Archive for Weddings

Shooting Weddings Part 3 – Choosing a Client

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on Sunday, January 24, 2010 by Peter Zack

by Peter Zack

whattheduck.net

Shooting weddings can be a challenging and rewarding aspect of photography. I hope from these articles, you get some inspiration and tips that will help you develop your own style and business. The funny thing with a blog publishing setup, the articles are posted by date and you may be seeing the most recent first. If so, go to Shooting Weddings Part 1 and then you can follow each section in the series.
If you have a question or idea for this or other articles, contact us here.

So you’re looking at the title of Part 3 and saying, he’s mixed it up. The client chooses me to be the photographer. Nope that’s completely wrong for a number of reasons. I mentioned this in an earlier article and didn’t elaborate. This is in my opinion, as important as anything else you will do with your business. You must make every effort to meet the clients a couple of times to discuss what they want and your style of shooting. I said earlier that, we have to be open to different shooting styles and what the client wants. As photographers, like painters, we are better at some things than others. You might be a great street shooter and can nail that candid type of photograph better than anyone in your market. I might be a great landscape shooter and have the ability to visualize and capture a great landscape with the couple. Sometimes it’s very tough to meet the couple because we live in the internet world. They may be in a distant city and trying to book you online. In that case you should send them a large sample of your work via an FTP transfer site or something similar. Then call them to discuss what they want and and what you do. Make sure everyone is clear on what you offer and can produce.

So if you meet the couple, bring a big sample of you work. A completed wedding album would also be good. Don’t just show them your best stuff. Let them see what a package will look like. There should be no surprises for the couple when it’s delivered. Remember that it’s 2-6 weeks + for delivery and they have been waiting for the most important memento of that great day. Meeting them offers you some very big hints as to whether you will work with them. One of the biggest mistakes for both you and the couple is taking every job you get because you know you can do it and you want the income. It’s not fair to the couple and a mistake for your business.

I like this image for a number of reasons. Her face shows the love she feels, expressed fully. They are clearly having fun by the ocean. Nice afternoon light. It has an air of romance.

I like shooting a romantic and fun couple that really like to try different things. A bride that doesn’t mind ‘kicking up her heels’ and getting the dress dirty. The more adventurous she is, the better the photos will work. You need to assess the couple at the first meeting. I look for a few cues. Do they touch each other a lot when you meet? Are they comfortable in front of a stranger? Do they disagree on aspects of the wedding? Is he involved in the planning with a genuine interest or just can’t wait for all this to be over. Does he have ideas about certain photos? Do they hold hands? Can you sense that they are not only in love but also best friends? Do they get each other and you?

If the answers to these questions are an overwhelming yes, then I want these people as my clients. I say this from experience. I’ve take the wedding because I wanted the work and didn’t think these were important issues. Generally the work turned out fine and the customers were happy. But it was the most exhausting wedding work I’ve ever done and seemed like a mental battle to make each shot work the way I’d like. Why? We didn’t connect.

One good example is a couple I booked a few years ago. It was early in the season and bookings were slow. I had just moved to a new city and wanted to get established. At the meeting, I had noticed that she was doing all the talking. It felt like they were planning a funeral, not a wedding. There wasn’t much joy in the process. They sat in seperate chairs. I have 2 comfy chairs and a sofa in my office. I invite couple to come in and see where they choose to sit. There’s a table in front of the sofa and the chairs at one end. So if they go to the sofa, it’s a good start. If they sit apart in the chairs, I’m now looking at how close these 2 are. So this couple sit in the chairs. They never held hands or touched each other the whole time. I booked them anyway. Through all our discussions (they didn’t want engagement shots), they didn’t mention their comfort or lack of comfort with PDA (Public Displays of Affection). The entire wedding day was a workout for me. All the shots I had in my head were useless and I had to create a whole shot list based on very stiff and uncomfortable clients who wouldn’t kiss and didn’t like touching each other. If you were a street shooter as described above, you’d produce a better package for this customer than I would. They liked the finished product, but if all my customers were like this, I’d get a job flipping burgers and just take pictures of flowers.

