Frequently Asked Questions

Information exchange is a key part of photography. This page is setup to answer some of the photo questions that many people have in regards to professional photography - maybe even some questions you haven't even thought of yet! If you are looking for a wedding photographer, I suggest you read through (or at least skim), the photo tips on this page. It will help you out and inform you - no matter who you choose to take your photos!

If you have a question you would like to ask and you do not see that it has already been addressed on this page, please contact me.

Charlie Zimmerman

Wedding and Portrait FAQs

Wedding Video FAQs

Equipment and Technology FAQs

General FAQs

Question: How much does your wedding package cost?

Answer: The base package, which includes everything photography-related you could want, is $2,500. The video-package is an add-on that costs $500.

Question: Do you create wedding albums for your customers?

Answer: Yes. The wedding package includes a 12x12 album which you have to see in person. When opened it is a full two-feet from side to side.

Additionally, you may purchase other albums from us, although we don't push these on you like other photographers. They are here if you want them, but since you get all of the images on disk (and hundreds online) you can DiY your own album or share and display them however you like.

You can purchase additional 12x12 albums (like for your parents) for $200 each, but we also offer smaller and more affordable albums such as the 10x10 album for $150 and an 8x8 for $100. The 8x8 is super-affordable and easily fits on a shelf. These make great thank-you presents to Mom and Dad for couples on a tighter budget.

Question: Do you sell prints from studio sessions, weddings, or something else I might hire you to shoot?

Answer: No. I supply images on CD (and for weddings in an album, and online) and I tell you where I get my prints done. You're free to use cheap walk-in places like Walmart or CVS to get prints made, or even use your own home printer, but all of these ways have different prices and qualities and I let you the customer decide what balance is best for you. I do not seek to make money off of prints at some large mark-up.

I am a photographer who desires to earn income from creating the best images possible, I am not a printer seeking to gouge you for each print you want to display.

I get most of my prints done via Adorama as I find their quality and prices to be very reasonable.

Question: What type of equipment do you use?

Answer: I shoot with Nikon digital equipment and I have multiple camera bodies and professional lenses. For the studio I have Alien Bees lighting equipment. Further details can be found on my equipment page.

Question: You do wedding photography part time - shouldn't we be looking for someone who shoots weddings full time?

Answer: There is no doubt that there are advantages to hiring a wedding photographer who shoots weddings full time. However, there are also disadvantages as well.

Some of those include how busy the good photographers are and how much time they can spend editing each wedding that they shoot. I've been offered several full time wedding photography jobs by full time wedding photographers who would like to take me on as an associate. I've said "no", for the same reasons I limit the number of weddings I accept each year: I don't want to compromise the quality of any event just to increase the quantity I shoot.

Another popular concern about part-time photographers is the quality of their work. That's one of the reasons why I put so many images up on my web site: you can be the judge of the quality of my work. Each of my lens reviews has sample images. Check some out for more.

Question: Some wedding photographers do not allow (or severely limit) guests taking pictures. How do you handle this?

Answer: I don't have a problem with guests taking pictures so long as you don't either. Some people feel that they need to take pictures next to me to save you money - I give all couples all of my images so this isn't needed - and it can slow things down when it comes to posed family photos. I work for you and if you don't mind I don't mind.

I make sure that everyone at the camera-line gets their shot so I can also be sure you are looking at me when I take my photos. And if someone walks into a photo, I just retake it - that's the huge advantage of digital photography today.

Sadly, some guests in the past have been rude or bossy of the photographers. I leave it up to the bride/grooms as to how to handle these people who may be negatively impacting the photos. I just go with the flow. I've written an entire article about these gusts here, but every photographer has their own long list of stories.

Question: Can you shoot color? Black and white? Maybe a mix of the two?

Answer: All images are digitally recorded in color. I will often convert some to black and white to draw on emotion in the frame, but I really look for great colors when I shoot. I can also combine images into a black and white image that still has one bold color shining through. For example, look at the images on the right and below.

Because all images are recorded in color, your CD-ROM and/or DVD will include the various versions (ex: color, BW, maybe a mix) that I generate as I edit them. If you do or don't like an image in black and white, you will still receive it in color and are free to print or use any version.

Question: Do you travel outside of PA to do photography?

