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Photography Question 
Gretchen J. Gilkey
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/19/2006

Shooting Outside Nighttime Wedding

HELP!!! My son is getting married on 8/15. To save money, I am taking the photos. I have just purchased a Tamron 28-75 f/2 lens. The wedding will start at 8:00pm and is outside. Sunset will be at 7:39pm. The only light will be the reception tent in which there will be lights strung about and hanging paper lanterns. I know I will need to purchase a good external flash and possibly other mount lights. I have a Canon D20. I would lilke ANY ideas/suggestions for shooting the wedding party under these conditions. Also, any suggestions on what equipment I need to purchase???

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6/9/2008 5:32:19 PM

Jerry Frazier   I'm not going to be any help. But, I'd say that the ONLY thing you should not save money on is the photography. Save and skimp on the dress, the cake, the DJ, the shoes, the flowers, the food, and the venue, but the photos should really be done professionally, and pay for good quality. That's my opinion.

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6/9/2008 6:41:49 PM

Gretchen J. Gilkey
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/19/2006
  Thanks Jerry - I appreciate the honest feedback. With a photographer running a minimum of around $1000 and trying to stay withing a $5000 budget - the money is just not there for high-end photographer. By the way - love the expressions you have captured in the photos in your gallery!!!
Thanks!! :0)

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6/9/2008 7:11:07 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005

I fully understand your budget issue.

My concern, and yours should be; if you are shooting the wedding, will that not cause you to miss it? Hmmm?

You mention buying a flash and mount lights. What is the budget for this?
A decent flash will run a minimum of $200, additional lights another 200-300...yet you say you can't afford a photog? There are plenty of people who can shoot the wedding for $500. The question is, are you better than they are?

I'm sorry, your question is confusing at best and conflicting.

Best advice if you are going ahead with this?....Practice well before the event with your camera under the same lighting conditions you anticipate.

all the best,


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6/9/2008 7:49:00 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  I see a number of solutions here: First, the ole assistant with a flashlight to help you focus in no-light or dim-lit conditions; second, change the venue to one that can afford electricity or at least candlelit lanterns (don't forget your light balance); third, buy a Quantum T-4 portable head with a built-in modeling light along with an appropriate bracket/support system, cords, etc., and a Quantum Turbo Battery. Shouldn't run you more than about $1,300 bucks plus shipping from B&H. Tough to find those used though. Plus the additional lights Pete mentioned, of course.

And since when do the grooms parents pay for the wedding? Oh, and btw, Gretchen, you DO get what you pay (or don't pay) for. You've gotten some stellar advice here already. I suggest you take it and with good reason. Aside from the obvious, you'll likely be remembering what is otherwise supposed to be a memorable occasion as what us former military guys would refer to as a "Charlie Foxtrot".
Take it light ;>)

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6/9/2008 8:42:05 PM

Jerry Frazier   Gretchen,

Only $1,000? I am a pro wedding photogrpaher and I don't know anyone who would shoot for that. Of course, I'm in the big city. But, I would expect you could find someone decent and new in the $2,500 range. Unfortuantely, you get what you pay for. This is especially true for this.

As a photogrpaher, I put a high value on the photos because that's what you have left after the cake is eaten, the dress is dirty and in a box (or sold on ebay), the flowers are dead, and the food is gone.

There is no replacement for a pro, and not a $500 craiglist photographer, but a real pro. But, I do understand your budget issue.

It's not just about lighting though. It's about knowing how to shoot. When to shoot moments, how to capture people in action, how to use your equipment properly. How to balance ambient light with flash to get really nice lighting.

Wedding pros use fast lenses, like a 24mm f/1.4 lens or a 50mm f/1.2, so they can suck in every bit of ambient light that exists. They also have good quality cameras that can shoot awesome images at ISO 3200.

I'm really only touching the tip of the iceberg here. There are many unseen and unrealized benefits of hiring a pro.

Lastly, and Pete touched on this, but until you've done it, I don't expect you'll understand. But, as the official photographer of the day, you WILL NOT enjoy the event. You are a spectator, not a participant. It's different. You are not involved in the sense that you'll enjoy the wedding. In fact, you might be too involved to detach and shoot objectively, which I think is important.

Also, if you haven't shot emotional events before, it's hard. What's hard about it is understanding the difference between what you feel and what you see in the viewfinder. You might think moments are very special because you yourself are caught in it. But, a good photographer can separate themselves to only see the moments, and detach their feelings from it. An emotional event is very difficult to photograph properly.

We spend our entire lives training and working to perfect our skills. It's not just show up and shoot. It's much deeper than that. I am always training and mentoring. And, it's a never-ending pursuit of learning how to capture emotion and relationships.

I really do wish you the best. I wish you would reconsider and think hard about this. I know the money isn't there, but maybe there are trade-offs you can make. By not buying the equipment you will need, you will save about the same amount of money that you could probably hire someone for. So, just go hire someone.

Here's a hint, wedding photogrpahers are hurting right now. You can negotiate and get better payment terms. Like, you could pay an inital $500, and then pay the rest off in several payments up until the wedding.

You could ask for a shoot and burn deal. I know news guys who do this for $1,000. The reason they do it so cheap is because they will shoot the event (maybe 6 hours), and then just downloiad everything to a laptop, and burn a disc for you. When they leave the reception, they are done. It's easy work for them that way and could be a win-win for both of you. Just keep in mind that news shooters are a certain genre of shooting. They tend to shoot the event in a real way. So, they wont beautify anything, they just shoot what they see, which is how I shoot anyway. The point is, there are options for you.


