Wedding Wednesday

Trouble Shooting

Your photo opportunity to learn a little more about the business of wedding photography

December 9, 2009

For today’s Wedding Wednesday I’m asking you to first take a minute to ponder how little we really know about how others spend their usually-way-more-than-40 hour work week. What does it mean that your dad manages a warehouse? How exactly does your sister deal with eight hours a day in a research lab? Your neighbor the Stay at Home Dad? Dude. And then think about the wedding professionals you’re interviewing and hiring for your big event. What is that they actually do? What are you paying them for?

Earlier this week, Florida-by-way-of-Seattle wedding pro Michelle Loretta of Mmm… Paper and Sage Wedding Pros sent out a link via Twitter to an article called "The Secret Life of Wedding Photographers" on the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers website. You can read the piece here.

Thinking about the way fees and rates and hourly overtime – the numbers associated with the talent and vision – can become so overwhelming, I sent out a quick email to some Seattle-based wedding shooters, asking for their two cents, because I think we’re all a little better with a little more information. Here are a few replies. I only regret that there aren’t more to share, but you know, many of the photographers I polled were too busy partying like rock stars to respond.

To kick it off, Barbie Hull That’s her above, with the blonde hair.

BH: I have so many crazy things happen to me at weddings. I know if the day goes well they will love their photos for sure, so I’m happy to help out however I am needed but one crazy wedding, I helped to cut the cake! At every wedding someone comes up and wants to know what kind of camera I use – and why choose Nikon over Cannon? At every wedding someone tells me that their uncle/cousin/son is a photographer (only once was it someone famous!).

Jenny Jimenez (above)

JJ: A few years back a mother of the bride requested I make her waist smaller and boobs bigger in all the photos. I regret not charging for it at the time (I was naive).

A lot has changed since I started shooting weddings in 2001. Mainly, what used to cost me a ton of money now costs me a ton of time. I used to spend hundreds of dollars purchasing, developing, and scanning film (I’d hand cut my negs, which now that I think about it, was also time consuming). Now I spend 30-40 hours in post production making every image print ready and perfect. Hmmm. Maybe it’s time to switch back.

The time it takes to meet with couples, the back and forth over email, the phone calls, the travel time – people often forget to take that into consideration when weighing the amount of work that goes into a wedding. Also forgotten is the cost of running a business: maintaining a website, equipment purchase and maintenance, cost of insurance, packaging and postage, data backup & storage, continuing education, etc.

Eliza Truitt (above)

ET: Wedding photography is so different than I imagined. And not just in terms of the basics like the overwhelming amount of post-production required after each wedding. The thing that surprised me the most was how much of the job is about talking and listening. When you’re shooting portraits of the bride and groom, that’s how you get people to warm up so they look loose and at ease in photos. Talking, asking questions, and making people forget about the stresses of the wedding day are such crucial skills, but nobody ever talks about it in photography classes. Knowing how to make someone open up with a genuine smile without resorting to the kind of dumb jokes the guy who shot your elementary school picture used? That’s a real skill. Although having a few dumb jokes for when you’re desperate doesn’t hurt either…

[Not Pictured: Sean Flanigan]

SF: This job is a lot harder than I expected it to be. I love it, and, some clients make it an amazing experience for me, some make it all worth while. I am really surprised at some clients that expect me to have their images finished for them a week or two after their nuptials, even when I let them know the time-frame, I guess I can’t blame them, who wouldn’t be excited? Another surprise is social networking. My Twitter presence has been good for business; networking with other professionals for referrals and even communicating with brides.

Laurel McConnell (above)

LM: We wear lots of hats, including one that says "I’m the family-psychologist-slash-body-guard." I’ve been told: "My dad didn’t come with my mom. He came with the gal he left her for. Last week."

I got a call from one of my clients, she needed to change her wedding date. She said, "I changed my groom. What other days are you available next summer?"

Sometimes you gotta know when to stop shooting. Like when the maid of honor jumps for the bouquet. And her dress falls down. And up. She’s not wearing any panties. Or a bra. One shot is definitely enough coverage of a moment like that.

5 years ago: We complained that putting stickers on the back of proofs while tossing out the bad ones as we were watching a movie for two hours was soooo tedious and boring. Today: We complain that clicking over and over while editing for 10 hours straight in front of a glowing computer screen is soooo tedious and boring.

April Greer (above)

AG: Once, I was given 12 minutes of alone time with the bride and groom to get the formal portraits. You have to get the shot, no matter what. It was completely insane AND the sun was setting!!!


For more great wedding photographers, see the online directory at Seattle Met Bride & Groom


More Wedding Wednesday posts here:

Donuts: A piece of cake

A floral designer with a crush on orchids

Always a bridesmaid? At least now you’ve got Bella Bridesmaid in Belltown

The wedding favor I flipped for

Counting down til the Big Day

Need a gift for your groom? Watch this, ladies.

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