11 Reasons Why Wedding Photography is Expensive
“Why is wedding photography expensive?”
“Photographers exploit the fact that it’s a wedding and overcharge to make a profit!”
“They’re only there for a few hours! It’s a rip off to charge that much for a few photos!”
These are some of the questions and comments you might hear from people in shock after receiving a quote from a wedding photographer. With so many different packages on offer, it’s hard to work out what the average wedding photography prices are or should be. It can get a bit overwhelming.
But, contrary to popular belief, the fact is that most wedding photographers are not actually as expensive as they seem. If anything, I’d say they are undercharging considering that they offer a luxury service and an end product that has a high intrinsic value.
When a photographer quotes £2000 for an 8-hour wedding shoot, the immediate assumption is that he/she is earning £250 per hour. But if you take a closer look you will realise that wedding photographers make nowhere near that.
“You are kidding me right?” I hear you say.
Nope! Not kidding! But for now, instead of asking why is wedding photography expensive, ask yourself this:
“Why is the cheap wedding photography, cheap?”
- What corners are they cutting?
- Are they insured?
- Are they using the right equipment?
- How much experience do they have?
There are many reasons why there are so many cheap photographers out there. Here are some of the most common ones:
LACK OF KNOWLEDGE OF THE MARKET
Some amateur photographers enter the market and start trading. But they do so without having the knowledge required to be a wedding photographer.
Most professional wedding photographers are running a business. And, as with any type of business, there are many costs involved in running it. But, due to their lack of experience and knowledge of the industry, new photographers do not realise how much they need to invest to start a successful photography business.
The mindset is that as long as they cover their material costs they will be fine. As a result, their prices are a lot less than a professional who has done it as a full-time job for years.
By not calculating the proper costs, new photographers are charging way lower than the average market price. This is damaging to themselves, other photographers and the wedding industry in general.
LOW QUALITY OF WORK
Some photographers who have been around for 15-20 years but still charge very little. Sometimes less than the newcomers.
This is because their quality of photos and service are so poor that nobody sees value in their work. So they no choice but to charge very little to maintain a stream of income.
EXPLOITATION OF INEXPERIENCED PHOTOGRAPHERS
I’ve come across some established photographers who exploit the inexperienced. I was nearly a victim myself when I started out. But luckily I realised what was happening and just walked away.
How it works is that the experienced photographer will quote the client £600-£1000. But they send the inexperienced photographer by paying them a very small fee. Something around £100-£200, for a full days shooting and processing of images. They then pocket the difference. That’s £400-£900 for doing 1-2 hours of admin work.
A lot of new photographers charge low rates because it’s the only way for them to build a portfolio. I had to do that myself with my first two wedding bookings.
Why Photographers Charge What They Do?
Other than the physical products offered, photography is not a commodity business. It’s a mixture of many. Photography is an art, a skill and a service. A photographer has to be a good sales person, a good marketer and, at the very least, have a good business sense.
For a wedding photographer, it’s not a case of turning up and taking a few shots and then handing you a disk of images. There is a lot more involved in creating the perfect memory of your wedding.
Let’s take a look at some of the main costs a wedding photographer must consider when working out their prices.
The most important (and obvious) part is the labour. An average wedding can last from anything between 8-10 hours. Asian weddings range from 10-18 hours!
Your photographer will most likely arrive long before the main event. They’ll capture the small details. Things like the bride and groom getting ready, decorations, venue layout etc.
During the wedding, they will be running around, ducking, diving, crawling and sometimes climbing! All to catch those moments that would otherwise be missed.
Doing all that for 6-18 hours is draining.
And to ensure they capture everything, they will have taken between 800 – 1200 photos by the end of the day. Sometimes more. Also, if your photographer comes with an assistant, then the cost goes up, as they have to pay them as well.
2) Unseen Work
Most people are unaware that a photographer’s job does not end when the wedding does. It’s not uncommon for people to think that it’s a simple case of downloading the images and putting them on a disk.
The fact is, while the newlywed’s jet off on honeymoon, the photographer is still working on their photos.
Depending on how many photos they captured, they could spend anything from 5-14 days processing all the images of the day. Generally, processing involves getting rid of blemishes, cropping and adjusting colour and contrast.
Now, let’s take that £2000 fee and break it down to an hourly rate. We’ll assume it takes the photographer 5 working days to process the photos. And a further 2 working days to design a bespoke album:
- 2 hours – Pre-Wedding Consultation
- 3 hours – Prepping for shoot
- 8 hours – Wedding Day
- 2 hours – Travel to and from wedding
- 40 hours – Post Production
- 16 hours – Album Design
- 3 hours – Admin Work (emails, calls, accounts etc)
Total Hours worked: 74 hours
Hourly Rate: £2000 ÷ 74 = £27 per hour
As you can see, it’s nowhere near the £250 an hour that is assumed. The hourly rate is in fact 89% less!
And that’s only for labour at the very basic and minimal level of service. You then have to take into account all the other costs involved in running a business.
Sometimes it’s impossible for one person to process so many photos, especially if the clients asks for a huge amount of photos to be delivered within a short time frame. Take Asian wedding photography, for example, the celebrations of an Indian wedding can go on for 6-7 days. Imagine the number of images accumulated in that time.
In this instance, it may be necessary for a photographer to outsource some of the processing. Professional photo retouchers can cost hundreds of pounds per hour!
