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Available for local and destination weddings and portrait sessions.  Each project is different, so contact me for an exact quote.  Portrait sessions start at $300 and wedding coverage begins at $3,000.  Typical wedding fees are about $5,000 - Send an email to me.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

How to Book and Shoot a Wedding -- Step-by-Step -- Part 1


When I first began to keep this journal, it was with the intention of using it to provide a step-by-step guide to how I prepared for and executed a specific wedding – a wedding that I shot on June 23rd, 2007. However, since the goal was to give as much insight, as possible, to newer wedding photographers, by showing my experiences, it soon became obvious that a single wedding was but a snapshot.

Consequently, I decide that I could share more useful information if I used the June 23rd wedding as but a guide and create a composite wedding. The result, in the following paragraphs, gives the reader the benefit of my 35 years as a wedding photographer. More specifically, it explains the procedures that have followed since I converted to digital photography almost six years ago.

During that time, I averaged about 40 weddings each year, up until I had a series of strokes, which have forced me into semi-retirement. While I am fine, now, and probably could resume full-time wedding photography, I prefer to enjoy a slower paced shooting schedule and now accept wedding jobs only by referral.

In the article that follows, I will take you through every step of the wedding job, from the time that I put it on my schedule though delivery of the finished album.

I will explain what I do, how I do it, and why I do it. While this is only a blog post, I will sometimes refer to more detailed articles or reports on specific topics. Originally, I intended to publish the entire article at one time. However, what was expected to be a simple journal seems to have grown to be a little longer, and more in-depth. Consequently, I will post segments, as time allows.

So ... are you ready?

Good. The first post deals with finances – it’s called the Deposit.

The Deposit

If you make money based on a service that you provide, then the calendar represents your inventory. As a wedding photographer, your inventory consists, primarily, of 52 Saturdays per year. Once you schedule a wedding, for a particular Saturday, you reduce your inventory by one. If, for some reason, the wedding is canceled, and you have not been paid, your income is reduced by some amount. Consequently, you need to develop a process that will protect your income. You see, if a job is cancelled, and you cannot replace it, you car payment, mortgage, and the price of milk and bread do not decrease.

For me to remove a date from my inventory, I require a non-refundable deposit of 50%. Since my typical fee for covering a wedding is $3,000, I take a $1,500 payment to reserve the date. Normally, I am booked from 18 months to one year in advance. The balance ($1,500) is due 30 days before the ceremony.

I shot my first wedding in 1972 and in those years, only twice have I broken that rule. On one occasion, the mother of the groom asked if they could pay the balance the day of the ceremony. This was about 2002 or 2003. I had never been pressed on this, before, but had a good feel about the family, so I agreed – after all, I would have all the files, so I could ‘hold them as ransom’. Anyway, the groom’s father paid me, that evening, and gave me a $100 tip! By the way, most clients realize that you are in your own business, and don’t give tips. On several occasions, when I have had an intern with me, the client has offered a tip, which I always give directly to the intern.

On a second occasion, a bride contacted me to shoot her wedding. This was a last minute thing – about 2 months before the ceremony. It had been moved to California from where the family lived, in Utah. I had shot the wedding of two of her sisters, several years earlier. She did not want ceremony photos – only the reception – for religious reasons. I gave her a lower price and she promised to mail a check. On several occasions, she said the check was ‘in the mail’. It never arrived, so I called her father – who had paid for the previous two jobs. He said that if she didn’t pay, he would cover it. Considering my history with him, I didn’t worry about it, and it all worked out.

That’s it – in nearly 800 weddings, those are the only two were I didn’t get my fees, in full, before the event.

Photographers – especially those new to the wedding business – sometimes ask what happens if the wedding is cancelled. The answer depends on several things.

The purpose of the deposit is to compensate me for removing a date from my inventory. As I mentioned, earlier: If they cancel, and I cannot replace the job (because I have stopped marketing that date, or may have even turned down other requests for that date), my living expenses do not decrease. So here’s my rule-of-thumb: If I can replace the canceled event with another one, I will give a refund. If the wedding date is changed and I am open on the new date, I will transfer the deposit (this is very generous, because I have now allowed someone to tie up two days with a single deposit). If the wedding is canceled or postponed due to military orders (ask for a copy of the deployment orders), I will refund everything.

Once, I was hired by the older sisters of two 18-year-olds who where about to elope. The sisters convinced them to have a small ceremony, and the family arranged for a beachside ceremony and rented hotel banquet room for a reception. Three days before the ceremony, the couple backed out. On one hand, I was not going to be able to schedule a wedding in three days. On the other hand, it wasn’t the sister’s fault that these kids called off the wedding. The hotel wasn’t willing to give back the deposit, and neither was I. However, I know the banquet captain at the hotel and we agreed to transfer the money to another date. The girl’s father was about to celebrate his 50th birthday. We held a family reunion/birthday party about six weeks later (on a week night) and applied the money to that.

