"Wedding Photography looks easy enough"....

Started Feb 2, 2010 | Discussions
tonymp Veteran Member • Posts: 3,781
"Wedding Photography looks easy enough"....

....at least that is what part of an email from a guy read when I opened it last week.

I got an email from this guy asking if I had any tips as he had a wedding to shoot later in the month...he'd never shot one before but, he'd been to plenty and according to him, wedding photography looks easy enough and easy money.

It transpires he only had one camera which he'd just upgraded from a P&S to ( a D80) plus he had just got an 18-55 kit lens and 55-200 " for the "long stuff" and that was IT - no off-camera flash, no backups...no NOTHING... not even a tripod! At first I thought it was a windup from one of my mates but no, this guy was for real and he was adamant he could do it!

Now I've only just gone back to shooting weddings after a 10 year break and although I used to shoot them regularly, to be honest, I was still wandering around for days with a nipped bottom, worrying if I had overlooked anything, as it was such a long time since I'd last done it!

My partner and I went in two cars to make sure one got there, I took 5 camera bodies + 10 lenses to cover every eventuality ( 2 MF and the rest digital bodies ) 2 Metz 45's and a CT 60, radio triggers, god knows how many battery packs and spare camera batteries, two meters, light stands etc etc! In fact it's easier to say what I didn't take! I even took hand warmers in my bags to keep the lenses from fogging when I went into the church.

Right now in the UK, the weather has been pretty bad and the day I shot the wedding ( Christmas Eve), there was a full 6-8 inches of snow, sub-zero temperatures and fog, so it couldn't have been much worse!

We got stuck in snow twice and had to be pushed out on the way to the brides home and on the way to the church. The bride had to go by 4 x 4 as no limo company would turn out in such bad weather.

The church was so dark, I had to shoot at 1/30th sec @ an overstretched 1600 ISO on a Fuji S5 with a Nikon 80-200 f2.8 wideopen on a tripod as the vicar wouldn't allow flash or even moving from the rear of the church during the service, which meant I could only shoot from one spot at the back of the church. On top, fog came down during the service and I had to deal with that too when we got outside! Even at mid-day I was only getting an outside reading of about 1/60th @400 ISO @f5. The church had to be cleared 15 minutes after the ceremony and the reception venue was too small to set up a backdrop and shoot the formals indoors so, they had to be done outdoors!

Now my point is, I got the wedding from hell but fortunately, I had sufficient equipment and knowledge to get over the problems.. in fact I've just had the B&G down to see the shots yesterday and they were delighted with the results but, what happens if this guy with his single camera with cheap lenses gets a day like I got?

Maybe I'm just getting paranoid in my old age, or even cynical and a moaning old f^^t, but it seems to me that anyone and everyone who buys a half decent camera these days, seems to think they can set themselves up as a wedding photographer and earn money...the problem is that in the UK, there are customers out there who will hire these guys, because they are cheap and only find out what they are like when it's too late! I couldn't bear the thought of ruining someone's wedding memories.. I mean how would you tell the B&G that you'd screwed up or your equipment couldn't deal with the conditions?

However, surely the customer is also partly to blame too for hiring them as the guy's two images I saw, were far from half decent so surely they are also partly to blame!
Maybe it's just peculiar to the UK or is it a world wide phenomenon?
Anyway...rant over and sorry for the moan!
Tony
--
The only thing that gets sharper with use is a woman's tongue!
http://www.le-femme.co.uk

Pixel56 Regular Member • Posts: 126
Re: "Wedding Photography looks easy enough"....

If we still only could shoot film, the market today would be different. Today everyone is a wedding photographer with the situation you just described. The reason I'm weaning off of weddings.

