New to Weddings - Do I have what it takes?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by jamie_smith|3, Jun 5, 2013.

  1. Hello all,

    I'm wondering if anyone has time, to take a quick look at my photo album on and give their first impressions of my work.
    I have only shot one wedding professionally and I'm doing one more this month. I'm wondering if any of you can spot whether I have the "eye". Do I have what it takes? The pics in my portfolio were from my first and only wedding. I did a TON of research and the client (a friend) was very pleased with the results (as well was her family).
    Here's the link to my portfolio:
    Thanks all!!
  2. Oh my goodness. [ . . .]there are different pictures than the few in the last post, which would give a better idea of my overall skill. Also, I have edited some flaws that were mentioned in last year's post and want to see if there is anything else that could be improved...
  3. It happens, Jamie; I didn't participate in the previous thread but I did remember it. :) [ . . .]
  4. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    This thread is open for further comment.
    In this particular case, the OP is requesting further critique on the additional photos which were added to the portfolio and/or critique and advice generally.
    Posts on this thread have been edited (shown thus: [ . . .] ), only to remove irrelevant housekeeping comments
    Thank you both for your cooperation and assistance.
  5. They look a bit clumsy. Work on the formal positions, poses. Study lighting. The candids are fine. Try to do several free ones through Craigslist. Then you will get the feel of correct posing and working under stress, such as time limits. Read some books on portraits and lighting. Then practice it.

    The bridal pose of everyone is simply poor. The little girl is outside of the frame and people aren't looking at your camera.

    A lot of your shots are cropped at the joints. You cut off some elbows, and at the hips. One shot favored the right side, not centered. Never crop like this. Crop in thirds. Oh Don't have guys fold their hands in front of them. A very common mistake.

    With some of the wedding shots you cut off the feet. Not good.

    I don't really like any shots of the small girl. With the boy, his hand placement needs correcting at full length and the fence is an eye sore for me. the young girl in yellow is just a bad candid, again you cut off her arm.

    I don't think I'm being hard on you. You really shouldn't ask for money at this point. Post some pictures after you've shot perhaps 5 to 10 weddings.

    Also see if you can tag along with a pro near you.

