It is often very difficult to discuss wedding photography prices and opinions about wedding photography being expensive, but let me start off by saying that everyone out there has a different definition of what “expensive” is. Some people will say that paying $2,000 for a wedding photographer is “expensive” while others will pay more than $8,000 for a wedding photographer before they consider this being “too expensive”. So the term “expensive” is relative. Pricing of wedding photography also reflects the area of where the photographer and bride/groom lives. Of course, major urban areas like Toronto and Ottawa are going to be more expensive than outside areas, like Peterborough.
As a wedding photographer in the Peterborough, Ontario area, I would like to show you some important details to help you understand the secrets behind wedding photography pricing.
Talent – skills and experience
First of all and surely the most important! You are paying for the skills that a photographer possesses. Just as some pay more for a hair cut at a salon depending on the experience and skill level of the stylist. It’s not only tools that drive their prices up; it’s the level of skill, experience, and consistency of great results. During the wedding, they will be running around, ducking, diving, twisting, turning, crawling and climbing, all to catch those special moments that would otherwise be forgotten. Doing all that continuously for 8-10hrs is physically draining.
And to make sure they capture everything, they will probably have taken between 3000 – 4000 photos by the end of the day. Also, if your photographer comes with an assistant, then the cost goes up, as they have to pay them as well.
Equipment – Cameras, Lenses and Flashes
Don’t think for even a second that wedding photographer’s equipment is cheap! There is the camera (and back-ups), memory cards, flashes, batteries, lenses, tripods, and special camera bags. I would take a risk and say that the equipment value of a decent wedding photographer probably exceeds the cost of your wedding dress, catering bill and venue combined. Like a watchmaker or a surgeon, a photographer can’t do their job properly without the proper tools. It’s very expensive and don’t forget that as technology grows, wedding photographers need to invest in newer equipment to maintain the expected level of quality. The cost and maintenance of equipment is a part of your wedding photography price.
Equipment is also the software wedding photographers use to process and edit your wedding photographs. It is also the website that attracted you to them in the first place! Talking about first place, it is also an expensive SEO that makes their sites visible in Google or on other search engines!
Owning legal software licenses like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop with additional plugins, presets and filters is NOT cheap! And yes, a truly professional photographer has bought the programs and uses them legally. Software needs to be upgraded, so the computers themselves need to be upgraded as the newer software requires it to run. Owning a website and paying for a website designer is also very expensive and can run into the thousands. All these fees play a part in your wedding photography price.
A photographer who is offering you a service for 12 hours and gives you all photos for only $500 might not have any backup equipment or even have decent lenses, which would make them no different from “uncle Bob” with a point-and-shoot camera.
The Second Photographer
It is really impressive how wedding photography has evolved over the last few years. Before, couples were thrilled with 100-200 photos (of course on average) when photographers were shooting using film cameras. These days 99% of wedding photographers shoot on digital cameras. Thanks to this, we can take thousands of photos on a wedding day, and more importantly, brides and grooms expect this. In addition to this, brides and grooms are now expecting two photographers at their wedding! Of course there are great benefits of having a second shooter, but wedding magazines make the couple feel that they are losing out by only having one photographer. Having a second shooter at your wedding is an additional cost. Simply, the more people involved in photographing your wedding day, the higher the cost will be. Wedding photographers have to pay for the additional team members. After all, you don’t expect people to work for free, do you?
With equipment of that value in a crowded environment like a wedding, photographers (smart ones anyway) have all their gear insured in case of damage or theft. In addition, Public Liability Insurance and Professional Indemnity are essential for any freelance photographer, especially those who shoot weddings. Each of these insurance types can add up to several hundred pounds a year.
Studio & Office Rental
It is not that popular these days as wedding photographers work from their “home office” more often, but just to let you know, if you are going to hire a wedding photographer who owns a studio or has an office, then there is a good chance that their studio or office bill will be in their wedding photography fee.
Yes, that is right. Think about how you found your wedding photographer. Was it at a wedding fair? Or maybe you saw an article or advert in a magazine? Or maybe you found them on Google or Bing? Everything above costs your wedding photographer money. Certain popular wedding shows charge photographers upwards of a thousand dollars just for a booth! And websites like RockNRollBride.com or JuneBugWeddings.com, although a good sources of information, charge hundreds for front page advertising. Search Engine Optimization (the thing that helps a website to show up on the first few search results) is quite an investment, too. The more aggressively a wedding photographer advertizes, the higher their costs will be because they have to compensate for the insanely high cost of advertising.
I am sure that when many couples see a photographer’s prices, they think “wow! that’s a lot money for one day’s work!”. Well, the fact is, unlike your DJ, decorator or caterer – your wedding photographer’s work starts before your big day and continues on afterwards too. First of all a wedding photographer needs to invest time to meet with you (sometimes even a couple times), then take photos of your engagement session and edit them, then shoot and edit your wedding day, copy and backup all photos (this takes time too, to copy & backup 60 or even 100 gigs worth of files on two separate backup drives – yes, decent photographers usually have two or more backup disks). It’s on average 50 hours of work just to edit your engagement and wedding photos.
That is not the end. What about customer service? Social media management? Blogging and writing articles for future brides and grooms to make their life easier (like this article you are reading)? This takes time too.
Alright then, so how to have amazing wedding photos when you are on a budget?
Simply, you need to find them somehow. Do research using all the information I wrote above to help you find an affordable and talented wedding photographer. If you find a photographer who owns his/her business and has no staff to pay, then you have a chance of saving some money. This probably means that you need to give up your dreams of having a second shooter. Find a decent photographer who has all the professional equipment they need as well as backup gear, but who doesn’t run a studio or office and simply works out of their home. Don’t look for vendors at big wedding shows if you are on a budget! These wedding shows are usually very expensive for exhibitors so your chances are very small of finding a vendor who can work within your wedding budget. I would suggest you use social media. Do some searches on Facebook and look at the Facebook Groups. They are good ways of finding truly talented photographers that will work within your budget. Finally, you can save money if you find someone who is a part-time wedding photographer. Well, it might take a bit longer to get your wedding photos but it’s worth considering the amount of money you will save.
Just one more thought… as the saying goes, “You get what you pay for”. Be smart and don’t forget that a “professional” photographer who will shoot an all day wedding for a few-hundred dollars will often only be a semi-professional, building a portfolio, not having the equipment needed to get you the photos you want or not having the proper insurance or legal software. You need to be aware of this.
So the moral of the story is…there is a method to our madness when us wedding photographers determine our prices!
Cathy & Jenn of CatsMac Photography, Cobourg, Ontario.