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My Wedding Photography

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In August of 2005, I shot my first wedding, professionally.

My wife and I handled both a 3-camera video shoot of the ceremony, (2 cameras at the reception) and all the still photography.

http://www.aamserver.dnsalias.com/mwcomms/..._Portfolio1.htm

In perusing the web sites of local photographers, I see that most are charging $4,000 for a full day wedding shoot.

They actually charge more than videographers do and don't have to worry about more than one camera, no dynamics or sound. Just getting the stills.

I am thinking that this could be a lucrative business to be in. However, being the marketing flop that I've demonstrated time and again, I'm not sure if I'd be leading myself with hope, down a path to disappointment.

What do Objectivists think of the composition of my shots?

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I am in the wedding photography business (as an assitant for two years, and as a shooter just starting out).

There are a few ways of approaching your questions.

One thing to keep in mind is that for the most part, succesfull wedding and portrait photography, i.e. successful financially, is most dependant on how you sell yourself, not necessarily how great your photos are. This does not mean that you can get away with selling crap, only that after a certain easthetic level, there isn't much more to sell, the photos become "good enough". There are however different levels in the market, and there some people who have exceptional work who sell their wedding packages for over 12k. What this means for you is this: if you want to make a living at wedding photography there is a basic level of photography you have to reach in order to gain a clients attention, but after that, the money you make will be dependant on how you run your business, your photos will NOT sell themselves. You have to be a good businessman first and foremost, you have to market yourself well and let the client now what they will be getting from you that they couldn't get from another professional photographer or from their guest's point and shoots.

In regards to basic photographic quality which separates a professional's photos from a guests is equipment, this includes lighting, cameras and props. Have at least a 8+ megapixel DSLR or medium format film camera. DO NOT use a point and shoot compact digital camera. First and foremost the quality of the lenses and sensors are crap and secondly it looks horrible from a marketing viewpoint. I have TWO Canon 20D[8.3 megapixels] bodies(always have backups) a 50mm 1.4 prime for low light situations for use without flash, a 17-40mm zoom for wide angle, and a telephoto 70-200mm for the church/temple. In terms of lighting, I have two on camera flashes ( I recommend you get the most expensive flashes that fit your brand, e.g. I have the Canon 580EX. These have the most power and the most level of control) Definately have at least two portrait lights (I recommend getting monolights as they are the easiest and most inutitive to handle, especially for the beginner photographer) You can use these lights as room lights for the reception, which will also make your photos unable to be matched by any guest. The rest is gravy, backups and stands and memory cards and the like.

Now in terms of your photos in the gallery:

First shot: great shot! These are the money makers. Definatley be creative ans invent shots like these. I don't know the extent of your coverage of the day, but you must also take formal portraits as well. These include Bride with her mother, Bride with her mother and father, Bride with her bridesmaids, and any logical combination of people.

Second shot: Not so great. Do try to get candid shots of the bride and groom kissing and laughing and talking, but take a lot so that you can edit out the ones that don't work. In this shot the bride appears to be puling away in revulsion. Also, do take a lot of shots of the bride and groom together, like the first shot, romantic and intimate, etc. So for this shot, it would be good to set it up so that you can tell them "here get together close and hug, and come in slowly for a kiss" then wait for the moment and capture it. WHen looking at the photo, the bride won't know the difference between a set up shot and a candid shot. There is a level of photojournalism involved with a wedding hptography coverage, but the posing is what separates you from the guests who can shoot candids all day long.

Third shot: Good shot. Would be better if you had a wider angle to get their feet in the shot and also more of the guests clapping and smiling and taking pcitures, tell the story. Also make sure that you keep the camera level or make it totally at 45 degrees, in between looks like you were drunk. A more powerful flash would have helped too.

Fourth: This is better in that you included their feet, but you still don't get a sense of the aisle and that there are guests at the wedding. Always shoot with room to crop because if you want to sell them prints as well, being able to crop it to different ratios without losing elements is a big help.

Fifth: Try not to shoot portraits with the sun at your back or into the subjects face, all you will get is squinty faces and raccon shadows on the face. Put the sun at their backs and crank out the flash to balance it. Also wait to get every person in the picture's attention and take multiple shots of the same group so that you can better assure getting one where everyone is looking at the camera and not blinking. Little kids should not be behind a taller person, or have their arms around a taller person, they are too small to hide a part of their bodies that substantial.

