Beginner wedding shooter 101 please

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So, I am going to throw myself into this venue since family sessions nowadays are scarce and not paying so well.

I've been wedding photographer's assistance/second shooter but obviously that's not the same thing as to be the main shooter.

What do I need to start thinking of?

(Yes, I know how to use flash. :wink: )
 
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Get an assistant to wrangle people and keep track of the needed groupings/poses.

Develop a questionnaire for the couple to fill out so you know the shots that are important to them and that you really have to nail.

Get a contract authored that you know will protect you from liability if something goes wrong.

Sean
 
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1) How about keeping a referral scheme in place.
2) Also have a ell defined wedding package in place in your web site.

Best wishes.
 
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Get an assistant to wrangle people and keep track of the needed groupings/poses.
I disagree with this... unless you mean an assistant assigned by the couple. I require that the couple provide me a family member or friend to take care of this. Neither you nor your photographer know who "Aunt Sally" is, and will have a difficult time finding her if she's missing from a photo. However, "Cousin Joe" will be able to pick her out in a second, or know which family member to ask to track her down. Don't depend on the bride or groom to help you with this. It's in my contract that I be given the name of an "assistant" for the group shots. It cuts the shooting time waaaay down.

Develop a questionnaire for the couple to fill out so you know the shots that are important to them and that you really have to nail.
This is an absolute must - it's been a life saver for me at all of the weddings I've done. I'm getting married in July, and have been working on my list for a while. I have one family member and one friend who are helping with finding people as necessary, to help my photographer out and keep things moving.

Get a contract authored that you know will protect you from liability if something goes wrong.
Yup, and get a down payment to secure the date.
 
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Five things that are absolute musts if you are going to do this professionally:

1) Have backup equipment for everything (camera, flash, cords, cards, batteries) and a backup plan in case you get sick, or worse, injured before the wedding.

2) Have an airtight wedding contract. Trust nobody. Talk to your lawyer for advice on this.

3) Make sure you have enough equipment and liability insurance. The equipment insurance is your choice, but there is an awful lot of thievery going on at weddings these days. My assistant is tasked with the job of keeping an eye on my equipment but, in the end, insurance is cheaper. ($400 per year.) Liability insurance is mandatory and costs around $350 per year for $1 million in coverage. Most wedding venues in my region won't let the photographer in the door - or the DJ or Florist either - without valid proof of liability insurance. Even if they don't require it, you will certainly want it for peace of mind.

4) Join Professional Photographers of America, Digital Wedding Forum or WPPI for knowledge, discounts on insurance and emotional support. (With every amateur photographer in the land playing "pretend pro", you'll need the emotional support.)

5) Price yourself properly right from the start. Beginning with lowball offers just to gain clients is not the way to go because you'll never be able to charge more in the future (because most advertising is word of mouth) and you'll quickly burn out shooting weddings for $1,000. (And there is no more difficult client than the $1,000 bride.)

Good luck. Building a wedding photography business from scratch takes a long time, just the right kind of personality and good business acumen. But if you succeed, it is very rewarding.
 
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Okay. This is all terrific guys.....way to go. Thanks all for the info. It's just what I needed to hear :)
 

sambru

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Linda my advice is, stay as a "second shooter" until you know what is needed. I know everyone has to start sometime. However as you know a wedding is the most important day for the bride & groom, it's can't be re shot if something goes wrong. Linda you are a wonderful talented photograher and I am sure you will be a great wedding photograher once you get experince "under pressure". Work as a 2nd make notes, research and assembly the gear that you will need. Do a feasability study in your area to see if you would be able to make money at it. If there are other photographers there, how are you going to be diffrent? What would you be able to offer over the others? And last but most important - buy insurance for gear and liability, people these days are "sue happy"
 
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Yeah, I agree Sambru, I will look around more to see if anyone out here are looking for a 2nd shooter, though like I mentioned, I did that last summer. But It's nice to get some more experience. It's possible I might be able to do both.

At this point, I am not too concerned about looking different or super special or whatever, I currently make NO money and own about $156.

My area IS a wedding destination, which is why I want to do it. Being seen, will be much harder. But I already know from the past, that getting started is a rough road.

Thanks all for the inputs - glad I asked!
 
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John said a lot.

2) Have an airtight wedding contract. Trust nobody. Talk to your lawyer for advice on this.

3) Make sure you have enough equipment and liability insurance.

4) Join Professional Photographers of America, Digital Wedding Forum or WPPI for knowledge, discounts on insurance and emotional support.
I'm a member of the Professional Photographers of America (www.ppa.com) and Digital Wedding Forum (DWF) (www.digitalweddingforum.com). Great sources of information, I spend more time there these days (sorry :redface: ) Either place are great sources for #2 and #3. Shoot me an email and I'll be happy to send you a copy of my contract and other stuff. I'm sure there are some things I've missed on the contract but it's a place to start. I use Traveler's for insurance and remember home owner's will NOT cover your equipment if it is used for professional services (or at least if they find out, not a game I play). Also remember

5) Price yourself properly right from the start.
All to true.

1) Have backup equipment for everything (camera, flash, cords, cards, batteries) and a backup plan in case you get sick, or worse, injured before the wedding.
Sorry, less is more is no longer true. If you are the primary you need backups. At this point every thing I have listed is what I use. Two mains and a backup with dups that cover 10/17mm - 120mm plus the 70-200.

