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Photography Question 
Michele King
 

Shooting a wedding without an assistant


Just wondering how wedding photographers handle shooting without an assistant. I bought a lowepro field and stream waist belt with attachements to carry lens, cards and batteries. It is pretty bulky. I also have a camera case on wheels but haven't used it at a wedding yet.


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7/27/2007 5:20:51 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  A camera case on wheels will be off in the corner wouldn't it? Just anticipate what happens and switch tools to match. Batteries can stay in your pocket and put the dead ones in the other pocket. Anytime you need to go back to your case or there's a free moment, put the dead batteries back in a charger. Leave the case near a wall socket.
And keep your cases in sight if you're in a hotel banquet room. Local guy had his stuff stolen. Thought one of the wedding party had moved it trying to be helpful. Says that in the time he saw it wasn't in the spot he left it, he could've ran out to the parking lot and caught the people. But he went to ask somebody if they had moved his bag, and in that short time is when the thieves left the hotel and drove away.


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7/27/2007 11:08:57 PM

 
Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  Hello Michele,

I rarely shoot weddings anymore so perhaps the scene has changed. When I did shoot weddings, I would not even entertain the thought of shooting without an asst.

Here's why:

1) Fumbling around for what you need in the way of equip etc is not only a pain, but in my opinion, looks un-professional.

2) This should have been my #1 reason. LOL...My asst would not only be my "go-get this, go get that" person; they would SHOOT the exact same shot I did over my shoulder with a 2nd camera.
I was NOT willing to risk equipment failure and/or lab problems.

If you desire to get your name out, I highly suggest your asst shoot the same shot as you
.
Can you imagine if your CF card crashes after 300 shots? 600 shots? The camera quits working? etc... Portraits can be re-done..weddings can not.


Pete


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7/28/2007 6:29:38 AM

 
Michele King   Good suggestions thanks!


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7/28/2007 8:32:51 AM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  Fumbling and having to have someone stand next to you to shoot duplicate shots sounds like a discount is in order.


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7/28/2007 4:56:39 PM

 
Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  Ya' lost me Greg?


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7/28/2007 6:38:05 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  Having an assistant take duplicate shots right next to you sounds like the secretary pitching the ad campaign.
Why not just hire the sec for their current salary if that's the way things go.


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7/28/2007 10:53:23 PM

 
Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  Ahh..I see what you are saying now Greg.

Well sir; it worked VERY well for me, never had a complaint, all shoots went off without a hitch, reduced my work load tremendously and gave peace of mind to my clients at the time. When I explained to them why I was using a 2nd shooter, they all seemed VERY appreciative that I did it this way. 50% of the bride & grooms told me horror stories they had heard about photogs who were uncaring and often either messed up the shot or didn't get the shot at all.

Yep; it cut into my profits somewhat, but at the time I was shooting, I had more referals than I could handle, so I passed them off to other pros who paid me 20% of their fees.

People are odd creatures Greg..They seem to have this wacky sense to actually pay MORE for quality, value and a sincere caring from their photog. ;)

All the best,

Pete


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7/29/2007 5:59:25 AM

 
Erin  Johnson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/16/2007
  shooting alone is greedy and sooner or later will get you into trouble.


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7/29/2007 9:14:59 AM

 
Michael A. Bielat
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/23/2007
  What has made my company do something over the past year is that we ALWAYS have 2 photographers. Every other company in the area charges an arm and a leg for a second photographer or only includes 2 photographers when the clients buy the most expensive package.

We are relaxed, we are real and we look out for our customers.


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7/29/2007 4:36:05 PM

 
anonymous 
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/7/2005
  I have photographed about 25 weddings on my own, and although it is tiring, I cope quite well, I keep everything close by, and I am always looking at what is going to happen next.

I am not GREEDY! I am just starting out and my costs/profits do not allow for me to afford a second shooter. I have in the past had "work experience" students help me out, which has been great, and I hope one day my budget allows for a second shooter. In the meantime, all my clients know I am by myself, understand I can't do what 2 photographers can do, but they also pay accordingly. If they request 2 photographers, then I would hire a second photographer on a contract (hourly) rate and pass the charges on to the client.