Consider this. It’s not wrong to be this way. Some people are very shy and prefer their intimate moments at home. Others are not. It’s not for any of us to judge. The flamboyant clients may not last and the shy ones might celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. My point is, that you have to be able to work with them and get what they want. If you can’t, don’t take the job. It’s not fair to them and too hard on you.
I’ve said before that you need to be adaptable to their wishes and shoot in a style they like. But that doesn’t mean every wedding job is right for you or that you are right for them. Or that you have the skills and natural ability to shot the style they want. Consider your shooting style carefully and analyze your strengths and weaknesses. You might be a great candid shooter and can do a nice PJ style album. You might not feel comfortable creating and capturing good “classic” wedding shots. Those posed shots that you think look stiff and unnatural. We all excel at different styles.

Street shooting a wedding

This is an example of an adventurous couple who wanted to try different shots. We found an abandoned car that was unlocked for a fun shot.

Book the weddings that are appropriate to your comfort and skill levels. It does not mean that you can’t learn and practice other styles. How? Study other peoples work, study other portrait art forms and photography. Also when there is time, with the weddings you have booked, try a new idea for a few minutes. Go to a wedding every time with a new idea. Make each one a learning experience with a fresh approach to the work. Some couples want those close up shots that are really intimate. Maybe you’ve never tried this. So take some time with them and set up an idea. I’ve told couples that I’ve never done [this or that] and would like to try something different. If you have a good connection with the couple, they will agree and you might get a great series to give them and at the least, you have started to learn how to apply the lessons for the next time.

The other thing you can do is work with another pro on an off day. Volunteer your time to work with a respected pro once in awhile and watch his/her style. In fact work with someone of the opposite gender. If you are male, a female photographer is great to work with. They have a different and often more “romantic” eye. My assistant is female and I love the different look she can bring to a photo. But please do not book a couple that wants PJ style and you can’t do it. Taking the job for the money is a mistake. It could even land you in a courtroom. Reputations take years to build and seconds to wreck, never to be recovered.

This could ruffle some readers feathers but I hope more photographers would be in a courtroom when they can’t deliver what they promise.  Pushed out of the business  because they are incompetent. I don’t wish any photographer ill will but there are too many Cowboy shooters looking for a quick buck and not taking into consideration how important this day is to the couple and their family. They pass off a CD full of snap shots that your 10 year old could do.   I welcome competition in my market when the other shooters are all considerate and hard working pros. It makes me work harder and study the craft with more intensity. There’s a big difference between a shooter who studies and works this job every day, full time and those that take rent money every couple of Saturdays’ .

Consider this scenario. I have a photo of a grandmother that was a candid portrait at a wedding. I knew that she was the oldest member of the family and everything revolved around her. She was mentioned many times at meetings before the wedding day. I must have tried 40 times to get a nice shot of her not staring at the lens. Finally one series worked.  She loved the shot and so did the family. She said she hated having her photo taken (and it showed) and had never seen a good one till this.  Unfortunately, she’s no longer with us. The couple and members of her family wanted so many copies of the shot, I sold them the image and rights to it, to do as many reprints as they wanted.  If you are there just to make money and don’t care about the couple’s needs, then you deserve to be in front of a judge. Your work is far more important than you may ever know. If you mess it up, there’s no turning back the clock and a refund just doesn’t cut it.

Back to the article title,  you take your experience and use that to assess whether you will choose that couple to work with. If it’s doesn’t seem or feel right, or you can’t shoot it the way they want, be gracious and turn them down, recommend another photographer. Have a well reasoned explanation as to why you will not be able to take the job and hopefully you can get that from this article.  There’s nothing wrong with telling a customer that your style of work will not suit what they have told you they want in the album.

