Are there more headaches associated with charging affordable rates for photography? Everyone deserves beautiful photos, no matter what their financial situation, but why does it seem that cheaper rates equal more complaints or demands? Furthermore, on someone's wedding day, are the couple sacrificing quality when they hire someone who charges a really low rate? I'm not saying that just because someone paid $500 for wedding day images and coverage, they will automatically be faced with a lesser quality of service or images. Not at all.
Just be aware that there are very few seasoned wedding photographers out there who will charge anything close to this rate. You often will obtain this price based on the fact that the photographer is new, and needs to start somewhere. This is a risk on your part. I thank the couples who have taken a risk on me. Up to this point, I have shot and second shot weddings for next to nothing. You have to start somewhere and sometimes one has to sacrifice money to eventually make a financial gain.
Eventually, you have to charge not only what the market demands but what you feel you are worth. Some people feel that photographers get rich off weddings. After all, you show up with your already bought equipment, shoot the wedding, and burn it on a disk. Shoot and burn. Sounds simple? It's not.
The average wedding photographer makes about $10 an hour once all their travel, time, editing and administration is taken care of. Did you know that on average, it takes 80 hours per wedding to professionally edit and retouch wedding photos? A well composed photo is always key, however it is generally the editing, even as minor as that edit may be that makes the difference between a snapshot and a beautiful frameworthy wedding portrait.
The emotional stress and multiple unplanned scenarios that take place or could take place on someone's wedding day are what lead most photographers to quickly venture into other creative areas and leave the wedding industry far, far behind.
They say that you are fortunate if you are lucky enough to have a client complain. On average, Canadians are extremely polite and not willing to be honest about their dissatisfaction. How can we strive to do better if we don't know what that better entails? I've been fortunate to have had many compliments on my photos. I think and I hope that people are as satisfied as they say they are. Like anything though, it's never a perfect scenario.
This leads me to a few thoughts I would appreciate feedback on; both from photographers and clients. I cannot stress enough how imperative it is to have open communication with your photographer about what your vision is on your day. I've learned that free reign can often lead to misunderstandings and ambiguity. My style is very candid, however I understand the importance of formal portraits. I generally give way more photos than the average photographer. I don't charge per print, so the added images are just a "bonus" in my eyes. This usually is appreciated but sometimes not.
I have had a few instances where brides were wondering why there were photos of their colleagues, friends or details in their final images.
Some photographers feel that if there is something you have spent money on
(i.e. flowers, rings, centerpieces), you would appreciate photos of it. Other photographers don't bother taking photos of the details because they say brides don't care about it. I think that if someone is important enough to be invited to the special event, it would be safe for me to assume that they would be important enough to take their photograph. It is my generous mentality to give more photos than less to ensure if you don't want them, you can simply discard them but if you do want them, the photos are there. It's always better to do too much, than not enough. Or is it?
Every client is different. Some only want candids. Others only want portraits. These are very clear desires and make a photographer's day run smooth as we know what to focus on. It's when someone wants a mix of the two that things sometimes get confused. When a bride says to me "I trust you", these words make me feel great. However trust and vision are two totally different things and can make for a disastrous outcome if not on the same page.
When I second shoot a wedding, I'm usually in charge of candids. When I shoot my own wedding, I am in control of the day and my husband is busy taking other shots. I spend my morning with the bride, and he handles the groom and his guys. It has been my experience that if there are two of us, we may as well make good use of our time, separately. If the two of us stand side by side shooting portraits, the client will not only receive duplicate shots, but it confuses guests when two photographers are standing beside each other. The guests end up looking at either one or the other, or wondering who they should smile for. The portraits then don't have everyone looking at the same photographer.
Any wedding Michael and I have shot, one photographer is shooting the portraits while the other is shooting details and candids. Otherwise, you're not using the full benefit of having multiple photographers, and in fact will have duplicate shots, which eliminates the point of having multiple photographers.
It has been my experience that a photographer must run the show on a wedding day. To a certain extent, we can only do the best with what we have to work with. If it is not communicated that a great aunt from a far distance is of utmost importance, you may get a shot of a cute little girl running around versus that important aunt. In most cases, the photographer and client don't know each other so it needs to be clear to the photographer, who to spend the most time photographing. I've heard from other bride and grooms that they weren't happy with their photographer because there were too many kissing shots. I've heard from others that there were too many shots of the guests and not enough of family. Alternatively, I've also heard that there are not enough shots of the guests and too many of family. Every scenario is different. One thing is for sure though. If the makeup artist is 2 hours behind, the bridesmaids are dilly dallying and the photographer is being told "too bad", the bride is not going to care the day she gets her wedding photos, what the logistics were. She's just going to care that she didn't get the shots that she wanted.
