Saturday, June 7, 2008

100 - FAQ

This FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) list comes from a series of questions asked on an international photography forum (some are pretty basic, others VERY advanced and some... just funny). I postthe questions here with my opinions to the questions. Note I said opinions, not absolute answers, for many questions have no absolute answer! Enjoy!

What's the largest you've ever printed images from a wedding?
I'm a newbie, I have not printed any pics of my work out so far, but the pro that I shadowed with has taken one of my pics and blown it up to 16 X 20 for the B&G and they were very happy with it.

What were your turn-around times?
The pro that I shadow with always states 6-10 weeks. Even if it takes him much less, he never delivers in under 6 weeks. The psychology behind this is that if it is done fast, it loses value in the eyes of the client. The logic behind it is that if traditionally it takes you three weeks and you promise three weeks, and for some reason you are late... you lose face. Never let your customers see you sweat!!

Where did you position yourself?
In the average wedding, in 2000 different places... lol This is obviously a quesiton that cannot be answered easily. Every wedding venue is different and every shot will have a different positioning... but there are some "standards that are covered in the blog (if not now, in the future).

Did you have other shooters/assistants?
I am the 2nd shooter or the person that ghosts a professional. Does that count?

What did they do?
The 2nd gets the shots that the main shooter doesn't get. Additional candids and/or additional formals of others that have been requested for example. The 2nd shooter in general is often in places that are less "optimal" compared to the main shooter, however they are no less important, in my humble opinion. Having 2 or more shooters means that each can concentrate on getting higher quality shots since as the event unfolds (and it happens FAST!!), that the event is captured more completely and in a higher quality. If there are 2 pros, they can split up the jobs (example, one does the ceremony, one does the reception, or any combination of shared respobsabilities of this event). In my case being a 2nd, I am not generally considered the equal of the primary, but am there to "value add" and be in places that the main or primary cannot (example, I would be shooting the preparation of the groom as the primary shoots the preparation of the bride).

Did you actively search for assistants, or did they come find you?
I am that newbie, not the pro. I was that "assistant", but I like to refer to myself as the 2nd shooter or the #2. I actively searched out other professionals that I briefly researched and discovered were into the parts of photography that interested me. My goal was to arrage for a face to face interview (face to face, noneof the stupid email or phone stuff here, boys and gals!). I would call them up on the phone with the goal of arranging that meeting. When meeting, we discussed my equipment, experience and viewed my portfolio. On my second attempt, I was fortunate enough to find a photographer that was willing to take that chance and meet with me. Based on the results of this "interview", I was given a trial run and permitted to participate in my first wedding as the 2nd shooter after a nice one day overview on how he works, what was expected of me, and what I was to expect accomplish on that day... in great detail.

How much overhead did you have?
None. I am no professional. However, there are people who do this for a living who's monthly overhead ranges from $500 to $29,000 or more. The four professional consultants that I spoke to ranged in the above figures.

Just who are these consultants you mention?
These are four people that I know to be consumate professionals in wedding photography and are the main source of "real life" information that I have access to. Three are people that I have been speaking to for several months over the internet and in phone conversations, one is someone local to me that I know well face to face. To permit them to potentially share with me private or intimate details, I've promised all of them that I would guarantee them anonimity within these documents. I also promised not to use their works or logos, etc...

What were the costs?
The basics of any business, but things like rent, insurance, equipment, employees, and carrying stock were the predominant ones.

How much time is spent outside of the wedding in post?
Varies VASTLY on not only the event and number of pictures but also the experiecnce level of each professional. Speaking on average, its a 5-20% ratio of time used to take the pic vs the time spent on post processing on a pic. Also, not each pic gets the same amount of time dedicated to it in PP (post processing). Some it is literally seconds per picture, others it could be an hour or more. It depends on the complexity as well. Collages require more time than simple adjustment of white balance.

On average, how much of the wedding would you stay for?
Of all the ones that I participated in as a 2nd, it was pretty all of it starting from:
- the bride and groom preparations, dressing, grooming in the morning
- the drive to the ceremony location
- the ceremony
- post ceremony formals
- the reception (entrance to when we left was anywhere from 1-4 hours in duration)

In one case, there were shots asked for during the rehersals and an engagement shoot as part of the package. I was informed that this was more the exception than the rule.

