Sunday, March 2, 2008

Wedding day reflections

Note to self #1 : Leave early and check traffic. I was panicked for a few minutes when a motorcycle accident brought I-880 to a grinding halt 45 minutes before the ceremony.

As I spent several hours today going through the photos from yesterday's wedding, some of the random thoughts swirling around in my mind finally started to settle into place. A few observations from the day, after the jump.

Weddings are definitely not for the faint of heart. You get one chance at the shot, and one chance only. I got very lucky in this regard several times yesterday. For example, I missed the kiss. Yes, that kiss. But the first one was so quick that several members of the family immediately called for an encore, for which I was able to squeeze off three or four frames.

The bride announced, much to my relief, that they would be walking three blocks down to the lake to shoot pictures. I had thought about doing this, but I didn't dare suggest it with her so far pregnant and several members of the family in poor health. I'm not sure how I would have handled the situation had she not suggested it first. Meeting with the couple ahead of time would have provided an opportunity so sort this out.

I need to try to pay attention to details through the viewfinder. I had a bit of a spotty record for this yesterday. I have several otherwise nice shots ruined by hairs across the face, lamps growing out of people's heads, strange objects in the near foreground that are hard to crop out, etc. I got a good laugh out of the couple when shooting one portrait by the lake. I was standing there, camera to my eye, and after several seconds they started wondering what I was doing, as I hadn't shot anything yet. Obviously they couldn't see the fire engine that was driving through their heads in the background...

I found I'm actually more comfortable with off-camera flash than on-camera. I was cautioned that I would find myself shooting on-camera TTL out of necessity and speed, but this didn't turn out to be the case. The shots I did use on-camera were, for the most part, outside in direct sun before the ceremony, and that inside, I was far better off with the Pocket Wizards and a flash on a lightstand.

I need to watch my gear. I nearly walked away from an SB-600 with a diffuser on it sitting on a bench in the chapel room. Miraculously, I made it through the whole day without losing anything at all.

I know painfully little about post-processing workflow. I'm using Lightroom, which I purchased last week after a month trial, and it's great, I just have no idea how to sort out what I'm trying to do. I made a quick pass through the shots, choosing about 250 out of the original ~800, and then went through again and gave all those pictures star ratings, 1 to 5. I edited down to 50 shots that tell the story of the wedding, did some cropping, sharpening, and color correcting on those, and they're now uploading to my Zenfolio account.

There are probably two dozen other good shots, individual portraits and group shots, that will be retouched and uploaded shortly, but they're going in a different category as they're not really part of the wedding story.

The couple and family can buy prints directly from Zenfolio, which should generate a bit of residual income from the shoot, and I'm toying with the idea of putting together a nice album for them as well. Promised deliverables are a cd/dvd with the images, and a slideshow. I'll get that wrapped up later, they know that the first place they'll be able to see their photos is online.

I need to put together a basic contract for the couple to sign, stating service, deliverable, image copyright, payment, and release. We don't have anything written at all. Even though this was done largely as a favor and for the experience, I need to make sure I cover my a$$.

I'm going to do a trial order of the prints from Zenfolio and see how the quality looks. I'm pretty much guessing at print sharpening, etc. If it's not up to standard with the files I sent, some re-work may be in order.

All that fun, and I got paid too! Just enough to cover my parking ticket...

Real Official Photography Job #2 is tomorrow. Portraits and cast shots for my cousin's theater group. Goodnight!


Josh McCulloch said...

Hey Nick,

I came across your blog a while back and have been following your progress. I think we sound pretty similar in a lot of ways, I'm just a few years ahead in my career. I even went to school to be an electrician, though I only lasted 1 1/2 days before I realized I really did want to be a photographer, so I stuck with that... I wish you all the best in your journey!

A couple of things regarding your post:

- Post Production workflow: Check out the DAM book and the DAM forums at The DAM Book Website. This is a great resource for anything related to PP workflow. They have forums for all different software, including Lightroom. Definitely worth checking out, they're a great group of helpful people. I wish I had learned PP and set up my image archive well when I started shooting, instead of 2 years and 15,000 images later. It's much easier to do it as you go!

- Contracts: If you don't have it already, get John Harrington's "Best Business Practices for Photographers" book. He has 3 whole chapters dedicated to contracts for commercial, editorial, and rites of passage (ie Weddings etc) jobs. Worth every penny I spent. He also suggests you take his contract (provided in the book) and modify it for your own use.

Hope this helps.

Cheers, Josh
Josh McCulloch Photography

J.Lee said...

Ran across your blog from Strobist and am finding it fascinating. I am a pro but switching genres a bit so I'm finding your learning curve may help me as well. Just a quick piece of advice on wedding shoots. Definitely put together a hard copy book for the bride! She'll take it and show it to all her friends, the hair dresser, etc. It's the best piece of promo material you can have. Finally, I second the advice for the contract, of some sort, to make sure everyone's on the same page. Not having one can turn the best of friends into your enemy.
Good luck on your endeavors. J.Lee

J.Lee said...

Sorry, should have included a URL link to me:

Anonymous said...

Congratulation :-)