6 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Ask Your Photographer Friend To Do Your Wedding For Cheap
Keeping real friends in this day and age is hard, don't put an unnecessary strain on that friendship by asking your friend to walk through fire for 30% less than they usually walk through it for you, because you may or may not know but:
1. Wedding photography is really really hard.
Photographers are like doctors. Not because you should ask us if that abscess on your inner thigh is infected, you shouldn't, and it is. It's because we're normally specialized into certain fields. Some Doctors specialize in your guts, some specialize in picking babies off of baby shrubs (I'm not really good with how human reproduction works.) and others vary in their specialties. Some Photographers do product photography, some do editorial, journalism, fashion, portraiture, video, etc... a wedding photographer is more like your general practitioner you expect them to know about your sniffles, your uteranusil (again not great with reproduction) or that green growth in my beard... wait... that's Chimichurri. A wedding photographer has to take product shots of the cake, the rings, the place settings, the wine. They have to take portraits of everyone and their drunk aunt. They have to take photojournalist style shots of everyone getting dressed, people crying in the audience, children dancing. Fashion shots of your dress, his suit, her suit, his dress... whatever dress/suit combination you have elected upon for your special day. Do you expect them to only be kind of ok at any of these different specialties? no. you expect them to be better than the specialists in each specialty, because it's YOUR big day. So your good friend that you guilt-tripped into this is going to pack up their car and drive to your venue and immediately roll their eyes because:
2. Your venue is probably awful
"Not my venue!" you scream impotently into your computer screen "My wedding is different! We're doing farmhouse/ shabby chic/ Gatsby!" Or whatever thing you think nobody has done before. There is one thing that farmhouses, hotel ballrooms, dedicated event venues, country clubs, Chuck-e-Cheese's, abandoned U-boats, and open fields have in common. They were not designed with the photographer in mind. They are inevitable going to have to contend with shitty fluorescent lighting, (can't have a high shutter speed, constant fight with white balance) Sunlight blasting into an open window next to the couple, (find a way to get reflectors and diffusers to block the sunlight without hanging your goofy photography shit all over the Trellise.) the laser sun overhead at an outdoor venue, (fill flash, and being a weather controlling diety that can move softening clouds about the sky with nothing but a thought) Or the gloomy interior of the U-boat (bribe a nazi ghost with gold to hold an eerie lantern for you). Your poor friend is going to be sporting a pretty defeated look in their eyes when they start lugging their gear out of their car and you'll probably not be prepared for the fact that:
3. They are going to have a silly amount of gear
One of the many reasons good wedding photographers are expensive is because their gear is expensive! It's not just a camera and a lens. Your wedding is almost as important to them as it is to you, and there are no do-overs. They're going to have two full-frame professional camera bodies, an assortment of Telephoto, Prime, Macro, and portrait lenses. On camera lighting, off camera lighting, reflectors, diffusers, batteries, cards, stands, bags, backdrops, backups for all that... and a whole extra photographer to cover their ass in case they miss anything. Whom is getting paid full price, out of your discounted price. Even with all of that it's going to be a trick to get your shots you want, because"
4. Some of your guests are assholes
If I invited you to a party and told you it was going to have 160 people at it, how many of them do you think would be straight up garbage people? 10? 20? 158? Guess what? your friends and family aren't any better than any other large gathering of people. The only difference is the open bar, and let me tell you, that's not a good difference. They're going to block shots, they're going to have their cellphones in front of every shot. (some of them intentionally) They're going to put up rabbit ears, because the drunken best man is 12 again. They're going to bump into tripods, trip on cables, and just generally be a complete pain in the ass. Even if you have a "no cell phones" rule. They don't care. They are drunken party barbarians that destroy everything in their path. They will not rest until they have made your photographer seriously consider leaving all of their equipment at the altar and going to clown college. and once the dust settles and you think that your photographer is packing up and done with their job, they might inform you through clenched teeth that:
5. The wedding is only 20% of the job
