Another darn newb?
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Old 01-02-2009   #1
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Default Another darn newb?

I know a few of you are a bit touchy about "newbs" doing weddings.
I did a few as a pimply faced family member years ago, but I've avoided them since (weddings in general - long story)
But I'd like to try and develop my skill in photography a bit further - possibly enough to take it to a point where I can make some money at it. I'm changing pretty much everything in my life and would like to use my time to improve my skills in certain areas and see what options are open to me in the future.
That all aside, I'm happier taking pictures than doing pretty much anything else, so it seems a natural progression.

Anyways this is my plan. I've been considering going to a priest and having him suggest my services to couples that are broke - kind of an "indigent wedding photographer" thing. I'd make sure couples would know I'm just trying this out and to not have any expectations.
I won't advertise, won't solicit and I don't see this as being anything that can be seen as competition to anyone in town since I know a ton of couples are getting married with a budget that covers a simple dress and a few bucks for the church. I get experience and maybe some stuff to begin a portfolio with, they get some pics that probably won't be complete crap... Figure win / win.

Wondering what you folks think about this idea?

Am I any good? Pretty much everyone thinks so, but I don't like most of what I shoot. I'm very hard on myself in everything I do, so this may be biased.
Then again, I come here and see some of the awesome work people do, I'm clearly not at the same level as most of you.

I know I'm better than some of the local hacks (and people have repeatedly told me that), but... this is a wedding. Being better than someone else really isn't an acceptable thing in my mind. But without practice, I won't get skills, and thus the dilemma

Not that it's about equipment, but I have a 40d, a 70-200 f/2.8IS, a 430ex and a flash transmitter for off camera shooting (might also get a 580 in the next few weeks), a backup XTI + 35mm rebel and a few other lenses. Feel more than comfortable that I technically have everything I need.

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Old 01-02-2009   #2
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Default Re: Another darn newb?

If you really are serious about this I would forgo: your plan with the priest, giving away services for the sake of building a portfolio, discounting the abilities other local photographers (hacks or not), feeling more than comfortable that you have technically everything you need.

When you start to feel more than comfortable, that's when accidents start to happen. No reason not to exude confidence in front of the clients, but internalize a bit of humility to keep yourself sharp.

If you want to build experience/portfolio, put preconceptions behind and seek out those local photographers. They would probably jump at the chance to have a free second or third shooter at their disposal. You will gain the practical experience and portfolio you were looking for (while giving away your services) and the clients will be none the wiser which leads into:

Starting a rapport with the priest/congregation for severely discounted or free services will build a reputation for you as the photographer that gives severely discounted or free services. You would be much better off "donating" a wedding package for a church fundraiser/raffle/silent auction so you can show a perception of value attached to your services.

Good luck!
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Old 01-02-2009   #3
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Default Re: Another darn newb?

I think you misunderstand the feelings of some good people on this board. We don't have ill feelings for newbies who know they are newbies and are working to hone their skills. We all went through that and have traveled that path to get where we are. Being involved in both photography and in my earlier days, video, I have worked first hand or edited video with newbie shooters as primaries, and have seen some very stupid stuff. One even placed his camera on the shoulder of the presiding priest in order to steady his shot.

I know of several officiants who have limited or have completely cutoff ALL photographers because of agreesive newbies trying to make a name for themselves. Perhaps what gets on most peoples nerves around here are new shooters who come on here and ask stuff like "What lens do I use", or "What settings do you use" when everyone should know that there are no generalized settings... you have to be able to do the three "A's" ARRIVE (always on time), APPRAISE and Adjust. Successful shooters on this board have always embraced those that truly want to use it as one of many methods of learning, but have scoffed those who come on here with a "show me" attitude and appear to have no sense of investment into their learning. I taught myself and almost went broke many times because I had to buy one more photo book that showed me one more thing about shooting.