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7/29/2007 6:25:29 PM

 
Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005
  I know I'm not in a big market like L.A. or New York, but we do have big weddings here, and we do have some very successful wedding photographers. I've been to weddings where I've seen many of the big-name local photographers at work, and I rarely ever see anyone using an assistant. And I've never seen anyone using a second shooter.

It's not a good idea to make blanket statements and try to say that everyone should do a shoot a certain way, because different markets have different needs and different standard practices.


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7/29/2007 9:06:35 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  A team effort of covering two areas of a large hall is one thing.
Needing two people to hammer in one nail, which doesn't reflect on how much you care that the board stays in place, also doesn't mean that you're bringing in quality.


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7/29/2007 9:22:42 PM

 
anonymous 
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/7/2005
  Exactly Gregory!!!


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7/29/2007 10:11:40 PM

 
Michael A. Bielat
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/23/2007
  True true guys, and sorry if my post sounded a bit biased.

My message was to convey more on how to be unique in your local area of photographers (while it didn't exactly come out that way!)

Basically if you offer something unique, or your value is greater than the price, or if you go above and beyond the call of duty, & they like your work (= quality products) then you will get the clients through the door and have them sign!

In our area, we stand apart because they get 2 photographers. My wife is the second shooter so it is a day out for the both of us and we have fun doing it while still being together so it is no problem to us. She is extremely talented as well which means we get A LOT of great shots for the clients. After that comes the upsell. We tell them how many shots we took and then say how they can buy the rights to the images for $x so they feel that they can get even more stuff out of us to help them remember their day. That is additional profit on top of having hard copy samples of what they are getting and what they could upgrade to... Once something is in their hands and they can see the appeal then they want it more often than not!

But I have shot weddings alone before and it can be done no sweat! I like having two because we feed off each other (we compete to see who has the best shot of the day-that is a fun little game to play and makes each of us step up in our work at every event) and we offer the traditional + photojournalistic / lifestyle shooting styles so while I get the wedding party posed, my wife is shooting candids and so on. We kind of kill two birds with one stone so to speak and make it so the bride and groom can actually get the photos out of the way sooner and get to the fun!


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7/30/2007 5:52:32 AM

 
Erin  Johnson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/16/2007
  If you shoot the same exact thing with two cameras , tben I say no problem. You need to have backup in case something fails and it will, esp. with digital


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7/30/2007 9:11:58 AM

 
Jerry Frazier   This is a funny thread. Do whatever you need to do.

2nd shooters can be a huge problem. They get in the way. They don't really add much in terms of keepers for the clients.

My biggest pet peeve with 2nd shooters is that many of them 2nd shoot to build a portfolio. So, they shoot as if they are a main shooter with little regard for what their job actually is.

However, saying that, a talented, excellent 2nd shooter is worth their weight in gold. A perfect 2nd shooter I would hardly ever see, give direction to, or even know what the hell they are doing and where they are. This means to me, that they are doing their job. They are finding unusual shots, hanging back looking at the scenes from totally different perspectives, and really thinking about alternative shots that a main photographer can't possibly do because the main photographer is always on the clients.

In a good relationship, a 2nd shooter is invaluable.

But, most are really bad 2nd shooters. Again, they are just trying to build a portfolio. If you are looking for a 2nd shooter, try to find someone who has no interest in building a portfolio and going at it by themselves. They will be happy working on Saturdays, and making a little money on the side, without having to do all the things required to run a profitable business.

I don't see the need for an assistant. I go pretty light, and can carry everything I need in a small bag that I keep by my side most of the day.

TIP OF THE DAY:
Go buy a $20 bike lock, and when you get to the reception, lock the handle of your bag to the DJ's light stands or something. A theif wants your bag, they wont likely try to take stuff out of your bag. Besides, you'll have the bulk of your main stuff on you anyway, because you are photographing. Hopefully, ALL YOU WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS CARRY INSURANCE, RIGHT? So, you can replace all your stuff pretty easily.

