Wedding photographer in New England
August 5, 2005 6:27 AM   Subscribe

Do you know anyone in New England who can photograph a wedding? Professional photographers need not apply unless they are willing to work for $400.

My future wife thwarted my attempts to get a reasonably priced DJ, but she can't object to this because we are already going to need to have an extra baby and sell it to pay for this wedding.

Here's the deal: I will pay US $400 to an amateur photographer with the right equipment for photographing the wedding. I have looked into professional wedding photographers, and they all want too much money to show up and then they want to nickel-and-dime me for things like tacky, warm leatherette albums to keep the photos in. And here's the thing that I really object to-- they want the reproduction rights to the photos that I am paying them to take! I know that this standard procedure, and photographers have expenses that I can't see like one-use snow leopard skin lens dusters and heroin habits, but the wedding industry is as predatory as the funeral industry-- they extort you when you're most vulnerable.

disclaimer to professional photographers who have already stopped reading this and are already looking for my email address on my user page: I meant every professional wedding photographer except you.

Here's what the photographer must have: a slick digital camera, plenty of memory, reliable transportation to Harvard, Mass for the evening of September 16, and a few photographs on line for me to look at.

Here's what the photographer gets: $400.00 for about five hours of work and freedom to use the photos how ever s/he sees fit.

Here's what I get: A CD of the raw photographs, which I am free to use however I see fit.

Can anyone recommend a friend who fits this discription? Don't be shy-recommend yourself if you're interested.
posted by Mayor Curley to Grab Bag (39 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Get over to Flickr, and put out a similar request (perhaps couched a little differently ;-) ) - I've done similar things for friends recently (for free) but unfortunately I'm across the other side of the globe to where you need!

Good luck!
posted by Chunder at 7:39 AM on August 5, 2005

It's not standard procedure. It is certainly possible to find a competent photographer who won't want the repro rights. *Don't* settle for cousin Ed with his Polaroid.

I suggest hiring a "freelance photographer", rather than a "wedding photographer". Spiderman's day job? Contact your local newspaper, see who they use. Here's the equation:

(freelance photographer) + (crappiness) + (price gouging) = (wedding photographer)

This same equation works for hiring "wedding bands" vs. hiring regular club bands, BTW. Hiring a band to play at a wedding is cheap. Hiring a wedding band is expensive. And crappy.

Anyway, a decent freelance photographer probably does at least a few weddings (newspapers pay crap), has a whack of cameras and equipment and knows how to use them, and has no preconceptions about making you an ongoing income stream for them.
posted by jellicle at 7:40 AM on August 5, 2005

Chunder, are there forums at flickr? I just created an account, but I can't see where I'd post it. I'd like to try that.

jellicle, I will look into that.

posted by Mayor Curley at 7:52 AM on August 5, 2005

Look at Groups, there are tons related to weddings. See if you can search for photographers in New England, then contact them.
posted by scazza at 8:16 AM on August 5, 2005


A very good friend of mine is a professional wedding photographer in Cambridge, MA, who I am fairly certain will work for the price you want. Email me at and I will give you her contact info.
posted by googly at 8:25 AM on August 5, 2005

Plenty of professional wedding photographers will not require reproduction rights, you just have to look a little harder (not that many will work for $400).
posted by sad_otter at 8:44 AM on August 5, 2005

but the wedding industry is as predatory as the funeral industry-- they extort you when you're most vulnerable

Two things:

First, yes, you're right, but if a wedding photographer screws up, it's not like you can do a make-up. Equipment costs also factor into the price. Then there's the baby-sealskin lens cover to think about. :)

Second: what are you looking for? Formals? PJ-style documentary-type photography? How big is the wedding party? About how many guests? Where's the wedding (big church/small church/mayor's office)?

"Five hours" can easily turn into ten when you factor in location scouting, photos of pre-wedding stuff (dressing/putting on make-up), and post-processing (though, if you want to handle that yourself, that will make things easier, though not necessarily better).