    Work hard and I look forward to seeing your work.
  6. Jamie, I'm not a professional photographer, but what I've learned is that for the most part composition is everything.
    A well composed and aesthetically framed picture will often cause any technical imperfection to be overlooked - within reason of course - and it's also the one aspect of photography that is entirely artistic without any technical strings attached whatsoever.
    I'd suggest browsing through some of the excellent wedding photography on this site through a tag search, pick out the ones you like and study their composition to gain a better sense on "seeing":
    You'll notice on many pictures that technique is used to articulate and enhance a composition, for example using shallow depth of field to isolate the bride to progressively more challenging lighting techniques to highlight desired subjects, but it all begins with composition.
    I agree with some of Bob's observations, but work on your composition before the upcoming wedding gig and I think your results can improve quite dramatically. You can then work on technique over time.
  7. Jamie, you are asking a really big question ... do I have "the eye", ... what it takes? That is a hard question to answer when you have only shot one wedding, and a few other images that we can see. In other words, it takes a while to find your own voice in photography of any kind ... and that requires shooting a lot of images.
    These days it seems anyone with a camera can call themselves a wedding photographer ... when in reality they may be good at mundane snapshot type work passed off as photojournalism, and get away with group shots that an unsuspecting public accepts because they may not even know what is actually possible ... welcome to the iPhone generation.
    The point being, that if you want to develop your eye, to get what it takes, you have to find your voice, your personal point-of-view, something that seperates you from the Tsunami of camera wielding snap shooters flooding the ranks of wedding photographers.
    I won't get into all the technical advice or techniques of what you did or didn't do, because those should be informed by a purpose ... and that purpose is your style, approach, point-of-view, or whatever you want to call it. Once you have that, the rest will fall into place so you'll know what you have accomplish technically, and can practice that in a focused manner.
    I will say that your one wedding contains to many different ways of shooting and eclectic approaches for me (or anyone) to identify what you are offering.
    For example, the following two images of your's demonstrate a sensitive eye and good reflexes for capturing those brief emotional moments in time that makes up a vast majority of a wedding day:
    Now in direct conflict with that sensitive insight is the following image that has been done to death by every hack out there:
    The clients may have loved the "Princess" shot, yet, it does nothing to help you find your own way by copying hackneyed old ideas that anyone can also copy. I'd wager that a well done group shot with the groomsmen would be just as well accepted.
    Formals and group shots are usually a fact of life, however, they take up perhaps 1 hour maximum of a 7 or 8 hour wedding shoot ... (more or less depending on the cultural traditions). This requires a few basics in posing/composition of people, lighting (ambient or artificial), and selection of location ... all of which can be picked up from many sources on the web.
    Then what do you shoot for the remaining 6 to 7 hours?
    P.S., for God's sake do NOT shoot anything for free ... practice with friend's and family and if you can find someone to second shoot for or assist, do it. The public already is devaluing wedding photography, we do not have to assist them in doing that.
  8. Wow. First of all, thank you all for your insightful replies. I was actually just asking for the wedding pics, not the random ones above. I know those are bad and couldn't figure out until recently how to delete them.
    I think for me, I'm still working on seamlessly applying techniques under pressure. The style, I feel, will come when it comes. I'm leaning towards two different looks that I am drawn to when seen in others' photography, ( and but I don't want to complicate my learning process by adding that before I have the techniques down.
    Marc, the two pictures you mentioned above being demonstrative of my "sensitive eye" are two of my favorites. So I guess I'm right on track with that. As far as taking shots that are "copying old ideas", I'm new to this. So how am I supposed to know which ones are old or new?
    I will never do a wedding for free. My last assignment I did for $500, but I put SO. MUCH. TIME. into it. (she had two separate weddings at different locations, one engagement shoot and a bride/groom party that I photographed). I can't bring myself to do THAT much work for free, unless I am not the one responsible for making the bride happy (i.e. assistant or perhaps a free second shooter).
    Again, thank you all for these replies. What I take from it is that I have a long way to go. And I need to spend more time observing other photographers who already do it professionally.
  9. You have everything it takes to be an amateur craigslist wedding photographer, some of whom charge more than I do.
    However, your images are not significantly better than any GWC (guy/girl with camera). You just happen to be charging to do what anyone could do if they had a dSLR.
    You're starting with the same lack of understanding most people start with. Your images reflect that lack of understanding. My photos sucked too when I started photography, and they are still not great. But I wouldn't try to shoot weddings if my images came out like yours. I would tell people, I don't do weddings because I'm not ready for that.
