DON'T HIRE A PRO, DO IT YOURSELF!
For whatever reason there comes a time when everyone wants beautiful photographs, but why do you really need to spend thousands on a photographer? Why are professional photographers sooooo expensive? Seriously, they charge way too much money for just a few pictures. Your friends can do just as good a job with their cell phones! Why would anyone in their right mind pay that price for something they can do themselves? Why would you? If you did it yourself think of the money you would save!
I’m certainly not proposing you have your friends, family or co-workers snap those shots with their cell phones, nor do I suggest you wear a hat with a GoPro attached to it. My strategy will show you how to do everything the pros do including the use of the same equipment, the same software and the same techniques that will invariably produce some extraordinary images.
By following these steps you can move right past the fear of knowing you don’t have the actual experience of a professional photographer. Besides, you probably have some experience behind a camera lens yourself and have taken some pretty cool pictures over the years. Right?
Step 1: Rent the same cameras and lenses the pros use (Estimated Cost — $1,461)
For those extraordinary images you’re going to need extraordinary equipment. Besides, everyone knows that the secret to an awesome photo is the camera. There are places like LensRentals.com and BorrowLenses.com where you can find similar rental packages the pro’s use. These places are great and have exactly what you’re looking for.
If you’re photographing an event, then like any professional photographer you’ll want two on location shooters which means you will need to rent two packages. Each consisting of camera body, several lenses and flash strobes. I highly recommend you get both rental packages for at least a week because you’re going to need to train your new recruits to use these incredible pieces of equipment right way.
I added it up and you can get two Nikon 810’s and lens packages each for around $1,169. Naturally this includes insurance. If someone drops the camera in the fountain of chocolate, you don’t want to be on the hook for the $3,200 or more to replace one camera and one lens.
Step 2: Rent your tripods, soft boxes and memory cards (Estimated Cost — $250)
There’s really no way around not renting these components. You could forgo renting the memory card and buy one, but you’ll need to purchase one like I use which is $229. Why so much? Because you need the 280 MB/s* speed in order to take continuos shots. Otherwise you might miss that one special moment while waiting for a slower card to read and catch up. You’ll need two soft boxes to diffuse the light to get that professinal look for group shots. For example, the family portrait at a wedding. Of course you’ll need stands for the soft boxes and a tripod to hold the camera for that special shot.
I priced it out and we are still doing great. For about $250 you can get all these necessary extras to complete your package. *cha ching!* — ring up the savings. Is it too late to call the hotel and upgrade to the Deluxe Seafood Towers as appetizers for the guest instead of those little mushroom caps filled with spinach?
Step 3: Recruit two friends or starving college students to snap the photos for you (Estimated Cost — $320)
Now that you have the best cameras, which will practically shoot award-winning photos on their own, you can recruit people to do the shooting for you. My recommendation is to recruit two semi-distant friends who are not already guests and who won’t be offended that you didn’t invite them in the first place. If that’s not possible you can always recruit some starving college students willing to work on the cheap. If I were you I would look for a photography student. Either way you will need to spend about $20 per hour, per shooter for about eight hours or even the entire day. That’s only $320! Considerably less than a pro! Besides, modern fancy cameras have made photography so easy that photographers are essentially like robots clicking buttons for you. The savings are starting to pile up!
Step 4: You’re going to need a couple of books and video tutorials (Estimated Cost — $200)
Now the professional equipment you’re using is going to require some basic working knowledge of the camera itself. I would budget in about $200 to cover the cost of some books, video tutorials and to pay the recruited photographers for their time to learn the camera equipment. You don’t want your shooters not knowing the absolute basics of photography before entrusting them with the most important day of your life.
Step 5: Shoot away, tell the photographer to go nuts (Estimated Cost — FREE)
This is the best part. All the photos that you want to take on your wedding day are free. So instruct the photographers you have recruited to go ballistic. Machine gun blast photos everywhere of everyone. Get right in front of the altar if necessary and shoot at 9 fps to get each and every nuance. Professional photographers know exactly when and where to shoot and how to do it with minimal intrusion on the ceremony or guests, so you’ll want to school your shooters on where to be and when. Otherwise I’m going to recommend the shock and awe strategy of having your shooters rapid fire as many shots as possible.
Step 6: Photoshop those pictures! (Estimated Cost — $200)
Thank God for Adobe Creative Cloud. Now instead of spending thousands on Lightroom and Photoshop tools that the professionals use, you can subscribe to a monthly service for about $10 per month. You’re probably going to keep the subscription for about 6 to 12 months as the learning curve for these programs is huge. To save the average cost of $1200 for a beginers class on Photoshop, you’re going to want to get some tutorials and books to help you learn. Bottom line, your Photoshop costs at around $200 for everything is an absolute steal.
Since Photoshop is extremely tricky, I am going to recommend that you spend at least 60 to 100 hours learning the basics of cropping, layers, filters, plugins, masks, dodging, burning, vignetting, selective blur, overlays, lens correction, sharpening and smoothing. These are just the basics, however, and we can’t expect you to reach pro level. After all, many of those professional wedding photographers probably have several thousand hours experience working with Photoshop and associated tools. They also probably have at least $1,000 worth of additional Photoshop plug-ins to make your pictures look beautiful. But remember, the objective here is to save money! And we are! Don’t forget to set aside an additional 60 to 100 hours to edit the photos themselves.
Step 7: You’re going to need to store and share the pictures. (Estimated Cost — $60 first year)
You will want to use a site that allows you store those photos so that you can share them with family and friends. You will probably have thousands and thousands of pictures to store.
Storing them is cheap though. You can use a site like SmugMug and get a full year of beautiful photo sharing for only about $60.
Step 8: Get your prints (Estimated Cost — $200)
Since most professional photographers are going to give you a couple of hundred prints with their packages, you’ll want to budget in about $200 to get 200 high quality 5 by 7 photos from the event.
You can even go to WalMart and get super cheap budget prints and that will only cost you about $120. Besides, that toner on paper should last you at least 7 to 10 years! There are tons of ways to save money on wedding photos!
Conclusion: If you followed my instructions, you just managed to shoot your wedding for less than what it would have cost with most professionals. Hopefully the composition, exposure, lighting and touchup rivals that of a professional. Now, granted, you did have to spend more than a 100 hours of your time renting, learning and editing, but that has got to be worth the money you saved. If we assume your time is worth nothing (and we both know it isn’t) your total cost is $3051.00.
Of course a professional photographer can spread these costs over a certain number of events. But the fact remains they have the burden of these costs as well as replacement equipment. Just last week a child ran into our lightstand (playing with another child) and broke our speedlight. Cost: $429.00. We shoot with several professional lenses that can cost as much as $2000 each. Not to mention two camera bodies per photographer at each event. We can’t run the risk of a camera breaking and apologizing to you for photographs not taken.
There you have it! You probably saved enough money to go to the movies. No snacks though. They're too expensive!