One further thought. Know your competition. How they shoot and how they work. Meet with them and look at their stuff. Have a relationship with them. I’ll discuss the reasons why in the next article.

So the title is correct, you choose your customers, not the other way around.

Cheers and good shooting – Peter Zack

Pei Wedding Photography

Shooting Weddings Part 2 – Equipment

Posted in Lesson, Photography with tags , , , , on Sunday, March 29, 2009 by Peter Zack

by Peter Zack

 

Shooting weddings can be a challenging and rewarding aspect of photography. I hope from these articles, you get some inspiration and tips that will help you develop your own style and business. The funny thing with a blog publishing setup, the articles are posted by date and you may be seeing the most recent first. If so, go to Shooting Weddings Part 1 and then you can follow each section in the series.
If you have a question or idea for this or other articles, contact us here.

Software: So to get started you must be prepared to do several things. Buy a good, powerful computer and get the proper software. Get a calibration tool for your screen. See our article here for some info on that. Editing work that is paid for, without a properly calibrated screen, is asking for trouble. You might see your red flowers as red but the printer sees them as pink. With software, the 2 programs you should have for editing are, Lightroom 2 and Adobe Photoshop CS2 and up. It’s expensive but these are important tools. You can do this with other software packages but Lightroom was designed for wedding photographers. You might have 1500+ images to catalogue and edit. Using the presets in LR can take what might have been days of editing and turn it to hours.

Cameras: You need good quality equipment to shoot with. The choices are very good these days and I won’t recommend a particular brand or model but to say that the entry level cameras are not suited for this work. You need the quality and features of the upper end camera models. I would strongly recommend that the cameras be weather-sealed. More than once, I’ve shot a wedding when the heavens opened up. The forecast was for showers and the guests all had umbrellas for that outdoor wedding. The best man and maid of honour had big golf umbrellas to protect the wedding party. You can’t just leave, and have you ever tried to shoot with one hand and hold an umbrella in the other? Not possible. You may also want to shoot at the beach or snow in the winter. The camera has to be able to take all of it. Bring a change of cloths unless you want to be wet the rest of the day.

Funny Photographer

Just don’t go so overloaded with gear that you can’t shoot! Image is not mine and commonly found on the web, author unknown.

There are two schools of thought when shooting a wedding: One camera or two? It’s a personal choice and depends on your comfort and skill. You might find it too cumbersome to be switching between bodies and always having the second camera on your back. Or you might like having one camera with a prime lens or wide zoom and the second with a longer tele to get those candid shots. Not changing lenses has its advantages. There is less concern about dust showing up on the sensor. You can react faster by switching bodies instead of changing lenses.

Regardless which method you go with, you need to have backups of everything. You should have 2 camera bodies and they should be the same model or very similar. The controls and quality need to match. You can’t fumble between two different setups when things are moving fast. You need to have backups for every lens and flash that is part of your kit. Equipment failures happen, count on it. Shooting a long, fast paced day is tough on gear. As much as you try, you just can’t baby the gear as much as you might like to if it were just shooting for fun.

Lenses: The lenses have to be top quality and fast. Consumer zooms will not cut it. Lenses can be a wide and varied choice. Everyone has favourites and I can’t really advise which is better. I’ll just describe my kit. I shoot with 2 cameras and carry 3 for the day. Each camera has a power grip for better portrait handling, the extra battery and memory storage. The primary camera has an 18-50mm ƒ/2.8 lens and the second camera has a 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 lens. Around my waist is an equipment belt that contains a backup wide zoom, a 28-75mm ƒ/2.8 zoom and 2-3 prime lenses (28mm ƒ/1.8, 50mm ƒ/1.4 and 105mm), spare batteries and a portable hard drive. This might not suit your shooting style, maybe you want to shoot with primes only or a mix of lenses. But get the best lens in its respective length. Speed and quality matters.

