Two Things I Tell Every Bride

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Weddings are such delicate piece of work. They can’t be done flippantly or without preparation. And with such easy access to high performance pieces of equipment, it is so easy for just any Joe Schmo to buy a DSLR and some business cards. This practice means that us professionals need to be completely on the ball in business and sell ourselves and our services appropriately. Yes, Joe will give you a whole day of shooting and the disk for £300. But he will also give you a lot more than you bargained for if you were actually expecting professional grade results.

I had a message from a friend/client recently who shared her disappointment with her wedding photos. She said, “I ended up with only 3 or 4 good shots from the whole day!! Still have photos in my album with red eye, ones completely in shadow and even though I asked for non traditional photos still have pages of eveyone looking centre and bored, the whole thing just totally unispiring!!!!! It is my own fault really for not knowing what to look for.” When I asked if she’d even seen his work prior to hiring him, she replied, “I saw a few things that he had done, he had a phtography room in his house (wait, he didn’t go to her? Jerk.) with framed pictures on the wall, obviously some of his better shots!! He was just in the process of setting up a new website so had limited access to previous wedding photos (yeeeeah ok. Buh bye!)” I really feel for this girl. Most of our clients aren’t going to be photography minded. They know they need a photographer at their wedding (the first step in the right direction) but after that, they don’t really know what to look for. I imagine wedding magazines give them tips for this important decision.

There are a couple key points from what she said that we can learn from:

1. “…even though I asked him for non traditional photos”

This is where we can see that our clients need our help. It is our responsibility to show them, tell them and then show them again our style. You can’t ask a point-and-shoot photographer to take ‘non traditional’ photos. And as she told me, she should have known better what to look for. But you won’t have a happy client if what they want is non traditional and your style is traditional. You know, you can turn down jobs. I’ve said before that “I don’t think I’m the right photographer for you”. In your pre-booking first meeting, show them your style and make sure it’s clear. My contract says that if a photo is in B&W, that is my judgment call and that it is commonplace for wedding photos to be primarily in B&W to preserve the emotions and the timeless, classic beauty of this act of love. I used to say that I refused to edit in selective colour. I still hate it but many couples want it. So I provide it but I don’t post them online or show them to potential clients.

2. “…obviously some of his better shots!”

Hold it RIGHT THERE! Did you just speed over that phrase? She’s saying exactly what WE should be saying. That those 5-10 perfect moments we post on our blog the day after a wedding and the photos we share in our first meeting with a bride are our best work. I learned very quickly that my brides were expecting that level of perfection for every single photograph. Some were expecting me to do total magic and turn their fluorescent-lit, 1970’s carpeted town hall wedding into some sort of visual masterpiece. I don’t accept work if the venue is a shambles, by the way. Another perfectly good reason to turn down a wedding. Share with them the things about the album they’re looking at that made those photos some of your best. Tell them that the couple required no coaxing, pleading and begging to just ‘act natural’. Tell them that the location was carefully planned to take the photography into consideration. Tell them that the couple took your advice and didn’t place the head table smack in front of a gigantic window (also in my contract). Explain that you will also provide them with ‘regular’ pictures to record their day, their guests, their carefully planned details. But that perfect shot of the rings that took 10 minutes to style (it’s not easy hanging a diamond off a dew drop!) and then another 5 minutes to photograph will not be the norm for every one of their resulting 500 images.

As photographers, we absolutely must communicate every last detail of our services to our client and have a very detailed, specific contract to fall back on if they don’t make room for you in the wedding car and then complain that there are no photos of them in the wedding car. It is their right to know everything your brand is about and your responsibility to communicate that to them. Trust me. After all, I’m that learned-everything-the-hard-way photographer.

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Elizabeth Halford

is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

  • Felicia Broschart

    Good points….I was a second shooter at a wedding last year and the brides entourage was is such a hurry to join the reception and start drinking that we really got lousy shots with the bridal party, no one was cooperating and consequently the bride felt rushed to join the reception as well! Would be worthwhile to have to bride or the photographer go over those expectations as well.

  • Nathan

    This is a good perspective.

    I like that you really emphasize the importance of being honest and transparent with potential clients. For example, being open about your portfolio being your very best, and helping the bride understand, and encouraging her to plan her wedding to be a little more “photogenic”

    I started in wedding photography with my dad. He’s had a saying for years: “If you want beautiful wedding photos, have a beautiful wedding.”

  • Thanks A lot, Your Advice is wonderful. I’m new to the “business”….. a photographer for over a decade, currently pursuing my BS in photography, and doing a little part time shooting to gain professional experience.
    this was VERY helpful to me, in guiding my clients to help me give them the best photography experience possible.

  • Mike B

    Could you possible share a typical contract you use? It might be useful to understand some of the nuances regarding the business side and the things you have to think through first.

  • Shaun Fisher

    Thanks for the post 🙂

    Lots of the things you mention just how far off I am photographing weddings professionally. If I’m Joe Schmo, optimistically, should I start off as an assistant and just gain ground and experience as I go or would I be better off photographing friends social occasions until I get the wedding invite (lets pretend I have the gear & an assistant)?

    I’ve been to a few weddings recently & kept a close eye on the photographer(s). Whereas one wedding everything was super organised and the photographers seemed to have everything under control effortlessly, the other (one photographer) was a “gift” from friends & I’m still waiting to see how end result turned out!

  • Shaun Fisher

    Thanks for the post 🙂

    Lots of the things you mention just how far off I am photographing weddings professionally. If I’m Joe Schmo, optimistically, should I start off as an assistant and just gain ground and experience as I go or would I be better off photographing friends social occasions until I get the wedding invite (lets pretend I have the gear & an assistant)?

    I’ve been to a few weddings recently & kept a close eye on the photographer(s). Whereas one wedding everything was super organised and the photographers seemed to have everything under control effortlessly, the other (one photographer) was a “gift” from friends & I’m still waiting to see how end result turned out!

