I've now had two 'Question time' features on the blog (here and here) and they always prove pretty popular on my facebook page so I thought I'd try and make it a more regular feature. I enjoy sharing how we do things and a lot of questions make me think about what we do and how we do it.. and from that I suppose I'm learning too..
Below are some questions that were added to my Facebook page and I hope you find something useful! If you have any other questions then feel free to leave them in the comments!
When you started out how did you set your pricing and packages?
When I started the business I had NO IDEA what to charge or what to include and over time we've slowly grown in experience and confidence and mistakes you make along the way make it clearer to make the right decision the following time around. When we started we were actually cheaper than what our deposit is now BUT we had no experience and pretty basic equipment.. so in my eyes our couples were paying for what we were worth. I also remember at one point advertising Engagement Shoots for six hours.. SIX! That's a bloody wedding!! But you learn quickly what works and what really doesn't!
With each wedding we were gaining experience.. our equipment was getting better.. my skills were improving constantly so the overall level of service and product was worth more. Now I believe that we are 100% worth what we charge... but it takes a lot of ground work, often a lot of mistakes and lots of confidence building to believe it.
What percentage of photos do you throw away after a wedding?
For every wedding both me and Pete shoot. At an average wedding we could come home with anything from 2000 to 3200 images and we then will cull them down (using Photo Mechanic) to between 500 to 800. The ones that end up not being used are mainly either duplicates, similar shots, people with their eyes closed, bad composition etc so everything our couples get is the good stuff. Some photographers shoot a lot less but some of my favourite images have been the in-between moments where I might have, for example.. shot from the hip. I also tend to take quite a few duplicates in group photos as it can be tricky getting twenty people to all have their eyes open at the same time.. ;)
Do you have any favourite books on photography, either from when you were first learning or now?
Ha! Not really! I'm much more of a physical learner so prefer to just try stuff and then when I get stuck I might look it up.. ;)
What steps do you take to cope with a bright midday sun at a wedding? Do you scout shady spots in advance? Do you use fill flash? Assistant and reflectors? Use the light you can't change creatively?
British weddings are pretty much scheduled so that shooting a lot of the important parts (family photos.. couple shots) in the middle of the day is inevitable. If it is a very strong, sunny day then I will always look for some even shade either under a tree or around the building. At pretty much every wedding someone will ask why they're being taken into the shade when it's such beautiful weather and I guess, to a guest, it does look pretty odd. But for a photographer.. shooting in strong sun is pretty awful.. your subject gets dark shadows under their eyes, their nose and their chin.. everyone squints.. exposure is tricky.. you then put them in the shade and the light is perfect.. and everyone looks instantly beautiful.. :) In terms of lighting.. I have never used fill flash.. I have a reflector but it's never been used so if the light is shite.. I just go and find better light.. :)
How specific are you with your packages? Do you tailor prices and coverage for each couple or tell them what they can expect for different amounts? How did you make the decision for the hours you offer?
We have one package with includes 7 hours of coverage, two shooters and images on a disc.. then they can tailor the package to suit them by adding any extras they want... Engagement shoot, album, additional hours etc. Most couples add one or two hours and some might choose to have an EShoot before the wedding. We've had quite a few different packages in the past from unlimited coverage to packages with albums included but we've found this one the easiest for our couples. We kind of look at it as our most basic package.. so depending on their budget they can prioritise and choose if they want to add to it. We could have set our coverage at 8 or 9 hours (and increased our price accordingly).. but what we tend to see happen then is couples asking to reduce the coverage to work with their budget and bring the price down. With 7 hours we look at it as the minimum amount of coverage that can cover every aspect of your wedding (obviously it depends on couple's schedules) from getting ready to first dance.. then if their schedule is longer then they can extend the coverage if they wish.
Do you always have a 2nd Shooter/Assistant at all weddings?
