So, how has wedding photography changed in the last few years?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by dzeanah, May 16, 2007.

  1. I haven't done any wedding photography in the last few years, and haven't pursued it seriously for over five. I'm finding myself drawn to wedding work again, and a quick look around shows that things have changed almost everywhere I look:
    • Digital is mainstream.
    • There are tools out there like Lightroom and Bridge that seem to really help with the post wedding workflow
    • Album manufacture seems easier (my sample pack from Queensberry makes it clear that the preferred way to have an album made is to have them print your images and install them in your album directly.
    • Album options have become quite a bit more complex. Do people still want matted leather albums any more?
    For the most part, this seems to be a good thing. I shot my last wedding with 2 Leica M's and a Mamiya 7 for more formal stuff, and paid somewhere around $1,200 - $1,500 for film development for proofing. Digital gets rid of that, and removes some of the need for multiple cameras (at least, there's no need for dedicated color and B&W bodies).

    The bigger issue from my perspective is workflow improvements -- I've only been playing with Lightroom for a few hours, but I can honestly believe organizing/proofing/album design can now be done in a single day. Album order looks simple as can be (hooray for the elimination of negative carding and inserting proofs/prints into albums!), though I don't know how much retouching will be required on images before shipping them off to the album maker (I'd assume 6-10 preset actions in Photoshop would take care of the majority of issues, but I really don't know for sure).

    So, things look easier technically. What else has changed? I'm assuming photojournalistic coverage is more accepted (is PJ still the preferred term?), and I'm guessing most pros shoot a mix between that and what used to be called 'traditional' photography. Have prices changed much, as we seem to have moved away from the '40 hours after the event' model? Are there better ways to market oneself than talking to other photographers, wedding shows, and magazine ads?

    What's become more common that I haven't thought of? Please tell me there's a drive toward well done B&W imagery (pretty please?)
  2. I can think of two things beyond what you have covered. One is that even before digital, many photographers had begun either selling or giving away the negatives, sometimes a year after the wedding, sometimes right away. When I was doing weddings, that was unheard of and considered extremely unprofessional for both business reasons and the concept of the negatives being the originals of the "body of work" you accumulate over a lifetime. With digital, and the ability to put high-res files onto a CD, it seems a lot of photographers are doing this now and many brides are expecting to get the hi-res files. Some make substantial print orders anyway, some don't. Secondly, there's been huge marketing hype that digital cameras somehow produce better pictures, and that's inspired thousands of people who don't have a clue what they're doing to hang out their shingles as weekend warriors based on nothing more than owning a digital SLR. Then they get on these web sites and ask why the wedding they shot for $200 with an 18-200mm 3.5-5.6 zoom and built in flash and program mode and autofocus didn't "turn out" and can't undertstand why the bride is angry. There were certainly incompetent photographers before digital, but there seem to be more now.
  3. 2nd above. There's a FLOCK of Best Bought didgi owners doing exactly as stated above, some even label their incompetence as "photo journalist style", lol. Main difference being I've never known a learned photo journalist to post "which zoom best for news indoors?", or "why no ISO 6400-- manufacturers don't listen!", or "flash sucks! I only shoot available light!", etc. etc.

    On the positive end, it is an exciting time to work if you have some foundations in technical photography... it all applies the same of course, PLUS there's so many options available to you now, from capture, to processing, to finals... it's a Brave New World out there.

    Don't get me wrong, I think all the renewed interest in imaging is awesome-- but... I wouldn't buy an airplane, call myself a pilot, and charge for rides without knowing WTH I was doing, lol.
  4. You gotta be pulling my leg? $1500 would equal roughly 60+ rolls of 120 and 35mm bought/shot/developed/proofed from my lab. Probably more.

    You're right thumb must be arthritic. Hell that's at least one hour spent loading the camera!
  5. > You gotta be pulling my leg? $1500 would equal roughly 60+
    > rolls of 120 and 35mm bought/shot/developed/proofed from my lab.
    > probably more.

    I shot a touch less than 1,000 frames, film bought from B&H, processed and proofed at Miller's. Scanned the 35mm on a Sony scanner I purchased for the purpose (now resold), and had the 6x7 scanned locally for something like $1/frame. I don't remember the specifics of the cost, but I believe it was around what I stated.
  6. "I shot a touch less than 1,000 frames"

    Yep, you're going to love digital.