28to70 Veteran Member • Posts: 5,040
Re: Yep

It's the new reality mate! Just do your thing and hope for the best, as you are not going to change those cheap bride's. Now you might consider telling them (assuming that they have come to your studio) that you wish them luck as obviously they haven't signed up with you, but to consider you if the other photographer screws up, and that you fix other fotogs mistakes! Give them your card. Tell them that you and your assistant do all the weddings, that you won't send a lesser photographer that will probably not care about the details of her wedding.

OP tonymp Veteran Member • Posts: 3,781
Re: "Wedding Photography looks easy enough"....

Pixel56 wrote:

If we still only could shoot film, the market today would be different. Today everyone is a wedding photographer with the situation you just described. The reason I'm weaning off of weddings.

You make a very good point - the only reason I'm doing them now is that a pro wedding colleague has had a stroke and the family have asked me if I'd help them out with a few weddings they couldn't fill!

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OP tonymp Veteran Member • Posts: 3,781
Re: Yep

28to70 wrote:

It's the new reality mate! Just do your thing and hope for the best, as you are not going to change those cheap bride's. Now you might consider telling them (assuming that they have come to your studio) that you wish them luck as obviously they haven't signed up with you, but to consider you if the other photographer screws up, and that you fix other fotogs mistakes! Give them your card. Tell them that you and your assistant do all the weddings, that you won't send a lesser photographer that will probably not care about the details of her wedding.

Looks like the UK is not the only country to suffer from this problem.

These guys don't affect me as I do not rely upon weddings for an income - in fact two of the weddings I'm undertaking, I actually passed on to my colleague who has had the stroke.

However, it must be difficult and disheartening for some guys who rely upon weddings for their income to find these guys undercutting by so much..

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The only thing that gets sharper with use is a woman's tongue!
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Andrew Veteran Member • Posts: 4,486
Re: Yep

I think anyone who cares about their wedding photography that little will unlikely pay good money for a pro. Hey if it is so easy why was he contacting you?

I would have just emailed him back- Yeah, you will be fine, go for it. pppppfffffttt!!!!!

slowhands Veteran Member • Posts: 5,470
Two things aided the decline

At least two things aided the decine in the wedding photog "business"

1) The switch from traditional (knowledgable, posed, creative, professional) photographic style to the popular "photojournalistic" style (go with the flow, shoot whatever you see, poses? we don't need no stinking poses! paparatzi style) Anyone watching "photojournalistic style" might assume they too, can shoot that way with a camera and no training.
At least one wedding "superstar" contributed - Dennis Reggie (comments welcome)

2) The availability of digital equipment. Film required THOUGHT, PLANNING, TECHNIQUE, and a good lab to rescue some shots. Digital gives instant feedback, the cost to enter the field is lower, and the cost of (some) products is lower too.

One of the advantages of joining a PROFESSIONAL organization we tell the "new wedding photogs" we find on CraigsList and elsewhere..is the development of a network of professionals where you can share gigs and gear, as well as cover for each other in an emergency. A client booked with you doesn't care if your car broke down, if you caught a cold, had a stroke, hit a deer coming back from the last weekend's wedding and you're still recovering, or passed away.

I dare say a high percentage of "newbie wedding photogs" will shoot 4-8 per year for 3-5 years and then tire of it and move on...making way for the next year's crop of newbies

 slowhands's gear list:slowhands's gear list
Canon EOS 40D Canon EOS 350D Canon EOS 7D
Smudger79 Contributing Member • Posts: 933
Re: Yep

Don't see why, the bloke with one camera and 2 lenses is usually providing a different service to the bloke with 5 cameras and 10 lenses and the people who will be hiring him are different to the people who hire the £2000 photographer.

The Fiat 500 doesn't threaten the Bugatti Veron does it?

tonymp wrote:

However, it must be difficult and disheartening for some guys who rely upon weddings for their income to find these guys undercutting by so much..

Dan Wagner Contributing Member • Posts: 738
Re: "Wedding Photography looks easy enough"....

This happens everywhere. People will rationalize many decisions, even when they know it's flawed, to support that which they wish to do. We impose our desire on our reality.

