Wedding Photography Advice
Simply scroll down to read up on different topics including:
- Wedding photography costs
- The equipment I use
- Why you should hire a professional wedding photographer
- And more...
Do I need a Wedding Photographer?
Today we're going to be having a look at a widely asked question amongst engaged couples. Do I need a professional wedding photographer?
Often this question comes down to budget, or a lack there of. Wedding photography is only expensive when you fail to account for the facts that make up a whole wedding photography package. Wedding photographers have a huge outlay in order to run a successful business and the prices charged are simply down to this fact. Some photographers charge more than others, often depending on experience and the level of equipment they use. Wedding photography is only expensive if you think of it as paying for the photographer for one day, you're not, you're basically paying for over a week’s worth of work. Advertising, editing, equipment and travel are just a few points to mention. For details on what it means for wedding photography to be cheap, affordable or expensive, have a look at my next post.
Nevertheless, wedding photography is perceived as being expensive. Sometimes budgets don't allow for a £1500 wedding photographer. For those truly treasured moments though, it is possible to hire photographers, such as myself, for £250. This may 'only' cover the ceremony as well as some before and after shots, but the important first look between bride and groom, exchange of rings, vows and the first kiss are then captured. This is something that in 20 year’s time will be what you want to look back on and remember, it is important.
So, you might say 'well I have a friend who takes pretty good photos, I think they'll be able to capture some shots'. Ok. They might. Have you asked them what shutter speed they'll need to use to stop motion blur, what aperture setting to ensure artistic or optimal depth of field? If they know their cameras then they'll likely know these answers. But what about where they need to stand, the composition they're creating, the light quality and direction, the exact moments to take the shots? Still think they know it all? The next question for them, do they know how to edit the images to ensure correct white balance, correct exposure, aligned images, sharp images with minimal noise, correct details and everything else that goes into editing? If your friend knows these sorts of things and knows them well, then you could be on for some good photos.
Probably the most important question though, have they ever photographed a wedding before? At the end of the day, good equipment will only get you so far. As a photographer you have to be aware that during a wedding everything can change in an instant. These twists on the day can only be anticipated through experience.
So, in summary, can you use a friend to photograph your wedding? It depends on the friend; do they own professional equipment? Do they know how to use the equipment, really use it? Do they know about lighting and compositions? Do they know how to properly edit wedding photos? If yes to all these then you can expect some good photos. Notice how I said good, not great.
To achieve truly great wedding photos, you need an experienced wedding photographer, someone who is ready to anticipate all the timings and mis-timings of the day. In short, someone who knows exactly what they're doing.
Wedding photography can be free from a friend and depending on the friend you may be able to expect ok - good results.
Professional wedding photography can also be affordable, budget, cheap; it just depends upon your outlook and your expectations. A cheap wedding photographer will still have the experience your friend lacks (hopefully). An affordable wedding photographer is just that, affordable. Prime Photos are advertised as affordable. I aim to provide you with quality images, experience, professional equipment and professional editing. Are your memories worth the risk of losing them through bad photography? Or should they be treasured and captured as only wedding photographers know how? Your memories are precious, capture them wisely.
Why is Wedding Photography so expensive?
I wanted to highlight something today that is always a question I hear asked, as does every wedding photographer out there I'm sure. It's a simple one to ask - 'Why is wedding photography so expensive?' Sound familiar? Simple to ask, not quite so simple to answer as there are a multitude of different factors contributing to the overall cost of wedding photography.
I can't speak for everyone, but here at Prime Photos, I can outline exactly what goes into making my own wedding photography packages.
First it is important to remember that, like everything in life, the word expensive is relative to who is actually asking the question. Some people would happily pay £5,000 for a wedding photographer; celebrities would pay closer to £25,000. Most wedding photographers charge somewhere between £1000 and £2000 depending on the Packages they offer. If you look at my current prices, my most expensive package is £500 at time of writing. Which out of these examples is actually expensive?
In relative terms to the overall wedding photography market, my prices are very affordable, which is exactly how I market myself, an affordable wedding photographer.
So, the next question you may ask is why do some photographers charge more than others. Complicated question with many possible answers. The elite expensive photographers who charge £5000 and more would probably use multiple assistants, multiple flashes and multiple second shooters. Their outlay is likely very expensive, so they charge more. Don't feel too sorry for them though, their profit margins are likely through the roof. But that is a status they have earned (probably) with decades of experience and immeasurable talent.
