The wedding photographer is tasked with a stressful, difficult job – take great photos of a constantly evolving, mobile event (with no re-takes or do-overs) and do it with grace and confidence. Experienced photographers, as well as most new photographers and photo novices who try shooting weddings and end up quitting understand this pressure. Being a wedding photographer is a job kind of like being a rodeo cowboy; it looks exciting and fun, but behind the scenes the preparation and expectation, as well as the physical and psychological toll required to complete the job can be overwhelming.
So imagine adding one more challenge to the balancing act: other photographers. It seems like a recipe for disaster.
Scenario 1: The Sniper. You’ve photographed the bride and bridal party as they stroll down the aisle toward the altar. You settle into a nice spot where you can quietly capture some intimate photos of the bride and groom exchanging vows. As you focus the lens of your camera on the bride and groom you realize that in the background (behind the bride and groom) one of the guests is moving around trying to get a photo of the wedding couple, and he’s in your frame, essentially ruining the shot!
Scenario 2: The Paparazzi. It’s time for the toast. A large group of guests assemble around the bride and groom to “clink” their glasses in celebration of the new life that has begun between the bride and groom. As you glance around to find the best place to position yourself, you realize that the large group of people is tightly packed around the bride and groom and many of them don’t have champagne glasses; instead they are donning cameras and are intent on getting photos.
And, unfortunately, there are many other situations where guest photographers will challenge your ability to get the best shot at a wedding, such as during formal photos and other important events involved in the wedding ceremony and reception. So how do you avoid having problems and focus on getting the best shots while being courteous and respectful to the bride, groom and their guests?
One word: Preparation.
The first thing that you as a professional wedding photographer can do to prepare for a wedding is to meet with the bride and groom. Listen to what they want from you and ask them questions if needed. Meeting(s) with the bride and groom can be your opportunity to explain how important capturing photographs of their wedding day is and how you appreciate them choosing you over other photographers. Obviously, it’s not good to scare the newlyweds, but it’s definitely ok to define yourself as “the” wedding photographer. It’s important for the bride and groom (and anyone else attending the wedding, for that matter) to know that a professional photographer (you) are being paid good money to provide photographic coverage for the wedding. And as such, the photographer should be given free license and full authority to photograph everything, free from limitation, i.e., free from guests hanging out of the pew into the aisle trying to get a cell phone snap shot of the bride.
Obviously, human behavior is unpredictable. And we can’t tell guests what to do. We want everyone at a wedding to have fun and enjoy the day. But at the same time, it’s important for you as the photographer to empower the bride and groom with this knowledge of photographer privileges so that they can share it with others who will be there on wedding day. Because ultimately, if I’m following the bride down the aisle as her official photographer, and a guest hops out in front of me to take a picture (believe me, it’s happened), there’s no undoing the shot.
Now let’s talk about insurance. We live in the digital age where the way we photograph everything is different. In the old days (picture the 1980s :)), getting “the shot” was of the utmost importance. Photographers had to make sure everything was ready and right before pressing the shutter button on their camera. After all, there were limitations; each roll of film that was used costs money, and there was a finite number of rolls of film that any photographer would bring to an event. In addition, equipment used for low-light photography (which is needed for most weddings – think dark, candle-lit rooms with few windows) was not as good then as it is now. These days we have high powered flashes, an abundance of fast lenses, great editing software and amazing technology for processing light in cameras.
In 2011, I can shoot a wedding continuously and go home with 3,000+ images to choose from (note: I don’t usually shoot that many). Having the ability to use top-notch equipment and shoot digital with almost unlimited capacity for images means that I am bringing an insurance policy to weddings. I am hedging my bet, insuring that I will get lots of great images from each event, thanks to technology. So even if someone steps into the shot, 9 times out of 10, I’ve already gotten a very similar shot prior or after the instance where someone stepped in and blocked my vantage point. The same reasoning goes for the “sniper” scenario above. Problem solved.