Cheers,
Jerry


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7/30/2007 11:32:25 AM

 
Robyn Gwilt
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/15/2005
  I generally shoot on my own, and yes it is stressful, and damn tiring! Up down here there, but as Natalie says, I explain what I can and cannot capture in terms of time frame, and if they'd like a 2nd shooter it comes at a cost. Once or twice, a friend has stood in at the ceremony/before the reception - for the experience, so it was quite nice to know that someone was backing me up - but NOT over my shoulder - different angles, different perspectives, different style. I do however, strongly suggest 2 of everything, 2 camera's - one with wide angle, one with zoom, 2 flashes (i don't have!) lots of memory, batteries etc, and a willing member of the entourage to get family members into place etc - one the ceremony and family pics are out the way, then its up to you to make the couple relaxed and just shoot and enjoy the whole thing. I think a husband/wife team would be nice - as its a long day away from the family - normally on a Saturday! But hey.... brides/grooms will pay gazillions on dresses/flowers/draping of halls/windows/music/suits/food/booze......... and oh.... you want HOW MUCH to capture the ONLY memory of the entire day!!! It really burns my arse, and I'm starting to feel like Naomi Campbell - this is my package, this is my minimum rate - you found someone R2 000.00 (about USD300.00) cheaper - Go for it!! I'm not prepared to work that hard, and spend all those hours POST wedding, for a piddly amount of money. Hire someone with no training, who shoots on P mode, doesn't know an SLR from an SLK... and cry afterwards..... too late!
So Michelle - thank you for asking this, and allowing me to vent my spleen, I feel much better now, and am going to make tea :) LOL


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7/30/2007 11:34:59 AM

 
Michael A. Bielat
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/23/2007
  Tell us how you really feel Robyn! haha.

I hear you on the money thing. I am not charging nearly as much as I should be but since we are still new to the scene, we have to have something that gets people calling and that is competitive prices... I just shot a wedding yesterday where they blew $9k on booking the reception hall alone. That doesn't even factor in the cost of the food for all the guests! Yet they bought my middle-of-the-road package!

Hello upsale!


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7/30/2007 11:45:18 AM

 
Robyn Gwilt
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/15/2005
  I hear you re just getting started, but I had a conversation this morning with someone local, who was charging (USD 385.00) for a full day shoot. I feel it totally dilutes the market and sends out a very confused message - people by nature will go for the 'best' price, which is not always the best quality, which unfortunately, they only learn afterwards. I really do believe that you need to pitch yourself as close to the 'average' market price - there are the hugely expensive guys (about USD 3500.00) and there are the 'reasonables' (starting at about USD 650/700 for 5 hours). I like to offer value for money, but also don't want to rip off, or be ripped off.


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7/30/2007 12:59:02 PM

 
Jerry Frazier   "I like to offer value for money, but also don't want to rip off, or be ripped off."

Wedding photography is not a right, it is a luxury item.

If someone wants to pay $10k for wedding photography, are they getting ripped off? Obviously, you need to think about the perceived value of things. Why do people pay $80,000 for a car when they can buy a perfectly fine one for $25k? Why do people pay $250 for a pair of jeans, or $800 for shoes, or $8k for a watch? Why? Who cares why. They do. To them, it's worth every penny. No one gets ripped off, and no one is ripping anyone off. It's a win-win situation where one makes a good profit, and the other feels they got their money's worth.


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7/30/2007 3:52:43 PM

 
anonymous 
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/7/2005
  A husband/wife team would be perfect, and also it doesn't eat into your profits either. Unfortunately, my husband is about as artistic as a gnat. I would end up with heads chopped off!

Although, we are trying for a second baby, and I am concerned how that is going to affect all my weddings booked. I suffered from hypoamissis (can't spell it), basically severe morning sickness and was bed ridden for 14 weeks on a drip. How do I deal with that, if I have weddings booked? Well, we have a little plan in place, that the husband will help me and be an assistant. Not a shooter (god help me if he did that). But again that plan will only work if I can actually get out of bed.

On the second shooter thing. I had a second shooter for a wedding about 1 month ago, worked well, we got on well, and worked well together like a really good team. Until I saw the photos. basically 4 out of 5 photos I had to throw out. I was disappointed and not sure how I am or will tell him. There were some really good shots, but also some very ordinary shots, and when you are shooting a wedding, there shouldn't be ordinary shots. I think with a bit of practice though he'll definiately get there, cause he does have talent and it was only his first wedding (it was like work experience for him - non paid).

Personally, I don't want a second shooter, I would love someone to drive me around, get my stuff, charge my batteries, hold the reflector etc, and maybe when I am stuffed and tired at the reception, I set the camera up for them and they can go around and do a few shots. That would be perfect.


