Over the last few blog posts I've talked a lot about equipment. I've given you a list of things you can ask potential photographers about, I've supplied our standard list of equipment that we take to every wedding. That is a lot of focus on tools and I'm doing this blog as a course correction. Because it's not just about equipment., although equipment does make a large difference in what you can do for a client. You also need vision to look for something out of the ordinary and experience to get the picture quickly. Let's stick a pin in that for the moment.
Now to lay out a framework I'd guarantee you that all of the following is true:
I wanted to address some emails I'd gotten about cameras and lenses and lights, whats the best choice, what should my wedding photographer be using. And I've done that. But selecting your wedding photographer should be based on their vision for their art resonating with you.
Before I begin let me show you what we are going for. I feel like I have to do that to capture the readers attention. It seems counterintuitive to have a crappy picture at the top of the post doesn't it?
With that out of the way let's start at the beginning of this saga. This is Hope, our model for today. Take a look at the picture below. Most people are going to place this model here because thats the easy shot.
But notice the water isn't in play at all and all that distraction in the background including the house and our shadows? Also while the picture is warm with that sunlight its also a little hot because of that sunlight. The color and warmth of the shot is beautiful, however we can do better.
So we've moved her a little bit, basically we've moved around her 180 degrees. We take advantage of this big beautiful lake and put the sun in the picture. We'd celebrate except that quite frankly this picture looks like crap. Why would I include it you wonder? Because this is how most photographers start this picture, due to the limitations of their equipment. You have to turn the shutter speed up quite a bit to cut down the sunlight and you don't have a very good view of her face. In fact it's a little difficult to even see her face. Let's shoot a couple of test pictures manipulating the settings to see what we can get.
Notice these aren't much better are they? To get enough light on her we can change settings but it washes out everything else. Again a lot of photographers are limited here by the settings of others equipment. However what if your typical photographer deploys their trusty flash. Let's see what that looks like:
1-5 This is what this picture is going to look like with a normal flash involved. Which I believe is OK. You can make out the details in her face even if her eyes are a little flat. But still not award winning. We can do a lot better. So let me adjust my settings, and bring out my off camera flash which gives you a larger, warmer, softer light and lets you end yup with this picture.
1-6 So lighting Hope properly gives depth to her face and expression. You can make out her eye color and her eyes have wonderful catchlights in them. It also clarifies the entire picture. Look at her shoulders, see how she pops right off of that background now? Its because using light to give definition to her features also allows the sun to backlight and separate our subject.
Now reading this and studying the pictures probably took a little while. But actually taking these pictures only took 4 minutes, we timed it. And one of those minutes was moving to accommodate cars (we were standing in the road after all). Thats a good point to underline experience. Knowing your equipment, what angles to work, etc, so you can get to the best picture faster. Why does fast make a difference? Because it's a wedding. You've got to be able to work live, without a net if you will.
So there is a good set of examples why the vision and experience of you photographer makes a huge difference And when you combine it with equipment you can get a true master artist. And then, then you got something. Whew that was a lot of writing, catch you next week.
"It costs WHAT???"
I've got to imagine you guys have made this type of face before.
While I have professionally shot hundreds of weddings over my lifetime I don’t do a lot of weddings per se. Before last year I averaged 17.6 per year. Then last year I shot 19 as we spun up Eleven 11. This year I’ll do 38 or so. That probably seems like a lot to a laymen but I know wedding photographers banging out 45 or 50 weddings a year so its small potatoes in the industry. But even with the small number of weddings we do take on it happens that at least once a month someone says something like this to me:
“Wow $X really? That seems like a lot for 8 hours of work, why do weddings cost so much?”
I can’t answer that question universally, for every photographer. I can tell you why we charge what we charge and why we think its a fair number.
We are a bit of a stickler for process and we record and measure everything. So while I could tell you exactly what we spend on advertising, suppliers, etc I’d rather keep this as a generic conversation. So before we even get to your wedding there is some cost to keep the lights on and the trains running as my grandfather used to say. The cost of making you aware of us if you will. Ads, a website, wedding shows, wedding promotions, etc. Let’s just say that we spend $150 for each of the 38 weddings we’ll book this year just making couples aware that we are a choice. And thats a cost that is specific to weddings, we use different methods to reach commercial customers.
There is also the thousands of dollars of equipment we use to shot your wedding. Specifically $56,500 in equipment according to our insurance policy. Some of which get's replaced on a yearly basis due to wear and tear and accidents and the like. Then the cost of several offices, electricity, water, etc for those locations. You get the picture. Running a business has a a number of sunk costs and those costs influence how you set your prices.
I could take you through a silly exercise of how much time it takes to book a wedding couple, see their venues, discuss their plans, have staff meetings, prepare the equipment, shoot the wedding and deliver the photos and video. Step by excruciating step. But since I happen to know it's 52 hours of effort invested in each wedding at a minimum it's easier to just share that with you. So no it's not just the 8 hours during your wedding. There is the preparation before the big day so that we are ready to give you a fantastic result. There is also the dedication to doing the work afterward to the achieve thequickest turn around times in the industry (all 38 couples from this year will get their photos in 72 hours or less!!!).