The photographers who charge in the region of £1500 are either one of two things.
1. Very good at their job, bringing in years and years of experience with hundreds of happy clients, ensuring truly great images and willing to put a lot of time into editing. They are the ones who should be charging these prices.
2. The photographers who are probably not very good at their work, not experienced, possibly don't even edit their images but see that some photographers charge this much and so think they can get in on the action, taking the rewards without sacrificing to get them. These photographers should not be in the business at all. How can you tell the difference between these two types of photographers? Look very closely at their images and review their experience.
Then you have the photographers such as myself. I have been in photography for years but have only been on the wedding scene for a couple of years, thus my experience doesn't qualify me to charge £1500 or more. I am honest with my experience levels and don't hide behind lies about it. I don't need to; the quality of my images and the happiness of my clients assures me that I am doing a fantastic job. So, the difference between me and a £1500 photographer? Experience, that's all. Not quality and not service (in fact my service is probably better being that I need to strive to always please every single one of my clients). I offer fair pricing based on my experience and how much it actually costs me to run a wedding photography business.
In summary, my pricing is not expensive in relative terms to other wedding photographers out there (some who charge a lot more than me despite not having any experience, passion, commitment or sacrifice). My prices are very much affordable, cheap even when put to comparison against others, and reflect exactly what I should be charging. Some £1500 photographers (the good ones) are not expensive either in relative terms, they are simply charging for their experience. As for the ones who can charge £5000 and above I will leave you to your opinions; for that money I would be expecting multiple assistants, second shooters, extensive flash equipment and decades of experience.
Now that I have tried to sum up what relative expense actual means for wedding photography, I will list below what actually goes into making Prime Photos an affordable wedding photographer.
1 - Travel. This can easily add up. First you have travel expenses to meet clients for the first time, next may be an engagement shoot, possibly a pre-venue visit, the wedding day itself and that sometimes includes a separate reception venue. Now I live in Exeter and I actually really enjoy travelling and driving especially, it's like my safe zone, perfectly snuggled inside the 4 sides of my metal box with some nice music on. Living in Exeter, I am fortunate that I am within easy access of motorways and A roads which makes travel easier. Nevertheless, some of my clients have weddings up to 2 hours away from me. That's a 4 hour round trip, potentially making that journey three times - initial meeting, engagement shoot/pre-venue visit, the wedding day itself. That's 12 hours of travel time, believe me when I say that adds up in fuel. The wedding itself may last 12 hours, so in this case I am actually being hired for 12 hours of the wedding day AND 12 hours of driving time. Basically, this becomes two working days not just one.
2 - Equipment. I think it goes without saying that photography equipment is expensive. You can see a full list of my equipment on one of my other blogs.
One camera body as my main camera and one as a backup = Thousands of pounds.
A variety of lenses = Thousands of pounds.
Batteries, more batteries and more batteries again, professional memory cards and then more professional memory cards = Hundreds of pounds.
Flash, off-camera flash, more batteries for flash = Hundreds of pounds.
Tripods, stands, bags, filters, grips and accessories = Hundreds of pounds.
And you know what; it all gets damaged, worn and worked.
Repairs, new kit, upgrades = Thousands of pounds.
Insurance = Hundreds of pounds
The start off cost and annual cost of wedding photography equipment is a lot of money. Oh, and did I mention you need a very powerful computer, millions of gigabytes worth of back-up hard drives and subscription based editing software. Well just add in the cost of that as well. This takes me nicely onto the next section.
3 - Editing. This is where the time and workload really come into play. If you want to know one key difference between a professional wedding photographer and 'a friend who has a good camera and is going to be taking our photos at our wedding', it is in the editing. This is a trade where professional wedding photographers have employed thousands of hours in practice, pain, frustration, joy and knowledge in getting photos to look how they should. Real wedding photographers know exactly how to edit to bring out the best from their photos. I will reserve a separate blog entry for the whole process of editing but needless to say it takes days, not hours, to edit a whole wedding. For a full day, ten-hour wedding, expect about 40 hours of editing. Suddenly we're starting to see that travel time + the wedding day + editing is equalling about a week’s worth of work, sometimes more and sometimes less.