Me and Pete both shoot at weddings. I'll shoot the girls in the morning and Pete will shoot the boys and as I shoot the couple and the family photos Pete will be covering the rest of the wedding party. We've been working like this for about 18 months now and we have become such a strong team. We know instinctively how each other works and have each other's back at all times. Pete is an incredible photographer and I suppose by spending a lot of time with me at weddings and watching how I shoot he's naturally adopted a very similar style.. sometimes looking back over the images I'm not sure who has taken which photo which is bloody awesome. All of the weddings we blog now are a mixture of both our images so if you fancy having a guess who's are who's...?? ;)
What do you use for editing? Lightroom or Photoshop? Do you use actions or presets? Did you do a course on post production/photoshop?
I do all my editing in Lightroom now. I used to use Photoshop and have used Totally Rad Actions and Alien Skin in the past. I now tend to use VSCO for everything and have found editing purely in LR a much quicker process. I do outsource some of my initial editing to Fotofafa which I've touched on in more detail in the last post. To be honest I like to keep things pretty simple when it comes to editing.. I have a simple workflow and like it that way. I've found that over the past four years I've tried and tested lots of things and although I know my work has evolved and changed I always seem to naturally come back to the same feel or the same look..
I've never done a course on any software and have mainly learnt through playing and watching tutorials. Again.. you could all probably run rings around me when it comes to all these programmes but I get the results I want using them my way so I'm happy keeping it simple.. :) You could have the best camera.. the best computer.. the best software.. but it won't automatically make you Jonas Peterson.. to me that's not really what it's all about..
What key features and qualities do you look for in a blog when deciding whether to showcase your work there?
For me there are a few things that I look for when submitting to blogs. First of all are their readers our kind of couples.. that doesn't have to mean style wise at all.. this means overall ethos.. are they attracting relaxed, easy going, creative couples. Is their content relevant to me? We tend to attract couples similar to ourselves so if the blog doesn't interest me then I have a feeling it won't interest our couples so much either. Then I suppose aesthetically does it have a good design.. does it work well.. are the images a good size and quality.. do the features look nice? Are they featuring good photography? Also how often do they post? Is it once every two weeks or three times a day? To be honest.. sometimes it's better when there are less posts as your work is featured on the first page for longer.. but then again more posts a day often means a bigger readership..
Also correspondance can make a huge difference. Do they email you personally, do they use your name? How personal are they? Do they get back to you? All these things play a part..
We are pretty pathetic when it comes to the whole 'Let's have a look at your lenses' chat. I have learnt that I like to keep things pretty simple.. in both my shooting and my editing. At a wedding I shoot with two cameras.. one with a 35mm 1.4 and one with an 85mm 1.2. I am pretty happy with these babies all day and will only tend to use something a bit wider for large group shots. I kinda feel more interested in what's in front of my lens so even if I had all the equipment in the world I would probably end up just leaving it all in the (heavy) bag..
Is there a reason you choose not to watermark your images?
Hmmmmm.. not really.. I did it at the very start but then submitting images to blogs, they always wanted no watermark so it was easier to just not do it.. I'm not sure I'm too keen on it aesthetically to be honest (on my own images) so unless there were major changes to copyright issues in the future then I doubt I'll add them.
How hard did you find it to be different in such a cookie cutter world of wedding photography? Did you get negativity from industry peers, did they take you seriously? How did you build a supportive network of peers when you were different from the mass?
I didn't find it hard one little bit. It was actually a million percent easier to just be me than do something that wasn't. It was enjoyable doing what I liked to do and I suppose because I didn't intentionally go in to it thinking 'I want to have a successful Photography business'.. I just went in to it thinking 'I know what I like shooting, so I'm gonna shoot that'.. it seemed easy. I suppose there's been pockets of negativity along the way but it's never really bothered me. All of it is personal opinion and if someone doesn't like my work then I guess I'm not the photographer for them. Some of the negativity has actually made me stronger and more certain of how I see the world and that can only be a good thing. Building a network of peers was also a pretty easy step.. in this community people often reach out to each other and you quickly know who you have connections with.. who are on the same page.. these peeps are precious and you need to hold on to them tight.. :)
What do you find is your most successful strategy for getting your name known?
