Early Morning By The Creek (I want to get a decent shot of the all three creatures together before they disappear in front of my eyes.)

It was already a beautiful summer morning. I had dropped my wife and the dogs off at the farm and I had a free morning. The “farm” as we call it is actually a non-working farm were, we keep our commercial cooking equipment for our BBQ catering business. She likes to run the smoker herself and she chased me away. So, having a free morning for my photography I decided to head over to Delaware Township in hopes I would find some white tail deer grazing in a field.

It was about 5:45am the light was good, air was very warm at 70°, there was a ground fog that was quickly rising. The fog was not thick but, I thought it could add to any shot of deer grazing. I had the 70-200mm lens mounted and I also had my 24-70mm out and ready to mount if needed.

As I made my way along with no particular location or direction in mind, other than heading to the farmland, I felt peaceful and I actually said to myself “this is a good morning.” After heading down Route 202 I contemplated “should I just do a walk-around in the town of Lambertville?” Maybe I could catch some great street photography? Maybe not. I quickly turned up Headquarters’ road and on to Seabrook. “There it is” I thought, “that beautiful horse farm with the long winding lane.” I have captured this location in the past during the autumn colors but, hey, why not capture it during the early morning hours of a summer day.

Chicken Mushroom

I made my way down Seabrook and over to Grafton road where I was moving very slowly in fist gear and I seen a Chicken Mushroom off to the left about 50-70 yards away. And to make matters worse it was about 15-20 feet up a tree. I love Chicken Mushrooms and if that thing had been reachable from the ground, I would have snatched it. Still I took a nice photo of it to tantalize my wife with.

Then from Grafton I made my way over to Worman road, the road nobody ever seems to go down… Actually, not true lol there are several homes on Worman but, it does have a short distance of solitude where there are no houses or farms. And there they were… a doe and her lovely fawn, in the morning down by the creek for a drink of water. The fawn looked up rather quickly and flinched a bit when she first seen my truck slow down. The mother was somber but, very alert. They were about 150 feet away, down a ravine and on the opposite side of the creek. I just took a second to take in the scene, for I know once I raise the camera they will flee quickly.

 1/60 sec at f/2.8 ISO 400 185mm 6:03:58am

I moved quick with steady movement and raised the camera and snapped off a shot, then another and they started to move. Oh wait… this is not a good morning; this is an awesome morning. There is a blue heron with them and he is chomping away on minnows, having a delightful breakfast.

At this point I start going in to actions that I really don’t think about, they come rather instinctively from years of being around wildlife and knowing what’s going to happen next. First is “the blue bird is going to fly away and the deer are going to run up the hill,” I need to act fast. The road is downhill for about the next ¼ mile or more, I shut the engine down and put on the four-way flashers and shift to neutral, foot on the brake, knee on the bottom of the steering wheel. Now the deer are getting skittish and the bird is just looking. I want to get a decent shot of the all three creatures together before they disappear in front of my eyes.

1/60 sec at f/2.8 ISO 250 95mm 6:04:25am

This is how the whole sequence went down; I fired the first shot not knowing the heron was even there at all, the second shot I notice the heron and I go into the afore mentioned action of shutting down the engine. By time I take my 4th shot everybody is starting to move. Keep in mind the first shot was at 6:03:58am and the fourth shot is at 6:04:10am. Ok, so the deer are turning and getting ready to head up the hill but, my focus is on the blue heron. I know he will fly away because the always do. At 6:04:20am I get a shot of all three creatures. Next shot 6:04:23am I zoom to 200mm and get a (not good focus) shot of just the heron. I release my foot from the break and my truck rolls forward with only the gravel under the tires making a slight noise and zoom out taking another shot of all three at 6:04:25am, the heron is hopping a few steps and using the weeds as a curtain to hide form my line of sight. At 6:04:29am the deer are now heading up the hill and the heron is looking at them. 6:04:30am the heron flies but, not far. I’m still feathering the brake as my truck continues to roll down the gravel road ever so slowly.

