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Old 20-03-2005, 01:53   #1 (permalink)
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Been Asked To Photograph A Wedding?

It's a racing certainty that as a known keen photographer, someone sooner or later is going to invite you to take their wedding photos. Should you do it or not?

For what it's worth these are my thoughts on the subject and it might be of value to explain how I got into it. I became interested in photography quite early on and by the time I was 17 I'd done about 3 or 4 weddings - of friends mostly. One Friday night I got a call late on and was invited to do a wedding the following morning at St Giles Church in Cannock Staffs. The photographer booked for the job had been taken ill, and it also transpired that they'd tried virtually every pro in the area to try and get a replacement but they were all booked. It was a huge society wedding, the bride being the daughter of a local industrialist. The fee being offered was quite enormous by any standards. I'm not ashamed to admit my bottle went completely and I turned it down, only to allow myself to be talked into doing it by the desperate best man.

I got there about an hour early on the morning, and as the hundreds of guests began to arrive and the local press began to turn up in force, it slowly began to dawn on me what I'd rather ambitiously taken on. To say I was nervous would be the understatement of all time! The bride duly arrived and I got the pics at the car and in the church door with her father. During the service I managed some available light shots (the vicar had insisted no flash shots) After the signing the register shots in the vestry everyone tumbled outside and that's where it went a bit pear shaped, everyone split off into groups and were standing around talking. Every time I tried to grab the bride and groom they shot off talking to someone else. I was standing there looking like the proverbial spare part, when a grey haired pro with a Hasselblad, who had photographed the preceeding wedding and was on his way out- stopped and spoke to me.

The conversation went...

Pro "Are you the official photographer ?"

Me "Yes"

Pro "Are you OK with this?"

Me (Lying)" Yes, but I can't get hold of the bride, she keeps wandering off"

Pro (Laughing) "You've got to grab hold of this lot or they'll **** you about all day"

Pro (In a loud authoratative voice) "Bride and groom over here please"

The bride duly came scuttling over, and the pro watched me pose her. As I walked back to my tripod and was about to take the shot he said

"Go and adjust the bride's train"

I said "It's fine.

Pro "I know, but do it anyway, it looks professional"

He watched me take a few more shots then said he had another job to go to..His parting shot was..

"You'll be fine" then he half turned and said "Either that or you'll never ever do another!" (Laughing like a drain)

What an absolute gent he was! So that was really my baptism of fire. I got through the later shots at the reception etc and at the end of a long day it all worked out OK and I got to buy some photographic gear I'd only previously dreamed about.

So should you do it? Many hundreds of weddings later I'd have to say "It depends"

You don't have to be any great and gifted photographer to undertake wedding photography. It goes without saying that you'll be competent to even consider it, If you have any doubts on that score, you'd be crazy to do it. Even if it's a friend's wedding, it's likely to be an ex- friend if you make a hash of it. Wedding photography is about managing often large groups of people none of whom have any great interest in getting the photos out of the way.If you're the retiring type or not happy chivvying people about but keeping a good sense of humour throughout, you'd probably do well to give the whole thing a wide berth. You need all your sense of humour when you set up the shots and are surrounded by guests clicking away and jumping in front of you,while Uncle Albert is showing you his 1940s camera and insisting it's far better than any modern crap you get nowadays.LOL. You're there to do a job as well as you can, but don't forget it's their day not yours, I've seen pros snarling and snapping at everyone and generally making themselves hated, changing filters and keeping everyone hanging around far longer than is reasonable. They certainly can't be enjoying it and you have to wonder why they do it?

The weather can turn the whole thing into a nightmare if it rains. People are pretty understanding of your predicament in those circumstances, but they still expect acceptable wedding shots. Often you're reduced to taking the shots in church (if there's no following wedding) or indoors at the reception venue and often they're less than ideal with poor available light. Keep modern electronic kit dry at all costs - my wife used to come with me on wet days and carried a huge golfing umbrella.

