When budgeting for a wedding, people are often taken by surprise at the cost for photography. It's a question we often get: "Why is photography so expensive when you're only working for a few hours?" The reality is a lot more complex than that – and it isn’t just the wedding day. With so many photography options available, sometimes its hard to weed out the true professionals from the bunch. It can be… overwhelming.
Let’s start with the basics – what makes cheap wedding photography so cheap?
There’s a lot of reasons for a particularly low price tag, and a lot of things to consider, like
- Are they cutting corners?
- Are they insured?
- Are they carrying professional equipment?
- How much experience do they have with weddings?
- Do they have the appropriate business licenses, credentials, etc.?
All of these are worthwhile questions, and worth the ask when researching photographers to capture a once in a lifetime event.
So back to the topic at hand – where do we get these numbers from?
The Wedding Day: The most obvious point of cost is the labor on the wedding day, which is probably more than you would think. For example, when you sign a contract for 10 hours of wedding day coverage, you are not including the extra time for travel to the venue, setup, arriving early to make sure to begin on time and to take a brief chance to sort out any details like where to leave equipment or any rules and regulations for the venue, etc. Add an additional photographer, and the cost can rise significantly.
Once the photography actually begins, there’s tons of running, jogging, ducking, diving, and rolling around on the ground, all to achieve that “perfect shot.” Keeping it up at that pace for 10 hours is utterly exhausting. Rewarding? Absolutely. But still draining.
By the time your night is over, your photographer will have likely taken well over 1200 photos, plus whatever photos were taken by the second photographer.
What Happens Next: After the wedding day, the work is nowhere near done – in fact, it’s just beginning. While you and your spouse are off reveling in the glow of wedded bliss, we are working on your images – all of them are artfully color corrected and edited to ensure top quality. Editing can include:
1) Importing the files into a computer program for selection and editing
2) Culling the images, or removing any duplications, closed eyes, bizzaro faces, etc.
3) Individual color correction of each file to achieve a particular “look”
4) Exporting from the photographer’s program of choice to create finished, gorgeous high resolution images.
5) Repeat the above steps for images from the second photographer.
6) Creation of special “slideshow” images, which are slightly more stylized images from the wedding day
7) Uploading to our online client gallery.
8) Sending the final gallery to the client.
So, some quick math for you. On average, the above steps (what we typically call Post Production) can take anywhere from 30 – 40 hours. Add to that approximately 12 hours on wedding day, and suddenly that seemingly high price tag works out to be much less unreasonable.
Let’s Add an Album: Album design involves a lot of communication with the client and will often entail multiple design drafts, each which need to be approved by the client. Add another 10 – 15 hours.
What About Equipment? Professional grade equipment is important when photographing a wedding. Typically, professional grade, full frame cameras and lenses can be very pricey. Add to that my back up camera, my mirrorless camera, lights, lenses, light poles, memory cards, light modifiers… it adds up.
Then there are the computer programs required to create the perfect finalized images like Photoshop, which have a monthly cost. Then there is the computer and post production equipment on top of that, servers to store thousands of images, back ups upon back ups of images to ensure they are safe and can be retrieved at any time… It adds up.
Insurance: Imagine hauling around thousands of dollars worth of photography equipment and setting it up in venues, parks, beaches, and beyond without insurance. One trip on a light pole, one gust of wind, one unfortunate accident, and everyone is in trouble. Insurance is as much to protect us as it is to protect our clients. I know, nobody wants to think about those types of things, but from a practical standpoint it just makes sense.
Marketing and Advertising: How did you find out about us? Websites, wedding shows, and photo hosting sites, plus advertising in local trade magazines or on the web all have costs.
An Accountant, and a Lawyer…: Anybody running a business will almost definitely need a lawyer and accountant at some point, and many opt to have people that they know and trust to help navigate areas outside of their expertise. I shudder to think what would happen if I tried to file my taxes solo, or sort out legal language on a contract.
Experience and Education: For the most part, you can’t just get a nice camera and be a professional photographer – there is some amount of study, practice, and training that is involved to get there. For myself, I’ve photographed well over 1000 events at this point, and I’ve been in the wedding photography business for nearly 20 years. I have learned a lot by doing, working with other amazing photographers, taking classes in college, attending conferences, taking professional development courses, webinars, and beyond.
Long story short, my craft is important to me, and it is equally important that I continue to learn and grow so I can be the best photographer I can be.
So the next time you’re wondering why your photography quote seems high, consider everything that goes into delivering a high quality wedding photography experience with photos you can love and cherish for generations to come.