Because you definitely need a Wedding Photographer…
As a wedding planner, I often meet with couples who are surprised and discouraged by the cost of a professional wedding photographer. The fact is that for most people, a wedding is the first time they have ever had a reason to hire a professional photographer at all! Having been involved with the fashion industry, wedding industry, and being a good friend of many professional photographers, I hope to shed some light on why wedding photography costs what it does and why you should value a good wedding photographer’s skills and time.
No, your Uncle Bob will not do as good a job.
There is a misconception that any person can pick up a DSLR camera and immediately create images just as good a professional photographer could. Photography is a profession that encompasses extensive technical training, artistic skill, top of the line equipment, and in the case of a wedding photographer, excellent people skills as well! Everyone has an uncle or cousin who is an amateur photographer and while it may seem like a great way to save money, “hiring” them to shoot your wedding is a terrible idea. Let your friends and family enjoy the wedding. That is the best way to avoid potential conflicts if your photos aren’t what you expected,or you don’t get any photos back at all! I have seen friendships damaged by miscommunication over wedding photography.
By the hours…
Most couples want to capture their full wedding day, including pre-wedding events, getting ready, a first look, etc… all in addition to the ceremony and reception. Coverage on the day of the wedding can be anywhere from 6-12 hours. Now consider that many couples are also doing engagement sessions with their photographers, which can take anywhere from 2-6 hours and probably travel to specific locations chosen by the couple. Add this up and we are at 12-18 hours of time spent shooting. But wait! There’s more! On average, wedding photographers spend around 3-5 hours in post processing for each hour they spent shooting. This includes editing, formatting, image selection, setting up albums, ordering prints, and submitting to blogs. Now we are at anywhere from 48-108(!) potential hours of work for one wedding. Wedding photography is not something a person can just pick up and fit in on their weekend. It takes serious time and investment.
Most wedding photographers that I know have at least two cameras, multiple battery packs, extra memory cards, specialty lenses, flashes, lights, reflectors, filters, tripods, light meters, etc… I could go on and on. They also need decent computers and monthly subscriptions to editing software. Photographers have to be prepared for anything to happen while they are shooting, and being prepared usually means having a ton of equipment and absolutely none of it is cheap. I can almost guarantee amateur photographer, Uncle Bob didn’t spend thousands on his gear, and if he did, that still doesn’t guarantee he knows how to use it all.
The value in hiring a Wedding Photographer
Hours of work and equipment cost aside, wedding photography should be valued highly because it is the best way to record your wedding day. A good wedding photographer can capture beautiful, sentimental moments you will always want to remember, and even some you might have missed. It is easy for most people to justify a price tag on something like catering, because everyone goes to restaurants, where as not everyone has ever hired a photographer. If you place value on your food, flowers, dress, and venue, why wouldn’t you also value a great photographer to document the day?
Ok, I value quality photography, but do not have room for it in the budget?
You have a few options. First would be to look for a photographer who offers Elopement or Partial Day Packages. Second, consider a student or someone who is just getting started in the business and might not be charging as much as they build their portfolio. Just know that this can be a risky move, because you don’t know for sure that you will get quality work back. Go with your gut and ask to see samples of their work. Keep an eye out for portfolios that appear to have a wide range of styles on display, this is generally a good indicator that the photographer may have mixed in a few stock photos to beef up their portfolio.
Put it in writing.
If you find a photographer you feel great about, put together a contract and be very specific about what you are expecting them to deliver. A student may be new to the business side of things, but it is in everyone’s best interest to put together a detailed contract stating exactly what is expected as far as hours of coverage, product to be delivered after the wedding, and when that product can be expected.
From time to time, I will see posts on wedding forums and referral boards looking for a photographers willing to work for as low as $100-$200. Some photographers will offer lower priced Elopement Packages if you just want a shots of your ceremony, but even then $200 is almost insultingly low. If you cannot budget more than $200 for photography, it might be better to just crowd-source photos (there’s an app for that!) from your friends and forego professional photography altogether.
In short, be respectful of the time, talent, expertise, and investment it takes to be a wedding photographer. Understand that wedding photography is an art and that without it, some of the best memories of your wedding day may fade over the years. Talk to your Wedding Coordinator or venue to get recommendations for photographers that fit your budget and preferred style!
Thank you to my photographer pals who contributed photos of themselves at work, you can find them and more of their work at the sites below: