My first wedding story. How much do you think I lost?

Joined
Dec 11, 2007
Messages
1,329
Location
Janesville, WI
Hi all.

As many of you who read my introduction post in the other section, I did my first--and maybe last, if the bad taste won't go away--wedding. For a pair of friends, no less. Now, I don't know how you fellas deal with friends who want you to shoot their events such as this---you are 'trusted'---but I will not do any more work for anymore friends. What follows is why.
Also, I'd like the more experienced wedding photogs here to give me a 'kicks & giggles' estimate on how much money I lost from this job. It's OK, though a dark, dark stain in the matter(it very likely cost them a friend), I've learned to deal with it. What subsequent chatter brought this back to my boiling point, I will discuss later in this post.
Now, on to the good stuff; I will try to keep it brief, for everyone's sake.

All right. I was asked by a pair of friends who were getting married to shoot their wedding. They were excited about having me do it as they knew I had a quality eye and could be trusted not to screw them around.
Being very new to the wedding scene, I only charged them an introductory rate of $200 to do it, since I didn't have a whole lot of software for any type of fancy touchups, and I honestly wouldn't know what the hell to do.

Well, a few more weeks down the line, and as the wedding date approached, they still hadn't paid me, nor had there been a written contract or agreement been signed or exchanged. I had used that time to research wedding photography, by scouring books of photos for inspiration and chatting with the experienced photogs at the local camera shop to get an idea on how much my work was worth.
After spending hours debating myself on ethical practices, I decided to raise the charge up to $600($200 for my time; $400 for misc. equipment and software costs---I wanted to get some of the "nik" filter package to really spiffy up the photos). I went over to their house to discuss this turn, when they unleashed a twist on me. It turned out that the groom-to-be's mother, who had initially told the couple that she'd pay for everything, ducked out of the deal, saying she had made no such agreement. Her emails to the couple were proof to the contrary.
Anyway, the bride-to-be was in tears, and I felt horrible about what I would have to tell them. I did. and after a few minutes of discussion she asked if she could know what the money would go for.

Ouch.

Well, I told them, which I knew to be a bad idea, but I had been feeling so bad for them, I lost my business composure for a minute. Dang.

So, anyway, they tell me that they can't pay me right away now, but they'll they'd get me "something". Yes, that's a quote.

So, armed with this knowledge, I began to brood about whether or not to go through with the shoot, as I did not want to work for free, but I felt that I'd be made right by it down the road, so I went through with it.

The wedding and reception were actually really fun to do, and I made off with some great shots.
I went to their house soon after the wedding with a DVD of the photos I had taken(somewhere in range of 600; both in RAW and JPEG). I didn't have time to stick around, so I let them hold on to the disc so they could review it without me. I thought it'd be okay, because I trusted them.
I really shouldn't have.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I could not make it back for the DVD for a week or so. When I did go over there, the new bride was gushing about the quality of the pictures and how many great shots I had gotten, and blah blah blah.

Then she dropped the bomb.

---Now, mind you, money still had not yet been paid, so please bear with me as I recount this bit of personal business hell---

She had made copies of the DVD and given them out to family and friends. Free.

I stood there, stunned, as visions of my bottom line melted away like a river of molten slag from a volcano.
There are no words for me to express this kind of betrayal, so I will do the best I can in a polite forum.

I couldn't believe it. This woman, who had not paid up yet, but promised that she would make right by me for doing the wedding had single-handedly taken away a small fortune in picture packages and future sales.

I have rarely spoken to either her or her husband since then (their wedding was last March, to give you an indication of how long it's been). When I have, the experience has only proven to worsen my sentiments. Case in point: when told that I was having difficulty in getting paid by the football team I had been shooting for, she responds with "That sucks, because you do great work".

Today, I received another offline IM from her, which spurred this posting.

In short, she was looking through the DVD I 'made for' her and discovered a slew of photos she did not notice before. These would be the RAW files.
She was looking to convert these files into jpegs so she could copy(grr!) them for her photo albums and scrapbooks and whatnot, and felt that she could ask me how.