Ever botch a wedding?
Nope, thank God... thats one of the advantages of being a #2! I have read and studied about others that have had "disasters", and I have spoke to my four souces, and it seems that if you do not start out with adequate preparation at many levels (surprisingly nearly NONE that have anything to do with photography), "disasters" will happen often, if not at every wedding you shoot. Big things to have in place before starting were price lists, packages, business cards, a tested and established work-flow, a home-base (even if it is from your basement), professionally verified contracts, a website and/or blog and at the very top of the list... a business plan!

WHY? Why in heaven would you want to do wedding photography?
I chuckled when I read this one. Basically it is becuase I love the challenge, love the knowledge and love the environment. Weddings are incredibly happy events, but they are also incredibly stressful events for everyone involved... that includes the photographer covering this once in a lifetime event. I wish to clarify something... I have no desire to become a professional wedding photographer. I have invested decades in my current carreer and am very happy with it. I am doing it, becuase I love this aspect of photography.

How do you go about lighting for all parts of a wedding?
A truly advanced question that cannot be answered in a simple FAQ. Suffice to say that there are very definite times that some cannot use anything more than ambient lighting and other times that a portable studio is very desireable and indeed, sometimes even mandatory.

Question about the assistant/backup photog... what do you pay them?
Depends on many circumtances, but it can go from 0 to 100% of the total amount. 0% is what I asked for in the beginning just becuase I was in it just for the experience. I've seen a pro photographer share a job for 50% amount to another pro. It depends on how good you are!

How do you deal with demanding clients that change their minds every 2 seconds?
By assisting them to make clear decisions and writing everything down. In a business scenario, it is also important that they sign the document afterwards. If a client is constantly changing their minds, my feeling is that your customer service skills are lacking. You are not guiding the client to the right options or helping to make them feel that what they chose is the best option for them.

How do you deal with family members that are getting in the way, without causing a scene?
There are thousands of ways, however by politely saying "excuse me, please" is my personal favorite. Courtesy, a smile and being at all times professional will get you more than rudeness, arrogance or a fast mouth. Most people at a wedding know that the B&G are paying lots of money for that professional to be there, and it is NOT their intent to do something that hinders that professional from doing what they are being paid for, they may just want to take a few pictures themselves. I find it a wise move by the best man or someone "up there", to identify you as the "paid wedding photographer" before things start and people will know that you are just doing a very important job and tend to stay out of your way more. Your attitude as a professional wedding photographer will place you in a manner that people will give you "the right of way".

Are there any differences in shooting weddings for people from different backgrounds/cultures?
I've not done all backgrounds and cultures, but thinking logically, yes there are major things to consider that will be specific to each wedding. This is why a pre-wedding meeting or two is so important. Also, beyond culture, I recently read an article where a professional photographer was sued and lost the court battle becuase they refused to shoot a gay wedding becuase of their religious beliefs. Any smart business person knows that there are three things to ALWAYS avoid in any business transaction... conversations about sex, politics and religion. In a wedding environment, you will often deal with these three on top of the cultural differences, and businesses that interacts with the public **MUST** be respectful and professional... I think that I mentioned that before, yes?

Are outdoor weddings harder than indoor/church weddings?
Photographic challenges increase due to the greater lighting differences, but with the proper equipment and experience, I see no greater or less challenge in being outside or inside, extreme weather conditions aside, of course.

How often do you get to eat some of the wedding cake?
As a #2 shooter... NEVER! You are an employee of the person whom you are shooting for. You are not a guest. Let me also add that as a wedding photographer, forget about dancing, eating, talking to the guests, fraternizing or picking up and taking advantage of some wonderful emotionally weakened beauty (lol). You have one job to do and none of the perks include any of the latter if you are the person taking the pictures at a wedding. You have only one small task... and that's for you to give 100% of your best effort to capturing the event for the bride and groom. Besides, cake is fattening (ha-ha!).

