to ready.
    but often i see advice like "go for it" and no mention of the dangers.

    Good points, but I don't think I've ever seen a beginning wedding photo thread that didn't have warnings of pitfalls and the dangers. I haven't seen them all, but it seems there's always "reality" advice given.
  15. That's a reasonable notion, but it does come at a cost - the dwindling participation which will eventually spell the demise of that forum.​
    Very true. Still, everything has a life span and, when a forum no longer meets the needs of its members, it will wither and die. If the moderators wish, they could apply similar rules to those used for the "Beginners Questions" forum.
  16. Good point, HP.
    Perhaps it's best to have the same "gentle to beginners" rule across all forums, so long as posters identify themselves as such.
    It'll be good for the site; at least it won't scare beginners away and nurture a more friendly environment for everyone.
  17. I would also ask for some minimal information. For example, in the most recent post, the OP neglected to mention until specifically asked what kind of equipment they were using. The $120 special at Walmart hadn't even entered my consideration as the equipment he was using... my fault, I should have asked in my initial post. Nor did I consider that the 'portfolio' the client loved consisted of some snaps of the kids.
    I myself was fooled by the confidence that came across in the initial post. I assumed that the OP had a prerequisiste of at least some minimal experience, a decent portrait portfolio, and some basic equipment (a consumer DSLR, and at least a kit lens or two) reflecting those. That his 'portfolio' wouldn't even be considered nominally such by any of us didn't even cross my mind initially.
    I have to admit that I would guess that the vast majority of people who consider this (at least and post) have a considerably greater level of experience, equipment, and caution than this individual makes both a consideration of a) the shooters overall capability, and b) the clients expectation (especially considering their budget) of critical importance before we bandy about the 'heck no! don't do it!'
    Maybe the short answer is that such posts should be encouraged, and encouraged to be longer not shorter - with prolific descriptions of everything potentially relevant! The forum can support a lot of text - we should encourage the OPs to use it!
  18. I agree with Mr. Chang
    There has to be a level of uncertainty for a person to come here and ask for help. But that's it, they're asking for help not permission. The "I've been doing this for a half century" doesn't mean you're a good photographer, nor does it mean anyone should listen to you. This is a visual art. People can and do work with the equipment they have. Hell, photographers use to do wedding with Speed Graphics and TLR Rolleiflex.
    This thread suggest that a wedding deserves the best photographer available. Well who is that person? Most people getting married are not experts on great photography. They go with what they like or the price that fits their budget. So a beginner might be all they can afford. After all. it's more of a tradition that a photographer is needed than a requirement.
    My issue with most of the posters on is they talk a big game, but show no images to support all the bravado. We love the great photographers because of their results or their approach to taking an image, not their dialogue. Photography is a visual art, not a verbal art. The, I've done, I've been, I've seen, argument doesn't work with today's youth. We are now in a, " communication from a distance" society, and I'm sure if most of us were face to face, we'd be a lot more civil towards one another, or at least fake it. Who needs a lecture from a stranger?
  19. "Who needs a lecture from a stranger?" Good point Charles, but you're lecturing us, and there doesn't seem to be a
    single photo in your portfolio here, supposedly your top issue. What am I missing?
  20. Thanks Dave
    I see your point. This was not a lecture, nor will you find any of my post giving advice on what people can or can't do, or what equipment is best. I addressed the OP, and commented on Mr. Chang"s post, which I agreed with. If you think my post was a lecture, then your response proves my point. Did you miss that?
    As far as me posting my work. I would love to share my work with you. I just don't feel the need to do it on This is not a site that caters to commercial photographers... but I will give you a sample
  21. A good advice cannot be an irresponsible one. There's a common theme in this forum which leads it to its current dwindling state in that people conjecture too much without providing meaningful answers.
    If a person asks if he or she can shoot weddings with a $500 rebel they get two days ago, instead of giving a yes, no or maybe answer, a lot of the replies instead resort to personal attack without knowing much of the background of the poster.
    This is a very subjective business which absolute right or wrong rarely if ever exist. I've been here for 3 years now but I think some of the posts do not answer the question raised but are aimed at bullying the person posting the question.
  22. Charles I enjoyed your images, thanks for sharing, of course you weren't obligated, but it was your talking point and I
    found it curious. In answer to your question, yes I am missing some of this. But us bantering doesn't really serve the
    purpose of the thread so I'll just move on with us being somewhat misunderstood with each other.
  23. Do we need a forum to tell newbies "don't do it"? One person with a rubber stamp message is all that is required.
    IMO, the point of a forum like this is to share the wealth of knowledge from more experienced wedding photographers, or those less experienced that learned something the hard way. In other words, when I supportively answer an apparent "wet behind the ears" inquiry, it is for the benefit of the whole as well as the OP, who may or may not listen to any advice depending on their personality. Like other pros here, I also read responses to garner any new information or insights into my craft because you never stop learning and growing.
