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Photography Question 
Stephen J. Buttafuoco

How to Shoot a Wedding?

I'm 19 years old, will be 20 in a month. I've been taking a black-and-white photography class for two and a half weeks. I am a pretty good student, and have good understanding of photography for the amount of time I've been in class. My friend's cousin is getting married next August, and needs a cheap photographer. My friend mentioned me, and the offer right now is $800, but could be moved up to 1200, or 1500. I do not know how to put this in context. What expenses will I have to worry about? How many exposures should I be prepared to take? Will I need to buy a lot of equipment to come away with decent pictures? What amount of prints will be needed? I think that if I had the equipment, and read up on it, then in a year, I would be ready. But I'm not sure what to expect, and what will be expected of me. Help? Suggestions? Past experiences?

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6/21/2005 6:12:35 PM

Julie M. Cwik
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/2/2005
  Hi Stephen, I work at a wedding Photography studio located in the suburbs of Chicago. Wedding Photography is a tricky situation. I would highly recommend not photographing a friend's wedding, especially if it is your "first" ... only because if something goes wrong people are not quick to forgive, especially with something that is supposed to happen only once in their lives. Our studio has been around for more than 40 years, and we charge $1400 for everything, unlimited photography, and the photographer for the ENTIRE wedding (2 hours before), getting pictures of the girls getting "ready" and pics of the bride with family and the girls.
Then the photographer would go to the church (30 minutes before the ceremony started) to get pics of the guys. During the ceremony (at most churches), you cannot use any type of flash photography, so make sure you have 2.8 lens at least!
Most people today want the traditional-posed photography, but also they want the "photojournalism" - which involves the candids, or emotional images, that the bride and groom don't know were taken. Then between the ceremony and reception the photographers will take the new couple to a couple of parks for romantic outdoor images. Then it's on to the reception, a whole evening of low light and mixed light situations. Lots of fun!
The photographer usually will leave after the bride and groom leaves. Oh, we also provide a backdrop and flash unit so couples can have "professional" photos taken at the wedding. Then after the whole wedding, for that price, it includes all the proofs (so the bride/groom keep all the proofs, no questions asked) and they are all online with password so out-of-state guests can view the images and purchase them online. Then last but not least we provide the bride/groom a free wedding album, not the best one out there, but it's free - if they want to upgrade, great! If not, that's fine too. I hope this answers your questions! So, this is how many studios in the Chicagoland area works and charges.

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6/21/2005 9:14:24 PM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  Hi Steven,
I too am a professional photographer. I also write posing books (see my gallery) for those who want and need to learn the ART of posing subjects.
One of the things I tell people who are starting out is to try to start with a friend or family member's wedding - someone who will know that you are trying your best. But even at that, you do have to be careful, so when presenting your portfolio, make sure you have a third party there to witness your presentation, and be honest and discuss your qualifications.
Starting at a reasonable price is always best when getting started (read some of the other threads on wedding photography) - some of us have done events free of charge when getting started. This is OK - your price can grow as you grow. $800.00 is more then fair for someone who has no experience - if you are worried about the experiences then just decide on a fair price for yourself and then they pay the expenses. I have a friend who is in the business of sports photography - hates weddings. He's been photographing for 17 years, and when he feels he has to do a wedding he charges $600.00 and up, takes the shots, hands them the film, and says goodbye - to each his own. We argue this consistently.
Now my company shoots digital and I advertise 1-3 photographers for your event. This can yield 4000+ shots, of which I edit and then present the proofs. There are no hard-and-fast rules - you will do what you need to get started. The more experience the better your pay and the price you charge will be determined by what the market within your area will bear.
If you would like to see my price sheets I will share them with you. And if you need a posing list, I will send you one (due to the new contents of the Wedding cd, I only send out the short list now). But if you need help, just keep asking.
I think if your friends are willing and understand your experience level, then you SHOULD do it. I do hope this helps.

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6/22/2005 1:48:34 PM

Julie M. Cwik
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/2/2005
  Also, try marketing yourself at the local colleges. There are always couples getting married who don't have a lot of money. They would jump at that opportunity.

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6/22/2005 2:09:46 PM

Norbert Maile   Hello. Buy or pick up Bambi Cantrell's The art of wedding photography. It is at some libraries. Try to calculate how many rolls of film you will need and double it. You will need some higher speed for the church and lower speed for outside unless it is a cloudy day. Watch the forcast. If you don't have one, pick up a light weight reflector. It will come in handy. Some films are available through some stores as develope included. This is a good idea for now and ask if unused film can be returned. Tell them you will do it for x $ after costs. This will protect you and they will decide how many enlargement etc. After this first one you will have a better idea. Don't forget black and white and don't be afraid to use 3200 for some nice special effects with intimate shots. Don't stress out. Have fun, bring lots of film and batteries. Rent a good lens if you have to. ENJOY!!!!

