Why are wedding photographers so expensive? part 1

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Yes. Absolutely. Photography is expensive. But remember… photography is expensive for both of us.

Photographers don’t really earn the price you pay for the session. When you consider the hidden time and investment in training, equipment, insurances and the like- most photographers don’t earn much more than your hairdresser or mechanic. 

Here is what you are really getting when you pay for a professional photographer and (in part 2) what you miss if you don’t hire one.

The Iceberg

When a photographer charges £100 for a one-hour session, they’re not charging £100 an hour. At the very minimum, photographers typically spend at least 4 times that on a session. 

Whilst you may only see the top hour of the iceberg, you don’t see or you may not consider:

The time spent arranging the shoot with you, the planning/pre-visualising of your photos, maintaining the photographic gear, selecting the specific equipment for your shoot, readying the gadgets (from charging batteries to cleaning the lenses), the time and cost in traveling to the shoot,  setting up the paraphernalia, the actual hour at the shoot (its never just an hour- which is fine, really it’s fine, I don’t clock watch), packing up, traveling back, about an hour to load and choose the best images, another two hours minimum to edit the images, a to&fro email discussion about which ones are best to print, perfecting shots for printing and refining them for Facebook.

Your one hour session quickly becomes a 5 hour session. 

How much do you pay your hairdresser? Mechanic? It feels easier to justify those expenses, because you can see how much work went into the project firsthand. But, when you hire a professional photographer, you only see a small amount of what it actually took to produce those final images.

Photography Gear Is Expensive.

Because of the hidden hours, what seems like £100 an hour is actually only about £10-£20 but don’t forget… 

Professional cameras cost between £3,000 -£6,000. Most photographers have a second camera body, even if they only carry one, there’s a spare in a bag. Oh, and our cameras will likely be replaced after about three years, because like any technology, they become outdated pretty quickly. 

And of course cameras don’t come with lenses.  Professional lenses are £1500 plus and we will probably bring 6 of them.

Not to mention the lighting equipment, bags, straps, memory cards and other gizmos we rely on.  We require public liability and equipment insurance for all our toys.

Editing photos isn’t cheap either. You probably know we don’t supply your photos SOOC (straight out of camera), we take photos in RAW, similar to the film negative of days past and then process and develop them to be their very very best.

To keep you looking beautiful, we use a high quality display that will show the image properly. Most photographers have about £4,000 in computer equipment (including external hard drives to back up those photos), and like cameras, they have to be replaced every few years. We can’t get away with using Instagram filters, we’ll have an annual subscription to the essential editing software Photoshop and Lightroom.

That’s a lot of money.

While it’s easy to think that wedding photography is given an inflated price just because its a wedding, different types of photography require different gear (and different time commitments).  We all know there are businesses that are accused of charging a premium because its a wedding but I’d like to believe that they do this for the same reason I do: there are no “do-overs”, you can’t walk down the aisle again because my camera failed (so I carry two), you can’t do your first dance again (so I have 4 different lights); you can’t afford to lose any photographs so I shoot on two cameras that that record onto two separate memory cards in each camera body and I pay to back them up on site and also off-site so that even if my house burnt down your photos would be safe.

As a wedding photographer I invest in even more gear so I can shoot in any condition. The lenses that handle the limited lighting of churches and receptions while still offering zoom flexibility are £2500.  We need super reliable gear that can back-up every single photograph the moment it’s taken.

We have attended courses, read books, covet and read reviews of the latest equipment and employ the latest techniques because we love photography and we love weddings but most of all we are story tellers.  We tell your story.  

I agree, charges for photography always look high, but ”consider the longevity of these expensive services.  The alcohol, food, and cake get flushed down the drain (quite literally).  The venue and accommodations will serve as faint backdrops to your memories. The flowers will wilt and decorations, tossed away. The entertainment will be a ringing in your ears the following morning. Your makeup will be washed away and the hair slept on. Your wedding dress will remain, but there will never again be a practical occasion to wear it.  Of all these unnecessary, impractical, and conspicuous expenses, the photo and video documents hold the most utility. Their value increases with time, having an inverse relationship to your recollection of the day.” 

Pavel Kounine 


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