    P.Net is a public forum, open to all levels of photographers. Other wedding sites are closed to the public and are subscription based. Some separate newbies from experienced pros with mentors helping the less experienced ... thus relieving the more seasoned shooters from frequent "I'm about to shoot my first wedding, HELP!" questions. Therefore, if we chose to participate on this forum, that is the way it is.
    Personally, I've been shooting photographs for pay longer than many here have been alive. Some "experienced" advice offered to newbies is sage, while some I wince at, knowing it is ill advised or phrased in a less than supportive way ... however, all is offered with conviction, authority and vigor. To me that is a more difficult situation than the newbie's lack of general know-how.
    Let's cut to the chase ... the part no one wants to hear, and some may aggressively oppose:
    In my long career, I've seen a lot of change, the ebb and flow of photography as a business. Yet, in this age of digital technology and the information revolution, photography is experiencing a "Perfect Storm".
    In general, the face of photography has changed. Major news outlets have fired their entire photo staff, and have opened feeds to the public to garner cell phone images as events happen. Commercial entities now have shutter-bug employees shooting catalogs in-house for their website. The major still studio system has all but collapsed ... and the general public no longer thinks of family photography, including events such as a wedding, as a heirloom for later enjoyment. We live in the age of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram ... here today, gone today mentality. Wedding photographers that flourished by selling prints are now struggling with that business model. Reinvention is the watchword for a professional's survival.
    When we advise someone that they can't do something, that they are ill equipped to take on a wedding, it assumes that both they and the client are interested in the old model for wedding photography from the past. Many are not ... and that "many" is growing. Most clients can't tell an insightful "of the moment" shot that is a part of a well woven story-line from an isolated common snapshot ... and frankly, neither can many wedding photographers.
    In growing numbers, people just want pics of their family and friends at their wedding posted on some web-site. They will gush about some badly exposed, poorly framed P&S shot from a friend posted on FB as much as a well seen, polished shot from their Pro. Often more so. Content trumps craftsmanship.
    All to often, other than the so called formals and portraits, many clients do not see a great deal of difference between their "friend with a camera" and a Professional Wedding Photographer ... and convincing some of them otherwise is a tough sell, especially when they hear the price. Of course there are exceptions, however that makes for ferocious competition to win those who DO see a difference and are willing to pay for it.
    Side bar related story: I have an acquaintance who took up shooting children with a cheap camera. She still doesn't know much more than the basics of our craft ... to the point that she probably would not past muster on this site. Yet, she averages $11,000 a month with a very small over-head ... more of a testimony to her aggressive sales sense, being a mom herself, and related people skills than her photography abilities.
    - Marc
  24. Charles, my name is Michael. Mr. Chang is my Dad. :)
    I'd love to see more of your work; care to share your website or online link to your photography?
    On the subject of beginner wedding photographers, I took this picture 9 years ago at a tourist attraction which was representative of upscale wedding photography at the time. As Marc suggested, times have really changed, and even upscale equivalents these days will demand a whole new mindset, skill set, and gear.
    I will also link to the photo, not for purposes of self promotion, rather for the discussion of its title "I'd hate to be him":
    To all newcomers of wedding photography, I salute your courage and gumption to overcome adversity.
  25. How about we shoot for something between rah rah and no.
    Like You have much to learn really really fast.
  26. Marc Williams +1
  27. Hi, I don't think it is the job of members to police the actions of others. In the case of a wedding, I think it behooves the photographer to be honest with the couple as to their level of skill and capabilities, then the decision is up to them. If what they are doing doesn't sit well with you, you might want to point out your concerns or objections then let it go. Otherwise, I suggest to simply answer the questions, if you are so inclined.
    It might seem like a good idea to guide people, giving only the information you want them to have, but in the end this is based strictly on your own ideas of what photography, or its quality, should be. In my experience, this largely depends on your own background.
    I used to think I knew a lot about photography. Then I would meet someone who is way beyond me in some way. So I learn more about that. Now I REALLY know a lot. Then I find that something I "knew" turns out to be wrong. (If I had studied it closely I would have known it didn't make sense, but I sort of went along with the common wisdom.) So I go back and re-learn certain "fundamentals," and now I really, really know a lot. So if I want to dictate to people what constitutes good quality, and how deep their knowledge has to be, what particular stage of "knowledge" should be locked in? (Remember, I don't even know how limited I am until another stage of learning opens up.)