Feel free to email me if you want to keep the details on the down-low.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:56 AM on August 5, 2005

Check Fred Miranda and DPChallenge too, where there are many highly talented but not yet professional photographers.
posted by undertone at 9:25 AM on August 5, 2005

Good lord. That would be Fred Miranda
posted by undertone at 9:26 AM on August 5, 2005

It also depends what you want. We decided to ask a friend who was good with cameras, with the expectation we couldn't get upset if anything went wrong. But we didn't really want posed photographs, just lots and lots of candids - and that's what we got, many of which are just wonderful.

We also went digital - my father in law bought a very nice digital camera - it makes a difference. Examples can be seen here (only changes to the photos was redusing them in size). The smaller photos are done with a cheaper camera, the rest with a very good camera at a very high setting (these are shrunk to 33% of the original size) - you can see the difference.

Of course, we also had no makeup artist, no hairdresser, only one rented suit (the best man), the bridesmaids wore their own dresses, etc. The thing is to spend the money on what is really important to you. Formal photos were not important to us - and we saved money that could go towards a nice dinner and dance, which was important.
posted by jb at 9:26 AM on August 5, 2005

Hmm, I could do it. I have a Nikon D70, with a couple of decent lenses, and am currently into portraiture (but mostly with my medium format film camera).

I can't believe I'm the first person to respond for themselves.

Here are some of my photos.
posted by splatta at 9:38 AM on August 5, 2005

What about contacting the department of photography at nearby arts colleges? I know school's out, but there may be students who would could shoot your wedding within budget.

I will say that $400 seems tight, not impossible, but certainly tight. I hire photographers for work frequently (and working for a non-profit, I can only hire those who work pretty cheaply) but I don't know any who would be willing to do a professional assignment in that range, considering the number of hours they'll probably have to put in. (Of course, I don't know the details of your wedding.)

Most of the folks I hire also do wedding photography on the side and have told me they charge as much as they can because it's a high-stress day and there are no reshoots. I don't quite buy this but anyway. Yeah, there's a huge mark-up and there's not much way to get around it unless you go with a hobbyist or student/amateur, I think.

When I got married two years ago, I hired a professional photographer, who is a friend of my husband. He gave us a steep discount but we still paid $1000. The quality of the prints was fine: some nice, some great but nothing mind-bogglingly amazing.
posted by Sully6 at 9:39 AM on August 5, 2005

Hey splatta, nice stuff.

Incidentally, my comments on price are more in response to the suggestion that hiring a freelancer (that's who I hire and I do think of them as professionals) would be cheaper than hiring a "professional wedding photographer." As I mentioned, most freelancers I know DO shoot weddings on the side and do charge a good bit for them.
posted by Sully6 at 10:03 AM on August 5, 2005

No one has mentioned craigslist, so I will - either posting an ad or looking for photographers who have posted something. For example, here's an ad from someone who appears quite experienced who will do a wedding for $500, CD-ROM included. [Yes, over the limit of $400, but it's also true that you sometimes get what you pay for.]
posted by WestCoaster at 10:11 AM on August 5, 2005

Splatta, you know the wedding's in north-central Massachusetts, right? If you're still interested, I'll show your stuff to my girlfriend tonight.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:36 AM on August 5, 2005

The main problem I see with the $400 price is the memory issue. For my own digital work, I only need one or two 1GB cards ($100 each) on hand. But to turn a good digi photographer into a one-night-only wedding photographer, fitting approximately 100 RAW images per 1GB card, well, that person's going to have to buy at least $400 worth of additional memory to do your wedding.