  • What a great post! I’m not a wedding photographer…but I have a lot of cousins who have a LOT of weddings! I’ve been asked by friends to be their wedding photographer before and strenuously denied them! I told them I don’t have the equipment or the experience they needed and pointed them to a professional.
    But I still always felt bad that my photos of the day were pretty crap…but now I realise…YEAH they were in front of giant windows! And I was stuck in the middle of hundreds of guests!! Alright 🙂 way to make me feel better hehe!

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  • Excellent post, one of the best I have read on dPS. Lots of terrific, specific information. I learned things that I will use in my next consult.

    I especially like the details you tell potential clients about not every photo will be like this, and especially that you had no trouble getting the couple to be natural, etc.

    I am with you in not liking the selective color gimmick at all.

    I have a big wedding this Saturday and have already scouted the reception room and it has floor to ceiling windows on 2 of four walls, and I just bet the head table will be in front of a window (the organizer was not available on the day I visited so I cannot confirm that). I like how you put that in your contract!

    One question, if you have your own office/studio, would you then expect and want the potential client to come to your office/studio for the consult? Did you just mean that if you do not have your own office/studio then you should definitely go to a neutral meeting spot close to the client if not to the client’s home directly?

    Just curious, why did your friend/client not hire you to photograph the wedding?

  • Good article in many respects however I have to take issue with what seems to be a rather contradictory attitude to Wedding Photography by the author.

    The comment “(wait, he didn’t go to her? Jerk.)” is very negative as why should the photographer be obliged to travel to see the couple. Yes, you should be doing your best to get their business, however in these times when the couple can readily see examples of your work on the internet , if they like what they see I don’t think it is unreasonable for the couple to travel to see you? In business terms this gives you a much better chance to show off a wider gamut of your work (different albums, covers etc) and control the sales process in an environment that is comfortable to you. If you confident about your work and are looking to work for customers who are interested in good photography; (and who wouldn’t want to work for such customers?) then at least by asking them to come and see you, you know that they are serious about booking you as a photographer on the basis of what they have seen of your work and the interaction you have had with them up until that point. It’s far too easy to spend 3 hours travelling to see a potential customer only to then never hear from them again. I understand that when just starting a business it is advisable to take every lead you can get to build up business but once you are established you can then become a little more choosey.

    The comment I cited above in particular clashes with these 2 comments later in the article
    “I don’t accept work if the venue is a shambles, by the way. Another perfectly good reason to turn down a wedding.”
    Tell them that the couple took your advice and didn’t place the head table smack in front of a gigantic window (also in my contract).
    It seems the author is advocating doing all you can to convert an enquiry yet then seeming to flippantly turn away bookings due to the venue? What if you spent 3 hours travelling to see a customer who wanted to book you, only to then take a look at the venue after and discover it wasn’t up to your standards? 3 hours wasted that could have gone towards working on a wedding you have already shot.

    Aside from this the points made about making it clear to your customer exactly what your style is and how you work are important. If you want to capture beautiful moments of the bride and groom together before the ceremony you need to let them know that time will be needed for this and that romantic shots with clear uncluttered backgrounds and flattering lighting don’t just happen by chance. And conversely if you shoot in an exclusively reportage style then the couple can’t expect you to capture magic little moments happening throughout the wedding if they want you to photograph 100 different combinations of group shots. It is paramount to be transparent with the customer about how you work as a photographer.

    Rob

  • Thank you for sharing your insight. My husband and I have also been able to experience some learning-by-experience regarding the need to clearly spell out as much as possible in written form with clients. I realize a photographer cannot possibly plan for everything, it’s good to have your bases (and neck) covered, to your best ability. You’ve provided some good discussion points for me to share w/ my husband as we prepare for an upcoming wedding shoot. Again, thanks!

  • Ab Sier

    Being a “weddingplaner” and having a wedding in total control, seems to be the only way to operate as a wedding photographer.
    The results of your photography should never be dependable of other people.
    Making a framework for your work that day and a perfect preparation is required and the wedding couple should be totally devoted to you that day.

    For the professional, the distinction to the amateur must be as big as possible, and you should be able to communicate that in your salespitch.

    Unfortunately, as Wedding photographer, you have only one chance to sell yourself. Is the couple making a other choice for there weddingpictures, (Joe Schmo) you can never get them back.
    The wedding is a one time thing…

    Small tip: give your clients a “bad weather insurance”. When you have rain on the wedding day and not the pictures you or the couple want, invest in an extra few hours on another day to re-shoot the wedding pictures.
    It sells !

  • GREAT article, I know everyone has to start somewhere, but some stories I hear just make me shudder. I am by no means ultra experienced but I do shoot the odd wedding but make SURE the client knows my level experience and what I can provide them.

  • Dee

    While I agree with many of your points, I cannot wrap my head around your comment stating this ‘photographer’ was a jerk simply because he did not go to her. Frankly, I feel that the lack of a studio or designated meeting space where clients can speak with you, view your work, and visit you when needed is unprofessional. Professional photographers are not door-to-door salesman and if you’re taking a stand against the Joe Schmos of the world who run to Vistaprint and become Joe Schmo Photography the day they get their hands on an SLR kit from Costco you really need to rethink that statement before offering your advice.

  • Josh

    Good post. I would imagine digital world has made it tough for professional photographers. I’ve been asked to help out with at a couple events and have turned them down every time. I’ll bring my camera but I make it very clear I’m there to take photos for fun and my own personal collection. My wife and I hired a photographer (a friend of a friend) to do some newborn shots. He gave us a nice discount and my wife scanned through his website and said it looked fine. They decided to do the shoot at our house which is very dark. I was skeptical but figured a “pro” would bring proper lighting. Needless to say he showed up with a D60 w/ on camera flash and that was it. I looked at his page after (my own fault for not looking) and was pretty pissed. Selective color, distracting background, etc… Moral of the story do some damn research, pay money for the style you want, and as a photographer be prepared for diverse settings.

  • Mei Teng

    Great tips.

  • Ellyssa

    I’m a little offended. I might actually classify myself as a “Joe” because I do offer a cd for an amount as a package, but where I like to think I’m different is that I love what I’m doing and give every wedding the same amount of professional attention as the next.
    I feel that as a photographer it’s my job to make the best of any situation that I’m put in. I agree that communication is key but I also agree that not all photographers that offer less expensive prices and packages don’t have the same skill set or talent that any of the tops dogs do. You have to start somewhere right?

