Misdirection (…like a car spinning tires in the mud… when in reality you are sitting still no matter how far down you push the gas pedal.)

What you are about to read is my advice to help a new model who is just starting out and needs direction and understanding of what a photographer is looking for in a Time for Print model. Some of this information you may not agree with and that is ok. I base this information on my own experience of working with models over the past several years and many of those models were young men & women who had a dream, they were new and they were lost as to where to and how to start. I would always offer any new model who stepped in front of my camera information that they could carry with them and that I feel would help them as they moved forward on their journey. In fact, there is actually a plethora of information that could be given but, let me start with what I feel is some of the most important information that covers a new models biggest weakness.

Emotion & Expression; I cannot over express this by any means. So many models lack emotion & expression, they stand in front of the camera and look like a ghost or a stick. Other than some times smiling and smiling is a good thing (sometimes) which is a natural thing to do in front of a camera, a model needs to learn how to show emotion. Emotion needs not only be expressed in the face but, also the body. Sounds easy to read it here in words but, if it was really that easy then everyone would be a great model… everyone is not a great model however, I feel anyone can be a great model if they learn how to pose and do it with emotion & expression.

So, now you are asking; where and how do I learn how to pose with emotion? There is no one size fits all answer to that question but… This is what I would do if I was a model. I would first take a serious look at professional models; I mean a serious look at poses and so much more. Choose some models that you like or that you are familiar with and use the power of social media to dissect what they do and how they do it. Let’s just take one professional model to use as an example. Let’s use Coco Rocha. Why Coco Rocha? Well there are a few reasons I am using her as an example. For one she is one of the greatest models of the time we are living in right now. Second; she wrote a book about posing “A Study of Pose” with 1000 poses. That book just didn’t write itself, her and a photographer passionately spent countless hours, days and months on that project. In fact; I have given her book as a gift to models who I feel are worthy and are driven. Third; I am a huge Coco Rocha fan and I would recommend anyone who is aspiring to be a paid model to follow her Instagram. Practically every prost on her Instagram is a modeling lesson if you take the time to breakdown what she is actually doing. She is a master of her trade, and a word of advice; do not ignore a master, whether you like or dislike their personality you should always bow to the fact that they are a master of their trade and they hold a wealth of information, they hold the map of the road you need to travel to achieve your goals and reach your dreams.

Coco Rocha knows how to show emotion and not just with her face, she will use her body in pose with emotion & expression and also at times use wardrobe to help convey emotion into a pose. And of course, she makes it look easy… and of course it is not as easy as it always looks. So, what do you do?  Practice it! Practice being Coco Rocha and if she is not your thing then find a model who is and practice them. It is ok to mimic a professional model when you are an amateur. It takes me back to my younger days when I first started to learn guitar. Like many musicians I would learn a cover song and play it just like the original, note for note. Then in due time once I knew that song like the back of my hand, I would improvise on the lead lines & solos and soon my personal style would start coming through. Do the same with your posing, mimic somebody and keep doing it until you start to develop your own style. And really that is the key thing here “developing your own style” but in the beginning you have no style. By mimicking you can eventually develop a style. When I started out as a guitar player, I would mimic such greats as Eric Clapton and then move on to another guitarist, all while retaining just a little bit of Clapton in my style. So, while I am just using Coca Rocha as an example, don’t just look at her. Mimic her and move on to another model and then another model and so on. Learning only stops when you leave this earth, if you have a passion you will keep learning something everyday of your life.

Tiffany In The Rain

What kind of a model do you want to be? Today there are so many avenues to pursue. Of, course you have the standards like runway & print. However, there are so many more genres of modeling like spokes models, fitness models, promotional/event models and many more. In the beginning most people really don’t know what road to take they just want to get their feet wet in front of the camera and there is nothing wrong with that. So, let’s talk a little more about being in front of the camera because I find that a new model will sometimes be clueless as to what they are supposed to do and not do and what they should know or not know before they step in front of the camera. I’ll run through what I think is the biggest question that usually comes to mind.

“Will the photographer give me directions on how to pose or am I supposed to know how to pose already?” This sounds like a silly question to some but, I found this question to be on the mind of a lot of new models.