I've done weddings and I actually have all the gear and memory, I've beeen commended for my unobtrusive low-on-flash photojournalistic style, (photos online), but I have a strict 5-pose-or-fewer limit, and I live in SW CT, which is a difficult return journey at 1 a.m. from Cambridge.
posted by xo at 11:19 AM on August 5, 2005

Cambridge is a bit far off, however, I do have friends in the area...
I would mostly be doing this for the experience, not the money, so the $400 is just gravy. It's up to you if you want to hire someone who knows how to take photos of people, but has never shot a wedding.
posted by splatta at 11:46 AM on August 5, 2005

For the record, the wedding's in Harvard, MA-- a town named after the same man as the university. But it's 20 miles west of Cambridge.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:59 AM on August 5, 2005

People cuts all kinds of corners when planning a wedding, but cheap photography is dumb. For most people, photographs are the primary (if not only) souvenir of your wedding. Your kids probably won't be interested in watching a video, but it is nice to have your parents' wedding photos. Moreover, it's an occasion to get beautiful pictures of each spouse, the couple together, extended family, etc.

I've paid handsomely for professional portraits over the years, and my desk and mantelpiece have benefitted. I think digital cameras have destroyed photography the same way the Beatles destroyed pop music: They have fostered the myth that anyone can do it, and the general level of competence has suffered.

If you're stuck on food stamps and can't afford a photographer, that's unfortunate. But trolling the internet for some college kid with a Nikon who will work for peanuts because you're blowing your wad on an expensive DJ...? I think that's stupid. More constructively, I think it's a decision you'll eventually regret.

End of rant. The thread already included plenty of discussion, and the "question" was basically a classified ad anyway; so I'm excusing myself to throw in my two cents.
posted by cribcage at 12:21 PM on August 5, 2005

I'll chime in...

I've been shooting for a couple years and have built up a pretty comprehensive equipment bag for myself. (2 Canon DSLRs, flashes, a gamut high quality lenses)

I've been looking to shoot weddings, and this sounds like a good opportunity to expand my portfolio.

I have friend who who usually helps me out with bigger shoots, and they'd be willing to come along as well, as part of the package. (Canon 350d and a couple more lenses)

We're an all digital outfit (and we take pride in that fact!) , complete with enhanced photos (ie. photoshop work when needed); but you'll also recieve the original raw photos with full repro rights.

Here's a few highlight photos and my full portfolio (flash required and under construction...).

Harvard's no problem for us and your requirements seem reasonable. So if you're interested or need to know more, let me know at pooyaposh "at" gmail "dot" com.
Anyways, best of luck with your search!
posted by pooya at 12:33 PM on August 5, 2005

400 bucks is peanuts?
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:36 PM on August 5, 2005

I actually think that $400 is a reasonable amount of money to pay for just the photographer's shooting and dragging the files to CD, if the total shooting time is truly 5 hours, and the photographer doesn't have to stay overnight. 10 weddings like this, and the photographer has paid for his/her rig.

But it would be too little to pay to someone who is also spending a week retouching the files and having them printed and made into albums, or who is spending 12 hours at the event (usually from bride getting makeup done till end of reception). But the Mayor isn't asking for this.

The thing is, wedding photography is actually not a viable small business without the huge markups. To make $50,000 a year, a photographer would have to make $1000 profit at 50 weddings (or $400 profit at 125 weddings). Thus, there just aren't that many wedding weekends available to get to earn a living just from the labor/skills/gear. Which is why the photographers then sell the extra services, like album design and retouched prints.

And thus the tension between those who are trying to do it for a living and therefore are trying to get at least $1000 from each wedding, and those who have a regular job anyway and just want to shoot for fun, who are willing to take "peanuts."
posted by xo at 1:15 PM on August 5, 2005

I dunno, xo. I don't think $400 is reasonable for a professional photographer. If you're willing to go with a student or hobbyist, I think it's sufficient.

Just my experience--and your market may vary--but when I hire someone for work (and again, I work with the less expensive folks) I usually pay about $150 an hour. Many photogs won't even do that and require at least a half day committment from you. A few years ago, when my boss wanted to hire some local up and coming guy, he wanted $2500 for a half-day plus assistant expenses.

I think what may be a little tough in Mayor Curley's position is that, it being a wedding, the photog may need to get a hotel room if the event runs late, which will really eat into the profit. But if someone is trying to build up a portfolio, it just might the perfect opportunity.

