If your thinking of getting into shooting weddings you have a lot of decisions to make regarding equipment. See my Weddings page in the menu. One thing I can’t emphasize enough is that your marketing of your self is far more important than your equipment and to some extent the quality of your output, being good at wedding photography does not mean you will get jobs but great people skills will. The people who do well with weddings are the same folks that would do well in any sales or self marketing type of job.
The biggest barrier to starting a wedding photography business is equipment cost, pro equipment is very expensive. fortunately the prices of used camera bodies have been coming down as the newer camera bodies get released and older versions hit Ebay. Focus on good lenses that suit your style of shooting not someone elses ( see my Wedding page for more detail). Nikon has just recently released some very nice and affordable F1:8 Prime lenses that you can use in place of the expensive $2,000+ F2:8 zoom lenses if your on a budget or just prefer prime lenses (fixed focal lengths). You really should have at least one fast prime for low light and isolating the subject. Used SB600 / 800 flash units can be had for a reasonable price as well ( you need to have at least one to start with even if you are a natural light shooter). The newer SB900 + 910 are nice but not necessary as the SB800 is plenty good enough, in fact I prefer the SB800 over my SB910 anyday ( I sold it ). You can mod the Sb800 so it turns 135 degree to the right instead of 90 which makes it very close on performance to the SB910 which cost a lot more. if you put the 5th battery attachment on the SB800 it recycles faster than the SB910. You may have decided that pro DSLRs and Lenses are just too big and heavy for you to deal with, well that’s not a problem as you can go with a Micro 4/3 system camera and get much smaller fast glass. The only real issue with other camera systems is the slower focusing (that will change with new models) Olympus, Fuji and Panasonic make some fast pro lenses. Here is the 24-70 wedding lens 4/3 version from Panasonic. http://www.dpreview.com/previews/panasonic_12-35_2p8/ Here is the 70-200 f2.0 (the fastest lens of its kind) version for 4/3 and the price is the same as the lager ones too. http://www.amazon.com/Olympus-35-100mm-Zuiko-Series-Cameras/dp/B000BKP1JE You also have wide-angle and primes to choose from. You can mix brands with M 4/3 systems with an adaptor unlike most DSLRs. How about a super fast F2 28-70 version for M 4/3 http://www.amazon.com/Olympus-Zuiko-14-35mm-Digital-Cameras/dp/B000X1P5R4/ref=pd_bxgy_p_img_b These are amazing lenses. Remember that if you go with 4/3 system camera your DOF will be 2 stops greater than FF. so f2.8 on full frame will be about F1.8 on 4/3s 2x crop factor sensor. That means if you using f2.8 your really getting the isolation of f5.6 with a FF camera and lens using the same equalized focal length. You really can’t get much of a blurry background with smaller sensors without using a long lens or getting close. The luminuos Landscape published a list of lenses for M4/3 cameras: see the bottom of the page http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/cameras/olympus_om_d_e_m5_review.shtml Schneider Kreuznach has said it will begin making lenses for mirrorless systems by the end of 1012. Zeiss lenses as well for 2013. Yes there are going to be a nice selection of fantastic lenses available for M4/3 camera bodies. No excuses on that end.
Many folks are doing wedding work on a part-time basis (and doing a nice job for a lot less than the usual fees the pros charge) as it is very difficult to make a living at it anymore. Don’t quit your day job yet. The market is changing and the old models for running a photography business are changing and it’s getting harder to make money at it. Many areas of photography have taken a hit in recent years due to changing technology and access. Take for example the Stock agencies, you can buy photo stock images for next to nothing now days.
Younger generations don’t necessarily want a traditional wedding and all the photog options anymore, many just want some video and photos to put on face book to view from their iPad or other media device. Prints are on their way out as a big money-making option for photographers, even wedding albums are not a priority among younger generations ( particularly when they find out how much a photog charges for them), they can make their own these days. People are tech savvy and like to do some things themselves. If you want to make it as a wedding photographer you have to reinvent the services offered. There are many blogs on these and other subjects but the bottom line is it’s getting tougher and more competitive to make it as a photographer, So start out with the right attitude and try new things. I think video is a viable money-making option right now. It’s a lot of work to get good at it though. Sure there are plenty of traditional wedding photographer still out there doing things the same old way and getting paid really well but that market is shrinking fast and you may find it too difficult to make you way into that particular segment of the market.