So what about the paparazzi? Again, part of the solution to avoiding the paparazzi scenario is education. Brides need to let their guests know that it’s ok to take photos, but that it’s also important to her and the groom to allow each important event during the wedding to be captured appropriately by the official photographer who is being paid to cover the event.
The second part of the solution is assertiveness. Be courteous but assertive when you are charged with photographing an event. It is obviously very important to your client to have photographs of their event and they have put a lot of faith in you (the photographer) to act in their stead to capture those precious, meaningful moments. Keep that in mind when you politely ask guest to give you a little space.
You can also advertise that you are the official photographer, albeit in a somewhat quiet way. You don’t need a bullhorn to announce to everyone your intentions (ok, maybe during formal photos). All you need to do is look the part. Have you ever been to a costume party in full costume? I’ve always noticed that if you attend the party donning a special costume, you get treated differently, perhaps even better than if you just showed up wearing what you do every day. So do the same at a wedding. Show your clients and their guests that you are serious and professional with your work. Dress up and include a lanyard with an ID badge with your company’s logo. People make judgments every minute about the way a person looks, is dressed or carries themselves. What judgment do you want your clients to make about you?
Ultimately, I don’t have a solution for every possible shot. Every now and then something or someone will find itself in your shot when you don’t want it there. Your job as a wedding or event photographer is to show up for the event prepared for the worst, expecting the best and ready to handle anything that gets thrown at you. I’m sharing all this because it has worked for me, and I’m certain it can work for anyone else. Good luck with your shooting!
Bridal/Engagement season is off and running and we’ve been getting more emails and phone calls than normal with questions about wedding photography. Some of the questions I’ve been hearing are questions that I hear over and over from brides each year. I never get tired of answering brides questions, and in a way I feel like it’s my duty to share my experience and expertise whenever asked. In fact, when I started shooting weddings a number of years ago I prepared myself for the most difficult questions that a bride and groom might ask by looking online at different websites that had advice for brides-to-be, such as wedding planners, bridal boutiques, venues and wedding consultants. I figured that if I could honestly answer every question that these advice websites had for brides, then I’d be ready to be a wedding photographer.
My task: find every relevant question that a bride should ask a wedding photographer and ask myself how I would answer it. So, after many hours of research on the subject, I narrowed my frequently asked questions list down to around 20 questions (see below).
Until recently, I only shared this information with brides that met with me face-to-face. But at some point I started realizing that brides can easily get confused between qualified professional photographers and inexperienced photo novices who make big promises and often, sadly, disappoint brides with poor quality work (or no work at all).
But let’s lighten the subject for a minute and talk about wine. Why? Why not?! One of my favorite things to ask a wine drinker after they tell me about the expensive bottle of Merlot they just opened is if they know the difference between a $10 bottle of wine and a $110 bottle of wine. They usually shrug their shoulders and plead ignorance. The answer: $100
Unfortunately, photography isn’t that simple. Although many photographers look the same, we all charge significantly different rates and there’s a big difference between one photographer and the next, although it may be difficult to discern. Let me explain.
Each photographer brings a different set of skills, equipment and responsibility to an event. The key is to determine what you want and then be armed with the right questions to ask your photographer. As I tell many brides, anyone can put together a “best of” slideshow on a free photo website like Shutterfly; but can the photographer who will be responsible for capturing all the wonderful moments at the most important event of your life show you photos from a several past wedding (photos of entire wedding, start to finish)? Believe me when I say that it’s a big responsibility to be the photographer for a wedding – bigger than just owning a camera and saying you can do it.
The reason I’m blogging about this topic this week is because I met with several brides-to-be this past week. In fact, I met with one bride in particular who was really enjoyable to meet with (our meeting was more like having a meal with an old friend). We enjoyed speaking with one another and she complemented my work several times, which I was grateful for. She also commented positively on Austin Americana’s pricing and professionalism. I left our meeting feeling confident that I would be photographing her wedding soon.