In this case, certain clients wish to spend less, and get the same result. This isn't possible. So, the client divorces themselves from reality, and views the photographer as a personality and not as a professional.

Worrying about this kind of issue is a loosing proposition. Ultimately, photographers get the jobs they're supposed to get -- appropriate customers will gravitate to them.

The hack will attract hacky clients.

Talent will attract those that appreciate talent.

Don't look in the rear view mirror.

Cheers
--

Nikon D3, Nikon D300, Nikon Lenses 10.5, 14-24 2.8, 24-70 2.8, 70-200 VRII, 60 2.8 AF-S Micro, 85 1.4, 135 2.0 DC, Zeiss 50 1.4, Nikon TC-17E II 1.7x,Two SB900's, Tamron 28-75 2.8, Canon G-9 & Underwater housing, Two Quantum 5d-r's, & More.

 Dan Wagner's gear list:Dan Wagner's gear list
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OP tonymp Veteran Member • Posts: 3,781
Re: Yep

Smudger79 wrote:

Don't see why, the bloke with one camera and 2 lenses is usually providing a different service to the bloke with 5 cameras and 10 lenses and the people who will be hiring him are different to the people who hire the £2000 photographer.

The Fiat 500 doesn't threaten the Bugatti Veron does it?

tonymp wrote:

However, it must be difficult and disheartening for some guys who rely upon weddings for their income to find these guys undercutting by so much..

I agree and these cut price guys are to be fair, mostly competing among themselves rather than directly with the guys at the levels above but, surely it affects those guys further up, even if indirectly as, the ones higher up find it harder to raise and adjust their pricing structure to remain viable and still competitive - especially in today's financial climate.

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Doug Haag Senior Member • Posts: 1,638
Re: Yep

You (the OP) said in your original post that you wandered around with a "nipped bottom". As one who is alternately fascinated and bewildered by British expressions, I'd love a translation please. Could it be something as simple as a "clenched sphincter"?

And what is being "chuffed" that I see frequently in British photo mags? The context makes it sound like it means overjoyed. But in the absence of any other context, the sound of the word would lead me to think that it meant something negative like "put off" or "peeved".

Smudger79 Contributing Member • Posts: 933
Re: Yep

In any recession the first thing people stop spending on is luxury items and products.

Photography is not a commodity product that one puts in their shopping basket at the supermarket, it is an artistic industry and can only be classed as a luxury item - there is no need for a professional photographer at a wedding, so it wouldn't surprise me to hear that high end professionals are currently struggling to justify their prices to their clients (that's not to say the prices aren't justified, just that justifying them to clients would be more difficult as they are penny pinching).

For example, high end imported Belgian chocolate sales are likely to have declined in the recession, but we may find a slight increase in the middle of the road or cheap chocolate.

It doesn't mean that the cheaper companies are undercutting the more expensive, it just means that people are now less willing to pay for the luxury item.

And in Photography this may force more people to look at the cheaper alternative of Craigslist etc but this is the same in any industry selling a product at the moment. Most clients of any business are looking for the cheaper alternative. Many clients I'm sure are also willing to lose some quality in the photography in order to keep the cost of their wedding down (I know of a few people who have done just this - one didn't even hire a pro simply relied on a family friend to do a couple of formals and the guests and they were very happy with the results) in such times where loans are not as easy to come by.

Craigslist photographers should have no bearing on the cost of the high end pro because they're offering two ends of the spectrum in terms of product quality.

If Fiat drop their prices by £500, does that mean that the Ferraris and the Bugatis have to restructure their pricing? Of course not, and I see the same in photographers.

If Joe "I got a Canon for Christmas" Bloggs drops his prices or opens up a business selling his photography product for £250 for the day's work - it's not going to take any £2000 clients away from the high end pro. He may take some clients away from the photographer selling for £300, but the high end photographers will not be affected because they are aiming for different clients.
If Fiat drop their prices I don't decide to buy the fiat instead of the Ferrari.
That's the way I see it anyway.

