This was our first wedding, and Nick couldn’t attend due to other commitments so just Kate and myself, off bright and early on Saturday morning for a 200 mile round trip. I’d advertised on eBay for brides looking for a free wedding photographer in exchange for the rights to use the photos as I wanted, and we’d hooked four potential victims, two in February, and two in March. The plan is to gain experience in a low-expectations setting, and build a portfolio of images with which we could advertise for paying gigs.
The wedding business is in deep trouble for many professionals due to the rise of “uncle Bob’s” like myself, who have shiny new cameras and subscriptions to “Photography Monthly” and “Going Pro”, and think they can take a decent photo and get paid for it. At this wedding there were several auntie Bobs and they probably got some great images, but they still deferred to us with our two cameras each equipped with battery grips that made the bodies look much more impressive. I’d spent the last two months throwing money at the project, buying cameras, accessories, flashguns, Pocket Wizards, and all manner of kit that we didn’t actually need on the day, but if you turn up and walk like a pro, and talk like a pro, then you are a pro.
What we did need was management skills, and didn’t anticipate that being so glaringly absent that we almost let it beat us, but in the end we got away with it, purely on the basis of Kate being in the right place, outside the church where the recessional ended and where the bridal party started posing, despite our having agreed that because it was -1C they would come back into the church for the posed photos where I was waiting with stobes, tripods, and Pocket Wizards.
When I became aware that I was alone apart from the vicar, I went outside and found that Kate had already covered most of the required setups. It seemed that the bridal party had started posing for the aunt Bobs and Kate just happened to be on the spot. So we finished off the group shots and they all went off to the reception.
My plans for the “weekend warrior” business model are for “disk-only” deals, whereby we turn up for the main event as nominated by the bride, probably the church or registry office, then take the official poses, make our excuses and pick out the best shots for burning onto a DVD and delivery to satisfied bride. We’re aiming for a few hundred quid for the day plus processing, and if we’re a threat to any professional then the professional should re-consider his/her career choices.
The cold fact is that everyone is now a photographer capable of capturing the moment and building a picture of the day, at no cost to the bride. The brides who will accept us on a disk-only basis will use their friends and family as photographers rather than pay a professional, but they may pay two or three-hundred quid for us once they’ve seen the quality we can produce. From our side a hundred quid for a days work to a student on minimum wage, zero hour contracts, looks very, very, attractive. (When we start to make any money we will pay tax, and I have a limited company already in place.)
Granted we don’t put enough time into the work to produce the award-winning wedding shots that cost thousands, but we will provide those management skills that guarantee the images that the bride will treasure. Perhaps their friends and family will produce memorable images, but without the necessary management and organisation that we can bring, they may never even see the “amateur” shots.
The main takeways..
..the day has to be planned and managed. If no-one is nominated to round up the guests then we will do so. If the bride & groom don’t stick to the rehearsal plan then they must be told what to do and where to go.
..equipment is less important than getting a shot. The vicar here forbade flash inside the church, and it was ill-lit and gloomy inside, and not much better outside, and we were shooting at up to ISO 3200 on mid-range cameras, so quality was secondary to the image, but we took some great images.
..one stop underexposed is perfect to capture the detail in a white dress. Granted that you lose detail in the black suits, but who cares? This is all about the bride.
..flash photography is the devil’s spittle. I bought Nissan strobes that were claimed to be the same as Canon speedllites, and they almost were, but they failed badly and erratically when paired with Pocket Wizards. Unfortunately they failed mostly on the day when I needed to fiddle with the settings to even get the same exposure from one shot to the next. Enough, they’re going back on eBay and I’m buying Canon strobes at twice the price.
..we have almost 1,000 images to process and select, and edit down to around fifty I think. This is fine while we’re getting experience, but we need to get down to half that number at most if we’re not to spend all week editing.
..the OCA guidance on workflow in DPP is paying off. I’m confident that we’ll have the required fifty shots delivered when the couple return from their honeymon, and they will be happy with them. I know this because my wife kept saying “ah that’s a great photo” more often than she said “delete that, her stick-on bra things are showing”. “Only fifty”? yes, offering choice is not good, they’ll get what I consider to be worthy of our Brand, and nothing else, certainly not everything that we took, even when they’re paying.
Next up, next weekend, the same again but this time in a registry office and then in a pub down on the coast. Depending on the weather, maybe snow, we’ll do the posed shots indoors using on-camera flash for safety. Bring it on…