Overhead

Discussion in 'Weddings' started by JohnRichard, Sep 15, 2009.

  1. JohnRichard

    JohnRichard Member

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    So I am having some arguments about overhead in my wedding business.

    This is going to be an Analogue vs. Digital debate, I hate that, but it is what it is.

    I shoot only film. I am trying to get very much more serious about my studio work. I have done a cost analysis on what my over head would be on par with someone shooting digital.

    The going rate for images is about 700-1000. This is for the big expensive packages above about $2500. Using that model I did up some costs for 18 rolls. 8 rolls of 120, and 12 rolls of 35mm, all color. That's 532 images. Just to get a good mix.

    My cost using the lab of my choice is $0.80/per image. That includes film cost, processing, High-rez Digital scan on CD, and 4x5 proof.

    Now the argument comes in. Is the cost of shooting film equal to that of the useful lifetime of a professional digital camera? I'm not talking about a 'blad with a $50,000 digital back here... more like a Canon 5d, which is what most of the professionals in my area use.

    I think that it can be done cheaper using a $500 camera that I have to buy once, than using a $2500 camera I have to buy every 3 or 4 years. Do digital cameras last that long in the professional world?


    Thoughts?

    Please note that if Digital wins in the cost/benefit, I will be ok with that, but I will whine about it all the way to the bank.
     
  2. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    John,

    I like your thinking, but I know from personal experience the my daughter wanted digital photography of her wedding two years ago so that she could send CDs of her wedding to her friends. The younger generations have no concept of the quality of film over digital, and they only know that digital is always the best for everything every time. My son-in-law is intriged by film but does not have the time or the money to really get into it. He also thought that digital was the way to go for the wedding.

    During the shoot after the wedding, when the photographer was done, I suggested several other ideas which the photographer liked. So then I took out my camera and both of us took the photos that I suggested.

    The photographer was too expensive to keep around for the cutting of the cake. She asked me to take those photographs. She and her friends loved my prints.

    This is just the way it is. "The customer is always right."

    Steve
     
  3. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    I think the way you have it digital is cheaper. I'm not saying better, but cheaper. If you processed all of your own film I think it would be closer in cost. I would stick with film :D
     
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  4. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Subscriber

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    Okay, I am wading in on this one even though we are on really thin ice regarding appropriateness for APUG.

    I do think it is folly to try to compete with digital using film in terms of quantity. I think that the massive numbers of images being taken today have a lot to do with the digital process, and that the film process is going to be so much more cumbersome and expensive if you try to imitate what the digital shooters are doing. I do wonder if there isn't another way. Perhaps finding out how to compete as a high end photographer who provides high quality film images rather than high quantity digital. I am making some of these kinds of calculations as well right now, and am really not sure how well that market will work, but I really do doubt that there is a way to try to keep up with digital on a quantity basis.

    Pictage charges $0.30 for a 4X5 digital proof. That means $250 savings per wedding, if it is based on 500 images. You also don't necessarily need to have proofs printed, if your clients like the idea of on line proofs. If you can give them color corrected files, you are down to 20 cents per, saving another $50. If you do 20 weddings a year, you are at $5,000 - $10,000 per year, which is multiple 5Ds. Per year.

    Now, I am not advocating for digital here, I am just stating that there are things that digital is better for, and certainly "spray and pray" is one of them. If your clients are demanding 500 plus images, you are going to pay a lot to use film. I guess you might save some effort on managing the files, but since you are using a digital process anyway, I am not convinced.

    However, I have really come to believe that there is a lot of momentum in the "film = art" area that can be used to differentiate yourself from the marketplace. I have really been looking at this myself, as I am planning on starting to do weddings and really believe that one needs to have a marketing position, something to differentiate one's self from the competition. If you wish to use film, and I really understand that, I believe that is the direction to go.
     
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  5. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I have not given up on film. I recently made another large investment for film for myself. However, I do not have to make a living photographing weddings.

    Steve
     
  6. JohnRichard

    JohnRichard Member

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    I apologize for bringing the D-word in on this one.

    I totally agree that there is no way I can compete with Digital in quantity.
    I think half the problem I am having is that I don't know that the people in my area will want anything else than the standard trip everyone is pushing right now...
    "Art" isn't real big around here... If I had my way, It would be all High-key, Low-key black and whites, and Color with loads of contrast. I'm sure someone will like it (read: buy),
    but the masses don't seem to care about anything but what they are told to care about.