In some cases, I've pulled brides and grooms away from their guests because I know there is a shot they would totally love. But what can you do when they don't want to leave their guests, speeches etc? You can't pull them away from enjoying their day, to be with you all day taking photos. Sure, they'll get great photos but, they'll miss most of their wedding day.
I have friends who do too much for way too little in regards to their photos. It always seems that the things you do next to nothing, leave people coming back for even more; they want more photos retouched, less photos included or
a little bit of both.
Is it better to charge more, therefore having to photograph less venues and allowing you more time to spend absorbing the details and giving the client even better quality images? If you shot 40 weddings at $500, you can be guaranteed the creative quality (as well as your sanity) would go down the tubes by the end of the year.
Clients: Would you rather be offered the extra images, allowing to discard if you're not interested?
Have you noticed that lately, every minor task or errand somehow turns into a big production?
I presume with technology's major presence, things should be easier, faster and painless. I went to renew my vehicle sticker on a Monday morning. Here in Brantford, we have the luxury of driving 5 minutes to get where we need to go, not pay for parking and minimal line ups. Even with the hassle of having to get my emissions tested before being able to renew my sticker, I was back there in a jiffy. Ah, but then there is the pesky 407 fine that never seems to go away no matter how many times I have paid it. The ministry ensured that with my receipt, I would have no problems proving to the 407 that it has been paid off. I then get into my car, call the 407 who chastises the ministry who should know better that they are not linked. Can I just get a straight answer on a Monday morning? After a weekend of less than desirable circumstances to say the very least (blog post to follow that will leave you speechless), my eye rolling and head shaking must have been apparent to the 3rd 407 person I spoke to on the phone.
If this is the 1st of the 23 next straight days I'm working, I hope there is a happier ending in sight.
I learned something last night. Husbands have stress too. It's not only women who are pulled in a million directions. Men typically don't emote like we do. So last night when I was rhyming off to Michael the things he doesn't do, it caught me off guard when he said to me: "I'm not a bad guy you know."
I saw his bottom lip trembling and realized that in this madness of life, he too feels the pressure at work, at home, with his food blog, helping me second shoot, errands and family obligations and just the tug of life's various different demands in general.
I've got a good man, who's always striving to be a better man.
For that, I am grateful. I love you Michael. And here's a little Pearl Jam just for you. I know that band is your second love in life :)
Constantly, boy you played through my mind like a symphony There's no way to describe what you do to me You just do to me, what you do And it feels like I've been rescued I've been set free I am hypnotized by your destiny You are magical, lyrical, beautiful You are... And I want you to know baby
Come out angels, Come out ghosts, Come out darkness, Bring everyone you know. I'm not running, and I'm not scared, I am waiting, And well prepared. I'm in the war of my life, At the door of my life, Out of time and there's nowhere to run I've got a hammer, And a heart of glass I gotta know right now which walls to smash I got a pocket Got no pills If fear hasn't killed me yet, then nothing will All the suffering and all the pain Never left a name I'm in the war of my life, at the door of my life, out of time and there's nowhere to run I'm in the war of my life, at the core of my life Got no choice but to fight til its done No more suffering, no more pain Never again I'm in the war of my life, at the door of my life, out of time and there's nowhere to run I'm in the war of my life, at the core of my life Got no choice but to fight til its done So fight on, fight on everyone fight on got no choice but to fight til it's done I won't give up I won't run I won't stop for anyone
I've been so fortunate this past year to take part in so many celebrations of love. I get the chance to absorb all the excitement, planning, ups & downs, disappointments and joys and it brings me back to my own beautiful wedding last year.
I'm always fascinated by human nature. Is it in our nature to follow the norm in the beginning part of our lives? Why is it that a second marriage, a second job, a second chance at life or perhaps just time and maturity itself leads us to do exactly what it is that we want? You often hear: "If I had to do it again....."
Why don't we do what we want in the first place? I'm as mystified as you.
For me, I would have spared myself the headaches and expense. I loved everything about our wedding(s), yet if I had to do it again, it would be so different. Our guests would be different. The people we have met in the past year have me wondering what I ever did before I met them. I would hire not one seasoned photographer, but five brand new ones who had the hunger and passion for taking photos and seeing a moment, instead of just treating it like a regular "job" and following a particular shot list. I'd forego the banquet hall and centerpieces and just have a candlelit, stringlight barn wedding complete with picnic baskets and soul food. I would not spend 3 years growing my hair, just to cut it off a day after the wedding and look like the real "me". Why wouldn't I want to look like the real "me" on my wedding day? I'd have oldschool R&B playing in the background while guests swooned and enjoyed the moment and each other.