  10. Wow. Aren't very encouraging, are we? Well, I guess I opened myself up to this one. For your information, I don't tell people I do weddings. I don't advertise myself. These are friends who came to me because they liked my work that I post and share with my friends. After having done the pictures you have seen (again, for a friend, not client) I then decided that I enjoyed it and have decided to further explore this path. I do not yet consider myself a "wedding photographer". I was simply asking from a BEGINNER'S stand-point. I know I'm new and I need a lot of work. I will never advertise myself on craigslist as I refuse to stoop that low. I've seen craigslist photographers' work and it makes me quiver. I have a goal in mind and it's a lot higher than charging $500 for craigslist seekers. But I disagree that my pictures are at the same quality as craigslist photographers. I am certain enough that I know THAT much.
    The whole point in this question was to get peoples reactions from seeing a first wedding portfolio. I was assuming that everyone would take into consideration that I haven't been doing this very long and their standards would be geared towards beginners. Not sure why some people get offended so easily. I take photography seriously and know there's a lot to learn..... A LOT.
    I know what people are talking about when they refer to "GWC". I've seen it first hand and it upsets me too, because I put hours upon hours of research into my photography education. I do work very hard at it, and to see some rich kid go buy a D800, Nikon 24-70 2.8 lens and start taking wedding pictures with everything on auto settings is very offensive. But why would you assume that I am that guy/girl? I have to earn those tools just like I'll have to earn the status I want as a photographer. And if I can't make awesome pictures with my D90, then i don't deserve a D800 or whatever equipment costs more than my house (jk).
    All the weddings I have done and am going to do this summer are opportunities for me. That's how I see them. They are friends who want to save some money, but also want to support my photography. The only reason I asked for some money is because it was going to cost me to do it. (Equipment rentals, driving expenses, prints). None of the money was profit.
  11. What about your photos is better/different from craigslist photographers?
    Since you say your photos are better, you should be able to identify at least some differences.
    Lots of equipment rentals and other costs + no net profit = not a fun way to do photography. I have always believed equipment rental is 99% wasted money because of how much it costs and how you don't keep anything in the end. It's every bit like leasing a car, which I also would never do. If that's the way it's going to be for you then it sounds almost totally unproductive. I would rather use what I have to do what I can, then earn money some way to get better equipment that I would then KEEP, and expand my abilities that way.
    But that's me. BTW...I'm a craigslist photographer.
  12. I see, you're a glass half empty kind of guy. So you're abilities are based on better equipment? Sorry you're a craigslist photographer. You're wasting my time, Joey Allen. Thanks for the useless criticism.
    To answer your last question: here are three photographers I found whom I would never pay to take mine or my family's picture:
  13. I also did not state that my pictures were BETTER than craigslist photographers. Just to clarify. I don't consider myself better than anyone. Sometimes more knowledgeable, but never better. I've actually found some photographers on craigslist that are pretty good. But that's not where I want to be.
    And that's just me.
  14. Jamie, I didn't expect you to know what has been done or not done in past (although those who don't know history are bound to repeat it). It was more about illustrating the vast emotional and humanistic gulf that exists between the two "sensitive eye" images (glass half full), and the "Princess" image (glass half empty). Which would you prefer being known for?
    When you ask "Do I have it" ... the natural expectation of the reader here is that you "Want to have it". If most any experienced and successful wedding photographer were forced to a black or white answer rather than exploring the possibilities with you, then the answer is NO you don't have it ... yet.
    Why? Because you are extremely inconsistent with your content ... and content trumps technique every time. Half the world can now shoot competent images thanks to technology, Graigslist is packed with them. The whole world knows that. What defines a good wedding photographer, one that "Has it" is what the images are about, not just how they were taken.
    What will it take? I tried to initially answer that, but you went on the defensive rather than discussing it and asking questions. At your stage you need to be more open to discussion and exploration which is what a site like this is supposed to be about.
    Saying that you are working on technique, and the style will come is fall back answer answer anyone can use ... and I can tell you that mastering the tools is never-ending, there is ALWAYS more to learn. What technique, and more importantly why? are the questions you should be asking yourself in order to focus your efforts.
    What do you want your photographs to be about? ... THAT will inform what techniques to work on and improve. If you do not grasp what that means, ask questions ... don't just blow off the efforts that someone took the time to share with you in good faith. Trust me, I know more than you do ... and if you do not open yourself up to intelligent discussion I will always know more than you. The idea of sharing is to advance the cause, so those starting out end up better than we are.
    - Marc
  15. Good equipment just makes slightly better photographs of mediocre scenes. Just like the famous saying of our countries late richest man on his deathbed: "Wealth only makes you slightly more comfortable in your misery".
    There is nothing wrong with your images, by the way. Weddings are the hardest of all the photographic genres. You need to have a good contract and get paid 50% on the booking, 25% to turn up and the rest after the images have been sent.
    So many budding wedding photographers trip at this hurdle. The other rule is never photograph a friends or relatives wedding. No exceptions. If you screw up, the consequences go further than realised. And never deliver Raw images. Do not allow the customer to see all the images and to choose. You are the expert and being paid to be so.
