How Is Shooting A Bat Mitzvah Different Than Shooting Real Estate?

January 2nd, 2017

Chip who is a real estate photographer in NH asks:

I know this is not the forum, but I have no one else to ask. I was asked to shoot a Bat Mitzvah next year. I quoted $350 based on the time, and the mother said I should look around because I was way underpriced. So there will be 2 hours for the ceremony shoot, and 4 hours for the reception shoot and I would guess a couple hours for post-processing.

I think it is useful for real estate photographers to understand how different shooting real estate is than shooting Bar Mitzvahs, Bat Mitzvahs, and weddings (all these events are very similar). When shooting these events there is MUCH more expected than just showing up to shoot and sending the client some digital files!

Yes, the mother is right; $350 is WAY low because in addition to the tasks you’ve listed, the following are usually expected:

  1. A meeting before the shoot to discuss the client’s specific unique wants and needs.
  2. A face to face meeting after the shoot to review your results and have the client choose the specific photos they want and the medium they want them in (books, prints, etc.).

Coming up with what you are going to deliver as a final product and your customer service process for making sure they get what they want will determine a huge part of what you should charge. When my son got married 15 years ago the photographer charged them $4,000, and for the time and energy the photographer put into the job it didn’t seem to be an outrageous price.

I’m sure readers that shoot this kind of event professionally can give even better advice.

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12 Responses to “How Is Shooting A Bat Mitzvah Different Than Shooting Real Estate?”

  • Indeed, shooting an event is a totally different animal than real estate. If you’ve never shot any sort of party/mitzvah/wedding/quinceanera before, $350 might be about right because you’re going to make a lot of mistakes and your clients won’t be too mad about it. But if you’re really comfortable using on-camera flash (preferably bounced) in a fast paced environment, have a quality wide-aperture telephoto zoom and a wide angle lens (and can switch them out in under 5 seconds), can move like a ghost on crack, and are confident that you can get the right exposure for EVERY shot, then consider doubling your quote.

  • Chip, I grew up in NY, on Long Island and have shot, besides weddings, many bar and bat mitzvahs, and can tell you it is a unique type of affair. I’m not going to even talk about the minimum equipment, which you should have, and know how to use quickly if you shoot events.
    Before you even think about shooting a Bar mitzvah, you should try to read up on shooting them, or go to some catering halls or even a local temple that might have sample bar mitzvah albums and talk to people already shooting them. even taking the table shots alone (can be very trying with elderly people) can consume a lot of your time.
    Shooting a Bat or bar mitzvah, is a completely different event, than even a wedding. Many temples will not let you take any photos during the ceremony, even in available light, so you might have to stage them on a different night before the affair.
    There are unique shots you need to get, for these religious ceremonies, that you have to learn about. One very important thing to remember, is that you will be working not only with the parents, and elderly people who cant move very well, but you will need to be able to bond with and control many children all about 13 years old, and many with very little attention span. What started out as a religious ceremony when a boy turns 13 and becomes a man, has now (on Long Island and NYC) turned into huge parties with Dj’s bands, and sometimes large productions with dancers and performers. This might not be the case in NH, but it started to be the norm in NY.
    Make sure you know exactly what you are getting yourself into before agreeing to shoot.
    $350 is a price you might want to charge, just to shoot the formal family portrait, at the temple or home on a different day, which you can always re shoot if your client is un-happy. I don’t want to scare you, but if this is something you want to start shooting, it is best to start by assisting other photographers already shooting these affairs. Once you have done a few and have samples to show, you can start advertising to pick up work. There is a lot of time you will be investing in this assignment, before, during and after the assignment. so before you agree to shoot this, research everything that will be required of you. A Bar mitzvah is very expensive affair and you cant re-shoot. it is always better to turn down an assignment if you don’t feel 100% confident that you can do well, than to have to deal with the stress of people being unhappy with your work. But………… can make a lot of money shooting bar mitzvahs.

  • I shoot events and real estate. They are 2 different things entirely.
    1. No do overs, especially at weddings, bar/bat mitzvah: if something fails you better have a plan b, c & d, minimum.
    2. Results are totally subjective.
    3. You need to be a people person to do events. You don’t have to, nor should you spend your time socializing, but you have to like people and want to make them look good. Life events usually have people from babies to the elderly. Your job as the photographer is to make them ALL look good w/o being in their face all the time.