    I think brides would look particularly awesomely beautiful in a full portrait with the "blowing out the sun" technique. Just my 5 cents.
     
  7. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    One great thing is that the pictures you take in black and white; and process archivally on fiber-base paper, they shall be able to show to their great grand children. We all know; because the technology is that old. Ask the bride to be if that makes any difference to her.

    AND---have you checked the solenoid adjust to ensure the bulbs will be synching?
     
  8. JohnRichard

    JohnRichard Member

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    Agreed. That may make a difference.

    AND--Sorry, I have been chasing you around different threads. I don't have a solenoid on my lens.
     
  9. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Archival is great, but the younguns aren't interested unless it is on a computer. I rather see film used but this is the reality.

    But this reality makes film camera that I could not afford in the past, affordable now!

    Steve
     
  10. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    John,

    I'm doing weddings on film and what I have found is that I make more money per hour.

    I made the decision that my job is to shoot and keep the shot count much lower then you suggest, <250; I'm truly after just keepers, then the lab does the rest.

    I get paid nicely for my time there, the client pays all processing costs on top of my fee, $50 per roll including proofs and scans.

    Simple quick and done.
     
  11. JohnRichard

    JohnRichard Member

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    I have decided to do just that. Forget all the 5000 proof and digi files junk. I'm going to shoot 5-10 rolls, and call it done.

    I have decided to shoot all the formal stuff on 120, and the reception in 135.
    I'll offer prints of the formals and digi the 35mm...

    It seems the best route.
     
  12. PeteZ8

    PeteZ8 Member

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    One thing to keep in mind with switching from film to "D" is your back end. Right now you shoot a wedding, throw film in a box and bring (ship?) it out out to your lab. Then you sit down, drink a beer, watch TV, and a few days later you get your images back. Throw some proofs online from the CD so the family can place orders and start sorting proofs and arranging an album.

    With "D" you are your own lab in most cases. Shoot a wedding, unload some cards, make backups of those cards, make backups of the backups, import them all into Photoshop/Lightroom/NX/CameraRAW or what have you, edit, adjust, fix, etc, etc. Then either pull your hair out for two days making prints on an expensive inkjet, or send them to a lab for printing. Also, post proofs online for the family to order from and arrange and album. Maybe sneak in a beer while the cards unload.

    You can't forget the backend expense (computer, software, upgrades, drives, etc). Not to mention the time, expect to double your time behind the scenes from what you spent at the wedding. If you figure what your time is worth, that can be a lot of expense. Time you could be out shooting something and making money behind a camera not in front of a monitor playing photo lab.

    I guess the question to ask is are you saving money by doing more of the work yourself. The answer to that is probably yes. But is it worth it.
     
  13. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    that is all great, if you have a lab near you that can process your work :wink:
    i am up here in rhodeisland where there used to be 3 or 4 pro labs for the whole state,
    and now maybe there is one prolab left that still processes film ...

    :sad:
     
  14. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I actually send mine 900 miles away to Richard Photo Lab in So. Cal. I have built priority mail cost into the $50/roll processing.

    The clients are told from the start that it's going to take several weeks. I'm getting no push back at all.

    I'm also finding that it's not hard to sell the clients on staying under 250 shots vs 2500 shots. I help them understand how many shots they will really use and how many their freinds will actually be willing to sit through. I also suggest that if they want 1000's that video is probably a better choice than still photos.

     
  15. JohnRichard

    JohnRichard Member

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    Yes, Yes, Yes!

    A friend and I have been arguing this point over and over. He states that most people already HAVE a computer and printer and stuff, and I said that most people that don't know the first thing about editing or printing have an e-machine from the Wal-mart and a portable Canon printer. He just couldn't get it through his head that if someone went into business, they would think they NEED a new computer (which they probably do), and a new printer (which they do).

    I DO NOT want to sit in front of a computer for 60 hours touching up this and making that pretty. The only thing I do with my computer is increase the contrast on some prints/neg scans if they are not where I want them to be. I can find someone to do all that for me, and bill the customer for it. Then, I have much more time to go SHOOT! That's what I really want to do.
    I have no problem sending stuff to Richards Photo Lab, and the downloading the digital scans. The youngers can facebook the crap out of it, and I'll still have pretty negs I can print.
     
