Returning to the business

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by nt_bro, Nov 30, 2009.

  1. Hi, I spent ten years shooting weddings then I got out of the business because of family time constraints.The past 5 years I've only shot between 3-5 weddings a year for family or friends.
    This year was the first in a long time that I never shot a wedding, and I realised that I miss it.
    I have used some Canon digital cameras (10D, 20D), but I usually use film with my Hasselblad.
    I'm considering returning to the business now that my kids are a bit older, I'm trying to decide on my equipment. I have been trying to decide if I should buy a new Canon body (like the 5Dmk2). I would probably get some new lenses as well. My other idea was to reuse all of my Hasselblad gear, but purchase a Phase One P20 digital back. The 16 meg back is square, and it is around $7K.
    I don't know much about it yet as I'm just starting to look into this, but I was wondering if anyone has any thoughts on this.
  2. NT:
    If you're the sort of photographer who works slowly and lights everything, the P20 will blow the other gear out of the water. But if you're the sort of person who needs even a bit of speed or uses available light, the Canons are the way to go.
  3. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I would not invest $14,000 in two digital MF backs to begin business that: "I am considering returning to".
    It is unclear what Canon gear you already own: specifics would be helpful for further comments re gear.
  4. I have a Canon 10D/20D combo. 70-200 f2.8, 28-105 f2.8, 17-40 f4, Canon flash.
    2 Hasselblad 503 cxi bodies 5 film magazines. 50cf 80cf, 150cf, Metz flashes, radio slaves, plus accessories.
    I was thinking of buying only one digital back and use film backs as backup.
    I have been out for a few years, but I feel confidant that once I figure out where my pricing wil be, I'll be able to jump back into the market.
  5. Have you thought of lighting? You mentioned a couple of on camera flash but what about more powerful flash for lighting reception halls etc? I'm amazed at how much attention is spent on bodies/lenses but I never hear much about lighting on here...
  6. I have Photogenic studio strobes in addition to my portable Metz units, as well as a Norman 200B, and the on camera Canon unit.
    I have a good working knowledge of wedding & portrait photography, and I have more equipment than I listed here. I am just looking for some thoughts on keeping my Hassey gear, and modernizing it with a digi back, or just going with a new Canon. I liked shooting with Hasselblad, but I'm not sure which way to go with the gear.
  7. I don't know much about it yet as I'm just starting to look into this, but I was wondering if anyone has any thoughts on this
    Can't speak for everybody else but I really don't know what the question is. :)
    It sounds like you're a Hassleblad fan... nothing wrong with that if you have deep pockets. But, you won't find a lot of people that shoot with them because of the cost. I think if I had an extra $7k laying around I'd sell all my gear and just pay off the house. :)
    And anybody coming from the "film" world could probably give a lot digital pros some pointers.
  8. I think you would have to have a very specific and targeted marketing plan to use 'only' the digital back on the Hasselblad. Otherwise, the back with the DSLR combo or a newer, higher end DSLR base would be easier to get going. What's missing is a clear picture of your target market. If you had that, you would have an easier time making the decision.
  9. I wish I could pay off my house with $7K.
    My question really is should I be looking at switching to the Digital SLR's like Canon to start my business again, or add the digital back to my Hasselblad gear and use that. I was hoping that some people here would have some experiences with what I am thinking about.
    And yes, I am a Hasselblad fan, I learned how to shoot weddings with Hasselblad. I am willing to spend on the digital back, but I don't know if my money is better spent going with Canon and giving up on reusing my Hasselblad gear.
  10. NT--I used to use film Hasselblads and at one point, used a combination of Hasselblad and 35mm SLRs or DSLRs. Now, I use DSLRs only, not because that's want I wanted, but because I felt it was necessary for my market. Again--I would say that using 'only' the digital back is possible but harder, necessitating a very targeted approach. A combination would be quite do-able, and only DSLRs would be fine.
    Also wait for Marc Williams to possibly weigh in. He has used many different types of platforms, including DSLRs and medium format, both film and digital. There will also be some information along these lines in an upcoming article on this forum.
  11. Identifying your target market is the key.
    For example - with your prior experience you could claim a segment of the market doing weddings in a high-end fashion portraiture style. You'd have zero competition from the new entrants / craigslist crowd due to the deficit in equipment and experience, and in a non-competitive market could expand your pricing and reach very quickly.
    But it only works if that's what you want to do.
    Or you could move to DSLR's and be like everyone else, and struggle to establish yourself in a volatile market where the pressure on pricing is generally downwards, and your competitors are brand new shooters operating from craigslist, and where product distinction is so diluted that it can be a continual struggle to defend even floor level pricing.
    Or you could target a specific niche that you can occupy based on other criteria, that draws from those elements that make you different and that play to your strengths. But, again, that depends on knowing your market.
    In my opinion a business plan is the first step, and much more important at this time than a review of your equipment. Do some competitor analysis, learn the demographics of the area you intend to operate, analyse average pricing models, look for opportunities that are not currently exploited. Consider the equipment you need once you can identify your goal.
  12. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "My question really is should I be looking at switching to the Digital SLR's like Canon to start my business again, or add the digital back to my Hasselblad gear and use that."
    Thanks for the clarification of the question, expansions on your position and also responding to my specific gear list question.
    Up until about two years ago we did a DSLR plus MF film Coverage. I used Mamiya and shot those with film mainly just for the Formals. My protocol generally was to take the Formals at a third location en route to the Reception after the Church Ceremony. My customer base liked Formals – that point is important, also the fact that even though declining in purchase numbers we sold more 24 x 20 framed and lacquered prints, than our competition.
    So when Nadine writes: “I use DSLRs only, not because that's want I wanted, but because I felt it was necessary for my market.”
    And Neil writes: “Identifying your target market is the key.”
    Those comments resonate to me – and you may add my name and my experiences exactly, to that list.
    Taking into consideration your experience, liking, assumed speed and agility with a ‘blad – Prima Facie, I would still not suggest adding two digital backs at $7k each to start up.
    “I was thinking of buying only one digital back and use film backs as backup.”