As if I'd like to make it easier for me to lose more money.

So there you have it. My first wedding experience, which could very well be my last, due to what I went through.

Now my question. Taking into the account of how many man-hours I worked(approximately 6 or more) and the 600 or so photos that were on the disc she so freely distributed, how much money do you believe I lost on the initial and subsequent giveaways, which would have probably been about 300 photos or so.
This does not include how much I lost myself for undercharging so extremely, only the cost of the photos. That was a mistake on my part, but I didn't know a whole lot about the subject at the time.

I think I lost out on somewhere in the ballpark of $5,000.
 
Joined
May 27, 2005
Messages
9,852
Location
Clearwater, Florida
John, I hate to say it, but you have to just let this go. Chalk it up to one of life's lessons. You made the first mistake by cheapening the value of your work with these folks. On top of that, you handled the committment in a "friendly" manner on a handshake with no written contracts or up front money.

Don't try to count the money you've lost on this deal. You've learned a lesson you won't forget. Friend or not, if you want to work as a pro and have people treat you like one, you have to behave in a professional manner throughout the ENTIRE process.
 
Joined
Dec 4, 2006
Messages
10,266
Location
Texas!
I would say $5,000 is an understatement - that's $8.00 a picture. I realize that sounds probably high...but consider your equipment, your labor and other misc things.

Always always have a contract that is the first lesson. And you don't need to be told about the DVD...that was a BIG NO NO! Ok I should not have wrote that...but you know it.

People...no matter who they are...are always going to find some way to take advantage. I have relatives who have asked me to take family pictures, thinking they are going to be free. I don't do free...I will do discounted.

Sorry you had a bad experience. Now just put your big man boxers on, and put this behind you.
 
Joined
Jan 22, 2007
Messages
722
Location
Hartsdale, NY
You lost nowhere near $5000 .... you lost $200.

That's what you quoted them. You didn't explain what services that price would include, you didn't mention how many prints that would include. That's what you quoted them.

As far as the CD/DVD ... you gave it to them ... what did you expect them to do with it?

I do not give my clients a digital anything ... they want prints, they pay for them. Simple as that.

I had one couple INSIST on a DVD ... for $1500, they got it.

If you didn't have the money up front, you never should have shot the wedding. You got taken advantage of, welcome to the club.
 
Joined
Dec 11, 2007
Messages
1,329
Location
Janesville, WI
I understand. I think I'm thinking about it a bit too much and let it get to me way too much.

It is a life lesson and I keep this in mind to remind myself of what NOT to do in the future.

I'm sorry if I came off like a ranting teenager. I didn't want that to happen, but it still kind of irked me.

Venting isn't going to help, and I feel somewhat embarrassed by posting it. Sorry about that.


..."Big man Boxers".......awwww:eek::cool:
 
Joined
May 27, 2006
Messages
7,412
Location
Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
John,

No sense in brooding over it; you've paid your price for the lesson learned, don't raise the price by letting it burden you. You've improved your judgment so you should move on. Six hours invested isn't really that much for a wedding, in all honesty, so pondering about dollars lost isn't a productive way to think about it.

Sean
 
Joined
Dec 4, 2006
Messages
10,266
Location
Texas!
I understand. I think I'm thinking about it a bit too much and let it get to me way too much....Venting isn't going to help, and I feel somewhat embarrassed by posting it. Sorry about that.

..."Big man Boxers".......awwww:eek::cool:

Sorry if this sounded rude...but I sometimes feel like I'm in a man's profession :Sheriff: so I have to be thicked skinned.

Venting is not bad...I do it often.

Take care.
 
Joined
Dec 11, 2007
Messages
1,329
Location
Janesville, WI
John,

No sense in brooding over it; you've paid your price for the lesson learned, don't raise the price by letting it burden you. You've improved your judgment so you should move on. Six hours invested isn't really that much for a wedding, in all honesty, so pondering about dollars lost isn't a productive way to think about it.

