San Diego Photography - Unveiled Wedding Photography FAQs
I hope that the information below will help debunk some of the myths out there regarding wedding photography, clarify some of the technical aspects, and overall simply help educate you so that you can make an informed decision when you hire a wedding photographer here in San Diego.
1. Professional lenses and cameras: a big factor in image quality and photographic style.
Camera quality is of course an obvious factor in image quality. Professional cameras have higher quality components, they are more reliable, resist moisture and rain, and all-around simply deliver a higher quality image with less digital noise, more detail, and more accurate color. A 10MP (megapixel) professional camera delivers higher quality images than a 10, 12 or even 15 MP non-professional camera because the chip quality far exceeds that of the cheaper cameras (see #2 below for more about this). One of the commonly overlooked factors in achieving a high quality photo however is the use of professional lenses and the quality of these lenses vs. the far cheaper consumer lenses.
There are SO MANY ways that lenses are just as big of a bigger factor in the final photo as the camera. Here are a few:
It's not all about having the most megapixels (MPs). The megapixel race began years ago and hasn't stopped yet. Did you know that by making the chip size larger (more MPs) that the camera companies many times actually sacrifice image quality in non-professional cameras? The reason for this is that the more pixels you cram into a given area, the more "digital noise" aka "grain" is produced due to the pixels being crammed together so close. Since everyone (the typical consumer) thinks it's only about having the most MP, the camera companies just make them bigger and bigger (with only modest improvements at best). Professional cameras tend to offer actual improvements in image quality with the increase in MPs, where as typical point and shoot cameras and amateur cameras (like the Canon Rebel) simply increase the size while not improving the sensor's ability to adequately handle that increase in size.
When actual tests are done, a professional 8-10 MP camera may actually have much higher quality images than a 15 MP ‘point and shoot' or ‘consumer camera' (Rebel type camera). Enlargements will actually look better from the much smaller, yet profession image sensor. Crazy, huh! This is because the quality of the chip (and other components in professional cameras) is just as important as the size of the chip. Professional sensors actually have much higher sensitivity to light as well, and allow the photographer to get better results in low light conditions (like in churches). Professional SLR cameras cost $3000-$8000 each because of this. Cheap photographers are many times using cheaper cameras, and in the end your album and enlargements will show this lack of quality.
"super zoom" that does it all well, it just does it all poorly or with average results at best.
3. Can I see a full wedding shot by your company?
Yes, that's not a problem! For obvious reasons we don't post entire weddings on the web page, but we can definitely send you a link to view a couple of our recent weddings. Please just e-mail me directly with the photographer(s) you're interested in seeing more work from. Keep in mind that work viewed on your computer is only as good as your computer's monitor- most average monitors are too bright and the color is off, which is why we also like to show our work in person so you can see the finished prints as they are meant to be seen. Monitors are also low resolution compared to prints and albums, so you only get an “idea” of image quality by looking at web galleries. Make sure you look at large prints and albums in person when selecting a photographer.
4. Why is photography so expensive?
Well, to be honest, it's really not. If you look at it in the context of what other professionals who have years of experience charge, we typically undercharge by comparison (read below and I believe you'll agree).
If you look at other trained professionals (plumbers, electricians, accountants etc.) you'll see average billings from $150-$250 per hour. If you consider that we have to be at a wedding for 7-8 hours (on a weekend no less), and then after that we do 8-10 (or more) hours on post-production on a wedding (digital editing, color correction, retouching, cropping, sorting and backing up files, driving to the lab and picking up the prints), and have expenses associated with the wedding like hiring assistants and using pro photo labs, and we answer e-mails and phone calls and meet with clients generally several times before and after the wedding, that's around 25-30 hours spent on the typical wedding, not just 8, and that's without an album!!
Once another type of professional leaves your house (like a plumber or electrician) he's done….we've just begun!! By comparison, at an average $200/hr (like professionals in other fields), we should be charging around $5000-$6000 simply to shoot your wedding with no products like albums or prints, just our service. Albums can take another 5-30 hours + expenses depending on the type and size of the album. If you now consider that the typical professional photographer has $15,000-$30,000 in camera and computer gear (if he's buying quality gear as explained in #1 above) that has to be constantly upgraded vs. the typical professional's tools (how much do you think plumber's tools cost? Electrician's? Not that much by comparison!!), we're making even less than they are again. As business owners we also have tens of thousands every year in expenses just to break even as well (advertising, insurance, office supplies, computers, software, utilities, vehicle expenses, etc, etc).
