Wedding Photography: Why does it cost so much? | Boise wedding photographers

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”.


Hear no evil, see no evil....

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)

Wedding day:
-travel time to & from wedding (1 hour)
-wedding day coverage (6-12 hours)

Post Wedding:
-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.

Couple embracing each other in vineyard
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.

wedding albums in a stack

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.

engagement photo_couple kissing_Boise,Idaho
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? :-) *****

How to choose a wedding photographer | Boise wedding photographers

1)  Set your budget
Weddings can become expensive if you don’t set a budget and have a list of priorities set aside before you start booking vendors.
I recommend first sitting down with your fiance and anyone else who maybe contributing to your big day.  Decide what items are most important to you as a couple.   Once you know what those items/services are…..set a limit for yourselves on the maximum amount you are willing to spend on those items.
2)  Start Searching Immediately
If photography is a top priority for you……and I’m assuming it is since you’re reading this article; You’ll want to start your search immediately.  The truth is …the best wedding photographers can book their schedules as early as a year in advance. Therefore, you’ll want your wedding photographer to be one of the first vendors you book after the venue location is secured.
3)  How do I find a photographer
Although Google searches are always a good start, I recommend reaching out to your network of friends.  Not all photographers will show up on the first two pages of a Google search.  Therefore reaching out to your network of friends can be immensely helpful in your search for not only photographers….but all wedding vendors.
When it comes to photographers….you will not only want to find a photographer who has a style you like….but one that has a reputation for professionalism.  The best way to find out what your experience with a photographer may be like is to ask your network of friends.  Start with those who have recently been married.  Ask them who they used as their photographer.  Don’t be afraid to ask those same friends if you can review their wedding albums.  You can also reach out on social media sites such as Facebook and twitter asking friends/followers who they recommend for photography services.
Also….don’t be afraid to ask the wedding vendors you already have hired.  I’m asked for references on caterers, cake makers and DJ”s all the time.  I’m always happy to recommend fellow vendors who I know provide a quality product to their customers.
4)  Narrow down your options.
After you’ve gathered your recommendations and searched for photographers online, you will want to start narrowing down your choices.
Determine which photographer will meet your budget as well as your specific needs.   You may be IN LOVE with a photographer’s online portfolio…..but if their starting price point is WAY out of your budget….there is no point in meeting with them.  With this said…wedding photography is an investment to last a life time.  If the photographer is only a little more expensive than you had anticipated to spend, it wouldn’t hurt to meet with them.  They may be worth the extra expense and in most cases you can always shave a little off your budget elsewhere if need be.
Review their online portfolios and  determine how well they appear to handle various environmental settings. For example, does their website only show outdoor weddings but your wedding will be in a church?  If so…..I suggest you look for other photographers who do show examples of indoor portraiture on their websites.  Why……because varying environmental situations require varying lighting equipment and skills.
5)  Conduct your interviews
After narrowing your selection of wedding photographers down to three photographers, make appointments to interview the candidates. Most likely, experienced photographers will have two or three wedding albums available for you to review. Make sure you see at least one album of an entire wedding, from start to finish. Why?  You want to make sure the photographer can photograph a number of beautiful images from your wedding day….not just one.
While reviewing each photographers work…. examine the basics of the pictures such as color, clarity, exposure, graininess and composition.  Ask yourself….do the images look sharp?  Are the images properly exposed?  Do the people in the portraits look to be posed in a natural/comfortable positions?
When it comes to equipment the photographer uses……your biggest concern really should be if the photographer has back up equipment. Your wedding is a once in a lifetime event.  If the photographer you hire only has one camera body and it happens to quit working on your wedding day…….you’re done with photos for the day.  Just remember, the camera itself is just a tool the photographer uses to achieve their vision. The camera does not create the photo…..the photographer does.  So if the photographer’s only has one tool and not an entire tool chest….you may be setting yourself up for a disaster.
6)  Gauge their professionalism
Not all photographers are created equal.  Each of us has a genre we excel in more than others.  Some of us do exceptionally well with children’s portraiture while others thrive on the stress of a wedding day.  Although a photographer has been in the business for 10 years providing exceptional work……this does not mean he/she is up for the challenge of photographing a wedding.  Wedding photography “is it’s own animal”, the pressure and emotional energy of the day is not for everyone.
Experienced wedding photographers not only have the knowledge of how to photograph a wedding, but also how to act during the ceremony and reception. For example, how will he/she dress and how will they act around your wedding party and guests?  Plus….don’t forget, a wedding photographer’s charm and ability to put everyone at ease is just as important as their skills behind the camera.
With that said…..beautiful portraits of your family and guests are just as important as the portraits of the you and your fiance.  While reviewing portfolios…..don’t forget to look for examples of group portraiture.  Photos of your family and friends will be just as important to you a year or two down the road as the photos of you and your honey.
The photographer will be spending about as much time with you on your wedding day as anyone in your bridal party.  Ask yourself how well your personalities mesh?
Making your decision
After going through the interview process you should have a fairly strong feeling in which direction you’d like to go.  What ever you do end up deciding…’s always a polite gesture to send those photographers you did not choose an email.  Thank them for their time and let them know you have decided to go another direction.  It’s a small gesture…but one much appreciated.