Sean

True true.


Thanks to all who responded, and brought me back down to the Big Blue Marble.

I count the humility as part of the great Cafe experience.:smile:
 
Joined
Dec 15, 2007
Messages
1,152
Location
Long Island, NY
No way man- just let it out. if you can't vent here, where can you?

I feel your pain- I ve had, in the past, my images show up on CD covers (Twice) (in one case, the musician wanted to charge me for the CD with an image she stole from me on it!), a chamber of commerce poster (twice) and a charity once. To add insult to injury, I wasn't even credited in any of these cases.

I try to NEVER let my images get out of my control, unless in small res, poor quality files.

Hey- ya live, ya learn, ya folla?
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2007
Messages
1,137
Location
Kelowna B.C. Canada
If its any consolation, the Wedding Pro's generally use a much different model for selling pictures, Usually by print, and rarely give out digitals (full res ones anyway)
So for starting out I don't necessarily think $600 is necessarily too bad of an undersell.

When I shoot friends weddings (actually when I shoot any wedding) I give them full resolution JPG's that they can do what they want with (Short of sell them or commercial use). I also make sure they know I can also do what I want with the pictures, as I still own them.

Then I just charge by the hour. (80$ an hour, including post processing time)
I don't particularly like the pressure of weddings, and although I am quite knowledgeable technically, I am not soo good at getting people to "Pose" naturally. (therefore I sneak a lot of shots to try to catch people unawares)

It usually works out to 4 hours on location, 8 hours editing, aka $960.
People in my area charge $2000+ for 3 hour on location shoots. That way I am considerably cheaper (And therefore under less pressure :)
 
Joined
Jun 22, 2007
Messages
1,520
Location
Edgartown, MA
John, seeing as you list your location in Racine WI, I need to ask.....by chance, was the groom's name "Andrew"? If it was, please shoot me a PM.
 
Joined
Nov 23, 2007
Messages
76
Location
CT
I'm so sorry to hear the horror!!! :eek:

I wouldn't give up so easily doing wedding photography, if it is something you really enjoyed. Take the past experience and grow with it. Detailed Contract- even with friends. If they want a CD make sure it says "PROOF" across the images. That is how I got all of mine from my wedding, and when I wanted the CD for my own use - I had to pay $1500!! The fact that they had $$$ money issues and never paid you at all is rediculous and they should be ashamed of themselves, especially after all of this time. She has some big ones for calling you for MORE, in spite of the fact that no $$$$$ at ALL has been exchanged. :mad:
 
Joined
May 20, 2005
Messages
9,393
Location
Hazlet Township, NJ USA
Sorry, but I wouldn't lose good friends over $200...I would of shot it for free! Think about, your first wedding, you gained some experience, have some shots for a portfolio all for free. Remember NO one is going to hire a wedding photographer without experience or wedding shots.
 
Joined
Jul 29, 2005
Messages
9,532
Location
Pittsburgh, Pa.
My first wedding in 2005 was for friends. I went out and bought a 17-55 f/2.8 DX, two more SB-800, Stroboframe Pro-RL and Lightsphere. I used a D70.

What did I charge? Nothing, it was a wedding present. I also included an album, all prints on disc and a DVD to music.

The couple was ecstatic.
The referrals started my wedding photography business.
 
Joined
Mar 31, 2005
Messages
14,472
Location
Toronto Canada
As mentioned, you only lost $200 because that was your original quote, and you must stick by it. You can't raise the price because: 1. you didn't do your homework, 2. you have "X" amount of dollars invested in equipment and 3. there's some software you want to buy. You quote a price, you stick to it, unless they change the situation.

How to handle this whole thing: I'm sure your life won't be turned upside down by the loss of $200.00. Look in the mirror and ask yourself "did I learn something?" Of course, the answer is "yes". That's your $200 lesson. Vent to yourself, and then learn from this. I don't think this is worth the loss of a friendship because, obviously, they don't see anything wrong with what they did when supplied with the images.

