THE VILLAGE IDIOT


 

THE VILLAGE IDIOT, QUESTIONS AND MINEFIELDS

Normally I'm very patient with people but sometimes the Village Idiot walking on his knuckles makes it to a E-machine and gets to me.   I receive an email asking why I would put a checklist on my site for a Bride to ask questions with the potential shooter if the intent of my site is to help new shooters. 

My first remark to this nimrod was:  Are you that naive? Thats insecurity, you want to know what the potential client might ask you and have the answers ready and confidently practiced.  What are you hiding”?  

A wedding can be wrecked by many unforeseen problems just like a landmine can change the scenery. So, I digress for a moment and explain something I learned from the Army Rangers in a field course I took at Dahlonega, Georgia in the low mountains.   We were taught knowing the type, size, shape, techniques, snares, traps and burial characteristics of landmines laid by an enemy can prevent one’s lower extremities from being blown off.”    Our beloved Sargent termed the lessons, “Prevention of loosing one's balls”.  

Nothing like burying your head in the sand, only it's a minefield.  If that doesn’t explain a Wedding, I haven't got a better explanation.   We call it situational awareness and knowing what's going on and a good bride has already done her homework so you might as well know her strategy.   

The questions you see here are all over the Bridal Sections of the Web. Almost every Wedding site, magazine, book, has a way to select a photographer. I am merely echoing what's out there.

If you don't have the qualifications a smart Bride is looking for, at least you'll know what they are looking for. Possibly even realizing, you are not in their league.  It's a checklist, for what you should be doing.   Let’s start.

 

FINDING MR. RIGHT GUY or GAL PHOTOGRAPHER
This is a guide for the Bride and Cliff notes for the shooter.  What "to ask" should eliminate many problems.  It is also a guide for the shooter to know what he or she might be asked.  The questions here start and really pertain to medium to high end, multi contingent, or structured, to EXPENSIVE, weddings. 

Not to say a small private affair with a Justice of the Peace doesn't warrant the same careful attention.  But being realistic, the $200 package shooter isn't about to meet the qualifications or demands you would expect from a $5000 plus affair with assistants and video. The shooting teams size, capacity, training and where their bar is set. 

Wedding director coordination, planning, appropriate equipment, experience, familiarity, enter this size affair.  

Both size weddings however do require a backup if the primary photographer doesn't make bail, can't start his car, does a financial disappearance act, goes out of business, or fails to show for any other reason.  I have heard and seen most of the above.  

Take a few of the questions from the selection and see what your budget and qualifications are.  I think if you used all the questions below you would scare a large percentage of non-ranked Photographers away.  

On the other side of this exercise, if you are the shooter, what are your qualifications and how would you answer these questions to get the job.

QUESTIONS

•  How many years have you been in the business?

•  What are your qualifications, certifications, organizations associated with.


•  What further training, seminars attended and what other formal training have you had? 

•  Is this a full-time occupation, just a weekend part time job and what do you do the rest of the week? 


•  Do you have a studio or registered pace of business with a tax number and the proper business certificate?


•  Have you handled many events of my type and size before? 


•  What are the reasons you think we should hire you?


•  Will you personally be the photographer for our wedding?  

•  Will the person you are talking to be the actual photographer?

•  Some pro’s use associates during peak seasons to cover duplicate dates. You want to meet that person.

•  If the party uses his wife as the assistant, it’s nice to have a woman around, she can go where the photographer can’t. 

•  Ask yourself - How comfortable are you with this person? You will have intimate and stressful moments with this person. 

•  How does this person fit in with the total picture of the Wedding? 

•  Simple, do you have clothes for (tux) for a formal wedding? 

•  Can you afford this person? Ask yourself.

TERMS INVOLVING MONEY and VALUE

 A clear explanation of his/her terms. Read what my terms are, to use as an example. They are fair questions to ask and answer to both parties. 
This also helps to clear some issues before a contract is made, just good common sense.

•  What if any Value-added options? 

•  Is he/she willing to put everything in writing? 

•  When will you see your proofs, how long?

•  Is he providing the album?  

•  How much will it cost for additional albums.

•  How much for extras, incidentals, time constraints, travel fees and other costs?

•  Does he or she charge by the package, or shoot by the picture, picture purchased, etc.