What is the equipment list of gear to have with you?
Since I am not a professional, nor the main shooter, my equipment requrements are FAR less demending than that of the fulltime professional. However, I will discuss minimum equipment requirements in the blog in it's appropriate place. If you are just a friend shooting at a wedding and are not doing it as the main photographer, you are in great luck... the only equipment that you need is the current equipment that you now own, however there are some choices pieces of equipment that will permit you to get better quality photographs than if you did not have it. Check for this area in the blog, please.

Rainy days .... If the B&G request to take pictures outside in the rain .. What will you do? If you do it, in what way you can protect your equipments and how to get a good pictures in that type of environment?
I've not yet seen a bride and groom that requested to have pictures taken in the rain, however there is a trend out there commonly known as "trash the dress" where the B&G may do things like dive off a peer into the ocean or have pictures taken in venues that are challenging for the safety of your equipment. I would say that for the beginners, please stay away from these kinds of scenarios, not only are we woefully inexpereinced, but our equipment is far from safe. Leave it to the pros, people. To atttempt to answer the question... I carry 4 umbrellas in my car... 1 white and 3 black. The white one is reserved for the bride of course, 1 black one for the groom and one for me... the 4th is a spare. A local pharmacy had them on sale for $10 each. I am happy to say that they are still in their original plasic containers, unused. Though my equipment is considered a pro-level and has a weather sealed body (and in some cases the lens as well), I would make all efforts not to go swimming in my suit and D200. A possible thought of finding locations where I would be protected from the elements where the B&G would be in scenarios that they wished to have photos taken would be a consideration. Clear plastic bags over flasha and camera (exposed front lens element) is another thought. I would also consder looking into underwater cases if the B&G absolutely tell me that they wanted pictures in scenarios where my camera could potentially take a dunking.

How do you specifically deal with Bridezilla, Momzilla & Dadzilla via documentation beforehand plus the day of the ceremony?
First off, I never refer to clients as *zillas unless they've really earned it... even then, I try not to use those terms. They are negative and will evoke negative connotations in my head during the
process of resolving the issues. I prefer to use the term "a challenging client". As a challenging client, we, as a group, know that we are entering into a legally binding contract with very specific goals on both sides. By being very clear and concise, both sides will know what they have to do to fulfill the contract to it's conclusion. A professional will have a very clear, easy to understand and concise contract that is explained to the customer in detail. We all hear of the horror stories of the mother of the bride or the mother in law that wishes to commence legal battles post event, when they have no legal foothold. I could easily say that the contract was not with them, hence, they have nothing to "battle" for, and are not able to speak for people who are not in the contract. Now, I am not a lawyer, so I will state that if you are involved with people in this kind of scenario, seek local legal help... IMMEDIATELY. Nothing will destroy a wedding photographer faster than bad word of mouth. There are books that could be written about this topic, but, basically, I try to avoid the whole issue by remaining professional, have the poeple that PAY the invoice KNOW what the expectations are on both sides and ... did I say to remain professional?

How do you organize your shots so that the children are gotten out of the way before they explode (and get entirely filthy).
Easy, they are usually in the first part and are then sent off. Let me expand... when doing formals, I find it a GREAT idea to start off with the complete group all together, and then separate off the people until only the B&G are left. Everyone else is sent off to the reception for a few drinks. Since you are with the B&G, you do the formals with them, then follow them to the reception and also can catch their "Grand Entrance". How do I know whom to send off? Did someone forget to organize this part of the conversation during the meeting with the B&G? Don't! Make lists of the "must have" shots... everything else is up to your creative license!! As far as keeping kids from becoming "filthy"... kids are kids, and will do things that mess them up a little. A good photographer can take those scenarios and potentially turn them into "awwww, look how cute our little four year old Bobby is with half the wedding cake on his face!"

What, specifically, is on your posing checklist.
It is different for each client as this part of the list is made during the B&G interview. Also on this list is locations where the shots are made. Some want the traditional poses, where-as others want very modern or unique poses. The client will guide you to what works for them... your professional research and experince will fill in the holes. If you are a beginner doing this... uhmm... your work and research is cut out for you! The best time to define these things are in the pre-wedding meetings. Consider taking the time to do a few test shots in a couple of locations where the wedding formals with the B&G are planned to occur. This also offers you the chance to calm the couple and let them know what to expect.