Answer: Yes. I consider travel on a case-by-case basis, depending on my schedule, the distance to travel, and the excitement that the job affords. I prefer to drive, if possible, due to worries about flying with lots of expensive equipment. Travel costs are usually based on my costs meaning I don't charge for the time involved in traveling.

Question: Do you have some sort of blog or other updates about what you're up to?

Answer: No. There are several professional photographer magazines that tout using a blog as a way to connect with your clients and to ultimately drive more sales. I'm content with my sales as is, and I feel that time spent writing is time not spent photographing. I admit I have given it some thought as I think it might be a fun rainy-day thing, but I have enough work to do in photoshop that I look forward to a rainy-day just to get that done.

If I do start one it would be as an equipment review thing only, not an update about today's or yesterday's job. I've found many sites from other professional photographers valuable recommendations to my students considering equipment purchases and I feel I could add something to that community of reviews.

Other than for-hire work I think equipment questions are a top reason that people ask for my help and with technology always changing a review is also not forever. Today's best lens or camera is quickly surpassed by tomorrow's inventions so I see a reviews areas as more of a blog and less of a static content kind of thing. If equipment reviews interests you, let me know as it might serve to get me more motivated.

Question: I have a picture from a magazine of this really pretty bride, can you take a picture just like this of me?

Answer: Probably, but it might take all day and we wouldn't have time for your wedding. Keep in mind that just like perfume advertisements or clothing campaigns, the brides in your wedding magazines are actually models on a set with a crew, a lighting design, and an art director.

If I studied the layout I could probably recreate the lighting itself, depending on complexity maybe the set as well, but this is running into days in the studio, not minutes at your ceremony and hundreds of dollars spent just on a single image.

You would probably be happier having a unique image created where you look just as stunning and beautiful, and that I am sure I can provide.

Question: We're really on a tight budget, what can we get for less money?

Answer: Well, I guess I could take all of the pictures out of focus, or leave the lens cap on. Okay, I'm kidding about that.

On a serious note, I put a lot of time into your event, not just on the day itself, but on the following days and weeks where I edit your photos to make them the best they can be. To reduce that is to reduce what I believe in. And, to remove a second photographer or the online gallery or the album, again compromises what I believe to be necessary for a complete package.

To me, there are three levels of photographers that you will likely encounter. The prices I listed are based on my area (Central PA), but you may see higher or lower prices where you live.

If you own your images you can order albums months or years after your ceremony, but you can't retake the images themselves. Because of this I recommend thinking about getting the coverage you need for your event and the best possible images. You can budget to order albums weeks, months, or even years later or make them yourself to save even more money. If you have to settle for average pictures then no amount of fancy albums can improve them.

Question: How does your price compare to some of the competition?

Answer: Let's pick one unnamed local photographer that is very popular. They have a two-photographer package for $3189 (that's 27% more than our package here). What else do you get with that? Well, you get a 10-hour limit, and only a 30-page album. And, their 8x10's cost $20 each. I don't see anything about getting all photos taken right away on disk.

Okay, let's pick another. I picked another name that I hear sometimes, but she doesn't list any prices so who knows - you'd have to spend time setting up an appointment to find out what packages she has. I know she's more expensive, but I can't even get a list of her packages with her latest pricing.

Moving on, I'll pick another photographer. Opps, this is another without prices listed, I have to email them to find the costs. But, are they in my budget? Too much?

Sorry brides, I know what you're going through right now as I check out my competition.

Next I'm loading the page of the photographer in my area that I think has the worst photos. I'm loading this in June, 2010 - her website says she's having a sale for the month of October, 2009... a little out of date. I'm skipping around her out-of-focus photos trying to find her prices. Oh, I can book now for Valentine's packages, a little late there. I'm now lost on their site and I haven't found any prices for anything. I can't stand the photos, we're moving on.

I'm loading the site for a photographer that I hadn't heard of until I started this price search. Okay, good, there's a pricing page. His most expensive package only has one photographer, includes an album (no sizing info), 2 parent albums (only 30 prints, 5x7 size), and 4 prints. This costs you $2,945 or 18% more than my cost. His 8x10 prints are also $20 each.