  • Ellyssa

    I’m a little offended. I might actually classify myself as a “Joe” because I do offer a cd for an amount as a package, but where I like to think I’m different is that I love what I’m doing and give every wedding the same amount of professional attention as the next.
    I feel that as a photographer it’s my job to make the best of any situation that I’m put in. I agree that communication is key but I also agree that not all photographers that offer less expensive prices and packages don’t have the same skill set or talent that any of the tops dogs do. You have to start somewhere right?

  • Excellent points! Thanks for sharing! I do find it difficult to say no to a potential client or turn down a job, but you make some very valid points. I have had wedding shoots where the venue is horrific and yet they want gorgeous pictures to come out of some place that’s tacky, boring and distracting! I’ve also had shoots where the bride & groom did not allow me any time between wedding and reception to get them alone and take photos of them as a couple…crazy!! I have learned the hard way too. If couples want a picture perfect day, they have to agree to create that environment. I don’t care how good of a photographer you are, you cannot represent a day beautifully when it’s a dumpy venue or they don’t allow you time to capture what should be captured.

  • Craig

    I think this article shares some very valid points I agree with and also some I do not. One of the things that is increasingly getting up my nose is the amount of pompous “pro” wedding photographers griping about any “joe schmo” with a camera getting in on the game. Fact of the matter is, if you are THAT good you should not have to worry about a hack with a camera stealing your business. People that wish to pay between $3000-$6000 for their wedding photo’s will find you and they must know that if they do hire “Joe Schmo” for a burnt disc of images for $300 that they will not be getting a professional service. Contrary to popular belief most people are not stupid (especially when it comes to forking out cash) and if they shop around for a wedding photographer you would think they would be intelligent enough to ask questions when the prices range from $300 to $6000 for different people’s services.

    Furthermore, don’t these pro photographers know that you have to start somewhere? I understand how some of the older pro’s would be a bit miffed because they made a career choice years ago to be a photographer. They studied the art when film was still the norm and spent years fine tuning it. Back then the good gear was out of most people’s reach so they didn’t have the level of competition there is nowadays. Although I can sympathise with that frustration I have to say GET OVER IT! I have seen images from photographers who only picked up a camera 3 years ago that are more visually asthetic and creative than images I have seen from shooters with decades more experience. The first wedding I ever shot I charged $200 and burnt the images on a disc. In this instance I was not seeking the business but rather the couple came to me. I was upfront with them about my lack of experience and let them know I was in no way a professional and could not promise stunning images like the pro’s could deliver but I would do my best. Looking back on those images 5 years later they are absolutely terrible but the bride and groom were thrilled with them at the time.

    I have since worked my way up to charging the going rate and I received so many more offers of work through that first experience and with that I became a much better shooter. I am grateful for it. The pro’s out there that keep whingeing about “joe schmo’s” really need to realise that times have changed and that there are a lot of people out there with real talent that would not have otherwise been realised were it not for the advent of digital photography. Like I said, if you really are an established pro you should not have to worry. Just get on with what you are doing and stop worrying about everyone else!!

  • Carrie

    Okay, these tips WILL work. However, anything you’ve said goes out the window when the groom shows up drunk, the father of the bride is domineering and impatient and driving the getaway car to the reception, and the bride chucks everything she’s ever agreed to out the window to “keep the peace” with her clan. I had precisely 3 minutes to shoot the bride and groom after the wedding once (after scheduling 15-20). The groom drooled on the bride, refused to smile, looked like he was falling asleep, and then walked away in the middle of a shot. I had to yell (!) “hold her hand” to get a shot of them together. This was an expensive wedding, but no amount of planning or tips would have helped this situation. I just slapped a smile on my face and pretended they were the most beautiful couple in the world. Got some decent images of the bride with her family, but really nothing great of the couple together…disappointing.

  • Thomas Neubauer

    I do agree with some of these points. However I would have to agree with some other peoples points here. I have seen some of the work of the “pros”. I would say they have a problem with the little guy because they know their shots are weak and basically suck.

    More times than not when I look at “pro wedding photographers” work I am left saying, “WTH were they thinking?” Recently I was in a wedding party (that is something new). The photographer was AWFUL. Better gear than I had but still had no presence, no skills, and in general was lazy about her shooting, and this woman was an established “pro”. I had to start shooting all the shots I would normally shoot to get her off her lazy duff and do her job. She followed me like a puppy dog looking for her next shot. I should have charged her for teaching her just what to do. She was stingy on the shutter count, you would think she was counting precious shutter actuations like they were money out of her pocket. She obviously had no clue how to bracket a shot to get the proper exposure. Most of the time was spent waiting for her to check the lighting on her LCD. She totally and completely missed the bride prep which was agreed to in the contract. I told my uncle I would have sued her for the utter failure she made of her own accord.

    The fact is that many pros have a super inflated opinion of their work and it shows in their prices. I am brutal in my assessment of photos of people. Either it pops or it goes in the “El-Deleto bucket” never to be seen by anyone again. No milking weak shots with Photoshop.

    1. If your are an elitist in your persona as a wedding photographer your clients will know this and you will leave the appropriate sour taste in their mouth. Elitists don’t deserve the booking based on equipment or their attitude. Neither equipment or attitude will guarantee the skill of the photographer. If you think more than 1 in 10 shots is a popper then you have your bar set way to low and the body of your works shows it.

    2. Bride must know they are the most important person that day. You must be in a position that you are more stressed than the bride. This puts her at ease and she knows you will do everything you can to get this right including but not limited to stitching people into a picture when they are late to the wedding. I have had to do this for several brides maids. Also know if tattoos are to be removed in pictures.

    Grooms could care less. Some are even busy getting half drunk before the wedding. They want the bare minimum shots that will make the bride happy and then for you to go away. Guys feel it out, you may have to even give harmless flirting to the bride to get her to warm up. This takes skill to know how and when to do this.