•  After it is in writing ask for a copy and you’ll study it overnight. Get someone who understands legalese to decipher it. 

•  Hidden Costs? Are there extra fees for staying late, traveling, tolls, parking, and any other things that must be considered? 

•  Who will do the processing. 

•  Prints need to be high resolution. The point here is that quality prints from DIGITAL are printed at .300 Dots per Inch. 

•  CD-ROMs for viewing on a computer are represented at .72 dots per inch.  It is literally four times less resolution. 

•  You want to see the work at the printing resolution and that’s where the quality is based.

•  There are real important questions are your criteria for choosing what you would shoot with at my Wedding? 

•  What would you photograph at my wedding after seeing the church and hall? 

•  How do you know how many pictures to take?  What is your normal picture count and what is it dependent on.

•  What makes your photographs better or different than anybody else’s? 

•  Have you photographed in this particular hall, Church, Mosque, Synagogue before? How many?

•  Are you familiar with the Clergy, Justice, Priest, Rabbi, Shaolin, the Prison Warden or Witch Doctor? 

•  Do you have backup equipment?   Let them tell you they never have problems, you walk out.  Simple.


PICTURES SAM’S - WAL-MART OR A REAL LAB

•  Another question to have answers for is what the final cost is, and what does the customer get for your services.  

•  Who does your processing for photos, framing, table top books, large portraiture, group settings and so forth.  

•  Do you do all the processing in house, send it out, do your own printing and enlargements?  

•  Do you have samples, people like to touch and feel and look at new ideas.


A PRO CHOICE FOR WEDDING
Establish yourself with a real lab, Sam’s is closing 64 stores, reducing others and floor space is expensive. (HINT) Other cheapie locations like CVS and Wal-Greens are dropping their departments. Might be kept at Sam's and Costco.

Pro Wedding labs like WHCC have a higher bar as to quality and professional work. They may also use different papers and textures than they find down at the local drug store, Sam’s, Walmart, K-Mart, and Walgreens generally key to life scenes.  But they do a good inexpensive job.

https://www.whcc.com/customer-service/contact

WHCC Pro Labs machinery is calibrated to Wedding work where there are more whites and blacks (dresses and Tuxedos)  than regular labs who deal with blues and greens of water and grass. They have very high standards and tell you that.  

Photographers, artists, and designers worldwide trust WHCC to fulfill their creative vision in a tangible and lasting way. We handcraft our products from the finest professional materials. Color accuracy and consistency are always a priority.  See your art at its very best, just the way you intend it to be.                                            

Some of the lesser value weddings, the frugal shopper, inflexible and determined to chisel you or him out of every dime, will use the least expensive way to go.  Usually specials at Wal-Mart, Sam’s and other do it yourself kiosks for the budget minded.


THE CHEAPSTER WEDDING AND FOO-PAHS

The cheapest cop-out is the computer CD-ROM. If you are paying for the photographer shooting CD-ROM disc alone, what exactly will you get, L0-res, HI-res, NEF, RAW, DNG, or any other proprietary formats like PSD from Adobe. 

If you do not understand what this is all about, get someone on your side who does.  And who is responsible, assigned to do, corrections,  on the thumb drives or DVD’s, crops, color correction, like white balance,  yellow halogens, or the myriad of things that go wrong, or the Digital Workflow and sizing the newer equipment sometimes requires.  Most require a real program like Photoshop and the skills that go with it.  A good less expensive program is RESTORE.com it will be sufficient for most new users.
If Restore can
’t fix it, you need a pro to repair bad work or problems

The best argument I had, for a lousy shot unprocessed was a group of pictures taken by a newbie with a bulb flash which goes everywhere.  Nice shot of the bride and groom during a toast and the waiter scratching his nether parts with his right hand in the background.  This is the reason we crop pictures and try not to use specular light.

Another idiot move was shooting with bulb flashes and having overhead chandeliers or mirrored walls and ceilings.  The pictures came out like Kittle-Pox, that disgusting ad on TV with candy being eaten by the girlfriend off the boyfriends skin. Dots thousands of dots, Red, Blue, Yellow, Green colors of the entire visible spectrum  and ruined all the reception shots in the hall. 


