The Holy Grail of Answers (How much do I charge to shoot a wedding?)

The Holy Grail of Answers

I think the biggest question that just about every photographer is faced with at some point or another is; How much do I charge for shooting a wedding? This of course would be a photographer who has never shot a wedding before, but it may not be a new photographer or a young photographer. It could be anyone who is a photographer that just hasn’t shot a wedding. With that said; I think most photographers who have done any form of paid work would not have too hard of a time figuring out how much to charge for a wedding. Rather it would be someone who is not too familiar with paid work that would be perplexed with this question.

Now before you read any further, “yes” I will give you an actual dollar amount and I won’t make you wait till the end of this post to tell you. However, I would like to first give you a few details about me so you can see who I am and where I am coming from in a photography context.

I am not a wedding photographer, I do not advertise to be a wedding photographer, but I still shoot weddings, about 2 to 4 per year. I will get approached in some way form or fashion and asked to shoot a wedding, whether it be a personal recommendation from a client or a friend or it could be from someone who just found me on the internet. So, if someone wants to hire me, I am certainly not going to turn down a paying job. Also, please know I am writing this post because I know I am not alone and that there are other photographers out there who also get approached about weddings even though they may not be a so called “wedding photographer.”

So, you might ask; If you are not a wedding photographer, what kind of photographer are you? Ok, I shoot a lot of portraiture, I cover events like book signings, social gatherings and birthdays. Birthdays are usually for dignitaries and the like in and around the Philadelphia area. I shoot stock photography for webmasters and I also do corporate headshots. And then there is always bands and local artists as well as models who I have worked with. So, I guess I do just about everything and that is why from time to time I get asked to shoot a wedding.

1/125 sec at f/5.0 ISO 100 70mm

My prices start at $2000 to shoot a wedding. I live here in New Jersey and I know there are photographers who charge a lot more than that and I am sure there are ones who charge less. But now that I have thrown this “Holy Grail” of an answer out here on the internet, please read on to see how I justify this number and how this number could be more or less for you. I put the number out there because I didn’t want this to be another one of those countless boring posts that claims to give an answer to a big question and then only for the reader (you) to get to the end of the post and all you read was a bunch of gibberish about how “all situations are different” and the person writing the article/post never tells what “they actually charge.”

Okay, so I am going to cover a few topics related to this question of “how much to charge to shoot a wedding?” I think the equally important question is; How much do I charge a friend to photograph a wedding? This is a really tough question, but I have a really good perspective on this too. I mention this because I think/know that many photographers shoot their first wedding for someone they personally know or are in some way acquainted with.

So, let’s start with why I charge $2000 and see if you can charge $2000 for a day’s work. Ah, the very first myth to be exposed; It is not a day’s work. You will do some work before and a lot after the day of the actual wedding. So, don’t mislead yourself and certainly don’t let your potential client think that you are just doing work that one day. In a kind but meaningful way the client needs to understand about editing and editing takes time. However, we/you need to ask yourself how good and how fast can you edit. I myself am pretty fast at what I do and I know how long it will take me to edit. You also have to keep in mind what else you will be doing for the next week after this wedding. Are you going on vacation, do you have other clients lined up? So, as you can see this wedding “thing” has many facets to it and it is not a “run & gun & you done” kind of thing. So, stay with me here as I explain how I do it and what I don’t do.

First and foremost, I do not shoot without editing, period. If a client asks “well how much for you to just shoot the photos and put them on a disc? Beit a friend or stranger my answer is always the same; “I am not a Craigslist photographer,” end of story and I walk away. I like money just as much as the next person, but I also love what I do and I respect what I do. Enough said about that.

I don’t charge for a consultation or a follow up consultation, but if a client is going to want to keep meeting with me over and over it is $50 to $100 each time. This usually stops the pointless meet ups and asking questions that don’t need to be asked. Remember if your dealing with someone who is not a friend… well, you’re dealing with the public and there are people who will meet with you ten times and then hire someone else. You have to work as a professional and let your clients know “you are a professional.” How many times will your doctor meet with you for free? You need to know your value and stand by it, even if it is your very first wedding. You are going to be capturing images of this special day and I know that can sound really “hokey” but it is so true. You are also going to capture photos of family and friends. And to be realistic some of those images of family and friends are going to be the last good photos of these people. Not to sound morbid but I have captured photos of family members and guests that not long after the wedding they leave this world for one reason or another and now that image of aunt Martha dancing has a whole new meaning. This of course is not a topic to bring up to the client, but it is the reality photography.

So yes, know your worth and stand by it.

I like to tell clients that I “shoot in a journalistic timeline style.” Meaning I will start shooting usually with the bride getting ready and then just keep going all the way through the ceremony and up to the reception. At the reception I will cover all the important things like “the entrance,” the first dance” and all that fun stuff. But I don’t do detailed shots of all the guests, just highlighted moments.

Now of that $2000 I need to pay an assistant to follow me around and help me with whatever I need. I have another business aside from my photography and I have an assistant that helps me and I have learned the power of what a great assistant can do. So, with my photography, when I am doing a big job like a wedding or a complexed photo shoot, I always have a paid assistant. With assistants you only get what you pay for, so pay them well. Actually, I could write a whole blog post on “what is a good assistant.” Also know my assistant knows very little about photography, but she does know a lot about weddings. Her main function is carrying gear bags and having a speed light available at a moment notice if needed. Her biggest asset to me is being smart and quick on her feet, being able to solve problems quickly.

Do I need a second shooter? If I need a second or third camera person of course the price will go up. I try not to have a second shooter, which means a lot more hustling… I mean a lot more hustling, but if I can do without one I will. Second shooters can make your life a lot easier or they can make you… want to kill the second shooter lol.

Do you have good equipment? You need to shoot with good equipment. You don’t need to have the best or the newest, you just need to have reliable gear and you need to have a backup. And you need to know how to use the backup.

So, let’s talk a little about your equipment or the lack thereof. First you need a few good lenses. The lenses are more important than the camera and most likely you already know that. If you don’t have a good lens and you can’t borrow one, then rent one or two. www.borrowlens.com is where I would go and still go if I need a lens or other gear that I don’t have. I would work any rental cost into the price of the job. I would most times be honest and tell the client there will be a rental cost because I need a special lens to do the job. No one ever really questioned me.

