Questions re wedding photography & portrait backdrops

MissyMoMo

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www.firstmemoriesportraits.com.au
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Hi Everyone

I was wondering who to ask and then thought I'd join a forum and ask people in the know! :)

I have a photography business and am wanting to upgrade a few things this year and am looking for advice. Firstly Im getting a new body and was thinking along the lines of a 5D mark II as I've heard a lot of good comments around the place on this camera. Anyone with one of these, do you strongly agree or have any other comments?

I also want to get some new backdrops for my portrait work. Am bored with the plain backgrounds and wanted to get something a bit more arty or different. I have a black one and a white one but wondered if there are backdrops out there that replicate a "location" without having to go to that location. ie. "wooden floor look" or something like that? I know it's a long shot - but worth asking. Similarly Im also after a place that sells nice "props" without asking a small fortune for them so I dont have to spend so long looking around for props that are suitable without all being from the same shop/seller.

Thirdly - with my weddings - I do about 400-500 on disc for the bride and groom as my basic package and then go up from there with options to frame, design albums etc. Does anyone else do this and, if so, do you edit ALL your photos or provide them to the bride & groom and then ask them to select a certain number of photos and you edit JUST those? Im finding editing all my shots are taking me a long time and since I've only been in the wedding field for a year and a bit, thought I'd ask advice from someone else that has been there and developed a better way of doing things.

Ok - think that's about it really! I will get back on here and upload some photos and become more active soon - but got the kiddies with me right now and, being a Saturday, I have to get them out of the house before they destroy it!! :)

All the best,
Moira
 
Welcome! I'm a Nikonite, so I can't comment much on the 5D other than to say that I've heard good things about it.

There are as many different types of backdrops as you can imagine. Check eBay to get an idea. As for props, what sort? Several of the supporting vendors (Links at the bottom of the main page) of this forum deal in props of one sort or another.

You give them 500 images on a disc and GO UP from there???? WOW! I typically provide a proof gallery with 200 or less images and edit as many as the client wants (I charge an hourly rate for post-processing. The more they want, the more it costs them). I give the clients an approximate turn-around time of 4-6 weeks. Depending on what else is going on, it might take a lot less time, but it never hurts to have a little spare time in your pocket.
 
I'd hold out for the 5d3 which is due out early this year.
I have a 5d2 and I shoot weddings and portraits with it. It's a great camera... with some limits. For portraits and weddings it's wonderful. Other things? I am pretty disappointed in it.

Backdrops come in everything under the sun. You really have to get more specific than that. You can check out Denny Manufacturing, Bad Sass Backdrops, Backdrop Outlet... ebay is always good.
Wooden floor-a couple of boxes of laminate flooring makes a great portable wooden floor.
Props are best bought NOT in a prop "store." They are everywhere you look. Antique or second hand stores are great. Flea markets and yard sales even better.

No, I do not provide ALL of the images, but I am also not shooting THOUSANDS of images at a wedding either. I shoot much more deliberately. I design the album before the wedding even happens and I shoot specifically for that album. The bride and groom have already "ordered" exactly what images they want and I make them happen.
That way everything follows the flow and theme 100%. I generally don't sell discs of images unless it's with my high end package. Then they get everything.
I TELL my client 6 to 8 weeks for their proofs. In reality I proof somewhere between Monday and Friday of the following week. That is not fully edited and retouched images. It is processed, sharpened, popped and nearly done images. I polish those off within 2 weeks of the wedding with the finishing edits. Album proofing takes me about 4 weeks from the wedding. It's all about setting up expectations and then blowing them out of the water. They don't expect to see the PROOF images for 6 to 8 weeks. In reality they have their album in their hands within 8 weeks.
My workflow is very easy and simple. I cull images as they load on the computer. Adobe camera raw automatically applies my curves, sharpening etc that makes my "look." I go through and tweak anything that is off in color or needs a bit of adjustment. That takes me about 4 to 6 hours depending on the amount of time I shot. I then run a batch thru photoshop that does the final pop, sharpen save the jpeg, resize for the slideshow and places a slideshow jpeg in the slideshow folder. I walk away while all of that is happening.
8 hours later my wedding is ready for proofing and I can call the client to come in at their leisure.
We choose the final images for the album that I will polish off as well as any prints they want at that proofing session.
Depending on the size of the album? I am calling them in to proof the album in a week or two. They then see the album pages as well as the finish edit images. Album is ordered and any prints, frames, parent books, etc...
 