Don't fly by the seat of your pants with one set of kit - you need two of everything. Sod's Law says if you risk it something will go wrong. Two camera bodies and two complete flashguns is an absolutely essential minimum. If you're shooting film take a couple of spare rolls over and above what you anticipate needing.

Do it by all means if you feel you can make a decent job of it and try to enjoy it. If nothing else you'll finance some photographic kit you otherwise might wait a long time for.
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Old 20-03-2005, 02:06   #2 (permalink)
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Thanks for posting that CT, what a great read!! It certainly makes me think about my induction into wedding photography and my subsequent experiences. I wonder if everyone who has done wedding photography has a story to tell about their first time?

I will share mine with you tomorrow but for now its way past my bedtime.
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Old 20-03-2005, 09:20   #3 (permalink)
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As promised..

My induction into wedding photography was a little different to what might be expected as a normal route.

I enrolled on a Photoshop class at night school to help me get a better understanding of the beast and aid my photography post production. At this time the camera I was shooting with was a Canon G3 and my level of photography could best be described as enthusiastically amateur. During these classes I was working on my own images and they attracted some attention from another member of the class. After several conversations it transpired that she was a Pro photographer with her own studio and she was on the market for a wedding photographer to shoot digital and back up her medium format work. Initially I was not interested as I had never photographed a wedding and really didnít have the confidence to direct people, that coupled with the fact that I would also have to learn how to use the studios equipment as well. Several weeks passed and she continued to badger me until I finally gave in and agreed to tag along with her and another one of her photographers to see how it was done. I was just along to watch and learn

Wedding day arrived and I met her at the studio, I was a little early (bad practice to be late for a wedding I thought ) and the second photographer had not yet arrived. She offered me a second Fuji S2 digital SLR as something to play with and said that I could just shoot anything, aim for candids to supplement the official shots, but not to worry, just watch and learn. After a very quick run through the basic functions on the Fuji we where ready to go, I would have to pick the rest up as we shoot but that wasnít a problem as nobody was dependant on any of my shots. The time came to leave and the second photographer has still not arrived, she frantically attempted to contact him without any success, we couldnít wait any longer, we simply had to leave and hope he would catch up with us.

Her normal practice is to arrive at the church about 45mins to an hour early to allow time to check out the area for arranging the photos, talking to the vicar about the service and what photography is and isnít allowed in the church and during the service. On this occasion her time had to be devoted to showing me how to change, load and unload a medium format camera back as her second photographer and assistant had not turned up. For the ones that donít know anything about this (as I didnít) her medium format Hasselblad has interchangeable backs into which you have to load the films manually, wined them on and then set them up ready to be attached to the camera, once spent they have to have the film rewound, removed and sealed then the whole process starts again. Each film only has 12 exposures so this is a very regular process that needs to be repeated many times during the day. This is bad enough to do for someone who has never seen or used a medium format camera, but to have to do it for the first time at a wedding, handling such important pictures added to the pressure.

There was more bad news, my throwaway digital candids where now not for fun, she would be depending on getting some quality shots from the Fuji to supplement the medium format stuff and enable the digital album to be created. I was shooting my first ever wedding on a strange camera that I had only had in my hands for the first time less than an hour earlier and I had the daunting responsibility of having to change her camera backs and keep he supplied throughout the day so as not to hold up the wedding. I suppose you could safely say that I was bricking it

The day started slowly, a few shots of the groom and his farther, some group shots of him and the best man etc..the usual stuff as I was later to learn. My head was in a spin but she directed me well and kept a cool front on show. Everyone was ushered into the church before the bride arrived, some photos of the bride, the bridesmaids etc Then into the church. I had also somehow managed to capture a few candids of the guests arriving without drawing to much attention or looking like a complete armature. The back changing went without any major hitches, although she did have to load a couple of films herself during the quiet moments to help me catch up. Most of the digital shots that I took during the wedding where shot on auto, I figured better to have some ďbanked shotsĒ that may not be as creative as I would have liked, rather than lots of terrible shots that couldnít be used. Luckily the bride & groom and all the families and friends where nice people who took direction well, as I would learn later on this is not always the case and if being truthful we fell lucky on this day. As the day progressed the pressure eased as I became more comfortable with the Fuji and a little more experienced with back changing. By the time of the group shots I was actually beginning to enjoy the buzz, the adrenalin was still pumping and I was keeping all my duties under control. The wedding photography finished without incident and on the way back to the studio as the adrenalin subsided I realised how drained I was. I was congratulated on how I had done and during the reviewing of my shots it was apparent that there would be enough keepers to create the digital album that the bride and groom had paid for.