1/60 sec at f/2.8 ISO 400 200mm 6:04:44am

The blue heron lands on a dead tree spanning the creek and positions himself so another tree is blocking my line of sight. At 6:04:44am I get a decent shot of the blue bird perched on the tree. It is not a perfect shot by any means, I’m in manual mode, 1/60 sec at f/2.8 ISO 400 200mm. I can live with those settings except the 1/60 second shutter speed, if it could have been 1/125 second, I would have had a wonderful shot. Not complaining because I am happy to just see this whole scene even if I had no camera. It is nature at it’s finest on a peaceful Sunday morning, I love it.

He now jumps from the tree down into the creek where I can barely get a view of him but, then I see him and he is already eating more minnows. I try to get shots of this but, to no avail, at 6:6:05:25am I get a shot where I can barely see he has something in his beak but, the shot is marred by weeds in my line of sight. I continue to follow him as he walks in the ravine of the creek and I fire the last shot at 6:05:38am. He is now staying stationary where I cannot see him and I know if I get out of the vehicle he will fly for sure and I get no shot because of the trees and lighting. Also, if he flies, he loses out on his minnows. So, I let him just stay hidden as I roll a little further down the road and fire up the engine and move along.

Now I continue on down Worman road seeing squirrels and birds and nothing more as interesting as the scene I had just witnessed.  Most people who are not from New Jersey think of this state as a congested wasteland of cul-de-sacs, highways and housing developments and while that is true of most of the state, there still are a few nice places where a person can witness a beautiful scene such as the one presented to me this morning.

 

Thanks for reading and have a great day.

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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.

 

 

 

Telling a Story For Business (…“if I could only show them what I do” it would be so much easier.)

1/800 sec at f/2.8 ISO 160 at 6mm with no flash. Canon G-15

1/800 sec at f/2.8 ISO 160 at 6mm with no flash. Canon G-15

I think this is the best commercial image I have taken this year (2015). It was taken for my own catering business & website. I say it is the best photo because it has gotten me so much business and it visually makes a statement to my potential customers that I could never describe using mere words. Even though we say (hold on… incoming cliché) “a picture is worth a thousand words” and yes that is so true, most often it is best if the photo speaks for its self rather than us trying to talk for the picture.

I have a catering business that is going into its 19th year, it is predominantly an “on-site pig roasting” business although we do many other things, but all in the vain of authentic “wood-cooked” barbeque. So while I have many return customers I also have many first time customers. Now before they are a first time customer they are just another statistic passing by my website. Before I had a website I used “yellow page” adds in the local phone book (remember it was 19 years ago lol). So at that time I received a lot of phone calls and they were not all customers, they were… as I call them “finger shoppers” just flipping through the phone book and making calls. Now at that time I was not the “people” person I am today, but even if I was it was so hard to sell what I do over the phone if you didn’t know exactly what I do. Many times I hung up the phone thinking “if I could only show them what I do” it would be so much easier. An easy sale was a person who called and either said that a friend recommended me or that they had been a guest at a pig roast I did and they already knew what to expect.

As time rolled on I jumped on the web about year 2000 with a rough cut personal page that was the precursor to what we know now as “blog sites” similar what you are reading at this very moment. I think that first site was “Xanga” and it was so damn hard to use. But as soon as I hit the web I needed photos and I started scanning in prints. The trouble was I never really had a single photo that told the whole story the way I wanted it told. As years went by and my cameras and composing got better and I was always looking for that special photo. It is not always easy or even possible because of environment. But this image really hit me and I’m ashamed to admit it, but it did not hit me right away. I was going back through all the photos I had posted to my Facebook catering page and looking for website content when I came across it. Most often I will work out in the heat all day, come home late at night, download the images, edit and post to Facebook ASAP so the customers can see their party images the next morning (you must know social media is all about what is happening or just happened). It is easy to overlook something. My main objective at the moment is “do the people look good” because they’re going on the web and around the world. I did really look at the whole scene the way a viewer who first arrives at the website would look at it.

The photo breakdown:

Because I knew I was going to be in a situation where there was sand and water I left the DSLR in the vehicle and I grabbed my wife’s trust Canon G-15 point & shoot. Yes believe it or not this was captured with a point & shoot, but it was shot in RAW. It was captured at 1/800 sec at f/2.8 ISO 160 at 6mm with no flash.