    It seems that shooting weddings in the US involves lots of candids and less emphasis on the formals. It differs country to country. Where I come from its probably the other way around, but I've attended more than one wedding where the photographer was very annoying and one got a fist in the face. Strange but true.
    There is only one rule about the quality of your images. If you can get someone you don't know to pay for them, your are over the first hurdle. So well done and keep at it. Your technique will improve as your fee will as you get even better.
  16. Marc and Francisco,
    Thank you for your remarks. I most definitely was looking for criticism. But isn't criticism supposed to be helpful? Otherwise what's the point? I'm sorry if I seemed defensive, but I didn't much like the tone Joey Allen addressed me with and I didn't find his comments very helpful. But to respond to YOUR comments,
    Marc: I will strive to always be a student and I want to learn from those who have the knowledge and skills that I do not. So it seems I'm getting too caught up with the technique (although still important) and I should emphasize content. For me, the most important thing in photographing people is emotion and being able to tell a story with those pictures. Those are the most interesting photographs in my opinion and that's what I strive to do. I only caught a few of those pictures in my first wedding (more than what's on my portfolio), seemingly because I was concentrating too much on technique. And I was nervous as HECK! I welcome any advice and constructive criticism from those more knowledgeable than I.
    Francisco: That's interesting to know about how different the wedding photography business is in other countries. Thank you for your advice. I will remember it. I love that quote, too.
  17. Wow, this thread is turning ugly. Jamie, you may not agree with everyone's input but you asked people for their advice. Take it or leave it, but let's keep this civil please.
  18. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Thank you for your remarks. I most definitely was looking for criticism. But isn't criticism supposed to be helpful? Otherwise what's the point? I'm sorry if I seemed defensive, but I didn't much like the tone Joey Allen addressed me with and I didn't find his comments very helpful. But to respond to YOUR comments . . .​
    A re-read of Joey Allen’s comments would bode well.
    Allen’s first post comprised three paras:
    • the first identified both a benchmark and an opinion of the location as to where you sit
    • the second gave relevance of that location to those of an “amateur” status
    • the third gave an opinion, also advice predicated on Allen’s own experience and added a glimpse of how Allen would proceed, if he were you.
    Allen’s second post did not react to the sarcasm you threw in your first sentence.
    Instead Allen interrogated your assertions with direct questioning and encouraged you to make introspection and evaluate what makes your work better – that technique happens to be a very good learning tool.
    Your subsequent response to Allen could easily be interpreted as both rude and also insulting.
    The subsequent listing of other photographer whom you would NOT employ DOES NOT answer Allen’s question as to what identifiers separate your WORK from the WORK of the general “craigslist” mob. That list has been removed as it serves no purpose in this thread.
    You may choose to accept and act on advice and comments and you may choose to interrogate responses, you may choose to ignore advice and comment – but what you may not do is make personal attacks – and your post Jun 06, 2013; 03:51 p.m., goes very close to doing that.
    Thank you in advance for both your consideration of and also your future action, upon these matters.
  19. Jamie, technique/mastery of our tools, and content (or what we are trying to say with our images) are symbiotic efforts. One depends on the other and advance together.
    However, mastering one's tools will not automatically lead to the development of a creative approach ... if it did, then all professional commercial camera technicians would be great photographers.
    On the other hand, when you have a clear idea of your purpose, what you want to capture and why, then you are inspired to learn the techniques and to select the tools that best accomplish that.
    This sort of introspection doesn't come to you out of the void. It takes a concerted effort ... usually having nothing to do with the camera and everything to do with sharpening your skill at seeing. Seeing people and how they interact, seeing light and how it works for or against your purpose. Practice looking all the time ... and do it with or without the camera.
    Being nervous isn't a negative unless you let it hamper you. Nervousness is a sign that you are unsure, but also that you care enough to be nervous in the first place. Here is a trick I tell all my newer second shooters ... the "P" on your camera control wheel doesn't stand for Program, it stands for Panic ... LOL! If you ever have a brain dump, use it until you can recover. Three rules: Get the shot, get the shot, get the shot.
    I shot a wedding last Saturday that made me nervous because the Bride was a high fashion model that used to work in Chicago, comes from a family of very accomplished fine artists, didn't want anything conventional or ordinary ... plus didn't want more than 15-20 minutes spent on posed shots. Nervousness just made me more alert, more aware, more intent on doing something outside the box.
    Good hunting!
  20. You have been given lots of great free advice from people that know what they are doing.
    I recommend you practice a lot on subjects other than weddings before shooting any. This photo in one way is shot very tight top to bottom, but the stuff you chose to keep by going horizontal does little to improve the photo. I think i would have shot looser than my crop here but it is all there is to work with.
  21. I'm sorry for suggesting to book a few weddings using craigslist. This referral is for you to start shooting as many weddings as you can. Then you can post the results and people like Marc and William, Joey, Francisco, Barry, Michael, everyone, and myself, along with tons of readers on this wedding forum will most gladly help you.