Answer: If you are a new model and you have been truthful and said you are new model then I am going to expect that you know very little. I will direct your posing and help & walk you through it. I cannot really speak for other photographers; I can only speak for me. I use common sense; I tell people up front that I have one rule that must be followed and that rule is simply “we must have fun.” If we are not having fun then we pack up and go home. So, the mood is “lighthearted and easy going.” I will give you direction and you will respond; we create a photo and move on to the next pose.

Ah the next pose… Again, this is where a lot of new models fall flat and that is moving from one pose to another or running out of poses after two minutes of shooting. I have found that there are actually a few ways to look at this so let’s dive in here and break it down because this is where some photographers are in the wrong and not the model (in my opinion).

So, here is the setup; It is an outdoor shoot and a photographer and a model are standing next to a very ornamental lamp post on a street corner. The model is new and she will need direction, the photographer will need to move her through the poses.

Nam 1/125 sec at f/3.2 ISO 4000 142mm

 

Ok if I was the photographer in this situation, I would shoot about 10 different poses or angles and move on. It would be about 30 photos and that would be 3 photos of each pose and this is generally speaking, it could be more or less. I typically shoot 3 photos every time I push the shutter button. I do this to account for the model blinking their eyes, lip movement and other natural quirks that can often ruin a great shot. I move on because if I am directing the model, I do not want to bore them, I want to keep things moving along. I want to keep the flow going and if I spend too much time in anyone spot or location, I notice that the model (especially a new model) will start to get flatter than they already are. If I want more shots of that lamp post we could always come back to it, keeping in mind that in my experience “the best shots often come at the end of the shoot” when the model has loosened up a bit.

Now in many cases a new model may be shooting with a new photographer and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. I remember being new to shooting with models and boy did I make some stupid mistakes. One mistake was “not knowing when to move on to a different set of poses or location and I would bore the model and make her as I say “go flat.” Going flat is when he/she just doesn’t respond to your direction as well as they should and often times, they are just getting tired and want to end the shoot but, may not tell you they want to end the shoot for fear of offending you.

Now let’s take a look at the same scenario but with a model who doesn’t need too much direction. Again, here we are photographer and model at this same interesting lamp post on the street corner. The model may be very experienced or she may be an amateur that has a very good understanding of posing. She will run through her standard poses, changing poses after every 2 to 3 chicks of the shutter, she will be moving her body and her facial expressions and freezing them just long enough for the camera to capture. All the while she is doing her thing, she is using the lamp post as a prop and incorporating it into her poses and the photographer should also be changing angles and (in this scenario) I would most likely start moving 360 degrees around the model & lamp post while shooting high & low. In comparison to the first scenario this sounds like a lot of work and we are in this location a long time. In reality it is maybe a little longer but, not by much because the model is going to keep it going and only stopping for things like straightening her wardrobe or removing hair across her face ect…

I have found that when a model is experienced in posing the only direction, I have to give is technical stuff usually related to light or wind direction. I have worked with models who were as I say “a toy, you wind them up and let them go” and they do their own thing and it is like magic.

So, I think that covers the most basic question a new model is thinking about when they first shoot with an experienced photographer. I say this based on my experience with the many new models I have shot with over the years. In asking them questions before the shoot or in some cases when we reminiscing about our first shoot together and the models tells me how nervous they were that day and the stuff that was running through their mind.

As I stated earlier in this post “I try to give people some kind of helpful information they can take with them on their journey.” There is nothing more I love than seeing people chasing their dream and moving forward on their journey to where ever it is they are going. We all have hopes, goals and dreams and aside from “not letting anyone steal your dream” one of the biggest slow downs is “fear and misdirection.” Fear, if you have it, you know you have it. We all fight fear on our own levels. But misdirection is something that we are often unaware of, we are kind of clueless and we don’t even realize it.

Looking at my Instagram feed just a little while ago and I see a few amateur models I follow who are totally clueless to posing and the use of emotion & expression. I truly feel bad for the one girl because at this time she has 325 post on her IG that are all model shots and in nearly every one of the photos she has the same exact look on her face. In nearly every shot she is looking straight at the camera and has the same exact blank look on her face. Don’t get me wrong the “blank stare” could actually be a pose but, when you do it 300 times in a row it becomes sad and it show that she is clueless about posing. Furthermore, it shows the photographers that she is working with are also clueless. Many people today use Instagram to showcase their modeling or photography and will have a dedicated account separate from their personal account. It gives people a place to see your body of work. I can tell you right now that 10 photos are all it really takes to capture someone’s interest in what you do. Someone looks at 10 of your photos and if they’re really interested, they will look at another 10 and that is just human nature. Going beyond 20 photos they are now investigating and not just looking. Imaging pulling up someone’s IG feed and seeing the first 10 photos all taken at different times and yet the model has the same expression on her face in every photo. You give your thumb a fast slide across the screen and spin down through her feed only to stop on another photo with the same exact expression the only thing different is the wardrobe. I know it sounds like I am really ripping on this girl and in a way, I am but, let’s look even closer.