Flashes and lights: This will be a brand specific choice to some degree. If you are shooting wireless, then you can use just about any flash* required to fill the area but on-camera may be different. I try to stay away from direct on-camera flashes. They just produce a flatter look. Add a flash bracket and get the flash off the camera. The added benefit is you can rest the flash bracket on your left shoulder and (if you can shoot comfortably with your left eye) use the bracket to steady hand held shots. Get a diffuser for your flash to soften the light where bouncing off a high ceiling might not work well. If your system allows an external battery pack, get one. Generally they speed up recycle times and you won’t have to be changing (or carrying) extra batteries at a critical time.
* Some older flashes put out a higher than safe trigger voltage for today’s digital cameras. Make sure you test the safety and compatibility of any flash/camera combination.

Video lights have a place here as well. They are often not considered a photography tool but with a battery pack you can have a constant light source that assists focus and helps give you creative control over the dance shots and reception. They can be held off camera with a bracket or on a light stand.  This tool can offer a lot of flexibility and the plus is you can see the effect of the light on the scene before you shoot. Add a diffuser and you have a great indoor or low light tool.

 

Accessory Equipment

Memory cards: Get the best quality memory cards and consider replacing them each year if you are doing a lot of paid work. Cards are relatively cheap and you don’t need a 4GB card failing just as the ceremony ends. Have enough memory to handle 2-3 times the number of shots you expect to take. Do not use 1 or 2 large cards (8GB plus). Use a bunch of 2-4GB cards to cover the day. If one fails, you haven’t lost the entire day, just a small part of it. I carry 14-16 top quality 4GB cards and usually only half fill them before switching to a fresh one. Have a good quality card case and develop a system to remember which are used and which are not.

Batteries: Use good batteries and battery chargers. The quick charger units are handy but hard on batteries. LaCrosse and Sanyo Eneloops are the best in my opinion. They take hours to charge (not minutes) but deliver high capacity power that will last. The quick chargers heat the cells too much and degrade the quality quickly. I keep one of each charger I need in the car with me. I’ve added a couple of DC>AC inverters to my portable kit and if I need to recharge a battery while away from the office, I can do it in the car.

Wireless flash triggers: There are a number of brands available. Skip the cheapo auction site versions. They don’t work reliably enough. You really can’t afford to miss even one shot and a failure rate of 5 or 10% is not acceptable. If your camera failed to fire the shutter that often, you’d throw it out. Wireless flash is a cornerstone setup for good wedding photography. The wedding dances, dark churches, fill flash outdoors. I use Flashwaves, and mine get heavy use. Sure, I’d like to be a natural light shooter, and try as often as possible to avoid the flash, but it has an important place. Raccoon eyes in bright sunlight just don’t look attractive on the bride.

Other items: Ah, you noticed I said portable hard drive earlier. There are a few quality drives available and they are small. I carry an 80GB model that can quickly transfer each card. I’ve never needed it, but I like the peace of mind of knowing that the entire wedding is backed up as each section is done. It offers another advantage: I have already downloaded the entire wedding to a hard drive that can be connected to my computer when the day is done. When I return from a wedding, all the images are loaded off the portable to a main backup hard drive for storage, editing and sorting. With everything already on the portable, I can just come home, connect the portable to the computer and begin the transfer and the file conversion. It takes 5 minutes and I’m off to bed. In the morning, everything is ready and waiting to get to work. No wasted time watching the computer transfer and convert files.

Tripods, light stands, scrims and reflectors: I carry my tripod at all times and it does get some use. But with today’s anti-shake systems and improved high ISO camera performance, it’s less than in the ‘old days’. It has a place though. When taking the group and family shots, people get self conscious with the photographer holding the camera to her/his eye, so setting up on a tripod can allow you to move away from the camera and use a remote. Talk to the people and take shots at the same time. You’ll get much more natural looking images. I would recommend you have enough quick release plates for each camera and lens that has a collar. You don’t need to be moving the QR plate from one part to another when there is little time to do it. That sort of makes the ‘quick’ in QR useless. Use the same head system on any tripods or monopods you carry with you.