Ask anyone. You'll rarely catch my mom without her lipstick on. As long as I've known her, she's been always dressed just "so" with her nails, hair and lipstick usually picture perfect.
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. My friends sometimes throw an impromptu gathering for tea and know that I won't come over unless my eyebrows are on. Ha. I've learned to let that go a bit. Life is too busy to always be well-kempt every minute of the day.
Isn't it always Murphy's Law though, that the one day you feel like shit, look like shit and walk with your head down as to avoid all eye contact that you hear your name being called, sheepishly look up from under your disguised hat and see that one person you haven't seen for years, seeing you look like shit? It's usually your ex, your ex with his new fabulous woman (think Natasha and Carrie in the Frickken-Annie-get-your-clothes-on scene) or a frenemy that you just know will report back to her girls that she spotted you looking like shit. You almost immediately want to proclaim that you normally don't look like shit.
Today, I was caught with egg on my face. Do you ever day dream in an awake state? I normally do this when I'm drying my hair. It's that one moment in the day that I sit and don't have anything else distracting me. I had an appointment with a business consultant yesterday here in Brantford. The firm is very casual but I always come dressed appropriately. You never know whom you'll run into and what that first impression may lead to. Today in my reverie, I considered dressing up, yet I knew I was merely quickly dropping off a loose leaf paper. I thought that someone may comment on my casual attire but quickly dismissed it.
During a seminar on Tuesday, the presenter recounted a gentleman who came in with his business plan. He stunk like cigarettes and body odour. His hands were filthy. He had sandals on and his feet were nasty. He was in the cake baking business. I rest my case. Today, I had to drop off some paperwork to their office. It's damp and raining, I'm sick and trying to rest for a series of weddings this weekend. I threw on my Lulu Lemons, tied back my wet hair and adorned my best and biggest hat.
The paperwork was fine. I'm ready to present my business to the Dragon's Den type of committee next week. I'm confident they'll see the passion flowing through my veins and I'll win them over with my charm and business plan. The consultant, a retired and lovely lady, leaned in and wished me luck. I was feeling good. Then, she offered me a piece of personal advice: "Make sure your nails are done next week, dear."
Busted. I quickly apologized for my dishevelled appearance and reassured her like the frenemy I hadn't seen in years that I don't normally look like this. My hands instantly disappeared under the desk and I was conscious to keep them there for the remainder of the meeting.
We live in a world where appearances matter. They shouldn't, but they do. Michael and I make a concerted effort to dress as guests would when photographing a wedding. People notice. They comment. Extra effort matters. When you dress the part, you also feel the part. I feel much more confident going in for job interviews in a kick ass suit, than a hoody and jeans. My husband has had to scale back his dress clothes in his line of work because when you're dealing with job sites and blue collar industries, people take you more seriously and respond more if you look like you can roll your sleeves up and get your hands dirty. That's different.
There is never enough time in the day to get everything done. Especially for women, housework and appearance are last on the list of priorities of important things to get done in a day. With this being said, be aware that you never know who you will run into in a day, and what they will notice about you.
Today I was caught with chipped nailpolish and wet hair, but rest assured, there will be no egg on my face next week.
A couple of clients have recently compared the feeling of looking at their photos, to getting high on drugs. Verbiage like "addict" and "high" have been used. I feel the same about taking and editing photos.
It consumes me. It takes over my heart and my soul. It's my own personal paradise.
Prepare yourselves. I'm about to gush. I consider myself a sentimental person and those who know me well, know that tears flow easily, but only the very real and true tears. I come by it honestly; my family is pretty sentimental.
I once almost had a sister in law. She was married to my ex's brother and we found ourselves on a path to single-dom at the same point in our relationships. We went our own ways for a couple of years. We both needed to heal and constantly reminding each other of our past was not healthy. I married. She got her own condo. Life continued and we would eventually meet up again and reconnect.
I was just starting out with my photography last winter and went to stay with my friend. After a night out catching up over dinner and drinks in downtown Toronto, we went back to her condo and did a fun and quirky photo shoot. Red lipstick replaced her normally reserved makeup palette. She absolutely loved the photos and showed her friends and family.
Who says word of mouth is not a realistic method of marketing?
Enter Vanessa. Vanessa and I met at my friend described above's sister's 30th birthday party at Ultra Lounge. She always remembered me as a "younger looking Olivia Newton John". This winter, she contacted me asking me if I remembered her. How could I not? This girl has spunk. With a voice exactly like Chasing Amy's Joey Lauren Adams and a personality and face to match, there's not a chance I couldn't remember her. We caught up over email and she had told me that she was one day walking on College street, saw what she wanted and went after it.