Here is what I use when I shoot a wedding today; Two camera bodies and preferably both are full frame sensors, if not one must be (for my personal preference) a full frame sensor. Full frame sensors will let you shoot better in low light situation and yes you will have low light situations, I promise you that. I use two bodies so I don’t have to change out lenses every two minutes.

Three lenses; although I have shot with two lenses. I never shoot a wedding with one lens. I know many people who claim they can shoot a whole wedding day on an 85mm prime… god bless you, but that’s not my style.

I use a 70-200mm f/2.8 with image stabilization, a 24-70mm f/2.8 and a 50mm f/1.4. I will have two radio speed lights and one is mounted on an adjustable pole for my assistant to carry. I will have one lightweight lite stand that I can put a speed light on if necessary.

But hold on, let me backup and tell you what I used for my first few weddings. I had 1 Canon 6D body (full frame sensor). I rented a 70-200mm f/2.8 and a 24-105mm f/4.0. I had one, on camera speed light. I also had my assistant hold a round reflector when needed. That was it, just two lenses and one body. Shooting like this meant a lot of lens change-outs and my assistant and I had a system and we worked like a pit crew. Seriously, it was all accomplished through teamwork and it ran very smooth.

Even today with three lenses and two bodies, we will go over our moves before the wedding to make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to gear. I have strange little personal preferences with things like batteries and memory cards. Example; AA batteries that are charged are carried in little battery cases with 4 batteries per case and they must be +, -, +, – and this tells me the batteries all have a full charge. They are placed positive & negative (every other one) because that is the order they need to be in when replacing batteries in a speedlight. Spent batteries are placed in the case +,+,+,+ and this then tells me those batteries are not charged. These are all the little things that I work out with my assistant to make everything as fast and easy… and as professional as possible. Now, with all that said; of course, we run into the unexpected and this is where you have to be fast thinking on your feet. If you have a great assistant, they will solve your problems while you keep working. Also, having an assistant is someone you can lay the blame on when things go wrong. Of course, I am kidding lol.

Most important of all advice about assistants; Never use a friend or someone who works for free. Money motivates and I want (you too want) an assistant who is more energetic than me, end of story on that.

After the wedding and I mean immediately after the shoot, the memory cards go into a waterproof case and they stay on my person until I get home. If it is late when I get home the card case goes in my safe or a fireproof lock box. The next day the cards are downloaded and double backups made. The cards are not erased or used at all for the next 30 days or until I know backups are safe. Enough said on that topic.

In the first consultation with the clients I tell them they will receive their images via a “thumb drive.” I give all edited images as JPEGs and I also give them digital negatives (DNG files) of the entire wedding. The DNGs are for them to have as digital negatives, much the same way we would save film negatives back in the film days. Keep in mind here that I am not editing every image shot at the wedding. I usually give them a link to a shared folder or online gallery to choose their edits and there is a predetermined number they can choose.

It is fully understood they are paying for my creative shooting, editing and digital JPEGs. They are not paying for prints. I leave printing up to the client, however I do show them samples of my prints (from www.mpix.com) and leave it up to them… do they want to do their own prints from Walgreens, CVS or where ever, or do they want me to handle prints and that would be a whole separate job and bill.

Either way I usually agree to have all edits finished within two weeks (most times I’m done sooner) and I usually have two or three really nice shots finished and emailed within 24 hours.

Now lets just recap a little here. $2000 gets them a full day (6-8 hours) of shooting and edits & digital negatives delivered on a thumb drive in two weeks. Prints are optional at a separate price. The $2K includes me and my assistant. It does not include travel or rentals or any other expenses and usually the job includes a meal at the reception. Make sure you make clear about this because you have been working all day with nothing to eat. I never eat while working anyway, but I am hungry at the end of the day. Most venues are charging the bride & groom “per meal” so make sure you’re on the meal list. You will eat quickly because you still have some shooting to do.

Part II: How much do I charge a friend?

This gets a little tricky and you need to use a little or maybe a lot of common sense. First thing we need to know about working for friends is “they want you to work for free.” I know that sounds funny or maybe sarcastic but it is the flat-out truth.

Before we go any further, I want to shatter your ego here a little bit. I know they are your friends and you love them and you would do anything for them, after all that is what friends do for friends… right? Friends and family will also be the first to f%#k you too, sometimes without thinking about it and other times they fully no what they’re doing is wrong. Friends & family will always tell you how much they like your photography… because they don’t want to hurt you. (Just accept that fact an move on with life)

Ever give someone a gift and you never see them wear/use it. A few years later you find out they sold it on eBay. I have given people something personal I spent hours working on in Photoshop only to see it stuck on their refrigerator door with magnet. “There’s my piece I worked so hard on and is covered with coffee stains”… yeah friends. They loved it when I handed it to them, but now it is on the door of the fridge next to the electric bill (they love so much too).

Ok, so right about now your saying to yourself this blogger is a real cynical asshole and I bet he has very few friends lol. Let’s look at some real-life situations with friends and wedding photography.

Friend: Sarah we would really like you to photograph our wedding. We love your work and we know you. Our budget is tight, what would you charge.

Sarah: Yeah you guys are great friends and I would be happy to shoot your special day. I normally charge more but I’ll do your wedding for $500.

Friend: Wow, that’s great. This is going to be awesome.

Sarah: So where is the wedding going to be held?

Friend: Oh, wait till you see this place, we’re renting this old mansion upstate. People have weddings there all the time, it is pricy but it’s our special day you know. And we’re going to have that band fly in from North Carolina, remember the one we seen in that club when we were on vacation a few years ago, they were awesome. They will fly up for $4000 and play the wedding.

Sarah: Oh… really! Yeah, I remember that band.

Friend: But we’re going to have a DJ too, it’s going to be a blast, great location, awesome food, great music… and of course a great photographer. And my mom is hiring a video company to make one of those awesome movie-like wedding videos.

Sarah: ……

Yeah that last “Sarah” is speechless. She is going to shoot this wedding for $500 and the DJ is making 4 times that much. Not to mention the price tag for the rest of the event. So, I think you can see where I’m going with this and this particular story did actually happen to my friend and she came to me practically in tears and asked for advice.

