QUESTION: Why are photographers so expensive? I’ve seen ads on Craigs list where photographers will photograph my entire wedding for $500.00 ANSWER: This question has been discussed on numerous forums and blogs for years. Over the last 5 or 6 years, the cost of digital cameras has gone down significantly; nowadays virtually everyone can afford an entry level digital SLR. While most people who step up from a point-and-shoot to an SLR use their cameras to enjoy and explore photography, there are some who decide to use their new toys to make extra money on weekends. Unfortunately, most of these weekend warriors think that weddings are the easiest way to make money. Corporate and advertizing photography jobs are difficult to come by without the right contacts, experience and an extensive portfolio. Brides and grooms, on the other hand, make a much easier target. More often than not they are so dazzled by the bargain price tag that they don’t even bother to check the 500-dollar-photographer’s portfolio and references. They don’t bother to ask about experience and equipment; $500 vs, $3,000 – $5,000 that established photographers charge is alas enough for brides and grooms to trust their wedding to a total stranger. Every year I get three or four clients who trusted their wedding to a 500-dollar-photographer. This June a woman called me in tears – she met with me a year ago but decided to go with a friend’s brother who offered to photograph her wedding for $300.00. We met and she showed me the photographs and asked me if there was anything else I could do to make them better. As I started looking through the files in Adobe Bridge I realized that the entire wedding was photographed with a Nikon D40. The pop-up flash was on in all indoor shots and the camera never left the AUTO mode. I did the best I could with the photos, but there is only so much on can do with Photoshop. In the end, she put on her wedding dress, her husband rented a tuxedo and we spent a couple of hours restaging some of the scenes that should have been recorded on her special day. Does this happen to everyone who hires a 500-dollar photographer from Craigs List or asks a relative or a friend to photograph their wedding? Probably not. I’ve met plenty of amateur photographers who take amazing photographs with the most basic of equipment. But photographers like that are few and far between; most of the time you really get what you pay for. Mary of BirchTree Photography wrote an excellent primer on wedding photography prices – it is well worth the read.
I spent the last few days in New Orleans on business. Unfortunately I was too busy to explore this wonderful city and only manage to catch a bicycle tour on my first day as well as a few hours on Bourbon Street. To be completely honest, it was so hot and humid that I found it difficult to convince myself to go outside, much less to lug around a 10lb digital SLR.
QUESTION: Should I hire a videographer? ANSWER: It is surprising how many people ask me this question. When brides and grooms plan their wedding, hiring a videographer is usually the last item on their to-do list. It seems like brides and grooms want to wait and see how much money they have left in their budgets before making the decision on whether to hire a professional videographer or to ask uncle Bob to chronicle their wedding with a Flip. When asked for advice on whether or not it is worth to hire a videographer, I always answer that if you are going to hire one, hire someone amazing. When I got married, I relegated the responsibility for hiring the videographer to my mother; as a result, we got 4 hours of unedited footage on VHS. Hiring someone simply because they have a high-end camera or worked in editing or television usually leads to a final product that no one will ever watch. Like with many things in life, with videography you really get what you paid for. When hiring a videographer, ask to look at the final product, not at raw footage of a wedding. A good videographer can make your wedding story into a movie that will turn any Hollywood producer green with envy. Don’t fall for videos with a lot of flashy effects and transitions – those gimmicks are available in any low-end video-editing software such as the iMovie or Sony Vegas; adding spinning and blinking transitions between video segments are usually a good indicator of lack of editing skills. Over the years, I’ve worked with quite a few videographers – some do absolutely amazing work and create incredible memories that you and your children will cherish for years to come. Unfortunately, there are “others” who will turn your wedding day into a cheap reality show and you will be unlikely to ever watch your wedding video. If you are considering hiring a videographer for your wedding, hire someone who is really good; I’ll be happy to give you names of a couple of true professionals.
QUESTION: If you are shooting with digital cameras, why cannot I have my photos at the end of the reception? ANSWER: There is a lot of work that has to take place after the pictures are taken. I shoot in RAW format – it preserves more information than JPEG and gives me more options when it comes to editing. RAW formats are proprietary to each camera manufacturer and camera model and cannot be viewed/edited without specialized software such as Adobe Lightroom or Apple Aperture. I usually walk away from a wedding with well over 1000 photographs. When I get home, I back up all the pictures to two external hard drives – I keep one at home and another one at the office. Once the photographs are backed up, I go through them in Adobe Bridge and delete the ones that don’t quite make the cut. After that first cleanup pass, I load the RAW files into Adobe Lightroom. I color-correct the photos (adjust white balance, contrast, saturation) and fix minor exposure errors. When all photographs are color-corrected, I convert them to JPEG format and start going through them in Adobe Bridge again. From Adobe Bridge, I open photographs in Adobe Photoshop where I clean up blemishes, remove exit signs, power outlets and other distracting elements. I convert some photographs to black and white, run Photoshop actions on others. The entire process usually takes about 15-30 hours, depending on how many photographs I took at an event. Just look at the difference that little touches make. The photograph below is straight out of my camera. It is a little underexposed, there is part of a chair in the right corner and you can see cables along the edges of the floor. This is what it looks like after about 10 minutes in Photoshop:
Over the next couple of weeks I`d like to answer a some questions that my clients ask me at almost every wedding. Let`s start with the the easiest one to answer. QUESTION: Why do you have Tupperware on your flash? (By the way, I’m not kidding. Someone asks me that question at virtually every event I’ve photographed in the last couple of years.) ANSWER: Well, the Tupperware in question is called a diffuser – it softens the light from my flash and eliminates harsh shadows that are more often than not produced by point-and-shoot cameras. I have about 4 different diffusers and softboxes that go on my flashes, depending on the type of job I need to do. The one that looks like Tupperware is called the Gary Fong Lightsphere (http://www.garyfongestore.com/flash-accessories.html)
‘Ah, zis is for my experiment,’ said Otto proudly. ‘You know zat another term for an iconographer would be “photographer”? From the old word photus in Latation, vhich means—‘ ‘ “To prance around like a pillock ordering everyone about as if you owned the place”,’ said William. — Terry Pratchett, The Truth