This person is really putting a lot of time into what she is doing, she is planning a schedule, her makeup and hair always look great and in fact her overall look is good. I’m sure she has some sort of hopes, goals and dreams to progress at what she is doing. However, the chances go down drastically when every shoot produces the same exact look every time. You are like a car spinning tires in the mud. Stepping on the gas pedal produces a noise like you are going somewhere, when in reality you are sitting still no matter how far down you push the gas pedal. In my opinion this girl suffers from misdirection and not understanding how to make her images more interesting. Just imagine if she understood this concept… now those 350 images on her IG would look a whole lot better.

In this post I only begin to scratch the very tiniest tip of the iceberg that is modeling and I hope this information helps someone. Remember the only thing more important than you is your dream. At all costs, never let someone steal your dream, for if they steal your dream, they also steal a piece of your soul and you let them do it.

Thank you for reading and god bless.

 

 

Pig Roast in Ban Kamin Thailand (…everyone sits and eats together, this reminds me of my childhood…)

On my 2019 trip to Thailand I had a chance to capture some video of a pig roast in a local village. Although the video is not of professional quality it does show a very interesting way to roast a whole pig and I really thought the process from beginning to end was interesting & amazing.

So, this blog post will actually appear in two places, it will be posted to my photography blog and it will also be on my BBQ blog. I am a professional barbeque chef going into my 24th year of business and I have been a working photographer for about 10 years as well.

Let me first give you the setup of this story and before you click on the video, I will tell you it is not a short video. Personally, I don’t like short videos when it comes to something like this, I want to see everything that is going on… or at least as much as possible. Today we live in a world of short attention spans and instant gratification however I’m an old school dinosaur and my video is a bit longer.

Thai Pig Roast

I am married to a wonderful Thai lady and I promised her before we were married that every year, she would travel back to Thailand to be with family and friends. Myself, I try to go as often as my budget will allow, usually every other year. Sadly, it had been three years since I had been to Thailand. So, I decided 2019 was a “must do” year for Thailand and I would stay for the full 30 days of my visa. I spent 11 on Kho Kood (island) and then I traveled by pickup truck from the boat dock at Trat all the way to Ban Kamin (village) in the Kalasin Province. It was an epic trip and took a lot longer than planned due to poor planning on my wife’s part and too much stopping along the way. But we had fun.

So, after an epic 26 hours without sleep I arrived in the village around 8:00am on November 30, 2019. My Thai family was extremely excited of me coming to visit and that I would be staying for two weeks. I love my Thai family so much, they are all just the most awesome, kind and caring people, I truly am blessed to have them all in my life.

After arriving in the morning and meeting with some family members I put my things in my room and started to unpack camera gear. Quickly, I ran out of energy and tried to sleep a little. It is very hard for me to sleep when the sun is up, even if I am tired. So, I just gave up on the quest to sleep and started drinking coffee in hopes to some how salvage the day and be a bit productive. I don’t speak very much Thai although I usually understand what is going on around me. I was staying at my sister-in-law’s house although my wife’s little house is just around the corner. We could not stay at our house because the toilet was not working (due to lack of use).

I walked outside about 10:30am and Mi had just arrived back from Kalasin City (about 20 minutes away) with a small pig. I first thought it would-be put-on ice for cooking later… I was dead wrong because he went right to work preparing this pig for roasting and to eat later that night. It was at this time I realized that they (the family) were planning a big meal in honor of my arrival and I was really taken back by this. I have been part of this family for ten years now and it seems like the love only grows stronger every year.