Sixth: Good, but what is that background??? Find some shrubbery and put it at least ten feet behind them, then use the telephoto lens, a 100mm would be great, to make the background out of focus, this will make the subjects stand out.

Seventh: PRetty good, but why are you so low? You are making the viewer look up the bride and groom's nose. Do take some shots like that but make sure you have others at their eye level. Also, DO TRY TO AVOID hiding the bride behind the groom. A tux is a tux, but the wedding gown is one of the most important elements in a wedding and the bride's memory of it, do not hide it. All portraits and cake shots, dancing shots, speeches, etc should show that thing off. A bride will NEVER get bored of looking at pictures of her wedding gown, a tux on the other hand, is nothing special.

Eighth(sp?): Good shot. But can't tell if you are a guest or THE photographer. Get a room light.

Ninth: Scary. Straight on light is harsh, try to bounce it off the ceiling whenever possible, or hire an assitant to hold a second flash off camera at 45 degrees. Assitants are great, they can carry equipment, set up lights, and also hold a second light, all for 150 dollars a day.

Tenth: Very over-exposed. This is one of those shots where it screams "I don't know anything about photography!" Throw this one out, and don't show the bride and groom.

11: Over-expoused again, and the photoshopping didn't save it.

Buy a book about basic photography. Buy a book about wedding posing. Buy a book about portrait lighting. Assist for an experienced wedding photographer. Market yourself. Be nice. Make money.

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What do Objectivists think of the composition of my shots?

(I am assuming that what you were asking was what the audience here at ObjectivismOnline thinks of the photographs. Forgive the nitpicky side of my nature here.)

They look like a happy couple, and they will be treasuring those photographs for years to come.

If you are aiming to make the $4,000 per wedding that your local photographers are making, here are some criticisms and suggestions.

Criticisms: In a few of the photographs, there are background elements at a tilt (like the gazebo, or the shades of the window). And in the closeup of the bride and the groom where their faces are close together, their faces are very shiny. It makes them look sweaty or oily. I am ignorant of photography and what photographers do to make their pictures come out "picture perfect," but whatever those alterations are, I would want them done if I were paying thousands of dollars. This couple looks like happy young people who are thrilled to get married, and they wanted the pictures to record/commemorate the day. That is great, and they're probably going to be the easiest kind of people to deal with. But there are also going to be people who want that "perfect" look for their money.

Suggestions: Can you compile a portfolio of photographs of the local wedding venues, to show brides what your photography is going to look like in the setting they want? Also, there will be local vendors (florists, caterers, equipment/prop rentals) who would probably love to have photographs of their work to show their own prospective clients, but they don't have someone to do that. You could offer to do photographs of their work, and in exchange you would have your name on that photograph they're showing their clients. Since the person finding the florist or the caterer is probably going to be the same person calling around to find a photographer, this could be good targeted exposure for you.

Best of luck with that!

--Schefflera

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I am in the wedding photography business (as an assitant for two years, and as a shooter just starting out).

So once again, it comes down to marketing. This is my #1 weakness, and where I have failed for decades in regular employment, and then after retirement in trying to earn money as a self-employed freelance typesetter, then graphic designer/product photographer, then videographer.

In those businesses, I found that people either didn’t want to spend the money, or they had a supplier that was already aligned with them.

How I landed this wedding gig was through mutual friends. My wife’s friends at her filipino association, to be exact. I had to work hard to convince that family that we could do the job. In fact, the package I gave them was the equivalent of the $3000 wedding video package, and I didn’t even count the photography. I just threw that in as an extra because the couple only cared about doing video. But in reality, at today’s rates, I gave them a $7000 lineup of service, all for $1495. And they were squeezing to eek out that money.

Since that wedding, I have done nothing additional.

The bulk of my photographic experience is with film. I had a Pentax Spotmatic since the 1960s that I learned to use well (Kodak Ektar 25 was my film of choice). It was only recently, in 2000, that I started to test the digital camera waters. I didn’t buy my first serious D-SLR until June of 1995. I’m still getting used to the different lattitudes that digital works with.

