The cost of a wedding photographer might be a bit of a shock at first...
I was chatting with a groom-to-be the other day to confirm a booking for their Vale of Belvoir wedding next year. They mentioned that they were a bit surprised (actually completely bowled over) at the cost of a photographer for the day but as it was the first time they’d ever booked one, they knew no different. Well why would they?
We chatted. I tried to explain why we cost what we do. It’s not the first time I’ve had the conversation (with clients and chums alike) so at massive risk of offending the general professional photographer populous (which really isn’t my intention at all by the way), I thought I’d jot down my thoughts on the subject and maybe dispel some of the myths and misunderstandings surrounding the way we price stuff...
To put things into context, I charge anywhere between £1,200 and £2,000 for a day’s wedding photography depending on where in the world your wedding is, how many photographers you would like and whether you want us there before dawn/until midnight or both. You will find cheaper photographers and you will find more expensive photographers out there. I’ll try to explain why as we go.
So what exactly are you paying for...?
Anyone can point the camera and press a button, right? Technically, yes, I suppose so. Would you proudly display the results afterwards? Probably not.
The keen enthusiasts with the decent cameras may not do your memories justice...
Photographers come in all shapes and sizes and we all have a different level of experience. A full-time, dedicated professional who has been wielding their camera day in, day out for years and years is likely to be a more valuable commodity that the part time ‘semi-pro’ (I’m not a fan of that term but I can't think of a better one) that is having a dabble at the weekend alongside their regular job. The former is likely to charge more than the latter. Sounds fair.
The pros amongst us have invested oodles of time, effort and cold hard cash in learning and developing our skills. To get to the point where it’s our only source of income is testimony to that and the fact that we’ve probably got a bit of a knack for it too, which you can’t just buy off the shelf.
Think... All those special little moments that you’d like captured on camera will only happen once on your wedding day and they’ll happen super quickly. You’re paying in part for the photographers ability to do all this quickly, effectively and without fuss in whatever weather conditions the British climate sees fit to throw at them. It’s not easy, you can’t learn it over night and having the latest most expensive camera isn't quite enough to make up for a lack of experience or flair.
In a nutshell: Cheaper photographer usually means less experience. It will show in the final product.
The contents of a photographer’s bag will vary wildly too.
It’s very true that all the best gear in the world will not make anyone a good photographer. It is however, a complete load of rubbish when people say that you can always take a fantastic picture on any camera.
The camera and lens are tools. The more you pay, the better a tool you have at your disposal.
I can only liken it to my dabblings with home DIY. I’m alright at DIY, pretty handy for a girl (well this whole blog post is one sweeping generalisation after another so far, so why not!?). Much of the finished product is in part down to me having a decent set of tools though, not just the way I wield them. It’s hard to cut a neat dovetail joint with a blunt saw after all.
My camera bag contains at least two professional DSLR cameras, four professional lenses, two flash guns, a video light, some reflectors and a load of other ancillary bits and bobs. Depending on the wedding, I also carry a full studio flash set up, just in case the weather is really not on our side. We’re talking over £20,000 of kit. Is it necessary? Yes! I know I can cover whatever is thrown at me. Howling wind and rain? We can light indoors perfectly. A stray pint of bitter all over the camera? It’s ok, I have a spare.
In a nutshell: Everyone needs the right tools for the job. Picasso was unlikely to get his brushes from a painting by numbers kit. The cheaper your photographer is, the less equipment they are likely to have at their disposal. It’s also likely to be of a lower standard and they are less likely to carry back ups.
What else does the photographer do apart from take the pictures:
Now this is likely to vary the price massively. In the days of film cameras (for those who remember them) we used to take the photos and send the films off to the local lab to be processed. It took hardly any of the photographers time at all. Today, it just isn’t like that.
Personally, I spend around 15% of my working week actually taking photographs for clients. The rest? Processing the images takes a huge chunk, especially as I do each and every one individually as opposed to sending them through a program overnight. Watch out for those types.
What am I on about? For the non photographic readers that have got this far through this post (well done!), in simplified terms, we shoot RAW images that need developing just like a film would need developing in days of old. We don’t do it in a dark room anymore, we do it on a computer. In the days of film photography you wouldn’t have been impressed if your photographer had sent your wedding images to be developed by an automated machine in Boots would you? The same goes for those that send their images through an automated program on their computer, or shoot JPEG files in the first instance. There is no human factor. Don’t get me wrong, these programs are very clever but they’re not a patch on the human eye at the end of the day.
The rest of the time? Practicing, trying new stuff, marketing, meeting clients, admin... you get the idea.
In a nutshell: Making lovely images takes time. The cheaper the photographer, the less time they are likely to spend on processing your images which will either mean fewer finished images or lower quality images, or both.
What you actually get:
This varies madly and is often the bit that bamboozles couples when shopping around for their photographer. We all offer different stuff.
The common ones to look out for:
Time. Some offer a certain number of hours on the day, others won’t clock watch.
Images. Do you get them all? Do you get any? Have they been processed? All of them? Are they high resolution so you can print them?
Rights. This one is important. A photographer will almost always retain the copyright of your images. They then usually give you a licence to use them which should detail whether you can print and share the images and with whom. Many photographers are happy for you to use them as you wish providing you use them privately and not commercially. Some will specify that any sharing or reproduction must be arranged through them, which is usually an extra cost.
Online Gallery. Is this included so your friends and family can have a look at the images afterwards?
Albums. Do you get one? Is it the one you want? Can you make any alterations to the layout or finish?
Expenses. Are they included or will you have to pay extra for your photographers mileage and lunch on the day?
In a nutshell: Don’t just focus on the price you’re quoted, you need to take into account what you actually get for that. Make a chart or a spreadsheet maybe, spreadsheets are great for that sort of thing. I love a good spreadsheet.
Even so, photographers still charge too much...
For me, one wedding equals a solid weeks work by the time I’ve taken into account everything else that goes with it. What do you think a skilled professional should get paid for a full weeks work? Add to that the cost of a car (purchase, service, maintenance, fuel), an office or similar, utilities, IT equipment and software, training, insurance, an accountant, taxes and national insurance. Then add on the cost of the photographic equipment needed to do the job. If we’re going to make it comparable to ‘regular’ employment we should also factor in holiday allowances, sickness benefits and pension contributions. It all adds up!
That felt like a rant. Oops. It wasn’t meant to be. I just wanted to give you an idea of the bigger picture.
The final nutshell: We don’t just pluck a price out of the air. All of the elements mentioned above cost money. The more a photographer offers you, the more it will cost you. You really do get what you pay for. You need to weigh up how important your wedding photography is to you both and search for the one that offers you what you want.
Don’t forget the human factor. Your photographer will be spending the whole day with you, make sure you LIKE them and the way that they work.
Make sure your photographer is someone you're happy to engage with and smile at...
Meet up, have a chat, get to know each other beforehand. Having a good working relationship is just as critical to achieving good results as having a decent camera. You’re not going to relax and look happy around someone that gets on your nerves now are you?
There’s a photographer out there to suit every couple and every budget. Having the ‘wrong’ photographer is one of the more common post wedding regrets for lots of couples. Spend a bit of time finding the one that’s right for you.
New years resolutions...
January 16, 2019
Why would your photographer offer you a free pre wedding shoot?