So, when I see the pig, I ran quickly to grab a camera, I had several cameras with me from small to large, from simple to complex. I wished I had known there was going to be this pig roast and I would have certainly been more prepared. I really would have liked to shot the scenes on the Blackmagic 6K camera. But, the Blackmagic 6K takes time to setup and assemble sadly, I had broken down the setup to make it easier to travel. Being tired when I first arrived, I figured I would assemble the Blackmagic the next day when my mind was fresh. So, I was left with the DJI Osmo Action camera. I had never owned and action camera and I kind of thought “it might be a good time” to buy one seeing’s as how I would be traveling to Thailand and all.  So, out the door I go to the side of the house where they are preparing the pig, all the while I am not even thinking about how they will cook the pig. Well, that question was soon answered when I seen Mi start to prepare a spot right there in the dirt next to the driveway. Instead of asking questions I just stood off to the side and watched everything that was going on. I started to record video of anything that I thought would be an important step in what he was doing. I might also mention Mi works at the University in Kalasin City. It is an agricultural University and he takes care of the livestock in the Swine division. Needless to say “this guy knows all things about pigs.”

He was a “man with a plan” and I could tell this was not his first time roasting a pig. Actually, I had heard and seen pictures of him roasting pigs and my wife had said that someday they would cook a pig while I was in the village… and today was that day. Mi had already prepared some sort of a marinade of sorts. I could tell be the smell it had garlic and lemon grass in it but, I also knew there was so much more. He used a strainer to separate the mushy herbs from the liquid. Mi soon recruited his teenage son and another young male family member to help with injecting the marinade while he moved on to preparing the cooking location. After marinade injecting was done everybody was working on constructing the roasting oven. I found this to be quite interesting. It was nothing more that a rectangle box made from corrugated tin roofing. It looked very odd and make-shift but, not all that unfamiliar. I had actually seen something very similar here in the USA about 30 years ago when I had attended a pig roast at a local Rod & Gun club here in Hunterdon County New Jersey.

(side story) It was really kind of funny because I go (as a customer) to this local public pig roast that was a yearly event at the local Rod & Gun Club and there were three old timers cooking three pigs, each was cooking his pig a different way and all three pigs were huge about 200 lbs. One old guy had constructed a little “hut” of sorts, made from tin roofing. The coals were directly on the ground and the pig had been cooking since the day before. He would remove a few pieces of the tin and hack away at the meat until he seen bloody meat, then he would replace the tin and keep cooking. This all took place about four years before I started my own pig roasting business and I always used this memory as a benchmark of “how not to cook a pig.” Ironically enough earlier this year that Rod & Gun Club hired my business to do their yearly pig roast. The old timers are long since gone and it was time to move on to a better way of cooking pigs.

Now back to Thailand… He I see Mi is constructing a similar tin roof cooker but somehow, I just know this tin roof oven is going to work just fine. First off, the pig is a lot smaller and I know Mi has done this many times. Once it was finished, I could see the dynamics of how it would work. It was a box with heat in the bottom, a lid to keep the heat in and the pig would be rotated above the heat source. And the heat source would be hardwood charcoal. It doesn’t really take a lot of fire to cook a pig if the oven is closed, too much heat the pig will cook too quick on the outside and not be done on the inside. So, soon the oven was finished and the pig was cooking. The pig actually went on the fire at 12:45pm and I knew it would several hours of slow cooking. Now my eyes were getting heavy and the heat of the day plus the lack of sleep were all taking their toll on my body, it was time to get some much-needed rest. I found my way to the little “couch” as they called it. Actually, it was a small “loveseat” but in this Thai village they were calling it a couch. I knew when nightfall came my wife would prepare Thai pillows on the floor as an actual bed but for now, I had to make this loveseat work. Impossible? Nothing is impossible when you have been awake for 30+ hours. I slept on the loveseat for 4 hours, a small fan on the floor blowing a gentle breeze my way and when I awoke, I was a new man. It was the best 4 hours of sleep and somehow, I found that little loveseat to be very comfortable.

November days are short, I wake about 5:00pm and it is dark already. I can hear lots of voices coming from the back of the house and I slowly make my way back there. As I step out, I see lots of food being prepared… what a relief because this means I have not really missed any of the fun. And how about that pig?… I already had my camera in hand as I walked towards the pig. Nobody was around, everybody was in the back of the house so I just stood there and looked at the tin roof oven. The aroma coming from the roasting pig was amazing, the garlic and lemon grass… as they say in Thai sap sap.