4 - After service. This is a simpler section; after service is simply that, giving service even after the job is done. Weather that be printing photos as requested by clients, providing backup photos upon request, tweaking any edits that a client may feel needs doing (like taking a piece of confetti out of someone's face) and just generally being there to continually help and understand the needs of clients.
5 - Advertising. The hardest part of a wedding photographers job is this, actually getting clients. There are a lot of wedding photographers out there and it is growing, the competition is fierce. How do you get more clients? Advertise. There are multiple ways to do this, some ways work some of the time, most don't work at all. And advertising takes both time and money. One of the biggest outlays in wedding photography is advertising. I can easily spend hundreds of pounds a month on advertising and long hours that stretch into the night creating adverts, writing blogs and everything else that I can possibly think of in order to drive clients into my cameras waiting focus. I can tell you now that I could nearly cut my prices by a third if it wasn't for advertising. There are aspects I haven't even brought up here. Phone calls, messages, e-mails, spam (my biggest hate, every company you can imagine trying to get your business to opt in to theirs in order for them to generate more money), SEO, website maintenance, social media maintenance, dealing with suppliers, ordering, filing, printing brochures and business cards. The list goes on. My point in this post is simply to highlight the different aspects that go into wedding photography.
As professional wedding photographers, we don't just turn up on your wedding day, shoot the photos and go home. Everything before and after is put into it. One day of work at a wedding easily equates to one-two weeks work when you take into account what is actually required to run a successful photography business. That outlay of money that makes wedding photography 'expensive' is what is required to ensure you are getting the best equipment, the best service, the best experience, the best reassurance and most importantly the best photographer.
I had a client meeting last night in Cranbrook, Exeter and they asked 'what is editing, what do you actually do?' I found it difficult to explain everything that goes into it, so I thought today's blog should be a further attempt to delve into wedding photography editing and what it actually entails.
I will first briefly touch on two different ways of capturing photos.
1. Jpeg - If you don't edit photos, the chances are you are shooting Jpeg. Basically, this is when you take a picture and then your device (phone or camera) will use computer algorithms to make the image look good. Technology has come a long way and these algorithms are so advanced that even photos taken with a camera that isn't that good (like a phones camera) means the images still look brilliant. For when you're viewing the pictures on your phone at least. Pictures taken with a phone or basic point and shoot cameras will lose their quality when they're printed or viewed on a bigger screen. The main downside of Jpeg is that the images get compressed and therefore lose detail and the ability to truly edit the photos. And because a computer decides what the image should like you lose the ability to use your own artistic skills. Yes, you can apply filters over the image to give it a certain look, but the actual intricacies of editing are gone.
2. RAW - As a professional wedding photographer I always shoot RAW images. Essentially this is where the camera captures the image but applies no algorithm to make the image look 'pretty' like on Jpeg images. The camera simply captures the data when the shutter button is pressed and stores that data without any compression or effects taking place. If you were to then use these images without doing any editing on them then they would look terrible. But because there is no compression and a huge amount of data within the RAW file it allows me to use software on a powerful computer to truly bring out every detail, whereas on Jpeg images that data is gone as it is a compressed file.
In summary if you're not a professional photographer, have no interest in editing and just want to shoot images and look at them instantly afterwards, use Jpeg. If you want the best quality possible, are willing to put in the time to edit your photos and are a professional photographer, use RAW.
I live in Exeter and although I’m primarily a wedding photographer, I do love to shoot landscape pictures as well. There is so much beauty to be had in our countryside around Devon that it is essential to edit my own images to really make them shine and I would advise everyone to do the same.
Now that we’ve established that I shoot in RAW format this is what a summary of my editing workflow would be.
First, I take a seat in my office here in Exeter, ready for the long process of what is to follow.
Second, I would import the images from my camera to my computer. If it’s a wedding I’m importing then that’s a lot of images (think 2000).
Next, I will select which images I actually want to use, this is called culling. After selecting the appropriate images (this usually takes about 2-3 hours by the way), I will import these images into Lightroom (my editing software).
Then I will straight away back-up these images on an external hard-drive, just in case.