Unfortunately she contacted me a few days after we met to tell me that she had decided to allow a “photographer friend” to shoot their wedding instead of hiring me. I always respect bride’s decisions, even if they don’t choose me. In business, you get used to rejection – it’s just business! After all, you can’t take it personal and I certainly don’t.
But what frightens me about this situation is all the terrible wedding horror stories I’ve heard from brides over the years about bad experiences with novice photographers who make promises and then realize on wedding day that they can’t deliver. Is there a chance that her photographer will do a good job? Sure. But why take that chance when you can hire a professional? We all have car insurance, home insurance, life insurance, etc; When you write a check to a professional wedding photographer, you are buying insurance – a written guarantee that you will get great wedding photos of the most important day of your life.
So how do you tell the difference between a legitimate professional photographer who will take great photos at your wedding and deliver them to you -and- a novice who won’t? A good start is to ask the right questions. I’ve put together 20 questions that you should ask your wedding photographer. If they can’t honestly answer these questions with satisfactory answers to meet your wedding needs, then you should probably look elsewhere.
20 Questions to Ask Your Wedding Photographer
1. What’s your primary style? Posed and formal, relaxed, photojournalistic, creative, artistic, candid, traditional?
Answer: I consider myself a photojournalistic wedding photographer, although I normally include the standard posed shots associated with most weddings today.
Photojournalistic wedding photography to me means shooting as many candid, unrehearsed moments as I can which capture the emotion of the day and which tell a story.
2. Do you shoot in color or black and white? Or both? Do you shoot in a digital format that can create both color and b/w versions of the same picture?
Answer: I shoot all digital, color photos, which means I can take a lot more photos quickly. In post production/editing I can choose to convert images to black & white, sepia and also utilize specialized filters for an artistic effect.
3. What type of camera do you use?
Answer: I shoot with 2 cameras (with one additional backup): Canon 5D Mark ii, EOS 40D & 30D, professional cameras that are well regarded in the
industry. In fact, as of the writing of this material (year 2010), the official photographer for our U.S. President is using the same camera that I do!
4. What kind of input can we have on the direction of the shots? Can we give you a shot list to work from?
Answer: I would like to get as much input as possible from you. I draft a Wedding Photo Schedule that is customized specifically for your wedding. The schedule allows you to see how many hours are needed for shooting your wedding and exactly who will be photographed when & where. You will have the opportunity to edit the schedule as much as you like.
5a. Are you the wedding photographer who will actually take our pictures? If not, can we meet the person who will be?
Answer: I will be your photographer the day of your wedding (unless otherwise specified). If a 2nd shooter and/or an assistant is needed, I’ll let you know.
5b. We would like 2 photographers for our wedding. Is this something you can provide?
Answer: Yes, we can provide 2 qualified professional photographers for your wedding. An additional fee for this service will be added to your wedding package price.
6. Is there a limit to how many photos you can take?
Answer: No, there is no limit (within reason) to how many photos I can take. My cameras are digitally formatted and use digital media cards to store each photo as it is snapped. I could potentially take 2,000 – 3,000 photos in a single outing. This is very unusual, however. I normally capture 500 – 1,500 images each outing.
7. How many times have you worked specifically as a wedding photographer? How many were similar to the size and formality of our wedding?
Answer: I’ve been photographing people and places since 2002. I photographed my first wedding professionally in February 2007. In 2009 my staff and I photographed approximately 75 events, including over 30 weddings in Austin, Texas. If you would like to see some of my work, please feel free to visit my website at M.Whitton Photography or our new Austin Americana Photo Blog, or ask for a slideshow presentation of some of my past wedding shoots.
8. How many other events will you also photograph that weekend?
Answer: We only photograph one event per day, which eliminates rushing your event or the possibility for errors in scheduling.
9. What kind of equipment will you bring with you? How intrusive will lighting, tripods, other equipment or assistants be?