Incidentally, around the time I got married, two of my girlfriends did as well. One paid around $7000 (Philly) and the other paid $10,000+ (New Jersey) for professional wedding photographers.

PS Mayor Curley, whomever you hire, don't forget to feed them at the wedding.
posted by Sully6 at 1:47 PM on August 5, 2005

Mayor Curley, whomever you hire, don't forget to feed them at the wedding.

Oh, I forgot to add that the food will be spectacular. And pie from Verrill Farm instead of cake.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:02 PM on August 5, 2005

I used to be married to a photographer who did a lot of weddings. You can be prepared, and that will help. Make a list of the must-have photos, not just "the kiss," but also lots of Family Groups. This is the 1 time that the whole family will be there, as cleaned up as they're likely to ever get. That goes double for any elderly relatives - get a shot with Great-Gramma Sadie, if you're lucky enough to have one. At the reception, get the standard cake-cutting, 1st dance, toasts shots, and go table to table to see if there are guests who want group shots - like the Frat bothers, the imaginary friends from some website, the Ulimate Frisbee teammates, etc. Ask your friends with cameras to take backup shots of the formals and some reception shots.

You pay a professional to show up regardless of car trouble, or a sick kid, to have the right equipment and backup, and not to blow it. S/he has the experience to see what works best, and should also be able to correct the color balance. You also pay for the fact that there are a limited number of days available to them for wedding photo. You're wise to insist on having the originals. A good family photo can be in every holiday card, and you can put a nice formal in thank you notes, if you're so inclined.

Advice: When you're having your picture taken, straighten your back, and take and let go of a deep breath. Conciously relax your shoulders. The bride and bridesmaids look nicer with the bouquet held lower, and without a death grip. Smile. You look better smiling, even if you don't think so, although you don't have to grin.
posted by theora55 at 2:21 PM on August 5, 2005 [1 favorite]

Your kids probably won't be interested in watching a video, but it is nice to have your parents' wedding photos. Moreover, it's an occasion to get beautiful pictures of each spouse, the couple together, extended family, etc.

cribcage - My husband and I have gotten all that. Neither of us are very photogenic when posed, but I have nicer photos of everyone in my family now than I ever have before. A few aren't very good, mainly because where we did the formal photos was crowded, and people ended up looking at different cameras, but I have wonderful photos of my grandparents (who do not pose well), and of my friends and family. Along with six million of my husband and I, being natural (yes, those poses at the end were us being natural).

But sorry, this is off-topic. I just wanted to show Mayor Curley what non-professional photographs might look like, so that he knows what he is getting into. splatta's are nicer, of course.
posted by jb at 2:21 PM on August 5, 2005

Do immediately try Craigslist. For DC, anyway, under "Services," and then "event," there are usually about 5 to 10 posts a week by either heavily discounted professional wedding photographers or near-to-free photographers who are trying to get their foot into the wedding business market. Good luck.
posted by onlyconnect at 3:43 PM on August 5, 2005

$400 is abhorrently low for 5 hours of wedding photography. It's ain't a war-zone, but it sure as shit ain't easy. For an extra 3-400, you might be able to acquire the services of a staff photographer at a local newspaper. We do it for less than those wedding photography bastards, and our pictures are usually a lot better anyway. But seriously, man, $400 is highway robbery and you'll get what you pay for: crap.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 4:24 PM on August 5, 2005

I'd like to say a couple of things, and have everyone understand that I'm trying to put this as nicely as possible. I don't wish to offend, but some things need to be said.

First off.

I would mostly be doing this for the experience, not the money, so the $400 is just gravy.

This is absolutely, positively the worst offer I've ever read. If you want to do it for experience, you don't get to charge him money. Because you don't have a single wedding under your belt (or at least, I didn't see any in your portfolio, but please forgive me if I missed them), you will miss some shots. I've only done a few weddings professionally, and assisted a wedding photog for a while. Every single time I learned something new. You don't want your photographer to be learning at your expense.

