I have a lot of thoughts on this!
The basic answer:
- Portfolio building rate
- Full price
If you do it for free it takes all the pressure off.
If you charge a portfolio building rate you can give them a discounted rate while you are building your portfolio. Once your portfolio is built the expectation for a discounted rate would be gone.
And then there’s the option to charge full price. With that, You’d better deliver a solid body of work.
What I’m really thinking
- Do you have back up gear?
- Do you have low light lenses?
- Do you have lighting if it’s dark at the reception?
- Do they know it’s your first wedding?
- Do you have a plan to back up copies of the images on site as well as when you get home and begin editing?
- Do you have a second shooter or another competent photographer who can be on call if something were to happen?
1, A back up camera, back up cards and spare batteries are essential for a wedding. This isn’t something they’re likely to agree to re-shoot.
2, Lenses for the conditions are absolutely important. Often your kit lens will not cut it unless you introduce off camera flash or they are having the whole wedding outdoors in perfect lighting.
3, Even with a good camera body that can handle high ISO sometimes you still need more light to produce an image you are happy with in some dark venues.
4, SET EXPECTATIONS. Be extremely honest. Tell them about your level of experience. Make sure they see your portfolio and make sure they are happy with the kind of images you produce.
5, Have a system for backing up images on site and a backup system for editing. Because the one thing you never want to have to say is “I lost all the images”.
6, If, something happens to you during the wedding, or on the way there… You need a plan. Someone capable to come shoot the whole wedding if you can’t.
What I did
I shot my first wedding for free assisting another photographer. I only had a camera with a single card slot so if my card corrupted all the photos I’d shot would be lost. I did not have back up gear if my camera were to die right in the middle of the day. I shot it all with a 50mm f/1.4. It was the only decent lens I had at the time.
Things get crazy, things run behind, people can get grumpy and uncooperative: They still will expect you to deliver a solid body of work to tell the story.
Here is a good resource for a Cost Of Business Calculator for a wedding photographer to figure out how much they need to charge (to not be making less than minimum wage.)
How I feel about kit lenses What kind of camera should I start with?