    3. Stop being greedy, share the loot. Shoot a wedding with 2 photographers to ensure all points are captured is better than you alone. If you are so worried about sharing the loot then you will stay small time. I don’t care if you get them suckered into a $3000 wedding deal if you are not shooting with 2 photographers then you are wasting their money and time. For $3000 I would expect excellent coverage not a one man show.

    4. Again stop being greedy, there is nothing wrong with providing the images and a well labeled disc with open copyright to print as they see fit. You could always make reprinting images a nightmare and thus get no follow up business.

    It might surprise you that using 1 hour photo to process the smaller proofs goes a long way. It shows them how they can get those special prints without hiding the image in some fancy print processing while printing it on some canvass that looks like discarded rope. If your images are too weak to undergo this 1 hour treatment, try shooting better and stop producing garbage.

    5. Presence is everything. If you do not have a presence that invokes trust and attention you will get nowhere when it comes to directing the shots as you need them.

    6. Know your gear so well you can operate it in the dark. I am not kidding about this. If you can not you will NEVER get that special spontaneous shot without luck. There is no excuse for not knowing your gear inside and out. Nor sure on a feature? READ THE !@#$%$ BOOK!

    7. ALWAYS be at the rehearsal not matter what. DO NOT walk in blind as you will most certainly fail. Also take the time to scope out the lighting in the church or arena you intend to shoot in. Take your camera and shoot about 50 shots of things in the church to get and idea of how the lighting will work. Make sure you are there at the same time of day as the wedding will be as light WILL change.

    8. AND SMILE it invokes a confidence that will help you in the long run, and NEVER LET THEM SEE YOU SWEAT!

  • Some very good points mentioned here…. I have also shot in a few weddings and knwo a few details of that happens there…there is a lot difference between a relative taking a photo and a pro photographer taking a photo…there is no room for error in profession photography….and missing a moment is as bad as not shooting at all…

    BISWAJIT DEY PHOTO BLOG

  • Sarah”

    Great article. A comment about some of the comments, however.
    As a recent bride and neophyte photographer, I can tell you that it is helpful to have the photographer give you ideas about how to best arrange the room, add or use light, where to stand, etc. Please don’t assume that (a) your average person has a clue about how light produces an image and (b), in the midst of all of the craziness involved in wedding planing it would dawn on the bride to think about these things. We had a great photographer who helped us “see the light” so to speak, and we read some good planning articles about wedding photography and what makes for a good shot. Result, we have beautiful pictures. Perhaps all of you who are in the business of wedding photography could give your would-be clients a small packet of articles that talks about styles of photography, lighting for these types of settings, how to pose, that dancing your entire first dance gives more opportunities for pictures, etc. There is plenty out there, and this would help to guide the more clueless of your “picture-perfect” wanting couples and cut down on frustration for you.

  • Excellent wedding photography advice. But, I totally disagree with the comment about traveling to see the potential client. My experience as a wedding photographer has been that the farther I drive the less interested they were to begin with in my photography services. I’m also a bit puzzled about the comment regarding a table in front of large windows. Yes, it’s challenging, but using enough light to overcome the window light usually works. It’s not perfect and the background is a bit blown, but I run into all types of situations as a wedding photographer that require me to improvise and make things work. I like the advice about being honest and telling the client that what is on the website is your best work. Very important and something I’ll start doing.

  • happyspace

    This article provides some interesting points. But, as other commenters have noted, some of the points and attitudes towards potential clients and other photographers sound rather arrogant.

    On the one hand, it is great that you provide instructions to the client on how the setup of the venue etc could improve photos. On the other hand, refusing a job because of a venue choice comes across as elitist. Sure, you could point out that certain features of the venue would make taking beautiful photos difficult but I would assume that a good non-Joe Schmo pro would be able to manage to detract from the background and still capture special moments.

    I think the pro needs to find a good balance between advising clients on their needs as a photographer as far as getting nice shots are concerned. But, they also need to remember that this is the client’s special day, it is not a straight photo shoot and it’s not all about the photographer. The pro needs to be able to make the best of the situation (with the client advised beforehand of the expected results).

  • Yes interesting and informative article and like most articles and forums take from it what you deem relavant. I too agree with a number of feedbacks in that an office to meet and greet clients is a much better option as a rule for a professional look. If they make the effort to come they are serious and have hopefully used the modern technology do do the initial searching (googling). Because again if you are serious you will have a website right! You loose a certain wow factor bundling everything up and going to their homes if you have spent the time and money making a nice office. I have been to a couple of homes to assist the sale when it was inconvenient for them to come to me but was pretty confident of the booking before hand.

    As for the turning down work or arranging the venue to better suit the photography. I am a part-time (now 100 weddings in five years with no advertising) photographer ( a Joe schmo by the authors standards I dare say) whereby I shoot as the day unfolds with whatever the venue and surroundings provide. I wouldn’t dare suggest, and doubt it would go down well, that they go about setting anything up a particular way to assist other than the bridal location photography. I have actually won a couple of clients after they were told what to do by some professionals. Guidance if and when asked but you are there to do what they want not what you want.

    There is many a challenge in wedding photography, lighting, venues etc. One event its a dark church the next it is the beach mid day. Deal with it. It is their day and wedding, you should be as unobtrusive and obliging as possible. Clients I cater to aren’t expecting studio perfect every shot, they are every bit as aware of the locale situation as I am. I win them over with putting my product/proof where my mouth is, in my office.

    Hospitality by trade with no photography training what so ever short of picking up some books, experimenting, an eye and a passion. I haven’t missed yet and the clients have all been happy with this schmo. While I don’t advocate fake it till you make it in this industry, learn your craft, practice, know your equipment, apply some professionalism and the rest comes on the job.

    Again take from this what you will, just another perspective.