Light stands are invaluable to me. Add a flash bracket/umbrella holder and I can now light up the dance floor much more evenly or in unique ways. It really helps avoid the harsh shadows and glare of a flash. They can be used outside in bright sun as well to balance a shot or create fill flash. With a battery operated flash and wireless trigger, the entire stand is portable and takes seconds to set up. Reflectors also have a useful place, particularly when shooting outside, and you need a little light fill but don’t want to use a flash. Get one that has a few different surfaces: mylar, solid white, shoot through and gold. Holding arms are available that can be added to a tripod center column or a light stand to put the reflector just where you need it. I don’t use the gold version very often and prefer the look of natural light in most shots. Software filters can add that tint later if needed. Scrims are the reverse of reflectors. Large panels that can be set up as a diffuser. If you want to avoid the harsh light of the sun in an otherwise beautiful outdoor setting a scrim can be used to diffuse the light from the sun by placing it between the subject and the sun’s light. These can really help reduce the harsh contrast and squinting eyes that follow.

Carry a step stool or short collapsing ladder. Shooting from an elevated position can produce more flattering portraits and give you unique angles. Climbing trees with a camera can be challenging at best.

On the day before you should have a checklist ready of everything you need. List everything you are carrying. It’s a handy way to stay organized and a good way to prevent loosing equipment. Clean your cameras and lenses and have everything prepared.

 

Conclusions

Make sure you have the backups you need: extra lenses, cables, flash, batteries and a backup camera. Generally you won’t need it but it’s better to be prepared than get caught with a busted camera in the middle of the ceremony. It seems expensive to be buying the best computers and camera gear for this, but it’s a business you want to grow. You could invest $20,000+ very easily to be properly set up. Your best source of clients is referrals from the past clients. So every job has to be done professionally and to the best of your ability. The new bride has plenty of choices, why would she want you to shoot her special day? Because you are skilled and prepared.

Cheers and good shooting –Peter Zack

If you would like to visit my site, the link is below.

Prince Edward Island Wedding Photography

Shooting Weddings Part 1 – Getting Started

Posted in Lesson, Photography with tags , , on Tuesday, March 10, 2009 by Peter Zack

by Peter Zack

 

Shooting weddings can be a challenging and rewarding aspect of photography. I hope these articles give you some inspiration and tips that will help you develop your own style and business. I don’t profess to know everything, actually I probably don’t know that much. I have picked up a few things over the years that can make life a little easier for someone getting started. If you’re already shooting weddings I would like to hear your thoughts on this subject and you can e-mail comments here, which may be added in follow up articles.

Note: Several brands may be mentioned and I have no affiliation with any of them but some gear is just better suited than other equipment.

Wedding shot sunset

My introduction to this series may sound harsh or negative but that’s not my intention. I just want to impress upon the reader that this is a serious business that needs to be treated that way. Your clients are trusting you with one of their most important days, which they have been planning for more than a year. I just find it disappointing to hear so many stories about slow delivery or 300 poorly taken shots that really left the client unhappy. It hurts everyone who enters this field with the best of intentions. I would recommend you over-deliver and under-promise. It’s a guarantee of having a happy customer and future referral business.

I don’t want to turn anyone away from the pursuit of a business in Wedding Photography, but I’ll offer a few words of caution in this section before we get to the more fun and creative aspects. I don’t intend to cover every aspect of this field but simply give some general outlines and hints. I won’t deal with contracts or legal issues to any great detail, as every jurisdiction is different. But suffice to say, it’s an area you need to explore and understand. Having a clear, legal contract is a must. Skipping that step is asking for trouble.

Like any career, wedding photography needs to be studied. You need to continually learn the craft, understand the shooting styles of the past and the current trends of today. A good grounding in older and more traditional wedding photography is also a must. Every client has different wishes and tastes. You need to be prepared and adaptable to the client’s wishes.