    Derek, if you liked the feel and approach of the rangefinder, Leica now makes a M8 digital.
  7. Seems more B&G are looking for some form of digital. I usually just supply a hi~res CD, from the scanned film. A "Full digital" coverage is almost 30% increase this year. I still prefer the film route but, if the client is willing to find the xtra $ for editing time in CS..we accept. Albums are not selling at all --unless you are so 'inclined' to throw one in. You would think, in the event/commercial side, that digital would be faster --for those quick-turn arounds. But, film is way faster & cheaper. Shoot a bunch of golfers in the morning --drop off the film ..deliver the next morning to the client.
  8. So, if albums aren't selling, and few folks are buying prints, does this mean that (at least in your markets) brides nowadays are looking for someone to provide a DVD of jpegs that they can take possession of? I guess the fees for the shoot are a bit higher than they used to be then.

    Marc: I'd absolutely love another Leica M. From what I can tell Leica did a good job with the M8, but the price is horrifying. Maybe after another dozen weddings or so...
  9. DEREK --I always tell the client .."If a 8x10 is worth $30 --- just how much do think owning that one neg or file ...would be?" So with weddings, we have much higher fees > because they retain all rights. <p> Alternatively with portraits ~ we "feel out" the clients : if they are in need of enlargements ...and sell the negs/files to them after their initial order.
  10. "From what I can tell Leica did a good job with the M8"
    Two words: black tuxedos.
  11. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Aside from the fact I paid a lot less for the film and developing and proofing, and also shot fewer frames per Wedding, I also sold our studio about five years ago. And we used 35mm 645 and 5x4.

    I was engaged to `modify the studio and workflow` for the new owners, last January. (It still uses film and equipment, as above), So I guess, I am in a similar place as you?

    The biggest changes, (here) are the market drivers. I speak percentages; NOT whole numbers:

    1. Customers: Actual high end Weddings are declining in number; Medium range customers are more inclined to ask for, or demand digital files; low end consumers are wanting a rip and burn `service` but in the main do not understand what `service` is, nor are they willing to pay for it.


    (For `Noise and Distortion` comment)

    And this might be interesting also:

    2 .Technology & `knowledge`: is more accessible, there are more clients who are `experts` because they have a DSLR and a laptop. The tools both to do the job and `learn the job` i.e. jump on the net and get the information, it must be correct, I read it on the WWW.

    3. Which leads to >>> Advertising and Marketing: much more emphasis is being placed on the Web image and web marketing and web ordering and web selling, IMO, incorrectly in some instances and without any real cost benefit analysis in most.


    4. Which is combined with >>> Instant Gratification requirement: overrides quality and the unencumbered relaxed choice of an album and enlargements as a work of art and an high quality record of history.

    5. Society`s (better) acceptance of casual or part time work ethic: leads to more part time Wedding Photographers who believe a DSLR and rip and burn thrice a week will make do for this Summer`s income.

    This link may illustrate both the bias of my perspective and some the rush of particular `trends`:

    (Potential) Litigation: Increasing rapidly. Do I need to write more?

    6. And the biggest Market Driver: MISinformation is on the increase, from many of the drivers above, and from all the increasing numbers of `must have` ancillaries with a finger in the pie.

    And those fingers begin a stirring rollercoaster well before the event.

    There are more Wedding Planners, Floral Artists, Reception Co-ordinators, Videographers, et al whose imperative, often ego driven, is to maximize the `efficiency` of the Wedding at the expense of other participants and vendors, adversarial interaction rather than collaborative industry.

    B & W, (quality Black and White, that is), IMO is not dead, nor is 5x4, but it is a niche market.

  12. The major change has been the transition from posed , formal style photography. To a more documentary style of coverage. This change has made demands on the photographer, and contrary to popular belief. This style is much harder to master. The irony is the entry level shooters attempting this advanced technique of shooting. The lesson here is that if you can't shoot in a disciplined style, how will you know how to shoot a more relaxed style? The bottom line is you have to learn how and what, to shoot.
  13. Steve

    As a photographer who shoots for a newspaper, I couldn't agree with you more.

    The other major change that I see from post on this forum is the point and press and hope the motor drive actually catches something. Exposures are numbering in the thousands - which to me is insane.