  • There are some excellent points in the above comments. I am not a professional wedding photographer and have had no training in the photgraphy field. I became passionate about photography many years ago. It started, I guess, being a fan of old black and white movies and especially European neo-realist movies like Bycycle Thieves. The images within these movies propelled me into making home movies. I would take my video camera on holiday and try to capture moving images like I’d seen on the screen back home. I would edit my movies and add music and titles. I then bought my first still film camera and shot everything that moved or didn’t move. My first wedding shoot was for a friend. They had seen some of my pcitures and asked me to photograph their wedding. I was nervous as hell on the day but I got some great pics. My adrenaline was up! It helped enormously that the venue they had chosen was a golf and country club so the backgrounds were wonderful. My second wedding was a church ceremony followed by a reception in a run down workings mens club in the north of england. I would never refuse to shoot a wedding if the venue was not to my liking. Some people simply cannot afford an extravagant venue. You as a photographer should be prepared for anything that comes your way and use your creative instincts make the best of what you have been dealt.
    This year my first wedding is again at a run down working mens club and I will be popping down to the location in the next few weeks to pick out the best spots. The couple don’t have to be told that their choice of venue is not the bees knees. They will have there friends and family around them and the day will be full of joy and laughter. As a photographer, I will laugh with them and be part of their day and out of that the images will come.

  • Andrea Dizon

    Thank you for the wonderful article. After reading it I am very happy I did not agree to photograph my friends wedding. I do have a good camera, but I know that does not make me a great photographer. I still have a lot to learn, and she thought the best way to save money was to hire a friend (for free) to do her photos. So we will see how the other person she hired (also a friend who says they have experience doing photos does).

Some Older Comments

  • Andrea Dizon March 26, 2013 02:52 am

    Thank you for the wonderful article. After reading it I am very happy I did not agree to photograph my friends wedding. I do have a good camera, but I know that does not make me a great photographer. I still have a lot to learn, and she thought the best way to save money was to hire a friend (for free) to do her photos. So we will see how the other person she hired (also a friend who says they have experience doing photos does).

  • jeff whitfield April 2, 2011 08:58 am

    There are some excellent points in the above comments. I am not a professional wedding photographer and have had no training in the photgraphy field. I became passionate about photography many years ago. It started, I guess, being a fan of old black and white movies and especially European neo-realist movies like Bycycle Thieves. The images within these movies propelled me into making home movies. I would take my video camera on holiday and try to capture moving images like I'd seen on the screen back home. I would edit my movies and add music and titles. I then bought my first still film camera and shot everything that moved or didn't move. My first wedding shoot was for a friend. They had seen some of my pcitures and asked me to photograph their wedding. I was nervous as hell on the day but I got some great pics. My adrenaline was up! It helped enormously that the venue they had chosen was a golf and country club so the backgrounds were wonderful. My second wedding was a church ceremony followed by a reception in a run down workings mens club in the north of england. I would never refuse to shoot a wedding if the venue was not to my liking. Some people simply cannot afford an extravagant venue. You as a photographer should be prepared for anything that comes your way and use your creative instincts make the best of what you have been dealt.
    This year my first wedding is again at a run down working mens club and I will be popping down to the location in the next few weeks to pick out the best spots. The couple don't have to be told that their choice of venue is not the bees knees. They will have there friends and family around them and the day will be full of joy and laughter. As a photographer, I will laugh with them and be part of their day and out of that the images will come.

  • Tony March 29, 2011 12:04 pm

    Yes interesting and informative article and like most articles and forums take from it what you deem relavant. I too agree with a number of feedbacks in that an office to meet and greet clients is a much better option as a rule for a professional look. If they make the effort to come they are serious and have hopefully used the modern technology do do the initial searching (googling). Because again if you are serious you will have a website right! You loose a certain wow factor bundling everything up and going to their homes if you have spent the time and money making a nice office. I have been to a couple of homes to assist the sale when it was inconvenient for them to come to me but was pretty confident of the booking before hand.

    As for the turning down work or arranging the venue to better suit the photography. I am a part-time (now 100 weddings in five years with no advertising) photographer ( a Joe schmo by the authors standards I dare say) whereby I shoot as the day unfolds with whatever the venue and surroundings provide. I wouldn't dare suggest, and doubt it would go down well, that they go about setting anything up a particular way to assist other than the bridal location photography. I have actually won a couple of clients after they were told what to do by some professionals. Guidance if and when asked but you are there to do what they want not what you want.

    There is many a challenge in wedding photography, lighting, venues etc. One event its a dark church the next it is the beach mid day. Deal with it. It is their day and wedding, you should be as unobtrusive and obliging as possible. Clients I cater to aren't expecting studio perfect every shot, they are every bit as aware of the locale situation as I am. I win them over with putting my product/proof where my mouth is, in my office.

    Hospitality by trade with no photography training what so ever short of picking up some books, experimenting, an eye and a passion. I haven't missed yet and the clients have all been happy with this schmo. While I don't advocate fake it till you make it in this industry, learn your craft, practice, know your equipment, apply some professionalism and the rest comes on the job.

    Again take from this what you will, just another perspective.

  • happyspace March 27, 2011 03:21 pm

    This article provides some interesting points. But, as other commenters have noted, some of the points and attitudes towards potential clients and other photographers sound rather arrogant.

    On the one hand, it is great that you provide instructions to the client on how the setup of the venue etc could improve photos. On the other hand, refusing a job because of a venue choice comes across as elitist. Sure, you could point out that certain features of the venue would make taking beautiful photos difficult but I would assume that a good non-Joe Schmo pro would be able to manage to detract from the background and still capture special moments.

    I think the pro needs to find a good balance between advising clients on their needs as a photographer as far as getting nice shots are concerned. But, they also need to remember that this is the client's special day, it is not a straight photo shoot and it's not all about the photographer. The pro needs to be able to make the best of the situation (with the client advised beforehand of the expected results).

  • Indianapolis Photographer Stuart Meyer September 30, 2010 08:45 am

    Excellent wedding photography advice. But, I totally disagree with the comment about traveling to see the potential client. My experience as a wedding photographer has been that the farther I drive the less interested they were to begin with in my photography services. I'm also a bit puzzled about the comment regarding a table in front of large windows. Yes, it's challenging, but using enough light to overcome the window light usually works. It's not perfect and the background is a bit blown, but I run into all types of situations as a wedding photographer that require me to improvise and make things work. I like the advice about being honest and telling the client that what is on the website is your best work. Very important and something I'll start doing.