RUNNERS AND GUNNERS
Some photographers take too long to deliver.  Some deliver right on the spot making a raw version right onto a laptop burning in their car or a back room with a helper.   This could be GOOD or BAD.  

There is no reason for this other than poor time management or they sent it to a cheaper out of state lab, or possibly with luck one of the better and busier commercial labs that specialize in Weddings only and knows skin tones and cropping.
That’s why you ASK who does their work. 

 

REFERENCES
Get names and addresses from the photographer and check them out personally. Sisters, brothers and friends don't count. Ask for a few business references that he deals with too. Tells you whether he pays his bills on time. (Bet you never heard of that angle). See if his name is on the public records somewhere. Surprising what this turns up.

Digital is the most common medium for Weddings.  Yes, there are a couple great high-end shooters who bring a film camera for certain things, their personal trademark shots for example that digital might not do well at.  But I also believe it’s for some old timers, due to a lack of trust or training still love film, old school success, old school habits for some shooters. And that's OK with me, it tells me the artist sees something we might not picture...pun.

 

THE DIGITAL DUMP ECONOMY AT IT’S WORST
Digital also means you might be getting a CD ROM for the do-it-yourself prints cheap print option.   Unless this is a specifically budget wise decision, you are heading in the wrong direction.   If you go digital you must insist on high resolution files, 300 DPI or the CD-ROM will be only good for viewing on a monitor and CD-ROM as an option is OK but should not be the primary. 

The advantage is many of today’s cameras, the SONY A77, A772 are excellent video cameras and relatively inexpensive

You would think this would drive the costs of weddings down. In a sense, it should. Digital saves you the cost of film and processing –BUT- the gear costs four times as much. It has also increased the competition in this arena with the promise of taking good pictures is as easy as pie.  

So now you have Tom, Dick and Harry now posing as "professionals" and popping low cost CD-ROMS and goodbye real processing.   Digital in the hands of an artistic practiced wedding professional is art.   Digital in the hands of a hack is still “JUNK”. “   The camera doth not make the pictures”.

The single most ridiculous (I was going to say stupid) question I ever hear in a photo-related question forum starts off with; “What camera did you use?  What shutter speed and F stop?  What lens was that?

It really is a clue to someone being a newbie in the club and not understanding the process.  It’s simple, all those variables don’t mean a thing as soon as the light, the poses, the backgrounds, the players, the location and a hundred other things change.  Put the same gear in that person’s hands and you can have a disaster. Just common sense. 

 

CON SHOOTERS AND OTHER PROBLEMS 


👺 THE CON SHOOTER - BUYER BEWARE
How many people will cover the event?  How many chickens will cross the road before they put in a traffic light?  Is your crew there to work or are they trainees getting practice?  

The proper paid for setup is the primary shooter, and a backup second shooter or digital artist on the laptop.  That's two, on really big expensive affairs a third is acceptable, usually some wife or kin helping out.

 Couple years back, I attended one wedding as a guest, where four trainees were passed off as additional shooters.  But, they  the newbies were paying the photographer for his training at the Wedding.   

That doesn’t fly with me. Plus he was feeding them at 22 dollars per person on the Brides dime.  And I didn’t like his approach, I didn’t like his style, and I don’t like scams. The Grooms parents hired this budget con man.   

The four were just a pain in the ass, bumbles and fumbles getting in the way, they all sat down to a fine meal, and the photographer tried to sell the Wedding couple his associates extra work and bump the bill.   Then we met, and I had a little conversation with him with a third gentleman listening in who was quite intimidating.  

I had my gear in the car and suited up, caught some great stuff.  Sat down with the niece.  The Bride with a little Chutzpah told him the judge would straighten the whole thing out.  It’s good to be the niece of an attorney.  Its better since he was attending.  He was the fourth gentleman.   He introduced himself, the freeloaders left, its good his contract mentioned nothing of the training BS sort.  

It’s good to have a photographer Godfather…me.  I offered to do her wedding, she told me no, no, no since I was a guest of honor and sat at the main table.   I still brought my gear in the car and had my Nikon 990 in my jacket.  Dinners for the freeloaders were deducted, $25.00 ea., pictures delivered forthwith, like in three days.  He the jerk got caught and paid.