Suggestions for a Wedding

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by M-5, Mar 2, 2010.

  1. M-5 macrumors 65816

    M-5

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2008
    #1
    So about 5 days ago, a friend of mine told me that his older sister was getting married and that his mom wanted me to be the photographer for the wedding. I know how important such an event is, and since I'm not a professional and have no experience shooting a wedding (let alone the proper equipment), I told him that I strongly believed that he should hire someone who was more experienced and capable than I was at photographing the wedding.

    I've read on these forums before about how weddings are very demanding, and one member even mentioned that he heard of friendships being ruined over bad wedding photographs. I mentioned this to him, but he just told me that I didn't even know his older sister so it wouldn't matter and that it was only going to be a very very small wedding (the groom's side of the family wasn't going to be present).

    I spoke to his younger sister, who is also my friend, and tried to convince her to hire someone who knew what they were doing as well, but she said that it wasn't going to be a big deal and that they only wanted some nice family shots to remember the event and perhaps some shots of the bride and groom outdoors. I agreed and told them that I would have no problem doing the wedding if they couldn't find anyone else to do it.

    So it looks like I'm going to be photographing the event. As you can see, I'm in quite a dilemma and have to learn and prepare for the event very soon. I have some questions as to the gear I should look into. I own a Nikon D5000, a 35mm 1.8, an 8 GB SD card, and no flashes. I'll definitely need to purchase extra SD cards, but how many? I'd look into flashes, but I have no experience operating them. As for the lenses, I'll probably need to rent some, but which ones should I look into for this small wedding? I like the 35mm, but it's really only best suited for very close portraits, and I'd like to capture more of the body (the dress included) while still having a nice out of focus background. Would I be able to achieve this with an 85mm 1.8? I'm considering this lens because of its price, but perhaps I could attempt to rent a 135mm f/2. I'm leaning towards purchasing prime lenses. Thoughts? And I apologize for the long post.

    Edit: I forgot to mention that the event is on January 1, 2011. Yes, 1/1/11, tehe.
     
  2. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem

    GoCubsGo

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    Feb 19, 2005
    #2
    First, the only weddings I have shot have been in situations like yours, arm twisted etc etc. They all turned out real nice to be honest, but they were a ton of work.

    Kudos to you for not coming here the week before. You have time to hone your skills.

    The D5000 is not a camera I would want used at my wedding. While I do appreciate the glass over the camera, I'd like two prosumer bodies at my wedding and a qualified photographer. Good thing you have nearly a year to prepare. You will need at least two cards, never rely on one large one. You WILL need flashes, at least one, and you will need both wide and long lenses. You will need to understand your lighting and your limits with the flashes. You need to spend the next 9 months learning about lighting, flashes, and lenses. You are very much under-qualified for this event but in 9 months you can at least be there enough to light the event. The 35mm lens on the D5000 is not wide. You need a good 10-20mm, 12-24mm or a 12mm prime would not hurt. 85mm is a great portrait lens but you have to learn to zoom with your feet; meaning, you walk back and forth ... like a lens zooms in and out.

    Do not equate a good lens to be expensive. Really.

    Bottom line is you need to spend the next 9 months gaining experience that people gain over years of work. I hope you're being asked to photograph this event because you're cheap. Otherwise, those who say "awww it's cool it's casual" are the first to have a fit when one shot is NOT captured. I truly wish you the best of luck but nows the time to learn about flashes and lenses. Fundamentals go a long way.
     
  3. wheelhot macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2007
    #3
    Hmm, will it be outdoor or indoors?

    and since you are leaning toward primes, I'm guessing the Nikkor 35mm DX should get the same FoV as a 50mm on FX. Which will be able to sail you through most of the stuffs. Also since I'm pretty sure you got the 18-50 as kit lens, you can use it for group shots leaving it at f/5.6 (its slower, but sharper at this aperture).

    Now regarding flash, when are they getting married? cuz you need time to get familiarize with the flashgun.
     
  4. Abyssgh0st macrumors 68000

    Abyssgh0st

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    Location:
    Norman, OK
    #4
    Honestly, I would suggest telling them that you will gladly assist in shooting their wedding. Get a professional friend (or two), and get your skills up by then, and rent some nice glass (or buy before then, if you plan to stay in the hobby).
     
