Wedding Jitters...

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by michael ( lee, Mar 18, 2004.

  1. After being very pleased with the results from this weekend's
    engagement shots, I have been asked by a good friend to be the
    photographer at her wedding in December of this year. I am very
    reluctant, though very much entertaining the idea. It's stressful to
    consider taking on the responsibility, and before I say yes or no, I
    wanted to get feedback from you all.

    The basics:
    She says there's $2000 (USD) for the job.

    I have -
    EOS 10D, Sigma 28-300mm, Sigma 105mm macro/portrait

    Can borrow -
    a friends 10D body as a backup

    Will get -
    inexpensive but superbly performing Canon 50mm 1.8

    I imagine I'll need a good flash... What equipment would I need,
    above what I already have and plan to buy, to do a good job? Would
    this be sufficient?

    What about costs? If I get $2000, how much of that can I expect
    to 'take home'? I know I'll have to purchase the prints, perhaps
    some albums and some frames, which will take away from my profit, but
    what else? If I'm going to do this fairly inexpensively, what's
    feasible here (in terms of profits, equip, other stuff I don't know
    about weddings.....)?

    Any help is hugely appreciated.

  2. If it's a good friend, and you don't have any experience, either turn the job down, or charge cost, including any additional equipment you need to do the job right (which it will be understood you get to keep).

    I hope to one day get in to doing weddings, but I plan to try and assist first for a season or two, and plan to do the first few pretty cheap as a learning expereince...
  3. You may consider getting a flash bracket, and a flash cord (maybe two, one for backup.) Then a second flash, also for backup. And twice as many memory cards you may think you need. Ditto for extra batteries. (For safety sake, find a local photographer to back you up in case you get ill or drop a camera *accidents do happen.*)

    Once you 'book' the wedding, the 'friend' becomes a customer and you have responsibilities to produce images that will make the customer happy.

    (And, of course, you are keeping records for taxes, right?)
  4. Perhaps less worry about gear & pricing, and more introspection on your comfort level
    with shooting people on the fly during one of the most important days of their lives.

    I took the trouble of visiting your images in your folder and saw some very
    beautiful photographs... but none of people. That you chose these images rather than
    people is the only information we have to go on. BTW, IMO if you can get some of the
    feeling of your landscapes into a wedding album, you'll really have something!

    So, how do you feel about working with and photographing people? It helps that it is a
    good friend you will be shooting, but there will be a lot of folks there that you don't know.

    I am friends with a number of incredibly good photographers, even ones that DO shoot
    people, that think I am certifiably insane for doing weddings. Either you are comfortable
    with the stress, even thrive on it, or you aren't. Only you can determine that.

    Just remember, if you say yes to your friend, the expectations will be no different than if
    she hired a Pro, which she probably could do in that price range (depending on the area).

    Normally, a package price wouldn't include things like extra albums and frames. Are you
    good at PhotoShop and making your own prints? Do you have an archival printer like an
    Epson 2000P or 2200? If not, you need a good wedding lab that does digital
    printing. Going to local labs and paying retail is an expensive option. Albums can be
    purchased direct for a savings if you register with a manufacturer (They're listed in
    Shutterbug and a number of other photo mags.)

    Your gear list is fine if you get the flash bracket, off camera cord, and have 2 flashes with
    diffusers to soften the light, a LOT of CF cards or a way to download them on the move (
    like a portable storage tank or a lap-top).

    The 10D is a great little camera, but you'll need some battery back-ups to shoot all day.
    And PLEASE, PLEASE shoot RAW files so you'll have a better ability to fix images after the

    All the best of luck to you.
  5. I would turn it down if I were you!What if they asked you to cater the wedding?(Im sure you have a stove & some pots & pans at home?)Wedding work reqiures a lot of experience and skill to do even a passable job.To do a great job you have to reach several levels,which take years to learn.Unless you can latch onto a skilled mentor for the next 8 months and assist,I would decline the offer.Have you considered the ramifications if you fail miserably?You have 1 day to shoot,they have all their lives to hate these(and you) if you screw up.
  6. Caveat: I've only shot one wedding, so take my advice for what it's worth. I'm going to totally go against the grain here, and probably expose myself to much ridicule. A lot of people are going to give you the very reasonable advice to turn this opportunity down. There are numerous reasons to turn this down, and they are all good ones. But I still think you should do it.