  • Sarah" September 20, 2010 06:46 am

    Great article. A comment about some of the comments, however.
    As a recent bride and neophyte photographer, I can tell you that it is helpful to have the photographer give you ideas about how to best arrange the room, add or use light, where to stand, etc. Please don't assume that (a) your average person has a clue about how light produces an image and (b), in the midst of all of the craziness involved in wedding planing it would dawn on the bride to think about these things. We had a great photographer who helped us "see the light" so to speak, and we read some good planning articles about wedding photography and what makes for a good shot. Result, we have beautiful pictures. Perhaps all of you who are in the business of wedding photography could give your would-be clients a small packet of articles that talks about styles of photography, lighting for these types of settings, how to pose, that dancing your entire first dance gives more opportunities for pictures, etc. There is plenty out there, and this would help to guide the more clueless of your "picture-perfect" wanting couples and cut down on frustration for you.

  • Biswajit Dey Photoblog September 19, 2010 05:08 pm

    Some very good points mentioned here.... I have also shot in a few weddings and knwo a few details of that happens there...there is a lot difference between a relative taking a photo and a pro photographer taking a photo...there is no room for error in profession photography....and missing a moment is as bad as not shooting at all...

    BISWAJIT DEY PHOTO BLOG

  • Thomas Neubauer September 19, 2010 02:30 am

    I do agree with some of these points. However I would have to agree with some other peoples points here. I have seen some of the work of the "pros". I would say they have a problem with the little guy because they know their shots are weak and basically suck.

    More times than not when I look at "pro wedding photographers" work I am left saying, "WTH were they thinking?" Recently I was in a wedding party (that is something new). The photographer was AWFUL. Better gear than I had but still had no presence, no skills, and in general was lazy about her shooting, and this woman was an established "pro". I had to start shooting all the shots I would normally shoot to get her off her lazy duff and do her job. She followed me like a puppy dog looking for her next shot. I should have charged her for teaching her just what to do. She was stingy on the shutter count, you would think she was counting precious shutter actuations like they were money out of her pocket. She obviously had no clue how to bracket a shot to get the proper exposure. Most of the time was spent waiting for her to check the lighting on her LCD. She totally and completely missed the bride prep which was agreed to in the contract. I told my uncle I would have sued her for the utter failure she made of her own accord.

    The fact is that many pros have a super inflated opinion of their work and it shows in their prices. I am brutal in my assessment of photos of people. Either it pops or it goes in the "El-Deleto bucket" never to be seen by anyone again. No milking weak shots with Photoshop.

    1. If your are an elitist in your persona as a wedding photographer your clients will know this and you will leave the appropriate sour taste in their mouth. Elitists don't deserve the booking based on equipment or their attitude. Neither equipment or attitude will guarantee the skill of the photographer. If you think more than 1 in 10 shots is a popper then you have your bar set way to low and the body of your works shows it.

    2. Bride must know they are the most important person that day. You must be in a position that you are more stressed than the bride. This puts her at ease and she knows you will do everything you can to get this right including but not limited to stitching people into a picture when they are late to the wedding. I have had to do this for several brides maids. Also know if tattoos are to be removed in pictures.

    Grooms could care less. Some are even busy getting half drunk before the wedding. They want the bare minimum shots that will make the bride happy and then for you to go away. Guys feel it out, you may have to even give harmless flirting to the bride to get her to warm up. This takes skill to know how and when to do this.

    3. Stop being greedy, share the loot. Shoot a wedding with 2 photographers to ensure all points are captured is better than you alone. If you are so worried about sharing the loot then you will stay small time. I don't care if you get them suckered into a $3000 wedding deal if you are not shooting with 2 photographers then you are wasting their money and time. For $3000 I would expect excellent coverage not a one man show.

    4. Again stop being greedy, there is nothing wrong with providing the images and a well labeled disc with open copyright to print as they see fit. You could always make reprinting images a nightmare and thus get no follow up business.

    It might surprise you that using 1 hour photo to process the smaller proofs goes a long way. It shows them how they can get those special prints without hiding the image in some fancy print processing while printing it on some canvass that looks like discarded rope. If your images are too weak to undergo this 1 hour treatment, try shooting better and stop producing garbage.

    5. Presence is everything. If you do not have a presence that invokes trust and attention you will get nowhere when it comes to directing the shots as you need them.

    6. Know your gear so well you can operate it in the dark. I am not kidding about this. If you can not you will NEVER get that special spontaneous shot without luck. There is no excuse for not knowing your gear inside and out. Nor sure on a feature? READ THE !@#$%$ BOOK!

    7. ALWAYS be at the rehearsal not matter what. DO NOT walk in blind as you will most certainly fail. Also take the time to scope out the lighting in the church or arena you intend to shoot in. Take your camera and shoot about 50 shots of things in the church to get and idea of how the lighting will work. Make sure you are there at the same time of day as the wedding will be as light WILL change.

    8. AND SMILE it invokes a confidence that will help you in the long run, and NEVER LET THEM SEE YOU SWEAT!

  • Carrie September 18, 2010 10:30 pm

    Okay, these tips WILL work. However, anything you've said goes out the window when the groom shows up drunk, the father of the bride is domineering and impatient and driving the getaway car to the reception, and the bride chucks everything she's ever agreed to out the window to "keep the peace" with her clan. I had precisely 3 minutes to shoot the bride and groom after the wedding once (after scheduling 15-20). The groom drooled on the bride, refused to smile, looked like he was falling asleep, and then walked away in the middle of a shot. I had to yell (!) "hold her hand" to get a shot of them together. This was an expensive wedding, but no amount of planning or tips would have helped this situation. I just slapped a smile on my face and pretended they were the most beautiful couple in the world. Got some decent images of the bride with her family, but really nothing great of the couple together...disappointing.