Having learned everything I thought I should know, I did my sister's wedding and I learned very quickly that nobody seemed to care about what my books and what they said. It was a rude awakening and if I wasn't stupid enough, I made a second attempt weeks later when a friend asked me to photograph his wedding.... yes he is still a friend, and I was more successful than my first attempt, but strangely enough it was the people skills I learned in a previous life that saved me. Being able to direct and motivate my subjects got me through then and now.

Wedding Photography is not being able to shoot better than others, or having better equipment than others. It is about empathy, understanding "the moment" and respecting that moment. and knowing that, that moment is happening right now in someone elses life. That person is trusting you to be professional and caring enough to bring your best game and be in the best frame of mind to capture her memories. Professionalism to me is not knowing cameras in general, but knowing your equipment and what they can and can't do. Educating yourself about this persons needs and preparing yourself for the worst case scenario, and being able to carry on no matter what. You should be a ghost and 98% of the time you should gently and subtly steer situations and not direct them. So by all means do what you need to get you feeling good about your direction. I would follow Jim's advice about second shooting. Use this forum to refine that direction, but don't ask us to take you by the hand. Personnally, I don't think that is you. I have a good feeling about you.
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Old 01-04-2009   #4
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Default Re: Another darn newb?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JimH View Post
If you really are serious about this I would forgo: your plan with the priest, giving away services for the sake of building a portfolio, discounting the abilities other local photographers (hacks or not), feeling more than comfortable that you have technically everything you need.

When you start to feel more than comfortable, that's when accidents start to happen. No reason not to exude confidence in front of the clients, but internalize a bit of humility to keep yourself sharp.
Not to delve too deeply into my psyche or whatever, but I have huge self confidence issues which means I never really feel comfortable. Sucks, but it does keep me on my toes and always keeps me learning I can "exude" (awesome word btw) but I'm very, very aware of when I am projecting self confidence and when I know that my skills are unquestionably up to par. Perhaps that's part of the reason I'm reluctant to charge - because of feelings of guilt / insecurity or something. I know experience will help me with getting to the point where I "know"

Quote:
Originally Posted by JimH View Post
If you want to build experience/portfolio, put preconceptions behind and seek out those local photographers. They would probably jump at the chance to have a free second or third shooter at their disposal. You will gain the practical experience and portfolio you were looking for (while giving away your services) and the clients will be none the wiser which leads into:
Starting a rapport with the priest/congregation for severely discounted or free services will build a reputation for you as the photographer that gives severely discounted or free services. You would be much better off "donating" a wedding package for a church fundraiser/raffle/silent auction so you can show a perception of value attached to your services.
I think I might to do a bit of both. I don't want to come across arrogant or as saying everyone here is terrible - there are some really good photographers because this area has some incredibly wealthy people (we're sort of Canada's Las Vegas), I just know some people are terrible. Not that working for them is beneath me, but I was also hoping to use this time to build some interpersonal and sales skills and I didn't see any possibility for me to do this as a second, 3rd, etc.. I'm your sterotypical introverted, borderline asperger's computer geek, so I need to work on that
I'm not really concerned about being labeled as "the one that does freebees" because I'm not planning on sticking around here. I'll be in another city by this time next year, so in the long term, little of what I do here will impact me in terms of future expectations of customers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by texasshooter View Post
I think you misunderstand the feelings of some good people on this board. We don't have ill feelings for newbies who know they are newbies and are working to hone their skills.We all went through that and have traveled that path to get where we are. Being involved in both photography and in my earlier days, video, I have worked first hand or edited video with newbie shooters as primaries, and have seen some very stupid stuff. One even placed his camera on the shoulder of the presiding priest in order to steady his shot.
I think I completely understand your feelings - the wording in my post just sucked Hadn't heard the shoulder story, but it hardly surprised me. Obviously these "newbies who don't know they are" reflect badly on the industry and every time professionals hear a "none of the pics turned out" or "camera on the priest's shoulder" story, you cringe inside because you're indirectly linked to that particular douchebag.
I think all photographers have been struggling with how photographers are being perceived less and less as professionals over the last "few" years and incompetent people do a terrible amount of damage. I get it - as a computer tech, we're suffering from the same stuff - and because there is virtually no barrier to entry in that industry, wages have become depressed and it's beginning to seem that few people actually view us as skilled tradespeople, let alone professionals. Obviously, there are exceptions, but as a whole, the industry has been severely damaged by these incompetents and charlatans.