  5. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem

    GoCubsGo

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    #5
    I would say this normally but he has 9 months. Not that it makes him a pro, it gives him 9 months to focus on this and even if he can find a wedding photog to shadow, even just for a few weeks, that would be invaluable.
     
  6. Abyssgh0st macrumors 68000

    Abyssgh0st

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    #6
    Oh for sure, but 9 months is a short time to raise the money to buy said lenses (or even for renting, I would rent the lenses and try them before shooting the actual gig). But granted, he is lucky with having a long amount of time. Just depends how dedicated the OP is to improving his skill, and if they plan to stick with it afterwards.

    But since we are unsure of the size of the wedding, we don't know even if the OP's skill/equipment greatly improves, whether or not one photographer will be sufficient.
     
  7. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem

    GoCubsGo

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    #7
    You are so right. I guess the point is that the OP has 9 months. How he chooses to use it is up to him. At least he is not some lame-o asking for wedding photog advise the day before the wedding. 9 months is more than most who come here asking that have.
     
  8. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #8
    Ok, so you know it's going to be tough, you've informed the party of your skillset and you've decided you're going to rent or buy the equipment- so far so good- and you know the possible pitfalls. More importantly, you've got a fair amount of time to hone up on poses, shooting skills and equipment. You're going to need at least one flash with diffuser. I'd suggest an SB-600 and the Youtube video for a "Better bounce card" as a start. Then Google "Drage the shutter" and get practicing. Lens-wise you're probably better off renting some good glass to go with the 35mm- it's a small enough party that the 35mm will probably be wide enough for most shots, but I'd add a 24-70 and either an 85mm or 70-200 to the mix depending on venue lighting. Hopefully you'll be able to scout the venue with your friend and the bride- go do some engagement shots in a part when the flowers bloom and try to put together a longer story than just the wedding day- make them pose and suffer for dragging you into this- it's your best revenge. Shoot them at least twice every other week to get comfortable with them and directing them. Practice at the venue a few times if possible.

    Paul
     
  9. Pikemann Urge macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2007
    Location:
    melbourne.au
    #9
    The most important thing that I can say: plan well.

    I'd like to disagree respectfully with Jessica on the point about flash. I don't like flash, especially if it's on the camera. If you can do it without flash, do it.

    But let's look at it the other way. Wireless flash can be very effective if you are able to stage a shot in such a way that the light coming from the flash doesn't look like crap. You can have the flash unit several metres away from the subject, at a right angle to your camera's perspective. If you need a basic diagram I can whip one up, but I think you get the picture. Put it outside a window if you need to. But FFS try to avoid on-camera flash like the plague. It's rubbish.

    Jessica was right about lenses: great ones don't have to cost a lot. If you are able, take back-up equipment. I bet you can get great used bodies for cheap. Maybe a Fuji S2 or S3? Great cameras for weddings apparentl. Check them out if you are interested (e.g. see dpreview.com).

    You initially did right in recommending to the couple that they get somebody else. But they want you to do it. So do it! Enjoy! No offence intended to Abyssgh0st, but seriously, take this challenge on board with enthusiasm and forget the wishy-washy idea of assisting someone else. Jump in the deep end. Step up to the plate. Have fun. Learn something. :)

    BTW if you want to read my almost complete ****-up of a wedding I did a couple of years ago:

    http://photo.net/wedding-photography-forum/00Um4R

    Keep in mind that I didn't want it posted in the Wedding & Social forum on that site, but the moderator just moved it. I posted that story - as embarassing as it is - so that others could see what happens when the couple tells you that you don't have to plan, just turn up and shoot. I'm never taking my privileges for granted again.
     
  10. fridgeymonster3 macrumors 6502

    fridgeymonster3

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    Jan 28, 2008
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    Philadelphia
    #10
    I'm not a professional, and don't pretend to be one, but I think since you have the 9 months, you have plenty of time to prepare. Definitely rent the lenses, bodies, flashes multiple times before the wedding to get familiar with them (if you don't purchase). I like the idea of shooting them ahead of time to get used to the couple, and you could also show them those photos to get their feedback. I worked for a professional photographer back in college for two years, he did corporate events and did maybe 4-5 weddings a year. He always liked to take an assistant with him, someone to help him and if the assistant gained his trust he would let them be a secondary shooter. If you are really interested in this, you might want to see if you can latch onto a professional as an assistant this summer for a few weddings. See how they work, what they use, how they interact with the wedding party & guests. Gives you an idea or the work and time needed for a wedding.