So thatís how I got started, after being thrown in at the deep end in unusual circumstances I had survived my first wedding. If I could handle that I figured that the rest would be easy, here again I was to learn the hard way that I would be proved wrong however, the studio had just got a new photographer and I had taken my first steps down the wedding photographerís road.
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Old 20-03-2005, 10:29   #4 (permalink)
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i watched the Pro at my brother-in-laws wedding and admired his grit and determination, my InLaw is your regular nightmare, lol...i dont think i will ever do anything like you 2 have as i realy dont think i will ever get passed 'enthusiastic amateur' stage, but i admire your bravery!
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Old 22-03-2005, 00:00   #5 (permalink)
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So after reading our stories of baptism into wedding photography, how many of you think that you would ever attempt a wedding if the opportunity presented itself?
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Old 22-03-2005, 03:09   #6 (permalink)
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I don't know, Steve. The photographer at my own wedding made it look so easy, but I'm sure that it wasn't (my wedding party was nothing but a bunch of goofs, and drunks after the ceremony ). That said, if, and that's a big IF, I ever became proficient enough, I would consider it. I may have my first taste at something similar, and hopefully a little easier. My sister-in-law has asked me to do her daughter's first communion in a month or so. The nice things are: It's just a favor (no money involved), I shouldn't have to put up with directing so many people and if something gets messed up, it won't be the end of the world. However, those same goofs and drunks will be there, since they are now family :roll:

BTW, I really enjoyed reading your posts CT & Steve.
Cheers.
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Old 22-03-2005, 16:54   #7 (permalink)
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I hate doing weddings - not because of the pressure (try photographing an official portrait of Gen Mike Jackson for pressure!), but because I'd rather be in the bar at a family 'do'.
I've done a few others as favours, but still charge for the time and effort. I did my cousin's a while back - she lives in the USA and had a UK 'blessing' for all those who were unable to attend the main event.
She paid $3500 for the official US phot at the service in June - I did the one here in October the same year and not only were mine better, they were in her hands before the other guy's.
Just because they're 'pro's' don't mean they're any good.
I'd take an enthusiastic, talented amateur over a pro any day as they're more likely to take a bit of extra care.

Here's the title page of the wedding album - this sort of thing goes down well in the US - and use Black and White - it's the new black as far as reportage is concerned.

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Old 22-03-2005, 19:15   #8 (permalink)
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A friend of mine hinted at me doing his wedding. I quickly turned him down I'm not that good directing people, I don't know what looks good for weddings either. I just wouldn't trust myself to be able to capture their day. Sure I could learn what is a good wedding shot, but its the people skills. Making them feel comfortable, getting them to smile. I had a hard enough time with a local band
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Old 22-03-2005, 19:40   #9 (permalink)
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i wouldnt do it at the moment, ive not done any portrait work at all, the wife doesnt enjoy being photographed as i 'faff about'
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Old 22-03-2005, 19:53   #10 (permalink)
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Arkady your album cover that you have displayed is excellent and has been created to a certain style. The studio where I worked offer a service which creates similar photographs under the banner of a designer wedding package. What I have found though is that although this style it is currently in fashion, some people are thinking to the future and fear the album will not stand the test of time. Others love it and request almost exclusive designer photos in their album. Itís that personal taste thing raising itís head again

