Why Wedding Photography is so Pricey
It's no news that weddings in general are outrageously expensive. From that gorgeous white dress and the handsome tux, to the cake, venue and all the wonderful vendors that contribute to making that day one to remember. Add to that hiring a photographer, and the the tab goes even higher. I can totally understand why a lot of people wonder how come wedding photographers are so expensive, so maybe if I try to make sense of it, it will bring some light and peace to the questioning minds. So here it is, black on white, all the costs (or maybe most of them) associated with being a wedding photographer - explained...
We live in an era where photography in general is a Luxury. I am defining Luxury as something that you Want or would like to have, but do not actually Need in order to survive. You can get married at the court house and start your life with your other half simply by signing a piece of paper. But is that enough? No, what you WANT is a wedding, you want everyone to be part of your special day, share those beautiful memories with your family and friends, right? Many even say that photography is not even an art, that it does't make the cut. What is the real truth? Well, I'll leave that to you... To me, everything that lets your imagination unleash and brings out the creative lion within - is indeed a truthful art. In my books, photography is way up there, and I will argue with anyone that says otherwise.
As a Seattle wedding photographer, I spend an enormous amount of time on a wedding from start to finish. Every second counts, from that moment I received an inquiry from the Knot or Wedding Wire, until that 'Thank You' note is out in the mail. Let me break it down for you below.
Firstly - A piece of advice - Before considering an inexperienced or a cheap Seattle photographer, or any photographer, ask yourself why that person is only charging that much! Having your 'best friend' take your wedding photos, just because you 'think' it's saving you money, it's not something any photographer would recommend. Understand this - let me say it out loud: You Will Never Get That Day Back! Do you really want to risk it? Think about it, in the years to come, when you look back on your wedding day, you will not remember how good the food was, so spend your money where it matters: The Photographer! Man, isn't that the truth? Even if you have not invested a lot putting together your wedding, you should definitely hire someone artsy that knows what they're doing and let them be the ones capturing that day for you so that you can re-live those moments over and over again!
I read this recently on a blog for photographer resources: "Treat wedding photography as the desired luxury service that it is, not the basic necessity that budget hunting couples wish it to be." It followed with: "Stop justifying your fees using cost breakdowns. It cheapens your work." But you know what? I do want my clients to know how I justify my wedding prices. Read below.
1. Overall, I spend between 20-30 hours preparing for a wedding, depending on the size of it. I take into consideration the time taken to email back and forth, phone calls, consultation, travel time and all the expenses that pertain to that.
2. Preparation for the engagement shoot and wedding day. 90% of the time, the couples opt to have an engagement session. That means I get to spend some time with the future bride and groom before the wedding, and get to know each other a little bit, so this is so great! It also means that to make that happen, I need to set up a timeframe to meet and shoot, which is generally 3-4 hours from beginning till the end including travel time - and edit those photos as well. It’s all part of the whole wedding booking experience. Then comes the wedding day, my equipment needs to be checked, batteries charges, lenses cleaned, my second shooter lined up, shot list printed out and all the information of that day reviewed, so everything goes smoothly.
3. Speaking of equipment - all this gear comes at a price. In my opinion, you get what you pay for. If you buy cheap equipment, then the quality of your photographs will be sacrificed. To me, that’s very important. When I finally got serious about my photography, I made sure that I bought top of the line computers, gadgets, cameras and prime lenses. To keep those going though, I have to consider corrosion, service and maintenance, software, etc. Just to give you an idea of a situation - Say for example I shoot a wedding at the beach and it’s a windy day, or there are kids running around, and there’s sand and dust in the air - do you think my camera will be affected? Yes, it will - the slightest piece of dust on the sensor, and the camera will need to be sent in for cleaning and testing.
Then there’s the software that we, as photographers need to use to be able to get those photos out of the camera and use for editing, so that your photos will look outstanding. It takes more than a good eye and having a good handle on your equipment - that’s only half the battle. Technology these days comes in and helps presenting our work in a different light.
4. Travel time, gas and car depreciation. You know how that goes, a car is a car and it will break down if you don’t take care of it right, just like the camera equipment. I need to have a reliable car to be able to meet with clients, and of course make it to my weddings! I leave early to avoid any unpleasant surprises, and I always stress and think of a plan B in case something does happen.
5. Actual shooting time - for both the engagement and the wedding itself. When I do an engagement session, I do not look at the time spent out shooting my couple. If we get the shots that we need, and we’re happy - then we’re golden! We can spend an hour or we can spend 3 hours, it’s all good...
6. Labor costs - this includes post processing like image editing, and album design and order. Then there’s the gallery upload and organization, followed by final image delivery. After those photos left that camera card and made their way into my computer, that’s when the fun really begins! First thing first - the culling process. I don’t keep the photos that don’t make the cut. That means I carefully review all the shots and make a decision on which images meet my brand standards and which don't. After this, they are edited, then all the best shots are selected, organized into different albums, and uploaded to the online gallery for the final send-off. This whole process takes a few good days, so it takes many necessary hours to get everything done.
7. Social Media Marketing, Advertising and Blog. In order for my business to thrive, I have to be active on Social Media and build an online presence. That means Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+ need to be updated very often. My blog has to be written at least twice a week, even though it’s not one of my strong points, but I know that it’s important. Also, these days spending money on advertising boosts the company’s success and drives new leads in.
8. Staff salaries - second shooter, assistant, accountant, and others. A lot of photographers, including myself, run their business without much help. However, there’s only so much we can do on our own. Shooting a large enough wedding where all the angles need to be covered, is made possible only by having a second shooter on site. He or she will always work around me, placing themselves opposite or behind where I’m at, away from my line of sight, and photographing everything from a complete different angle. As a lead shooter, I am always the one that interacts with the wedding party and giving necessary directions when need be, so having a second shooter is a huge help! Sometimes a third shooter or assistant is needed but those cases are very rare.
9. Insurance - Let’s face it, if my gear was not insured and got stolen, lost or damaged, my whole business would suffer immensely, wouldn’t it? I’d rather pay a monthly fee and have that piece of mind, then worry that something might go wrong at any time.
10. Branding and collateral materials. Pretty self explanatory - office supplies, flyers, brochures, business cards, welcome package items, gifts, etc, are all included in this category.
As you can see running a wedding photography business involves a lot of work. It definitely has its glamorous moments, otherwise what would be the point of doing it? However, everything comes at a cost. Long, long time ago when I started my journey into photography, there were many times I almost cried feeling overwhelmed and lost, but I figured out what worked best for me and made it work. There are still days that bring new challenges, it’s all part of the equation -and I’m OK with that, it keeps me on my toes. What really matters, is the fact that I absolutely love what I do, and I wouldn’t change anything if I had to do it again.
So here you have it, I hope this all made sense. And please understand that even though a lot of these apply to many photographers, I'm only speaking from my own experience, as we all have different workflows that we have adopted throughout the years. If I missed anything, please do let me know, I welcome your comments below or just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please follow me on Instagram @seattleweddings and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeattleWeddingsAndEngagements.
Stay Fab Seattle,