It’s your business, so you can run it anyway you like. Just remember: It is a business!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

When Customers Rave About Your Photography, but Don't Buy

On Sunday, a fellow photographer emailed this question. I'm not expert on selling individual prints, but this is the answer I gave.

I took some very nice candid and staged pictures of two couples. Both couples (the ladies in particular) were very, very interested in obtaining copies of the photos I took. They kept in contact with me from the minute I launched my blog page up until I sent them, via email- a secured (copy protected/no printing/no editing) PDF automated slide presentation. Immediately, they emailed me back and "raved" about how beautiful the pictures were and wanted to know how much it would cost to purchase all of the pictures.... Well, I gave them the price and never heard from them again. I'm sure the price was not the problem because I was very reasonable in that department; 4x6= $7, 5x7=$12, & 8x10=$17...something like that. I even offered a discount if they wanted to purchase all o f the shots that I took. After about a week, I got back with the two ladies via email and said, "I'm glad that you enjoyed my work and if you had any additional question, please let me know, in the meantime, when your ready to order, let me know......never heard from them again.

Why do you think the two couples just totally stopped their communications with me after such incredible "rave" about the photos? Do you think that between the both of them, somehow or someone figured out how to copy the files and print them out somehow? Should I attempt to contact them again, or count this as a loss? I don't wanna seem desperate, but I just think it's weird that all of a sudden, I have not heard from them at orders, nothing.


Hard to get in the head of these people -- there is the saying about the girl who had a great first date and thought everything was perfect, yet the guy never called again. When she asked Dr. Phil (or whomever), they simply said: "Well, he just wasn't that into you". Hard to hear, but it happens.

I met a guy at a kid's baseball game. He asked to see some of my shots (on the LCD), then told me which kid was his, so I got a bunch of photos of him -- good shots -- sliding into third - scoring - action stuff. The father brought a few of his friends to me and I gave them all cards. Four or five parents ordered prints (from my photoreflect site), but the guy who was singing my praises ordered nothing. Never heard from him.

Once, the guest at a wedding emailed me to complain about the 'high' price of my prints. He said that it only took me a second to take the picture and cost 19 cents to make the print - so where did I get the nerve to charge so much????? I wrote back, and very politely agreed that it did only take a second, and he was correct that prints were not very expensive to make -- BUT that the rest of the price was my creative fee for making his ugly ass suitable to put on my website!..

Hey, I'm a photographer -- not a public relations agent :-)

Lot's of people love our work UNTIL they have to pay for it.

What I do suggest is that you have a photoreflect - or other ecommerce site - and always direct inquires to it. It makes it look like this is a business and that you sell prints all the time - and that people regularly pay for your work. Sometimes, especially in the case of a relative's wedding, others don't understand that this is your business, and don't think you shouldn't even be charging -- sure -- they are idiots!

Also, never make a 'special' presentation - like the slideshow. If you have a few, as samples, that is one thing, but if you make a special one, for someone -- and you do it for free -- you have just diminished it's perceived value and it is now very hard to get them to pay for something. (I'm not talking about a client who has already paid some kind of shooting or creative fee -- you want to WOW them -- that's why you do the online album -- but they already perceive some value, since they have paid something. If you want to show off your work, make some samples, using other photos, and tell the 'customer' that you'd be happy to do something like this for them, at a reasonable fee. Better to loose them right away, that do the work and still not get them.

In this specific case, I'd just let it go. Sometimes, I will send a follow-up message, saying: "Not sure if you got this, so I am just resending". That's it. If they are interested enough to pay, they will get back to you. Otherwise, forget it, but, at least, you now have some sort of sample to send to others, if the situation presents itself.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Great Ideas

We just got this email, this morning, from Bev, in the UK.

We got the Gary Fong ‘get rich quick’ as we ventured into wedding photography this summer. The blog idea has excited me and I’ve been busy creating it for my husband who is the photographer. We are in the early stages of managing the album showcase, getting to grips with time management etc. and the newness of setting up this process. We do have a slideshow at this point, but obviously it takes time to make too, another job of mine. However, I have just read one of the early posts about putting up a collage straight after the event – simple idea, great! I will definitely be doing that for the next wedding, in fact, I can’t wait, I’m there handing out cards already!!

I’m loving that I can utilise my blog skills to promote our business and am learning a bit more about our website because of hosting the shows there – who knows I may be able to give the website the make over it needs soon too??

Cheers everyone!!!

A very excited photographer’s wife,


Hi Bev -- Thanks for taking the time to write. Send us the link to your photography blog, and we'll share it with our readers.

You mentioned handing out cards. A great idea is to do an engagement session with the bride and groom. Normally, I make an 11x14 inch print that is put in a signature mat for guests to sign. Beside it, I place a smaller copy -- 8x10 or 5x7 -- with my website and phone number. Just make a text layer in Photoshop and drop your contact info on it.

Also, I make a busness card with the engagement photo and my contact info. The cards are in small card holders near the gift table, and I also hand them to people after I snap their candids.

This drives traffic to your blog or website, and it increases your print sales to family and guests