I’ve had this blog post sitting in my drafts folder for a while; continually adding to it when things happen or I read something that is relevant and aggravating. It’s an extremely vast and debated subject, but one that can still be taboo for both couples and photographers. The best post I’ve ever read about it is this one on Rock and Roll bride and is a total must read for anyone getting married, or anyone who wants to know just why wedding photography can be so expensive, and where that money actually goes.
What initially started me to draft this out was a Gumtree ad that I had to read and re-read as I couldn’t quite believe someone had posted it.
“I am getting married on the 6th of September this year and require a top photographer with a package including either prints or an album. I am on a strict budget due to the overwhelming and spiralling expenses of paying for the wedding but I do not wish to compromise on the quality of photos so would welcome any quotations from experienced wedding photographers that possess all of the proper equipment. I look forward to hearing from you, thanks.”
Okay, so let’s get this straight people, she wants everything a "top photographer" offers, but feels like she doesn’t need to pay for it.
- “Spiraling expenses” mean that if you did rock up to a wedding like this as a photographer they will have spent more on the flowers/food/wedding car/bridesmaid dresses than your services, but still expect to get a level of service that is second to none. She even admits that everything else has been more important! Way to go to make your photographer feel valued and enthusiastic about shooting your wedding.
- “All the proper equipment” Oh you mean, northwards of usually £10,00 minimum of professional kit? But you don’t want to pay proper money for that?
- “Albums” are sometimes included in a package, but again, are usually add-ons of at least £400 pounds. So let’s not forget that that will be coming out of your pocket, and your time (mocking up an album and ordering can take up to a day you know).
But remember, she doesn’t want to compromise. She believes that the photographer must compromise, the photographer who’s full time, only job is to photograph weddings, that they would want to do her wedding for a totally discount rate.
The thing is, she probably did get replies to that advert, but certainly not from serious, professionals. Maybe from people who just wanted any kind of experience, which is absolutely great for them to get it, but then she in not in any place to complain when she doesn’t get delivered a perfect set of photos at the end of it.
Photographers generally price accordingly to their skill, time, experience, equipment and clientele. Personally, my experience is not akin to someone who has done hundreds of weddings and has 10 years shooting time under their belt, and therefore I don’t charge the same prices those photographers do.
Although I have invested a lot of money into professional level kit, I may not have 10 lenses, like a lot of top-level photographers do. Above all, the weddings I most enjoy photographing are ones that have a lot of homemade touches, not with necessarily a large budget, and I price my services accordingly.
As quoted from the link article above, " At the low end of the market (this is £1,000-£2,500 FYI, the average being £2,500-£4,000 and high end being £4,000+) the photographers are most likely 1) photography students 2) weekend warriors (wedding photography not their full time occupation and just something for extra money on the side), or 3) new wedding photographers who are just starting out."
( FYI, I class myself in the latter of these categories, and as I’m still getting on-hand experience, and my clients get a reduced price of wedding photography which is beautiful and fits their budget.)
It’s ignorant and disrespectful to call these prices silly. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, treat your suppliers with respect and they will do the same. If you do only have £250 to spend on a photographer, don’t be disappointed if your photographs come out awful.
Haggling is another touchy subject that comes into wedding photography prices because a lot of people will try to get the price down. A photographer has set a price for a reason, and if you think they’re worth it, you’ll pay it. If not, find someone you think is worth it. Most people wouldn’t dream of haggling in the bridal dress shop for a dress, or with the venue’s carters, so why is it acceptable to do so with a photographer? It’s insulting.
So, an extremely common statement;
I’ve got a friend who’s got a pretty good camera and he’s taken some good shots of dogs/food/nothing but he wants experience, surely it’s best for me just to book him and save money? (anyone who's thinking of this, please read this - one of many horror stories)
Yes, you could do that. But bear in mind that shooting a wedding is like no other type of photography. The subject matter, light and environment is constantly changing, totally different to shooting a static object, or a model in a studio where you have total control of the light and subject. You might think it’s great to save that money now, but 1,3,10 years down the line when you look book there will undoubtedly be regret that you chose to skimp on the photography, when that’s all you have to show your children and grand children and friends of the day.
It’s not just about experience and technical knowledge, but equipment. There are certain lenses and standard of camera bodies that are needed to shoot a wedding, and without these someone would struggle. Renting is an option, but even then you need to know your way round your kit with ease and speed. Also, being a wedding photographer is about being a people person too, you want your guests to feel at ease when they’re having their photograph taken, not bossed about or coerced. This again comes from experience of dealing with a huge range of people, individually and at once.
So, if you’re in the happy engagement bubble and are starting to choose suppliers, work out where you put your valuation on photography and keep this in mind when choosing someone.
People who don’t really value their wedding photography often totally underestimate the skill, time and effort that photographers put in, and also the responsibility they carry. This responsibly is something they feel confident they can deliver on, because of the years and years of practice they’ve had. Generally, you get what you pay for, and if photography is really important to you, consider shifting some things around to make more room in your budget for it.