    If you are interested in branching out into this kind of photography, and it is profitable. I would suggest you get your feet wet shooting say some business events (use your real estate contacts) to see if you like it.

    What happens when an outdoor wedding has to be shot inside because of a hurricane. Oh and yes the power did go out during the reception, after dark but before they cut the cake. Lucky I brought those rechargable LED lights that were tiny enough to sit on a picture frame so the party could continue.

  • You may not like what I have to say but this comes from my experience of owning/running a very succesfull Event photography studio for over 25 years. We photographed thousands of events and I personally shot well over 1,500 weddings. I believe this type of photography is the most demanding that there is and demands a ton of training, patience, and an ability to turn on a dime when shit hits the fan….and it does all the time.

    First, there is not a pro with experience in event photography that would quote $350. Your estimate of 8 hours of work does not take into account the time for preparation or travel. I would not be surprised if 12 hours is more in line. So, if you consider your income tax (state/Fed) is around $90, your insurance, and other expenses, your making close to $15 an hour…..

    2nd, do you have the right equipment to do the job? Event photography has a way throwing issues at you every time. What are you going to do if you system breaks down? My philosophy is that if you don’t have it…you are going to need it. Our photographers carried two complete Hasselblad systems with bodies, lenses, batteries, flash units, etc.

    There is so so much more that I could rant about but the bottom line is You owe it to the clients to be forthcoming about your lack of experience and the risk they take with a one time important event. You screw up and they will never have those special moments captured…ever. There are NO second chances to capture the emotions of those special moments. Fools that look for the cheap, get the cheap and all the heart ache that follows

  • I notice that the subjects move a lot more.

    I use on camera flash, a 24-70 and a 16-35 and shoot at ISO 1600.
    I get a shot list and move fast.
    There are “must have images” DO NOT MESS THIS UP.
    And then there are a ton of candids that people want to see.
    For a Bat Mitzvah you might get some creative images of the young lady before the event.
    For a Bar Mitzvah, not so much.

  • Chip, You really want to be a second shooter before tackling a whole Bar Mitzvah on your own. It sounds like you aren’t Jewish and haven’t been to one before. Just like weddings, there will be a list of ‘must get’ images and if you don’t know the ceremony, you won’t know where you need to be to get the photos. Eric has some good advice about not being able to be taking photos during parts of the event and having to stage them later or earlier. You many be asked to stay in one place and not move around. Just like any religious ceremony, there is a certain etiquette that you will be expected to follow. If you take the job, see if you can talk with the Rabi beforehand for some coaching.

  • A bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah is mostly the same as photographing a wedding, if you’ve had background in that. You have a couple of pre-ceremony formal portraits which are critical: the bar/bat mitzvah person standing at the Torah reading it on the pulpit (posed), and holding the Torah. The only problem is Orthodox Jewish temples which won’t let you photograph inside on the Sabbath. You’d need to do posed shots on Friday noon or Sunday instead.

    During the ceremony, depending on the synagogue’s rules, you usually have to shoot from the extreme rear of the sanctuary using a tripod. I use a 70-210mm lens for most of these shots and my camera’s ISO is set at 2200 or higher.

    During the ceremony there is a traditional activity where the bar/bat mitzvah person is in motion, walking around the sanctuary perimeter while holding the Torah. You can’t use flash, and the person is in motion. If you expect this to come out sharp you need to set your ISO up to 6400, in my experience. This way the motion can be sharp, instead of low-noise but too blurry to use. I shoot about 1,000 RAW images and deliver the best 250. Take lots of batteries for your flashes and your camera.

    After the ceremony you’ll do posed extended family group photos, exactly like at a wedding. So you’ll need the flash equipment and skills to do these well and fairly quickly.
    At the reception I do table shots and use two high power Nikon flashes, SB910 and SB800 synced together. A key activity is elevating family members on chairs held over their heads. I use an ultra-wide angle lens for many reception pics.

  • Wanted to add a couple of follow-up thoughts too.