Now your "friend" (assuming they haven't fled the country to live life as an abandoned U-boat pirate captain) gets to upload hundreds or even thousands of pictures to their computer and START doing the biggest portion of the work. Culling through the plethora of blocked photos, closed eyes, rabbit ears, nazi ghosts, and drunken stumbling uncles. Winnowing down to just a couple hundred photos, which they will now painstakingly edit one at a time to make sure that your sisters gold grill looks like teeth. to make sure that your tan lines from the bachelor(ette) party in Cabo aren't showing (Cabo really...? way to go against the grain) 50 work hours later they get to build you a client gallery, so you can verbally shit all over their work because you don't like the way you look in your dress/suit/dinosaur costume. They'll fix it, because:
6. It's hard to work for friends
When dealing with a client, I can easily let them know when they expect things that are out of the realm of probability. I build contracts, I set expectations, I hold them to their end. This gets much more complicated when we're dealing with someone we actually know and love. I don't want to disappoint friends, I'll take more shit than I should. I'll deal with ridiculous requests. I'll edit the same picture 7 times because you don't like the color of the carpets, or your own eyes. Or the eerie luminescence of that ghost nazi. So the best thing you can do is this:
If you have other options don't ask your close friend at all, and let them bring a small camera and lens combo to take candids as their wedding present to you, they will be much more comfortable with this arrangement. If you do have to use them. PAY THEM WHAT THEY'RE WORTH. A real friend is worth more than a 30% discount, especially one willing to go through all of that for you
Why you need a photographer.
(Yes you, Yes now)
When we think about times to hire photographers, very few instances generally come to mind. Weddings, Holidays, Births, school photos... that's just about it.
Why do we relegate the memories that are worth commemoration to these few events? Is your wedding important? of course, but I would suggest that there are days in your life that merit equal if not greater ability to look back and remember. We tend to let society decide for us when it comes to what we want to remember over the years. Now that I've been around for a few decades and I look back there are events I wish I was able to look back onto the same way. I'm sure you can think of some as well.
The first thing that comes to my mind is Halloween. (hear me out.) You spent days planning a costume, sometimes hundreds of dollars on make-up, wigs, special effects, robes, fake weapons, live rabbits, light sabres, clown suits, produce... (look i don't know what you went as). then you spent hours getting yourself ready, clogging your pores with cheap grease paint, applying fake eyelashes, fake blood, live rabbits (again.. probably)
And for what? so you can go shuffle up and down the street for a couple hours with your kids begging for candy from strangers? So you can go to the bar down the street and lose the costume contest to a guy dressed like Jon Snow, in a Snow White dress going as Jon Snow White? (clever bastard) and now you're frustrated so you're going to drink away the memories of this crushing defeat. You wake up the next morning with blotched face paint on your pillow and a pounding headache. (If this seems extremely specific... shut up you don't know my life.)
"But Chris" you scream at your phone while reading this because you don't understand how blogs work "I took pics with my cell phone! I'll remember for sure!
Halloween activities are done in the Dark generally, which is the 50% of the time that cell phone cameras have not really advanced much since the etched bricks they called Nokia's of the 1990's. and non-photographers generally don't think about things like "how is the light going to reflect off of grease paint vs. cream paint. what kind of angle makes it look like you're just going as a vampire, and not a zombie vampire, because poking at your face all day has given you horribly bloodshot eyes.
1052967_688006993515_1599800339049600936_o "But I have my cellphone camera" -Chris circa. 2014
2019 - Halloween
That's all one very specific example, of one very specific occasion. But there's more to it. It's not all Holidays and good times. It's 2019 and if we're in the professional world we are only as good as our brand. Even if you don't need commercial or product photography (If you're selling goods or services, you really do.)
A blurred, or amateur head-shot on your LinkedIn profile, or about page on your website. Lets potential networking contacts, clients, or employers know before even contacting you that you are not willing to go the extra step to present a professional appearance. Does that always equal a "no"? Of course not. I can guarantee you that your odds are better with a well polished photo that's been taken with content and consideration.
Personally I know if I'm hiring a professional LARP instructor, and These are my two options:
I'm going to pick the second Chris without a moment of hesitation, that dude looks like he takes his LARPing seriously, probably a little too seriously. That's the exact guy to teach me how to take whacking people with PVC covered in safe foam way too seriously as well.