Around 6:00pm the lid came ff the pig. It was done and it looked so good. But it had to wait because we were waiting for other family members to arrive. Not everybody had the day off work and the ones we were waiting for are some of my most favorites people to be with. Soon everyone was there and it was time to eat. Eating with my Thai family is a joy beyond compare to anything I would do in the USA. First of all everyone sits and eats together, this reminds me of my childhood when my family would all sit and eat dinner together… it seems like a dream when I think about how different times were here in the USA when most all families spent time together on a daily basis. With my Thai family it is still that way, we are all together and there is always lots of talking and the mood is always good.

Oh, and that pig… It was cooked to perfection. The taste was out of this world. The skin wasn’t super crispy but it was editable. The meat was over the top delicious, I couldn’t stop eating it and that is really saying something because, while I cook pigs for a living, I rarely eat a lot of pork. I will eat from the pigs I cook at a party but, it is usually just a few little pieces. With Mi’s pig I could have just kept eating… and made a pig of myself lol.

So, there you have it a pig roast in my honor, I am so blessed to have such a wonderful family in Thailand, I love them all so much.

Thai Pig Roast in Ban Kamin Thailand from Lenzwizard on Vimeo.

Love at 1/2000 of a second in the land of smiles.

This is probably one of my most favorite photos of my current trip to Thailand. Actually it could be one of my most favorite Thai photos of all time. Like all photos there’s a back story and this one is very heartwarming.

The backstory starts with me first telling you how wonderfully treated Americans are here in Thailand. Now of course when you’re in the tourist area everyone is treated nice because… you’re in a tourist area of course. However once I venture out into heartland of the country the smiles and the hospitality are amazing.

I spent the day traveling with family far away from the village, about a two-hour Journey. We were going to see a few different locations where I could fly my drone and capture some wonderful photography. For the first half of the journey I rode in the front seat of the pickup truck taking in all the sights along the way. But as we got ready to turn around and head back I decided to ride in the back of the pickup truck. Riding in the back of the pickup truck allows me to take in the sights but at the same time it allows me to capture a lot of nice candid photos as we’re traveling.

This sounds like fun and actually it is a lot of fun but as a photographer it’s not the easiest thing to do. As a photographer we just want to be able to steady our camera and get a nice shot. riding in the back of a pickup truck is not smooth by any means. The camera settings are very important most of all the shutter speed. You want to be able to capture a photo in an instant. So while riding in the back of the truck I usually keep my shutter speed set to a constant 1/2000 of a second. Even still the photos are not going to be perfect however you are going to capture that moment instantly.

So for this photo I’m riding in the back of the truck and the backstory is how attentive some people are at what is happening around them. Sure I’m the photographer and I’m constantly turning my head to see what’s going on around me. I’m riding down the road I don’t know exactly how fast we’re going and if you’re the passerby you’re not going to see me until the truck has gone by and you look in the back of the truck.

So as I’m whizzing by this roadside market area, this lady looks up and in a Split Second she sees me and she gets a huge smile on her face and gives me the okay sign. I only captured one frame before she was out of sight. But in that one frame I caught the heartwarming happiness and the huge smile of somebody who is happy to have their photo taken. Think about it, in just that Split Second she looks up and identifies a Caucasian guy sitting in the back of a truck with a camera. And that expression on her face truly is the feeling that I feel just about everywhere I travel in this wonderful country called Thailand. For many of my friends I know you will never feel the joy of coming to this land of Many Wonders and smiles. And for those of my friends who have already been here many of them often overlooked the true beauty of this country and the people within it. There’s so much that I could say about the feeling that I get when I travel through this country. Someday I know I will complete my Photography book about Thailand, I started the project several years ago and the biggest problem I have is deciding which photos to include in the book. However I do believe I have found the cover photo for the book. My only regret is that I would never be able to find this lady and thank her for her wonderful smile.

Many people come to Thailand and take photos of all the beautiful temples and other scenery. I have to say I like those photos to but, the most important photos to me are the faces of the people and their everyday life.

Note: I still yet have to go through my GPS log to identify the location where this was taken.

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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What Phone Did You Use? (envisioning myself beaten, bruised and bloody in a snowbank at the end of the parking lot)

Nam 1/125 sec at f/3.2 ISO 4000 142mm

What Phone Did You Use?

