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.

 

 

 

Moving Forward for 2016 (But having a big set of guns never hurts to keep the world around you in line.)

Nixlot Dameus  1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 50mm

Nixlot Dameus
1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 50mm

Keeping true to my goal for creating images with impact for 2016 I worked with an incredible young man yesterday. Nixlot Dameus a seventeen year old athlete from Philadelphia Pennsylvania.  Nixlot immigrated to the USA from Haiti in 2007 and he has an amazing story to tell, more about that later.

I found Nixlot when he left a comment on one of my Instagram posts several months back and I started to follow him. I found him very interesting and I could see from his postings that he was strongly dedicated to his bodybuilding and weight training. His physique is obvious proof that this young man is motivated and that is what I want for a photo shoot. I want “motivated” people and I want them for a few reasons. One reason is motivated people are usually on time and come prepared, they are interesting and always on the move and most of all they have a great attitude towards life in general. I feel making an impactful image takes more than just a good camera & lens. All the editing in the world cannot add the impact that somebody like Nixlot brings to a project. I want to promote my photographic & editing capabilities and what better way than to get interesting and motivated subjects in front of my camera. So Nixlot did not disappoint at all and we had a very creative shoot. I would like to thank my friend Brendan for offering up his studio for the project and for his amazing input and ideas, a great help indeed.

If you’re reading this post, (obviously you are lol) just take a moment to remember the name “Nixlot Dameus” because I have a very good feeling you are going to see and hear about Nixlot’s accomplishments in the not so far off future. Nixlot has an amazing story about young little boy who felt the cold evil wrath of street bullies when he first arrived in Philly. In a way it is not a new story as I think we have all heard about people who overcome being bullied through whatever means or route they chose to escape it. But in my opinion there is only one true way to disarm a bully and that is a face to face stare down. Nixlot flipped the tables on the bullies and I think it is fair to say that no street bully in his right mind would dare cross this young man. In-fact while talking with Nixlot he said he now trains some of the guys who used to bully him. There really is a lot to be said for the power of love in this world, love yourself, love your family & god, and love all others too. But having a big set of guns never hurts to keep the world around you in line.

Nixlot is already an accomplished record-setting power lifting and bodybuilding athlete at his young age of 17 years old. Read more about his story here http://articles.philly.com/2015-11-01/sports/67904486_1_bodybuilding-haiti-marie-innocent

A Jazzy Afternoon

Chloe

Chloe

Today has been one of those relaxing days. You know where you have nothing scheduled… No work, no play, but yet still productive. I woke early and started tending to little tasks that are always in need of being done, yet somehow never get fully finished. You know things like cleaning out email and cleaning up my workspace where I edit. Somehow for me these days are far and few between. While I always do what needs to be done, I never seem to be relaxed about it. But today was one of those days that brings the hint of things to come. The air is quite cool today and the sky was sunny but has turned to gray and there is a brisk, calming breeze coming in my window. The house is quite and once in awhile the wind rattles the papers on my desk as the curtains flail and then fall again. I love jazz, smooth relaxing jazz, but I can only enjoy it… well, when I’m relaxed. Crazy I know, but relaxing music doesn’t relax me, I have to first be relaxed, then I can really enjoy it. Being relaxed and listening to smooth easy jazz is such an experience for me.
So the hint of things to come is the cool air, for I know Autumn is coming and it truly by far is my favorite time of the year. Holidays are so stressful, but Autumn is my time. Personally for me the Autumn and relaxing really go together, because it was the Fall of 1984 that I had spent totally incapacitated while recovering from a horrendous car wreck that had happened in August. I could not walk and I wore a horrible neck brace, so all I could do was either sit or lie on a bed. Some days a family member or friend would help me outside to the lawn swing where I would just sit by myself for hours. Just sitting and thinking, relaxing and enjoying life. I lived with my grandmother at that time and her house was at the end of a dead end road. How relaxing. Flat broke, no more car and lucky to be alive… just sitting watching to colors change day by day, talking with God and the birds. Occasionally a friend would stop by and ruin my day… Well not really, but you know what I mean lol. I couldn’t even play my guitar because my right arm had been broken, as well as my leg, foot, ankle and so much more.
So today I relax and at this time in my last life I like to sit and look
at my images.
So as the cool breeze brings light drops of rain I leave you with an image of Chloe. She is maybe the most spontaneous model I have ever met. Although this image is just her gazing at me she truly is a very talented person and spontaneity is her greatest asset.

Have a great day and thanks for reading.