My friend is not alone, I have about four or five of these stories that actually happened to me, but I use her story as an example because it was really over the top. I know I can’t leave you hanging, you want to know how her story turned out.

My advice to anyone for anything starts with being honest. Honesty is the best policy and I try to live by that. However, I will be the first to admit honesty does not always work. I told my friend Sarah to just go back and tell the bride & groom that she was wrong and that she would be drastically doing a dis-service to herself if she shot the wedding for $500. I told her to say that she talked it over with another photographer to make sure she was on track and she realized she misquoted the price. She quoted them a price of $2000 plus her travel to the venue in upstate New York, including a room for the night.

At first, they were kind of dumbfounded, but did not say too much. Actually, the bride’s parents were paying for most of the wedding and the groom’s parents were paying for the honeymoon and other expenses. So, the bride went back and told her father of the change in price and a few days later Sarah got the text message saying that “all was good.” I also let her use my 70-200mm (free of charge) and I was her “paid” assistant for the day. Here is the kicker… after the wedding the brides father handed Sarah the envelope with the cash. $2300 for the shooting, travel & room, plus another $1000 for a tip. She was ecstatic. I was so happy for her, she got her first full wedding under her belt and she made a nice buck at the same time. Sadly, I had a job the next day so I had to drive 5 hours back after working all day. Sarah and her boyfriend had a relaxing night at the hotel.

So, shooting for a friend could be you shooting for free and you could consider your photography services a “wedding gift” from you to them. If you are ok with that there is nothing wrong in giving away what you do as a gift. And with that; It really does make answering the question “how much to charge a friend” a very tough question to answer. Just remember that you really need to feel the situation out and weigh out what is really happening. Are you being asked to do something as a “friend helping a friend” or “as a friend taking advantage of a friend?”

Most of all, know that shooting a wedding is no easy task, that is if you are going to do it as a professional. The last wedding a shot, I fired the first click of the shutter 12:10pm and the last shot at 10:14pm. It was an outdoor wedding and there was a little bit of a weather delay, nonetheless it was a very long and hot day. I had my assistant, but I also requested an assistant from the venue just to follow us around with water so neither me, my assistant or the bride or groom dehydrated (August wedding lol). Put it this way; I have never finished a day of wedding shooting and went home well rested.

Now for the real answer; There are some photographers who would call me a “hack” at $2000, because they wouldn’t touch a wedding for anything less that $6000 or maybe even $10,000 and that is fine by me. Their words can’t hurt me because I’m not in third grade. I need to make a living and I do what I do, how I do. Bottom line is; as long as the customer is happy with the work you have performed and you are happy with what you got paid… then at the end of the day life is good.

I kind of wanted to end my post here, but I feel I need to touch on one more topic when it comes to “new wedding photographers and what to charge.”

This would be the topic of “wedding photography courses or video tutorials.” When it comes to photography courses & tutorial there are a few things to keep in mind and it is very simple “there are good ones and there are bad ones.” Some are just a huge waste of money.

First and foremost, there are so many people out there pushing their tutorials about the business side of wedding photography that are just unrealistic crap. The reality is that these people are very good at selling “you” something. I am not too sure about how good they are at selling a $10K price tag to a client, but they have to “info-mercial” technique down and they are now selling you the moon. There actual salary comes from “you” buying their “snake oil” wedding photography course. Actually, I find some of these guys/gals to be very entertaining. They act as if they have unlocked some secret weapon and for x amount of dollars, they will tell you the secret. It’s like they have the cure for cancer. I have seen this same kind of thing with chefs where they lead you to believe they’re cooking is almost extraterrestrial… please, give me a break.

I really don’t have too many recommendations on good videos, however I can say that KelbyOne Training has some very good wedding photography course.

Bottom line here is; Learn camera settings and how to shoot and keep it simple. Shoot local events where there is constant action of thing happening and after you have done enough of that kind of shooting, you’ll get the feel for what it is going to take to spend 6 hours shooting a wedding.

Thanks for reading and have a great day.

 

 

The Holy Grail of Answers

I think the biggest question that just about every photographer is faced with at some point or another is; How much do I charge for shooting a wedding? This of course would be a photographer who has never shot a wedding before, but it may not be a new photographer or a young photographer. It could be anyone who is a photographer that just hasn’t shot a wedding. With that said; I think most photographers who have done any form of paid work would not have too hard of a time figuring out how much to charge for a wedding. Rather it would be someone who is not too familiar with paid work that would be perplexed with this question.

Now before you read any further, “yes” I will give you an actual dollar amount and I won’t make you wait till the end of this post to tell you. However, I would like to first give you a few details about me so you can see who I am and where I am coming from in a photography context.

I am not a wedding photographer, I do not advertise to be a wedding photographer, but I still shoot weddings, about 2 to 4 per year. I will get approached in some way form or fashion and asked to shoot a wedding, whether it be a personal recommendation from a client or a friend or it could be from someone who just found me on the internet. So, if someone wants to hire me, I am certainly not going to turn down a paying job. Also, please know I am writing this post because I know I am not alone and that there are other photographers out there who also get approached about weddings even though they may not be a so called “wedding photographer.”

So, you might ask; If you are not a wedding photographer, what kind of photographer are you? Ok, I shoot a lot of portraiture, I cover events like book signings, social gatherings and birthdays. Birthdays are usually for dignitaries and the like in and around the Philadelphia area. I shoot stock photography for webmasters and I also do corporate headshots. And then there is always bands and local artists as well as models who I have worked with. So, I guess I do just about everything and that is why from time to time I get asked to shoot a wedding.

My prices start at $2000 to shoot a wedding. I live here in New Jersey and I know there are photographers who charge a lot more than that and I am sure there are ones who charge less. But now that I have thrown this “Holy Grail” of an answer out here on the internet, please read on to see how I justify this number and how this number could be more or less for you. I put the number out there because I didn’t want this to be another one of those countless boring posts that claims to give an answer to a big question and then only for the reader (you) to get to the end of the post and all you read was a bunch of gibberish about how “all situations are different” and the person writing the article/post never tells what “they actually charge.”