Thank you for your honest comments about each photo. Photo #1 was what I’d call a formal portrait shot. I had a few of those taken at their home before the wedding. I had time to compose that shot. It was the result of a brainstorm. I saw the window with the eastern exposure, morning sunlight streaming in and got the idea for this shot. I used the equivalent (in 35mm parlance) of a 300mm lens and stood way back to take this shot and get differential focus. The softening was a series of steps I did in PhotoShop. When the bride’s mother saw this image, she was moved to tears, she told me.

Some of them were taken by my wife. She definitely shot #3 & #4, as I was manning the video camera for the procession. #5 & #6 were probably done by me. Not sure about #7 & #8 though, as I was rapidly switching from video to still camera for different things and my wife was in there taking a lot of photos while I was doing video, but I suspect the low angle was necessary to catch the faces of both persons, lest the groom’s face would obscure the bride’s. Photo #10 was an experiment in bracketing. I rather liked the effect, so that’s why I included it here. Same with #11. It was the back cover of the DVD liner, hence the PhotoShop outline tracing. Perhaps some people think it’s a little overdone. Maybe I’m becoming corrupted by the 1990s graphic design philosophy of some PhotoShop artists who go for the blown highlights and grungy look.

The thing about wedding photography is that one has to be transparent and unobstrusive, yet be able to get those shots in split seconds. I suppose that’s what separates the ameteurs from the true professionals.

Getting back to the marketing angle, I think you’re right about how monetary success depends more on marketing than how good the shots are. I tend to let my wife do the public relations part of this, but she’s reluctant and not really fluent in English. But I look like an axe murderer and until people get to know me well, am one they generally try to avoid. But appearance isn’t the only challenge; I am batting zero on telemarketing (given that I’ve lost so many clients in my radio business last year, I was offered to get into financial services and so I did the training, got licensed and thought that would be my ticket to a $68,000/month income like the RVP that hired us) and have reached a point of utter frustration with that.

Then a friend of ours called us this week to say that she’s looking for a wedding videographer and a photographer. She knew that I did extensive video work over the years, mostly volunteer work, and I started to do some research of area providers to see what the going rates were. That’s when it hit me: photographers can make a comfortable living. The ones you talked about, who make $12,000 per shoot.. that’s almost Primerica RVP level income, assuming one wedding per week, that’s $48,000/month, over half a million a year.

The trick is to get the reputation built. I may not have enough years left, but if I can afford life extention technology and hang on long enough to benefit from it, then maybe I can live long enough to enjoy some success. When my youngest cousin passed away last February, I was awakened to the fact that I’m living on borrowed time. As such, I must choose a path that will earn the most money in the shortest time. I could have a massive coronary tomorrow, or I could surprise everyone and live ten more years. I’m trying to be optimistic and figure that I can remain active and able to do photography for at least a couple more years, maybe longer, if I can improve my finances and reduce my stress and worry. If I find a marketing strategy that will achieve a renowned reputation for me within two years, that might be realistic. But I need to get the work. That’s not happening at the pace I’d like.

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. . .

Suggestions: Can you compile a portfolio of photographs of the local wedding venues, to show brides what your photography is going to look like in the setting they want? Also, there will be local vendors (florists, caterers, equipment/prop rentals) who would probably love to have photographs of their work to show their own prospective clients, but they don't have someone to do that. You could offer to do photographs of their work, and in exchange you would have your name on that photograph they're showing their clients. Since the person finding the florist or the caterer is probably going to be the same person calling around to find a photographer, this could be good targeted exposure for you.

Best of luck with that!

--Schefflera

Points understood on the compositional issues. Some of those were taken by my wife. I'll discuss it with her, in light of the possiblity of another upcoming wedding of a friend of ours.

About your suggestion, I'm not quite clear on how I would get photos of their setups. How can I get permission to come into their venues before a wedding, during setup? Do I understand that correctly? And how would I counter the fact that many of these have professional photographers who already are doing this?

Basically, it's the chicken or egg problem again: to get clients, one has to have a lot of past clients. So far, I've shot one wedding. The bulk of the rest of my work was product photography, not people.

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