Next, I'm loading theknot (a place where I advertise) and I'm going to pick a photographer at random. Skip the intro, ah good, a pricing page. Wow, they state that the "average investment" is "$3,000 and up" - no info about what you get for paying 20% more. At least his photos aren't terrible, I only saw 2 really bad photos in his first 18. That's better than some things I've looked at along this journey.

Okay, one last one, I'm trying to find someone cheaper than me. I'm picking another person at random on theknot. Good, a pricing page. Wow, 4 packages, 10 A La Carte items, and confusing numbers all over. Most expensive package is $1,999 (finally, someone cheaper than me) but let's see what you get. Looks like just one photographer, and there's no album (that's an A La Carte) but you do get over 50 prints (mostly 8x10s and 5x7s).

Well, there you have it, I pretended I was a bride who wanted a great photographer, an album, photos online, and preferably a second photographer. To go with someone else I'd have to pay a lot more or give up something important to me. One thing I've learned about my competition is that they sure like to play music while you're on their site.

Question: I had someone else shoot my wedding, will you fix the photos?

Answer: No, I'm sorry that things didn't work out for you with another photographer but I feel each artists' work should stand on its own. I use my editing skills to enhance only my own work so that I record what I saw in my mind, even if my camera saw something slightly different.

Question: If you were hiring a photographer, other than yourself, what would you look for?

Answer: I look for many features and goals that I find good photographers share.

First, ask yourself some questions about your own likes and dislikes. Do you enjoy the more modern style of photojournalism with lots of candid shots? Do you really love the more late 70s style where everyone is always looking right at the camera and is clearly posed? Are you the type who needs to have a certain brand name to feel you received quality or do you see refinement in specialized artisans as well?

Have you asked around yet? Find out who your friends had photograph their wedding and ask to look at their prints or albums. Think about the different styles your friends liked. Ask how much they spent for coverage of the day, and how much they ended up spending afterwards on prints and albums. Ask what they might have done differently.

Search the internet for photographers you like, even if they aren't in your price range or local to your event. This way you can get a feel for a type of photography you prefer and that that will help you when interviewing those who are in your budget or are local to your event.

First, a few things I suggest as red flags to avoid:

Now, some things I think are important, and why:

Question: Why do you give your images on disk when other photographers wonít let us have them?

Answer: Letís take a step back and look at the photography industry as a whole. There are many different types of photographers for many different types of photos. There are pure artists who survive by selling prints or books of their artwork and have gallery shows. There are reporters who survive by selling the rights to their photos to newspapers and magazines. But, in the wedding photography industry things seem to have been blurred over time.

There is an attitude that wedding photographers are reporters on the day-of, but somehow become pure artists when it comes to selling prints. I ask: How can this be? How can it be that you hired a photographer to come to your event, meaning they would not have gone there on their own purely out of artistic motivation alone, yet they want to sell you prints after the event?

I see wedding photography more on par with that of reporters: we are hired to take photos, not sell prints. Photography is a service industry and we provide the service of being present at your event and capturing the memories through great images by using our years of experience, professional tools, and desire to make great images. Printing is a product industry and printers make prints, albums, greetings cards and all sorts of neat display items, but they don't take the photos.

To call wedding photography a product industry seems to be a disservice to both the customers and the photographers.

I want to be paid for my service of taking great photos and let my customers decide how and when to get prints made. Other photographers bid the wedding shoot at-cost or event at a loss in hopes of making a profit by selling expensive prints to you later once you are locked in with them as the exclusive print retailer.

Could I be just like every other photographer and shoot weddings for a lower cost and then charge $20 for an 8x10 and worry if your wedding party will buy the needed $1,000 to recoup my losses? Sure, but why add the extra time for me to take your order and track its printing and delivery only to hopefully break even? It's a win-win if I can focus my time on what I like (making great images) and you can save money, too.

Years ago with film and negatives, getting good prints from the as-shot material was hard, and I could justify the reason for wedding photographers to be printers as well. But, with today's digital tools the photography industry has to move forward and I predict in 10 years the rest of the industry will have caught up and every wedding photographer will give the images to their clients. Photographers will compete on the quality of the images and not the prices of 8x10 prints.

Any photographer trying to sell prints to make a living who thinks that their customers don't scan photos and make their own reprints is fooling themselves. There will always be photo labs willing to make reprints of obviously professional things; they are in business to make money, too. So, I ask why not cut to the chase and just give the customers what they want. They are our customers after all and I think they are a good judge of what they want.