    Is poor business sense, IMO. Better sense would be: “I was thinking of buying only one digital back and use the DSLRs as backup.
    However IMO a skilled operator could cover mostly all weddings with the 50mm and 80mm one on each body and each with a digital back. The question is would the clients pay the money to re-coup that capital outlay?
    On your Canon gear: the 28 to 105F/2.8 doesn’t make sense to me (is it the 24-105F/4? or perhaps the Sigma? or the canon 28 105 F/3.5 – F/4.5?)
    Nonetheless I think that a sensible low cost addition would be a 5D to that kit (assuming the 10D and 20D are in good fettle).
    As you love ‘blads, then you also love Prime Lenses and are adept at using same, so if you decide to expand your DSLR gear with a new body, then for a few more $ you should look at: 24L, 50F/1.4 and 135L. Those three lenses would set the DSLR kit nicely. A 20D + 5D (or 5DMkII) and those three Prime lenses is a pretty powerful start up kit – and well under $7,000 I expect. (And you have a 10D as a spare)
    If you went DSLR as your main kit, you could "test the water" with FILM and the ‘blads for the top price package - perhaps float the idea of an addition, like we did, just for the Formals . . . ? ? ?
    On re-entering the market, my thinking is: it is good to be slightly out of the mainstream but that usually comes easiest with finessing one’s position, once in the marketplace.