    On a side note, make sure you completely prepared. Here's a quick story about not being prepared (of no fault to myself). After working for that photographer and graduating college, I was visiting home for a few weeks getting ready for my own wedding. Two weeks before my wedding, my future aunt-in-law was getting remarried, and I was in attendance with my wife. It was just a small, backyard wedding...maybe 50-75 people because it was their second marriage each and they wanted it small and casual. Well guess what, the cheap photographer they had hired canceled at the last moment. My aunt-in-law asked my wife to shoot the wedding (she had taken 1 photo class in college), and my wife, being that there was no other option, said yes. But, she bribed me into doing it, since I had been an assistant twice at previous weddings with my previous boss, and had taken photo classes in high school and college, and really enjoyed it as a hobby. Someone had a rebel XT and the kit lens, that's it (I was a guest content on getting drunk and didn't even bring a point and shoot camera). I wasn't prepared and even though it was a huge favor it was awful. The images came out ok, some where great, and some were just atrocious. I did my best but being unprepared was such a detriment. Also, having never used that body or lens before, with no flash around, was a huge disadvantage. If I had had my own equipment, I would have at least been familiar with it. Don't be unprepared. You've been warned :)
     
  11. M-5 thread starter macrumors 65816

    M-5

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2008
    #11
    Wow guys, I'm loving all of the anecdotes. Well their mom added me on facebook and should be giving me the details about the wedding, venue, and what exactly the wedding consists of soon. All I know at this moment is that it's going to be a really small wedding, and they keep 'downplaying' the event.

    I'll definitely look into the flashes, multiple memory cards, and the lenses. I don't own a kit lens, but now that I think about it, I could ask my really good friend if I could borrow her kit lens or to perhaps 'spot' me. I was really interested in the 135mm f2, but at that price, and even if I do end up spending this much on a purchase, I'm probably better off purchasing the 80-200mm 2.8 instead. Alternatively, I'm looking at the 85mm 1.8 as well.

    And I have told them that I'd be willing to photograph along side someone who is more professional at their wedding just for the experience alone, but the reason that they want me to do it is because they can't afford or don't need/want a professional. I really love photography (it is something I'm sticking with), so any lenses that I might end up purchasing would be an investment into my hobby and not just a random purchase. But I'll have to see how much I'm willing to spend on gear in such a short amount of time. It is 9 months, but the price of this gear isn't inexpensive and does add up.

    @Pikemann Urge: That was a great read and had me on my toes! It's great to be able to learn from mistakes.

    And another issue I have is how much I should be payed for the event if they ask me (Obviously not very much, if anything). I don't have experience shooting a wedding, so I'm not even quite sure about the ethics of charging. I wouldn't dare charge if it were a friend of mine, but I'm shooting the wedding of a friend's sister who I don't know. This is a sticky issue, and I'm not sure how to approach it.
     
  12. Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    #12
    On camera flash can be used very effectively. See Neil van Niekerk's excellent site to see just how good bounced flash can be.

    Flash photography is a skill that is quite distinct from available-light photography. It takes time to learn and master. But when you do finally "get" it, you can produce excellent results that do not scream "flash" at all. Flash is not just about quantity of light; it's also about quality of light. And used properly, good flash photography can very much enhance the overall quality of light available to any photographer in any situation.
     
  13. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2008
    #13
    Zero, zip, zilch. If you charge them something and they aren't happy with the results, they can sue you. If they don't pay you anything, you don't have a valid contract and the lawsuit shouldn't stick.

    If they insist on paying something, give them the bill for whatever you rent and let them pay for that. For a first wedding shoot, not losing money is a good place to be.
     
  14. rhomsy macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2007
    #14

    Agreed. You cannot do a wedding without flash. IMO, it is impossible without most of your photos being underexposed, noisy and blurry. Even a fast prime lens isn't going to help you in a dimly lit reception hall or church, which they invariably are. Also, except for the formal shots, you really cannot use a tripod in a wedding environment. You need to be quick on your feet. So, you cannot use a shutter speed even on the slower side. Flash will freeze the frame.

    Also, really big apertures f/1.8 don't always work in wedding photos where you need a wider depth of field. That means you would have to stop down the aperture and have even less light. You can't use f/1.8 on most group shots, unless you only want a few people in focus.