The story:

We have my wife who is the chef for the day and she is posing with a very happy customer and we have the roasted pig. The pig cooked very nice this day and we have prime weather and lighting. As can be seen in the background the sky was overcast but bright. Behind my wife’s shoulder is a volleyball game that is actually on hold because Matt is posing with the pig. Behind Matt you see a gathering of friends, some sitting, and some standing. The whole scene takes place at the waterfront and everyone is dressed in summer attire. It was July 4th weekend as can be seen by the American flag growing out of the top of Matt’s head (no photo is perfect lol).

So for someone coming by my website I feel without a doubt that this image conveys what it is that our catering business does and is. So now that I might have made you hungry talking about BBQ you may like to see the website www.havepigwilltravel.com or www.porkwizard.com

Thanks so much for reading.

“Have A Good One.” Oh yeah you’re going to make fun of the way a man from Alabama talks when you can not pronounce “water.”

Richie Smith Jr (Lifer) "Having A Good One"

Richie Smith Jr (Lifer) “Having A Good One”

“Have A Good One.” What? Have a good what? I hear this term “have a good one” used by so many younger girls around my local area. No offense to the young ladies. Example; I go purchase a coffee at the local convenience store (called Wawa in the New Jersey/Pennsylvania area). The checkout clerk is an 18-19 year old girl. She rings up the coffee and bag of cashew nuts, I swipe my card grab my purchase and I say “have a good day,” she in turn smiles and says “have a good one.” Maybe I read too much into what people say, maybe I’m crazy because many times I really do stop and listen to what people say. I have always been this way although I never really talk about it with anybody other than my wife. Because my wife is a Thai lady who arrived in the USA back in 2010 and has been trying to understand why (in her words) USA people don’t speak good English or have these strange sayings. FYI: this blog post comes with a whimsical humorous feel, but still I myself really always have listened to “what & how” people say what they say.

Now this saying “have a good one” is something that 20 to 30 years ago would be more akin to a working man’s or trucker’s vocabulary. And mind you to put a better twist on this subject I live a very so called affluent area where the population likes to think of themselves as “refined,” I myself call it what it really is “snobbery.” Either way you look at it, refined and social slang usually are not supposed to mix. So let’s really dive in and look at how people here in New Jersey talk, while keeping in mind most of the population of my so called “affluent” community here in Hunterdon County are originally from anywhere but here. After all 30 years ago this was a farming community that was a far cry from affluent and certainly not refined.

Monday is Mundee, Saturday is Sad-er-dee, and Tuesday is Tuesdee. Water is wooter, often is offin and I could go on and on… so it is no wonder “have a good day” has become “have good one.” It just seems so funny (my opinion) hearing “have a good one” come from younger girls, and because they are not actually saying “have a good day” they sometimes put a whine to it “have___ a good___ won____” almost as if they’re life is slipping away with the words they speak.

Then there is the “we’ll see ya,” this saying just kills me with laughter. Someone leaving and should be saying “good bye” or “good night” will instead say “we’ll see ya.” First thing about this is, who is “we’ll?” It is just one person leaving and how are you going to “see” me when you are leaving? Again I’m ok with you the reader thinking I am the crazy person here. But it is just part of my everyday OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and we all have a little OCD in us. Like most people I keep my OCD hidden from the world. I listen to what people say literally and it will sometimes stick in my head throughout the day. Most times I do laugh it off until I hear a so called “refined” New Jerseyan poking fun at how a Southerner speaks, calling him a “hayseed hick” or “red neck.” Oh yeah you’re going to make fun of the way a man from Alabama talks when you Mr. Jerseyan can not pronounce a word as simple as “water.” Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

So yesterday I was traveling with a friend in Eastern Pennsylvania and we stopped at lunchtime for a sandwich and the girl preparing the sandwich calls out my order number 580, I take the sandwich and say with a smile, “have a great day.” She then fires back with “have a good one.” I walk out the door thinking “wow” it has spread across the river to PA.

I know we all have our own way of talking and it is very much influenced by our local, surroundings and lifestyle. All I ask is; sometimes just take a little time and really listen to what people are saying and the way they pronounce their words, you may find it entertaining as I often do.

Also a funny note: I did some google searches on Jersey slang and the way people in New Jersey talk. But without diving too deep into the search all I could come up with was a bunch of gibberish about the bloated yellow cow “Snookie” or lines from the Sopranos. Both of which, have as about as much to do with real everyday life in New Jersey as the price of tea in China.