It was nearly 6:00pm on a Cold windy February evening when myself and a group of friends had finished our joyous dinner and were leaving the restaurant. Earlier I had promised my two friends that once we met up, I would take a few nice photos of them. Nothing special, just a few good photos. Knowing I am a photographer this would be a little treat of sorts for them. 99% of the time I have my camera bag with me and there is always a body with a full frame sensor, a 24-70mm and yes, always the 70-200mm both f/2.8 lenses. Also, there is always a radio controlled speedlite or two, but who the hell wants to use those when there is natural light to glorify already natural beauty.

However, the day did not go nowhere near as planned. I was to leave point “A” and pickup Nam & Kukik at point “B” and return to point “A” to retrieve my wife from shopping and we would all go to dinner. We had also planned that somewhere along the way we would find a spot for a little photo shoot. Nothing particular just a spot with good lighting so the girls could have some nice photos and then off to dinner.

Sadly, the trip from point A to point B involved driving in mid-Saturday afternoon traffic in North/Central New Jersey. When we think of bad traffic, we have visions of LA or Bangkok, however parts of New Jersey are just as bad. I know the area well so I know all the shortcuts and alternate routes. But on this day what should have been a 25-minute ride turned into almost 2 hours, mostly due to congestion and fender benders.

Kukik 1/125 sec at f/3.2 ISO 6400 115mm

Needless to say, I was able to finally get to Kukik and minutes later pick up Nam. However, I knew that by time I got back to point “A” where I had left my wife there would be little time for a photo shoot and dinner takes priority because… well because it is food lol and I know everyone was hungry and darkness would fall soon.

I start thinking to myself “maybe the girls forgot about the photos.” And as we’re eating and having a wonderful time enjoying this wonderful get-together, no one says anything about the photo shoot. I mean it was not etched in stone or anything, it was just me taking a few quick shots of these lovely Thai beauties.

But I was forgetting a few things here; first thing I was forgetting is that the whole point of this get together was because Kukik would soon be leaving to live in California and we would not be able to see her to often anymore. The second thing I was forgetting was the fact I had told two women I would take their photo. So, forget about the first part of Kukik moving away, the big tragedy here is that I told not one, but two women I would take their photo. As you can clearly see I need to find a way at 6:00pm on a cold dark windy winter night to take a nice photo of these to young ladies or I may never hear the end of this.

As we leave the restaurant no one has yet said anything about the photos, but I have this feeling building inside that “what if?” kind of feeling. What if they say “hey you said you would take our photo?” Of course, as a photographer I could justify not taking the photos for many reasons; There is not enough light, it is too cold or too windy… But then what kind of a friend would I be? The core part of my OCD is not letting people down, be it a client or a friend “if I told somebody I was going to do something I will do it at any cost or I just can’t live with myself.” They are very good friends and wonderful people and I know they would forgive me, sadly I would never forgive myself.

Nam 1/12 sec at f/3.2 ISO 2500 150mm

So again, as we walk out of the restaurant, I am scanning the area and I see this wonderful window light coming from this rather large thrift store. Most thrift stores are small and tucked away, but this store is large and has big windows just gushing with light.

We make our way to the vehicle and the moment of truth has arrived. The girls are talking Thai with my wife and I know very little Thai. But I do know enough to know when they are talking about me and more-so I can tell by the “heartbroken” tone of their voices that they are asking about the camera and the photos. As they’re all talking, I’m playing the scenario through my head of me telling them “it’s too dark or too cold” and then envisioning myself beaten, bruised and bloody in a snowbank at the end of the parking lot lol.

Needless to say, by looking at the photos that are posted here I used the window light and I feel it made some really nice lighting for a quick shoot. I pulled my vehicle right up in front of the store and stopped in the “No Parking” fire lane and we all got out and the girls were happy to say the least.

Three things came together (in my opinion) that made these images as good as they are. First was the full frame sensor. It doesn’t matter the brand of the camera, they’re all good, Sony, Canon, Nikon and all the rest. If you have a full-size sensor shooting in low light can yield amazing results. All though it seemed the window light was extremely bright, in reality it is not. It appears bright because everything else is dark, it is night time. Most of the images came in around 2500-6400 ISO and on a full frame sensor that is easily doable these days.

Kukik 1/125 sec at f/3.2 ISO 6400 115mm

Second thing that made the images as good as they are is that the lens was good and fast. I was using my (pry it from my cold dead hands) 70-200mm f/2.8. I had my camera set to manual, shutter at 1/125 sec, f/3.2 and auto ISO. If the ISO went above 3200, I would have the girls move closer to the window or zoom out a bit. If they were too close the shot didn’t look good because the glass would be in frame and it did not look pleasing. Also, most of the photos were shot at 115mm or higher which gave a good compression for the leading lines of the walkway in the background.