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6/28/2005 11:16:42 AM

Maria Melnyk   Whoa, do NOT photograph a friend's wedding if you've never done it before. Trust me, you will NOT know what to do. And having your friend show those pictures around might be an embarassment. Having a basic knowledge of photography does not give you credentials for professional wedding photography. You must learn how to pose the bride and groom for formals at the house, the church, outdoor photos (if any) and the reception. You must know how to place and meter your lights for the backdrop portraits, and especially, how to pose properly. One twist of the head the wrong way, or even a finger in the wrong position, and your portrait will be ruined. Yes, it's that detailed. And what about the altar photos before that? You have to know not only how to pose them, but how to move through them quickly and efficiently. You must know how to shoot your candids as well, and how to anticipate what's going to happen next. Do you know how to properly compose and light the first dance, the bouquet toss? The cake cutting?
That said, if you still must or want to go ahead, here is, roughly, the expenses you will encounter. Each roll of film, for the film, the processing, and the printing will cost about $20-$25 printed professionally. So, if you shoot 15-20 rolls of film, that's $300-$500. Plus, a proof album. Depending on what you use, you could spend between $35 to $100 for that. A final album will vary between $125 and $300, PLUS prints and enlargements for it, say another $150 - $300.
Now, DO NOT charge any more beyond your expenses. You are learning. This is part of your education. Most new photographers shoot their first weddings for free. You should not charge anything for your time or for profit until you know what you're doing. I would have felt silly taking money for my first 2 weddings even though I had already received some training in wedding photography beforehand. By my third one I was more comfortable and have been getting paid ever since. Even so, the difference in quality between my third wedding and now is like night and day.
And, wait until you've successfully photographed at least one wedding before you put up ads at colleges. Even those that don't have a lot of money want someone who's somewhat competant.

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6/28/2005 11:21:54 AM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  We all tend to have different Inputs .
I do belive that - You have to start somewhere- and if your friends have offered you such an amount after seeing your work and knowing your experiance level- then you are quite blessed and I belive you should move forward - it seems that they have already found faith in your work.
Do make sure as I said before that you take care to have a witness to the contract agreement- that you have disclosed all information on your expeiance level-(this will protect you), have the notes in the contract and have them initionaled.
Also , as Maria and others have stated there are many books both for sale and in the libararies. I also have one,JUST on the basic Required Poses.
All these WILL help you - but if you want to move into this direction of photography- then Any Wedding you finally chose will be your "FIRST"
I repeat- you must start somewhere.
Another Idea that would surly help anyone would be to offer your services as a apprentise to a pro first- though these are VERY hard opertunities to find- most photographers are very protective of incuraging New photographers in "thier" area.
I do wish you the best of luck in your venture,
Debby Tabb

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6/28/2005 12:15:52 PM

Julie M. Cwik
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/2/2005
  Another idea is that a lot of the Jr. Colleges that offer Photography classes will also have a Wedding Photography class, I strongly suggest that!

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6/28/2005 1:17:15 PM

BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/7/2005
  I have mixed feelings about this, and I actually agree with most things people have said above. It is definitely hard doing a friends/family members wedding, they do expect professional results and unlike photographing someone you don't know, you will always see them - so basically if you f**k it up, you will have to constantly hear about it.

But I also agree with Debbie, that a friend's wedding is also probably more comfortable to photograph then a complete strangers and that you do have to start someone, everyone who photographes weddings had to do their "first" at some stage.

I strongly agree, that if it is friends wedding you:

1. Ensure a contract is typed up and signed, specify that you are an "amateur" and although you have good knowledge of the basics of photography, you are not a wedding photography, that it is your first wedding. Put in a clause about weather and your experience in different weather situations (read a post about something like this that happened a few weeks ago to a member)

2. Only charge for your expenses (especially considering it is for a friend) that way, if something does go wrong, at least they can't say you made money out of it. Just cover all your expenses, and use it as a learning curve.

I've only just photographed my 2nd wedding (with much success). The first one was someone who approached me, and told them I had never done a wedding and that I wasn't sure how I would go etc. They had more confidence in me then I did, and I nearly threw up on the morning of the wedding! Anyway, I charged them $550, that included 7 rolls of film developed and all the photos that turned out as 4x6 (I had the photos put onto disc first though, so I could PS them) and then printed them at 33c each from a Fuji Frontier Machine (EXCELLENT QUALITY) and it also included a 12x18 enlargement of their choice. With the 4x6's I gave them a mix of B&W and Colour so they could see the difference. I made about $220 for the photo shoot, and only felt comfortable charging for my time, as they approached me to do it and knew full well that I hadn't done it before. They said if I didn't do it, they weren't getting anyone, as they couldn't afford the prices others were charging.