Answer: Most of our equipment is very mobile and small. I don’t use lighting equipment (except on-camera flash, of course) unless necessary for exceptionally large group photos indoor. I don’t necessarily require the help of an assistant, but one frequently will assist.
10. Do you develop your own film? Do you offer albums?
Answer: I shoot all digital; there will be no film used. The edited image files are developed by quality, professional labs and shipped to your doorstep. Our albums are designed and printed by AsukaBook USA – a renowned, award-winning album company that strives for quality workmanship and style.
11. What type and how much assistance will you provide in planning my album?
Answer: I have partnered with AsukaBook USA to provide relatively seamless album services. We design your album using select images and email you an Adobe PDF file for review. Once you approve it the file is submitted for print and shipped to your doorstep! Yes, it’s that easy!
12. Will you give me the negatives or what is the charge?
Answer: My shooting fee includes providing you a DVD copy containing all of professionally edited images from your event, which allows you to conveniently print images at a discounted rate (No more waiting for the photographer to release rights or paying inflated print prices).
13. How long after the event will the proofs be ready?
Answer: Average turnaround time from wedding day to delivery is usually less than 2 – 4 weeks – sometimes less, sometimes more. Your DVD will be mailed to your doorstep once editing is complete. The proofs will be viewable on my website.
14. Will there be backup equipment available? And what happens if the photographer is ill?
Answer: I have invested in backup equipment for each camera and apparatus that I use. During your event, I will be shooting with at least 2 cameras. If for some reason I am no longer able to honor our agreement to be your photographer (hospitalization, for example), I would contact a reputable (qualified) photographer to act in my stead.
15. What attire will you and your assistants wear?
Answer: Professionalism is very important to me and I dress accordingly – normally in slacks and button-down long-sleeve shirts with a necktie. If the event calls for stepping up the attire, i.e., a tuxedo or suit, please let me know and I’ll be glad to oblige.
16. Can other people take photos while you are taking photos?
Answer: Yes, but I usually ask attendees to shoot before or after I shoot, to prevent confusion, blinking, flashing, etc.
17. Have you worked at my event location before? How did it work out?
Answer: I’ve worked at dozens of locations in and around Austin, both indoor and outdoor. I normally visit the ceremony/reception location 1-2 weeks beforehand to aid in planning the shoot.
18. Should the event last longer than scheduled, will you stay? Extra charge?
Answer: Normally planning prevents the need for additional time, but if needed, I will stay longer. I charge $200/hour for additional shooting time. Once your wedding schedule has been drafted we will be able to determine how much time will be required for your big day.
19. Can I get a discount? I don’t want everything you have to offer in a package price…
Answer: Sure, I offer discounts. If you would like to customize a package to fit your needs I will work with you. I also offer discounts at different times of the year to encourage new clientele and to offer more competitive pricing, including working with discount coupon online stores like Groupon, Localiter and DealOn.
20. After you’ve asked these questions of your potential wedding photographer, there are several questions you’ll want to ask yourself:
A. Do I like this person? B. Do I get along with them or get a good feeling from them?
C. Do I like their work as a wedding photographer?
D. Is it well lit, focused, well framed?
E. Looking at their albums/prints, do I feel like I have a good feeling for the wedding?
Sources: About.com, 2007 and http://www.weddingphotousa.com
I’m anxious to share some really exciting news with you, my friends and fellow photographers. Since early last year, I’ve been contemplating and dreaming about teaching others about wedding photography. Over the years I’ve been keeping little scraps of paper, printouts, articles, images and more, somehow knowing in the deepest part of my subconscious mind, that I’d be sharing the knowledge and experience I’ve gained about wedding photojournalism over the years with others. And the 1st day of my wedding photographer class draws nearer each day! I can’t wait!
Ok, so I know you aren’t as excited as I am. And perhaps there are some people out there who are naysayers and who wonder what I have to offer. And to tell you the truth, I won’t be offering anything if no one shows up for my first class. But it will be their loss if that happens. Let me tell you why.