And the third thing that made the images as good as they could be on a cold windy winter night was the “even lighting” coming from the store. It was bright and soft. It was not the best lighting, but it was the soft enough and that was all I needed. I started shooting with Nam who has never been in front of my camera before. Next up was Kukik who has been in front of my camera and then of course there is going to be no stopping both girls getting shots together. It truly was one of those fun moments in life that we will always remember. One of the hardest parts of our lives is identifying those moments as they’re happening. As I was watching the girls I realized “this was one of those moments.”

Then the shoot was over in an instant… I seen the flashing lights of the parking security vehicle coming our way and I yelled for everybody to get back to the truck and we pulled away.

But as we pulled away my wife and the girls start commenting on the fact it was a thrift store and they hadn’t gone inside. Yep, I think you can see where this is going to lead. So, I quickly linked my tablet to the camera WiFi and asked each girl to “pick one good photo of themselves” and I would edit it while the were shopping. “one good photo each,” yeah, right, that is like asking a kid to take only one piece of candy. So as the girls headed off to the thrift shop, I stayed behind and using Lightroom CC Mobile I edited a few photos and posted them to Instagram and sent them copies as well.

Nam 1/12 sec at f/3.2 ISO 2500 150mm

Later the next day I did take a few of the images into Photoshop and put them to a better edit. However, the best part of this whole story is; we realized Kukik has a few more weeks here in New Jersey so why not plan another good day to get together and have fun and we did just that. Before I returned the girls home, we all sat looking at our calendars and set a date.

 

Hey thanks so much for stopping by and reading, have a great day.

 

My Extra Right Hand (I am looking for an individual who in very energetic, more energetic than me.)

 

Model: Kendall 2015

My Extra Right Hand

To I want to talk about working with an assistant and how much easier life can be.

I think anyone would agree that having an assistant would make life easier; So why then would I post about it? While it seems like a “no brainer” I still see many photographers working without an assistant. I seen wedding photographers hire a second shooter, but no assistant and I cannot understand why.

First let me say that I have another business aside from my photography and I realized a long time ago the power that having an assistant can give you and how much pressure is taken away when I have a really hectic job to do. My other business is catering and we mostly cook on-site. For me it is not high pressure anymore because I have been doing it for over 20 years. However, I didn’t hire an assistant until about 5 years in. Sure, I had people working for me as employees, but one day I realized that “maybe I need an assistant.”

So, you’re most likely thinking “well what’s the difference between the two?” Employees in my opinion are workers who have a more or less defined set of tasks that they perform on a regular basis, whereas an assistant is someone who is by your side working and interacting with you to help you accomplish your set task.

Okay, so I only use a photography assistant when I have a really important job to do. A job that requires me to stay focused (pardon the pun) and keep on a schedule. Jobs like weddings, large project shoots or maybe just a fast-paced event. Aside from these kinds of jobs most times I am a solo act and I do just fine.

Let me describe what it is that I am looking for in an assistant because I think most people are confused as to what they really need an assistant for. First and foremost, my assistant is paid and paid as well as I can they pay them. I work the cost for the assistant into every job. They are not a family member or a friend and most times they know very little about photography. Anything they need to know about photography I will teach them and most times that is just how-to setup and take down gear such as light stands and running power cords. However most of all I am looking for an individual who in very energetic, more energetic than me. I want someone who has their own means of transportation and is also comfortable driving my vehicle too. I want some one who knows how to use a smartphone/device, can do an adequate Google search in seconds, knows how to get to the nearest, store, coffee shop, deli and camera shop. I want someone who is great with people, they can not be shy at all, they must exude common sense thinking. They must be the kind of person I trust enough to hand them my credit card/s to go buy something and they won’t steal my money. I can also hand them cash money to

Tiny & Kendall

hold. Essentially, I want someone who is me, but better, faster and I can trust them with anything.

About now your saying “where the hell do, I find somebody like that.” I’ll agree it is not an easy thing and it doesn’t happen overnight, but once it does you need to find a way to hold on to that person. If they are a college age student it is inevitable that you will not have them forever and they’ll move on sooner or later. At this current time, I have a few different people I use. Because it is on an “as needed basis” if one is not available usually the other one is. One is a big strong guy we appropriately call “Tiny” and the other is a lady named Amy.