Question: Why are you so open about everything?

Answer: I feel that showing respect for my clients and letting them see the hard work I do for them results in both attracting great clients and keeping clients coming back for years. Good clients are well-informed decision makers who know what they want, and those are the kinds of people I want to work with. Thus, I respect your keen interest by showing you the behind-the-scenes for how things work. This isn't magic or an ancient mystic society with a blood-oath and by being more of a partner with my clients brings us closer together which leads to better results.

Someone else can easily take the information here and start their own photography business down the street for the same price or less, and I have no problem with that. I feel that the image-quality and customer service I offer will separate me from the rest of the pack, so I have nothing to worry about.

Question: Do you shoot photos at crazy or weird angles?

Answer: No, not a lot. While this can often make for a pretty photo framed on your mantle, it makes it look odd in an album where the other photos are all lined up and orderly.

When I do shoot this way I typically try to get a regular shot first with a straight horizon line. Then, when I know I have a good image, I'll play around with tilting the camera. And only then, it is to try to fill the frame with good stuff that might otherwise be cutoff with a standard composition.

Consider these examples where the horizon line was purposely pushed to an angle:

In the above photo the singer is going up the steps and the angle of the photo follows this action line, as well as the background and the keytar.

In the photo above we have another performer and the angle here inspires movement and action, like dancing. Speaking of dancing, the below photo of a bride and groom sharing their first dance at a reception is angled to create more drama in the image. It makes it feel less stiff and more mobile. Also, with the height difference in the couple it helps fill the frame with more of them.

Question: How many costume changes am I limited to at a studio session?

Answer: I keep my clothes on at all times.

Oh, you were asking about outfits for you! My mistake. You are allowed to do whatever you want during your time. You hired me and I will shoot whatever you can bring out, either through different poses or outfits.

It works best if we discuss the look you're going for with each outfit so that we can plan our time in the studio to make the most efficient use of our time together. If I have to change the lights from one drastic setup to another and back, then we aren't as efficient as we could be if we shot things in a different order.

Question: Is there anything you won't take pictures of?

Answer: While I try to be open minded about different ideas out there, I feel sometimes I have to draw the line. Other than obvious illegal or dangerous things there are a few areas that I prefer not to get involved in and they are as follows:

My apologies if this limits our ability to collaborate together, but I hope you understand.

Please note, each project is judged on its own and I may refuse to work on your project for reasons not listed above.

Question Do you offer video services with the wedding photography?

Answer: Yes. This is a new area for us and the details are changing, but check out the main video page for package details and sample clips.

Question If we hire another photographer, can we still use your video service?

Answer: No. The video is sold solely as an add-on to the still photography package and is not available separately.

Question Can we not hire the still photographers at all and just go with video as a stand-alone service?

Answer: No. The video is sold solely as an add-on to the still photography package and is not available separately.

Question Does this mean that you won't work with another videographer?

Answer: We have no problems if you choose to use a separate video service provider, but understand that because they are not as closely tied to the still photography they won't have the great access that our video's provide with slide shows and integrated images with the video.

Question Do you shoot in HD (High Definition) or SD (Standard Definition)?

Answer: At this time we are SD only. We weighed the options and found that the price-to-performance ratio better suited the package we wished to offer. HD, while being better video quality, has the back-end costs of requiring greater storage for editing, and if you don't have a bluray player you can't see any of the improved image quality.

Plus HD images require A LOT of light to render a properly exposed frame (something most people won't tell you). This means that a dim candlelit church ceremony will be nearly impossible to shoot in HD without adding extra annoying lights.

Question Do you go around to the tables at my reception and ask people to say things?

Answer: No. We find this to be rather rude while delivering poor results. If you really want someone to send you a special message we ask that this person be told ahead of time so they may prepare a speech. We will not solicit speeches or freak people out with a camera in their face.

Question Do you use a light on the camera at the reception or any other time?

Answer: No. We find that this is very distracting to guests to be blinded by a light shinning in their face all night. We prefer to boost the video in post production, and ask that you not dim the lights too far at the reception to better allow for the video.

Not only is this distracting to your guests, it can interfere with the still photography of both the professionals and your guests.

Question: Do you rent or loan any equipment?