Now I can actually begin editing. Starting with the first image I will ensure correct exposure (brightness), correct white balance (measured in kelvin), apply a few of my own secret settings which makes my photos look universally like my own, add contrast, vibrance, clarity, ensure there is sufficient detail in the highlights and shadows, make sure the image is cropped and straightened correctly and this is the basic stuff.
Next, I will look at what colours are in the photo, if there’s a purple flower I will want to slightly boost purple saturation and maybe reduce the luminance of it at the same time. Different colours mean the same thing applies.
Next, ensure the image is sufficiently sharp and that the noise levels are minimal.
Then, using selective tools I will brush out unwanted spots on someone’s face, a distracting piece of trash that might be in the background is removed, the gradient tool used to make sure the highlights in the sky are in detail and not blown out white.
There are other steps as well which I won’t disclose so as not to give away my entire editing workflow.
Oh, and this is just image one. Now onto the next one, then the next and on it goes… Total editing time for a full day wedding? Somewhere around 30 – 40 hours.
It doesn’t stop after the editing is done. It then involves backing up the photos so they are preserved for years to come.
Want a Photobook? I have a process within Lightroom for creating these as well. Add on about 3 hours to do this.
Upon completion I’ll let out a huge sigh, stare out of my window at surrounding Exeter and imagine the pleased looks on my clients faces. That for me makes it all worth it.
Summary – Editing is long and arduous, but totally worth it. I would always choose to shoot in RAW, if I make a mistake with my camera settings while taking a photo, the uncompressed format of RAW will allow me to recover any lost details. That and I can put my own artistic mark on my photos making sure they look natural with a subtle amount of pop! I wouldn’t change it, I love capturing memories and then crafting them into beautiful photographs ready to be gifted into the waiting hands of my happy couples.
My Fuji (Fujilfim) Wedding Photography Kit
This evening we're going to have a little insight into the gear I use for my photography. It's a question I'm commonly asked whenever I'm shooting a wedding, mostly by curious guests who themselves have an interest in photography.
When people think of professional cameras there is usually 2 names that pop to mind, Canon and Nikon. These have been used for decades by all types of photographers and have certainly enjoyed a massive market share, especially Canon. But a bit of a revolution happened a few years ago and we were introduced to mirrorless cameras.
For those of you who don't know, a professional camera has mostly been deemed to be a dslr over the years. A dslr is a camera with a multitude of features which I won't go into now. In the most basic sense, how they work is the user looks through the viewfinder and there is a mirror which is positioned to look through the lens. When the user clicks the shutter button, the mirror lifts up so the cameras sensor is exposed enabling it to capture the image. Because these types of cameras use mirrors it can make them fairly large. Then a few years ago along cane mirrorless. As the name suggests these types of cameras don't use a mirror. Instead when the user looks through the viewfinder they are actually looking at a digital screen. The cameras sensor is recording what is in front of it and sending it to the viewfinder. Essentially it's the same as looking at the lcd back screen of any camera. Because these don't use mirrors they can be made smaller and lighter. The other advantage is that because it uses a computer screen it can show you in real time what different settings actually make the picture look like. For example, if I increased the iso (making the picture brighter) then this would be shown in the viewfinder. This means I can dial in exactly what iso I want to use because I know how the picture is going to look. With a dslr there is no preview through the viewfinder, you are essentially guessing at what settings will be correct, though obviously with experience you get to know the correct settings.
So mirrorless brought about a different type of camera system and the 2 big players Canon and Nikon have not yet entered this market, though both are bringing out their own models next year which will certainly push mirrorless forwards again. For me personally, I love the mirrorless format. It's smaller, lighter, enables you to preview the image in the viewfinder and provides fantastic picture quality. There is a lot of choice when it comes to mirrorless cameras and I was torn between Sony and Fujifilm. Both have their pros and cons and eventually I chose Fuji, purely because they are highly regarded, have a great selection of lenses, are reasonably priced and offer astounding picture quality.
My main camera body is as pictured above, the Fuji XT2. It is currently Fujifilms top model, although there are rumours that its successor will be released soon. The XT2 offers all of the exposure controls within easy reach. ISO, shutter speed, exposure compensation all have their own dedicated dials making it easy to select the appropriate settings. On the lenses for Fuji they offer dedicated aperture controls as well. This body is super quick to start up, light, well built (it's even weather sealed), easy to control and is just a brilliant package. I also have a XT10 which I use as my backup camera should the XT2 break down, it hasn't yet. The XT10 is just an older, smaller and less capable version of the XT2, but still able to produce amazing photos.