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7/30/2007 4:46:51 PM

 
anonymous 
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/7/2005
  Erin - yes I have a backup, it is a contract that states that if the photographer is unable to do the job due to camera malfunction etc blah blah blah, that the couple are given a full refund. I am not about to hire a second shooter to take exactly every shot I do, that would waste so much time on the day, cause they would have to pose for me, then the second shooter. I've had that happen once before, and people get confused on what camera they are looking at etc. It doesn't look professional.

I say - two cameras and loads of memory cards. Don't put all your photos onto one 8gig card, put it on lots of smaller cards. (Don't put your eggs in one basket).


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7/30/2007 4:51:58 PM

 
Erin  Johnson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/16/2007
  Natalie, judging by the photos on your website, it sounds like you are alomst shooting for free. If that is normal in Australia then disregard my comment. You definitelty need to get together with Liana Lehmen, not sure on the spelling. She is in Atlanta. If you can't afford a second shooter or a mule for your gear then you are way undercharging. I used to feel bad charging to much (so I thought) and wanted to give them a good deal. At the end of every year I had debt and no gear paid off. Since talking with Liana I have tripled my package prices. I shoot less weddings, but more expensive high end weddings. I know feel good about my prices because I am worth it. You get what you pay for, right!!!


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8/5/2007 11:01:24 PM

 
Erin  Johnson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/16/2007
  Correct spelling. Liana Lehman, great photographer, great business woman, great person.


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8/5/2007 11:24:35 PM

 
Erin  Johnson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/16/2007
  Any update Nat


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8/13/2007 1:45:56 AM

 
Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
  In Marin County/San Francisco there is NO way in Hell I'd think about doing a wedding for under $5k. On Craigslist there are tons of self proclaimed "High Quality $1000 Wedding photographers" I know someone that hired one for their backyard wedding and they got about 30 good photos for the 5 hour wedding. If they'd spent $5K they would have had over 150 great photos. Secondly, they had to pay me $1500 to take portraits afterwards...They couldn't complain they got what they paid for. Now that I've moved up from Orange County I'm considering working weddings and as a backup at first there is NO WAY I'm working for under $500-$1000 with my portfolio. You can't consider it ripping the customer off when you provide a quality product with no headache, and besides I liken my work to that of a Porsche not a Kia.


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8/13/2007 11:13:37 AM

 
anonymous 
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/7/2005
  Hi there, sorry only just saw this post.

I believe my wedding packages are competitive. I average around $1800 for a wedding, and I have slowly put my prices up 3 times in the past 1.5 years. I am still a "student" so don't believe I can charge what other studio's charge who have been around for years, also, they might charge $4000, but they have to factor in their overheads.

The quality might be the same as mine. People might think, why don't you charge anymore. The way I see it, we probably make the same amount of money, as once they pay their assistant, studio fees, staff and everything else. Cause it is just me, I can charge a little less, as I don't have the expensive overheads. One day I hope I can have an assistant, but at the moment it is about building my "brand".

I had a client who's photos I did (see my website), and she loved them, my prices were ridiciously cheap, since then I have had 2 price rises, her friend now wants me to do her wedding and she doesn't care that I have put my prices up, she just wants me to do it, cause she loved my work.


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8/13/2007 4:49:05 PM

 
Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
  Natalie I think you might be charging too little if your quality it just as good as the higher priced photographers why aren't your prices??? If you charged more you wouldn't be cheating the clients and maybe you could afford to invest in better equipment, hiring an assistant, better marketing to grow your business. Remember its easier to give people a discount than it is to charge them more...if they start complaining about the price give them 15% off...people love thinking their getting a discount.


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8/13/2007 6:06:32 PM

 
Erin  Johnson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/16/2007
  Exactly Oliver!! So I see what others that shot in my price range charge and make my price $2000 more. Make the people with money think, hmm, lets check this one out before we meet with the other that have the same price. We have a meeting, they already like my stuff. I tell them I'll give them a discount and throw in some free parent albums if they book me right away and seal the deal 80% of the time.


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8/19/2007 11:17:36 AM

 
Jerry Frazier   Discounts are typically pretty bad advice in the wedding biz. But, do whatever you want.

I don't discount and I book.

I would never throw in parent albums. They cost too much, and have a high inherent value to the clients.

Never discount. If you drop the price, you take stuff out of the package.