hi, I'm from Newcastle NSW, in Newcastle most photographers provide the bride and groom with a disc of their wedding images from 200-1000 photos plus some enlargements, I’m not sure about Perth.

I shoot wedding with the 5DII and am very happy with it, I know that the 5DIII is due to be released soon but I’m not sure about the price as the 5DII was about $5000 and up in AUS when first released.

As for the editing and turnaround time I try to have a full edited disc in two weeks or less, I’m far too busy to try and sell the bride and groom individual photos so the full res disc is included in my price. Editing I shoot in RAW and only edit WB, Exposure, Blacks, Contrast and Clarity this takes me 3 to 5hrs, not including converting time. For me it is very important that I shoot to the correct exposure on the day so I don’t have to spend too much time in front of the computer. I use a 5DII, an ex580 II flash, 70-200 2.8 and 24-70 2.8, I do take my tripod but rarely leaves the car.
 
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One thing I have to say is why are you putting a number on the amount of images delivered? This just tells the customer that to measure your level of service/worth they are suppose to count how many photographs they get. That screams quantity over quality to me. Also if you tell the bridge and groom a certain number of photographs and you fail to deliver on that number its just another reason for them to call you out on it and complain/try to get money off. I don't even tell my brides and grooms how many photographs I shot. I get home after each wedding, go through and cull my images and delete the bad shots. Then I white balance them, fix exposure a bit, color, contrast...that sorta thing. Usually takes me around 4-5 hours to get a whole wedding done. Thats the gallery I show the couple. Then I go through and edit a bunch for my blog and facebook...put those up on facebook and tag the couple in them. Turn around time for all this is about 1 month...depending upon my workload. Hope that helps!
 
Wow - from the sounds of things Im doing something wrong. I guess having just started out in weddings, I dont have anything to go off and haven't had anyone to learn off - I've pretty much taught myself photography with a couple of courses and some online learning thrown in there (since I was about 16) and now Im feeling my way regarding weddings. I've pretty much gone with what I heard from people's feedback as to what brides and grooms want (ie. their photos on disc was a major one) and a few people said they got around 500 from their photographer when they got married so I kept that as a "round about figure" of what I should be aiming towards. I charge pretty cheap and my packages are very affordable but I guess Im just starting out so I wanted to build a reputation first and go up from there. But from your replies Im certainly spending too much time on the editing... I usually proof every photo but I do this manually - I've heard there is an automatic way to do it to all your photos to get them to your usual style at once, but I've not figured that out and I guess that should be my first point of call - learning that would save me mountains of time. Secondly, I do edit almost all of the photos to put them onto the disc, but I guess I should have a proof viewing first and only edit the ones they want for their album or to enlarge. I've been thinking about altering my packages, but being such a cut throat industry to get into I keep thinking that if I put my prices up, I wont get any bookings and they're sparse enough as they are. I'd love ideally to be doing 2 weddings a month as I only work part time but I could do more if the editing time decreases, but I have no idea how else to get my name out there to increase my workload. I do well in the portrait area but I'd prefer to have 2 weddings and a few portraits than lots of portraits and the occassional wedding.

I advertise on a large online wedding website, got hardly anything other than enquiries from that even though it costs me $800+ annually. I have a facebook page, I have a website, I get SEO done on that, I used to go to community fairs and things to have a table displaying my work (got literally NO bookings from that even though I did a few), I advertise in literally every free online directory out there, and Im part of an online quoting place where you pay per quote you provide to people wanting a photographer (got a few out of that). How do you get busy in this industry?!? Im just scared to up my prices or decrease my photos to stop editing all the photos in case it stops people wanting to go with me.