I’ve been photographing for 10 years now. No, that in and of itself does not make me a great photographer. I have good rapport with people, I have knowledge of photo technique and I have vision. Those attributes are valuable, but many photographers have them and they don’t necessarily make me a great teacher. What I have that you are going to want to learn is what I didn’t have 10 years ago: extensive experience photographing weddings. In the past 5 years alone I’ve photographed over 100 weddings and an estimated 350 total events. The 2nd thing that I have to offer my students is that I’ve been managing a successful business the entire time and managed to stay in business by making clients happy (since most business that fail do so in the first 5 years, perhaps I should be teaching a business class!). Third, my business has one multiple awards for excellent business practices, recognized by such organizations as Wedding Wire, Merchant Circle and Wedding & Portrait Photographers International (WPPI).
But who wants to hear about credentials – I mean, it’s all just talk, right?! The proof is in the pudding! What will the curriculum of the class look like?
When I asked myself the question of how I wanted to engineer the scope of the class, I realized a couple of things:
1. Good photographers don’t always succeed in creating a good business; and,
2. Good business people don’t always succeed in creating good photography.
I realize that what I said is very simplistic. But this is the beauty of what I want to teach; simplicity, planning and determination to take that next big step when the little voice inside your head may be telling you all the reasons why you can’t.
I plan to talk about all the things that a wedding photographer needs to do to make his/her wedding business successful. You don’t have to be the best wedding photographer in Texas or the United States to run a successful wedding business. What you need is a good plan and the willingness and determination to see it through. I’ve already walked the path and developed a plan for how to be a successful wedding photographer. Are you ready to learn how you can succeed as a successful wedding photographer?
Some frequent questions that photographers often ask when wondering how to go about starting their business, which I plan to address in my wedding photography class:
What kind of photo editing software should I use?
What kind of equipment do I need for weddings?
How much do I charge my clients for weddings?
How do I bring in new clients? (everyone wants to know this one)
What kind of business do I create? Sole proprietorship, corporation, LLC or LLP?
What kind of wedding contract do I use?
What do my clients want/expect from me? (other than good photos)
And many more questions…
Plus, I’ll be sharing documents and templates that took me years of research and fine tuning to develop in my business, like package information for new clients, checklists, forms, efficient workflow, and so much more. These little nuggets alone will be worth their weight in gold and will be something to take home and start working with immediately.
Suggestions for what you might want to learn about in the class? Although we will be discussing tons of great material, we will be limited by the time we have for the class (likely 2 meetings). Therefore, I’d like to maximize the amount of useful information I provide. I’ll be developing the final class curriculum for the 2011 Wedding Photographer 101 Class over the next few months and would love to have input/suggestions. In particular, what do you want to learn about? Email me at AustinAmericana@Gmail.com or just post a comment below this article.
I can’t wait to interact with my fellow photographers! See you soon!
This week I started writing a blog about a fun location for engagement portraits in Austin but I got distracted while reading some Aldous Huxley. During my read Huxley made lots of references to paintings and art, areas that I’m not very educated in, and which precipitated some research on my part. During my search it occurred to me that it would be fun to bring some attention to paintings this week in my blog. I did some searching online and found what I think are some fun and interesting works of art, painted on canvas, related to brides.
I often wonder how people did things differently in the past. Even 50 years ago customs and habits and styles were very different than today. Yet we derive much of what we do today from our ancestral past. Chances are something we think of as new (even a thought) was probably considered and conceived before we were born. Our styles and customs are constantly evolving, and some might say devolving (consider the recent obsession with 1980s culture).
Without further ado, here are canvas paintings of brides from the past…
I just wanted to share a book that I recently read that I really enjoyed that’s a quick read and I highly recommend:
It’s called “the accidental millionaire” by Gary Fong. The reason I read it is because it was a gift from a family member and I was naturally interested because Gary Fong is a famous wedding photographer, inventor and entrepreneur. I realize that everyone might not connect with the book in the same way I did, but this one is a really fun read because it is so conversational and such an honest, intimate look at one man’s life and struggles. There’s really not much in the book about making millions (which is probably a good thing) – only the philosophy of thinking about things in a different way and having fun while doing it. I like to think of it as the modern, simpler version of “Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance”.