  16. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    John,

    I would like to see you succeed in this business model. Please keep us informed.

    Best of luck!

    Steve
     
  17. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Subscriber

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    Same here John, I am looking forward to hearing more. And Mark, that is great to hear, I am very impressed that you are succeeding by doing something different than the masses.
     
  18. JohnRichard

    JohnRichard Member

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    Thanks for your words of wisdom. I am still planning my gear setup. I have decided I don't like rangefinders. There is just something about them that is weird. That thought is weird, because I like my Yashika-Mat... and it has a leaf shutter. But even it has a more positive feel than the rangefinder when I mash the button. So, I am thinking that I will shoot with just that, or, if I decide to get the Bronica, that. And, I think I will shoot the 135 stuff with my trusty K-1000, why not. After all, I don't need all that fancy stuff, I like simple. It has a PC socket, and hot shoe. The standard 50mm lens is fine for reception work, and I'm use to it. I am going to crash some weddings, because I can, to see what the competition is using. I'm sure they shoot digital, but it will be neat to see if they think about the lighting or if they just bought a Nikon sunpak (whatever) just because it was expensive.

    I am also having a hard time deciding weather to use a single light weight strobe on a stand, or not. I posted about strobes in the lighting section if any of you want to chime in.
     
  19. Marco B

    Marco B Member

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    I once was out shooting a castle ruin with my Tachihara camera. A girl came up to me, and was interested what I was doing. I showed her the camera and explained a bit. After a look through the camera, she said: I would hire you for my wedding if I had one...

    I have never pursued this option yet, but I seriously think you could make real money shooting just 10-20 LF formal photos on a wedding, taking into account all other positive responses I have had to using that camera out in the field.

    And even if you would shoot anything else (non-formal on rolls of 35mm or 100's of digital shots), these photos would get lost in the barrage of all other digital photos taken by family, friends etc... By the time you have your photos ready, the wedding couple will be numbed (and that's from some experience I heard from a female photographer doing that kind of work).

    In the end, tell me, who is really interested in seeing the 100th photo of a distant cousin eating a steak at your wedding party???

    Marco
     
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  20. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    The people at Richard Photo Lab are great and they really can do the whole thing for you. Try your proofs printed on 5x5 paper with 1/4 or 1/2 inch minimum borders.
     
  21. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    I shoot weddings (using the D word) and I use film. As you've found, you cannot compete on quantity against spray-and-pray using film, but nor should you want to. However, there are benefits to having digital around for the purpose of getting candids because it seems that what people mostly want now is candid coverage of their wedding and not so much the formal shots. People standing stiffly in groups are not cool, but people engaged and lively and probably unaware that they're being shot - they're the shots that I find that people respond best to. And they want a good photo of EVERY guest.

    If you're doing digital properly, there is definitely more time involved than there is if you're just posting some films off to the lab. However, it doesn't have to be the massive time-sink that people here are saying that it is. I typically shoot about 1000 shots at a wedding (over the course of 10 hours: ceremony, reception, everything) and it takes me maybe 4 hours to do all the postprocessing on them. I don't process heavily (no blemish repairs, face swaps, etc) but just deal with colour issues, adjust contrast, etc. While that extra 4 hours is annoying, it's way way way less time than I'd spend in front of an enlarger just to get a handful of good prints!

    While you need (to pay for) proofs or at least scans of all your analogue shots, you don't need to pay for prints on ANY digital shots except for the ones that you really want. While I might shoot about 1000 shots, I'll cull that straight to about 300 that the customer sees and then you might be looking at picking 150 for an album and another 10 for larger prints.

    If I were you (well actually, I'm me, and this is what I do... it may not be right for you at all), I would use each technology where it is best suited. Use a DSLR for all the candids and chasing kids around and experimental grab-shots that might come off and high-ISO church shots (ISO1600-3200 in colour is quite viable these days, which gets you shots in very dark locations, particularly if you have stabilisation). Where you have time for high quality formal setups and/or know you might want to print large, use medium format.

    If you want to make archival FB prints and sell them as your top-of-the-range product, then do so! Obviously with such an approach you're not aiming at the budget-wedding people (because they'll go with a $500 spray-and-pray, burn-to-cd incompetent), but that's no reason to forgo the best tool for each job on the basis of some ideology.