Not giving a shit if your name is known. When I first started I blogged because I wanted to blog.. n..o..b..o..d..y was reading it. I was shooting because I loved shooting.. I was chatting away on Twitter because I liked chatting.. there was no real strategy. Now I think there seems a huge emphasis on how many followers, how many likes, how many comments and actually.. if you just get on with it and enjoy yourself people tend to come to you.
Do you have an ISO limit?
I don't tend to shoot over ISO 2500
How do you deal with back to back weddings?
If we do two weddings back to back we always try and get them as close as possible... as in distance. Then we just make sure we download cards and back them up twice before shooting the following day. Then we spend the following day lying star shaped on the floor.
Do you use a lot of flash at weddings or mainly natural light?
I tend to only use flash if I really have to and that can sometimes be the signing of the register (if it's a dark venue), sometimes speeches, cake cutting and dancing. I will always try and use natural light whenever possible.
Do you shoot in Manual? If you do have you a preferred shutter speed?
I shoot in Manual but actually shot in Aperature Priority up until about 18 months ago. Not sure exactly why I changed and am pretty happy in either mode. Shutter speed obviously depends on the situation but in dark environments I try and stay above 1/50 if I can to avoid camera shake.
What is your favourite film to use when shooting analogue?
Again.. going back to simple.. I'm not sure if I have a preference.. I tend to just buy a real mish mash and then it's a bit like russian roulette.. sorry that's a rubbish answer!
When shooting weddings what's your favourite chocolate bar to snack on?
No chocolate.. but maybe a banana..
How important is communication on a photoshoot? If a Deaf photographer was to shoot more professionally what kind of interpreter should they be looking for?
I think communication is important but that doesn't have to necessarily be speaking. I think if you and your couple have trust then you're pretty much set. If you and your couple are comfortable in the way you work then it doesn't matter whether you chat away, say nothing or use gesture. I think confidence in your work, creating that trust and your ability to be a nice human being is key... and also being honest with what you require to get the work done. If you feel like you can communicate freely in your own way then great.. if you feel that you and/or your clients would benefit from having an Interpreter then use one... :) There's no hard and fast rule as what works for one person might be completely different for another... so find your comfortable ground.
What do you do to relax during the busy wedding season when you are up to your eyes in shooting/editing? What keeps you sane?
I've written quite a few posts on this subject because about a year ago I was pretty unhappy in myself. I was constantly working.. constantly stressed.. crying a lot.. I'd gained nearly 3 stone and I wasn't having a life. I think all of us that start our own business has some or all of these problems in the first 3 years. It's hard. Super hard. This is now our fourth year and it's only now that I feel like I'm coming up for air.
I am now much more organised. I plan my time better and set myself weekly and daily goals so that I work smarter and then give myself time off. This could be a day, my evenings.. a mini break.. but I've realised just how important this is for both my own wellbeing, my marriage and the business.
I outsource some of my editing to Fotofafa.. I make sure I'm disciplined with culling a wedding the few days after we've shot it.. I pencil in editing days.. but the biggest thing is that I've learnt is to say no. Saying no is not a bad thing. It means you get to do more of the stuff you want to do.. and it means you're being sensible with your workload... actually I'm getting pretty good at that word now. I want my couples to get the best from us and I want to be happy and have a life of my own too so I have a responsibility to myself (and the business) to make sure that I give myself a healthy work/life balance..
My favourite things to do to relax are probably shopping.. (I'm so my Mother's daughter).. watching films.. riding my bike, jogging, sitting in the garden in the sun, reading magazines, the pub with friends.. all the normal stuff.. but it's important stuff. It's weird but most of us have to re-learn how to relax.. and it can take quite a bit of practice to perfect.. ;)