Look, this is (hopefully) the ONLY chance Mayor Curley will EVER have to get wedding pictures. One chance. That's IT. You miss the ring on the finger, you miss the first kiss, you miss the first dance, you miss dad walking down the aisle with his little girl, you miss the first dance... you miss ANY of this, and you failed. You camera malfunctioned at the critical moment? Too bad. Your exposure was thrown off by the bright background? TOO BAD. You were too busy eating and missed a memorable moment at the reception? TOO FRIGGIN' BAD.

Which brings me to another point:

whomever you hire, don't forget to feed them at the wedding.

Either you're a guest, or you're a hired professional. You can't do both. No eating, no drinking, no schmoozing. Just pictures. That's it. Five hours of snapping, walking around, snapping some more, getting the good angle, getting shots off the "list" all the while capturing those moments that the B&G will thinking back fondly on and say, "Gee, that was wonderful, I wish we had a picture of it."

This is the sort of mentality you need to have to be a successful wedding photographer. It's not easy. And it's absolutely not something to be taken with the kind of breezy attitude that I see here. You have to meet the B&G, get a feel for what they want, what kind of wedding it's going to be, scope out shots beforehand.

I just can't believe people have been offering their "services" and haven't even asked some of the most elementary questions, like "how big is the wedding party?" Frankly, any photographer that didn't have a ton of questions for me before the Big Day would be instantly nixed from my list.

Finally, a warning.

Mayor Curley, anyone who contacts you to do your wedding, get uneditted, full-res samples from them. Far, far too many hacks will steal photographs off other photogs' sites and pawn them off as their own just to secure a gig. Weeks later you'll be wondering why none of your wedding shots look nearly as good as the ones your hired "professional" showed you.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:37 PM on August 5, 2005

After reading Civil_Disobedient's above writeup it's got me a bit scared, and I'll withdraw. However, I would like to ask how experienced wedding photographers get experience if nobody will hire someone who's learning on the job?
posted by splatta at 4:44 PM on August 5, 2005

how experienced wedding photographers get experience if nobody will hire someone who's learning

You work as an assistant to a professional. You get paid crap wages, do all the hard work, lug all the equipment and watch the pro rake in thousands. You put in your time, until you are automatic. Every wedding has its trials and tribulations, you need to have enough experience to be able to instantly adjust.

I'm sorry I was so scathing, splatta--I didn't mean to offend. cribcage is spot on:
I think digital cameras have destroyed photography the same way the Beatles destroyed pop music: They have fostered the myth that anyone can do it, and the general level of competence has suffered.
This is precisely the problem.

It's one thing to be able to take good photographs. It's quite another to be able to consistently do it. The pro I worked with wouldn't leave the house for less than $6,000. But there was never any question that there would be great shots. When you're learning, you've got time to screw up, time to get it right. You don't get this luxury at a wedding.

splatta, your photos show real promise, and it would probably do you good to find a pro in the area to assist, if for no other reason than to get comfortable with the process. Kinda like taking a standardized test--the questions have their own intrinisic difficulty that is separate from the anxiety of the test structure, which is why Kaplan and Princeton Review are so successful: talent is no substitute for experience.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:05 PM on August 5, 2005

Sorry to keep replying to myself.

MC: I think your best bet is to talk to googly's friend, and if they want/need some assistants/backup, have a couple of MeFi folk come along and help. I'd be happy to offer my assistance for free, but I wouldn't want all the responsibility/liability to fall on my shoulders for $400.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:10 PM on August 5, 2005

One other good option is to contact the folks at New England School of Photography (NESOP). Students are always looking for work opportunies, and will work for less than a professional, while giving you good quality. Good Luck!
posted by SobaFett at 5:48 PM on August 5, 2005

Either you're a guest, or you're a hired professional. You can't do both. No eating, no drinking, no schmoozing.