Melina Martin at ESP (…let’s shoot our way out of this prison)

1/30 sec at f/2.8 ISO 1600 70 Lindsay Adler Lightroom preset “Dark Memory”

 

Model Melina Martin looked fabulous on Tuesday evening for the third and final photo shoot at Eastern States Penitentiary. Yes it was hot and very humid, but we made our way through the old shambles of the penitentiary and captured some nice images. Miss Martin is new and still learning and that is why I asked her to do this shoot. I wanted to give the young lady camera time and really just a chance to work with here again. I shot with her back in the spring time and she was amazing.

So as we entered inside of the walls at of ESP we started at a location I have not used before. I have always wanted to shoot around the old greenhouse, which by the way is in very good condition. I also found a second gate that has a medical cross on it. Located next to the greenhouse it must have been another entrance to the medical ward. The first well-known gate with a cross is located just off of the central rotunda in what would be numbered “Cell Block 3” but as  you head down that corridor about 50 feet you come to a locked gate with a medical cross the has remnants of red & white paint. This as I was always told was the main entrance to the medical area also known as “Cell Block 3”.

Crazy I know but the more I visit this creepy place the more I get to know it… and yes there is always the creep factor when I’m inside the walls of this 11 acre wasteland. The creepiness starts to rise when you have idle time and stop and actually look at any one particular thing. But I think the most intense feelings (for me personally) are stirred up when I walk through the earliest built cell blocks like #1 and #4. Just to think of that concept that once you (the prisoner) entered the cell block and walked into your cell that is where you stayed for the duration of your sentence, in that cell and the tiny court-yard located off the back off the cell. You had one hour a day in the court-yard and the walls are so high all you can see is the sky. And then someone will speak or make a loud noise and you come back to the reality that you here for a photo shoot. But it’s that short time you drift away that you think about the pain of that prisoner living a life of immense solitude. And I also think that maybe it was a fitting punishment for his crime. How many people did he murder? Or was it rape? Did he kill children? Yeah lots of crazy thoughts as I walk through that creepy old place. And then all of a sudden we stop walking and we’re at a shoot location and my mind comes back to f/ stops and ISO settings.

So for this day I used my all-time favorite window location at cell block 3, but I ran into technical problems with my radio flash and not having a lighting assistant of this day was really making me… well let’s just say “troubled” although I can think of a lot worse four letter words to use here. So I sent Melina off to change wardrobe as I worked out the issue and the issue turned out to be a controller not properly fitted to the camera’s hot shoe. Such a simple fix… after you replace speedlite batteries (that were ok to start with), change flash units and maybe ten other things… then you notice the controller is just not quite mounted correctly… duh!

I found a new location under a stairway that had a lot of crackled paint and that made for some nice shots, but very crowded area and that made for a lot of distractions. So at this point I said to Melina “Ok, I think we’re pretty much done for the night, but let’s shoot our way out of this prison, we’ll find other places to shoot as we work our way back to the exit.” And with that statement she busted out in laughter and I had no idea what she was laughing at. She said “shoot our way out of this prison that is so funny.” Then I started to laugh too. It did sound funny when you think about it.

So as we started to so-called “shoot our way” back to the exit I stopped at the junction where cell blocks 8 & 9 separate. There was very nice window light, soft and pleasing natural light. This is where we finished up the shoot and then headed back out through the main gate to Fairmount Avenue.

I look forward to next year.

Melina_ESP-7494

1/160 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 155mm

1/160 sec at f/8.0 ISO 50 70mm

1/160 sec at f/8.0 ISO 50 70mm

Old Stone And A Window at ESP (Some shots have Nicole with a vintage “Pillbox” hat and she looks so cute.)

1/125 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 70mm Nicole Gallagher, makeup by Jasmine Benton

1/125 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 70mm
Nicole Gallagher, makeup by Jasmine Benton. Wardrobe is a Florencia Fiume Corset Cream Lace Dress (circa early 80’s)

I really love this image because I feel it really sums up the outside look and feel of the Eastern States Penitentiary location. As I stated in my last post I am more drawn towards the old windows, doorways, stone walls and walkways then I am the prison cells. This image has the stones and the decaying window with remnants of chipping paint. Of course it also has Nicole in a nice pose showing off the Florencia Fiume Corset Cream Lace Dress (circa early 80’s) and we can see her full face with some depth behind her. Nicole is standing in the short corridor that leads from the central hallway to the entrance of the medical ward and I am positioned outside in a small court-yard like area that leads to the main gates that the prisoners would use to enter the sports fields.

