Sunday, June 18, 2006

To return to Actual Day Photography

Lomo Cross Processed

I am surprised that even though I have removed my actual day photographs from my web site, I still regularly get enquiries for actual day photography. I wonder how new brides get hold of the idea that I shoot actual wedding days. I guess that I do get brides who have seen work of couples that I have already shoot.

Why did I leave behind actual day photography? I guess that I felt beholden to clients that hired me to shoot my style of black and white candid photography. Actual day weddings in Singapore do not veer very far from a certain formula. Shooting actual day weddings became humdrum. And I did not feel that I was in the position to push the envelope because of the clients expectations.

And even at the rates that I was charging, what I can earn is a pittance in comparison to what I could earn in commercial photography. You have to be a specialist to shoot in a wedding. You are a hunter, constantly looking for a moment. In cramped flats, with horrendous backlighting and badly lit altars, the actual day photographer has to produce a touch of magic. It is not an easy task. For this unforgiving job, I can command about S$2,500 for a 12 hour day of specialist work. On the other hand I can earn $1000 an hour shooting in an air-conditioned office, adding lighting if I need to and directing my subjects as I need. And I don't have to do any postproduction, I simply do basic processing of my images and burn them onto a CD for my commercial client.

Lomo Cross Processed

I was having coffee with Eadwine today, discussing what would make me come out of retirement to shoot an actual day wedding. Well here it is,

1. I am given full artistic control and can shoot whatever I want in whatever format I choose. I will not shoot table or group shoots unless I agree to before hand. But if it is the usual table shots, no way.

2. My fees for a 10 hour day would be S$15,000. Each extra hour will be charged at S$1000. If the usual table shots and group shots are needed, an extra photographer will be included at $1,000 for the day. If they need a photographer that can capture moments, I would charge an extra $2,000 for someone like Eadwine to shoot as well.

Holga Double exposure

What is the logic behind this package? The logic is that I no longer wish to just document a wedding day. I want to create art. I want to be able to be uninhibited by the cost of the materials I choose to use. I could shoot anything from a phone camera to large format. I can use a lomo and do cross processing, or use a camera which I will be specially converting to shoot infrared photography. I will create a final product which is crafted from actual materials used in the wedding or special art papers. I do not want to be bound by the job of documenting the wedding, but be free to interpret the wedding.

I don't know if anyone is willing to hire me under such terms. But the truth is that I did not become a photographer simply to earn a living. I love photography and want to be the best image-maker that I can be. If the market that I am in does not give me the artistic challenges I seek, then I have to move on. $15K would be cheap for an actual day wedding shoot the way I envision it now. I want to be part of the process from trying out the wedding gown, to helping light the wedding altar and wedding hall to creating a unique interpretation of the wedding.

The bottom line is the freedom for me to create something special.


Mike Lee said...

i had the impression that Wesley basically shot weddings on his terms - ie out of make art, maybe not at $1500 an hour, but still without being expected to do group shots and the like.

the conditions to make your return to actual day photography, on your terms, i believe are going to happen.

i think you should also add a clause that the wedding should start no earlier than 10am. :)

Heng said...

Yes. That is what Wesley did. But it was within a black and white format which has now become prohibitively expensive. If I shot black and white today, I would send the negatives to the UK or France for printing. :)

I don't think of the $15k package as shooting at $1.5k an hour. I am taking into account consultancy for the lighting of the wedding as well as extra work in creating a an album that is a work of art.

Cheers and thanks for your vote of confidence.