    One can dive in head first with somethig different and be way out of kilter with the main flow - and also make a killing with it - but that requires very accurate assessment of the market; one’s ability; and also must have a good business and marketing plan – that is, if one wishes to turn a profit.
    On the other hand, if one is doing this more for a few extra $ and as a side line to the main income stream, then there is much more weight to the idea of buying the digital back and just having fun with it and going with the flow.
  13. Wow, Neil, and Nadine,and especially WW, terrific opinions and advice.
    Just to clarify, I'm not a full time shooter, I almost went that route, but never took the finale step of quitting my job (thank goodness). When I got into the business, I had no kids, 14/15 years later, I have 4 kids, and benefits are a great thing!
    I 'm thinking of getting back in business, because really, because I miss it. Also the extra cash would be great, (but the way I am, I would just re-invest in more camera gear). Without sounding pompass, I was really good at what I do, more with interacting with people than actual technical knowledge although I 'm very proficient technically as well. I had some very happy customers, and I'm thinking that I could get that back as Neil suggested with a high-end fashion portraiture style.
    I think I would try this with a limited, more exclusive type of business rather than being cheap & higher volume, I don't really need to make money from photography but I wouldn't shy away from extra cash though.
    All in all , for my first post here, thanks for some helpful comments.
  14. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "All in all , for my first post here, thanks for some helpful comments."
    Well that's a win then, isn't it?
    Hang around and join up - membership could be your first tax deduction, and likely you have a lot to give . . . in the way of advice or comment, too.
  15. NT--it sounds like you are wanting to get back into the business because you like shooting weddings. That is higher priority than making money. So, if it were me, I'd say do what you want to do and have fun doing it. What do you want to do?
  16. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I love it when that happens - look at the time - 08:35 ! spookey!
  17. I know little about shooting weddings, and even less about medium format -- other than its quality. If you are fortunate enough to live in the right town, perhaps renting digital backs for the job is a good place to start, gear-wise. In the end, its not about the gear, its about your skills as a businessperson and your ability to produce images anyway. Your experience and the equipment that you already own should be looked at as assets you can leverage, if possible. After the business is generating revenue, there will always be an opportunity to upgrade to new gear.
  18. Keep the 10/20D, and get the Digital Back. Since you prefer using the 'Blad, you could use that for most of the wedding (since you don't have to shoot tethered anymore), and when you need AF for faster moving subjects (kids, dancing etc) you have the DSLRs...
  19. NT, I was about to jump in guns blazing and shout on the rooftops about the splendour of the Canon 5D Mark II (based on it's first outing at a wedding I shot last Saturday :)) but I decided to read what the sages on this forum had to say first. Glad I did, because now I've changed my post entirely. Well, almost ;-)
    <p>I would add that intertwined with target market, or perhaps even before defining that, you need to determine what style you wish to pursue in your wedding photography. Or if you are versatile enough, it then becomes a chicken-or-egg question. Define my market first or define my style then carve out a niche in the market? MF and SLR photography lend themselves to different styles and different deliverables.
    <p>Much as it's tempting to say get 2x5D2s or a 5D2+1D4 and be done with it, there is much to be said for MF capture not only in terms of the technical expertise required but also in defining a now-unique product offering. You may do well to rent a good dSLR and a couple of decent lenses. Then go ahead and rent a digiback for your 'blad and shoot with that too. I don't know if you can get to do both these "tests" in a real-world situation (relative/close friend's wedding?) although that would be ideal. For a relatively small investment, you will then have had a real feel for what each system has to offer.
    <p>That's my tuppence among the shillings you've already received :)
    <p>Oh, and it's spelled pompous rather than pompass :) ...although the latter may be more fitting in its esoteric connotations ;-)
  20. Dear NT Bro. please show us some of your wedding images, thank you !!!!!
  21. Doesn't sound to me like you need to buy anything in the short term. I would shoot with the Canon bodies and lenses you have and if you're making enough income from wedding to justify it, maybe buy a more recent Canon body at some point. As for the digital back on the Hasselblad, yes it can produce a higher resolution image, but now many clients know the difference or care? 35mm-based DSLRs are now the standard for wedding work, and current high-megapixel models can deliver all the resolution you're going to need for anything short of 30x40 "wall portraits" and even then some would argue that they are capable of that. Does the Phase I back have a crop factor? If so, you might find yourself buying additional Hasselblad lenses to compensate, further driving up the cost if you go that route.
  22. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    MAK: You're just really excited with your 5DMkII. And so you should be. Have fun with it. Do good.
  23. NT--please read the Master Lesson article above the active list of threads. There is a section about medium format digital for weddings.
  24. IMO the only reason that 35mm is the 'standard' for wedding work these is because there are so many people jumping into the wedding business who cannot afford an MF kit or don't know how to even set a manual exposure. Not to say that all who shoot 35 mm are in either of these boats, I know there are plenty of accomplished and successful 35mm shooters, and this is part of their style.
    There is a visble difference in detail and clarity in even a smallish print made from a full frame 35mm DSLR and even the old H20 digital back on a Hasselblad, and when it comes to big prints there is no question about which produces better quality. Of course a DSLR has it's place for certain parts of a wedding where AF and speed is crucial, but for formals ( where I would think most clients would be buying larger prints from anyways) I would choose MF over any DSLR.
  25. I have seen the Hasselblade Digital Back on the Hasselblade 503CW at the photo-fare in Bangkok when I visited the place on 26th of Nov. , I did have the money to buy it but I did not like the idea as when I bought my Hasselblade cameras, I wanted them for films along with my other system.
    I feel so sorry to turn a medium format camera into digital, why not keep shooting films, why not learning processing films, why not try making large prints out of films, yestrday with all of the limitted resource I have here, I did process 3 120 B/W films my self at the Hotel Tilet and turned all ok, so it was not too long to see the result of my camera this time>
    Who says Hasselbalde are not good for wedding ?, we say in qatar " the person who could not reach the graps on the _ he would say the graps are soor " ! ( the grapes I mean those small red and yellow fruits, which some times they make wine out of them.
    My friends, I wish you a Merry Christmas and very Happy and Peaceful New Year, and wish the same.
  26. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "IMO the only reason that 35mm is the 'standard' for wedding work these is because there are so many people jumping into the wedding business . . . etc"

    I disagree. The Wedding Photography Business has undergone massive changes over the past 10 years.

    Style; Quantity Output for later Selection and Post Production; Speed and Response to Informal Capture; Available Light Capture . . . are just some of the several elements driving the business in various areas around the world. Not to mention all the “expert” writers advising the Brides on what they should be seeking and how they should ask the Photographer “What equipment do you use?” Which in turn creates an expectation within the Client, to see a large DSLR, most likely a "C".
    (I note Marc Williams' comment re using a Leica and it appearing as a P&S to some Clients. . . his Master Series . . . read it - it is at the top of this Forum)

    The 135 format provides all of this and more . . . and to 24 x 20 inch print. . . . which we don’t sell that many of now at all.

    I would however agree that an entry level (or just above) APS-C format DSLR and the kit lens provides the ill-informed and ignorant a very easy thought, as to how they might: “make a few $ "doing Wedding Photos"

  27. I thought I would show a few samples of a wedding I did.
  28. NT--when you post an image on the forum, please follow the guidelines. An image should be 700 pixels in width or less, and less than 100 kbytes. Always add a caption, or the image does not show up in the thread. When you have multiples, it may be easier to combine them into one image.
  29. Or, you can upload some images to a gallery and direct people there.

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