And if, as someone said earlier that clients don't know the difference between the photographers, well then that's down to the photographer to sell his skill and technical ability over Joe Bloggs.

If he is unable to explain to high end clients that what he does is worth the extra £1750 to what Joe Bloggs charges, and help them understand why he/she costs so much more, then I would suggest that he/she is either not talented enough nor indeed are they justified to be charging those prices or he/she needs some sort of training in how to market themselves.

P.s I'm no Pro, but do take an interest in these sorts of discussions because I find it interesting how threatened by other business some photographers can be, despite the fact that every other business out there will be experiencing similar issues with clients opting for cheap over quality.

tonymp wrote:

Smudger79 wrote:

Don't see why, the bloke with one camera and 2 lenses is usually providing a different service to the bloke with 5 cameras and 10 lenses and the people who will be hiring him are different to the people who hire the £2000 photographer.

The Fiat 500 doesn't threaten the Bugatti Veron does it?

I agree and these cut price guys are to be fair, mostly competing among themselves rather than directly with the guys at the levels above but, surely it affects those guys further up, even if indirectly as, the ones higher up find it harder to raise and adjust their pricing structure to remain viable and still competitive - especially in today's financial climate.

Smudger79 Contributing Member • Posts: 933
Re: Yep

It's quite a colourful and inventive language, isn't it? ha ha.

Your interpretations are spot on. Nipped Bottom is indeed a clenched sphincter, though is the thoroughly polite way of putting it!

And chuffed does indeed mean happy, pleased etc. But "I was chuffed to win the lottery" would be an understatement!

Doug Haag wrote:

You (the OP) said in your original post that you wandered around with a "nipped bottom". As one who is alternately fascinated and bewildered by British expressions, I'd love a translation please. Could it be something as simple as a "clenched sphincter"?

And what is being "chuffed" that I see frequently in British photo mags? The context makes it sound like it means overjoyed. But in the absence of any other context, the sound of the word would lead me to think that it meant something negative like "put off" or "peeved".

almari Contributing Member • Posts: 904
Re: Yep

Smudger79 wrote:

In any recession the first thing people stop spending on is luxury items and products.

Photography is not a commodity product that one puts in their shopping basket at the supermarket, it is an artistic industry and can only be classed as a luxury item - there is no need for a professional photographer at a wedding, so it wouldn't surprise me to hear that high end professionals are currently struggling to justify their prices to their clients (that's not to say the prices aren't justified, just that justifying them to clients would be more difficult as they are penny pinching).

Even though there is a recession - brides are spending MORE on photography this year than they were in the previous year. (at least in the U.S.) Overall wedding spending is down - but wedding photography spending is UP.

2009 Wedding Industry Spending Numbers

The wedding cost numbers for 2009 are in and they look close to expected. Couples spent $19,581 in 2009 compared to $21,814 in 2008, a 10.2% decline. The wedding industry market value in 2009 was $56.8 billion, a decline of 7.4% from $61.4 in 2008. The average number of guests in 2009 was 128, a decline of 11.7% from 145 in 2008.

Jewelry, gifts, and invitations lead the way for spending decline as couples spent 50.8% less on anklets, 44.1% less on gifts for their parents, and 36.4% less on reception menus.

Musician/s, Soloist, or Ensemble, Photographer, and wedding dress top the list of spending increases as couples spent 23.3% more on Musician/s, Soloist, or Ensemble, 16% more on a wedding photographer , and 12.6% more on the wedding dress.

2009 Methodology

Survey samples include brides, grooms (pre and post wedding) and wedding vendors. Samples from brides and grooms include multiple ethnicities, income levels, first, second, and third plus marriages, ages 18 to 90, across the entire US in large and small cities. Couples either married in 2009 or spent money for a product or service in 2009 for their 2010 wedding. Total sample size was 3,100 surveys, conducted in 2009. Margin of error: 1.76%. Total wedding cost based on weighted average demand of items included in the wedding.