What, specifically, do you carry as backup equipment.
As a NON-professional, my requirements are a lot less. The pro that I shoot with has no less than (literally) 3 of everything (lenses, bodies), 2-4 of everything concerning lighting and 6-10 backups of things like batteries, memory cards... and then they get into things like carrying tisssues, bandaids, asperin, neosporin and 2-3 microfibre cloths, etc... You will be amazed at what some people carry outside of the things we would "think" are just backup equipment!

How do you handle your insurance?
Not being a pro, my home insurance has a rider for all my equipment. I also have it in writing that if anything is damaged while I am shooting as a 2nd at wedding events, that I am 100% covered. A professional SHOULD have full company insurance that covers all of their needs. Insurance, like many things, takes a lot of research. You will find an amazing latitude in servces offered and in prices. Take the best insurance for the best price that you can find. Don't insure just the equipment, look into liability insurance in case someone sues (which apparently in the USA happens quite often... lol).

What advice would you give to someone just getting started who has not ever shot a wedding before? For example, should someone try to get a job as an assistant to learn?
Awesome question! Of course every person is different, but before starting out, it is useless to ask a pro wedding photographer to mentor you if you have no concepts of the basics. If you cannot IN DETAIL explain ISO, shutter speed, aperture, advanced lighting... you are setting yourself up for failure. Understand, a professional wedding photographer is not there to mentor you on how to set up your camera settings... they are there to teach you the intricacies of the art of wedding photography. If you are struggling to learn the difference between front sync and rear sync lighting... don't waste your or the pro's time. Your photography knowledge base must be STRONG, you should have a small portfolio in print and in digital format (CD, DVD, etc...), and you need to be able to prove yourself without hesitation that you already KNOW photography and that you are looking to expand and further your knowledge.

Any good courses, resources you would recommend?
For beginners?
http://www.proudphotography/ has a great online program for a very reasonable price for beginners to pickup the basics. Look into local college courses and of course there are books and a million online resources on the internet available. However, just reading is not going to do it... you have to KNOW how to use your camera, and that only comes if you use it... a LOT and in a focused manner.

What is the one thing (resource or experience) that helped you learn the most?
The eye-opener for me was the first wedding that I shot as a second shooter. I was near constantly overwhelmed and concentrating so hard, that it really wasn't much fun. Only at the end of the day, when the rush started to subside a little, did I realize how much fun I was having. You can't beat real life... unfortunately, to get to where one may be ready for this, there is a LOT of learning and practice to get here. The one online resources that helped me understand lighting more than almost anywhere else was, thats likely the best source of info on strobism on the internet.

What is the best way for the friends and family to stay out of the way of the pro and not make his job more difficult (other than leaving my camera at home)?
Be respectful of the photographer and understand his role at the event. Give him space... I enjoy having a 2-3 foot circle of room around me at all times. More is better. Even if you shoot the same shots as the pro... what would you have? The same angle/view as that professional, just likely not as crisp or clear or well thought out. Don't be afraid to take your camera, but don't hover over their shoulder. In a wedding event, if you have a camera, look for the angles that the pro misses or cannot get to... and trust me, no professional can capture it all. Be in places that they cannot be, and catch the moment!

Some one in the wedding party has very bad skin-it looks red and nasty in the photos, would you edit without asking b+G ask them or not say anything?
Morals/ethics and reality. If you are asking me what *I* would do? I would do some post processing however, it would be relatively minor. People know what they look like, and if you change them too much, they look at it, and say... THATS NOT ME! What is even worse, is that others who know these people with the bad skin, they will be the first ones to tell the poeple with the bad skin and you suddenly have two times the amount of unsatisfied clientele than before. If it is a real issue... discuss this with the client, ask them if they want more than average touching up or not. Another issue to consider is... unless we are discussing the B&G exclusively, what I said above is what I would consider. If they are just some guest, well, guess what... the day is not about them, the day is about the B&G and there is where MY focus should lie. I would not even waste much if any time on touching up the face of a guest. Your #1 primary focus in an average North American wedding is the BRIDE. Your #2 is the groom. Everything and everyone else falls underneath. How far underneath? That is for you and your client to decide.