    Learning how to master lighting is not an easy proposition. Honestly 9 months is not enough time. You can at least get familiar and proficient with it though. In my experience, people that say "they don't like the look of flash" just don't understand lighting because it's too difficult. So they settle for available light and stick their nose up at lighting equipment as somehow not pure. That is BS.

    Studying to master lighting is the single most important thing a photographer can learn. After you "get it", even your available light shots will have been improved.

    All that said, equipment wise, you will need multiple flash units, wireless triggers, light stands, some big diffusers (portable and easy to setup softbox or umbrella), and a reflector or two. Most of this stuff can be had for cheap, and although costing less than pro lenses, will do more to make your photos professional looking. Check craigslist for some of this stuff. Also, an assistant to help you at the wedding can go a long way to making your photos better and the entire day less stressful.

    Educationally, you will need to study fast. Go to strobist.com and learn. In order to make you better quickly, consider purchasing his dvd. Then, practice, practice and practice some more. Take a portable kit with you to a nighclub and try some nightclub photography. The lighting in many of these places is typically not that much worse than wedding venue lighting. If you can start to nail those shots, you can handle the wedding. If you get frustrated, and your shots come out terrible, then you can't (in which case hopefully there is enough time for these people to find another photographer).

    Good luck.
     
  15. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #15
    I'm going to disagree with this. If you can learn to use flash correctly, do it- if you control the light, you control the image. The only downside of having the flash on-camera is the direction of the light- but you can build a "better bounce card" and take care of that. I don't think you can find a top wedding photographer who doesn't use flash- and it's rarer to find a top wedding photographer who's pictures look like most people's idea of flash. 9 months is long enough to learn to deal with flash power, dragging the shutter and distances.

    I've yet to meet a photographer who can light well who says "try not to use flash." I'm sure there are some- but they're few and far between. I don't know a single professional wedding photographer who doesn't bring at least two flashes to every wedding. I don't know about you- but I've yet to go to a wedding venue and think "Wow! The light in here is amazing! It's exactly at the right direction and power!" Photography is "light painting." Why anyone would eschew lighting they can control is quite puzzling to me.

    OP- here are a pretty good series of illustrative articles- note especially the first images in the third one:
    http://neilvn.com/tangents/flash-photography-techniques/1-natural-looking-flash/
    http://neilvn.com/tangents/flash-photography-techniques/2-flash-ambient-light/
    http://neilvn.com/tangents/flash-photography-techniques/3-dragging-the-shutter/
    http://neilvn.com/tangents/flash-photography-techniques/4-bouncing-flash/

    +1

    Paul
     
  16. ronjon10 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2009
    #16
    Once they decide on a venue, go well before the event to scout it out and take test shots. If you're lucky enough to get full access, say it's at someones house or something, find some spots you know that won't be changing and would work for photos and practice shots well beforehand. If you can master the lighting at a couple of locations, you should have good confidence that you'll be able to get some money shots. You can grab whoever roped you into doing this as a model for test shots, it's their fault after all :)

    If it's an outside thing, you'll need to scout it within a week or so at the same time you'll be shooting to get your lighting down.

    After that, just take lots and lots of photos at the event, even the worst of us will be able to produce a few memorable images with enough shots.

    Depending on the venue and assuming it will be a really really small wedding, you can probably get away with just having a 24-70 2.8 as your only lens.

    Whatever you do, don't stress it. You're doing this for free. Take it seriously, but have fun with it, you'll learn a ton from this.

    ps. Don't forget about doing the bordello shots as the bride is getting dressed ;)
     
  17. anubis macrumors 6502a

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    Feb 7, 2003
    #17
    Kudos to you for making it very clear them that you are an amateur and not a professional photographer. Make it further clear to them that under no circumstances can they expect professional results. Most people see the photograhper walking around pushing a button and thing "I could do that" or "that doesn't look so hard". But it's hard. REALLY hard. I certainly don't mean to scare you, and you should certainly be commended for what you've communicated so far. Most people who start these kinds of threads here agree to shoot a friend's/relative's wedding without even discussing the potential pitfalls first.

    I'm not sure if you stated whether you're charging them. My best advice to you would be to do it for free; under no circumstances are you to charge them even a token amount. That fully reinforces the concept that you are not a professional and they shouldn't expect professional results.