  • Craig September 18, 2010 09:58 am

    I think this article shares some very valid points I agree with and also some I do not. One of the things that is increasingly getting up my nose is the amount of pompous "pro" wedding photographers griping about any "joe schmo" with a camera getting in on the game. Fact of the matter is, if you are THAT good you should not have to worry about a hack with a camera stealing your business. People that wish to pay between $3000-$6000 for their wedding photo's will find you and they must know that if they do hire "Joe Schmo" for a burnt disc of images for $300 that they will not be getting a professional service. Contrary to popular belief most people are not stupid (especially when it comes to forking out cash) and if they shop around for a wedding photographer you would think they would be intelligent enough to ask questions when the prices range from $300 to $6000 for different people's services.

    Furthermore, don't these pro photographers know that you have to start somewhere? I understand how some of the older pro's would be a bit miffed because they made a career choice years ago to be a photographer. They studied the art when film was still the norm and spent years fine tuning it. Back then the good gear was out of most people's reach so they didn't have the level of competition there is nowadays. Although I can sympathise with that frustration I have to say GET OVER IT! I have seen images from photographers who only picked up a camera 3 years ago that are more visually asthetic and creative than images I have seen from shooters with decades more experience. The first wedding I ever shot I charged $200 and burnt the images on a disc. In this instance I was not seeking the business but rather the couple came to me. I was upfront with them about my lack of experience and let them know I was in no way a professional and could not promise stunning images like the pro's could deliver but I would do my best. Looking back on those images 5 years later they are absolutely terrible but the bride and groom were thrilled with them at the time.

    I have since worked my way up to charging the going rate and I received so many more offers of work through that first experience and with that I became a much better shooter. I am grateful for it. The pro's out there that keep whingeing about "joe schmo's" really need to realise that times have changed and that there are a lot of people out there with real talent that would not have otherwise been realised were it not for the advent of digital photography. Like I said, if you really are an established pro you should not have to worry. Just get on with what you are doing and stop worrying about everyone else!!

  • Jodi September 18, 2010 12:23 am

    Excellent points! Thanks for sharing! I do find it difficult to say no to a potential client or turn down a job, but you make some very valid points. I have had wedding shoots where the venue is horrific and yet they want gorgeous pictures to come out of some place that's tacky, boring and distracting! I've also had shoots where the bride & groom did not allow me any time between wedding and reception to get them alone and take photos of them as a couple...crazy!! I have learned the hard way too. If couples want a picture perfect day, they have to agree to create that environment. I don't care how good of a photographer you are, you cannot represent a day beautifully when it's a dumpy venue or they don't allow you time to capture what should be captured.

  • Ellyssa September 17, 2010 08:58 pm

    I'm a little offended. I might actually classify myself as a "Joe" because I do offer a cd for an amount as a package, but where I like to think I'm different is that I love what I'm doing and give every wedding the same amount of professional attention as the next.
    I feel that as a photographer it's my job to make the best of any situation that I'm put in. I agree that communication is key but I also agree that not all photographers that offer less expensive prices and packages don't have the same skill set or talent that any of the tops dogs do. You have to start somewhere right?

  • Ellyssa September 17, 2010 08:57 pm

    I'm a little offended. I might actually classify myself as a "Joe" because I do offer a cd for an amount as a package, but where I like to think I'm different is that I love what I'm doing and give every wedding the same amount of professional attention as the next.
    I feel that as a photographer it's my job to make the best of any situation that I'm put in. I agree that communication is key but I also agree that not all photographers that offer less expensive prices and packages don't have the same skill set or talent that any of the tops dogs do. You have to start somewhere right?

  • Mei Teng September 17, 2010 03:24 pm

    Great tips.

  • Josh September 17, 2010 02:45 pm

    Good post. I would imagine digital world has made it tough for professional photographers. I've been asked to help out with at a couple events and have turned them down every time. I'll bring my camera but I make it very clear I'm there to take photos for fun and my own personal collection. My wife and I hired a photographer (a friend of a friend) to do some newborn shots. He gave us a nice discount and my wife scanned through his website and said it looked fine. They decided to do the shoot at our house which is very dark. I was skeptical but figured a "pro" would bring proper lighting. Needless to say he showed up with a D60 w/ on camera flash and that was it. I looked at his page after (my own fault for not looking) and was pretty pissed. Selective color, distracting background, etc... Moral of the story do some damn research, pay money for the style you want, and as a photographer be prepared for diverse settings.

  • Dee September 17, 2010 12:38 pm

    While I agree with many of your points, I cannot wrap my head around your comment stating this 'photographer' was a jerk simply because he did not go to her. Frankly, I feel that the lack of a studio or designated meeting space where clients can speak with you, view your work, and visit you when needed is unprofessional. Professional photographers are not door-to-door salesman and if you're taking a stand against the Joe Schmos of the world who run to Vistaprint and become Joe Schmo Photography the day they get their hands on an SLR kit from Costco you really need to rethink that statement before offering your advice.

  • Jonathan September 17, 2010 10:37 am

    GREAT article, I know everyone has to start somewhere, but some stories I hear just make me shudder. I am by no means ultra experienced but I do shoot the odd wedding but make SURE the client knows my level experience and what I can provide them.

  • Ab Sier September 17, 2010 08:30 am

    Being a "weddingplaner" and having a wedding in total control, seems to be the only way to operate as a wedding photographer.
    The results of your photography should never be dependable of other people.
    Making a framework for your work that day and a perfect preparation is required and the wedding couple should be totally devoted to you that day.

    For the professional, the distinction to the amateur must be as big as possible, and you should be able to communicate that in your salespitch.

    Unfortunately, as Wedding photographer, you have only one chance to sell yourself. Is the couple making a other choice for there weddingpictures, (Joe Schmo) you can never get them back.
    The wedding is a one time thing...

    Small tip: give your clients a "bad weather insurance". When you have rain on the wedding day and not the pictures you or the couple want, invest in an extra few hours on another day to re-shoot the wedding pictures.
    It sells !

  • NatBunch September 17, 2010 04:49 am

    Thank you for sharing your insight. My husband and I have also been able to experience some learning-by-experience regarding the need to clearly spell out as much as possible in written form with clients. I realize a photographer cannot possibly plan for everything, it's good to have your bases (and neck) covered, to your best ability. You've provided some good discussion points for me to share w/ my husband as we prepare for an upcoming wedding shoot. Again, thanks!

