Moonlighting as a wedding photographer realistic?

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by Jeremy Z, Jan 9, 2007.

  1. Jeremy Z

    Jeremy Z No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I've just gotten my first digital SLR, but have been shooting for years. I do decent on-location portraits.

    I'm going to start shooting weddings and on-location portraits this season with my Pentax K100D & kit lens. I'm planning on getting a nice dedicated Pentax flash soon, and probably a nice used, manual focus 50 mm f/2 lens. Does this sound good? Is there anything else that I will absolutely need?

    As an option, I will offer to shoot on 35 mm, at the preference of the couple. (Olympus OM1n, 28, 50, 135, 28-85 lenses & dedicated automatic flash)

    I would shoot for a flat fee, and the couple would keep the copyrights. I really don't want to mess around with print orders, and I think it would be a huge selling point. I would mention that although the couple would keep the originals, I would be able to use them to build my portfolio and advertise the business.

    I've shot two weddings before. My sister's and my friends'. The understanding was that I wouldn't/couldn't do studio portraits. If they really wanted those, they would have to go elsewhere. I would shoot on location only, and a set of engagement photos at a location of the couples' choosing. Both couples were extremely happy with the results. Both were in 35mm, with my Olympus, so I need to either have the negs scanned or have prints scanned for my website.

    I'm going to write my own website, which will be very basic and will contain sample images and information.

    My target group is people that want high quality photos without huge expenses. I'm thinking of charging about $600-800 for 6 hours worth of wedding coverage and an engagement photo session, or $200 for a civil ceremony and engagement photo session.

    Keep in mind that I work a full-time job, so I don't want this to explode into a full-blown business unless it is apparent that I will do really well. I'm thinking of just shooting 2-3 per month during the peak season and maybe 1-2 per month the rest of the year.

    Should I charge less at first to build my portfolio, or would that make people not take me seriously?

    How does this sound? Anything I'm overlooking? Any equipment I should absolutely buy? Any other tips?
     
  2. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    You absolutely need back-up gear. It can be film gear if you don't want to buy another DSLR. Unless you can somehow imagine yourself telling a bride "Hey, my camera/flash/lens just stopped working so I can't keep taking photos."
     
  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I'm sort of in this position as well...just trying to start out doing this part-time. Here are some of the things I've read/learned.

    Back up, back up and more back up...especially for weddings. You can't have your gear crap out on you and then say sorry. I had been keeping my film SLR for back up to my DSLR...but that's not really how I wanted to operate so I recently purchased a 2nd DSLR. Two flash units is a must as well...those things can get cranky...or they can work fine for years...you never know. Cords, batteries, cards etc...all the little things that can go wrong...you have to be prepared.

    That's up to you. I recently took a course called 'Designing Wedding Photography'. The main point that the instructor hammered home was to not undersell yourself. He asked us 'What should not go into deciding your price'...we came up with things like size of wedding party, age or attractiveness etc....what he wanted us to answer was 'experience'. If you are good enough...then charge for it. He said that too many people fail because they undercharge and then have trouble raising the prices. Word of mouth is big in this type of business...and how will it look if you charge one person $600...and then decide that you can charge $2000 for the next person?

    Also, you have to consider all the time that will go into you shooting a wedding. There is the initial meeting or several meetings, you may have to scout the location, then the actual shooting, then how many hours of post processing will you do? I know some pros that do 20-40 hours or processing for a wedding. $800 doesn't sound like much now does it? Granted, that's an extreme example...but you get the point.

    Then you should consider the overhead. I certainly hope you are considering doing this above board...which means paying taxes and maybe insurance. Advertising etc. What about mileage/gas...the use of your vehicle?

    You can give people a low-ball price...and even give them great photos in the process...but you would be doing a disservice to yourself and to other photographers...IMO anyway.

    As far as selling the files...that's up to you. Back in the day, photographers would never give up the negatives...now with digital, everyone wants files and they can then make their own prints...so the photographer looses money on print sales (the lack thereof)...so you have to either charge for it upfront...or give then an option to purchase the files. I'm still struggling with how I should handle this...as are plenty of new and experienced photographers.
     