Wedding shot in tree.Wear good shoes that will allow you to climb trees and be prepared to do some unusual things!

Many photographers will disagree with me here. What you want to shoot, does not matter in the least. I have gotten so many jobs when competing against another photographer that said “this is how I shoot and I won’t do [this or that]”. It’s perfectly fine to tell your clients what your limitations are and that you just don’t know how to do something or are physically incapable. I’m never going to jump out of a plane to shoot a wedding at 10,000 feet, you might not be comfortable taking your gear on a boat. But we serve our clients, not the other way around. You have to pick clients that you can work with (I’ll get into detail about this later) and form a connection to, but once you do, they have to enjoy the work for a lifetime, you don’t. The clients you choose to work with should also understand your style and what you want to capture. They need to be able to work with you as well.

We’ve all been to a wedding where Uncle Fred volunteered to shoot the ceremony. He’s running around taking tons of shots but with no real plan and does not have the equipment to do a proper job. The shots come out horrible and the couple are left disappointed. I’ve been asked on a few occasions to try to fix these packages after the fact. I’ve always refused. As much as I sympathize with the couple that the most important memento of their day is a mess, it’s not possible to take bad photographs and turn them into magazine cover quality. In the end, I’m going to look just as bad as Uncle Fred when I charge hundreds to ‘fix the shots’ and they really are not much better than what came out of his camera.

If you book weddings for every weekend in your wedding season, have enough money set aside to replace a failed setup in a day’s notice while something is in service. Some of us can rent and if that option is available to you, then that reduces the emergency fund. But be prepared to replace or rent equipment quickly if needed.

I read advice from books and web sites that often says something like, “buy the best camera you can afford“. I disagree. Buy the best in your brand choice, period. As I said earlier, this is a serious business and not a hobby. That doesn’t mean you have to buy the most expensive, just the best that suits your work, style and needs. It doesn’t have to have the most megapixels but the camera has to be rugged, good at higher ISO and capable of producing the detail and sharpness in all sorts of situations. The camera resolution needs to be able to enlarge shots to at least 16×20″ size without quality loss. Find the camera that will do what you need and find the money for that system. Look closely at the system as a whole. Does the company have the equipment you need in accessories, lenses and other parts?

Wedding Shot Hi Key

Getting started is often the most challenging aspect of wedding photography. If you can find a working Pro that will let you work as an assistant, that’s great. The tips and pointers you will learn will take you a long way. It’s better to shoot 4 or 5 weddings without the pressure of being the primary shooter. But even though you are not expected to do the wedding on your own, treat it like it were all yours. Study how the Pro works and try to replicate their work without getting in the way. You may be asked to turn over your shots to the Pro, just make sure you can keep copies for yourself to build your portfolio.

If a Pro isn’t available for apprentice work, then take a course at your local community college and volunteer for any friends or relatives that will let you shoot as either a primary or secondary shooter (with the Pro’s permission). The first 2-4 weddings you do on your own should be free. Yes, free. Be straight with the customer that you’re just getting started, show them some of your apprentice work and tell them you want to gain experience. It will help you build a portfolio to show future clients. They get a wedding shot free and you get the needed practice and experience without the tremendous pressure of getting everything shot perfectly. Be honest with your clients and everyone will have the correct level of expectation. Only charge for printing, albums or any other fixed costs.

When you are ready, charge the going rates for your area. This is hard work with many long hours that the client does not see. Doing a wedding for a few hundred isn’t going to cover the hours or cost of equipment, plus the replacement costs and upgrading that will come. Discounting your work just tells the customer you aren’t that good and price is the bargain, not the great work you will deliver for a fair price.

So, in coming articles in this series we’ll touch on as many aspects of this craft as possible. It will be more fun than this first section. I encourage and invite ideas and comments to this and future articles.

Cheers and good shooting. –Peter Zack

If you would like to visit my site, the link is below.

Prince Edward Island Wedding Photography

Continue reading Shooting Weddings Part 2 – Equipment.