The equipment your photographer brings to the shoot is no ordinary camera equipment. Professional digital cameras and lenses can cost anything from £1200 – £6000.
And that’s just for the primary camera body and lens! A good photographer will always bring a backup camera (or cameras) as well as various types of lenses in case the primary fails.
They also need batteries, memory cards, filters, flashes and other lighting equipment. Then there’s the cost of computers and professional photo editing software like Photoshop. At the time of writing this post, the latest versions of Photoshop products range from £557 – £2264! There’s also the cost of upgrading every time a newer version is available.
With equipment of that value, smart photographers have all their gear insured in case of damage or theft. Also, Public Liability Insurance and Professional Indemnity are essential for any freelance photographer.
Each of these insurance types can add up to several hundred pounds a year.
6) Marketing and Advertising
An effective way for photographers to market themselves is with a professional website. Most photographers don’t have web design skills, so they have to use a professional web designer.
Getting a website designed could cost anything from £1200 – £4000+. And let’s not forget the cost of web hosting, maintenance, updates and technical support.
Then there’s the recurring cost of advertising. Although word of mouth is a great form of advertising, it does not provide enough exposure. To maintain a continuous flow of clients, a photographer must spend thousands of pounds per year on advertising.
7) Accountant and lawyer
Anybody running a business will almost definitely need a lawyer and accountant. Although it can be easy to keep track of earnings when it comes to matters of tax an accountant becomes necessary. Lawyers are necessary for any legal matters…obviously… :-)
And we all know how much they cost!
8) Travel / Location
It’s almost impossible to avoid fuel and travel costs. Carrying all that equipment on public transport is not even an option. Especially since most weddings take place in the middle of nowhere.
What about all those extra’s that wedding photographers offer?
Depending on quality and size, a storybook album could cost anything from £350 – £2000! Some photographers offer online galleries. Most will offer prints and wall products like a canvas. All these products add to the photographers’ costs.
10) Irregular Income
Unlike a normal 9-5 job, a wedding photographer’s working hours and income are not regular. Most weddings happen on a Saturday or Sunday and the vast majority are during the summer. How many weekends are there in a year let alone in summer?
Unless the photographer is in great demand, it is unlikely they will have a wedding booked every weekend of the season. Even if they did, I doubt that it’s enough to survive for the entire year, especially if they live in a city like London.
You will find that a lot of freelance photographers take on other disciplines of photography. Corporate work, portraits etc. You’ll even see some top wedding photographers doing this.
But these jobs are not regular or guaranteed. So don’t be surprised if your photographer says they have a day job on top of being a wedding photographer.
11) Experience / Education
Most wedding photographers didn’t just buy a camera one day and decide; “I’m going to photograph weddings!”
Professional photographers invest a lot of time and money on education. That includes courses, seminars, on-the-job training and apprenticeships.
Even after gaining the knowledge, they spend years perfecting their practical skills. Things like lighting techniques and posing etc.
So, why is wedding photography expensive?
The answer is simple; wedding photographers invest a lot of time and money developing their skills. They invest in their business to provide a reliable wedding photography service. And they do this because they are passionate about photography and your wedding.
They take great pride in their work. Most will go above and beyond to capture moments in the most artistic, creative and meaningful way.
Considering all this, can you really place a monetary value on memories?
Most newcomers are equally passionate and skilled. But they may lack the necessary experience and knowledge to cope with the pressures of photographing a wedding. Will they know what to look out for? Are they able to anticipate when certain moments will happen? Can they communicate with guests of all different personalities? Do they know which piece of their equipment to use in different situations? But most importantly, will they know how to capture everything in the best way to reflect the mood of each given moment?
Next time you receive a quote and think it’s a bit high, take all the above into consideration, before making a decision.
Ask the photographer key questions and find out more about them and base your decision on that.
- Check the photographer’s portfolio. Are the photos up to the standards you require?
- Do they have Public Liability & Professional Indemnity Insurance? If not, who will cover for damages if the photographer accidentally injures someone? Or how will they reimburse you if their equipment fails and they lose all the images?
- Do they use professional equipment?
- How much experience have they had photographing weddings or events?
- Are they authorised to provide services to the public?
- Are they passionate about your wedding and their work in general?
In the end, it is your wedding day, and you should go with what you feel is right for you. Remember, hiring a photographer is not a purchase, it’s an investment. As with any kind of investment, you get what you pay for!
If you’re struggling with the budget, try cutting back on other parts of the wedding. Not the photography. When the honeymoon’s over, your photographs are all you’ll have left to remind you of your special day.
You need to ask yourself “How important are memories of your wedding to you and your family?”
I wrote this article in the hope that it will give you a better understanding of why wedding photographers charge what they do. I hope it helps you make an informed decision about your choice of photographer.
To aspiring photographers, I hope this article helps you understand that there is a lot involved in wedding photography. And it’s not easy.
Here are a few, pertinent, quotes attributed to John Ruskin; an English author, poet and artist:
“It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money — that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.”
“There is hardly anything in the world that someone cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper. And the people, who consider price alone, are this man’s lawful prey.”
– John Ruskin (1819-1900)
This is a somewhat contentious topic, so I’d love to hear your opinions. Do you think wedding photographers charge too much or not enough? Share your thoughts in the comments.