First engagement shoot

Started Apr 11, 2012 | Discussions thread
Michael Thomas Mitchell
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Re: First engagement shoot
In reply to Steve9, Apr 20, 2012

I have asked them to do their own research on styles and poses they like, and come up with their shot list for the posed wedding shots. I should be able to develop a plan of attack

This is a good "plan of attack", but I hope the couple doesn't put you in the position of needing to provide a specific style that is not your thing. Also, posing itself is both an art and technique, and not merely a matter of recreating bodily positions. You might stress to the couple that you won't necessarily "re-create" what they give to you, but simply use it as a reference to get in the general area. I encourage couples to choose a photographer based on that photographer's style which they like. A developed style is much like a developed personality; you can change up to a point, but in the end you are the sum total of what you have become.

Thanks for the advice of editing out the sub-par photos and only showing the client your best. Naturally, I tossed any shots that were blurry, significantly out of focus or if someone was blinking or had an awkward expression. >

Editing shots the single toughest thing for inexperienced photographers to do. Get help from a friend or family member; a second opinion is invaluable. Try doing it in multiple passes rather than all at once. Starting with the technical flaws is the easiest part. It's hardest when you've narrowed a set of 100 down to 40 and know that you still have another pass to go.

When I shot film, I used two Canon F1 35mm bodies - one color, one BW -- and a 645 MF for portraits. The typical wedding produced about 50 portraits and a couple hundred 35mm candid/action shots. Well, enter digital. Two D1 bodies with 1GB microdrives each could each capture about 700 shots before reloading! We went crazy shooting. For our first few weddings like this, I delivered 500, 600, and 700 shots to our couples, believing that by giving them more I was making them happier! Wasn't the case. When a bride, who was happy with the work, told me that the only thing she would change was that she would have preferred FEWER photos (too many to go through), it hit me with a realization I never expected. We took so few, comparatively, with film that we didn't cull all that much. It never had occurred to me when we made the switch to digital to start doing that! It took me a good 2 or 3 seasons to really become SKILLED at culling. But it's one post-processing skill I wouldn't want to be without today! (This is especially the case using superb gear such as 1D-series bodies and L lenses, which focus almost flawless and punch out shots like a machine gun.)

For the ceremony, I resigned myself to standing at the back of the poorly lit church auditorium and shooting with a 55-200 (longest lens I had at the time) and no flash. Most of those were ho-hum as you could imagine.

Don't underestimate the importance of capability of these shots. That lens on a cropped body can get some pretty close-up moments during a ceremony. And broad shots are important, too. I have a very specific game plan during ceremonies in which I know I want to get broad shots of the entire preceding, medium shots, say, of the couple, and closeup shots, consisting often of just faces and emotional reactions. For a good number of church weddings, photography is restricted to the rear of the church, with no flash. (Even when flash is allowed, I only use if for the processional and recessional shots, anyway.) With today's high megapixel cameras, there's no problem stretching that 250mm lens all the way for a closeup, and then cropping the rest of the way to get you completely there. (By the way, couples do NOT need a gazillion megapixels. Downrez and crop all your images down to about 6MP.)

After the ceremony, the Pro and the wedding party went to a different location for some posed shots (I did not tag along for that). However, they were over 1.5 hours late to the reception!

This is where even veterans drop the ball. I work with couple extensively on the portrait part of their wedding day, counseling them not only in providing a list, but showing them HOW to make one and advising what poses they may end up wanting most. What is often the most challenging part of the wedding day for the photographer has, over the past ten years, become one of the smoothest for us. A week before any given wedding, the couple already knows what shots we will take and how long it will take us. Holding a wedding party back from the reception for an hour and a half in rude of the couple and inexcusable for the photographer. They should have together worked to make CERTAIN that that did not happen!

I have mentioned to the couple how important their wedding photographer is, and even said they ought to look at the local Pros. Their response led me to believe they couldn't afford a "professional".

This is the one thing you should examine carefully on the wedding day. Every experienced veteran has had couples who couldn't "afford" their photography, only to end up photographing a wedding with horse drawn carriages, expensive dinners, historic venues, ten bridesmaids, and a hired staff of 20. As a newbie, you may not yet command a big paycheck. But, as we have pointed out, weddings can be VERY tough on the photographer. Last season, a mother worked me on the price so bad that I felt almost raped after signing the contract. At the wedding, my wife (who was assisting) kept gasping at how such a "cheap" wedding was actually a VERY expensive event. Afterwards, when it came time to order the album, the same bargaining from the mom ensued. But this time, I held my ground. She had not opted for the digital files, so she really had no choice, either. I offered absolutely NO incentives, discounts, or bargains. Fool me once, but not twice.

You're going to work your butt off both before, during and after the wedding. Do NOT be taken for granted than you already are.

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