Thanks for the replies re the backdrops, MLeeK I will try out eBay and the idea of the wooden laminate flooring is brilliant. I have been using Op shops (charity shops or whatever you call them there), for props and garage sales etc. They've been great, although somewhat long winded. Although I never seem to get the GORGEOUS things from there that I see around the place. Although I dont want the "same-same" feel with my photos either. I'll carry on doing what I've been doing and have a look for some more backdrops and flooring.

You've all been incredibly helpful. Im so excited to get on here - I should've done it ages ago... so much to learn and I'd love all the help I can get. Im starting a course on studio lighting pretty soon which should be great.

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!

Moira
 
Hi Everyone

I was wondering who to ask and then thought I'd join a forum and ask people in the know! :)

I have a photography business and am wanting to upgrade a few things this year and am looking for advice. Firstly Im getting a new body and was thinking along the lines of a 5D mark II as I've heard a lot of good comments around the place on this camera. Anyone with one of these, do you strongly agree or have any other comments?

I like the 5D very much for wedding a portraiture, not so much for sporting events but I don't do those kind of events so it didn't matter to me. When the 5d3 comes out the older 5d will drop in price which means a better deal for you.

I also want to get some new backdrops for my portrait work. Am bored with the plain backgrounds and wanted to get something a bit more arty or different. I have a black one and a white one but wondered if there are backdrops out there that replicate a "location" without having to go to that location. ie. "wooden floor look" or something like that? I know it's a long shot - but worth asking. Similarly Im also after a place that sells nice "props" without asking a small fortune for them so I dont have to spend so long looking around for props that are suitable without all being from the same shop/seller.

I use a lot of fabric reminents along with muslin and canvas backgrounds. I also play with a lot of gels on the back light. It is fun to experiment. I know Lemon Drop sells a lot of faux flooring and such. With those I recommend buying a piece of molding from the hardware store to cover the seem between the background and the floor.

Thirdly - with my weddings - I do about 400-500 on disc for the bride and groom as my basic package and then go up from there with options to frame, design albums etc. Does anyone else do this and, if so, do you edit ALL your photos or provide them to the bride & groom and then ask them to select a certain number of photos and you edit JUST those? Im finding editing all my shots are taking me a long time and since I've only been in the wedding field for a year and a bit, thought I'd ask advice from someone else that has been there and developed a better way of doing things.

Ok - think that's about it really! I will get back on here and upload some photos and become more active soon - but got the kiddies with me right now and, being a Saturday, I have to get them out of the house before they destroy it!! :)

All the best,
Moira

If you are giving them a disc I would not be retouching every picture. I've never actually sold wedding discs except for slideshow DVDs but to think about airbrushing 500 pictures makes my head hurt and gives me violent flashbacks to when I was a school photographer. (NO NOT ANOTHER SET OF BRACES TO REMOVE!!!!)

There are a few free tricks you can do for weddings. 1. Take a picture of the cake, send it to the baker for free to use in their portfolio and advertizing. 2. Take pics of the DJ/Band, same thing. 3. Don't forget the food for the caterer, the limo driver, the decorated venue, the church, the dress for the dressmaker, the groomsmen for the tux rental company etc... The bride or wedding planner is usually happy to give you their contact information. Get a good reputation with the venders and you tend to see business pick up fast (did for me).
 
There are a few free tricks you can do for weddings. 1. Take a picture of the cake, send it to the baker for free to use in their portfolio and advertizing. 2. Take pics of the DJ/Band, same thing. 3. Don't forget the food for the caterer, the limo driver, the decorated venue, the church, the dress for the dressmaker, the groomsmen for the tux rental company etc... The bride or wedding planner is usually happy to give you their contact information. Get a good reputation with the venders and you tend to see business pick up fast (did for me).