Civil_Disobedient, all I was suggesting is that chances are your photographer will want to grab a bite to eat while working, depending of course on the hours. I'm sure everyone has different professional standards, but I have observed plenty of wedding photographers having a quick nosh during the reception. Since some jobs can last upwards of 12 hours, this doesn't seem unreasonable to me.
posted by Sully6 at 7:50 PM on August 5, 2005

Since some jobs can last upwards of 12 hours, this doesn't seem unreasonable to me.

No, you're right, but usually there's an assistant as a backup.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:11 PM on August 5, 2005

Another thing I'd really recommend in the photography department is putting disposable cameras on the tables at the reception. We did this at our wedding and am I so glad we did. Are they high quality works of art? Definitely not. But they are awesome shots taken by people who knew us and are full of past inside jokes and and table-only events that I wasn't even aware were going on. While I love the shots that our professional photographer did, I'd say I value these shots just as much. You can get a regular five-pack at lots of local stores and they aren't expensive if you do without the cheesy wedding pack ones.
posted by undertone at 9:31 PM on August 5, 2005

I think C_D overstates the seriousness - not everyone cares that much about photos. We didn't get a photo of me walking down the aisle - and I don't care. There are plenty of photos of both the groom and me. Four cds worth of photos, actually, plus more coming in from friends and family. And we've been complimented on their quality, the very natural character. No, you can't do it over - but you can't do over the birth of your children, and people don't hire professionals to photograph that.

Sometimes you can't capture it all - so you shouldn't go into a huge amount of debt if you can't afford it. If your wedding isn't going in the New York Times, you have to ask yourself what is important. We had friends for whom it was important - they have wonderful photographs by a professional. We like our amateur ones. I'm making the wedding album (probably to be distributed on CD, and people can request printouts on our in-laws good photo printer).

Of course, I (the bride) also DJ'd the dancing after the band was done, because I usually hate what DJs choose. I made a playlist of good dancing music, burned a couple of quick mix cds so I could just hit play and walk away, and we and our friends got to listen to our music. It was great.
posted by jb at 9:58 PM on August 5, 2005

Civil_Disobedient is right on. Every word. That's a lot of time and thought into his comments, and he said it so much better than I could have.

There are a few people who don't care about the pics, but most do. Depending on family and hobbyists may result in very nice, casual, intimate pics you like, but it's a crapshoot and you only get one chance.

I've shot weddings through two husbands, and I really like the team concept, but that's not for everybody, or the only way to do it.

It's polite to offer food and drink, and it's also polite to say, "I'll grab a bite when I'm through shooting", which is the right thing to say, or take turns if there's two.

The single biggest problem I've ever seen at weddings? Booze. The best advice I could offer anyone about picking out people to work the wedding is ask to visit briefly a wedding reception this person is going to be working soon. It only takes a few minutes, after the reception is well underway, and if the DJ or the photographer is obviously drinking, keep looking. He's supposed to be working, and can get hammered on his own time. For some reason, it's an occupational hazard.

The best compliments we ever got were, "I was afraid no one was taking pictures, I didn't see you." That's just our style, we were as unobtrusive as possible, and it may or may not be important to you, it's just something to consider.

Another thing you may not be aware of, most of the big time pros will have it in the contract that nobody else can shoot. We just said we're first, when we get the group shots we want, all your relatives with Brownies are welcome to take pictures while the group is still posed together. (This can't work at a large wedding, because it slows things down too much.)

I'm not telling you how to run your wedding in any way, other than if you want good pictures, they aren't cheap. I'm only pointing out a couple of things you might want to ask questions about in advance. The only reason for mentioning the way we did things is as an example, not in any way to imply it's right or the only way or whatever. I'm only trying to give you the tools to think about what you want to do, and what's important to you.

Best wishes on the wedding!
posted by unrepentanthippie at 7:58 AM on August 6, 2005

Another idea for a cheaper option: the last time I got married, I went with one really professional and expensive portrait of the two of us in our wedding clothes, and snapshots taken by whoever felt like it for all the rest. Worked out okay.
posted by JanetLand at 2:00 PM on August 6, 2005

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