Screaming kids, how do you deal with them in the group shots?
What, there are no parents around (lol)? I am not the nanny, I am the photographer. If the parents cannot help their children stop within a reasonable amount of time, I take the picture with the child crying. Remember, my focus will always be the B&G, every other picture is a capture of the event. If someone's children were crying at that event... then that is how they will appear on that picture and be remembered.

What the most used setting? which indoors which outdoors?
For me it is a tossup of about 50% full manual and 50% on aperture priority mode. I am in manual when I have the chance to be in situations like the formals and the ceremony. Once things start moving faster, I am in aperture priority mode.

Do you shoot on largest file possible?? in case wanting a super large print??
I shoot nothing but the highest quality level my camera can shoot. I also shoot in the mode that offers me the most latitude for ease of correction with things like white balance. That means ONE and only ONE mode for me... RAW format files.

How many pics do you take on average and how many do you provide in your average package?
On average I, as a second shooter, shoot anywhere from 1500 to 2500 shots in a full day. The package varies depending on the client, but I have seen packages as low as 100 shots and as many as 3,500 shots, all bound in a photo albums of various materials from paper to leather.

How many pre wed meeting shoudl you have? ( to get to know them, know locations, take engagement pics etc)
Depends on the client. Mostly only one time, a few hours to a full day (depending on needs), but if given the opportunity, two or more times is an advantage. If engagement pictures are taken, there is the possibility that a charge for this service is made or included in the package, and it may become a separate event to the wedding contract...the way the pro that I second for works reguarly like this.

How long should you take to deliver the pics... after PP and all...should you place a watermark of some sort and how big?
This one I partially answered above: The pro that I shadow with always states 6-10 weeks. Even if it takes him much less, he never delivers in under 6 weeks. The psychology behind this is that if it is done fast, it loses value in the eyes of the client. I have NEVER EVER seen a photo that was paid for that had a watermark. The ONLY time I would see one is on the website used to show the clients the pics so that they could order more photos or ones showm for promotional purposes. One other place was when displaying your work online on the internet.

I was talking to a woman whom i've worked with for quite a while and she has a second job as a wedding photographer. I asked her if it was as stressful as people say it is. She then explained her first wedding photography experience...after the wedding, right before the photos, the wedding party substances.Then when they received the photos later, they were upset with how they looked, and blamed her for it.SO my question is, how would you deal with a situation like that?
Whoa! A comical situation to read about, but one quite aggrevating in real life, I am sure. For me, if a client was confrontational, I would just say... "the camera doesn't lie". There are limitations as to what even a consumate professional photographer can accept responsability for... the faces of people stoned on "whatever" is not one of them. As a professional courtesy (and ONLY as a courtesy!), I would offer to see if some of the bloodshot eyes could be taken care of, but beyond that, as Doctor McCoy would tell Captain Kirk... "I'm a doctor Jim, not a miracle worker!" Good-luck to you...uhhmmm, I mean, your friend!

I am a beginner photographer, and someone offered to pay to do their wedding.
Don't do it. You see, as a beginner, this photographer is woefully underexperienced and inadequate to do this job. A wedding is a ONCE in a lifetime event that cannot be repeated and the B&G deserve THE BEST that they can. Most people that offer you money to do this, will have high expectations and will want the same level of photographs that a professional would give them. In the end, they receive what you give them, and instead of wonderous photographs get... (let's be kind here), less than what they expected. It's not fair. It's not fair to you nor the bride and groom. Feel free to politely decline, or at the very least, you can do what I did... and that was to agree to do the shoot for free, but NOT as the main or only photographer, but as an assistant or secondary shooter to a professional photographer that they hire. In my case, I was later personally thanked by the bride for my sincerety and candor. Her wedding photos came out stunning and though they were done by a professional, I am glad to say that I made a healthy contribution to her collection.