    So where can you learn the art of wedding photography? We all gave you some thoughtful advice. Marc is an amazing photographer so he also demands the same respect out of his second shooters. Remember I asked you to try to find a pro in your area to help you out. I also suggested to read about portraits, lighting, and then practice. You seemed to accept this advice willingly. I'm thankful for that.

    We all need to find our way around the wedding business. There's not a single college wedding course you can take for several weeks anywhere in the US other than perhaps Brooks Institute here in the west. I'm pretty sure there may be a few other arts schools, but be ready here, getting a BA degree at a cost of $8000 per semester. I think Brooks may be around $10,000 now. We know you don't want to do this.

    Going to school surely isn't what you want to do.

    You want to get good. The best way is to study under a pro near you, read a pile of books and practice perhaps 20 hours a week. It can be lots of things other then weddings. Flowers, street scenes, the woods, closeups, whatever and wherever your heart draws you into.

    Anyway, for this reason of suggesting craigslist it's for you getting out there and shooting weddings every weekend. I know that people hate the idea of CL (craigslist). I do to! However you have to start somewhere and post your results maybe on here for review.

    Due to some recent surgeries I've backed away a bit from weddings. I have a photo partner so he will continue doing weddings and I'm getting into the corporate world, shooting a lot of advertising. I'm also doing a lot of aircrapt type of work. Living near 4 airports finding work is a snap. This type of work requires lighting experience and a strong digital background. Who knows, you may want to take a hard look at this. I feel good photographers should be able to handle most situations. I think weddings are harder compared to what I'm now doing and it's lots of fun.

    So practice a lot, the 20 hours a week idea and try different avenues. It's my opinion that it's all art and you simply need to play and have fun. The more you shoot the more you will find yourself.

    There is a friend that shoots schools, all levels, and in the summers he photographs baseball leagues. It's actually very easy work and he's made millions. In his business it's common for him to bring in $20,000 in 1 day. He shoots, but he also sends out a mess of other photographers to different schools. He pays these shooters about $700 a job, or for about 8 hours of work. Almost $100 per hour per day, just taking school photo's.

    Well I'm sure you can do this type of work as well. Making money and always learning sure is a great way of life.

    I'm not getting into how bad CL photographers are. If doesn't matter. If you dislike this idea well think of other ways.

    With you getting angry here shows me that this really could be your forte'., meaning perhaps your driving passion needed to be a photographer.

    I have to add this. If you mess up on a paying job it's not uncommon to find yourself in a Small Claims court. Thus shooting a few jobs for free will keep you safe.