Okay, so I am going to cover a few topics related to this question of “how much to charge to shoot a wedding?” I think the equally important question is; How much do I charge a friend to photograph a wedding? This is a really tough question, but I have a really good perspective on this too. I mention this because I think/know that many photographers shoot their first wedding for someone they personally know or are in some way acquainted with.

So, let’s start with why I charge $2000 and see if you can charge $2000 for a day’s work. Ah, the very first myth to be exposed; It is not a day’s work. You will do some work before and a lot after the day of the actual wedding. So, don’t mislead yourself and certainly don’t let your potential client think that you are just doing work that one day. In a kind but meaningful way the client needs to understand about editing and editing takes time. However, we/you need to ask yourself how good and how fast can you edit. I myself am pretty fast at what I do and I know how long it will take me to edit. You also have to keep in mind what else you will be doing for the next week after this wedding. Are you going on vacation, do you have other clients lined up? So, as you can see this wedding “thing” has many facets to it and it is not a “run & gun & you done” kind of thing. So, stay with me here as I explain how I do it and what I don’t do.

First and foremost, I do not shoot without editing, period. If a client asks “well how much for you to just shoot the photos and put them on a disc? Beit a friend or stranger my answer is always the same; “I am not a Craigslist photographer,” end of story and I walk away. I like money just as much as the next person, but I also love what I do and I respect what I do. Enough said about that.

I don’t charge for a consultation or a follow up consultation, but if a client is going to want to keep meeting with me over and over it is $50 to $100 each time. This usually stops the pointless meet ups and asking questions that don’t need to be asked. Remember if your dealing with someone who is not a friend… well, you’re dealing with the public and there are people who will meet with you ten times and then hire someone else. You have to work as a professional and let your clients know “you are a professional.” How many times will your doctor meet with you for free? You need to know your value and stand by it, even if it is your very first wedding. You are going to be capturing images of this special day and I know that can sound really “hokey” but it is so true. You are also going to capture photos of family and friends. And to be realistic some of those images of family and friends are going to be the last good photos of these people. Not to sound morbid but I have captured photos of family members and guests that not long after the wedding they leave this world for one reason or another and now that image of aunt Martha dancing has a whole new meaning. This of course is not a topic to bring up to the client, but it is the reality photography.

So yes, know your worth and stand by it.

I like to tell clients that I “shoot in a journalistic timeline style.” Meaning I will start shooting usually with the bride getting ready and then just keep going all the way though the ceremony and up to the reception. At the reception I will cover all the important things like “the entrance,” the first dance” and all that fun stuff. But I don’t do detailed shots of all the guests, just highlighted moments.

Now of that $2000 I need to pay an assistant to follow me around and help me with whatever I need. I have another business aside from my photography and I have an assistant that helps me and I have learned the power of what a great assistant can do. So, with my photography, when I am doing a big job like a wedding or a complexed photo shoot, I always have a paid assistant. With assistants you only get what you pay for, so pay them well. Actually, I could write a whole blog post on “what is a good assistant.” Also know my assistant knows very little about photography, but she does know a lot about weddings. Her main function is carrying gear bags and having a speed light available at a moment notice if needed. Her biggest asset to me is being smart and quick on her feet, being able to solve problems quickly.

Do I need a second shooter? If I need a second or third camera person of course the price will go up. I try not to have a second shooter, which means a lot more hustling… I mean a lot more hustling, but if I can do without one I will. Second shooters can make your life a lot easier or they can make you… want to kill the second shooter lol.

Do you have good equipment? You need to shoot with good equipment. You don’t need to have the best or the newest, you just need to have reliable gear and you need to have a backup. And you need to know how to use the backup.

So, let’s talk a little about your equipment or the lack there of. First you need a few good lenses. The lenses are more important than the camera and most likely you already know that. If you don’t have a good lens and you can’t borrow one, then rent one or two. www.borrowlens.com is where I would go and still go if I need a lens or other gear that I don’t have. I would work any rental cost into the price of the job. I would most times be honest and tell the client there will be a rental cost because I need a special lens to do the job. No one ever really questioned me.

Here is what I use when I shoot a wedding today; Two camera bodies and preferably both are full frame sensors, if not one must be (for my personal preference) a full frame sensor. Full frame sensors will let you shoot better in low light situation and yes you will have low light situations, I promise you that. I use two bodies so I don’t have to change out lenses every two minutes.

Three lenses; although I have shot with two lenses. I never shoot a wedding with one lens. I know many people who claim they can shoot a whole wedding day on an 85mm prime… god bless you, but that’s not my style.

I use a 70-200mm f/2.8 with image stabilization, a 24-70mm f/2.8 and a 50mm f/1.4. I will have two radio speed lights and one is mounted on an adjustable pole for my assistant to carry. I will have one lightweight lite stand that I can put a speed light on if necessary.

But hold on, let me backup and tell you what I used for my first few weddings. I had 1 Canon 6D body (full frame sensor). I rented a 70-200mm f/2.8 and a 24-105mm f/4.0. I had one, on camera speed light. I also had my assistant hold a round reflector when needed. That was it, just two lenses and one body. Shooting like this meant a lot of lens change-outs and my assistant and I had a system and we worked like a pit crew. Seriously, it was all accomplished through teamwork and it ran very smooth.

Even today with three lenses and two bodies, we will go over our moves before the wedding to make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to gear. I have strange little personal preferences with things like batteries and memory cards. Example; AA batteries that are charged are carried in little battery cases with 4 batteries per case and they must be +, -, +, – and this tells me the batteries all have a full charge. They are placed positive & negative (every other one) because that is the order they need to be in when replacing batteries in a speedlight. Spent batteries are placed in the case +,+,+,+ and this then tells me those batteries are not charged. These are all the little things that I work out with my assistant to make everything as fast and easy… and as professional as possible. Now, with all that said; of course, we run into the unexpected and this is where you have to be fast thinking on your feet. If you have a great assistant, they will solve your problems while you keep working. Also, having an assistant is someone you can lay the blame on when things go wrong. Of course, I am kidding lol.

Most important of all advice about assistants; Never use a friend or someone who works for free. Money motivates and I want (you too want) an assistant who is more energetic than me, end of story on that.