    I know of many people who decided to just have a friend or family member photograph their wedding to save money because they assumed that photos wouldn't matter THAT much to them and that their friend would do a reasonable job.. most of these people end up having HUGE regrets over their decision because they don't fully understand the difference in quality between a friend and a pro, and how much those photos will mean to them when the wedding is a distant memory. Make sure you reinforce these facts

    Now that that's out of the way.... flash. Most of the professional photographers I've ever worked with (including myself) use on-camera flash. If you know what you're doing and have practice, you can make on-camera flash work and look great. You'll need a modifier/diffuser as well as a set of Rosco color gels to match the color temperature of the flash to the ambient lighting conditions. This is key and 99% of photographers don't know about it or don't care. Google strobist color gels to find out more. Trying to set up and use off camera strobes can be difficult during the extreme time pressures of a wedding, so most pros either don't bother, or hire an assistant whose full time job is to set up and operate the strobes.
     
  18. anubis macrumors 6502a

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    #18

    Absolutely under no circumstances should you charge anything. Even if it's a token amount - say $50 - that will be enough for them to view you much differently than if they paid nothing. Their resentment will be much greater if they are unhappy with the photos and you charged them anything compared to if you just did it for free.

    It's true - equipment costs add up fast. Ask yourself if you are willing to eat the cost of the equipemnt and shoot the wedding for free. If you are, go for it. If not, then charging them to pay for the equipment is not an option. Your only option is to back out.
     
  19. Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    #19
    If you really have to shoot this (and I agree with the others that you shouldn't unless you 100% know you can get useable shots), one way of getting some compensation is to say something to the effect that you'll do the shoot for free because you're building your portfolio right now, but if they really want to contribute something (people you know may feel guilty getting something for free) they could contribute toward the cost of renting gear to shoot the wedding. I did this when I first started out and it worked out well; got paid in gift certificates or a token amount, but didn't work for a set fee, per se.

    Absolutely do not charge a set fee unless you know that, no matter what happens, you have the gear and the skill to get the shots. That generally means having a thorough knowledge of:

    - exposure metering (should I use Av or M in this situation?)
    - depth of field and perspective control (should I take that group portrait with a 24mm at f/2.8, or step back and use my 50 at f/2.8, and what is the consequence of doing it one way or the other?)
    - lighting (what is meant by the term 'dragging the shutter', and how does it apply to flash photography? rear curtain or front curtain flash? manual or ETTL? Off-camera or bounced flash?)
    - stopping motion (what is the minimum shutter speed I need to get sharp images in this situation?)
    - composition (what makes a well-composed photograph?)

    Until you can honestly say you have a working knowledge of each of these things, you shouldn't be charging anyone to take a photo. Other things you should ask yourself include: Will you have fast enough glass to deal with any lighting situation? Do you have a backup camera body (and lenses) in case anything goes wrong? Do you have the post-production chops to make the best of what you've shot?

    Since you have 9 months, you could still take the job. 9 months is enough to learn a great deal about most of these things, and more importantly, to get experience shooting other similar events. But you're going to have to train hard for this.
     
  20. mtclimo macrumors newbie

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    Mar 5, 2010
    #20
    Nice Discussion for a Wedding

    I am so impressed w/evernote so far. really pro stuff. thx folks
     
  21. davegoody macrumors 6502

    davegoody

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    Apr 9, 2003
    Location:
    Reading, Berkshire, England
    #21
    Where are you ? May be able to help !

    I am happy to give you lots of advice (I am a pro Wedding Photographer) - www.lifetyme.co.uk. I am based in Nottingham, UK. Let me know if you want any help.
     
  22. spinnerlys Guest

    spinnerlys

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    #22
  23. Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    #23
    You should renew your domain name; that tends to make it easier for prospective clients to find you...you know, when you're a pro.
     
  24. epicwelshman macrumors 6502a

    epicwelshman

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    #24
    I wouldn't categorize it as harsh, more like tough love.

    In my experience, wedding photography is one of the most stressful and demanding assignments a photographer can have. There are no second chances, or do-overs. It's like photojournalism, but 100x more intense... you're not looking for that single front page shot - you're looking for 300 of them.

    I think everyone who has chimed in so far is just trying to help the OP understand the magnitude of the task they have taken on, and that it can go very wrong very quickly.
     
  25. davegoody macrumors 6502

    davegoody

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    #25
    No Need to be RUDE !

    Thanks for the head's up though, the guy who I worked with to set up the site did not renew. Have just done it now though. The offer still stands to the OP though. And please, don't be so sarcastic next time.
     

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