One of my favorite little nuggets of information comes at the very end of the book (page 260 of 264):
Gary says, “When you’re passionately preparing for one thing, the universe may be preparing you for something else. As long as you’re actively and creatively preparing for something, you’re usually on the right track.”
I got the photo of the book above from Amazon.com, where Gary’s book is currently listed less than $11! Go grab it today!
If you are newly engaged and you’ve already secured a location for your wedding, then your next step will probably be gown hunting. You may have been dreaming of an elaborate, fairy tale wedding since you were a girl or you may be looking for something a little less formal; Either way, before you begin there are a few questions you’ll want to ask yourself:
1. What kind of bridal gown do I want?
2. How much do I want to spend?
3. What is my body style?
First, let’s address our self-imposed questions. Do you want a formal gown or just an elegant, informal dress? How you answer will likely determine how and where you shop. These days you have endless options for where you buy clothing and there are advantages and drawbacks to where you shop. If you shop online you may have a wider variety of dress/gown options; however, one major disadvantage of shopping online will be determining whether you and your dress/gown are a good fit.
Next, include your estimated gown cost in your wedding budget. If you are patient, flexible and shop around there are great deals to be found. I recently heard a bride tell of finding a $900 designer dress on clearance for $75. Was the dress her first choice? …probably not, but in all likelihood she was open-minded, tried on the dress because it was beautiful (or heavily discounted) and perhaps she liked the way it looked on her – which is of the utmost importance.
Finally, know your body type and aim for a dress that will accentuate your shape and style. I’ll leave this topic to the fashion experts. Here’s a great article that briefly touches on body types and dresses styles that match by the knowledgeable folks at I-do.com – Australia.
If you live in a medium-sized or large city you’ll have more options. I encourage my clients to shop locally, but don’t settle for less. The media blitz of negative news about the economy has everyone scared to leave home in fear that they’ll lose their job or spend money that they should be saving. But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for a dress you don’t like. Be sure to check out all your bridal boutique options. Consignment stores are very popular amongst brides who want to save these days and although consignment is often a euphemism for “used”, consignment stores typically have a high standard for the merchandise the peddle.
List of Online Bridal Stores:
List of Brick and Mortar Bridal Stores:
Local Bridal Designers (Central Texas):
Unbridaled, Adelle’s Bridal Boutique, Balina Bridal, Serendipity Bridal, Alexia Gavela Bridal, Melange Bridal LLC, Belle Saison Bridal, Coutures by Laura, Designer Exchange, more…
Unbridaled unbridaled.com – (512) 444-2743
Adelle’s Bridal Boutique adellesbridalandquinceanera.com
Balina Bridal http://www.balina.com – (512) 719-5900
Alexia Gavela Bridal agbride.com – (512) 419-7818
Melange Bridal LLC http://www.melangebridal.com – (512) 345-8780
Belle Saison Bridal bellesaisonbridal.com – (512) 452-1199
Some minor details to remember:
-Not all dresses are sized the same; some vendors like David’s Bridal use European style of sizing, which varies from what you might find elsewhere. In all likelihood, your dress will be a size or two larger than you expect because of size discrepancies amongst designers.
-You can engineer a dress using an online dress creator here: Wedding Dress Creator
-The Knot has a Wedding Dress Cost Calculator based on inputs such as dress style, price range, designer and more.
Recently I had a bride ask to see some “artistic” wedding photos. This is definitely something that we do, albeit not as much as I’d like to. There are two parts to an artistic photo: framing and editing. When you frame the image you make it appealing to the eye. In the editing process afterward you can add cool effects. Here are some examples. There’s almost no limit to the possibilities when getting creative with photos…