Quote:
I'd take an enthusiastic, talented amateur over a pro any day as they're more likely to take a bit of extra care.
I would warn against this as a general sweeping statement, the photography is just part of the skill required to successfully shoot a wedding. Care, while important will not ensure a good result, even if the photography is excellent the organisation of the groups, positioning and people arrangement are key considerations. When selecting a photographer for a wedding I would highly recommend looking at many previous albums shot by that photographer to gauge the style and content, this is also an opportunity to discuss any special requests and clarify a style or theme if required. If a professional shoots a wedding and you are unhappy with the results you have some legal recourse, with a friend or a keen amateur itís just unlucky. I personally wouldnít want to risk capturing a once in a lifetime special day to an amateur.
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Old 22-03-2005, 22:06   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve
So after reading our stories of baptism into wedding photography, how many of you think that you would ever attempt a wedding if the opportunity presented itself?
Not a chance! It's not the the photography that bothers me, it's the fact that you're solely responsible for the recording of a unique occasion. Far better leave it to someone who knows the game, and how to recover from a pear-shaped situation. You wouldn't want a wedding with an inexperienced amateur vicar would you? .
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Old 22-03-2005, 23:48   #12 (permalink)
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Hi CT. That is a quality post! I doubt I'll ever be taking be pics of a quality of wedding photographers, nor have the balls to direct people as needed. Like most people here, it's the pressure of a unique day that would bear on me. :/
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Old 23-03-2005, 16:37   #13 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve

I would warn against this as a general sweeping statement, the photography is just part of the skill required to successfully shoot a wedding.
I take your point - it's just that many so-called Wedding Photographers, especially at the 'budget' end of the scale are abysmally bad.
Only one photographer stands out in my memory, simply for the way he controlled the whole event until he was happy with the shots he had in the bag.
He also managed to convince the Vicar to let him set up an entire studio flash system in the church itself so he could do set pieces around the altar - almost unheard of!
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Old 24-03-2005, 16:04   #14 (permalink)
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Here is my two cents worth,lol. First off photography is just a hobby to me, but if the situation had ever presented itself I wouldn't do it! This is why, a few years back I had dated a wedding photographer and he showed me first hand what it was like to be "the weddding photographer". On many occasions he wanted me to be his assistant but I wouldn't even do that. It's a long and daunting day if you ask me. Between back and forth to the studio and picking up your assistant's and so on and so forth. Your day doesn't just begin when you show up at the brides' house or church let's just say that. He was definately a people person as well, which I am not :P . You deal with so many different people you have to be ready for any curves that can be thrown at you that day and go with the flow. I have no patience for that at all,lol. He made it look very, very easy, but I knew better. I take my hat off to all of the wedding photographers out there, it's very hard work, and one of the most important days for most people(wouldn't no, not married,lol)so it's ALOT of pressure on the photographer!!!!
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Old 24-03-2005, 23:07   #15 (permalink)
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wedding photography is a lot of pressure to the photographer. I done about 6-7 thru the years. The irony is nobody I know are photographers so I'll have to hire a "pro" for my wedding this year. Given a choice tho, I'd much prefer to hire a keen talented Amateur. Purely because I don't want to have shots which look similar to other people's.

Unless I pay the top end price and hire a good pro, I know I won't get good quality shots. By quality I mean substance and not technical quality. I work in an industry which craves for creativity and the last thing we want is to have wedding photos which are very "classic".

I might not be able to control myself on the day and might start grabing the camera and start shooting some pics of us. haha.
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Old 25-03-2005, 03:23   #16 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by langer

I might not be able to control myself on the day and might start grabing the camera and start shooting some pics of us. haha.
I have lost count of the number of times I have seen this happen. Still if it's your wedding then you can do what you like :lol:
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Old 26-03-2005, 15:51   #17 (permalink)
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I take the point that my images are very 'formulaic' - but if I was in the business, I'd keep abreast of current trends more carefully.
In this instance, my cousin and I sat down and looked at the brochures and websites produced by the various pros and decided on a style that she particularly wanted.
I then proceded to utterly ignore her and did my own thing...
Turned out OK though...
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