After the wedding and I mean immediately after the shoot, the memory cards go into a waterproof case and they stay on my person until I get home. If it is late when I get home the card case goes in my safe or a fireproof lock box. The next day the cards are downloaded and double backups made. The cards are not erased or used at all for the next 30 days or until I know backups are safe. Enough said on that topic.

In the first consultation with the clients I tell them they will receive their images via a “thumb drive.” I give all edited images as JPEGs and I also give them digital negatives (DNG files) of the entire wedding. The DNGs are for them to have as digital negatives, much the same way we would save film negatives back in the film days. Keep in mind here that I am not editing every image shot at the wedding. I usually give them a link to a shared folder or online gallery to choose their edits and there is a predetermined number they can choose.

It is fully understood they are paying for my creative shooting, editing and digital JPEGs. They are not paying for prints. I leave printing up to the client, however I do show them samples of my prints (from www.mpix.com) and leave it up to them… do they want to do their own prints from Walgreens, CVS or where ever, or do they want me to handle prints and that would be a whole separate job and bill.

Either way I usually agree to have all edits finished within two weeks (most times I’m done sooner) and I usually have two or three really nice shots finished and emailed within 24 hours.

Now lets just recap a little here. $2000 gets them a full day (6-8 hours) of shooting and edits & digital negatives delivered on a thumb drive in two weeks. Prints are optional at a separate price. The $2K includes me and my assistant. It does not include travel or rentals or any other expenses and usually the job includes a meal at the reception. Make sure you make clear about this because you have been working all day with nothing to eat. I never eat while working anyway, but I am hungry at the end of the day. Most venues are charging the bride & groom “per meal” so make sure you’re on the meal list. You will eat quickly because you still have some shooting to do.

Part II: How much do I charge a friend?

This gets a little tricky and you need to use a little or maybe a lot of common sense. First thing we need to know about working for friends is “they want you to work for free.” I know that sounds funny or maybe sarcastic but it is the flat-out truth.

Before we go any further, I want to shatter your ego here a little bit. I know they are your friends and you love them and you would do anything for them, after all that is what friends do for friends… right? Friends and family will also be the first to f%#k you too, sometimes without thinking about it and other times they fully no what they’re doing is wrong. Friends & family will always tell you how much they like your photography… because they don’t want to hurt you. (Just accept that fact an move on with life)

Ever give someone a gift and you never see them wear/use it. A few years later you find out they sold it on eBay. I have given people something personal I spent hours working on in Photoshop only to see it stuck on their refrigerator door with magnet. “There’s my piece I worked so hard on and is covered with coffee stains”… yeah friends. They loved it when I handed it to them, but now it is on the door of the fridge next to the electric bill (they love so much too).

Ok, so right about now your saying to yourself this blogger is a real cynical asshole and I bet he has very few friends lol. Let’s look at some real-life situations with friends and wedding photography.

Friend: Sarah we would really like you to photograph our wedding. We love your work and we know you. Our budget is tight, what would you charge.

Sarah: Yeah you guys are great friends and I would be happy to shoot your special day. I normally charge more but I’ll do your wedding for $500.

Friend: Wow, that’s great. This is going to be awesome.

Sarah: So where is the wedding going to be held?

Friend: Oh, wait till you see this place, we’re renting this old mansion upstate. People have weddings there all the time, it is pricy but it’s our special day you know. And we’re going to have that band fly in from North Carolina, remember the one we seen in that club when we were on vacation a few years ago, they were awesome. They will fly up for $4000 and play the wedding.

Sarah: Oh… really! Yeah, I remember that band.

Friend: But we’re going to have a DJ too, it’s going to be a blast, great location, awesome food, great music… and of course a great photographer. And my mom is hiring a video company to make one of those awesome movie-like wedding videos.

Sarah: ……

Yeah that last “Sarah” is speechless. She is going to shoot this wedding for $500 and the DJ is making 4 times that much. Not to mention the price tag for the rest of the event. So, I think you can see where I’m going with this and this particular story did actually happen to my friend and she came to me practically in tears and asked for advice.

My friend is not alone, I have about four or five of these stories that actually happened to me, but I use her story as an example because it was really over the top. I know I can’t leave you hanging, you want to know how her story turned out.

My advice to anyone for anything starts with being honest. Honesty is the best policy and I try to live by that. However, I will be the first to admit honesty does not always work. I told my friend Sarah to just go back and tell the bride & groom that she was wrong and that she would be drastically doing a dis-service to herself if she shot the wedding for $500. I told her to say that she talked it over with another photographer to make sure she was on track and she realized she misquoted the price. She quoted them a price of $2000 plus her travel to the venue in upstate New York, including a room for the night.

At first, they were kind of dumbfounded, but did not say too much. Actually, the bride’s parents were paying for most of the wedding and the groom’s parents were paying for the honeymoon and other expenses. So, the bride went back and told her father of the change in price and a few days later Sarah got the text message saying that “all was good.” I also let her use my 70-200mm (free of charge) and I was her “paid” assistant for the day. Here is the kicker… after the wedding the brides father handed Sarah the envelope with the cash. $2300 for the shooting, travel & room, plus another $1000 for a tip. She was ecstatic. I was so happy for her, she got her first full wedding under her belt and she made a nice buck at the same time. Sadly, I had a job the next day so I had to drive 5 hours back after working all day. Sarah and her boyfriend had a relaxing night at the hotel.

So, shooting for a friend could be you shooting for free and you could consider your photography services a “wedding gift” from you to them. If you are ok with that there is nothing wrong in giving away what you do as a gift. And with that; It really does make answering the question “how much to charge a friend” a very tough question to answer. Just remember that you really need to feel the situation out and weigh out what is really happening. Are you being asked to do something as a “friend helping a friend” or “as a friend taking advantage of a friend?”

Most of all, know that shooting a wedding is no easy task, that is if you are going to do it as a professional. The last wedding a shot, I fired the first click of the shutter 12:10pm and the last shot at 10:14pm. It was an outdoor wedding and there was a little bit of a weather delay, nonetheless it was a very long and hot day. I had my assistant, but I also requested an assistant from the venue just to follow us around with water so neither me, my assistant or the bride or groom dehydrated (August wedding lol). Put it this way; I have never finished a day of wedding shooting and went home well rested.