To read the full report you need to subscribe to The Wedding Report

http://www.TheWeddingReport.com

(I am not affiliated in anyway to The Wedding Report. I just get emails from the site once a month.)

OP tonymp Veteran Member • Posts: 3,781
Re: Yep

Doug Haag wrote:

You (the OP) said in your original post that you wandered around with a "nipped bottom". As one who is alternately fascinated and bewildered by British expressions, I'd love a translation please. Could it be something as simple as a "clenched sphincter"?

And what is being "chuffed" that I see frequently in British photo mags? The context makes it sound like it means overjoyed. But in the absence of any other context, the sound of the word would lead me to think that it meant something negative like "put off" or "peeved".

Hi Doug,
I think roughly translated, you are dead on about the clenched whatsit!
Chuffed, contrary to what it sounds is actually " very pleased" in Brit-speak!
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The only thing that gets sharper with use is a woman's tongue!
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JulesJ
JulesJ Forum Pro • Posts: 45,503
Re: "Wedding Photography looks easy enough"....

If Cartier Bresson was alive and fifty years old and turned up on your doorstep and said he'd do your wedding on your sedding day, with just one Leica. What would you say?
Jules

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Butter is good for you.

Smudger79 Contributing Member • Posts: 933
Re: Yep

Interesting stuff, thanks for posting.

This doesn't exactly paint the picture of a doomed industry that many pro's are painting in this forum.

David Lawson Senior Member • Posts: 2,784
To the tune of "So you want to be a rock and roll star".

So you want to be a wedding photographer
Well listen now while I'm telling you
Just get a DSLR and take some time out to learn how to play.
Then after a course or two, with the company man
You'll have spent a lot of cash and be ready to go.

If it doesn't work out right, there's more courses for you
ad nausea too.................

There seem to be so many people telling so many people how to set up a wedding photography business. I'm beginning to wonder when there will be as many wedding photographers as brides and grooms
Oh dear time I got on the train to visit my daughter and family; )

calson Veteran Member • Posts: 9,207
Brides want bargains and seldom research the photographer

When I am hiring a second photographer I look at all the shots they took during their last wedding, and I mean all the shots, not the ones they might want to show people. From that I can quickly tell if they can do it all from candids to toasts to detail shots and if they can expose properly, position the flash properly, understand how to optimize camera and lens settings, and whether they have a good understanding of how to compose shots. Nine out of ten times it is clear that they do not have the technical and people skills, knowledge, and equipment that it takes to perform even as the second photographer at a wedding.

But the brides postings on bridal websites makes it clear that 99% of the time they are clueless and hope to get a good referral for a great photographer that is cheap. 90% of the discussions revolve around cost and total pictures as though they would pick a cake based on the cost per pound or a wedding dress based on the cost per yard of material, but this is how they price out wedding photographers.

I see people taking pictures all the time using $200 P&S or their phone cameras and when they look at the picture in the small LCD display it looks OK and so they get misled into thinking that little is needed in terms of equipment and if they can point and shoot how hard can it really be for the photographer.

Wedding photography is unique in terms of the physical and technical demands it places on the photographer and their equipment. No other segment of the industry has to shoot on the fly in a wide variety of lighting conditions and get 1000 images that have to be correctly exposed, in focus, and capturing the moment with everyone's eyes open and strong compositions. No backup photographers if a shot is missed and no going back the next day or the next time you are in town or in country. Sports and newspaper photographers have to produce less than a dozen images per day for possible publication by way of comparison.

Bobbygray Forum Member • Posts: 88
Re: Brides want bargains and seldom research the photographer

I'm somewhat egotistical about my photographic skills after years in the fashion biz. However, I knew enough about shooting weddings to know that I wasn't about keep up with even a third rate wedding photographer. One thing though! 10 lenses and 5 bodies?

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