In any event we think we charge a very fair price for a spectacular service and we'd love to be your wedding photographer. Until next time.
Who: Aida and Stanley
Where: Tuskegee, Al
Photos Delivered: Same day as the wedding
So Helen and I are sitting around doing much of nothing and she says "You want to shoot a wedding today?" So we send out the contract and get it signed, The wedding starts 30 minutes later. Because it's a courthouse wedding the confines are tight (as you see in the pictures) and I couldn't bring everything I would normally bring bring; although let's face it, I'm probably packing too much stuff most of the time. So I packed:
Luckily I'd charged everything after the last shoot just like always. I was concerned that with no prep time we might not hit the mark of quality we always strive for but we did just fine and the couple is very happy. Delivered the pictures two hours after the wedding. And we shot the whole set in 30 minutes. How's that for service?
Who: Xenia and Conner
Where: Arley, Al
Photos Delivered: 48 hours after wedding
The day started at a private residence overlooking a lovely lake. It was a great scene with a beautiful couple who were clearly deeply in love. A small private ceremony with loving friends and family supporting them. It was truly beautiful.
This was my very first wedding at Loft 212 and it was fantastic. spacious and yet very cozy with great views. Just a great day all around.You can see more of their wedding here.
Editors note: We published this early for one of our prospective brides (Tyeesha W) to see but we will be taking it down within a couple of days. This will eventually run in a more completed version on August 10th.
I'd like to take a second and introduce Trey Miller, our Director of Videography. He's new to the company and to the practice and is our right hand in making the decisions on how we capture your the video of your special day. I always think the best way to learn about someone is to ask them questions so in that spirit, here you go.
How long have you been filming weddings? How many do you do per year?
I've been professionally filming & editing for over six years. I average around 12-18 weddings a year.
Are there any other pros in the area you love to work with?
I've enjoyed working with many different wedding professionals in the past six years of filming weddings. Each bring something different to the table. I worked with Bryan K of Eleven 11 in the past. Bryan is a professional like myself, & I admire his passion to capture the perfect shot! That is what I believe in as a videographer and look for while watching photographers work with the bride & groom.
How would you describe your style—documentary, cinematic or a mix of both?
My style is Cinematic! I'm a professional working actor as well (Legends & Lies, Homicide Hunter, Where's the Love) and I like to make your film into a blockbuster movie. When you hire Eleven 11 for videography I promise I will film & edit a movie you will enjoy forever! I tell a story in my films that will bring back the memories of your wedding day in years to come!
What input do you want from us, and what do you prefer to have final say on?
I want to know what parts the day are important to you, what little details you want to be sure are recorded for your memories. I also ask for you to choose two songs that you would like in your wedding highlight film. We collect all this information from you as part of the service and it's shared not only with me but with he entire team. And we have a meeting prior to your wedding to make sure we go through the details of the information you provided and no details get missed.
How does your pricing work?
That's easy. Wedding videography costs $1,400 and that covers your full ten hour day and your Wedding Highlights Video and Full Wedding Video. They are then delivered digitally so it's easy to share with your friends and family. And you can add the Drone Service for only $500 which gives you aired coverage of your special day.
How do you work with the photography crew?
That's easy as well; we are a team. We work together as a unit. As a professional and practiced crew I know all Bryan's angles and how he likes to work. And he knows mine. One of the great things about Bryan is he takes control and makes sure we know what is happening and where to be when so it goes like clockwork.
Have you shot at my ceremony or reception venue before?
I've shot a lot of weddings so it's possible but as part of our service we inspect your wedding and reception venues. We use the pictures from the report along with Bryan's instructions to plan the day and make sure it all goes according to plan.
Will you be shooting any other weddings the same weekend? Will you be the one shooting on the day of?
Yes I will be the one shooting your wedding. No I will not shoot another wedding on the same day as yours! When you hire Eleven 11 Photography for your wedding, that crew is completely committed to your date .
What does your camera and equipment look like?
I shoot with the number of Sony NX30U. Its basically a smaller version of a professional movie camera used on movie sets. Its handheld and captures stunning HD footage. I mic the couple as needed to capture sound. Our drone crews use the DJI Inspire 2 which is just a great piece of equipment. It's whisper quiet so given a high enough ceiling height you can even use it indoors.
Will there be a second shooter, a stationary camera or any other backup cameras on hand for our wedding?
I film the wedding with two cameras. I move around to capture different shots throughout the wedding and my other camera is stationary with a great shot of the groom and bridal party. I capture close ups of the bride with my hand held camera. I take both shots and edit them together to tell the story of your wedding ceremony. I take the footage, including any drone footage, and cut it together to create a compelling blockbuster for you.
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