    I finally shot over 800 shots at an event on Saturday - of course it was a motocross race and there were over 250 participants, and I have at least one great shot of each of them.
  14. "Exposures are numbering in the thousands - which to me is insane."
    Whether or not it's insane depends on the photographer and the event. Some weddings have so much going on (or go on for so long) it's easy to shoot into those numbers. Others are so boring you have to claw your way to the minimum # of proofs you promised your client. Likewise, some photographers have a keen eye for detail, while others only shoot the obvious. Personally I have yet to deliver more than 900 pictures in a single wedding. Some shoot more, some shoot less, and that's OK.
    The problem I have is with people making blanket statements based on the assumption that shooting a lot = automatically bad. But I agree with you, there are a lot of people who shoot the way you describe. William Albert Allard said in his book The Photographic Essay: "You may get it in half a roll; you may use five rolls and never get it. What I don't understand is five rolls showing the same damn thing."
  15. BTW the book was published back in 1989, so substitute "roll" for "8gig CF card" or whatever happens to be the standard nowadays.
  16. This is always a touchy subject. Old schoolers like myself have struggled to change to digital, I still shoot both. Also, in regards to the 2500 images at a wedding, I still struggle on getting 1/4 that many shots. Plus 2500 images makes for a very large album, unless your packages do not include any photos/albums and you give the bride CD"S or a composite album/magazine.
  17. I think a big part of it depends on your clients, and the kinds of weddings you're shooting. I tend to get there before the caterer (and catch everyone arriving), and stay until it's over or (more commonly) everyone's settled down to drink and hang out until the early morning hours, and I'm just exhausted.

    1,000 frames over a 10 hour period isn't really all that much.
  18. Don't know how someone can edit through or even shoot >> the amounts of images many say they are shooting these days.
    I just come from the old school--- you just make sure of the comp/exposure/etc. before you commit to shooting a frame.
    I know I have posted this before , and has nothing to do with the nouveau PJ shooters. But , we guarantee that 33 of a 36 exposure roll ~~will be perfect in image/exposure or we pay the B&G $10 for each they find unsuitable. That is one of our biggest selling points, for the past 25 years.
    So, after 4 or 5 hours of coverage and maybe 7/10 rolls of film ( which we include ~ so they can see any "mistakes") they have 300+ quality images.<p>

    So for us :: weddings have not changed how we shoot in the last few years , just some prefer this little disc, with images burned to them, besides the professional skills and the neg/prints.
  19. On a thread at DWF an established professional mentioned that he offered his clients the choice of high resolution files or an album. Most took the files.

    This year he reversed himself and found himself regretting the decision somewhat.

    Let's face it, everyone knows you can get 13 cent prints at Sam's Club. Why fight it?

    It was enlightening. True you miss out on reprints, but there is no time or expense involved in album and album design. Like film vs digital... time really is money.

    I will likely structure my package similar.
  20. Nothing has changed if you shoot film straight to print.
    While digital is "faster", when it's for pay, I shoot film in that I do not want the hassle of going digital, then post processing to prints.
    I know the film and how it performs (as does the lab), I have superior EOS gear with 'L' lenses, I know precisely what the gear and film will do and with few exceptions, and as already noted, I shoot today, get the film to the lab by 9AM the next morning and have prints, CDs, proofs by NOONish.
    *Any artwork (spotting) at the lab is charged back to the client.
    I do the enlargements myself @ $12 an hour rental in the lab.
    My "book" lets my clients "preview" my work; beside they can go up on the Net when I give them the CD and web URL.
    I (assistants) do digital candids and use a laptop set up for previews at the reception where the Bride etcetera can see them there in real time. We also print 4 X 6s and 5 x 7s at the reception from the digital candids.
    10 rolls of 135 x 36 film plus processing = $180-$240 and I'm done (excepting enlargements.) 00LBgs-36563584.JPG
  21. So, what about black tux and the Leica M8? You know about the IR filters you put on the lenses don't you.
  22. c jo gough - Carmel, CA,
    Don't know how someone can edit through or even shoot >> the amounts of images many say they are shooting these days. I just come from the old school--- you just make sure of the comp/exposure/etc. before you commit to shooting a frame.
    I know I have posted this before , and has nothing to do with the nouveau PJ shooters. But , we guarantee that 33 of a 36 exposure roll ~~will be perfect in image/exposure or we pay the B&G $10 for each they find unsuitable. That is one of our biggest selling points, for the past 25 years. So, after 4 or 5 hours of coverage and maybe 7/10 rolls of film ( which we include ~ so they can see any "mistakes") they have 300+ quality images.
    So for us :: weddings have not changed how we shoot in the last few years , just some prefer this little disc, with images burned to them, besides the professional skills and the neg/prints.

