I "have" to shoot a wedding!..
I've NEVER said that before. In my 30 years of shooting them (counting the ones prior to my 21 years as Prints Charming). Instead, you'd hear me say that I GET to shoot a wedding".
Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled to serve my client, she's no "bride-zilla", though I've only chat with her by phone. It's just that I shouldn't have to shoot this wedding.
They've already done the planning, prep, vow-swapping and other exciting stuff, but they have no pictures. Sure a few phone photos here and there, but have you ever tried to print them?
The issue is, that yet-another person with a "nice camera", discovered that the camera doesn't take great pictures. It's up to the photographer.
I find no joy in sharing this, quite the contrary, I'm seeking solutions.
I've never publicly shared any of these similar stories, where I was hired to recreate what should have been. But in this case, it happened to a dear friend. It sort of hit home with me, since it's also what drove ME to pursue this craft as career.
Just like my upcoming client, the "photographer" thought that they were just fine. While I was no expert at the time, I knew the difference between Shinola (shoe polish) and it's opposite, when stepped in...
So, if you were me, and didn't want to attach your name to the doom-and-gloom potential of letting your "friend with a camera", become unfriended in more ways than one - How would you educate your friends getting married?
If you searched online for "Top questions to ask your wedding photographer", you'll likely find countless "Top 5/7/12..." blogs galore. (so I'll spare you). The #1 question that I'd park on any of those lists (next to having back-up gear) would be "Is your 'photographer' shooting RAW?"
I shot jpg likely longer than anyone I knew in the industry, but it's because of my film/chrome training. Chrome had ZERO latitude-of-forgiveness, meaning you had to know what the capture surface (now sensors) was receiving, even when you couldn't see it on the other side of file processing.
I've had the unfortunate assignment of "finishing" weddings for couple who received image files that would be embarrassing for me to hand over. I saw the potential in the image, but they were jpg files, with no RAW files available. In fact, in '08, I even started a sideline domain "YourPrintLab.com" to fix these as a service. Sadly, there was enough to earn a living off of, but I'd rather create than repair, so I dropped it to focus more on shooting my way out of a bad economy.
Fixing exposure (beyond a 1 F/Stop variance), blasted highlights (ESPECIALLY on a bride's dress - YIKES!), void-of-detail shadows (where the color of eyes are often hiding). OY!!!
I'm not trying to impress or intimidate you with my knowledge, really - I hate even exercising my left brain when talking about ART, but to impress upon you or your "to-be-married" friends, that "Friends-with-nice-cameras" MUST SHOOT RAW when providing a professional service.
Processing image-files is a HUGE left-brain learning curve, but it is your only hope of fixing those "great shots", hidden in the dark ashes of under-exposure. The preview on the back of the camera may look "good enough" until the file is opened on a computer, and the couple wants something larger than your cool new 4" screen.
The info is out there, yet this still happens more often than I want to share.
I stopped reading those blogs, the day I saw that a photographer should be 10% of your overall budget. That number was established when the whole DIY craze of the mid 2000's led us to believe that "cameras know what to do". THEY DON'T!!!
An "average" food budget is $30 per plate x the average 140 guests. That $4200 will literally be flushed down the toilet before bedtime, yet the images of you experiencing your day with them will last forever.
Forgive my bold confidence, but I can take better photos on my iPhone, than most people could with my Pro DSLR on Program.
• Because I can manually ("M") manipulate, the automated functions of a phone.
• Because the camera doesn't make you smile.
• The camera doesn't know where to emphasize for highlights or shadows.
• The camera doesn't know composition
• The camera doesn't know hard shadows from soft gradients.
• The camera doesn't know that you want the beautiful scenery to show up AS WELL as your beautiful couple in the foreground.
• The camera doesn't know that a fill flash will be needed to put COLOR in the eye sockets of your groups.
• The camera doesn't CARE if you fancy yourself a "natural light photographer" who doesn't need to buy three sets of lights (backups for more than just cameras) and the batteries to go with them.
• The camera doesn't know what is about to happen - saying "shoot now - then run over there and get THAT perspective..."
• The camera may not know all of this, but the professional knows that when the bride sees her photos for the first time, her/his tears should be those of JOY! If they cannot see, feel and experience their wedding through your capture - the job is not done!
Again, I am grateful to help right a wrong for my friend of a friend, but I shouldn't have to do it. And if it were me, I would have bent over backward to make it right. Not telling them "good enough" and on-to-the-next!..
I would do everything I could to see that they wouldn't have to hire another photographer to fix what I should've done. This I can assure you, because 20+ years ago - I messed up! YES, I could blame it on renting gear that I was unfamiliar with, or the fact that I was preoccupied with it being my second daughter's "DUE DATE" (pager on hip, scaring the bujeezes out of me) c'mon, you've never heard of a pager? HA - Yes, I'm proud to say I'm that old, because with it - EXPERIENCE!!!
The "rolls of film" with formals were botched, and we had no way of knowing until the next week. My insurance company encouraged me to just give her the money back. I demanded (and won) in getting them to buy the flowers, venue, rentals and every other element in those formals, so that I could give her what she came for.
HUMILIATION BE GONE!!!
The day I delivered them to her, she confessed that it was like Divine order. She was COMPLETELY uncomfortable in every single shot on the original date, because of an uninvited family member essentially removed her (psychologically) from that moment I was unknowingly not capturing.
Looking back, that all seemed like Divine order for her, but for me?.. I would not sleep until I know that I delivered what my client came to me for. That is the difference between a professional and an industry-undermining hobbyist that is afraid of the M on their camera!
[Ranting photographer drops mic]
Please, for the love of your friends, help them to know the inherent risks of not hiring a seasoned professional, with back-up gear, indemnity insurance, great timing for the candid and a personality that can raise the levity before every posed click.
While I may not be that for everyone (we're all different, and I'm not attached to being the right fit for all) I do bring a great deal of assurances that prevent this from happening.
Be bold, confront your marrying friends, and assure them that the right photographer will save them a great deal of grief, and in some cases, talk the bride off of the proverbial ledge when everything doesn't go 100% to her plan. (been there, done that, and I felt honored to be their source of levity - no extra fee for counseling on-the-fly : ^)
It doesn't have to be me, but line them up with a seasoned, reputable photographer that LOVES to shoot weddings - so that they never "have to" hire me later.
All that said - I'm excited to turn this experience around tomorrow, and expect that she's going to feel like she was love-bombed by a Canon-ball (ha - groaner, but yes, I shoot Canon)
Cheap is expensive, when you have to pay twice. Choose wisely, and feel free to share your saga, as long as it's professional and does not mention your vendors name on my site. I will remove anything that will make me look unprofessional.