    1. For family group photos, I make up a list in advance with the client and list EVERY PERSON BY NAME. This saves time in calling people over for group poses and reduces errors. I always bring an assistant who will help with the group posing.

    2. For God’s sake have enough batteries, and have a backup camera & flash.

    3. A couple of commentators have wisely recommended working as a second-shooter or assistant to photographers who have done this before. Build up your knowledge and confidence first that way. PROVE that your equipment, memory cards & batteries can stand the strain of 1,000+ pics at a single event. If you go into either wedding or bar mitzvah photography without this prior experience, expect things to go badly, and you can’t re-do it. Personally I wouldn’t recommend taking on this job without prior events experience. And editing a huge number of RAW files will take much more time than you expect.

  • Maybe it is just me, but I am amazed at all the “help” some are suggesting for someone who is clearly not up to providing the professional service that the clients deserve. What this needs is “tough love advice”. This photographer is out of their element and have no business taking anyone’s money for services that they clearly have no idea how to accomplish.

  • I have read all the comments above and agree wholeheartedly with each one. I was an wedding and special events for 30 years (illness prevents me from continuing this passion). This is not like shooting the entrance of a house with the sun at the right angle. Your job here is to create lasting memories.

    1. Forget the money aspect for a second – you have already lost money on this deal. Treat it as an investment for future growth.

    2. Talk to the rabbi or cantor in advance. They can provide invaluable advice and guidance.

    3. Take the time to attend a bat/bar mitzvah to get an understanding of the flow.

    4. Photographing weddings, mitzvahs, and special events are like combat photography. Certain things only happen once. To capture lasting images you need to be attentive from beginning to end. Know all your your equipment capabilities cold – everything needs to be in working order ( Do not try to squeeze the the last bit of juice out your batteries).

    5. Do not forget to look behind you – some of the best images come from candids.

    6. You need to take control (pleasantly) of the shoot. Everybody has a camera and will taking pictures around you. “Uncle Harry”, who probably has more gear then you, will do his best to upstage you. Watch your subjects eyes. The eyes need to be looking where you want them. Provide guests with verbal rules. (Ladies and gentlemen I need need a couple of moments of _______ attention. Shoot your pictures now. Please do not shoot when I start – it will be very distracting to_________ and will have a negative impact the quality of the finished product.)

  • This type of photography would scare the s–t out of me. I would have to be a second shooter (or third) for many events before taken on something like this. If your going to do it, you better make sure your insurance is in order. If you screw up, or your client isn’t happy, you’re open for a lawsuit. Better have a solid contract in order as well.

  • Chip, here is another thought. first, everyone’s comments above is right on!!!

    If the person who asked you about shooting is a friend or acquaintance, be up front with them and let them know that you don’t feel comfortable about shooting this assignment, they will truly appreciate your honesty. But, ask them who they hire and see if they can recommend you to be a second shooter for that photographer. (they can even tell the photographer you are a close friend of the family, who wants to learn to shoot events, which might entice the photographer to hire you). This is a good way to learn, and perhaps the photographer, or company that shoots will uses you again as an assistant or second shooter for future events.
    If you think you want to shoot events, and like a certain photographer’s style, offer to assist them. You will find that some photographers will gladly have you help. But some photographers, if they don’t know you or are on a huge ego trip will not want to teach you their style. If there is a professional photographers association for your city, find out when they have meetings, and try to attend one. it is a great way to meet local photographers.
    After considering your concerns, and experience, I would strongly advise you not to take this affair, but see if you can assist. Events can be very rewarding and enjoyable most of the time, but don’t take on an assignment like this until you get experience. my first wedding was very strange.

    Even thought I had no experience, I was begged to shoot my first wedding in the Navy. During Vietnam, one of my fellow sailors got drunk and married an Asian girl in Japan. This is against regulations and was confined to the ship after Captains mast, and a possible court marshal when we returned to the states. When we got back to Pearl Harbor, he sent for his new wife and had a wedding ceremony with his family and some of hers (which he had to fly in from Japan). Shooting an Asian wedding was quite unique (just as a Bar mitzvah is unique from weddings), especially since I had no experience with any, I didn’t speak any Japanese, so, it was an experience and did learn why and how to shoot fill in flash. after that, some of my fellow sailors had me shoot some weddings and family portraits.

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