    Imagine if the sixth-graders dictated eductational standards. They talk about the dumb third-graders, who don't know how dumb they are. But the eigth and ninth-graders can see how limited the sixth-graders are.
    Anyway, my point is, give 'em a break. If they want to learn something, help 'em out. If you're so inclined. If you think they're entering dangerous waters, let 'em know. Try to keep the ego in check, 'cuz you probably don't know where you really are on the curve.
    Maybe I should post a bio here, but it sort of runs against my grain. But I'm sure I could still get well-exposed, sharp photos of a first dance using a Rolleiflex and manual flash in light so dim the best digital cameras can't focus without an assist beam.
  28. Let's put it this way ... of all the newbies shooting their first wedding that came here for help in the past 3 or 4 years, I do not recall many recanting their decision when told the perils they face. I DO recall some ill will being created due to the manner they were told of their inadequacies.
    "Is our advice responsible?" is a good question, but perhaps not for its original intent. I do not think it is our responsibility to "just say NO!". It simply isn't productive to crush the confidence of a first timer ... especially since they'll probably do the wedding anyway.
    If someone doesn't reveal that they are using a sub-par P&S camera until later in the thread, all we can do is respond to that added info then ... we aren't mind readers.
    The issue is simple: we rankle at the thought of some newbie learning on the job at the risk of making mistakes and ruining some poor Bride's wedding dreams ... all while diminishing the reputation of professional wedding photography as a whole.
    Frankly, most of this is driven by clients unable or unwilling to pay the going rate for professional "consistency". They decide based on "Knowing what they like" ... which actually means "They like what they know" ... which isn't much. Our industry hasn't done a very good job of educating them either. Plus, as I mentioned, the cell phone generation has a different set of standards than many more polished wedding professionals ... especially in the lower to mid priced categories.
    We aren't going to change what is happening to photography. That ship sailed long ago. Adapt or die. I saw the handwriting on the wall regarding all candid wedding photography when so many people at weddings were shooting candids with pretty good cameras. I juiced up my lighting skills and strobe gear to do both formal and spontaneous work to the degree that even uneducated clients could see the difference ... and I tell they why they like what they are seeing.
  29. no mention of the dangers​
    There is no danger in the true sense of the word.
  30. Warning: long post ahead :/
    Hi, I though I'd post my experience, coming from the 'other side' of this story. I've been 'doing' photography for 6 or 7 years now, but not very actively. I have fairly decent gear (Canon 60d, nice set of lenses), not because I consider myself good enough to get the most out of it, but because I don't like to be limited by my equipment. I've been taking my camera to social events like birthday parties, and parents have had some of my pictures of their kids printed and framed. Nothing more fancy than that.
    Last year, a colleague of mine, who knew I had a nice camera and had seen some shots I took at the company party, asked me to shoot his wedding. I didn't feel up to that challenge and politely declined. A few weeks later, I found out that they had decided not to hire a wedding photographer, but rather have the father of the bride (entry level dslr with kit lens, no experience, divorced from mother of the bride) shoot some pictures. I told him that in that case, I was willing to give it my best shot, being very clear that I'd never done this before and that I could well fail.
    I spent weeks reading all books I could find on wedding photography, portraits and lighting. I bought a good flash, a reflector, tons of batteries and memory cards. I borrowed another colleague's 70-200 zoom and bought a monopod for it. I rented an identical 60d backup and synced time and settings.
    I asked the bride for pictures and names of the important guests. We made a list of required group photos, went over preferred picture style. I went through the day planning with her and slotted in time for the pictures.
    I spent my lunch breaks taking test pictures at the location of the formals session (the park around the castle where we worked). I took the couple for a test shoot there. It took too long and was too unstructured, some locations didn't quite work out, and I found posing them difficult. So I redid my homework. I practiced posing in front of the mirror with my wife, went through professional wedding photographers' websites for ideas. I made a list of which pictures to take where, and in what order.
    I checked out the church, checked in with the priest, and asked another colleague to take pictures from the balcony above the entrance. I bought a wide-angle lens because space in front of the church was very cramped. I went with the couple to see the venue.
    On the wedding day, I took my wife as an assistant. We took a clear plastic sheet, makeup, insect repellent, talcum powder, stain remover, band-aids, safety pins, duct tape and some non-greasy sunscreen. My wife laughed about it. We used all of it.
    We were there for the entire day, from the makeup artist in the morning to the cleanup of the venue at 3am. We knew the schedule, and we became the de facto wedding planners that day. We were prepared enough to fix small problems, which helped the family relax.
    The pictures were fine. There were some stupid mistakes, like having a traffic sign and power line in the background of the group photos, which I had to remove in post. I struggled with focusing during the first dance, because I had not practiced using the flash IR focus enough, and I underexposed a bit, requiring some post-processing to make them ok.