Tiny & Cynthia Ann

Tiny works a as a truck driver and appliance installer during the week, he also works for my catering business on the weekends. He meets all the criteria described above and he is an all-around good guy at heart.

Amy is a legal business administrator for a university and she too works for my catering business. I have known Amy for years and she is a very intelligent and motivated person.

Between the two of them they no nothing about camera exposure, aperture or ISO. However, they do know everything that I need them to know, things like how to change out batteries and lenses and help me stay organized. As any photographer knows the life of a photographer is “always forgetting something,” sure it may not be something critically important like a camera body (OMG could you imagine?). It is those other little things that could turn into big things, like running back to the parking lot to get something from my vehicle or maybe finding a cup of coffee on a cold day.

Amy

Each person I work with has their strong points. If it is a wedding Amy is very good at scouting the location for good spots to shoot. While Tiny on the other hand is great with lighting setups and adjusting. Tiny can also fly a drone and have it ready when I want to do an overhead shot.

So, to sum it up into one easy statement; having an assistant is like having an extra right hand or two or three.  To have that extra pair of hands to carry a camera bag, to have someone to bounce ideas off of and basically be there when things are not going as planned.

In conversation with other photographers I have found some who wholeheartedly agree with me about paying an assistant “as good as you can pay them.” However, I have had a few people disagree on the amount an assistant should be paid. Some people are cheap and don’t understand the value a good assistant can bring to your gameday.

One photographer I know who has a studio and does mostly portraiture work, she hires mostly teenagers from the community. She pays them the same as if they worked at the local grocery store. She doesn’t want to pay them more because they lack experience. I feel this is a different situation, this is more of an employee than it is an assistant. And yes, teenagers are very lacking in experience and life skills. Not to rag on teenagers and I know there are good ones and bad ones, however most American teenagers lack life skills that it takes to interact with people of all ages on a personal level. Life skills come with time and experience of dealing with people. Even when I myself was 20 years old I did not have the life skills of dealing with people as I do today.

I really feel there is a distinct difference between an assistant and a general employee or at least in my interpretation of “assistant.” And as stated earlier finding the right person is no easy task. But for me it just kind of happened, I found Amy many years ago when I placed an add on Craigslist looking for general weekend catering help. I found several people that fit the bill for what I needed. Amy however did not fit the bill, she was extremely overqualified, holding a masters degree among others and being an administrator at a university just didn’t jive with doing weekend catering work. She told me she just wanted to stay busy and make some extra money. So, I gave her a chance and she is still with me to this day. As my photography business increased and I needed and assistant to shoot a wedding I asked her if she would like to do it and it was all good.

Tiny came to by way of a friend of my wife. My wife is a Thai lady and she has many Thai lady friends living here in the USA. A few of her friend have worked with us over the years and they were all amazingly motivated people. Tiny who is Thai, moved to the USA as a young boy when his mother married and American man. I met him when he was in his mid-20s, he was looking for extra work on weekends so we brought him on board so to speak. Now he is part of the main fabric of our catering business. One day I needed an assistant to help me with a rather large project shoot. I asked Tiny if he would like to make some money for the day helping to setup lights and tear them down. He jumped at the chance. Little did he know he had to carry all the gear to the third-floor studio with no elevator. And “yes” it was not easy and yes, I paid him good.

Like anything in life and we have all heard it over and over “you only get what you pay for,” however in the realm of good photography assistants you must first find them and that is the hardest part.

Tiny & Francis

The last job Tiny and I did together was covering an event. It was a private premiere showing for a yet unreleased reality TV show about a family who is in the Monster Truck business. They needed a photographer to cover the event and we had a lot of fun, plus I got to meet the producer and director and a lot of other interesting people. Yes, it was a fun time and we both made money.

Now as I draw to a close on this post, I must say I know a few wedding photographers who take a different route when it comes to finding assistants. Some will actually use other photographers. They will use the photographer as both a second shooter and as an assistant. I have actually done this, I have worked as a second shooter/assistant for weddings and really it is not a bad deal at all. I help you and you help me… just as long as we both don’t have jobs the same day. Yeah and just my luck I was on the losing end of that deal a few times and that is why I just use people who are not photographers.

Thanks so much for stopping by and reading.

 

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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.