    Wedding photography is one of the most challenging photographic things that you can attempt. You may fail miserably, but odds are that you won't. How often do you fail miserably taking casual pictures of family and friends? Even though the pressure of wedding is something unreal, it's not some sort of statistical anomaly that makes otherwise fine photographers fail on their first attempt. Particularly given that you have 8 months to play around with any new gear that you feel you need, I think this is very doable.

    Get a flash, maybe try to borrow a second. Try out the brackets. They work, but they change the handling of the camera and take some getting used to. Think about this as maybe an excuse to upgrade that Sigma 10X zoom to something with a bit less range and a bit more quality. Maybe even buy yourself two fast primes. A canon 24mm 2.8 and a Canon 50 1.8 work out to something like a 35 and a 70 in 35mm. You can do an awful lot with this combo particular since you already have a 100, and they are plenty cheap for what you get.

    Don't worry too much about monetary profit. I think I ended making a grand total of $100 bucks cash for the wedding that I did, but I also got some great experience and added some equipment that I probably would have gotten otherwise. Have fun with it. If they are friends, your eagerness not to disapoint will inspire you to do a fine job.
  7. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I agree with Steve Levine: this is one of the situations when friends become former friends. If the bride and groom can afford a professional wedding photographer, I would turn this down and ask them to hire somebody. The only way I would do it is that they cannot afford a pro at all; in that case they have nothing to lose anyway. Your images may turn out to be great, but wedding photography is not easy and there is always a chance that you would mess up. You learn the trade by being an assisstant or second photographer and build up experience.
  8. Matt - I added you to the list of Photographers with wedding images on See the Forum titles under this Wedding Forum to find it.. Since not many of our images ever go to the top pages.. It is hard to find other photographers with wedding work that we can look at. <p>Michael, I think it is important to evaluate for ourselves when and if we are ready to step into our "first wedding". I would read each post and carefully consider the advice and then decide. <p>Although awfully blunt - Steve has a good point. I've heard many people lament about hiring a friend that was a non-wedding photographer to shoot thier wedding. My lab's owner for instance, is a photographer and often talks about the mistake he made hiring a photographer friend to shoot his wedding years ago. He has regrets. <p>On the other hand... If a couple has no money and wouldn't be hiring a photographer due to cost - an amatuer is a bonus because they wouldn't have anything but snapshots anyway. <p>My first wedding was tough - even though I had been photographing landscapes, had been published and had won an award. In my case I assisted for two summers before I ventured into weddings. I only charged $800 (14 years ago) which was lower than the going rate and I lied to them and told them I'd been shooting weddings for 3 years ;-) to get the job. Fortunately, the photos were very good - though I did make a few mistakes due to stress and rushing which is so common when shooting in this venue. And that was after being exposed to what it takes to shoot a wedding! <p>If the couple can't get another photographer - or - doesn't like the photographer's work in your area - or - just doesn't want a professional for some reason - then I'd go for it but my suggestion/advice is to charge less then $2,000 and not worry about profit. This is on the job training and something you could use the results of to get more work. This way, if the results are not as good as they should be -- the couple will be not feel cheated. Otherwise, I'd recommend they hire a wedding photographer for the ceremony, group shots, and couple shots. YOU could do getting ready shots, ceremony shots, candids and reception. You could watch the pro - even assist.. and learn. You could think of this as a test run and offer the couple (your friends) the prints at cost of film and printing and reprints for a slight upcharge. I only suggest this because it would be sad to ruin a friendship over this. I will also tell you that when my "friends" get married... I never charge them much above cost. I consider it my wedding gift to them. But, that's me... Good luck and do let us know what happens and if you share your photos with us... Let me know so I can add you to the list of wedding photos on PN.
  9. Thanks, Mary. I actually rather like your last suggestion to split the duties with a pro. This seems like a good compromise if you are worried about how you will do.