Now for the real answer; There are some photographers who would call me a “hack” at $2000, because they wouldn’t touch a wedding for anything less that $6000 or maybe even $10,000 and that is fine by me. Their words can’t hurt me because I’m not in third grade. I need to make a living and I do what I do, how I do. Bottom line is; as long as the customer is happy with the work you have performed and you are happy with what you got paid… then at the end of the day life is good.

I kind of wanted to end my post here, but I feel I need to touch on one more topic when it comes to “new wedding photographers and what to charge.”

This would be the topic of “wedding photography courses or video tutorials.” When it comes to photography courses & tutorial there are a few things to keep in mind and it is very simple “there are good ones and there are bad ones.” Some are just a huge waste of money.

First and foremost, there are so many people out there pushing their tutorials about the business side of wedding photography that are just unrealistic crap. The reality is that these people are very good at selling “you” something. I am not too sure about how good they are at selling a $10K price tag to a client, but they have to “info-mercial” technique down and they are now selling you the moon. There actual salary comes from “you” buying their “snake oil” wedding photography course. Actually, I find some of these guys/gals to be very entertaining. They act as if they have unlocked some secret weapon and for x amount of dollars, they will tell you the secret. It’s like they have the cure for cancer. I have seen this same kind of thing with chefs where they lead you to believe they’re cooking is almost extraterrestrial… please, give me a break.

I really don’t have too many recommendations on good videos, however I can say that KelbyOne Training has some very good wedding photography course.

Bottom line here is; Learn camera settings and how to shoot and keep it simple. Shoot local events where there is constant action of thing happening and after you have done enough of that kind of shooting, you’ll get the feel for what it is going to take to spend 6 hours shooting a wedding.

Thanks for reading and have a great day.

 

 

 

Why I Blog & Vlog (…Quite a novel thing those directions are.)

1/640 sec at f/3.2 ISO 100 115mm (see photo notes below)

There is more to blogging & vlogging than some may think. Often when I am questioned about why I blog or vlog it is usually a non-millennial or to be frank “an older person.”

As a photographer and Photoshop creator/editor blogging & vlogging helps me on many levels. Now first I have to say that I do not aspire at this time to making blogging & vlogging a sole means of income as is often the case. So when asked about my B&V it is usually followed by; does it make you money? And the answer is “yes & no” (a little confusing).

Ok so here is the break down as to what blogging does for me as a photographer. In short it makes me relevant in the realm of what I do and the long answer would best be explained by giving an example.

So here is Rich Smith Jr out doing something with his camera. It could be a paid client shoot, it could be a project shoot with a model or I could be out and about shooting street photography. Either way at some point there is always a chance that someone is going to approach me and start asking questions. The questions could range from a photo enthusiast who is asking questions, to a potential client or even a police officer wanting to know what the hell I’m doing. So of course the first action is to give a business card, nothing fancy, but a card with my name, phone number, email and website is all that is needed. Now of course in this day and age anybody can have a business card printed and anybody can make a website in a matter of minutes. So having a blog and or a vlog present and easy to find lets people see exactly what you do.

For example a park ranger I ran into a few weeks back seen me with my drone. I wasn’t doing anything wrong, he was merely asking me technical questions about the drone. I gave him my card and while we were talking his partner using a smart phone was on my YouTube channel in a matter of minutes and they were looking at my videos. (my stupid little short videos) The ranger than stated “you’re the first person I have actually talked to that could show me they actually know how to create a video with a drone. He said most people get nervous and they just want to get away as soon as possible. I laughed, I have nothing to hide, I know the laws and I try my best to abide by them. Same goes for my photography, I try to abide by the law… well except that railroad track thing but… So soon the ranger noticed I had a video about how to copyright images with the library of congress and he was somewhat impressed. He asked me how I learned how to do that? My answer; reading, I read how to do it and I did go to a few seminars but mostly just reading. Kind of like when you buy something and you read that little book that come with it called “directions.” Quite a novel thing those directions are.

Another example of being relevant in what I do would be the time I was out shooting with a client at a park. This was last year; a lady had contacted me by way of a friend and asked if I would meet her at the mill in Stockton for a “mother daughter” shoot. Her daughter had just finished college and was heading off to Europe for two years. Although she would visit her daughter in Europe she wanted some nice photos of her and her daughter before she left the states. It’s a “mom thing” she said. So we met up at the mill and we really hit it off right away. The daughter was a few minutes late and mom was teasing her. Soon into the shoot they were really having fun, laughing and joking. I noticed another lady watching us and soon she approached me and asked “if I was a real photographer?” I said “no but don’t tell these two because they’re paying me money today.” We all got a good laugh and I handed her my business card. She went on her way.

As I was packing up my gear at the parking lot and getting ready to leave, when the lady whom I had given the business card to appeared with her husband and started asking me about family portraits, that they wanted to do at this same location. They liked the old mill and wanted to have some family photos taken there. At one point she exclaimed at how much fun the mother & daughter were having and said I would be “the perfect photographer” because I make people happy. This was a huge compliment although I had to come clean and tell her “it was all them” they were just happy people.  Anyway I did do the portrait shoot and it led to 5 more jobs with her recommendations. What I did not know until much later was that after handing her my card her and her husband sat in their car with their iPad checking out my website, my blog and my vlog. And that coupled with seeing me actually working with a client sealed the deal.

So while I may not make actual money advertising products on my blog, it still gets me work. It shows I am relevant and sets me apart from “guy with a camera.” Another benefit that blogging does for me is helps me with my writing skills, spelling and grammar. I wish I could say I write a blog post every day, but sadly time is the culprit.

Times have changes as we all know and we have so many resources available to us that if we do not utilize some of the resources we appear obsolete in what we do. I remember when fax machines were all the rage and I heard someone say “if you do not stay current with technology life will run you over in a heartbeat.” And it is so true (to a certain extent). So I say “ignore technology and you age quicker than you ever though possible.

Thank so much for reading and have a great day.

Photo notes: While I absolutely love this wedding day image of Kyle & Nicole, I cannot take full credit for the creation. The idea for this image was actually Nicole’s idea. I provided the umbrella, camera and lens. Nicole provided the sheer look of “a bride in love” and that wasn’t hard for her to do at all lol.

