Wedding season is once again approaching and wedding inquiries have been steadily rolling in. It is the season of bridal shows which means I am once again getting the question, “Why does photography cost so much?” I’m even seeing discussions amongst brides on numerous wedding boards claiming photographers in particular “just charge to much”.
I’m a photographer, I know many people feel wedding photographers just think too much of themselves. I don’t know how many times I’ve overheard or been told……”anyone with a digital SLR can take photos” I’m here to tell you, while it may seem as if we wedding photographers live an amazing life by charging you an arm and leg for our services, this is hardly the case.
There is no denying today’s weddings are expensive. When you add up the costs of the venue, the caterer, the cake, the attire, the decorations, the DJ, and the party favors the prices just keep getting higher and higher. I know it seems as if photographers are charging the largest chunk of the tab, but have you ever stopped to consider why photography prices are so high? No? Well, simply said, it’s because photographers are hired to document the once in a lifetime events of your wedding day to pass on to your future grandchildren.
For many couples, this will be the only time they see their father shed tears while beaming with pride… The mothers’ smiles are intoxicating and infectious and only available for fleeting moments… THESE moments are my personal reward as a photographer. Not the payment you give me.
Being a good, professional photographer is an expensive endeavor/investment. I know you can find a “cheaper” wedding photographer on Craigslist or enlist the help of a family friend who owns a digital camera, but honestly, you get what you pay for. Keep in mind…..photographers charging so little are typically those people with little or no experience. I understand all photographers have to start somewhere, but a wedding is not the place to rely on trial and error. There are NO do-overs and this is the time when you should bring in the “hired guns”.
Being a wedding photographer not only requires the skill of knowing how to use your camera to the highest potential but a good wedding photographer also needs to be able to be in control of each and every situation thrown at us in a day. A pro knows and does handle the stressful situations which occur during a normal wedding day at a moments notice. Being “assertive” with the joker in the group is essential and necessary when we are an hour from the ceremony or we are keeping the happy couple from enjoying their reception because we need to capture a few more family photos.
With this said, lets look at some of the actual costs of being a “professional” wedding photographer.
Labor: A photographers work/time doesn’t only include your wedding day and really is only the tip of the iceberg. The following list includes the average work costs involved for a 6-10 hour wedding, (on a Saturday no less). Keep in mind there are a limited number of popular weekends in a year which a photographer is available for hire (maybe 20-25).
-pre-wedding consultations (1-3 hours)
-engagement session coverage (1.5-2 hours)
engagement session back end work
-backup & edit (1-2 hours)
-proofing session (1 hour)
-final pre wedding consultation (1-2 hours)
-travel time to & from wedding (1 hour)
-wedding day coverage (6-12 hours)
-backup (2x) to hard drives, discs or off-site servers (1-2 hours)
-image editing in Lightroom, Aperture, or other photo application. (16-24 hours)
-prepare & upload proofs to web gallery (30 min. or more)
-prepare & upload sneak peaks to blog (30 minutes)
-prepare & upload sneak peaks to facebook (30 minutes)
-prepare & upload file to lab for proofing (1-2 hours)
-post wedding consults (2 hours)
-Album design (1-8 hours)
-order packaging (1-4 hours)
So far that is about 66 hours (equal to 1.5 weeks) of labor. Don’t forget the additional costs that we have not even yet discussed.
Equipment: A pro photographer does not bring just one camera and one lens to your wedding, an arsenal of backup equipment is on hand just in case the main equipment fails to operate. With the average of one pro body retailing for $1500 +, you can only imagine the amount of backup gear that is sitting idle in case of the worst case scenario. Add in the prices of computers, external hard drives/backup systems, and professional software such as Photoshop, Aperture & Lightroom to process your images and the general cost to operate a business for a photographer sky rockets. Computers that run these top of the line programs need to be updated every few years and also need more RAM and storage space than you would believe.
Insurance: Because of the cost to purchase equipment, a pro photographer will carry business insurance. This insurance covers the cost to replace equipment in case of the worst case scenario such as your drunk cousin Joe decides it would be hilarious to to spray champagne all over the wedding photographer (and equipment) for a joke.
Web Site/Advertising: Every photographer has to pay a web host & possibly a web designer to provide a website for advertising purposes. Even if the photographer does maintain their site by themselves, updates, online marketing & sponsored ad links take the investment of time and cash.
Albums and Prints: If you knew the actual cost which photographers pay for an average wedding album you would have a heart attack. Archival wedding albums are meant to last for generations. These albums are “really” only minimally for the couple’s enjoyment; they are a piece of history that will be looked at with wonder for future generations, giving your grandchildren and decedents a sense of their own lineage.
Printing of images is also expensive. Pro-photographers have their images printed on archival paper at a professional lab that only prints work for professionals. These labs take the extra care to make sure your prints are printed to perfection and of the highest archival quality.
Education: An experienced photographer not only has years of camera knowledge under his/her belt, but some of them……myself included…..have B.A. degrees in photography.
All good portrait photographers have years of experience of proper posing and flattering lighting techniques. These skills alone set a professional apart from an amateur with a cheap DSLR and the basic Photoshop suite. (No joke, how your head is tilted, or the position of a random hand can make or break an image). As we all know, education is not cheap; and professionals, no matter their field (accountant, hair stylist, mechanic, lawyer, Etc.) continue their education to keep on top of the newest technologies, techniques, and theory. Photography is no different, we attend many workshops and seminars to stay knowledgeable in an ever changing market.
So you may still be asking, “why does photographer X cost so much more than photographer Y?” The answer is simple. Photographer X has invested A LOT more time and money into developing his or her business into a full fledged photography service, which in turn ends up costing more money than an inexperienced moonlighter who only works part-time on the weekend.
*****And, let’s not forget…….those Porsche’s we drive up to your wedding in just don’t pay for themselves now do they? *****