I really don't get the feeling that this community is unwelcoming or unwilling to help. Some folks spend a ton of time helping others and that is really cool.

Quote:
Originally Posted by texasshooter View Post
Having learned everything I thought I should know, I did my sister's wedding and I learned very quickly that nobody seemed to care about what my books and what they said. It was a rude awakening and if I wasn't stupid enough, I made a second attempt weeks later when a friend asked me to photograph his wedding.... yes he is still a friend, and I was more successful than my first attempt, but strangely enough it was the people skills I learned in a previous life that saved me. Being able to direct and motivate my subjects got me through then and now.
Wedding Photography is not being able to shoot better than others, or having better equipment than others. It is about empathy, understanding "the moment" and respecting that moment. and knowing that, that moment is happening right now in someone elses life. That person is trusting you to be professional and caring enough to bring your best game and be in the best frame of mind to capture her memories. Professionalism to me is not knowing cameras in general, but knowing your equipment and what they can and can't do. Educating yourself about this persons needs and preparing yourself for the worst case scenario, and being able to carry on no matter what. You should be a ghost and 98% of the time you should gently and subtly steer situations and not direct them. So by all means do what you need to get you feeling good about your direction. I would follow Jim's advice about second shooting. Use this forum to refine that direction, but don't ask us to take you by the hand. Personnally, I don't think that is you. I have a good feeling about you.
I know I'll need to work on directing / motivating people.
You describe my feelings about weddings well - I'd throw in the word "reverence" too.
It's interesting how everyone focuses almost completely on the bride. I've lurked on the wedding forum and most people use "that person's" rather than "their".
Being a second should also get me feedback on "being a ghost" - I've used the focus distance switch on the 70-200 in the past (set it to 2.5m) to create a "barrier", but I know it's not as simple as that.
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Old 01-05-2009   #5
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Default Re: Another darn newb?

Quote:
Originally Posted by loraksus View Post
It's interesting how everyone focuses almost completely on the bride. I've lurked on the wedding forum and most people use "that person's" rather than "their".
Yeah... I have 4 sisters, and the 3 sisters below me in age use to play dolls. All of their dolls were named Nancy it seems. The dolls for the most part were naked, but they would be used to play "weddings". The bride doll would walk down the ailse with a stream of toilet paper as a veil. At the same time that was happening, I was outside with my friends playing cops and robbers. I would kill each of them many times through out the game, and I could care less about which one of the Nancy's was getting hitched today. What I am saying is that the dream of a wedding begins at an early age.... at least in my sister's lives and in the lives of in the over 1000 brides that I have known. Most grooms' happiness in the wedding is knowing that his friends will attend and that there is beer.

Never, however, make the mistake of covering the groom and his family. I have seen and heard of that happening way too often.
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Old 01-05-2009   #6
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Default Re: Another darn newb?

This may seem like a harsh commentary but listen up for a few minutes and I think this will resolve lots of your issues.

First of all please realize that professional wedding photography is no place for the faint of heart, persons without people skills or who are overly shy. This does not imply that you must be aggressive or overbearing but there are times when you are called upon to be assertive and you have to rise to the occasion of the demand occurs. Passion for you work, kindness, empathy and loving people are mandatory attributes for the consummate portrait and wedding photographer.