    Keep in mind that 8 months leaves you a fair amount of time for practice and acquirring skills. I believe that someone suggested trying to apprentice yourself out to a pro; that's probably another great idea depending on how seriously you are taking the opportunity. I know that I'm looking around at some of the photographers in my area, and trying to figure out who to approach about the possibility of assisting.
  10. Many thanks for the advice. This is the kind of 'tough' advice I was hoping for. The point a lot of you are driving home is what I've been dealing with, and it's why I haven't said yes or no yet-- this is their one day, and all I want is to perform for both them and me.
    I understand the transition from friend to client; the engagement shoot stands as testimony to that. We were still having fun, but there was an element of stress and demand on both sides of the camera. I worked quite a bit with Photoshop rendering photos in B&W and Sepia, adjusting levels, etc. I also prepared contact sheets for her and everyone else to choose photos. I realize that a wedding would definitely multiply that element.
    For those interested, I have today posted some sample shots from the engagement shoot.
    View photos
    Though 'people' shots are definitely different from the other shots I've posted, I really like taking them. I love capturing emotion, and thanks to the Simga 105 (165mm on my 10D), I could do so by getting in close and blurring the background. One thing I think about is if I choose to do it, I'm certain I wont be able to shoot the telephoto shots exclusively. I like the suggestions for the wide and standard primes with large apertures, but I would certainly practice on groups to get accustomed to the perspective.
    All your advice, weathered and newbie, is very helpful. More than just this engagement shoot, I had three clients while I lived in New York City who wanted candid shots of their families and children. (It initially was just a basic shoot of a mother and her newborn, and after the pictures got around, a nurse and a doctor requested shoots of their own.) All loved the shots. Like the engagement shots, those NYC candid shoots worked best when I could get in close and tight. A lot of me thinks that I wouldn't fail if I chose to do it, but that in fact I would produce some great shots, and perhaps some truly impressive ones. I say that, not out of arrogance, rather because I demand so much from myself, and because I love the process of capturing so much. It's that part of me that knows of the potential for failure (big time) that keeps me from diving in.
    All that said, let's say I chose to do it. Given I'll need a lens or two, a flash, what other costs will I be looking at? Do I purchase albums and frames? One or several? I suppose there's the tuxedo rental also...
  11. Michael - I looked at your engagement shots: don't worry, you know how to shoot. If your friends liked your shots then they should like the pictures from the whole wedding. A couple of things to keep in mind: I don't know how long the engagement shots took, but you won't have that amount of time for family shots at the wedding. Weddings have tight time constraints so you have to work quick and keep things moving. I suspect that all of you will prefer a PJ type of look and lighting. The 550 EX and an Omnibounce used mostly as fill should do you well. Take a look at Marc Williams setup in the Bracket thread. Make sure you take lots of practice shots with whatever you get before the wedding so you have a good feel for how it performs. Although you can check to see what you've got, you don't want to be conducting science fair experiments in real time.
  12. You've gotten excellent advice so far, so the only thing I'll add is, if you're in the SF Bay Area, and the wedding will be held there, e-mail me with the site(s) and I might be able to help you with information since I've shot at a lot of Bay Area sites before--things like ceremony sequence, logistics, good places to shoot, etc. In 8 months, you can learn a lot on the technical side, especially with the motivation you've expressed, but it is the experience part that, if anything, would trip you up. I'd try to find a photographer who's work you like to let you tag along on one or two weddings as second shooter. You may not want to end up as a wedding photographer (although you might), but just having gone through a few weddings with "the pressure on" will build up your confidence and give you some experience.
  13. Nadine is right on... Didn't realize you have 8 months... Definately hook up with a wedding photographer that you respect and take it from there. <p>However, God forbid you decide not to shoot the whole thing and you want to just shoot a portion to build your portfolio and get practical experience -- 4 months from now? If they are to have a pro for some of the shots.. They'll need to hire one now or they won't find someone who is available. It might even be tough at this point to get someone who isn't booked.
  14. I have done 2 weddings this year, and have 3 more booked thru June. I also have the 10D and shot the first wedding with a 28-135IS and wished that I had a wider lens. Thanks to a timely tax refund, I purchased the 17-40L and the wider lens really helped, especially with the formals. I also have a 420EX flash, but could have really used the extra power from a 550EX or other more powerful flash.