    I heartily agree with your summation.
    I remember a list of the 62 things you (a professional) must (MUST) shoot at a wedding or you've failed in your craft.
    3-4 shots max per situation max.
    With my EOS 1n film camera(s) and 540EZ flashes, if I've done my job, the shots come out uniformly perfect, just a few variations on a theme.
    Since I go straight to print, I have none of the hassles associated with digital post-processing, nor the enormous amount of time tied up over my computer "jiggling" images.
    And I usually walk out with a roll or so of film or a 10 rolls left.
  23. The way I see it, the reason for shooting so many images at a wedding had to do with two factors:

    With digital, you can shoot as much as you want with the only cost being time to proof.
    The current surge of the "PJ" style of wedding photography indicates that in order to tell a story you need to shoot more of what happens.

    This style, as opposed to the line'em up and shoot'em method really works with a more vs. less approach. Rather than a one frame photo of a laughing person, a series of shots that shows what lead up to that laughter is more common.

    I have never seen the comment that film is "faster and cheaper" but in many ways it can be very true. It takes a long time and a lot of research and practice to purchase new technology, learn how to use it,
    keep up with the growth of that technology, and be your own lab.

    It is too easy to criticize those who choose to stay with film only for refusing to embrace the changes in technology. There is a lot of compromise that comes with that change. Many film shooters have used the same gear for thirty years or more with no need to upgrade. If you factor that into the cost of doing business, it makes sense.
    Digital photographers will use gear until the technology is released that gives them what they didn't get in the last version, and that includes software.

    The other big change is the amount of misconceptions about digital photography being so easy. More people have "hung out their shingles" so to speak and all it takes is a couple of free weddings, a slick web site, and a semi-pro camera with a handful of lenses. People have that and it seems they are overnight wedding photographers.

    There may be those in the top of their markets who will be unaffected by this, but there are only so many weddings to go around in a given area. The more saturated with photographers that area becomes, the law of averages with regards to bookings will come into play.
    Supply and demand. The more photographers charging low fees to get started, the more options available to the spending public.

    Let's put it this way, to some people a nice picture of a snow covered mountain is a nice picture of a snow covered mountain. If they can't afford an original Ansel Adams print, they will pay less for a nice picture of a snow covered mountain.

    To us, wedding photography can be art. Many great photographers have beautiful artistic styles and are quite happy with cultivating a clientele that appreciates fine art wedding photography. To the general public it's still weddings. They want the same kind of pictures that everyone else wants. If that were not so, there would be no more shot lists. Think about that.

    If photographer A offers 8 hours of coverage, a full set of proofs, a nice leather-bound album, and a few enlargements for $1000, and photographer B offers a whole day of shooting, two photographers,online proofing, a nice leather-bound album, and maybe a wall enlargement or two for $4500 how many will ask "what style of photography do you shoot?" Will they even have heard of Denis Reggie, Joe Buissink, Yervant, etc.? Nope.
    So they have zero point of reference for the artsy side of wedding photography. And even if the bride is moved by your romantic and dreamy images, if her mom is paying she will ask why you charge more than photographer A for the same thing.

    Setting yourself apart from the mainstream is not the only challenge. Making sure people understand the difference is the real job today. So just because you have a major investment in gear, it doesn't mean you can sell yourself as a major player.

    I suppose this is a controversial subject. But hey, aren't we all into reality shows today? :)

  24. Everyone wants the digital files! I'm a stickler for quality so I cry a bit at the thought of my prints being printed at walmart on color B&W paper with a funky red cast. Sniffle, sniffle.

    Anyway, with every DVD I give out I've tried to inform my clients on how to get qualtity prints. It's the best I can do at the moment. Some listen; some don't. I'll post the handout I've been giving to them in case anyone would find it helpful.