Another way to look at it: A recent Photo District News survey of full-time professional photographers showed that photographers (experienced ones) who work 40-60 hours per week are typically not making as much as the typical teacher (with the same experience level) in the same city!!! After you add up all the benefits that teachers make (health insurance, paid vacation, retirement plans etc) they are really making a lot more than just their paycheck. As small business owners, we don't get many benefits, we work long hours including weekends and evenings, and we don't get paid overtime or get paid vacation AT ALL, or paid sick days (if we can't work, we simply lose that paycheck-I take an average of 0-2 sick days per year- that's it!!). If you look at how teachers are often characterized as being "poor" or underpaid, and then look at what the typical photographer makes after all his hours of work and after all his tens of thousands of expenses per year are added up, we are really quite the bargain if we cost under $5000 per wedding.
The same holds true for engagement sessions and family portrait sessions...in the end, most sessions take 4-6 hours or more with the post-production, drive time, meeting afterwards, etc., but you don't see us charging $800 for a session as it would be for 5 hours of an electrician's/plumber's time. We make a small fee for the session, and hope to make more later on print orders or in selling the CD of digital files. Many don't understand why we may charge extra for the CD in certain instances, but as you can see, we are working at very low wages to begin with and can't afford to give these things away.
In the end, we love what we do, but we work very long hours as well as working weekends and evenings (which other professionals charge extra for). We have tens of thousands in overhead every year, and tens of thousands in equipment costs that only last a few years. Professional photographers really aren't that expensive if you look at it in the context I've outlined above.
5. Are you photojournalistic (what is photojournalism)?
Yes, all the photographers at Unveiled are very photojournalistic (also known as candid photography). What this means is that aside from the posed sessions, all the other photos are completely unposed. 95% of the photos we take are without giving any direction to the subject, and preferably when they're not even aware of us. We are constantly shooting without interrupting what is going on. We use telephoto lenses to "get in close" from far away so that we're very unobtrusive. Some photos may even seem posed because the placement of the people or elements are perfectly positioned in the photo, but this is actually due to many years of experience and the ability of a good photojournalist to position himself quickly at the right place to capture something as it unfolds where everything is positioned in a perfect composition (just like sports photographers and news photographers do). We never stop you during your dance, or toast, or any other time and direct you to look somewhere, to look at the camera (except during the posed photos of course), or to do something for a "faked" candid. What you see on our site is us catching a moment as it happens! That's our job! That's what we do! That's what separates a professional who has shot hundreds of weddings from someone who is just starting out with only a couple years of experience.
6. Why do many other photographers only post their "best shots" in their image galleries?
The short answer: They don't think you'll realize it and you'll become emotionally attached to just a few of their best ever photos! There are many photographers here in San Diego that just show a few images from each wedding to either keep you from seeing that they are inexperienced, or to give the impression that they are a "high-end" photographer. This is all very calculated. They want you to see their very best shots only, which is why they only show a couple images from each wedding! This isn't a good representation of what they'll give you when covering your entire wedding, but they hope you won't realize this. You'll notice in our galleries that we post a variety of images from each wedding so you can see our consistency from wedding to wedding. We also post large amounts of photos from each event on our blog- not just a few. It's very easy for them to post a couple great shots from 20 different weddings, and many people will jump unconsciously to the decision that all their photos are amazing and they are better than other photographers. That's just not the case most of the time! You're looking at only the 2-3 best shots from a wedding of 500 images! These photographers are hoping you'll judge them on their "best ever" shots and not on their consistency or their ability to deliver an entire wedding better than anyone else with similar experience. Every photographer has "great shots", but what separates an "O.K." wedding photographer from a great one is the ability to capture good shots throughout the whole day (along with some great ones), on every wedding they shoot, and not miss any of the 500 shots that you want captured during the whole day. Many very expensive photographers only show these great shots in their web galleries to hook you into wanting to hire them for thousands more than other photographers, and many beginners just don't have the volume of consistent work to show, so they just show you the shots that came out good. Be very careful of this when looking to hire a photographer. Look at a lot of work, not just some "great shots". You may be paying more than you need to because of your "emotional response" to a few great shots by an expensive photographer, or you may unknowingly be hiring a very inexperience photographer based on a few good shots, not his/her ability to do that on a consistent level any better than someone priced much less.
