So why does wedding photography cost so much? This is a question that hears often so I thought I’d address it. I believe people think that wedding photographers totally make a killing with extortionately high rates.
Frankly, who wouldn’t think for one minute that by working 8 to 12 hrs for one day for “how much money” wouldn’t be racking it in. Come on that’s some serious income right! Wrong!…
On the face of it, I also would have thought that professional wedding photography is also expensive. However, as I’ve been photographing professionally for the past 12 years I know exactly what goes into photographing a wedding.
Let me dig deeper and explain matters
Talent, knowledge, experience plus an award-winning photographer (like the horse photograph shown here where I came 3rd in an international award competition ISPWP). How do you value this? A photographer who has talent and works hard on her/his craft is worth something right. Many people think not and don’t even consider this amazing fact when looking at costs.
So, I thought I’d throw in many fixed examples for your to go over.
The gear is expensive. I mean, really, really expensive. To operate a professional photography business a photographer invests in the best gear. I run not just one but two identical 1Dx Canon Cameras which run at $7000 each! Why bear the best camera, its simple, I want to give my clients the best quality I can possibly give. As for lenses, I have 9 fabulous lenses which run from $1600 to $2700 each. There is gear that triggers flashes to operate. There’s flashes, light stands, light reflectors. Bags to hold the gear. Batteries (many batteries). Backup gear. Seriously, it just goes on and on.
You might be thinking so does better gear make you a better photographer, the answer is a simple no. It’s really about how a photographer sees light and works with it plus how they work with angles and his/her positioning to the subject. Gear helps immensely but it doesn’t make one a better photographer. The better the camera quite often means the sensor is better thus captures more information (in the shadows and highlights). Higher end lenses will give sharp images. Think of it this way, if your photo isn’t sharp it’s a deleted photo so it’s gotta be sharp and in focus.
Okay, you might say, come on, its digital. The photos are free! I love this question or thought process many people have. A camera only has so many shutter counts before things need to be replaced or retired. So, if you divide $7000 by 250,000 shutter counts and then multiply this number 36 (this is how many frames you had in a film role) it equates to around $1.00 For sure it’s a little cheaper than film but hey, it’s still a cost. Oh, let’s not get started with servicing the camera now that’s it digital and those repair costs. Okay back to shutter counts. So, just for the camera portion, it works out to be about $1.00 per roll of 36 films (equivalent). So, please don’t think the digital film is free, far from it. Truly, when you work out the costs of digital i.e. combining everything to run a digital business I’d say it’s 3x more expensive than operating a film photography business. You might inquire then, would you return to film? The answer is simple, No way. I love what digital gives me and I’d never revert to film even given the costs are that much higher.
Now that the photos have been taken on one of the most important days ever, then what! Well, in the old days, I used to the film to my lab and they developed them and they would operate all the costs to develop the film. Today, I personally develop and process each photograph (called editing). This consumes time, up to 4 days of editing each wedding. Phew.. Running a fast computer to process the size of the images runs into thousands of dollars. Running the many editing software programs and maintaining them up to date isn’t cheap as things have to be upgraded yearly.
Running a website, blog, hosting galleries and security features on them making sure clients get the best possible experience. Keeping up with the forever changing features. Oh, let’s not forget the time spent with social media. Oh, that’s right time doesn’t cost anything!
Speaking of social media, it might seem free, but carrying a business through platforms can often cost something. Advertising at wedding fair trade shows, in mags, on Google, having professionally printed material manufactured etc runs into big bucks.
By now I’m trusting that the picture is building that running things professionally isn’t cheap. Let me continue on.
Attorney fees for professionally drawn up contracts, liability insurance or business insurance, gear insurance, membership fees, award entry fees, vehicle business insurance, running a business car, gas, repairs certainly adds up. Studio space, be it at home or on at a location isn’t cheap. Products to display in a studio be it wall art, handmade storybooks, and prints (like the one shown below) and maintaining fresh images with them i.e. renewing them yearly (click here to view my artwork).
Any entertaining cost with clients, annual memberships, award entry fees, travel costs. One thing I have personally put in every year is education. Even though I gain a great deal of inspiration from the world of fashion, I still invest in books or some form of education. Receiving an education is so important and building all the time is a good thing I feel that many photographers should work hard on new things and never take things for granted. Staying fresh has been super important not just for the customer but for themselves. Some photographers were professionally trained so or some picked up a camera and away they went. I was professionally trained so taking out a couple years of that education was completely amazing, but again, it involves quite a bit of cost. Likely many know the costs involved with professional training so I won’t go any further.
Oh yeah, this is pretty cool. One thing I notice that many photographers never even think about it retirement. Working a full-time photography business means that you have to think about putting a little cash away each year as one day the end will happen. For instance, when many of ie my clients go to work in their jobs and one day they’ll retire having a retirement fund from their job or even the government. Wow. Suppose that a photographer may even think or be allowed to retire… ha-ha. I laughed at that one. I know a better one, how about taking a holiday. No no. A photographer isn’t allowed time away, seriously. No way. Having a family, and even paying oneself a salary to eat and pay the government notes, putting clothes on his/her family backs, or even paying the mortgage.
How much work do you give per wedding client you might ask? Per wedding client, I work around 90 hrs from start to finish. So, when you look into some form of “professional” photography look at the bigger picture. You’ll soon see that you get what you pay for. Cheap photography doesn’t come with insurance, fabulous gear, knowledge i.e. what’s involved from A-Z of covering a wedding. Over the past 12 years, I’m proud to have photographed hundreds of weddings. If a professional photographer does have everything listed here then you’ll pay for it somewhere else for example retouching fees and possibly a ton of hidden costs.
I believe in no hidden costs and supplying my clients with a fabulous finish product (like the awesome storybook you can see below).
Final words, when you invest in photography coverage look at everything and the big picture You’re hiring a professional who knows what they’re doing. They won’t mess up your day on one of your most important days ever. They know where to go and what to do. They turn the workaround in a fantastic time frame with edited work (click here for more answers to FAQ)
Seasoned professionals are difficult to come by as many photographers start thinking it’s a great income for “a days work“. Unfortunately, the market is saturated with “weekend warrior” who simply went to a camera store and bought run of the mill gear. Yes, people have to start somewhere (which is totally awesome) but don’t ruin your wedding day outcome with going with someone who has no idea with what they’re doing. These beginners (who by the way can just call themselves “a professional photographer” realize after a year or two that they can’t afford to stay in business and backup shop. Don’t let your wedding day photography experience be a bad one.
I absolutely love what I do for a living. My love for photography is like nothing else, it’s hard to explain, but my world is phenomenal. I honestly wouldn’t change a thing. Feeling free in my art is exceedingly rewarding and finding clients who I love to work with is extremely important. Just don’t look at a wedding photographer as a one day task!