In this day and age we get the choice to decide how to present ourselves to the world. We get to decide which days are important enough to record professionally and which we want to crowd-source cellphonetography for. There isn't a right or wrong answer. Ask yourself what's important to you, and when you do contact your local professional things rememberer. I'll bring out my memory machine, and record it so you can live the event. So you can add that extra touch for your client, and you can finally sell those left-over live rabbits from your over the top Halloween costume.
You would be surprised at the prices some photographers will offer to help you recall your day to day, but still huge life events.
In summary I've compiled a short list of times when I wish I had hired a photographer.
My Enlistment ceremony into the army. The fear, excitement, and anticipation was palpable.
Family Thanksgivings with family that's not here to give thanks for anymore.
Days I came home after months or years away
The day I rescued my dog (and she rescued us)
The last day I saw an elderly family member that I knew wasn't going to be there when I came back next
My daughters first Halloween
The day that asshat in the trench-coat sold me all those live rabbits, then disappeared into macabre laughter and smoke.
Opening presents from Santa for the first time with the kids both (may want to schedule that one a day or two early... the kids won't mind, as long as the red guy can deliver.)
When I moved into my home, when there was nothing but empty boxes, hardwood, and hope.
more than I care to list, and some I don't care to share.
Comment with what you wish you had taken the time to have recorded for you!
P.S. no offense intended to the LARP community, please to not come to my business location listed on google and challenge me to a foam fight.... that would be awful...
I could have started and ended this blog right there, but I think I'll expand a little bit to give you some context.
When I started down this road a few years ago, the plan wasn't that I would make a career out of it. I started doing photography for no other reason than I loved doing photography. So I put my phone into pro-mode and started snapping. Just like everyone else, I sucked pretty hard! It didn't matter though because I loved what I was doing. It didn't have to be good enough to share, good enough to print, or good enough to sell.
It wasn't about other people. It was about capturing moments in time, that were uniquely mine forever, even if they were a little blurry, out of focus, or badly lit, and eventually just though the act of doing what I loved, eventually they got less blurry, better focused, and well lit. I was slowly turning into a bona-fide time ... theif.
Before long I had a few people offering me actual m*&^$%*ing American currency to capture moments for them. I wasn't a photographer, I was a bartender/restaurant consultant that just happened to like taking pictures. I thought I wasn't good enough to take money from anyone (I was correct about this, don't charge anyone for a service that isn't worth paying for).
About a year later I DID start taking taking their money though, just here and there. Just to help pay for better equipment and better shooting opportunities, not to make any real profit. Certainly not to make a living out of. Eventually more and more work started coming in. Until after about two more years I had to look to the barrel of a question I never thought I would have to answer.
"At thirty five years old is it time to start a brand new career?"
I was consistently having to turn down jobs doing what I loved to do, for a lower paying job doing what I kinda liked. The place I was working at full time was turning into a corporate nightmare. I had been promoted to working longer weeks for a negligible difference in pay. I found myself looking at the clock waiting for the end of the day so I could do what I really wanted to do. That's when I made the choice to do something horrifying. I quit, I put in my two weeks, worked it honorably, and walked out the door. Panic tight in my chest, only a part time bar gig to fill in the gaps now. It's all on me, if I fail there's no big "they" to blame. Landlords tend not to take "exposure" that everyone wants to pay with for rent. But you will get "exposure" to the elements if you can't get it paid. (dad jokes are my other passion)
I couldn't have been happier. The fear is necessary. It tells you that you're making a change, that you're on your way out of your comfort zone.
And here's why, after ten years in the Army, time spent at a number of memorial services for personal friends. Many of whom were young men. I came to grow a respect for the fragility of life. Knowing how fragile life can be gives you a certain freedom. A clarity to the "uncomfortable truth".
None of us are here forever, do you want to spend that limited time working for a boss you hate? Behind a desk selling cells on a spreadsheet to another guy behind an identical desk? Or do you want to spend the time you're here doing what you love regardless of the kind of car it puts in your garage, the type of marble on your counter-tops, or the brand of shirt on your back.
I've been in the hospital rooms of a few that thought they were going to die, a couple were right. I can tell you not a single one of them said "Man i'm glad I took out a lease on that slightly bigger car" or "man I'm so stoked about that dope cubicle I spent a quarter of my life in" not even "Thank god I slept in so often, I'd hate to die sleepy" People talk about three things. Family, Friends, and what it is they have done with their lives that they loved doing.