    As long as your friend is aware of the quality of your work on the front end, you should be OK. I would make sure that you have a backup body, even if it's a film body. The last thing you need would be for your 10D to freak out on you the day of the wedding and you are left holding the bag. A backup flash and plenty of charged batteries would also be a good thing to have.

    The 50/1.8 would be a good choice for available light images during the ceremony. You will get a heated discussion on these boards if you bring up whether or not to use flash during the ceremony. I was using a 135/2 on a film body loaded with T-Max 400 for these shots.

    As for the $2000, I would be sure that you feel comfortable in delivering an acceptable quality product. If you don't, suggest that you'll do the wedding for $1000 (or some other amount), or like someone else has already suggested, decline. You don't want to mess up a good relationship by bombing out on their wedding.

    That said, have a good time. Yes, a wedding is an important day, but be careful, pay attention to the small details, and everything should work out OK. Everyone has to start somewhere. Don't be discouraged by any constructive criticism you receive - everyone has been in your shoes at one time or another. Good Luck!
  15. If you have another friend that is also into photography, ask them to back you up on the big day. I recently did that for a friend who shoots models and is just starting to shoot weddings, and it worked out really well.

    Having two people takes a lot of the stress out of things. You can plan out shots and ideas with the other person. If a piece of equipment fails, you'll be able to keep shooting. You don't have to worry quite so much about where to stand, what lens you have on the camera, what things to be ready for - if you miss a potential shot, there's a chance the other person might have snagged it.

    For example, my friend would have missed The Kiss if he'd been shooting alone - despite what they rehearsed, the couple kissed with their backs to him on the day. Because my friend and I had discussed the possibility that something like this might happen, we had been shooting everything from quite different angles all through the day. So I was in a good position to get the shot and everything worked out fine.

    And if you've chosen your friend well, they'll have equipment compatible with yours and you won't have to buy everything yourself :).
  16. Weddings are no joke. This is a serious day for a person. First of all, the shots you took are outdoors. Getting a well exposed shot outside is fairly easy to do. Try shooting the same shot in a dark reception hall or church and things can go from EASY to WHAT DID I DO! Very quickly. I know you have eight months, but by just merely learning how to take a well exposed shot, will not guarantee you success. I am not trying to sound rude or negative but it is a serious day. I want you to understand what you are getting into. You will need to gain experience by following a professional around for a few months. You will have to learn how to handle your equipment, how to multi task and how to handle a crowd. You will have people stressing you out and you will need to know how to handle the problems that can come up. My first wedding (which was about a year ago) was not easy. I had to deal with cold weather, pushy bride and groom and hotel management. Guess who the customer was? It was my wife’s uncle. No joke. Friends and family are sometimes the most demanding. They will tell you that “we just want something to have” , but once you give them the product, the problems will begin. The amount that is being paid to you is equivalent to what the average pro charges. I also want you to understand that your reputation is on the line if you decide to do this kind of work down the line. Bad news travels fast. Not only are you working for the B&G but also the whole family. Mom wants this and Dad wants that. If you are scared at this point, your are being honest with yourself. I can do a wedding with some stress but am fairly confident in my actions. During a wedding, a guest came up to me and asked me that I was the most professional acting photographer that they had seen and wanted my card. All because they saw me helping the bride when her dress got a small stain on it. I even help the bride make her way through the reception hall by moving chairs out of her way so that she can move around freely. Will every photographer do these things? NO. So at this point I feel that you will have to shadow a pro just to be able to have some level of control on the big day! The question is not if you will do it but rather how well you will do it.

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