Answer: No, I own all of my own equipment and it is is for myself and my staff's use only.

I do not loan or rent camera equipment including studio lighting and the studio space itself.

Question: Why do you have so much equipment information on your site?

Answer: The equipment reviews serve two main goals.

One goal is to educate and inform attendees of my classes and other interested consumers about the functionality of this equipment in a real-world setting. Camera equipment is expensive and people in the market for gear often look to those who rely on it day-to-day for tips and knowhow. As someone who enjoys helping others learn, I have found this to be a natural outlet for information that I have often had to learn "the hard way."

The other goal is to inform clients that I actually do use professional equipment. A motivating factor is that I try to keep my prices low, which means I am often competing against someone with less equipment options. This doesn't mean that they are necessarily a lesser photographer, but sometimes it is a clear indicator that someone could not live up to a client's expectations.

Good equipment does not imply a great photo. Good equipment just gets out of the way of the photographer. When you're on a job and need to perform, good equipment matters. I could very likely take a great photograph using a consumer point-and-shoot camera, but the shutter lag and on-camera flash would get in my way of my artistic goal. It would also slow me down considerably. Having better equipment means I'm more free to get in and get the shot right away, and that is something people want when they hire a photographer.

Question: Why doesn't your website look like every other photographer's site?

Answer: It's simple. I don't want to confuse people into thinking I'm anything like other photographers.

I hand-code everything on this site without any hired design team or bulky software program. This ensures a clean layout designed to load fast, to be easy to use, and to try to not distract you from making an informed decision about the work of myself and my team.

I feel that a website that resizes your browser and makes you sit through a dozen photos while blaring music (so people at work know you're not doing work) before you can get to any substantive content doesn't do you a service.

Question: Are you a member of any clubs or organizations of photographers?

Answer: No, and each has its own reason why not. For clubs, I find that I end up spending my time just helping others while getting little learning in return for myself. I like to look at artwork that is better than mine for inspiration, but instead I find myself just spending time helping others. I think I can instead do that via the web so that I can help many people at one time with instructional articles and reviews. This way I only have to say/write something once and everyone can benefit, regardless of being a member of a club or not.

For the professional photographer organizations, while I often find their magazines or trade journals interesting, these are (for the most part) organizations that people give money to so that they can feel better about themselves. No photographer takes a better picture simply by giving money to one of these organizations. Maybe other photographers get something out of this sort of "advanced photography club" where each member is at a higher level than a normal amateur shutterbug, and if that is the case then I wish them the absolute best of luck. Personally, I learn best by actually going out and taking pictures, not reading about someone who has been in the business 30 years who figured out on their own to go out and just take pictures to get better at it. For the annual dues to some of these organizations I could purchase a new memory card or invest in a lens, and those are things that I know will help me in my photography.

Question: Are you hiring?

Answer: No, not at this time. We have a full staff as well as some new people I am training to add some redundancy to the team (like in case someone gets hurt) so we are quite well staffed at the moment.

Question: What's the whole "zimwiz" thing?

Answer: That's the logo I came up with years ago since it begins with "ZIM" like my last name but it can be rotated, or looked up upside-down and still read the same way. It is kind of like a palindrome, kind of a like a mirror-image, but just fascinating to me. Although I own and run I use that site for a different purpose.

Question: Know any good photography jokes?

Answer: As long as you promise to not get offended, sure.

Whats the difference between a Canon camera and a trampoline?
You should take off your shoes to jump on a trampoline!

A photographer and a writer get together to discuss their work. The writer looks at the photographer's portfolio and exclaims: Such wonderful work you got here, you must have one hell of a camera. After which, the photographer reads the writer's manuscript, and states: Great work you got here, you must have one hell of a typewriter.

A model is walking down the road when she stops a big bunch of people mostly carrying large white lenses. Impressed by the huge arsenal of equipment the guys are carrying the model goes for a closer look. Further scrutiny reveals that they all have Canon 40D's except for one guy with a beaten up old Nikon. Curiosity piqued the model and she approaches the guy with the Nikon and asks why he has chosen Nikon when all of the other pros are using Canon? "You mean these guys?" replies the guy with the Nikon. "Oh they are all members of the local amateur photography club. They just hired me to take their picture."

The quickest way to make money at photography is to sell your camera.