The second wedding which was only last Sat, was my brother-in-law's, so it is my wedding present to them. As it is digital, the good thing is that I only have to print what I want to give them, so I am working on a digital album for them.

Oh, by the way, the first wedding have ordered a heap of reprints and the bride wrote me a note saying "they are by far the best wedding photos she has ever seen". So that was lovely.

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6/28/2005 5:44:33 PM

Justin G.
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/13/2004
  Well Natalie, you say you've only done 2 weddings but from looking at your gallery I would've never guessed it. You seem to know what your doing and you have a very creative eye for some very unique wedding shots; no wonder they are happy with the results. Anyways,

Stephen, take a glance at Natalie's gallery and study her shots as well as the shots of many other weddings. Find some books and things on posing and weddings and things. Best of luck, and don't let your nerves get you, just stay relaxed.



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6/28/2005 5:51:41 PM

BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/7/2005
  Thanks Justin, much appreciate the feedback. I am very much into the casual posses, nothing too formal, although I think it is nice to get one good formal/possed shot of the bride and groom, otherwise, I like different angles etc, at the end of the day, a finger out of postion isn't going to worry the clients too much, weddings go way to fast, you just have to be quick and photograph what you can as quickly as you can so the bride and groom can enjoy their day!

I'll post some shots of my second wedding as soon as I am finished working on them and can save a copy of them for web use (as they are HUGE files!).


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6/28/2005 6:04:56 PM

Maria Melnyk   Dear Debby & Natalie,
I like both your answers better than mine. Congratulations, Natalie, on your first two successful weddings; I wish you many more!
Anyway, the reason I wrote what I did is because there are many, many brides out there who think that anyone who knows something about photography is capable of photographing a wedding, and then they're disappointed because they "got what they paid for". But perhaps, Steven, your bridal couple is different. If you follow Debby's and Natalie's advice about making sure they know that you are not a wedding photographer (yet), I think you'll do fine.
Please prepare yourself, though. Attend a wedding ceremony at a local church and observe the photographer, see if you can find a seminar or course to attend on wedding photography, and do read good books on the subject as well; all this will really help.
I guess everyone does need to start somewhere, so ignore most of my previous advice, be thankful for the opportunity, and GO FOR IT!

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6/28/2005 6:34:27 PM

Norbert Maile   Soooo much info must seem overwhelming! Don't let it be. Take it all, including mine with a grain of salt. Put everything together, weed out what doesn't fit, and make it your own. In the past I have seen full time photographers do weddings and I thought it was terrible but they are busy with repaets also. Photography is a science yes, but lets not forget it is also an art and beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Ralax. Remember your basics. Everything will come together.

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6/28/2005 9:23:29 PM

BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/7/2005
  Oh, and have a glass of wine to calm the nerves before you go!!!! LOL

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6/28/2005 9:36:44 PM

Annette  Harb  
Hey Stephen,
You Can Do This!...cause I just did
I am the daughter of a nature photographer, and since I take good photos, was asked to shoot a dear freinds last min. wedding.
I spent one panic month preparing. I got a good lens, Bambi's book, took two private lessons, visited the site three times-once with models, met with the mother and then the couple, shot the couple at a park two days ahead and went online to saturate my mind with romance and wedding images.
The images came out beautiful. I really had one of the best times of my life. Follow your heart,and the info in the above responses. Shoot it for experience, shoot it for the story, but don't miss it.(and know your equipment!)
Now go study up!

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7/4/2005 6:38:42 AM

Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/13/2004
  Couldn't help...but if Stephen turned 20 a few months ago or so, hopefully this will be an early summer or spring wedding for that glass of wine, Natalie haha! Now, I haven't done any wedding photography, but I would suggest that you carry around your camera all the time and take a lot of pictures of people (probably people that you know so they don't attack you) so you get used to the candid photo journalist thing. I know I've taken some pictures at a few of my Girlfriend's family functions and each time I got more comfortable. I also got a friend of mine to pose so I could know how not to (or how to) act when taking portraits and such. I need to get some books on this kind of thing but don't have enough money at the moment.

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9/11/2005 9:19:08 PM

Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/13/2004
  sorry, I meant late summer wedding, and I guess I see now that it is :)

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9/11/2005 9:22:35 PM

Maria Melnyk   Hold everything! Stephen, did you say NEXT August, as in 2006? You have 11 months to learn and practice! Not a lot of time unless -- unless, you can get a job at a studio as a beginning photographer. They can send you out first as a photographer's assistant, then as an assistant photographer (two different things), and you can learn that way! One studio in Chicago hires new-ies, and trains them from scratch! The students have to pay $250 for training, but hey, it's good training, and within 6 to 8 months these new photographers are ready to go out and shoot weddings on their own! Please check out something like this in your own city. Good luck, and by next August you will do a hell of a great job for your friend's cousin, plus get a lot of referrals!

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9/11/2005 11:59:35 PM

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