I own the XT2 battery grip, which boosts the performance of the XT2 enabling faster auto focus and a better refresh rate for the viewfinder. I also find that it makes the camera look more like a dslr, bigger and more rugged. This is useful as a wedding photographer when people, who may not know anything about photography, might be looking at my camera and thinking that only looks like a little camera, it can't take very good photos surely? So with the battery grip attached, it gives the impression to the uninitiated that it's an amazing camera because it's so big. This makes for more reassured clients and wedding guests. Then when I'm out and about shooting for fun, I can take off the grip and it becomes a small mirrorless camera again. Win win.
So that's my camera bodies, now for the lenses. The name Prime Photos actually came from my love of prime lenses (non zoom). These types of lens can open up their aperture really wide and allow a lot of light in. They are also a little sharper than their zoom counterparts and there is just something special about shooting with them, they just give a magical pop to the images that zoom lenses can't. My first few weddings were with these type of lens but I quickly came to the conclusion that I had to use a zoom lens for at least some of the wedding, most notably the ceremony. They just make it so easy to instantly go from a wide angle to a close up and it's something that primes cannot match. I now have a healthy balance between the prime and zoom lenses using both of them throughout the day. First off is my 23mm f1.4 lens. This is currently my only prime lens as the focal length of 23mm provides a well balanced field of view. The 1.4 aperture is also nice and wide allowing plenty of light to come pouring on which makes for gorgeous no noise images. I will use this lens for Bridal Prep, Venue and Reception details, Cutting the Cake and First Dance.
Next up is my main zoom lens. The 16-55 f2.8. This zoom lens is probably the most popular in the world. Canon, Nikon, Sony and the rest all do their own equivalent of this focal range. It balances a decent wide angle with an up close portrait lens when zoomed all the way in. It's not as sharp as my prime lenses, it's a lot heavier, the 2.8 aperture doesn't let as much light in as the 1.4 primes and it's just less 'magical' than the primes. However, with the turn of my wrist I have a range of different focal lengths to choose from making composing images so simple and quick which is needed for weddings when everything happens super fast. This is nearly a thousand pound lens so the images are still gorgeous and there's just no getting away from how necessary it is to have this in my arsenal.
My least used lens for weddings is my second zoom lens, the 55-200 f3.5-4.8. This is a large telephoto lens which is best used when I want to be discreet and snap images without anyone seeing me. It is also useful for portraits as the focal lengths are very flattering to figures and can also compress the image to bring far away backgrounds closer to my subjects. It's aperture isn't wide enough to allow much light in so I can only use it selectively. I am currently saving for my next lens, which will be another prime, the 56 f1.2.
One little gadget that attaches to my camera is, in simple terms, it magnifies the range and increases the gap between lens and body making me able to focus really closely to subjects, effectively turning any of my lenses into a macro lens, perfect for up close shots of wedding rings.
Onto flash. This is a fairly simple explanation in terms of what equipment I use. I have a nissin i60 flash and a nissin air 1 remote. The i60 flash can be mounted on my cameras hot shoe and from there it can be tilted, swivelled, extended and otherwise manipulated to provide different lighting compositions, styles, techniques and creativity. Mostly I just use it on my camera to bounce off walls to illuminate an otherwise dark scene. In combination with the air 1 remote I can mount the air 1 to my cameras hot shoe and then place the i60 flash on a stand in appropriate positions. The air 1 will then communicate wirelessly with the i60 flash and tell it when to go off. This is called off camera flash and is very useful for creating either realistic looking images or artistic images. I will always use off camera flash for things like Reception details, Portraits and First Dance.
Finally onto the really easy things. In addition to the obvious equipment above I also need to carry around a host of spare batteries and memory cards. And should the worst happen I also keep around a portable battery charger, just in case. In a nutshell that is my general Fujifilm (Fuji) wedding photography kit. The mirrorless set-up allows me to move around the wedding day with relative ease and comfort whilst still being able to capture fantastic images.
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