Photographing a Wedding for Free?


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Nov 3, 2005
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My boyfriend's sister just got engaged. They are planning to wed sometime this August or September. I had already suggested that we do a fake engagement session for my portfolio (They are a cute couple and I wanted to try out some ideas I have) and then we decided to wait because her bf hinted that he was going to propose sometime soon. So we are waiting so that we can do the real engagement session. She has already been talking about having me do her wedding and I've already tried to talk with her about the idea that maybe it would be better to look around for other photogs but she absolutely won't hear of it.
Now I feel like I've sort of been roped into a corner because I do photoshoots for his family all the time and only charge them cost for prints. I totally don't mind doing that because they are practically my own family. But, doing an entire wedding is sooo much work to do for free. I haven't discussed price with her at all but I get the feeling she is expecting it to be free.
I'm thinking maybe I should just do it and charge her for any prints or albums she wants and give a discount on those. She is also a lawyer so maybe I can have her take a look at my contract and give me some advice on it. So it can be somewhat of a trade...albeit a very lopsided one;)
What would you guys do in this situation? I just know that it's going to cause drama and hard feelings if I seriously try and get her to hire someone else but I also don't want to rope myself into such an enormous amount of work...Shall I just think of it as a really nice wedding present? lol
I plan on doing both of my brothers weddings for them. They both want me to, and i will do it for free. They just have to pay for anything they order, prints albums etc. It will be my wedding gift to them.

But then again I'm a control freak that would watch another photographer and be the one telling them to get this shot and this one. ( I HATE people like that ) Sooo, its in the best interest of everyone.

Oh and then you will have a wedding to add to your portfolio. :)
Obviously charge for prints and whatnot...
I say charge a SMALL fee.

Say "I know I normally do this stuff for free, but the pressure, and the sheer number of shots and how much work I'll have to do later, means I need to charge you something.

100 or 200 bucks...

Call it a wedding gift for doing it so cheap...

This means you don't have to bring a gift or cover your meal. ;)
I don't know if you've done weddings before, but when it comes to family, its also nice to be guest in their wedding and not a photographer at work.

I'm not saying you can't have a good time doing both, but just be aware of the fact that being both a guest and a photographer is not always the easiest thing.

You should discuss why they want you to do it, is it cause they want it cheap, because they think they are doing you a favor, or because they really like your work and wants no one else to do it?

When friends have asked me to do their wedding photos, I have agreed to do the formal pictures, but politely asked to not cover the whole party. They have all been fine with this and hired another photographer for the rest.

Remember that a lot of non-photographers sees photography as a rather casual thing, and they might not realize how big the difference is from being a photographer and a wedding guest.
I don't know if you've done weddings before, but when it comes to family, its also nice to be guest in their wedding and not a photographer at work.

I'm not saying you can't have a good time doing both, but just be aware of the fact that being both a guest and a photographer is not always the easiest thing.

i think one can only do one thing or the other properly. you will certainly have less entertainment and be a bit of an outsider if you do proper photography at the wedding.
I would do it for a small fee, maybe $500 (it does seem large especially to a young couple, but you work out the total hours you will work for them and you will likely be making less then minimum wage).

Now, you must also think in the very slim chance that you break up with your boyfriend (ahhh.. don't want to sound harsh here) how would you feel for offering them such a large commitment for free?

If they can't handle the price you don't loose in any way. It just means you get to be a guest and don't have the stress on your shoulders :)
Thanks so much for your advice everyone!
Sideburns, I appreciate the wording you gave me because I was trying to figure out a way to get her to realize the sheer amount of work and why I could do it for really cheap but not for free. And Peanuts, you are totally right (about the possiblity of a break up) And, $500 was the amount I was toying with in my head. Plus, BOTH she and her fiance are BOTH lawyers AND so is my bf's dad who will most likely be footing any of the bills so I know they can afford it. I just don't want to offend anyone!
And, I've done weddings before. I totally know how much work it is and how I won't be able to enjoy it as much as if I were just a guest. But, I'm ok with that.
But, I honestly don't think she wants me only to get a good price although I'm sure it must be at least a small part of the reason (who doesn't want to get a good deal when they know someone in the biz?) I think she really does just like my work because every time I've tried to convince her to take a look at some other wedding photographer's work she just refuses!
On the plus side, she and her fiance are nice young good looking people who would make a nice addition to my portfolio;)
Anyway, I'm off to word my email to her;)
I dont think they'll get offended as long as you take special care to explain the amount of work that it represents

as dipstick said... you should find out why they want you to do it, sometimes people don't do it because they expect it for free but because it would be nicer to trust someone they know or that is considered part of the family, since they're all professional they'll understand this
This is one reason why many established pros won't do family weddings. However, it can be a great way to get experience if you are not at that level yet.

For many of the weddings in my family, I have told them to hire a pro for the important stuff, like the ceremony and the formals...and I offer to shoot the rest (which is usually the fun stuff). This way, you don't have the pressure of getting the important shots, so you can enjoy the day...but you also get to do a lot of shooting.
Have just done a wedding for a friend - processing all the shots and sizing them to 5x7 and 300dpi and put them on a disk and we are able in the UK to get 150 prints for about $20 which I included as "proofs" I told them they can get what prints they like from the disc and I will resize and crop to different proportions any specials they particularly want and put them on a disk for them to print. The were over the moon with the results and I did a couple of bigger prints for my friend who is father of the bride and besotted with his daughter - he will learn!

The groom is a computer buff and he has copied the disc to circulate round friends and family - hope you have better weather - about zero in Durham and had to scrape ice off the car to drive to the reception at 1.30pm after doing the first lot of groups.

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