This is a brilliant idea - thanks for that. I tried a while back to contact a handful of vendors with the aim to do a set up photoshoot using a dress, model, limo etc where everyone provided their item for free (as I would provide my photographic services for free) - this would've been great for portfolio or magazine ad - but not ONE of them got back to me. I thought I'd be sifting through the replies! Anyway, I'll do that with the vendors and see how it goes. Thanks for the tip - they're always welcome!!

As for the 5DII I think I will wait til the 3 comes out with the hope of getting a better price. I dont think I could afford $5-6k for the 3 but that would've been lovely.

Just had a quick glance at Bad Sass Backdrops - wow. I cant wait to have a proper look. I wish there was something like that in Australia - it always costs so much to get things like that shipped here. But I'll keep looking. :)

While we're on the topic (and Im picking your brains already), there are lots of different editing packages and I've been using Photoshop, but I find that there are a lot of easier to use and quicker programs out there (like Portrait Professional which seems to advertise EVERYWHERE!!), I like how quick and easy it is... but it affects the size of the image so much and I get paranoid using it just in case they love the photo so much they want to blow it up and then it's not suitable anymore. Does anyone else use this and is there a way around it or is it just the good ol' fashion manual editing that you do?
 
I am pressed for time today/right now, but I will be back later. I have a ton of ideas on free and better uses for your marketing dollars-among a million other things. If I don't respond by tomorrow-remind me cuz I am so swamped today I can't see whether I am coming or going and I tend to forget!
 
I am pressed for time today/right now, but I will be back later. I have a ton of ideas on free and better uses for your marketing dollars-among a million other things. If I don't respond by tomorrow-remind me cuz I am so swamped today I can't see whether I am coming or going and I tend to forget!

Thanks so much MLeeK! I've just read through the post that is pinned to the top of the forum about it and got a couple of good ideas from that... but still needing more. I get a lot of portrait work, but damn Im craving after the weddings! :)

OH and by the way - I put in an order with Bad Sass thanks to your recommendation and Im so excited to get it - cant wait to steer away from the boring backgrounds and get a bit of colour and texture into it. So cheers for the referral.
 
I found that participating in bridal shows and the like were a colossal waste. Definitely NOT cost effective. We have one here that costs me $50. Yep. That is the only one I am still participating in. Most of them run upwards of about $600 USD. When you consider your advertising budget how many weddings would you have to book in order to meet your percentages? 10? 20? Yeah, not really very cost effective. I think the most I booked directly from one of those big huge bridal shows was 2 or 3. Not to mention the setup for the show-drapes for the table, displays, easels, lighting... That can easily run you a couple grand. And that is assuming you have many to most of your display albums for showing a client as well as large prints/framed... Where does that put your %? OUCH!!!

IF it is a cost effective fair ($50) then by all means do it.

Someone touched on giving an image to the caterer, etc... Go one step further and network with them. You can start with just providing them digitals to use for their displays. As your rapport grows with a particular vendor-as you are getting referrals from them-provide them with a display book or large prints for their walls that is going to be quality above what they are having printed or showing. Once you have done that and are REALLY working with a vendor by all means spend your advertising budget for a particular wedding either giving that vendor a 'thank you gift' or as a straight up kick back.
When you are meeting with a bride you will also be referring your "preferred vendors."
That referral coming from another professional that they have chosen to work with then becomes PERSONAL. They are now "friends" with the florist who is doing their florals. When that new "friend" says he or she loves to work with YOU and that the images are provided by YOU it is more than just XYZ business likes YOU PHOTOGRAPHY.

When you work with one vendor all of the time you will obviously develop a way that you work together which will also help things to move smoothly on the wedding day. That is something you would obviously tell a client. "I've worked with Jane Doe at The Banquet Hall many times and we work so well..." That matters!

Set yourself up to over achieve. If you do 10 things for every bride and groom that is listed in the contract, make 3 or 4 of those things "hidden." They APPEAR to be above and beyond what you would normally do. Say you always give your bride a photo bag with her album. The price of that bag is figured into the package pricing, however the bride does not know that, so it LOOKS free. If you get your images back in 4 weeks write your contract for 8-OH MY GOD YOU ARE SO FAST NOW!
Your contract should reflect a promise for less than the actual agreement. That way you look AMAZING. If you are amazing it's rare that you'll have a dissatisfied client-if ever. A client that is blown out of the water is one of the best forms of advertising there is.

