Why Do Photographers Charge What They Do? (Wedding Edition)
Depending on the person, some think I am expensive and some think I am cheap. I like to pride myself on being the photographer who can deliver high quality pictures for a very reasonable price. I want to discuss what goes into the price you are paying because it is a lot more involved than what it seems. According to http://snapknot.com/wedding-photography-prices , I am below average on my pricing.
A typical conversation may go like this.
Potential client, “What do you charge for a Wedding?”
I reply, “My packages start at $2,500 and that is for 8 hours of time, excluding travel” (I attach my pricing brochure to the email that details what they receive)
The potential client responds, “I only need you for 4-6 hours. Is the price any cheaper? “
I reply, “You will need the whole 8 hours whether you realize it or not. From the getting ready pictures, bridal party pictures, family pictures, the ceremony and the reception, it will take about 8 hours.”
Potential client, “That seems expensive, let me talk to my fiancé and get back to you”
Sometimes they get back to me and sometimes they don’t. People don’t realize what goes into planning for a wedding and capturing that special day. On the brochure it tells them that this price includes an online gallery and digital high resolution images edited on a zip file. What it doesn’t portray or articulate is what actually goes into getting those pictures to the potential client. I am hoping this article helps give you a better understanding of what is involved on my side of things.
Before I book most of my weddings, I like to meet face-to-face with most of the couples. This normally lasts about an hour or so. If they decide to proceed with me, I need to do some research on the venue or church where the event will occur. Sometimes I may already be familiar, but not all the time. This can change too depending on the time of the year. If someone gets married outside in October at a venue vs. April, the sun may/will be in a different spot at that time of year. A picture that worked during one month may be too sunny to work another. There is a lot of planning that goes into this.
As the wedding approaches I need to work with the couple on their wedding day timeline. This is a mutual effort because only the photographer knows how much time they will need to get their pictures. I go above and beyond to make sure we are on the same page with the timeline for the day of. After each wedding, they have a better understanding of why I needed the full 8 hours. From a photographer’s standpoint, we know what pictures we need to get when the sun is going down, etc. We need to make sure a time window is open for pictures during sunset. You don’t have a lot of time and it is critical that time is allotted for these pictures. Some of the best pictures you will cherish forever happen during the sunset.
A few days before the wedding I sit down and write out all the poses that I want to capture on the wedding day.
On the wedding day I may spend 1 hour driving to the hotel or home to meet the bride, 8 hours of shooting and an hour or so to drive back home.
After the event I spend about two hours going through both cameras and getting rid of pictures that I know I won’t use. Example, maybe someone’s eyes were closed or weren’t ready (that is one of the reasons why I take so many pictures of the same thing). Once I am happy with the pictures that are left, I have to upload them onto my computer. Since I normally take over 1000 pictures in RAW format, it takes a long time to upload. The pictures are much larger than a typical JPEG image. Once they are on my computer, I back up the pictures to the cloud, as well as an external device. The last thing you want is for something to happen to the pictures. As a side note, while I am shooting, I also have each exact picture go to two separate SD cards for redundancy. I can’t image what would happen if you went to upload the pictures and you found out your card was corrupted. That would be a tough conversation to have with a bride.
Now that everything is uploaded and I know what I want to edit, the real fun begins. Editing is one of the worst parts about the job. People have asked me why I just don’t send it out to a third party for editing. My answer is always that I feel like it isn’t my picture anymore. You can tell a lot about a photographer by the way they edit. You are basically putting your personal style into the picture. You can take the same picture and have two different people edit the same picture and you may like one picture and not the other. Editing generally can take between 2 full days to a week depending on the wedding and what transpired that day. If the lighting was perfect all day, it may be closer to two days. If there were lots of shadows or the weather didn’t cooperate, I may have to get a little fancy with Photoshop to add the sun and sky that wasn’t there that day.
A normal timeline to get the pictures back is 3 months. It may sound like a long time, but if a photographer isn’t taking other shoots throughout the week they won’t be in business. Throw editing the pictures of all the other shoots, raising a family and running a business it takes about 3 months. I know other photographers who take 6 months to a year. You don’t want to rush the editing.
After all the editing is done I have to upload the pictures to a third party site where it generates the link to the zip file for your pictures. Uploading the pictures to this site may take around an hour or so.
Here is a cost break down of the equipment that I need for photographing a wedding:
3 cameras x $3000 a piece = $9,000 (I always have two on me and the second shooter needs one as well)
7 flashes x $600 a piece = $4,200 (I use 4 off camera flashes to control lighting and each camera needs a flash)
50mm Lens = $1,300
24-70 Lens = $1,800
7200 Lens = $1,900
Macro Lens = $750
Fish Eye Lens = $200
Battery Packs = $600
So as you can see, you will need close to $20,000 in equipment to effectively photograph a wedding and that is not taking into account the annual maintenance of the equipment and replacement every few years when things wear down.
The last thing I want to touch on that is hard to put a cost on is experience. Anyone could take out a loan and purchase all the equipment listed above. It takes years of experience to become a professional. I look back at some of my first weddings and there is a dramatic difference between those pictures and the ones I take today. As you get more comfortable with your art and skill, you can get more creative and things become more natural. You learn how to deal with problems that arise at a wedding. I like to think of myself as not only a photographer on the wedding day, but also the wedding coordinator. On more than one occasion I have had to assume that role because the venue was not capable of keeping with the time or wishes of the bride. There was this one wedding where it was raining that morning and the bride really wanted to get married outside. The rain cleared out and the sun was out. The venue didn’t want to move things outside because they had already setup inside. The bride was very upset. I went over and had a “chat” with the venue manager and had to make things happen. Everyone ended up helping out to re-setup everything outside. Another personality trait you need to have is being assertive. A photographer who fails to be assertive will miss out on great pictures. I assume every couple who hires me wants to get as many pictures as possible. Sometimes you have to be a little bossy/assertive to make sure you capture what you need to. In the end, I have not had a single person complain with my approach; if anything, they appreciate it.
I hope this break down of time, cost and experience helps justify to you why photographers charge what we do for weddings. For more information on pricing, visit my investment page or check out my portfolio.
I was born and raised in Perry hall (Baltimore area) and have been living in Harford County, Maryland for close to 15 years. I have two daughters that keep me very busy and a very understanding husband that helps keep me sane J I love all kinds of photography including Newborns, Weddings and Family. For the past several years I performed shoots out of my house, but recently opened a photography studio in Joppa, Maryland next to the “The Great Hall” Wedding Venue at the Millstad. My studio allows the perfect lighting to capture the best pictures and it is surrounded by 40 acres of property that is used by a ballet studio and gymnastics facility. There are plenty of places to photograph! I also have some favorite beautiful spots in the area that I like to photograph at as well. Whether you are looking to capture the first days of your baby’s life, the important times with your family, Senior Portraits for your High School Graduation, or walking down the aisle on your special wedding day, I would love for you to consider me! I do not take any of my business for granted and feel blessed to do what I love for my career. I invite you to check out my website and subscribe to my email list for exclusive discounts and updates. I try and write these blogs in a way that might answer some questions you may have. If you ever have any ideas for my blog, shoot me an email and I will be happy to see what I can do.