    I think I did well. The bride and groom were very happy. I am proud of my pictures and think they would hold up against those of the local pro. The difference is that it took me weeks to prepare, and a few weeks of post-processing, to deliver professional quality for one single wedding. A real pro would soon be out of business like that.
    I never asked for help here on the forum. I didn't have anything specific to ask. There are a lot of 'first wedding, help!' posts on here. I read them all. I was prepared because of all the valuable information that you put out here. It's long overdue, but THANK YOU for that. You haven't made me a professional wedding photographer, but you've allowed me to act like one :)
    All the warnings on here were enough to make me decline the request initially. That's because most of the warnings contain a lot of information about why exactly you should not do it. 'Just don't do it' would not have been as powerful. The warnings also gave me enough information to decide that it would, in this case, be worth the shot.
    A pro would quite possibly have done a better job. The couple couldn't afford a pro, so what they got was a lot better than nothing. I didn't charge them, I considered it my wedding present to them. If I ever get another request, I'll decline again, though :)
  31. (re my earlier point, nothing to yours Davy, we posted together) The first thing I do before I decide to give any response to a new name, is see when they joined and if they participated in
    any other discussion to see if they're trolling. Not sure what happened with This Really Happened, but that thread went
    quickly caustic. So you have a new member with a first post who never returns, then another new member who already
    made wise remarks on a few threads, possibly trolling, and regular contributers wasting their time being questioned, confronted or
    aggravated. Back to my point of a shorter concise answer and feel things out, get more information before writing a whole photography course. JMO
  32. Davy, glad yours went so well. I once read a saying, to the effect, "Don't you wish that when you are old and retired, you could turn around and sell all of your experience for what you had to pay for it?" I thought that was hilarious, as I've "paid" a lot for my own. And I guess you can appreciate it too.
  33. Good observations and advice Dave.
    - Marc
  34. My experience is a bit like what Davy described.... except I got sucked into it 3 times (several years ago, all three non-paid). I can wholeheartedly agree to what he wrote, and a lot of the advice I needed, I found here in the forum. I've learnt a lot those days too - especially that I do not want to become a wedding photographer :)
    There is one thing, though, that is maybe a often overlooked on this forum, in my view. Ask where somebody lives. I've come to understand that wedding photos are a big and important thing in the US; likewise in Italy where I live. People seem to expect no less than posed formal shots, substantial coverage of the day, and do not mind that the assistant holding the flash is standing alongside the priest all the time.
    In the Netherlands (where I've done the weddings), this wouldn't fly. Most people want good pictures of the day to remember, but there'll probably be a single photographer working very hard to stay out of the way. As unintrusive as possible - you really will not find them using a tripod or lights on stands. Formals are very often dismissed in favour of actually celebrating with the guests. Access to the bride dressing - no, not going to happen.
    And in other cultures, things are again a whole lot different. And frankly, each couple (in whatever country) is different in this respects. Not every person wants 2 photographers around, or to pose for formals. I most certainly have zero skills to make people pose, but this was the least of my problem in those 3 days of shooting. It's worth considering - doing what I did in the Netherlands as a single photographer covering a wedding beginning to end with too little experience, will be less likely to cause major heartaches for the bride when the photos relentlessly show that I wasn't (and still am not) a pro. You would have told me not to do it - but in the cultural context, given the expectations, it was kind of OK.
    Another thing... saying "no, don't do it"... at some point in time, you need to go out and do it. All of you have done a very first wedding. Should you deny others their first flight? Those who can, will fly, those who can't will have some explaining to do to an angry couple of newly weds. I think what this forum usually does, is right: warn about common mistakes, explain what it takes, warn about specific problems if the question indicates such... and next, it's up to whoever asked to decide to carry on, or not.
  35. I can't help thinking about all those old heirloom photographs after the divorce.
  36. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "Not sure what happened with This Really Happened, but that thread went quickly caustic. So you have a new member with a first post who never returns, then another new member who already made wise remarks on a few threads, possibly trolling, and regular contributers wasting their time being questioned, confronted or aggravated. . . ."​
    • The "This Really Happened" thread and also many other threads across many forums, have been edited.
    • Also a User's Account has been removed.
    • The Author (Ken Carver) of the Original Post in "This Really Happened" Wedding Thread has been so advised and also thanked, for sharing his valuable experience.
  37. To someone that does more reading on here than posting i think all your advice is responsible and appreciated. I can understand the OP from a point where you get someone that can't even focus there camera or know the basic function of a camera is suddenly wanting help on a wedding there charging for. Those posts can be frustrating and repetitive but there are people out there learning from them as well.

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