I'm not saying go crazy. Get a D300s and not the D7000. Why? Different cards and batteries, D300 and D300s use the same batteries and cards. The batteries are the bigger item, all 3 of my bodies use the same battery, it's easier.

Get a better ~17 to ~70 f2.8 (17-55 / 24-70 / ...) and a 2.8 telephoto. The 17-70 because Nikon AF-S or Sigma HSM make a difference in forcus speed not to mention sound in a silent church. For the telephoto look for a Sigma 50-150 or 70-200. I've had the 50-150 and would still if I were still DX.

Samples for the 50-150:
http://www.blueberryphoto.com/Other/50-150/14413194_SNbMc#1068678841_bg3uQ
 
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1) Have backup equipment for everything (camera, flash, cords, cards, batteries) and a backup plan in case you get sick,
I shot my last wedding with the worst flu I have ever had. That was possibly one of the roughest days of my entire life :mad:
 
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David, great post. Also, the D700 is bigger and even heavier right? Does the D700 also use diff. cards and batteries?

I've never seen a D7000, is that a medium level camera?

Glad you included the lens recommendation, saves me a post :smile:
 
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David, great post. Also, the D700 is bigger and even heavier right? Does the D700 also use diff. cards and batteries?

I've never seen a D7000, is that a medium level camera?

Glad you included the lens recommendation, saves me a post :smile:
Yes the D700 is larger than the D300/s. The D700 and D300/s use the same batteries and cards. The D90 also uses the same battery but SD cards. But that is my third backup, asistance camera, and vacation camera.

But the real issue is DX versus FX. I shot a Nikon 17-55 2.8 and Sigma 50-150 2.8, now with the D700's it's 24-70 and 70-200 Nikon.

Take the 50-150 versus the 70-200:
About $700 versus $2300.
Weight 27.5 oz versus 54.3 oz
And of course the larger camera bags to carry the larger bodies and lenses.
(I'm sure the new Sigma 50-150 with OS will be bigger and cost more but I would think still less than either the Sigma or Nikon 70-200)

The D7000 is between the D90 (which it is replacing) and D300/s in size. The controls are more D90 like than D300 like (scene mode dial, ...) The D300s would be better than the D7000 also because you put a normal on one body and telephoto on the other and don't have to think about where "that" control is on which body.
 
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I shoot weddings with two D3 bodies (one D3 and one D3s). Their feel is identical which helps when switching back and to between them. They each have a spare battery. The darn things are heavy. Black Rapid straps are nice, but I just bought (at WPPI) a Spider Holster belt system which I used at a wedding on Saturday. Seems to be a good way of carrying two cameras and keeping your hands free when necessary.

My partner (wife) shoots with a D700. We each have the Nikon 24-70 and 70-200 so we act as lens backup for each other if necessary. We carry additional lenses (16 mm fisheye, 14-24, 50 f/1.4, 85 f1/4 and a 105 macro) to every wedding. We each have two Speedlights and at least 50% more radio triggers than we think we will need. If we are going to need a studio strobe, we take two. I take a Canon 500D closeup filter as backup for the macro lens. If we plan to use the Quantum flash, we have two battery packs for it, and an extra pair of Speedlights as backup for it . . .

In other words, there is a backup plan for every conceivable equipment failure. It makes the whole thing stupidly expensive, but I'm too much of a worry wart to do otherwise . . . :eek:

On Saturday I found one flaw in my backup plan. I almost lost a shoe when I stepped into deep mud (we were photographing the B+G on a bridge over a small river). From now on, I may have to carry a spare pair :biggrin:
 
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I shoot weddings with two D3 bodies (one D3 and one D3s). Their feel is identical which helps when switching back and to between them. They each have a spare battery. The darn things are heavy. Black Rapid straps are nice, but I just bought (at WPPI) a Spider Holster belt system which I used at a wedding on Saturday. Seems to be a good way of carrying two cameras and keeping your hands free when necessary.

My partner (wife) shoots with a D700. We each have the Nikon 24-70 and 70-200 so we act as lens backup for each other if necessary. We carry additional lenses (16 mm fisheye, 14-24, 50 f/1.4, 85 f1/4 and a 105 macro) to every wedding. We each have two Speedlights and at least 50% more radio triggers than we think we will need. If we are going to need a studio strobe, we take two. I take a Canon 500D closeup filter as backup for the macro lens. If we plan to use the Quantum flash, we have two battery packs for it, and an extra pair of Speedlights as backup for it . . .

In other words, there is a backup plan for every conceivable equipment failure. It makes the whole thing stupidly expensive, but I'm too much of a worry wart to do otherwise . . . :eek:

On Saturday I found one flaw in my backup plan. I almost lost a shoe when I stepped into deep mud (we were photographing the B+G on a bridge over a small river). From now on, I may have to carry a spare pair :biggrin:
I find your post very helpful John! Just wondering if you use flash brackets, and what memory cards do you use for a wedding?

Thanks!
 
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I find your post very helpful John! Just wondering if you use flash brackets, and what memory cards do you use for a wedding?

Thanks!
Thanks. I do not use flash brackets. Inside, I try to bounce flash off walls, columns, whatever is handy. Outside, direct flash is usually OK as it is usually being used as fill. For formals, bridal portraits etc., we always use off-camera flash anyway.

Each D3 has a pair of 16 GB Sandisk Extreme III's. These can be set to mirror mode so that one backs up the other.
 
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