As for all the photographers who want to know the technical info; I was using a Canon 6D (full size sensor) with a 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. On camera I have a ST-E3-RT radio Speedlite controller that is firing a Canon 600EX-RT radio flash on the inside of the hallway and it is located just to Nicole’s left side. The 600EX-RT is mounted in a Wescott 26 inch Rapid Box beauty dish that is mounted to an Impact brand Quick Stick that was being held by the lighting assistant. The use of the light gave separation to the model and added depth to the hallway behind her.

My camera settings are 1/125 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 70mm. 70mm I thought was perfect for the half body shot and at the shallow depth of field setting of f/2.8 and putting the focus point on her closest eye let the window frame fall out of focus just a bit.

Now for the edit; all I can say is it started in Lightroom CC then over to Photoshop CC and back to Lightroom CC. I do keep notes on my edits (see screenshots) when they are strong like this one, just in case I need to return to the file and re-edit. I write my notes on top of the image and I make maps of what was fixed and how. For some this might seem crazy, but for me it is how I work in Photoshop… it is how I create.

For an image like this the workflow starts at the location with a shot of the Passport Color Checker (by X-Rite) so I can create a camera color profile specific to the actual scene. Then in Photoshop color cast is removed and I will add my own white balance. I’m not concerned with proper whit balance because I am doing what I call a creative edit. Then it is on to the normal stuff like blemish removal and that was easy because my model already looks great. Trimming a few distracting fly away hairs and then on to the real creative work using Nik Color Efex Pro 4, Camera RAW filter and output sharpeners. Then Emily Soto custom Photoshop Actions and I believe I used the “Lydia” action and made several personal adjustments to my own taste. And… then back to Lightroom for some “split toning” and cropping and then done.

Going back to the topic of white balance for a minute, I would like to say that I actually am very concerned about white balance at the time of shooting because if I want to do a standard edit I need proper white balance and the Color Checker will provide that. But when I do my color cast removal process in Photoshop it brings me back to a clear kind of “cool” white balance and I will start my edit from that point.

There will be more images to come from this shoot but this was one of my favorites… not “the” favorite, but one of them. Some shots have Nicole with a vintage “Pillbox” hat and she looks so cute.

 

Thanks for reading.

Screenshots

Screenshot 2015-06-19 20.54.58 Screenshot 2015-06-19 20.55.11

Street Photo of The Day (Pennsylvania Convention Center)

Pennsylvania Convention Center

1/80 sec at f/2.0 ISO 80 6mm Canon G-15

Was so busy I forgot to post this “Street” style photo from Tuesday while I was in Philadelphia. I did not have the DSLR available but I did have my wife’s trusty point & shoot Canon G-15 that shoots in RAW.

Part 2 Improving Your Photography Skills (the power of the personal photography assignment)

Model Cynthia Ann with hair & makeup by Aryn Wilson.

Model Cynthia Ann with hair & makeup by Aryn Wilson.