Negotiation 101 - you never give without getting. You never give away something unless they give you something in return. And, saying 'I get a booking doesn't count'. If they say your price is too high, then ask what they would like to pay. If it's something you can work out, then you decrease your offerings, i.e., smaller album, less hours, or whatever.

But, discounting is a bad idea since this biz relies heavily on referrals.

People who complain about your price shouldn't be coming to you anyway. How does that even happen? You need to screen out your candidates before they get to you.


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8/20/2007 12:29:55 PM

 
Erin  Johnson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/16/2007
  Don't worry JF, I have it covered. When I say free, it actually doesn't mean free. They pay for everything. I charge double for what the album cost me. They pay for the parent albums (just not double) so it still is a gift from me.


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8/22/2007 8:04:12 AM

 
Erin  Johnson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/16/2007
  {People who complain about your price shouldn't be coming to you anyway. How does that even happen? You need to screen out your candidates before they get to you}

I overprice to keep away price shoppers, but no one complains (maybe between the couple, but I never hear that discussion). When people say that they like my work, but there budget doesn't quite make it, I break it down and we custom make a better deal they can afford.


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8/22/2007 8:13:19 AM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  Is that Canadian or U.S. dollars?


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8/22/2007 8:39:56 AM

 
Jerry Frazier   I'm not worried, I just like to clarify things because there is a LOT of really POOR information here about wedding photography, and I like to try and set things straight as much as possible.

it's easy to make a quick comment, and I know if you're talking to the right people, they'll know what you mean. but, the majority of people here don't really understand and they take it for what is written.


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8/22/2007 10:13:23 AM

 
Erin  Johnson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/16/2007
  [if you're talking to the right people]

You mean I'm speaking to the wrong people?


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8/25/2007 4:58:31 AM

 
Erin  Johnson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/16/2007
  Sounds to me like you are trying to discourage future wedding photographers from entering the already flooded market. You think if you get the word out that it is not easy (which it isn't) will spread and keep some from even giving it a chance. The newbies bring down the value of other high priced photographers when couples see a full day coverage with album and other photos for $1500.


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8/27/2007 8:44:32 AM

 
Jerry Frazier   The market isn't that flooded and I think everyone should join in. There's room for all levels. But, like anything, it's harder and more expensive than people think. That's all.


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8/27/2007 11:19:21 AM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  Keep your overhead low not constantly changing your name on business cards and relocating to Hawaii, Cali, Canada, and who else knows where.


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8/27/2007 12:17:03 PM

 
Michele King   Boy did this question go off on a tangent. Thanks for your input anyhow!
Michele


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8/27/2007 12:51:24 PM

 
Jerry Frazier   questions about wedding photography are always like this.


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8/28/2007 8:29:11 AM

 
Erin  Johnson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/16/2007
  Back to the backup question. So my assistant who made a mistake with his settings when photographing some friends of the bride and groom. Asked me if I had backed him up on some shots.
His pictures were to blurry to fix. He was shooting at 60 by 4.0 . So he must have not been steady enough. I had to tell the bride and groom that they didn't come out due to camera failure. I would have backed him up, but I was shooting the table settings and cake. I had the tripod which he should have used.


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8/28/2007 12:25:54 PM

 
Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005
  So I guess the moral to your story is that an assistant is a great idea, unless he leaves your equipment in the woods and shakes like Katharine Hepburn, right? You need to fire this guy. ;-)


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8/28/2007 1:43:27 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  Seems to have trouble reading personalities.


And picking one.


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8/28/2007 4:34:18 PM

 
Erin  Johnson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/16/2007
  No, I make mistakes every once in a while too, but I check my work as I go by using the zoom tool and correct it right away. If I see my assistant shooting a group of people I go over and snap it too. I have told him not to be embarrased if he makes a mistake and to tell the people after looking at his LCD that someone blinked and he has to shoot it again.
His main job is to check weather forecast, detours around festivals or parades,lug around my lights, tripod, reflector, get the car, validate our parking ticket, get food and drinks. He second shoots for me during ceremony, family pictures and reception. He has a check list and he knows how many lenses, bodies, filters, flashes, batteries, chargers etc... that we have so we don't leave anything behind. I try to second check everything if I have time, but as busy as a wedding is, I would not always be able to do all that myself.


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8/29/2007 6:28:46 AM

 
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