Diary of A wedding Photographer (it is like when someone decides to go on a day long hike in the mountains.)

1/125 f/3.5 ISO 250 80mm

I recently shot a wedding. I have never aspired to be a wedding photographer for several reasons that I have spoken about in other posts. With that said I never shy away from a wedding because it is a challenge. No one will ever say “wedding photography is fun” because it is not. If you are a full time wedding shooter it is your job and it is a very tough and saturated business. I will shoot weddings because they are a challenge and what I mean by that is; it is like when someone decides to go on a day long hike in the mountains. Sure you like the outdoors, you know how to hike and you like hiking, but a day long hike means you will certainly be doing a little bit of planning and you’ll be tired at the end of the day. Tired, yes, but you will have accomplished something you really like doing and that is capturing great images.

So let’s go over the gear I used and please know I try to keep it as simple as possible, but at the same time I want to do a great (not good but great) job.

Two full size DSLR camera bodies with full crop sensors. Full crop sensors are a must have for low light… and you will be in low light at some point.

Lenses must be good quality if you are doing a paid gig. If you do not own good lenses then go rent them. I am fortunate enough to have my own lenses, but there was a time when I had to rent one or two. For this wedding I used a 24-70mm f/2.8 on one body and a 70-200mm f/2.8 on the second body. I also had an 85mm f/1.4 prime for low light shots of the bride getting ready.

I had on hand one radio controlled speedlight on a stick that could be controlled from both cameras. So no matter which camera I was shooting with I could control the light. I use TTL mode for the light and increase or decrease as needed.

I also used a hand-held wand light for a few shots.

For formal portraits I used one light stand with a studio flash and a battery pack. Sounds expensive, but it was all Paul C Buff which is state of the art equipment that is affordable.

One Blackrapid double camera strap.

Sandisk two 32GB & two 16GB Extreme Pro SD cards with a water proof and crush proof SD card case. Note: I never used all the cards. Total images shot about 1800 for the day.

And yes one good strong assistant who I always work with.

So for the most part I like to shoot weddings in available light, I only use the speedlight when absolutely needed. I like to shoot in a journalistic timeline style, however I will do the formals and creative shots with bride and groom.

This wedding started with me arriving at the bride’s home in the morning to shoot the dress, shoes and some makeup shots. Then driving to the park where the wedding would take place. The actual location was along a walking trail in a wooded area. My assistant and myself quickly scoped out the area for the formals and we then checked the lighting in the wooded area.

The groom and the groomsmen arrived first and the shooting began. Doing creative shots as well as canids, myself I do not dwell and all the hokie creative shots, but more on the special moments. Moments like when two family members who have not seen each other in a long time are smiling and shaking hands or hugging. The image of two people interacting like that will mean so much more in years to come than the groom standing with his buddies in some overdone pose. Every photographer wants to create these awesome photos that have impact and will often overlook the value of the really special moments that don’t look that special at all… today. But as time passes the photos will grow in meaning.

Ok, so then the guests all showed up and headed to the wooded area. The bride had arrived, but was tucked away in the limo awaiting the big moment. So at this point it becomes non-stop shooting. Not spray and pray, but literally non-stop looking for special moments and interaction between her and her mother and the bride’s maids. Needless to say I must now stay with the bride until the ceremony is finished and I did.

I captured all the classic shots from ring exchange to first kiss, the laughing, the crying and everything in between. Turns out I never needed the speedlight at this point so I sent my assistant to a location on the other side of a ravine to be a second shooter for just one particular far away shot. It was a shot capturing the whole wedding ceremony as seen looking through the leaves on the trees. He used my trusty Canon EOS M3 and he did a great job for someone who is not a photographer.

Now shooting the crowd breaking up and departing, again a lot of little special moments. The bride & groom walking by themselves through the forest and making their way back to the parking area.

Now I must take a moment to say that I did not attend a rehearsal, however I had discussed the days’ timeline over breakfast with the couple about a month and half prior. But after the ceremony nothing was scripted, I just followed them and we would stop here and there and shoot. Sometimes I was shooting them without them knowing I was shooting. Use a long lens and put the shutter on silent, great trick.

Now I chose a big open spot in a field for formals with the forest in the background. This way I have no objects growing out of people’s heads and it looked good.

After formals it was the creative shots with the bride & groom. Again I did not get into the crazy over the top poses. I stuck to the images I knew they would like and that we had discussed. There was a very special shot the bride wanted to do with a clear umbrella and I had a brand new clear umbrella all waiting for her. With the help of my assistant the images were captured quickly.

Now a 45 minute ride to the reception venue, but it turned into over an hour-long ride due to an accident and traffic on the highway.

At the venue it was more shooting, but this time it was mostly shots of the whole bridal party. Something to kill time while we waited for all the guests to arrive.

And now the reception photos, the new couples arrival along with bridal party, first dance, mother son dance, father daughter dance and so on. The garter and bouquet toss and finally the cutting of the cake. Not to mention all the while capturing the little moments as I had mentioned earlier.

So my day started at 10:30am at the bride’s home and ended around 8:00pm at the reception. So I think you can see what I mean when I say it is a challenge and not just a “walk in the park.” I must also say that I give everything I have to make this day run as smooth as possible for everyone. And most important of all is I need (not want) to deliver good quality images. Why? Because that is what I do. I want the bride and groom to have nice photos, but at the same time I want nice photos for myself. I want to be able to look at the images I captured and say to myself “you did a great job here today.” I know that sounds crazy, but that is how serious I take what I do. Maybe everyone else likes the photos, but if I don’t like them I will beat myself up about it. I won’t say anything to anybody, but I will just feel I failed… got love that OCD lol.

All in all is was an amazing day the bride & groom are amazing people and their guests were just so easy to work with. I did not have any problems with cell phone shooters and everyone was respectful of the paid photographer.

Dancing On An Island (…“it is about decisive moments and interactions” )

These are the moments in life that really turn me on as a photographer. When you look in on a wedding reception and there is all of this chaotic interaction. People are eating, talking, some are outside smoking, there are people drinking and then… you see two people lost in their selves on a dance floor. Nobody else is dancing but just them and nobody is even paying any attention. These are the special moments that some wedding photographers will overlook because they want to stay pinned to the bride and groom for the whole day/night.