Business cards-invest in good ones. A business card is the best advertising investment you will ever make. I personally like the Moo cards. Both the full size and the minis. The minis everyone loves because they're different.

You need to get seen where your ideal client will be looking. To do that you have to decide who your ideal client IS. How much money is your potential bride spending on the wedding? Where does she shop? Where does she dine? work? Play? What are the places she is likely to frequent and brands she'll be using? I don't know about you, but my ideal client doesn't drive a Ford Focus and shop at Wal Mart. That's ME, not the client I want! LOL! Ok, not quite a Ford Focus, but you get the idea. My ideal client is driving a BMW, Audi, Jag, Lexus and shopping at Macy's. You have to know who your ideal client is in order to market to them. And I am not talking the clients you already get. I mean IDEAL. If you could work with this imaginary perfect person, what would they be like? Write it all down on paper. Everything about that "client." Then figure out where to cross your paths with them.

Image-YOURS. Your image is everything. You are seen everywhere you go and you are now your business. You should ALWAYS appear as you would want a client to see you. Going to the school to pick up kids? Guess what-you need to look the part. YOU are also your best advertisement. Don't be afraid to have your logo embroidered on a jacket or shirts or your bag or... It's your "bumper sticker." And it works. You probably better always have those business cards on you.

Get involved-You now know your ideal client and where you are going to find them. Chances are they are active in the community in some way shape or form. Get involved and OF COURSE you need to donate your work!!! If you are involved in the city/town/village donate prints to hang in City Hall. If you are involved in the 4th of July festival donate images to hang in the town/village/city office. If you are involved in a charity-donate your work. All of those have a clear, readable watermark with your phone, website and name.
If you are looking for the ivy league college students with a silver spoon? Get involved with things for the College. Donate your services for events, etc where you can come in contact with those students.
Start thinking outside the box. Everyone thinks about where they can BUY advertising. You have an advertising budget that needs to pay off. How can you make that pay off in a different way than every other photographer out there who is competing for the same bride. How can you make yourself stand out as something above and beyond? Something very different than the others?


As for editing plug-ins like Portrait Professional by all means use them. They aren't reducing the size of your image unless you are resizing for some reason. They can be set to make a duplicate copy of the base image. Make sure to save the psd or dng so you have everything should you need to step back.
Do not edit, airbrush, retouch every image. Get it right in camera (obviously) and learn how to use either LightRoom or Adobe Camera Raw to it's fullest. Learn to batch process for proofing.
What are you doing in editing and what is your average time spent working on an image? You have to know that time. It has a HUGE impact upon your bottom line profitability.
If you have 100 potential wall images per wedding that is PLENTY.
Learn to shoot for the end product: When you go in with the design done for whatever your end product is, you know exactly what images you need to take AND in what style they need to be taken. You and the couple know exactly what you will be providing them with in the end. Don't forget to set yourself up to over achieve. If you are promising a 20 page album, plan on shooting for a 30 page album.
Design those images and pages with your client: Meet with them and hash out everything they envision in this wedding album and what images are must haves. Explain to them exactly what you will need to get those images (time is usually the issue-they seem to think we can do this in 2 seconds flat... um, NO!) Explain exactly what they are responsible for-do you require time with no guests? do you require that there be no other shooters? EVERY LITTLE DETAIL ahead of time.
Which all leads back to that amazed client being your best advertising.

Give every prospective client a "gift" because you like them as people oh so much. What is that gift? A bit of information and education about what to expect of a wedding photographer and what they should look for.
Make sure you have an amazing package they are walking out your door with regardless of wether they book today or not. A complete welcome packet including your pricing, about you, extra information... should be professionally printed and reflect your style. A catalog or "magazine" is a great way to do that. HP MagCloud | Print and Digital Content Publishing is really great for creating a small magazine style book that you can give to prospective brides.
Make sure your samples are amazing and not just your website. You can show an album of many weddings, but also make sure you are showing an album of one wedding that is 100% representative of your skill and style. It should reflect an album you would design for a client.
 