Part one of two:
If you really want to grow as a photographer you have to be challenged. Imagine a video game with one level… Kind of doesn’t really exist and why? Boring! How about a race where you are the only competitor? Not much of a challenge. But take anything we do in life and add a challenge to it and it becomes interesting. After all what is life in and of its self? Just a bunch of challenges, that’s it, just a bunch of challenges.
So you want to grow as a photographer? Give yourself a challenge. Or as I like to call them “assignments.” It doesn’t matter whether you are a total beginner or a professional, or whether you are a hobby shooter that just got a new camera for Christmas. Or a working commercial photographer. I can tell you first hand that there is no greater thing that you could be doing to improve your photography skills than going out and capturing images. But the process must be focused and have a purpose or a goal. It must have an end result that you want to accomplish. Example; you say to yourself “I have the whole day free and I want to go and capture images and just have fun.” Ok… Was there any kind of plan? Or are you just gonna go out the door and hope something happens. Now don’t get me wrong, walking out the door with the camera and having it with you all the time is a great habit to get into. After all I wrote a post sometime back about the best way to capture an amazing photo is to first have the camera with you. Sounds stupid I know, so yes always have some sort of camera with you… And don’t get me started on the “well I always have my iPhone.”
Now let’s get to it. Think of what it is you want to get better at. Do you want to take better portraits? Maybe you want to improve your landscape skills. How about you shooters that would like to capture sports? Or do you just want to improve a specific skill? Myself a few years back I decided I wanted to improve my long exposure skills. But rather than just going out and letting something happen I decided to give myself an assignment and make something happen. In the end I hit my goal and the accomplishment felt good, not to mention I had a few great images that I could print and hang up. The images drew lots of compliments and most of all I improved my long exposure skills and I have that tool under my belt. I don’t always shoot long exposure, however it is so nice that when I want to do it, I can. It makes a nice skill for capturing exotic backgrounds that I use in my Photoshop composites. And it all started with a personal assignment. Here is a breakdown of what I did.
I looked at a lot of long exposure photos at the various places I visit on the web. I read as much as I could on the subject, also spent some time at Youtube. But it doesn’t matter whether you read ten books, watch twenty videos and talk to fifty people about it. You still have to go out and do it. Now for long exposures a photographer needs a neutral density filter for the lens. It helps block light allowing the shutter to stay open for long periods of time hence the term long exposure. So I purchased the filter and then I chose a location. Many photographers like to capture moving clouds or moving water with long exposure. I chose water because it is always available. Clouds on the other hand are not always optimum or there may just be no clouds that day. So I have the equipment, the location, the subject and I chose a day when I had plenty of time available. My assignment was to successfully capture some great long exposures of a sunken forest and a local reservoir. The image would show the old tree trunks rising up out of what would look like ice.
So where’s the challenge you might ask. First and for most I chose a very cold day in the winter to do this and that was no fun. But that is when I had the free time and it increased the challenge. The rest was just a matter of calculating how long to keep the shutter open and composing or framing up the scene. Not falling in the water or getting the camera and gear wet also added to the challenge. After about 3 hours I was ready to call it a day and head home. Upon downloading the images and to see my work unfold in front of me was very rewarding. Then came all the fun of editing and choosing whether to keep the color or go with a black & white. In the end I hit my goal and learned a new photography skill along the way.
Now I challenge you to give yourself an assignment. Plan it out, read about it or take a class on it. Write it out and make a plan. Gather the gear you need. Purchase the proper gear or borrow from a friend. Make a gear checklist and plan your date, time and subject. Expect the unexpected after all it is a challenge. Do the assignment with another photographer. Some people are motivated to workout at the gym with a workout partner, so maybe you can do this with your assignment.
In part two, I will talk about a much larger and more complex assignment.
Part Two:
In part one I spoke about how giving yourself personal assignments will cause you to grow as a photographer. My previous post gave a real life example of what a personal photography assignment is. Because I continually want to grow as a photographer and as an artist I have actually given myself harder assignments as time goes on. Last year I decided that needed (not wanted) to learn how to work with models and conduct both location shoots and studio shoots. So I laid out a personal project that involved finding an interesting location and I put together a team and did the shoot. Two models, two hair & makeup artists and a clothing designer. I learned a lot and had fun along the way. The location being the old Eastern States Penitentiary made for a very interesting location and was very challenging because we could not start shooting until 5:00pm. The biggest challenge was light or I should say the lack of light. Plus when your shooting with a team of people there is the challenge of getting everybody and everything to come together. Then there were the micro assignments leading up to the shoot. Things like planning out the locations to shoot within the location itself. This required two trips to ESP to look and decipher what windows, doorways or hallways would be the best spots. In the end I captured some nice images but I know I should have done better.
The studio project went much better, I had scheduled three models for the day and two stylists/makeup artists. The day of, two models and one makeup artist actually showed up and in the end we captured nice images. Sometimes I link one project to another. The images captured at the studio shoot would later be used for another project, where I would use the studio images to make composites in Photoshop. The backgrounds for the composites would come from Thailand. I had a personal trip planned for traveling to Thailand and I thought this would be a great opportunity to make a specific goal of seeking out locations and capturing images to be used for backgrounds to finalize the Photoshop composites.
As I have come to learn with photography not only do personal projects create growth in knowledge and real life experiences, but the projects are what people notice if you use the power of social media to let the world see what it is you’re doing. After all, I could post all of the photos of customers that I have done portraits for and while the photographs may look nice, they are nothing more than just portraits, nice but not that interesting to the mainstream. But when you do something as simple as dressing a model up as a scarecrow it all of the sudden gets people’s attention and lets them see something more interesting than just a portrait.
So now for the upcoming year I have been planning out my projects and most will be moving in the same direction as last year, while at the same time being a little different and… yes more interesting. Certainly there will be projects that will center on making more composite images in Photoshop because this is the overall direction I want to follow as an artist. I’m using my photography as a skill or tool to actually create and therefore I feel I am more an artist than a photographer. I guess you could say an artist with a camera.
I will say it again “no matter what your skill level, if you want to grow as a photographer, give yourself a personal assignment.” It really is a lot of fun and it will give you the skills to improve your shots at the next family wedding, maybe the next vacation or just having fun with the kids and grandchildren. Just do it and have fun.

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