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6/10/2008 8:05:40 AM

Jerry Frazier   Sorry, I meant to leave you a resource. To just start looking around, try Indicate your area, and see what is available. Also, don't be afraid to call a few photographers and talk to them about your situation. Some photographers have alot of flexibility in what they are willing to do. There's no standard. We all work differently and have different business models. So, call them and talk to them about your situation. many will bend for you, I am positive of that. Also, the website I provided has tons of info written by photographers which might help you think about your investment.

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6/10/2008 8:11:04 AM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
  I am in Jerry's & Mark's side on this. One solution is to rent everything you need BUT, you'll need to familarize yourself with the lenses, flashes and other'll also have to put a down payment equal to the price of the equipment down...
Mark's quantum is great (I used a T-5D w/turbo) but you won't know how to use this stuff unless you practice. I'm rather experienced with lighting but its taken me 20+days to really learn how to make my damn ringflash work properly. I think you're gonna have to go to Craigslist at least for a backup so you can enjoy this wedding.
After viewing the photos in your gallery you'll want them to be Sharp/SpotOn and shooting in Low Light is really really really difficult, no matter how much experience you've got it still involves a TON of knowledge on camera settings, how to properly use a meter, how to bounce a flash and hand out numbers to the cute bridemaids. (scratch the last one) Trust me you will Never Enjoy a minute of Your Son's wedding if your working it.

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6/10/2008 10:23:10 AM

Kevin Harley  
  wedding bliss
wedding bliss
Canon EOS 5D
Canon 24-70mm 2.8L Lens
Canon 430ex flash off camera

© Kevin Harley
Canon EOS 5D Digit...
I'll second that to a $500 photographer. If a person is willing to commit a lot of their time for that much money either they haven't been doing it long, their equipment isn't up to par or flat out the quality isn't going to be worth it. It's not just about the number of hours the person is photographing your wedding but also the countless hours a person will spend editing those photos. Good wedding photographers will edit photos quite substantially to deliver certain desired effects.

Myself for outdoor weddings I use a 580ex II flash attached the camera controlling two 430ex flash heads that are attached to two 45" photoflex umbrellas that are just about constantly moved around to give proper light. Good photographers come with an abundance of equipment that allows them to shoot in just about any situation.

Deeply consider that this is a once in a life time day. I can understand being on a budget. I just feel every couple deserves at least one extremely great picture they can display in their home for all the years they are together to remember it. I'm not against people hiring family members, but I'm yet to hear a story where someone gets a family friend or relative to shoot their wedding and they end up being absolutely amazed.

I'm going to attach you an image to give an idea. This photo was taken at 10pm and there was absolutely no light when I took it.

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6/10/2008 11:56:00 AM

Bernard    Sgt. Friday of the movie Dragnet would have been very proud of you guys, I quote " just the facts please" I'm proud of you too, I feel I taught you well.

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6/10/2008 4:47:05 PM

Bernard    Just kidding!

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6/10/2008 11:11:22 PM

Gretchen J. Gilkey
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/19/2006
  Thank you for your comments and honesty. You have given me a lot to think about. I appreciate the resources you have given me to look for a different photographer, however, so far they all far exceed the bride's budget. Will keep looking and planning - I do know if I shoot, I will not be shooting during the ceremony.
Thank you again for the suggestions!
gretchen :0)

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6/11/2008 6:25:28 AM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
  I do know if I shoot, I will not be shooting during the ceremony.

Ummmm Gretchen...Pardon me for my ignorance but I think that is the part of the wedding the Bride will look back on and reflect about the guys don't really do that but I've seen daytime TV and I think you seriously should figure out a solution...It is a once in a lifetime event anyplace but LA.

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6/11/2008 7:13:43 AM

Mandi M. Wiltse
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/30/2007

We to only had a small budget for our wedding in Aug of 2006 and the majority of our money went to our photographer. I just can't imagine why people spend all that money on their "special" day, but than skimp on their photographer. The day goes so fast that you forget alot of it espically the wedding because you're so nervous! You need those specail moments captured in time with a photographer. You can take pictures, but you should really sit back and enjoy the day being mother of the groom. He'll only be getting married once.

As a woman, there is plenty of other ways to "save" money. I got my dress on e-bay for $15, we had a fake cake (decorative cake) with just sheet cakes, etc etc.

I bet if you search a little more you can find a resonably priced photographer. Don't skimp on the only memories they'll have to remember their day by.

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6/11/2008 7:51:43 AM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
  When I talk to people about weddings I always explain weddings in this way. The Bride always wants that "Special Dress" and spends a good amount of money on a dress she's only going to wear once. The wedding ring...OK I get the ring thing but my friends $40K rings kinda are overkill if you ask me. The cakes are special too but you only eat it once... The Photos are going to be on/in that Husbands wallet, in the hallway, on the TV, nightstand and last but not least on his Desk at work showing his lovely wife off to his secretary...make that check out to Oliver

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6/11/2008 8:21:11 AM

Jerry Frazier   Often, clients have to readjust their budgets for me. They think "wedding photographer" and add $1,000 or $1,500 tops in their budget. Then, they start looking around and say, "holy guacomole!" And, adjust upwards by at least a couple more thousand. They don't have a choice. You don't have to buy a package with an album and all that. Just get the minimum, the photog's time and a CD of images. You should be able to find something OK for less than $2k.

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6/11/2008 11:34:44 AM

Mandi M. Wiltse
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/30/2007
  VERY TRUE OLIVER. We had a $10,000 budget, plus my parents paid for the venue and 1/2 the photography.

Look around Gretchen. You'll find something. I look at our wedding photos EVERYDAY. They're in my office, around home, etc.

Best of luck to you! Something will work out for you. :)

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6/11/2008 12:15:04 PM

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