    I don't know about you guys, but I can look at a B&W print and know whether it was shot with film or digital.
  25. You know about the IR filters you put on the lenses don't you.
    You mean that hoop you need to jump through just to get a $4800 camera to register color properly? Yeah. I also know a number of photog friends who are still waiting for Leica to deliver their promised filters, four months after taking delivery of their cameras. I've tried telling them they can order from B&H but they don't want to spend $70+ and wait 6-10 weeks when Leica's said their filters will ship "any day now" - any day now for the last month. Oh well.
  26. Derek, probably the biggest change in the last 5 years is more prolific use of the internet.

    Clients use it to search & review, and share word of mouth on wedding sites, and create
    sites about their upcoming wedding. Photographers use it to advertise, for blogs, to
    upload whole weddings for print sales, and to network information (like here).

    Most of the remainer is the same, just the math has changed. There are mediocre shooters
    and good ones same as before ... just more of both.
  27. I am almost ready to end my 30 year career in Wedding Photography. Digital has brought a huge amount of weekend warriors with little knowledge, but "great prices". 1000's of photos on a CD. I wonder what they take for the average 3 to 4 hour wedding in this small town. 75 shots of the Cake Cutting?? 100 of the Bride dancing with Dad?? I shoot 120 format and always take 15 rolls with me, rarely shooting more than 13 to 14. Now, it seems to be "Supersize me". People would rather have quantity instead of quality. There are some very good digital photographers out there, but it won't be long and I'll be clearing what I use to make back in '89 after cost. Glad my Pension check is kicking in next month ;-)
  28. "I've never known a learned photo journalist to post ... flash sucks! 'I only shoot available light!'"
    "Like Eisie [ie, Alfred Eisenstaedt], I prefer a natural setting and existing light. Cartier-Bresson abhorred flash, explaining once that he wished subjects to appear natural as he saw them, but that flash gave him very different results." -- Herbert Keppler, Popular Photography, April 2007.
  29. the whole history of the industrial revolution has been one of automation making it possible for less skilled machine operators to produce at lower cost and greater consistency than more skilled artisans. and, "consistency" is a nice word for "commodity" (ie, something more or less indistinguishable from the rest of its kind).

    it is aximoatic that the price of a commodity will tend to converge with its cost of production. in terms of wedding photography, that means that a kid who's been shooting for a couple of years with a dSLR and auto-flash, still lives with his or her parents, and has a cousin who owns a one-hour photo kiosk can undercut on price any grownup just atarting out who is offering same-old, same-old wedding photographs.

    conversely, the only way to overcome commoditization, in *any* business model, is by product and/or service differentiation. precisely because of the technological advances in photography, there are many avenues down which a wedding photographer can travel to make their work decidely different from the rest.

    these various paths to differentiation might include large format, bringing to bear experience as an actual photojournalist, working on every file in Photoshop *individually* (instead of batch processing or leaving the subtle choices up to a lab), having an experienced street or travel photographer's eye for the 'decisive moment', doing one's own wet-lab silver gelatin prints, even (heaven forbid) shooting in available light. there are, of course, many others.

    yes, Wal-Mart's revenues are vastly higher than those of Tiffany & Co. however, while Wal-Mart's net profit margin is just over 3% (an enormous margin, btw, for a consumer commodity retailer), Tiffany's are close to a handsome 10%.

    as an aside, i am currently enjoying reading "Hollywood Portraits" by Roger Hicks and Christopher Nisperos. when reliable light meters were first introduced, experienced Hollywood portraitists tended to dismiss them as being for "amateurs" (the more things change, ...).

    also, the pros tended to underexpose for the highlights and overdevelop to raise contrast. needless to say, as a result the shadows remained just that -- shadows {chuckling}.

    for those who eschew Photoshop, it is worth noting that Hollywood at the time employed far more retouchers than photographers. (indeed, the authors theorize that these underexposed/overdevelped negatives were so thin, by textbook standards, in order to make them easier to retouch.)

    a couple of years ago, MOMA in New York did a wonderful retrospective of the work of Diane Arbus. on display were her Nikon F and the Rolleiflex she later used. neither had a light meter. viewing the proof sheets from some of her privately commissioned work on display elsewhere, one wonders if she knew what a light meter was.

    i've also seen some of Eisenstaedt's proof sheets on display. let's just say there were far more "misses" than "hits".

    all of which just underscores the point that a newish wedding photographer who wants to charge higher than 'Wal-Mart' prices needs to bring something to the table besides Kodak-perfect shots of the formals.

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