    Keep us posted.
  22. Thank you all. And I apologize for initially reacting harshly.
    Shawn, I do like the portrait orientation better. Thank you.
  23. You asked what is my first impression of your work and I say "someone who needs a lot of practice" You asked do i have the eye and I say "no" But don't be discouraged you can develop it over time and with hard work and practice, practice, practice. A doctor does not become good after his first procedure, Thats why it is called a practice.
    I have shot for over 18 years and I am still learning and evolving. My work looks better today than it did two years ago. I am always striving for perfection. Don't ask people how is my work but rather let them tell you on there own. In the beginning stages there is no time to be looking for compliments. You need to keep taking pictures and learning all the technical aspects of photography and digital processing. If you really do have what it takes it will become evident by everyone around you. Good luck in you venture down the road of photography.
  24. Michael M. Thank you. I have been humbled by this thread. Something that I apparently needed :)
  25. I can see that. lol You did not know you were jumping into the Lion's Den. lol People can come off strong but they mean well. Everyone here is very passionate when it comes to photography. Chew the meat and spit out the bones is what my grand pappy used to say.
  26. This is me hitting the "like" button on your last comment, Michael! :)
  27. I won't ask anything else, but I still want to know what the OP can identify in their own photos that differentiates their photos from the common craigslist photographer folks' photos.
    I'm not specifically passionate about photography, just about doing things well.
    The best short way I know to get fairly good at photography is to learn the basic rules of composition and portrait lighting, comprehend the value of context and selective focus, learn what is necessary to break down and understand photos that may be particularly impressive, learn how to manipulate body parts and how body language is interpreted, and learn how to see by feeling what looks good vs what doesn't feel or look right. Listen to the sensation of something feeling out of place and resort to rules understood about joints and facial structure and expression and what to hide and what not to hide and so on.
    But this won't get you good at photography, only moderately good.
  28. Sorry for the delete above. I changed my mind about adding anything else, thus the reason for deleted. Seems as though she didn't like my suggestions above.
  29. Bob a wise decision. I just read what would have been posted.
  30. Thanks Michael. You being in NYC - You know the rules, passion, and emotions we share - to be the best.

    I played in the Air Force Band and one of the gigs was with Cher at the Waldorf Historia. Fun! this was 31 years ago. After she left Sonny. I love NYC. So much music everywhere. Greenwich Village? Think that was the name had a lot of bands playing around that town.
  31. "wondering if any of you can spot whether I have the "eye". Do I have what it takes?" Jamie S.
    In addition to the wonderful advice already given especially by Bob B.:
    Too many walls, exit signs, lights and speakers...
  32. There is a lot of great training at Creative Live. The Creative Live classes are free if you watch them live. I am watching The Wedding Project by Doug Gordon and it is excellent. Consider renting/buying full frame cameras and lenses for your professional work, they perform much better in low light. Learn off camera lighting.
  33. Eric, for me the full framed cameras really give you that WOW factor. Check out KEH. Excellent prices for these used pro cameras. Some of the top pro cameras have dual cards with the expected 500,000 shutter clicks before you have to replace the shutter. Most of these cameras probably have less then 100,000 shutter clicks. Hope this lead helps you take that jump.

    Gus, thanks for the comment about me and of course your fun comments about - "Too many walls, exit signs, lights and speakers..."

    I hate to say that you caught me in a chuckle!
  34. Bob, I do appreciate the advise you give. And whatever it is you were going to say, I can handle it. I've just been away from my computer recently so I haven't been able to respond.
    Thank you Bob, Eric, Gus, Michael M, Joey, Michael C, Shawn, Marc, Francisco, and Barry for the advice. I've learned a lot from this thread. And any advice you choose to give me in the future I will listen studiously.
  35. I shoot a variety of different things - weddings, events, kids + families, headshots + theatre -and, although it left me out of pocket at the beginning, I never started charging until I felt comfortable and confident in what I was able to achieve for the client. I then moved to an intermediate amount of money and made it clear to the client why I was doing that. Then finally I started charging what I should. I don't regret a single job I did for free or expenses because I learnt so much about to how to react and handle different situations from each job. The 'practise' time was totally invaluable and most of my word of mouth work is still as a result of the freebies/ low pay. Just my two pennies worth! I didn't feel comfortable until I felt sure of my abilities.
  36. get some training would be a good place to start. Try Bambi Cantrell is you can - she has a video of a 3 day class she did at creative live which should move you along the general direction you need. Look at more photo of better photographers - see what they did and try to understand how they did it. Hard to say if you have the eye - I seem to see some "same icon" shoots render incompletely but again only you will know for sure. It is not a total wash so that in itself is good news.
  37. You should study a lot about various poses and light technique

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