Ceremony and reception venues are reserved. You have an idea of the style of dress you want, colors and who will be your maid of honor and best man. The excitement is growing! The next step is photography. You know you are going to want wonderful photos of your big day. But a cursory look at wedding photographers and their prices can be an exercise in surprise. Photography is definitely expensive. But why? They’re just photos for God’s sake!
Here are eight reasons why good wedding photographers are so expensive:
- they are qualified – When considering photographers and their fees, it’s helpful to remember that you’re not simply paying for a photographer’s time on your wedding day. You are paying for the ten, 15 or 20 year commitment it takes to create wonderful images in the few hours it will take on your wedding day. By paying more than you might have expected for a qualified and experienced photographer, you are giving yourself the added assurance that you will enjoy your wedding memories for years to come. Like most professions, becoming a professional photographer of consistent quality requires years of hard work. Many photographers attended college in photography, training for years working as assistants or newspaper staff photographers. They also spent countless nights browsing online forums talking about the latest and greatest ways to improve their work. They are always networking and reading countless books just to stay current. They have taken many millions of photographs of a myriad of subjects. Your wedding shouldn’t be a long, steep learning curve for your photographer. Your wedding photos and the overall experience will ultimately suffer.
- One-time major events require serious responsibility – This is a once-in-a-lifetime event that is the culmination of months or years of work. There is no chance to reshoot, not with so many important people in your lives coming from such far flung places to be with you and your future spouse that day. What happens if your photographer drops the camera? What happens if one of your camera discs is damaged? What happens if your photographer breaks his ankle two days before your wedding? At every wedding, a truly professional wedding photographer must be prepared for the risks of covering a unique event. That means having several disks on hand, image recovery software, several good quality cameras, and a list of contacts who can stand in for them in case they can’t shoot. The contingencies are numerous. Such preparation can be expensive and time-consuming to maintain, hence the higher fees for clients.
- Seasonal nature of work. – Photographers can only reasonably expect to have one wedding per week. These almost always take place on a Saturday. For many markets, including the market my business serves here in Kansas City, the winter months are not a popular time to host a wedding. The weather can be very unpleasant and make traveling downright dangerous. Therefore, photographers outside the Sun Belt can expect to be busy for only seven to eight months of the year. A photographer is having a very solid year if he has 20 to 25 weddings. To provide you and your future clients with excellent service, photographers need to protect their business margins year-round with those 20-25 weddings.
- A single wedding represents a huge commitment of time – Your wedding is more than a commitment from your photographer to work on the day of the wedding. They will spend many hours planning, editing, processing, presenting and shipping the photos, not to mention the albums and other photo products included in their priced packages. Your wedding will easily require 80 hours of your photographer’s time, if not more.
- tools are expensive – A qualified photographer will bring $10,000 or more in equipment during your wedding. Digital camera equipment will usually need to be replaced every few years. That’s expensive, considering pro-caliber camera bodies cost upwards of $2,500 to replace. The photographer must also update the computers and software with the same frequency. Add to that load the normal wear and tear of all equipment and the costs become staggering.
- commitment to you – As a wedding photographer I can tell you that it is much more pleasant to explain prices to clients once than to apologize for the quality of their photos forever. Ten years from now, when you see your wedding album, you won’t be worried about how much the photographer cost, but about the quality of his work. Good is rarely cheap and cheap is rarely good. A good photographer understands this and builds his business with a priority on his commitment to his images and his experience above all else.
- Growing the business is expensive – A wedding photographer does not get a lot of repeat business from our clients. If we did, that would mean a lot of failed marriages! References to family and friends are not uncommon, but there are so many friends and family about to get married. Word of mouth business from happy clients is important, but it’s rarely enough to fill a photographer’s calendar. Photographers, more than other businesses, have to invest more in marketing plans that introduce their business to potential new customers. Many of these advertising efforts are expensive. A page 1 placement on The Knot’s photographer website list costs more than $5,000 a year. That’s not cheap.
- Integrity – Imagine trying to decide between two photographers for your wedding, one photographer follows the rules and doesn’t cut corners to save a few extra bucks but come at a higher price. Another photographer has a lower price, but cheats on the rules and takes shortcuts so he can undercut the competition. Which one is more likely to back you up when you need it? For some photographers, integrity is sacred. They understand that the long-term success of their business is impossible without it. Integrity requires that they deliver on their promises on time and exceed expectations. Your internal business affairs are also conducted with integrity. They pay their fair share of income taxes as you do and have adequate liability insurance. Integrity requires that they collect sales tax and pay it to state governments in full on time. Such ethical practices are not always easy to maintain and often require us to pass on some of those costs to customers. Unfortunately for some, integrity is seen as an inconvenience or an impediment. While these topics may not seem relevant to your decision in photographers, a person or company that does all of its duty is much more likely to do its duty to you. A more expensive photographer does not guarantee such integrity, but makes it much more likely.
Wedding photography is expensive. No one can disagree. There are a myriad of reasons why a photographer has to charge such fees to ensure their long-term survival. As you ponder your choices and decisions, keep in mind how important the memories of this day will be to you. They should not be trusted to just anyone. Photographers may cost more than you originally expected, but ask yourself a question: Is it better to pay more than you expected or less than you should?