Wedding photography in my opinion is so much more than just capturing the beautiful images of a bride and groom on their special day. I once heard New Jersey based photographer Cliff Mautner  say “it is about decisive moments and interactions” and not all about getting technically accurate photos. Essentially at the end of the day you (the photographer) should have all the classic images of things like the bride walking down the aisle, ring exchange, the first kiss ect… Then of course you will have your formals of the family, the wedding party ect… Quite honestly these are very easy images to capture because most wedding flow the same. I say “most”, but not all. Think about it; you’re at a venue the guests are seated, the groom is waiting, the bride is entering and so on. Sure dealing with the iPhone people can be a challenge; weather (if it is outdoors) can be challenging, but after you do enough wedding these challenges become easier to deal with and overcome. This then of course make your job a lot easier and you can go slam out a wedding. But are you capturing the moments?

When we look at some wedding photographers portfolios or look at the couple’s photo books or albums we sometimes see all these great images, but are we seeing the special interactions or those special moments? Seeing the classic shots are nice, however like I said they are relatively easy to obtain. As long as you know and I do mean “know” your entire camera technical you should be looking for the special moments. Think about it; how much more you can do when you never really have to think about camera technical. You walk into a scene and you are the “auto mode” for the camera. You know what ISO, shutter speed, aperture, hell you even know if you should “spot weight metering” for a special shot. I mostly work with two bodies; one will have a 24-70mm f/2.8 and the other a 70-200mm f/2.8. I’ll have an 85mm prime for some special work that I can throw on real quick. And that is it for cameras & lenses, then there is a speedlight on a stick or a continuous light such as a wand light either hand-held or on a stick.

Some special moments take time to evolve and what I mean by this is; the image you captured today might not mean a whole lot today. However we all know time changes everything and what looks like an ordinary image today could mean the world to someone tomorrow. Weddings are the most likely place to find these kinds of shots. But if you’re just there to get photos of a bride coming down the aisle, rings, kissing and hugs you may not be living up to the potential of your job.

 

 

Faith In Humanity Restored (…or was it the fear of the bride’s mother)

clark_gorish-2153-edit

The proper way to photograph the bride. Stay seated.

I really did not think it was possible, but I’m here to say it is true. People can go to a wedding and be respectful of the photographer in regards to the use of the cell phone cameras.

I recently photographed a wedding and while meeting with the bride & groom and bride’s mother, we talked about the flow of the big day. In the course of discussing my plans for the job I would perform I mentioned “cell phone cameras” and how they can be a problem… sometimes a huge problem at weddings.

In this day and age of instant gratification and self-gratification the camera in our phones has become an ingrained part of our life. With the force of social media driving us we often have no idea what the hell we are doing. Now I know that sounds harsh, but it is so true. While “yes” you know you are taking a photo of the bride and maybe your even related to her, but are the grainy, pink color-cast images that you captured going to be the ones she will use in her album? And maybe you’re really good at capturing images with your mobile device and this time you captured an awesome photo of the bride & groom. Can I ask how it will look when printed? Printed at 16×20 inches? Sure it looks good at 72 dots per inch on your phone screen, but how will it look at 300 dpi when enlarged? Are the colors correct? We all remember the “blue dress vs black dress” that burned up social media a few years back. So again I ask “do you really know what you are doing?” when you stand up and get in the way of the photographer that was hired to capture the images of the day.

But I am here to say “that did not happen at all” at this wedding. It rekindled my faith in humanity or what’s left of it, to see that everybody and I mean every guest went out of their way to not get in my way. When discussing this with the bride & groom and the bride’s mother I stated that “it is a challenge and there really isn’t much anyone can do about it because this is just how people are these days.” I stand corrected.

Now maybe… just maybe it had something to do with the little hand written signs that were posted …or was it the fear of the bride’s mother lol. She stated to me that she would tell everybody not to get in the way of the photographer. I said “yeah, lots of luck with that.” So maybe the fear of “mother of the bride” quelled the urge. Either way it was a very pleasant and fun day with normal people… well as normal as could be expected at an Alice in Wonderland themed wedding lol.

 

“Capture the moment” (…there still is a craft to be learned and honed to a finer edge.)

 

1/125 sec at f/5.0 ISO 100 70mm

1/125 sec at f/5.0 ISO 100 70mm

“Capture the moment” it is so cliché when we hear photographers talk about it. I read blogs and watch vlogs, have sat through countless hours of seminars and classes and I have that statement so many times I want to puke. Some photographers are like chefs in that they feel so passionate about what they do they think there techniques can cure cancer. “It’s a camera everybody has one” or in the case of a chef “its food… and you cook it.”

However with all that said there still is a craft to be learned and honed to a finer edge. This is what will rise you up above the average completion in whatever it is you do. Example; world-renowned photographer Joe McNally has risen to a level of success because he has honed his craft over a lifetime. So Mr. McNally can take a photo of someone changing a lightbulb and it becomes an iconic image. I know you’re thinking “but it is just someone changing any ole lightbulb” it is the red light on the antenna on the very tippy top of the Empire State Building. I guess you just have to be different!

So at the wedding I was photographing the other day I see all these people with their mobile phone camera capturing their images and I’m thinking (as I always do) “there they are all standing in group capturing pretty much the same exact image. Sure each will be a little different given the quality of the device they have and some might even edit their images to look even nicer. Meanwhile they are all in the way of the photographer the bride has hired and they are in the way of each other. While many photographers will complain about the iPhone worms I have learned to live with it and work past it. The biggest thing for me is I know full well I will come away with shots the average camera phone photographer will never be able to capture. Now I know I am no Joe McNally, but I do know that you need to “capture the moment” and you need to be a little different about it.

In the image above we see the bride looking at her groom who is holding his daughter, a very touching moment to say the least. However by using a 70-200mm lens mounted on a camera body with a full crop sensor (which by-the-way costs a tad bit more than even the most expensive iPhone) and standing in a spot where nobody would expect to stand I captured a very wonderful moment, and pretty well I might say.

The wedding was a lot of fun and as always to see two families come together and have so much fun is always an awesome thing.

Till next time… Thanks for reading.