Proof that doing this actually works, she was engaged in New York City to an old fashioned, successful, dapper gentleman named Tom. Tom is a Bay Street banker with an intimidating and stoic presence, and dimples to melt your heart.
When I agreed to meet with Vanessa and Tom in Toronto one weeknight, we arranged a coffee date to chat and get to know each other. I explained that I was not ready to shoot a wedding on my own and that although they believed in my efforts, I would feel more comfortable if they hired a main photographer.
Coffee quickly turned into drinks, dinner and a couple of shots at a quaint Queen street bar. I got to know the two of them on a more personal level. Michael warned me of possibly crossing the line by going for drinks with my future clients. I on the other hand, thought the complete opposite. Like a first date, you cautiously start with coffee. You never suggest something more unless you are completely digging your present company. They suggested the venture out of Starbucks, so, I felt this was a good sign.
We shared laughs and stories like we were all old friends. There is something so intimate about the role a wedding photographer plays. The more you spend time with a couple, the more you really get to know them, how they met, how they feel about each other, and how in your eyes, their day will unfold. I cried that night in front of Vanessa. I'm such a cynic; a contradictory persona for a wedding photographer to have....but sometimes in life, you find something or in this case, a couple, who gives you hope. Hope that two souls are wandering through this world on their own and are guided together by love. An old fashioned love.
Yesterday, we photographed a beautiful Italian family in Woodbridge. Julia was a gradeschool friend of Vanessa's and was referred to my work. We left the house at 9 am and headed to our first stop of the day. What a truly lovely family of four they were. A family full of curls, faith and love. We finished up with them, had a half hour break to recharge our batteries and creative souls and headed downtown for Vanessa and Tom's old Hollywood themed engagement session.
The four of us weaved and bobbed through traffic, Portuguese festivals and road blocks. The light was quickly falling and I was worried we wouldn't have enough time to get enough natural light shots. Vanessa is my very particular bride. I tell her this a good thing. It's often difficult for a bride and a photographer to truly be on the same page with ideas. A couple hires a wedding photographer to tell their story in a fashion they believe will best capture them, but in that belief is also a trust factor. You have to trust the photographer's vision and sometimes what you think the couple wants, is not really what they had envisioned. Like any relationship, constant communication quickly resolves these ambiguities.
Vanessa has a very specific style. Her and Tom were listening to a jazz station the entire way downtown. Big band jazz and standard classics, not Michael Buble jazz. He adorned a suit and tie and smoked his cigarettes. Her outfits and props fit the mood perfectly. The backdrop of buildings, streetlights, rain and tree lined streets completed the old hollywood vibe. I joked she should have been an actress. She pretended to hail a cab more than once. On any given night in Toronto, you have to fight tooth and nail to grab a taxi. With her performance, she was able to hail four cabs, all in which we did not need.
We shot photos all through Toronto's financial district. Vanessa and Tom are an extremely urban couple. They both live right downtown and have ecclectic taste. Never did it cross my mind to photograph these two in a field of wheatgrass. We all went with the flow and shared laughs as we got kicked out everywhere we went. You must have a permit to shoot in various parts of the city. I'm of the mindset to shoot now, apologize later because at least you have the photos when they force you to stop.
A loudspeaker that could be heard in a few block radius shouted "SECURITY ALERT, SECURITY ALERT" and prompted the four of us to quickly flee. We were being watched and were not allowed to photograph almost anywhere.
Throughout the entire evening, the three of us were trying to stall Vanessa. Tom had secretly planned a surprise birthday party for her after our session ended but the guests were arriving later. It was pouring rain and I was excited. What screams old fashioned love, more than a rain drenched couple running through the streets? We attempted to go for drinks however everything was closed. They were worried about our cameras. I was worried I wasn't going to get my rain shot. We headed to College Street where there was an Italian festival going on. The weather did not dampen anyone's spirits and the tarantella carried on. We went to Sotte Voce and she was entirely surprised. My former future sister in law and now friend was there. We reminisced, and all laughed and drank and ate like old friends do. Our night carried on until the wee hours of the morning and before we knew it, it was just the four of us left. I cannot wait until their wedding at the fabulous Eglinton Grand Theatre, where their favourite engagement photo will be blown up into a life sized movie poster out front.
What an amazing day & night, just short of 24 hours long. I awoke this morning and danced and shrieked in joy. I love my life. I love my job. I love when the universe aligns and just gets it right.
Life is good. Savour it. Love it. See a moment and photograph it and before you know it, you just might find yourself in some sort of a real life hollywood movie ending.