You can not pump yourself up with self confidence until you know what you are doing- technically, artistically, procedurally and business wise. When you know in your heart of hearts that you really know what you are doing, the confidence will come automatically and you will be able to transfer this confidence to your potential clients so that they will extend their trust to you.
I know folks that have gone to theses "pump sunshine up your butt" courses but without real professional know-how it all amounts to hyperbole- that a nice word for BS!

All of this self doubt and bad old experiences are TOXIC. It's like if you have toxins in your system, you would have to do a "cleansing" such as cutting out the red meat, drinking unsweetened cranberry juice, lots of pure water and taking natural laxatives. Unfortunately, there is no such medications for one's thinking- so as the say in my old home town of Brooklyn-"FORGETABOUTIT"! START FRESH- no inhibitions and excuses.

The first part of a new learning process is introspection and that can be painful but you gotta do it. That means that you have to REALLY assess the level of your work properly and object fully or have people in the know do it for you. The worst "disease" in learning photographic and artistic skills is "falling in love with your own work just because you produced it"- that is PURE POISON where your are at!

You need portraiture skills- people like flattering images in their wedding photography. You need to be able to post people in natural and comfortable positions. You gotta know you lighting to produce natural and ascetically pleasing results. You need to be a fast shooter and be in the right place at the right time all the time. You have to capture all the highlights of the event without hesitation and fussing with your equipment. You need to be able to roll with the punches and improvise if unexpected scheduling changes occur. Starting off by giving your work away for free is not business like. Your photography will become bread a butter on your table once you go professional.

Doctors. lawyers, butcher, bakers and candlestick makers don't become professional without EDUCATION. You have got to take in some professional classes and seminars if you expect to get a firm basis in your working methods. It's like learning to drive- you don't want Uncle Jake to teach you and pick up all of his bad driving habits- that's why people go to driving school. Join the Professional Photographers of America through you local affiliated association and look into the Winnona School. They will also be able to furnish you with the names of seminar givers who meet their standards.

If you can apprentice yourself to a well know local photographer who is really into good work- all the better but that might not be as easy as one might think. Personally, I don't care to teach someone as an "indentured servant". I prefer to pay my new assistants at least a token fee in the interest of their learning to earn money for their hard work. If they learn all of their required skills they can expect to earn more as an experienced assistant or a full fledged wedding photographer. Working without incentives and rewards SUCKS!

If you are learning to play football some weight training may be in order to strengthen your body. Besides formal classes a good exercise is to put you work up for critique, here on the forum or at seminars and critiquing sessions at local association meetings. This can turn out to be "the school of hard knocks" but same as weight training- on pain- no gain.

Anyone who tells you that ART does not have to conform to rules or involve formal training is full of baloney. They are either natural born geniuses or lazy photographers who don't want to bother with details and technique- I suspect the latter. No teacher can teach you "talent",work ethic, or passion- they can only teach by example and inspire you while helping to develop your natural talents. Remember, you are dealing with science and technology as well and that is where the training comes in. Even in pure artistry, there are certain rules of thumb that will enable you to get things down pat and enable you to use your own creativity. A solid theoretical background and a bit of routine can get you out of trouble- you allways have some standardized procedures to fall back on if all else fails.

Don's ask your friends and family to critique your work at this stage of your development. Most people don't know what the heck they are talking about and feel compelled to make a negative critiqued to show how smart the are or make a wonderful critique so as not to polite and not hurt your feelings.

Photography, as a profession, is no fast buck! If you are successful you will have worked hard for your earnings. It's a great job, for me, I can't think of anything better and this is my 51st year as a photographer.

Good luck for every success! Ed
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Old 01-11-2009   #7
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Default Re: Another darn newb?

I can't agree more with the above statements. You have some very wise people telling you how it is.
While I like the idea of doing pro bono work for indigent couples, you should treat the assignment just as professionally and well equipt to pull it off, as if it was a $10,000 wedding gig. It's just as important to the poor bride as the rich bride.
In short, this is no place to hone your skills. But once you have your skills down, I think it's a wonderful, and heartfelt endevor.
I hope that makes sense.


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