  4. BAB

    BAB TPF Noob!

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    Doing wedding photography on a freelance basis is very doable and if you are prepared and want to take on the demands and there are many, then by all means. It can be a nice way to supplement your income with something that you love. But, and it is a big but, please consider what KSMattfish & Big Mike have said, because they are absolutely correct. You really need two of everything to begin with, cause things can and do go wrong and you only get one chance to get it right. The points that Big Mike made about pricing is also very relevent.
     
  5. markc

    markc TPF Noob!

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    Big Mike touched on it, but I would either charge an appropriate amount for them to get the rights to make prints, or they don't get any rights and they have to buy them all from you. If you give them print rights, don't plan on making any money on prints.
     
  6. Jeremy Z

    Jeremy Z No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    That sounds good with the backup equipment. I'll consider the OM1n to back up the K100D or vice versa. Another DSLR is not in the cards right now. Maybe after a few weddings when it starts to pay for itself...

    So tell me, what is a low price that is not so low as to undersell myself? I want a price significantly less than the pros are charging, but not so low as to seem low quality. I see that Matt charges between $1200 and 2300, and he's in Kansas. He seems to have similar policies to what I'd like to have. That would lead me to believe that I could probably charge about $1000-$1200 in the north suburbs of Chicago, and it would be a screaming deal...

    I just want to have photography pay for itself and maybe my other hobbies. I'm not too greedy. ;)
     
  7. thebeginning

    thebeginning TPF Noob!

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    what to charge to shoot a wedding is quite relative...

    ...what would be included in that $1200? is that only paying for your time? does that include a little bit of money to go towards prints? are any albums included? proof discs? is processing extra? do they get full rights to print the images themselves?

    if you're able to get $1200 just for your 6 hours of work, you'd be coming out the other end with loads of profit. But if that includes alot of other things, it will be a heck of a better deal to your clients, but less profitable. Honestly, i've heard of very few photographers who do not offer at least a few things with their packages.
     
  8. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Look around at the websites of wedding photogs in your area to get a good idea what the going rate is. I would definately charge more if I worked in Chicago than I am here in a Kansas college town (about 100,000 people with the students). There are photogs here charging less than me, but I still think that I'm a pretty good bargin for the customer.

    I charge $1200 for up to 4 hours of wedding day coverage. The clients get the edited files on DVD, and a set of 4x6 prints (approx. 150). They can buy albums from me ($400), or not. I don't offer the 4 hour package on Saturdays from May to Oct, because I'll fill up those dates with 6 hour ($1500) to 10 hour ($2400) coverage packages (same deal, files and prints). I'm not getting rich at these prices, but they go up every year, and it's way better than my old day job. :) And all my photography toys are a tax write-off!
     
  9. thebeginning

    thebeginning TPF Noob!

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    i've always been impressed by (and a tad curious about) photographers who give all the edited files to customers...doesnt that take you forever? what exactly do you mean by 'edited'? like some interesting stuff during RAW conversion (if you shoot RAW), perhaps a little touchup? that's just what i figured. because if you did a full retouching and/or ps job on every image, sheeeesh :shock:
     
  10. dewey

    dewey TPF Noob!

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    Do it... I've been doing it for a while and I love it. Big Mike is right... 2 bodies are a minimum... two flashes... lots of mem and what not.

    Buy backups.

    Advertise.

    Buy backups.

    Advertise.

    Buy backups.

    Advertise.
     
  11. THORHAMMER

    THORHAMMER TPF Noob!

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    dont forget you can rent more then enough gear for 150 - 200.00

    get paid half up front and your golden. reinvest after your first wedding and buy some of the equipment. after 3 or 4 weddings you own everything.
    or you could just rent forever...

    my point is , dont let price of owning something your only gonna use one day keep you from shooting. let expirience keep you from shooting... lol

    use the camera and flash to shoot and practice on events and friends. evenually youll be good enough to just rent something and run with it !!!!!!!
     
  12. Jeremy Z

    Jeremy Z No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Thorhammer, that is a great idea. It just occurred to me that it is also a great idea for those who don't know which SLR to buy.
     

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