One thing that the Bride and Groom don’t always consider when hiring a photographer is the fact that the photos will be around for a very long time, they can use the images to make videos, photo books etc while the band and cake will only be around for a few hours (except in video and photos) yet those items often cost as much as what the Bride and Groom want to pay for the photography (sometimes even more). If the Wedding cake cost $500 -$2,000 what is the photography worth? $3500? or just $250? It’s funny how people value things in their mind, one person sees photography from the “I can get photos at Wal-Mart for such and such” or ” I can get uncle Bob to do for free” while another person sees the value in the photographers time. expertise and the final product. What ever we are into in life we will see value there while others with no interest in it won’t. The point is that wedding photographers often have to try to reason with clients and show the value in their work because many B&Gs don’t realize all the work that can be involved from the photographers side. There is no reason a wedding photographer who might put in a total of 25hrs on the wedding should have to work for $10 an hr. A full-time pro needs to cover his own medical insurance and pay self employment tax as well as all the other day-to-day expenses we all have. Pros need to make money or they will simple do something else. The weekend warriors can charge what ever they want, and this is who a lot of folks end up hiring due to the price difference. In this economy it’s not surprising.
Consider all the time that might be involved from phone calls & interviews to preparation, wedding day shooting, post processing, website setup, delivery, it can really add up. Extra services such as the rehearsal, custom photo albums, engagement shoots, studio formals, video, Photo proofing and the ordering process, all add up to even more time involved. Some photographers will spend a lot more time processing than others depending on their style.
bottom line is if your going to be a pro wedding photographer you need to charge enough to make a living, otherwise you will have to be a weekend warrior. You don’t have to limit yourself there are a ton of ways to make money from photographer if you can find a market tor it.
Flash accessories. I don’t recommend flash brackets anymore as I think there are better alternatives depending on your shooting style, for me that would be BBC (better bounce cards that I have made up) and Spinlight 360 for flash bouncers. If you’re a straight on flash shooter than some sort of diffuser to which there are a ton to choose from. http://neilvn.com/tangents/about/spinlight-360/ http://www.abetterbouncecard.com/ http://www.garyfongestore.com/ at least the BBC will cost you almost nothing to make yourself. I use velcro for attachments. The spinlight will probably be my next purchase for an on camera light modifier. For outdoor fill flash you will find that you really can’t use large apertures with flash without losing alot of power output from you flash unit due to having to go over your sync speed. What you can do is use ND filters, this will allow you to shoot at larger F stops but won’t really get you anything more than shooting at smaller F stops except shallower DOF and Less softening that comes with smaller F stops over F8 (depending on how much resolution your camera has). Also you may find that your AF is not as consistant with less light comming in the lens.
New style camera straps can really make shooting more comfortable than the stock versions. Here are a couple to consider. If you go for the cheaper one make sure to order the camera mount attachment as the large clunky one that comes with the cheaper units is nowhere near as nice or comfortable. Watch the Blackrapid video to see just how much nicer these are compared to the old style versions, plus they look cool when in use.
Fortunantly we can mix and match parts from most of the various strap brands, so if there is a feature you like from one brand and a feature from another you may be able to purchase just the part you want and add it to the strap you buy.
Amazon cheaper version & FastnerR-3
Printing: These days with the cost of printing so cheap and quality that is excellent from places like Costco it doesn’t make sense for most of us to do our own printing. Some things you should know though. Every printing machine will deliver slightly different results and the chemicals won’t always be just right. Costco provides printer profiles for each of its machines at each warehouse that you can download and use in PhotoShop’s Soft print mode check for color shifts before submitting a print. Also you should never select Auto Correct from the options when getting prints made as AC can really screw up your prints. The only way to be sure if you have had AC done to your prints or not is to look on the back of the print, you will see a series of N N N N then if you see NN, the 2 Ns close together that means AC was used on your print. Some times even though your receipt may say no AC or you may have selected no AC at checkout it was done anyway by mistake so check that out when a print does not look quite right to you. Always tell you clients not to use AC if they are printing files you provided to them.
See my wedding page as well for more detailed information.