  • Rob Meredith September 17, 2010 03:48 am

    Good article in many respects however I have to take issue with what seems to be a rather contradictory attitude to Wedding Photography by the author.

    The comment "(wait, he didn’t go to her? Jerk.)" is very negative as why should the photographer be obliged to travel to see the couple. Yes, you should be doing your best to get their business, however in these times when the couple can readily see examples of your work on the internet , if they like what they see I don't think it is unreasonable for the couple to travel to see you? In business terms this gives you a much better chance to show off a wider gamut of your work (different albums, covers etc) and control the sales process in an environment that is comfortable to you. If you confident about your work and are looking to work for customers who are interested in good photography; (and who wouldn't want to work for such customers?) then at least by asking them to come and see you, you know that they are serious about booking you as a photographer on the basis of what they have seen of your work and the interaction you have had with them up until that point. It's far too easy to spend 3 hours travelling to see a potential customer only to then never hear from them again. I understand that when just starting a business it is advisable to take every lead you can get to build up business but once you are established you can then become a little more choosey.

    The comment I cited above in particular clashes with these 2 comments later in the article
    "I don’t accept work if the venue is a shambles, by the way. Another perfectly good reason to turn down a wedding."
    Tell them that the couple took your advice and didn’t place the head table smack in front of a gigantic window (also in my contract).
    It seems the author is advocating doing all you can to convert an enquiry yet then seeming to flippantly turn away bookings due to the venue? What if you spent 3 hours travelling to see a customer who wanted to book you, only to then take a look at the venue after and discover it wasn't up to your standards? 3 hours wasted that could have gone towards working on a wedding you have already shot.

    Aside from this the points made about making it clear to your customer exactly what your style is and how you work are important. If you want to capture beautiful moments of the bride and groom together before the ceremony you need to let them know that time will be needed for this and that romantic shots with clear uncluttered backgrounds and flattering lighting don't just happen by chance. And conversely if you shoot in an exclusively reportage style then the couple can't expect you to capture magic little moments happening throughout the wedding if they want you to photograph 100 different combinations of group shots. It is paramount to be transparent with the customer about how you work as a photographer.

    Rob

  • Jason Collin Photography September 17, 2010 03:31 am

    Excellent post, one of the best I have read on dPS. Lots of terrific, specific information. I learned things that I will use in my next consult.

    I especially like the details you tell potential clients about not every photo will be like this, and especially that you had no trouble getting the couple to be natural, etc.

    I am with you in not liking the selective color gimmick at all.

    I have a big wedding this Saturday and have already scouted the reception room and it has floor to ceiling windows on 2 of four walls, and I just bet the head table will be in front of a window (the organizer was not available on the day I visited so I cannot confirm that). I like how you put that in your contract!

    One question, if you have your own office/studio, would you then expect and want the potential client to come to your office/studio for the consult? Did you just mean that if you do not have your own office/studio then you should definitely go to a neutral meeting spot close to the client if not to the client's home directly?

    Just curious, why did your friend/client not hire you to photograph the wedding?

  • MSunflower September 17, 2010 03:30 am

    What a great post! I'm not a wedding photographer...but I have a lot of cousins who have a LOT of weddings! I've been asked by friends to be their wedding photographer before and strenuously denied them! I told them I don't have the equipment or the experience they needed and pointed them to a professional.
    But I still always felt bad that my photos of the day were pretty crap...but now I realise...YEAH they were in front of giant windows! And I was stuck in the middle of hundreds of guests!! Alright :) way to make me feel better hehe!

    ~MSunflower Art on Facebook~
    ~ http://m--sunflower.blogspot.com/ ~
    ~ http://www.etsy.com/shop/msunflower ~
    ~ http://www.madeit.com.au/ ~

  • Shaun Fisher September 17, 2010 02:39 am

    Thanks for the post :)

    Lots of the things you mention just how far off I am photographing weddings professionally. If I'm Joe Schmo, optimistically, should I start off as an assistant and just gain ground and experience as I go or would I be better off photographing friends social occasions until I get the wedding invite (lets pretend I have the gear & an assistant)?

    I've been to a few weddings recently & kept a close eye on the photographer(s). Whereas one wedding everything was super organised and the photographers seemed to have everything under control effortlessly, the other (one photographer) was a "gift" from friends & I'm still waiting to see how end result turned out!

  • Shaun Fisher September 17, 2010 02:38 am

    Thanks for the post :)

    Lots of the things you mention just how far off I am photographing weddings professionally. If I'm Joe Schmo, optimistically, should I start off as an assistant and just gain ground and experience as I go or would I be better off photographing friends social occasions until I get the wedding invite (lets pretend I have the gear & an assistant)?

    I've been to a few weddings recently & kept a close eye on the photographer(s). Whereas one wedding everything was super organised and the photographers seemed to have everything under control effortlessly, the other (one photographer) was a "gift" from friends & I'm still waiting to see how end result turned out!

  • Mike B September 17, 2010 02:11 am

    Could you possible share a typical contract you use? It might be useful to understand some of the nuances regarding the business side and the things you have to think through first.

  • Shanna September 17, 2010 02:11 am

    Thanks A lot, Your Advice is wonderful. I'm new to the "business"..... a photographer for over a decade, currently pursuing my BS in photography, and doing a little part time shooting to gain professional experience.
    this was VERY helpful to me, in guiding my clients to help me give them the best photography experience possible.

  • Nathan September 17, 2010 02:07 am

    This is a good perspective.

    I like that you really emphasize the importance of being honest and transparent with potential clients. For example, being open about your portfolio being your very best, and helping the bride understand, and encouraging her to plan her wedding to be a little more "photogenic"

    I started in wedding photography with my dad. He's had a saying for years: "If you want beautiful wedding photos, have a beautiful wedding."

  • Felicia Broschart September 17, 2010 01:27 am

    Good points....I was a second shooter at a wedding last year and the brides entourage was is such a hurry to join the reception and start drinking that we really got lousy shots with the bridal party, no one was cooperating and consequently the bride felt rushed to join the reception as well! Would be worthwhile to have to bride or the photographer go over those expectations as well.

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