Spend your time doing what you love, even if it's just a hobby, even if it STAYS just a hobby and you never make a cent doing it. No matter if you're 17, or if you're 70. It's never too late to value your time here. If you can make a living doing it... great! If you fall on your ass... great! You will always know that you tried, and that you did what you wanted to do. That's more important than any fucking counter-top I've ever seen.
while you're here feel free to look around, buy some one of a kind art, or commission some more. That rent ain't gonna pay itself, and I like having a room for the kids ;)
-Christopher J Krause
The picture right there is a picture of me doing the most important thing anyone can do with their photography, and i'm not even holding my camera. It's not even really a specific thing, or skill that I am practicing, but it's what I am. And what I am is out of the house, with my camera strapped to me.
Without achieving this nothing else can happen. Sure if I have a shoot scheduled I'll roll out of bed, i'll prep my kit, and I'll go to the shoot. If all I ever do is scheduled shoots of things that i know how to do perfectly then where is the growth, what is there to learn? (aside from the near certainty that something will go wrong and you will have to think on your feet and improvise.)
For myself (and after asking around a surprising number of other photographers, and aspiring photographers) The ABSOLUTE hardest thing about photography is just putting your shoes on, snapping your lens in place, and walking out the damn door, with no real need to do so. Once I'm out and on the streets it comes back to me, I remember why i'm there and the shutter just snaps.
Why is this so hard? I didn't really consider it much till reading "EVERYTHING IS #@%!ED" by Mark Manson recently and some of it showed me the issue. So to completely inadequately summarize:
Because in each of us there are two minds, one rational thinking mind, and one irrational feeling mind. Contrary to popular belief in each of us it is the latter that really steers the ship. No matter how much we are "in control" the reasons that we do things are rarely logical, there must be an emotional impulse. Most of us could sit down right now, and write out a schedule. This schedule would be an almost exact road map to becoming who we want to be, sitting where we want to be, logically and rationally. Following this road map is a whole different story. What we SHOULD do, and what we WANT to do are completely at odds generally. For example here's a little talk I had with myself last week.
Chris (the rational one): "OK man, it's 10:00 lets get out of the room, pack up, hop on the train and shoot."
James (the emotional one): "Fuck you, I'm tired."
Chris: "OK I'll give you 30 minutes to lay here like a self-serving lump and putz around on your phone, but after that... we need to go."
(30 minutes later)
Chris: "OK you had your time, lets go"
James: "yeah but I've changed our mind, it's hot out, and by the time we get on the train and get out we'll only have a couple hours of good light anyways, let's just do it next time"
C: "No, you do this to us every time! Get up, lets at least get in the shower, and pack the camera bag. We'll discuss it further from there"
J: (while in the shower) "OK I guess this isn't too bad, but like WHY do we need to go shoot? We don't have any job, maybe if we're lucky we'll find some prints to sell from our website... but more than likely not. It's our only real day off so why waste it walking around sweating, dodging the stares from all the other city-dwellers. Feeling like an imposter documenting peoples day to day lives, like some alien species doing a documentary on humans in an urban setting"
C: "Because this is what we do... remember it was YOUR IDEA to get into this, remember when we had a desk job? and we knew how much money we were going to make every two weeks? Then someone said "Man I really like creating cocktail programs, and training people, and I let you just do it!?" then...
C: "And when we decided to spend all the money we had on a brand new camera we didn't even know how to properly use?! We can make a business out of that someday you promised! So I did all the ground work. I watched tutorials, got you out so you could shoot, budgeted for the shit ton of lenses, flashes, tripods, filters, soft-boxes, and everything else you NEEDED to have."
J: "Yes but..."
C: "I'M NOT DONE ASSHOLE! All i'm trying to do is be successful and help you do what you want to do, and you fight me every step of the way. That's it! I'm done convincing you. You wanna spend thousands of dollars on gear, invest precious time into something and not follow through, fine! go for it. In a few years when you need to find a cheaper place because we can't afford it because you never wanted to do the thing you love doing, i'm sure i'll be here to do the fucking math for you again."