We have become known in San Diego for delivering the kind of consistency I am speaking of here, without charging the over-priced rates that some of our equally experienced competition does. We pride ourselves on being able to show you more than just a couple images from each wedding so that you can get a feel for how our coverage looks, not just our 2 best shots from each wedding. We'll even send you links to view several entire weddings if you like. What you need to keep in mind is that even the most experienced photographers have "typical" photos as well as their "great" photos from each wedding. What you want in a photographer is their ability to not only get some great shots, but to be able to capture your entire day in a beautiful and consistent manner with high-quality gear and an artistic eye. An experienced photographer's "typical" shots are much better than a less experienced photographer's "typical" shots are, but you'll only see this difference when viewing an entire wedding. Inexperienced photographers struggle with consistency (they have lots of dark/underexposed photos and lots of blurry photos) because it takes years to be able to shoot all day long with very few mistakes.
7. What can happen when you hire a less experienced photographer (why pay for the experienced professional)?
There's always someone cheaper, but the question is at what cost?....missed photos, photographer's choice of bad lighting for portraits, poor quality photos from bad technique and "consumer grade" equipment, the wedding running behind and much, much more are just a few of the things that happen with inexperience. There are many beginners out there with pricing that's too good to be true. They want to build their portfolio and charge 1/2 the cost of a true professional, and they'd love to make a little money while doing it. Do you want to be their guinea pig as they learn lighting, composition, technique, lenses and equipment, as well as how to work under the stresses and extremely tight time-lines of weddings, or do you want to guarantee that your photos come out nice? Your wedding only happens once- do you want to guarantee you'll have the photos that you've dreamed of, or do you dare not risk it? Many agree for good reason that wedding photography is high on their priority list and not worth risking. Choose an experienced photographer so you don't have regrets for years to come.
What you get when you hire an experienced photographer is the whole package: the eye, the know-how, the ability to take great photos and move quickly (keeping your wedding on time), great equipment (this means lenses that costs thousands each and deliver way better images than those cheap $300-$500 lenses), and the knowledge to take those photos to the next level in post-production. Post-production is when all the color balancing is done at a professional level so there is consistency in how all the final photos look. Creating great b/w (and color) images takes time and doesn't just happen with the click of a button. This is what keeps us busy during the week after the wedding. An inexperienced photographer not only will miss photos and not get those compositions that are artistic, but he/she may also not have the experience to make people look good when adjusting the color of each and every photo. This takes many hours to do for each wedding and years of experience to do it well. Inexperienced photographers may attempt all this post production themselves because they can't afford to hire a professional lab to adjust the color to make the images the best they can be (see #11 below).
8. Why are there some photographers that are priced well below everyone else? Their portfolio looks good from what we can tell.
Many times when prices are very low there is a definite reason that may not be apparent without doing a little research into that particular photographer's experience level. Portfolios can be very deceiving. Many lesser experienced photographers out there will assist experienced photographers at weddings and build their portfolio. They are not in charge of the wedding as an actual photographer, they are just assisting. This kind of photography is very easy compared to being the photographer that is in charge because the assistant benefits from "having their hand held" all day long while they practice...they also don't have to make many of the decisions that the main photographer does (lighting, angles, compositions). This assistant photographer gains all the benefits of the primary photographer's decisions (guidance in the camera setting to use, shown where the lighting is good, told how to get certain shots for that particular instance), and then this assistant puts a portfolio together with several of these weddings that they did not really shoot themselves. Some photographers that are very cheap are also priced this low because they have only shot a few weddings.....it is very easy to take the best 30 photos from a wedding and make it look good. The real test is how the other 500 photos came out. This is why it's VERY important to either look at a couple full weddings if you aren't sure of the photographer's experience level, and ask them how many wedding they've shot. Any fewer than 75-100 weddings as the PRIMARY photographer, not as a 2nd photographer (ask them) and they are definitely beginning. Also ask them how many years they've been doing weddings full time (as of 2010 I've been a professional wedding photographer (full time) for 12 years, shot over 500 weddings as the main photographer, and I have 5 years additional professional commercial photography experience from before getting into weddings in 1998).
9. RAW vs. jpg file formats
Let me clarify first that I am speaking of the format that the camera shoots each image in, not the final image format in the end. Even when shooting RAW, all photographers produce jpgs of their final adjusted RAW images when all the post-production (computer work) is done. It's when the camera itself is shooting jpgs, not RAW, that is the problem. RAW format captures MUCH more detail in the images, which allows for more accurate adjustments on the computer later.
Make sure your photographer shoots RAW- if they don't RUN! Many people don't even realize that there is more than one format that cameras will shoot. Many cameras today, not just professional cameras, have the option to shoot RAW image files. RAW is a higher quality format that provides the photographer with more control over the image. Jpgs are compressed files that while sometimes can turn out great, in many cases they fall short of what the RAW file would do in the same scenario. It would seem obvious that all photographers would shoot in RAW format, however I personally know professionals out there shooting jpgs and it completely bewilders me. I can see the difference in image quality immediately in certain types of photos, and I have personally made comparisons and can see the vast difference in image quality when using the same camera.