WOW WOW WOW wow. THANKS so much, Im going to jot some of those things down and get onto them asap for this year. Cheers for that - I realise it would've taken you some time to type all that up and really think about it so thanks. I so glad to be part of this now - it's something I should've done ages ago but didn't have the "time" but in reality, its going to save me time. One thing I need to get down first and foremost is to lower my editing time and being able to bulk proof edit with the click of a button. :)
 
WOW WOW WOW wow. THANKS so much, Im going to jot some of those things down and get onto them asap for this year. Cheers for that - I realise it would've taken you some time to type all that up and really think about it so thanks. I so glad to be part of this now - it's something I should've done ages ago but didn't have the "time" but in reality, its going to save me time. One thing I need to get down first and foremost is to lower my editing time and being able to bulk proof edit with the click of a button. :)
I type fast! :)

Now that you know that time is an issue for you it will happen. When you are working your next session or wedding in raw and editing make note of everything you are doing to 'fix' or polish an image. THINK about what you could have done in camera to not have to do those things. It will enlighten you quite a bit and you'll pay closer attention at the next shoot/wedding for those things.
Because of the time spent in editing you also need to concentrate on shooting very deliberately. When I started shooting weddings I shot the planned shots as well as snapping away at anything and everything. Stop doing that. It doesn't earn you any more money or acclaim from your clients. Shoot only if the shot is there and it's perfect. My favorite saying: "Plan your shot, shoot your plan." I say it constantly to anyone I am teaching or working with and I get teased for it-but they remember and it sticks with them and every one of those people who love to tease me also tell me that it has an effect on how they shoot too. It's stuck in their heads and it will never go away. Plan your shot, shoot your plan.
Then open your eyes and LOOK before you shoot. Look at the background, foreground and the light. See it how it will look on the camera. Look at the details-stray hairs eat up a LOT of editing time. Your clients will thank you for it and see how much care and detail you put into their photographs.
In weddings when you cannot use flash and you know that exposure on the subject needs flash in order to keep everything else the way you want it: shoot for HDR. 3 images, 3 exposures. Combining 2 exposures is easier than editing for double exposure. You'll find that there are only a few times you'll need it, but it does have a big time saving help if you do it.
Shoot less and talk more. You will find if you spend time with your client as a person and not a photographer you will get more natural smiles and moments. The shooting and perfection will then come naturally.
Set the stage for the image you want to create. If you EVER have a chance to see Jerry Ghionis speak and teach-DO IT. He is a master at setting the stage. He will do things like make the bride's mother and father step out as she is getting ready and just as they are about to come in to see her he'll say to the bride something like "are you ready to see your daddy for the last time as daddy's little girl?" Then he'll go out to see the parents and say something like "are you ready to see your daughter for the last time as your child before she is a married woman?" Then he lets the emotion flow. The images are unbelievably awesome. On top of the images he makes sure that the clients are feeling every momentous second of that day to the fullest possible effect. Of course before hand he has controlled the setting-the room is free of clutter and he knows exactly what he wants to have to prevent all of that edit work.

I could spend days giving you all kinds of stuff like this. Just ask and ye shall receive!
 
I've just looked Jerry up and was excited to see he's Australian! That means the chances of him coming to Perth for a seminar are a bit higher than if he were American! :) I even got a bit teary looking at some of his photos - he certainly takes "capturing the emotion" to another level doesn't he!

Yes I do need to concentrate more on taking LESS photos... I get nervous that I wont capture enough and then Im stuffed. I need to slow down more too - concentrate on my settings and get it right rather than rushing into it to try to get as many shots as I can of the one moment. Suppose that will come with time. I've only shot a handful of weddings with my current camera.

Plan the shot, shoot the plan! :) Got it.
 

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