J: " OK... OK... I'm putting on my shoes... you're a real dick sometimes man"
3 hours later...
J: "Man i'm glad we came out, this was a great idea! We've handed out cards, talked to a restaurant owner about doing seasonal shoots, and took some dope ass shots today Chris! ... Chris? Hellooooo Chris....."
C: "Fuck I hate you sometimes"
This is the trick, our emotional mind is a petulant spoiled child, when they don't want to play ball you have to convince them, first you reason and give them gifts to sway them. If that doesn't work you scold them. If that doesn't work you tell them you're taking the ball and going home.
You do what it takes to convince them, because once they're having fun, they are going to prance around and act like it was their idea the whole time.
If all that fails, find someone to push you. James is an emotional creature and doesn't like disappointing the people he cares about.
James Trying to make it look like it was his idea the whole time That's James right there, look at that smug asshole trying to pretend it was his idea all along...
You have no idea how long I had to argue with him to let me write this.
Even if you're not a photographer hopefully you can use this advice for whatever your version of "shooting" is.
while you're here it would mean a lot if you created an account and just browsed around... you don't have to buy anything, but it's nice to know who's watching... James doesn't give a shit of course, but Chris could use it to guilt him later.
OK, it's time, you've decided you want to be a photographer! Whats the first thing you do?
Buy a DSLR of course! Photographers have big cameras, that's how you know they're photographers. If they all have them that must mean that they're a necessity to be a photographer. They're bulky, expensive (not even counting the lenses) and heavy. So if they're carrying them there has to be a good reason.
well, you're right-ish... There are a few reasons that professional photographers use them, but it absolutely isn't the first step in becoming a photographer
Here is why:
Shot on iPhone 7+
1. You've already got a camera that has capabilities you haven't mastered yet.
"The best camera is the one you have with you" -Jay Maisel (or maybe Chase Jarvis this one gets confusing)
There I was in St. Louis on a weekend trip, laying next to my soon to be Girl Friend underneath the St. Louis Arch with my Nikon D850 and a new tokina 11-16mm lens, trying to get a wide shot that used the curve of the arch as a slim point in the photo, not surprisingly my new lens was broken (because why wouldn't it be, it was new and i have worse luck than napoleon's horse)
so I reached in my pocket and grabbed my trusty 3 generations old LG V20, switched to the secondary camera, an 8 megapixel 12mm f/2.4 wide lens, dropped it into manual mode and got the shot above. It's not a shot I would sell huge prints of, but I've printed an 8x10 for myself because of the memories attached to the photo and it looked great. The camera also has a normal 16 MP, 29 mm, f/1.8 lens that can very comfortably print any normal non poster sizes. Let me emphasize again that this phone is not a new phone, it was three generations old at the time, and it was all that i needed for a pretty specialized situation.
With the full manual modes available on the vast majority of smartphones today the first step you should take is to put your rear facing camera in manual mode and practice the exposure triangle, adjusting your shutter speed, and ISO with a constant aperture. (if your phone doesn't have a manual or "pro" mode i suggest downloading Adobe Lightroom mobile which allows this functionality as well as world class photo editing software)
Use your phone in manual mode until you are just as good as your automatic mode or better, watch videos, read articles and practice, practice, practice. Take all the bad pictures it takes for you to learn to take good ones on your phone because....
2. DSLR's don't live forever.
One of the most satisfying noises in the world (to me at least) is that "click" from a shutter actuation, that beautiful noise is the sound of your expensive tool slowly dying.
Just like every beat of the human heart is one beat closer to inevitable death, so it is for your camera. Like any actual mechanical item every time you flip up that mirror to reveal that sexy sexy sensor it wears on your camera. For example my Nikon D850 has a life expectancy of 200,000 shutter actuations or "clicks" it costs about $3500.00. Which means every time I click my camera's shutter button it costs me about 1.75 cents.
This doesn't seem like a whole bunch of money, until you realize how many bad photo's you need to take in order to stop taking bad photos. You should also really think about how large this purchase is, give yourself the time to really research and investigate which camera you want if and when you finally do decide to take the leap to a pro grade camera.