As far as converting the RAW, just say that your time is really tight right now, but you be happy to work on them for $XX per hour. Smile graciously, say something like "since I've been SO generous with your wedding photos, I'd really appreciate if you could refer me to your friends for other weddings, etc" and try to get some business out of this. Don't walk away from a friendship for the sake of $200. You didn't lose $5,000 because these were not the type of people to give you $5,000 worth of business from one wedding.

Spend your energy now putting together ideas for future wedding packages, so both you and the couple will know what they are, and aren't, getting for the amount you're charging.

We've all been there, in one way or another. I just got shafted by a lawyer for over $10,000 worth of biz and there's nothing I could have done to prevent it. Hurts, but hey, life is still going on around me.
 
Joined
Mar 18, 2007
Messages
780
Location
Phoenix, AZ
When I lived in Texas I had a wedding video business. My first shoot was for friends and I'm sure I worked harder at that wedding than any other. I can't begin to estimate the hours I spent shooting and editing. Additionally I shot the rehearsal dinner and also went to several locations to make a special music video of the couple. I invested a ton of money on new equipment because I wanted to be sure I could produce a quality product. The learning curve was huge. The video turned out great and everyone was thrilled.

I didn't charge them a penny, but the value I received in education was enormous. The referrals started immediately.

By the way, I under charged more than once as I built the business. It always irritated me when that occurred, but I NEVER considered going back and raising the price. Undercharging was MY problem, not the clients.
 
Joined
Jul 21, 2007
Messages
5,262
Location
NJ
Make sure you don't lose your friends - they're more valuable than a few bucks.

Which is why - in an entirely different field - I never do business for friends or family. Either I do it for free because I want to help them, or I don't do it. Charging will raise expectations on either side (about what you get paid, and what you need to do to "earn" it) and yours and theirs will rarely ever meet, souring the relation.
 
Joined
Mar 23, 2007
Messages
4,958
Location
Collecchio, northern Italy
Hi John

is really a pity hearing such things, betrayed from friends.
In my case I did differently. The only wedding I "really" shot til now, they were two friends as yours and fortunately shots, even only in JPG, were really beautiful. From the beginning it was clear that:

1) Since they were friends of mine, it would have been a "present" for their wedding, while however reducing costs for both parts. From me, I wouldn't have counted the hours spent with them, and they would have printed the shots by themselves,
2) in fact, since they didn't care of dozens of prints, they just asked for a CD / DVD and some B/W shots. I did, and asked a common friend to reprocess with photoshop. About B/W, I developed the rolls, chose some really great shots and then printed 20x30 (your 11"x14", A4 size) giving them later the negatives if they want to add something.

Of course with a different people I'd have done differently. But, again, I'm happy to "share" my ability with friends in such important moments, even if I know it could be a disaster, so I warned them it was my FIRST official wedding. You can see it here: http://italy74.smugmug.com/gallery/3120326

the requested pwd is "fortezza" (which had been set since at first they wanted to look at the shots for first and see if there was something bad to remove)

Bottom line, even if it's hard to face, take it as a lesson but don't stop to shoot weddings if you like that. People count, in the good or in the bad. You can find bad people but also good ones. I'm sure your next one will be a success. Keep smiling, don't give up! Best wishes.
 
Joined
May 1, 2005
Messages
12,142
Location
Thunder Bay Ontario Canada
I recently did a 25th anniversary shoot for two friends/fellow employees. I went into the shoot thinking that I wasn't going to charge them anything other than perhaps the costs of the prints, dvds etc.
They asked me on a number of occasions what I was going to charge them...My answer was always." it's ok ...I'm getting some experience " I didn't in the end even charge them for two prints and the dvd of images....after all it was their 25th anniversary picture.
I was happy that they " really liked" the portraits that were done, and know that they wouldn't hesitate helping me generate business by promoting my work.
Much to my surprise....They left a gift certificate on my desk ( for a substantial amount ! ) to a very good restaurant in appreciation of the time that I took to give them what they were looking for.
It was a win-win situation for both of us.
 
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