I am frequently asked why wedding photography is so expensive. When I am working with a potential client and the topic comes to price, I am often met with the blank stare of sticker shock. Allow me to begin though by saying that everyone has a different definition of what "expensive" is. Some say that paying $1500 is to expensive while others will easily pay over $4000 before they begin to think that the wedding photographer is too expensive. The concept of expensive is personal and relative.
Getting married is a commitment of love and your wedding day will be one of the most important days of your life. You will need a wedding photographer to capture those beautiful moments and encapsulate them for the rest of your life. I'm going to give you a sneak peak into the behind-the-scenes reasons for wedding photography prices and hopefully provide you with a better understanding of why this service costs.
Talent, Skill and Experience
First, and in my opinion most import, is that you are paying for the talent, skill and experience of the photographer. Good photography doesn't happen overnight. It takes years for a photographer to gain the skill necessary to produce beautiful images of your wedding day. Many photographers are professionally trained by institutions such as the New York Institute of Photography. These schools are expensive and like any degree program, require a great deal of time and investment. Outside of institutions of higher learning are expensive workshops and of course experience by doing. Professional photography isn't just point and shoot but requires gaining knowledge and experience with the endless different lighting situations as well as knowledge of proper camera settings.
Cameras, Lenses and Lighting
This is where some of the highest expenses are for a professional photographer. If you ever think that a photographer's equipment is cheap, then you don't have an understanding of that equipment at all. On any given day that I'm shooting a wedding, I have around $10,000 worth of equipment with me. Often times if I need to bring strobe lighting and reflectors, this can be more near $20,000. Let's also remember that nothing lasts forever and technology changes so a professional photographer often has to replace expensive equipment. A new camera body can cost $5000 or more and that doesn't even include a lense.
Software and Websites
Cameras, lenses and lighting are not the only equipment expenses that a photographer has. There is also high end software and websites that can be expensive. After the wedding is over, your wedding photographer uploads all of those images for post production. This requires a lot of storage space and expensive software like lightroom and photoshop. Once editing is done, most photographers will provide the final images on a website for the convenience of the wedding party to view and share.
The Second Photographer
The second photographer is something that has changed a great deal in the last decade. A great deal of brides expect there to be a second photographer at their wedding. It has become commonplace for there to be two photographers shooting the same event, especially if it is a large event. I'm fortunate in that my wife is also a photographer and therefore I have a second shooter to cover those events. Take a moment to think about the expense of having a second shooter. This is another professional photographer with their own expensive equipment and skill. When the assumption is made that a second photographer should be automatically included, you should also assume that the cost is going to reflect the need to cover that second photographer. I love the idea of a second photographer especially at large events, but I encourage you to understand the increased cost to support the second shooter.
Even the very well known wedding photographers have to advertise and put themselves out there to get clients. Advertising is very expensive. To advertise on google costs the photographer money every time someone clicks on their ad regardless if person hires the photographer or not. There are sites like The Knot and WeddingWire which are great for wedding photographers to connect with brides but you guessed it, it is expensive for the photographer to advertise on them. Then there is local advertising in newspapers, magazines and bridal shows. None of this is free and costs the photographer thousands a year.
Workload is all the behind-the-scenes stuff that a photographer does which most people aren't aware of. This is what happens with your images between the day after your wedding and when your images are delivered to you. Those photos that a photographer took are ran through post production which consists of editing every single image for accurate white balance and many other things. The average photographer spends 20 hours in post production working on your images to provide you with beautiful memories for a lifetime. That time can be a lot more when a second shooter is used and the event lasts an entire day. Beyond the time spent editing photos, there is time spent designing your wedding album, creating your prints, uploading your images to a website designed just for you, and so much more.
As you can see there are a great number of expenses involved for the photographer and this is only a small sample of costs that your photographer has to budget. It is expensive for the photographer to maintain a high level of skill and quality. Remember that "you get what you pay for". Yes you may be able to hire uncle Bob to shoot your wedding but does uncle Bob have the eye for great shots and the knowledge of lighting and poses? Can uncle Bob produce stunning photos that you are proud to hang in your living room and show all your friends?