3. You need more than just the camera
So you read this and decided i'm wrong. After all, I don't know your personal situation. I don't know your finances. I don't know how good you really are, you're a natural of course! (we all think this at first it's ok)
So you throw caution to the wind and hop in your Lamborghini ( I assume) and mosey on down to the nearest camera store because you read here (as well as other places) that you should really put your hands on the camera and try it out before you buy it. The helpful (commission earning) gentleman at the counter brings out some camera bodies for you to put your very wealthy hands on. You touch it, you feel the weight and you fall in love with the camera, let's assume it's the same one I have the Nikon D850. It feels great but what's this Cheap crap attached to the front of it?
this my friend, is the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens that comes with most if not all Nikon (and a very similar variant for Canon) cameras. It's ... not the best lens. It doesn't take the best pictures, it's not the sharpest, or fastest lens. The auto focus isn't fast, and it's a bit noisy. The very helpful (commission earning) salesman points this out. you ask for suggestions for a better lens to go with it.
Oh does he have something for you. Behold The AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED It's the lens all the Professionals use, it's super sharp, fast and silent as a ninja fart. Sure you don't know what any of those numbers or letters mean, but it's clearly one of the best lenses out there and for the low, low price of $1700.00 he can put it in the bag with the camera, but that won't be quite enough, because the maximum focal length is only 70mm.
What if you want to take urban shots from far away? Wildlife? light stalking? (look i don't judge but you should talk to someone)
He's got something for you there too! the Nikkor AF-S 200mm f/2G ED VRII lens. Sleek, Silent, reduces your bodies pesky natural vibration, does your dishes (probably) and for the low low price of $6,000 (again on sale)
your blood pressure raises slightly as your pre tax subtotal comes to $11,200 but you've got the best of the best and now your a pro... how could you not be look at all this stuff!!! and you deeply believe this because...
4. Professional gear can trick you into thinking you're a professional.
You're walking around the nearest metropolitan center because you read somewhere that urban photography was important ( https://www.photonicpaints.com/blog/2019/2/why-street-photography-should-be-important-to-everyone )
You see an old friend and they see you walking around with a 2018 Mazda sedan's value of camera gear (not counting the flashes and tripods and monopods, spare batteries and storage)
"I never knew you were a photographer?!" your old friend says and since you don't want to look like an idiot for having the annual household income of a lower class family on your back you tell them that you are, you're a little honest and let them know you're not super super experienced but they aren't listening.
"my sister is getting married next month and their photographer backed out, do you wanna help out?"
You think about it, i mean... it's just a wedding how hard could it be, so you agree and tell them you'll do it for free just to add to your portfolio, and to get the "exposure" you continue about your day and snap about 3,000 pics ( i mean this monster shoots 9 frames per second, why not use it amirite?)
you drive your Lambo home feeling pretty accomplished, you shot on manual all day, you got your first gig, that's it! you've made it BIG TIME!
Until you get home, pop out your XQD card ($219 for 120gb) and slam it in your adapter (another 30 bucks) and load all those sweet sweet images into lightroom to batch edit (you don't know what that means but it's a pro sounding term, and you're a pro now)
you open lightroom and ... everything is complete trash Because no matter how nice the camera, the lens, the custom partitioned bag you still shot everything with either missed focus, under or over exposed for subject, or without compositional lines. You have a month to figure out years of training or you have to own up to it and cancel that wedding and all because you forgot the one cardinal rule of photography
5. "The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it" - Ansel Adams
One of the most used and overused quotes in the photography community, yet still probably the most valid.
No matter how quick, expensive, and shiny the camera is if you haven't put in the time you will suck.
That's ok though! you can only get better from here. Think of the best photographer you know and I'll tell you something about them. They used to suck too. They sucked BAD I guarantee it!
Now you suck too, so it's time to do what they did, learn how to suck less. You have something they probably didn't. The camera that's in your pocket right now, or maybe the one that you're reading this on right now. Is most likely 10x better than the first thing they shot on. You have access to world class photographers and advice on youtube, in articles, and all for free! (not talking about myself, I just suck less than I did years ago when i started!)
Get outside and continue to suck, suck until you suck less, and eventually don't suck at all!
Then feel free to join us in the moneyless pit that is photography.