In a nutshell, RAW is a way better format that provides higher quality images for a variety of reasons. There are very few professional photographers who disagree, and most of them that do have less experience with the RAW format and just don't understand what they're missing.
If you'd like more details I've provided a detailed explanation below...
Some professionals avoid using RAW because:
RAW files contain all the information your camera saw, not just a small selection of information. When a camera creates a jpg, it throws away a bunch of image information, and many times that information is needed to properly adjust the color, contrast, sharpness and other factors of the photo.
RAW format keeps all your options open for adjustment later and provides the photographer with higher quality images in the end, however, there's a price to pay with time and money. Make sure your photographer is willing to go these extra steps to ensure your images are of the highest quality.
10. Digital & Film
I've been a professional photographer for 15 years. Early in my career I worked with a $50,000 digital studio camera in a commercial photo studio and have been hooked on digital photography ever since, for many applications. In fact, most of my fine art photos are done digitally. On the flip side, I have also been shooting film for 15 years and still continue to use it for certain situations. While I love the convenience and resolution benefits of digital, I also love certain aspects of film. Read below to see both sides of the coin and how it is continuing to evolve.
First, some quick bullet points for those who don't have time for the detailed explanation below:
Now, for the details.... We currently shoot almost 100% digitally. Below is a basic comparison of the two mediums. Film: Up until 2008 we still used film for 50-70% of the photos we took at weddings. The reason was the color fidelity and pleasing skin tones that film delivers.
Now, for the details.... We currently shoot almost 100% digitally. Below is a basic comparison of the two mediums.
We currently shoot almost 100% digitally. Below is a basic comparison of the two mediums.
Film: Up until 2008 we still used film for 50-70% of the photos we took at weddings. The reason was the color fidelity and pleasing skin tones that film delivers.
Digital: Digital is great for its convenience, instant gratification, and the ability to assess the photo instantly. Currently (as of 1/2010), I shoot with a 21 MP camera that has amazing resolution and low image noise. The resolution of the cameras has also come leaps and bounds in the past year or so, to where digital resolution is better in most instances. The "digital noise" that digital cameras produce is the digital equivalent to film grain, and this has improved vastly in just the past year or two as well. All this, of course, depends on which cameras are being compared. Resolution is just one factor. A 10 MP professional camera will often deliver much better results than a 15 MP consumer camera or point and shoot because the chip in the pro camera is higher quality and delivers a "cleaner" image with much less "digital noise" than the much higher resolution amateur camera. This is due to professional cameras having higher quality chips and hardware. In my opinion film still looks better in some situations, but many people don't seem to see the difference (or care for that matter if they do). For this reason we are shooting much more digital now. By doing this we deliver much higher resolution images, with less noise, with a small sacrifice in skin tones (if any). If you are looking to hire me and you are a big fan of film, I will shoot more film when the situation will provide better skin tones (some additional fees may apply).
11. Why we use a professional color lab for the digital file post-production
Unlike some photographers who think they can do everything themselves, we use a professional photo lab for much of the post-production after we do the editing and image adjustments (rotating images for straight horizon lines, cropping images and doing minor retouching). This costs money, but we believe it is a good investment for your photos. The lab we use simply does color adjustments and b/w conversions all day long and they deliver beautiful files. They have expensive monitors and computers that are calibrated to help them make beautiful color adjustments, which then in turn makes beautiful prints and albums. Some photographers do this themselves to save all that money, but you run the risk of the files not being the best if the photographer is really busy the weeks after your wedding, or if he/she is not all that great at doing it to begin with. Some photographers make beautiful sample photos to sell themselves by spending a lot of time on their portfolio, but when it comes to the actual weddings they spend less time on the hundreds of images they have to adjust on a weekly basis for their clients.
Your images are processed the exact same way as the images we show you in our portfolio albums. Since we use a professional lab we deliver consistent color and b/w conversions event after event. It takes a full 40-60 hour work week to run a photo business (shoot weddings and other sessions, do meetings, man the phones, answer e-mails, assemble albums, manage thousands of images and back them up, do accounting and taxes, research and test new equipment, do paperwork and contracts, and do hundreds of other tasks it takes to run a business on a daily basis), so if a photographer is saving money by doing color-correction and all the post-production as well, then he's either not running his business well, not sleeping at all, or he's doing a mediocre job at taking your photos to the level they can be at with great post-production by a dedicated professional lab.
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