You've all wondered before. Heck, I used to wonder too.
Why is Wedding Photography so expensive?
Getting married is costly. Even if you have a small wedding, the numbers add up. Most of us are on a tight budget, and we have to pick and choose where that tight budget goes, so why spend such a large percentage of it on your photography? We've heard this one before. "I have a friend who will do it for free." Or, "I found someone online who will do it for a fraction of that cost." They aren't wrong! There ARE people who will photograph your wedding for not a lot of money. Why not hire them? I'm hoping to help clear that up a little from my perspective.
First, I'd like to be crystal clear. I believe that EVERYONE should have wedding photos, no matter your budget. So, if your budget is too small to hire a seasoned wedding professional, you should absolutely hire whomever you can afford! Everyone has to be hired for the first time, and sometimes, your small budget could be the opportunity of a lifetime for a budding wedding photographer. I got paid $400 for my first wedding, and I worked for 12 hours in 100 degree heat. But I'm forever grateful to that couple, Rebecca & Chris, because they took a chance on me!
So, why is your wedding photography worth the investment?
1. The lasting memories. Your photos are often the ONLY thing you get to keep from your wedding. Maybe you have your dressed preserved or your bouquet dried, but your photos will be the only thing from your wedding day that you can carry around with you to remember each and every part of your day. They will be one of the only things you can display in your home and hang above your bed as a reminder of your promise to each other and the day you committed your life to each other. To me, this is invaluable. Your wedding day will feel like a total blur after it happens. When you get your photos back, you will be able to remember every moment. Even when the giant dog who lives on the property where you're getting married processes down the aisle with you and joins your family.
2. You get what you pay for. 99% of the time, you get what you give. If someone is offering your full wedding day for $500, they probably have either never shot a wedding before, or they are not experienced enough to charge for anything more than just their time. I've gotten quite a few inquiries from brides who are looking for high quality wedding portraits but are unwilling to see that high quality wedding photographs come from years of experience and practice. Which brings me to my next point...
3. Experience. When you hire a seasoned wedding professional, you are receiving the benefit of their past experiences. I cannot tell you how big the difference is between having photographed 3 weddings, and having photographed 50. Each and every wedding I photograph, I learn something new. Each time I take away something that I can do better for the next time. It's extremely common in our society to pay someone a rate that is commensurate with their experience.
4. Education. Any wedding photographer who has been at this for a little while has invested in their education. No, not all of us have a degree in photography, but we have all spent countless dollars and even more hours learning, practicing, and honing our skills. I'm pretty much always stepping up my game and adding to my arsenal. Which brings me to the next point!
5. Equipment. Being a photographer, especially a portrait photographer, is EXPENSIVE as heck. Like, to be totally transparent, since January 1, 2017 I have spent $23,000 total on my business. A BIG portion of what I make gets put back into running this thing like a well oiled machine. No that's not all equipment, in case you were wondering, ha! It's important to understand that high quality photos come from high quality equipment. There are the obvious things, like the cameras and the lenses. Yes, both of those things are plural. I do not show up to a wedding with any less than two camera bodies. Right now, I have five lenses that I bring with me to every wedding to use throughout the day. You might wonder why I need so many. Well, there are the standard lenses, but then there's the zoom lens for the reception so that I can take photos of you and your new husband on the dance floor, and then in the next second take photos of your niece sitting on the side of the room smashing cake in her face. Also, you want that beautiful up close shot of your engagement ring right? I want you to have that too, and that's why I have a special lens for it, because my other lenses won't take that photo! OH and DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED on how much the bags and cases to carry all of these things around cost. I could go on and on, but you get the point! Now, that doesn't include the memory cards, the hard drives I use to back up your wedding photos so they never go missing, my computer that I use to edit your photos, the flashes and lighting equipment I use to give you awesome reception photos, the comfortable shoes I buy so that my legs don't fall off by the end of your day that are also nice looking so I don't resemble your grandma, enough gas for my car to run all over the world, etc. etc. Long story already to long, when you hire a seasoned wedding professional, you get the best equipment to capture the best moments of your day.
6. Time. You might think that you are hiring your wedding photographer for an hour long engagement shoot and 8 hours on your wedding day. You may think that the hourly rate for your photographer is EXTREMELY high, but when you add up all the hours I spend working for you, it's actually quite low. While your engagement session and your wedding day might be the only time we spend face to face with you, that is a small fraction of the time we spend working for your wedding. First, I spend time corresponding with you via email. I really do care about providing the best service, so I think through my responses and I try to be as thorough as possible. Sometimes I drive many miles to meet you in person, sometimes I spend an hour with you on Skype, or on the phone. Then, if you decide to book me for your wedding day, I prepare your contract and invoice, and I review these with a fine tooth comb to make sure we are both protected! I help you pick out what to wear for your engagement shoot, I help you figure out where it should take place, I'll fix your hair and hold your purse, I'll tell you jokes to make you laugh and stand knee deep in water to get your perfect shot. I answer your emails and your texts whenever I can to keep your wedding day stress free. I spend time hiring and preparing an assistant. I help you create your timeline. I go to your venue to scope out the best spots. I put your groom's boutonniere on for him because no one else knows how, and I'll figure out how to bustle your dress for you when one of the hooks breaks. I'll vacuum my food into my body so that I can make sure I get shots of you with your guests. When your day is over I'll go home and edit a preview or two so that you don't have to wait to see your photos. And then...the EDITING. I spend A LOT of time editing your wedding photos so that they are perfect. I mean, I want them perfect before you receive them. This takes SO much time.
7. Care. I mean it when I say that I truly care about my clients, and I care about your wedding day. To the right photographer it matters deeply how your photos turn out. We stress about it. We get nervous before your wedding day. We sweat and run around and get blisters and aching backs because your wedding photos MATTER. Invest in someone who cares about you. You should feel important to your wedding vendors. Your wedding is important. And it should be just as important to them as it is to you.
The number one regret I hear from people about their weddings has to do with their photos. They wish that they had done engagement photos. They wish they had had a photographer there while they were getting ready. They wish they had spent just a couple hundred dollars more to have their dream photographer. They wish they had photos to hang above the fireplace, and they wish that they had a beautiful photo of their whole family together for the first time in 10 years.
It doesn't have to be me, but invest in a spectacular wedding photographer. That doesn't mean you have to hire the most expensive one. But consider the lifelong value, and don't let yourself be someone who regrets spending thousands of dollars on a meal for all your friends but not having the photos you dreamed of to share with your children and grandchildren. Invest in someone you can trust with the biggest day of your life.