So I’ve been thinking about this blog post for a while…. The photography industry has changed a lot since I started my business 17 years ago and even more so from when I got my start doing photography with my mom and developing photos in an actual darkroom! And here’s what I see… cameras are becoming more and more user friendly with automatic settings on them, so much so that now someone with absolutely no photography experience could pick up a camera and set it on auto and get some half way decent images. Which leads to a huge influx of newbie photographers who think it would be loads of fun to snap photos all day at a wedding. In my experience those people don’t last long. All it takes is one unhappy client, or they realize charging $100-$500 to shoot an entire wedding will hardly let them break even. And here’s why –
1.) Photography Equipment is Expensive and So is the Upkeep.
I’ve invested thousands of dollars in all of my gear and yearly I’m also probably spending close to $2000 or more in just upgrades and upkeep on my gear. I send my gear in frequently to get it looked at, cleaned and repaired. My latest one cost me $580 to replace a shutter that was past it’s life (because shooting 1000+ images a wedding wears a camera out in 2-3 years!)
2.) A Professional will Carry Back-Ups of Everything!
Cameras will eventually break down and I’ve had it happen at events, but couples will hardly know it’s a problem because we carry 2-3 back-ups of everything. Someone who hasn’t been doing this a while or doesn’t know they should do this may only have one camera body… Do you want to trust a once in a lifetime event to someone with no back-up gear? Make sure you ask if they do and/or ask them to show you their gear when you meet.
3.) Insurance –
A professional will carry liability and equipment insurance. Some venues are now requiring proof of liability insurance from all wedding vendors before they are allowed to step on to the property. And like all insurances this isn’t cheap either and you have to pay for it even if you don’t use it. A seasoned pro will have all of this covered!
4.) Computers & Computer Software –
So you have a fancy camera… now you need the latest and greatest software to edit those photos and video. Along with continuing education to keep up with all the latest trends and changes in said software. There are many other types of software that you may also need to successfully run a business such as: semi regular updates to bookkeeping software, Office Management Software and more! Additional Photoshop classes cost money too!
5.) Advertising –
You can take all of the pretty photos that you want, but if you don’t advertise how are these people ever going to find you. Magazine ads are spendy and so are advertising on all of the popular wedding planning websites. There are have been some years in the beginning of my career where I spent more on advertising than I made! Really! It’s an unfortunate reality of being in business.
6.) Training & School –
Photography is not an industry that requires any special licensing or proof that you know what you are doing, yet there are tons of ways to educate yourself in this field. College, online classes, workshops and more. I decided early on in my career that getting the knowledge from the professionals in a teaching environment was the best route for me. At the time I spent way more on my education at the Art Institute than most people spent on a traditional college degree. I learned a lot and I understand lighting, and posing in ways that someone just starting out may not have the grasp on yet. Since technology is ever changing so to is our ability to use it. Continuing education is also something a great photographer will invest in.
7.) Experience –
Just as you probably wouldn’t want an intern that is training to be a doctor to do a surgery on you all alone without assistance. You probably do not want someone who just picked up a camera yesterday to photograph your special day. This requires a lot of vetting… you need to look at the work of the individual that you are planning on hiring. Look for consistency in their work. Make sure they can take photos indoors as well as outdoors. Ask them how long they have been in business and what their training has been. Ones that have been around a while are going to be charging more than someone just starting out because their experience is worth more.
Even though I really enjoy what I do for my chosen career, myself and other photographers do have to make a livable wage. Even if we work from home there is still overhead to consider just like any business you have to account for all the utilities, the cost of rent or house payments, gas to and from your event and more. Once the day is over the job of the photographer is not complete either… Six to eight hours of photography is around 20-40 hours of additional work in editing depending on how proficient you are at it. So a photographer is not making $2000 off your wedding! After they also pay their assistants, 2nd shooters, pay for the items included in your package like an album and everything else all said and done they are looking at maybe $10-$15 an hour! Really! We could all go work at McDonald’s for a lot less hassle. But we don’t because we love what we do. We give up our weekends to do what we love! I haven’t been to a Summer concert in over 10 years! Because anyone I’d like to go see is over a busy weekend for my business! I lose touch with some of my 9-5 friends because they only have weekends to hang out. But again I do it because I love it! Nothing better than hearing from a couple after the wedding how excited they were when they saw their photos and/or video for the first time!
In conclusion… I’m not saying don’t hire a photographer because they are cheap. Put everything into perspective… How important are the photos to you? If you realize the only thing after the wedding you have besides the marriage are the photos and video and that’s extremely important to you than don’t go cheap. The old adage you get what you pay for is also true. If you are a person that could care less about your images and your budget is really small than maybe take a chance on that young budding photographer (I was there once upon a time and thank the people who took a chance on me) but don’t expect your images to look like the ones that grace the cover of a bridal magazine. I’ve also done many a backyard wedding where I know I was the most expensive vendor there because the place the couple got married at wasn’t as important as capturing the special memories for the couple. There are ways to fit the photographer of your dreams into almost any budget… spend less on some other aspect of your day, ask for people to contribute to your photography fund rather than give you a gift you may not need, or work out a payment plan with said photographer.
Hopefully, if you read this to the end you have a little more perspective on why photographers charge what they charge and possibly other vendors in the industry as well. We don’t look at our wedding clients as “Cha Ching” “Pay Day”. We look at them as someone who we want to make happy, and we’re incredibly honored that they have chosen us to be with them and capture their memories on their special day.
Happy Wedding Planning!