The real cost of wedding photography
Why we charge what we do
wedding photography isn’t cheap, that is one thing for sure. Something you might not be sure on is what you’re really going to get for your money, which is exchanged before one image has even been created.
Not only has this blog been created to help you understand the true cost of wedding photography, but why we charge what we do. Everyone has an pre-conceived expectation and wedding photography falls into the category that comes with questions & statements such as – “Why do you charge so much”, “They are only there for 1 day, they get like £90 an hour”… I guess some people aren’t in the know, (you only ever do this once) on exactly what a photographer and other creative services, especially a wedding photographer, has to go through.
It seems that anyone “with a good camera” is seen as a photographer and capable of all manner or genres including wedding photography.
So you’re getting married and your list will consist of items such as:- venue, dress, bridesmaids, rings, etc. Near the bottom of your list, in most cases, is the photographer. Ohh wait, you’ve spent all of your budget already? Your wedding is a costly investment and one thing that shouldn’t be compromised is the photographer; the only professional visual documentation of your day, who’s work will be looked back upon for the rest of your lives; Not having a well documented set of images doesn’t bare thinking about, especially as memories fade, the only real record of your day will be those of the images your photographer captured.
A survey by You & Your Wedding, the UK’s leading bridal brand, has revealed that despite the tough economic climate brides are more determined than ever to have the wedding of their dreams. The average cost of a wedding in 2014 totalled to £20,983. That’s a lot of money! Some couples simply don’t want such a big wedding, instead they choose to have a smaller and more intimate wedding, but budgeting on your photographer shouldn’t be something on the list that shouldn’t be compromised. A key rule of thumb to remember with booking wedding photography is that the photography package should cost between 10-20% of your overall budget. That may sound a lot but in the grand scheme of it, it’s in keeping with the level of quality you expect from the rest of the wedding. Why settle for less and pay so little for something that will stay with you just as long as each other and your vows will…
The most underestimated and often forgotten cost is to pay the photographer from the cost of the package
I have decided to write this breakdown guide to offer guidance, an understanding and a reasoning to anyone who asks the “why does wedding photography cost so much?” question that most photographers begrudgingly need to explain. It’s not that we take the liberty or charge what we want. Like any other established and structured business we all have running costs which vary from taxes, payment of equipment, travelling costs and the effort and stresses of initially booking a couple for their wedding. We as photographers have to focus carefully on sustaining sufficient marketing to ensure we get the initial enquiry. That costs £40 (on average) per advertisement on Facebook. The cost of a basic set-up of 1 camera, a lens, flash gun, computer and programs to edit your images can easily amount to £2000. My camera equipment adds up to roughly £7000; a mere half of what other professional photographers possess. If any one is considering at this point getting into photography… I suggest having an open mind and deep pockets…
The costs that a photographer will have to face
Here is a list of the costs that a professional wedding photographer will/may face – these are based on my estimates and experience.
Camera equipment –
- 2 cameras – one primary and the other a secondary acting as a backup incase the first fails.
- 3 lenses – one for low light and for photos of details. The other lenses are my primary lens, this is the one that will capture most of the day and thirdly my creative lens this allows me to create special, creative and fun wedding photography during the couples private moments away from guests and then later on at the dance floor.
- 2 x Flash guns – Which will make sure your wedding is lit and is well-balanced.
- Batteries – 2 – 3 batteries per wedding are used, which aren’t cheap.
- Flash stands – To use with a flash gun set up in the corner of the room, this ensures the room is well-lit in darker rooms.
- Camera Bag – I need a bag to keep my equipment in which will protect and keep my equipment safe from a fall etc.
- Camera strap – My camera strap is a vital part of my kit, it supports my back, these cameras aren’t light (roughly 1.8kg per camera and lens) to carry the equivalent of 4 bags of sugar does take its toll over a 14 hour day.
- Memory cards – 6 – 8 (sounds a lot) I use 2 per camera, one works as a back up and the others are spare and replacements which I will use during the day.
Office equipment –
- A computer – I use an iMac which can handle large files and programs used.
- Editing software – Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom which are vital for editing your images.
- Hard drives – We need to store all images and back up’s somewhere right?
- Online storage – Which acts as an insurance for your images.
- Website – Website and hosting services, an integral part of most businesses and part of the marketing, our website is an in sight to our portfolio, personality and quality.
- Wage – Obviously whatever you do you get paid for it right, The photographer needs to pay themselves too.
- Insurance – With a lot of equipment it’s no doubt that insurance is listed, roughly £500 per year.
- Travel costs – Fuel and mileage adds up heading to weddings and consultations, a premium is sometimes incurred for business use too.
- Marketing – Business cards, website, business email address, business directories , wedding fayre and social media advertising. I spend almost £200 a month on marketing!
- Liability insurance – So that if something goes wrong we aren’t left penniless if something was our fault.
- HMRC – Taxes and National insurance contributions are a legal requirement of any business at 20% it’s a fair chunk out of the profit.
- Office space – Rental space if the photographer is running from an office or studio.
By now I guess you are probably more aware of just what it costs to be a wedding photographer. Now does the cost you’ve been quoted sound too much? However, besides our seemingly high charges, which are essential to living and success, we want you to have the best experience before, during and after your wedding. Having a photographer who wants you to have the best photos possible of your special day is priceless; after all you only get to marry your partner once. Paying for a professional wedding photographer will make sure you re-live your special day, time after time again, making sure that with each turn of the wedding album it puts an even bigger smile on your faces with memory.
The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low prices are forgotten
So how do some photographers charge £500 and others £2000?
Experience – The taboo question, the question that all photographers try to avoid… why?! Because quite frankly it is awkward having to prove why you sell a product at a particular cost compared with the person down the road, especially if it’s considerably more. Often the reason, over all others is the cost of EXPERIENCE. An experienced photographer knows how to adapt their equipment to the ever-changing surroundings, lighting and contrasts of each room, they know how to pose you, “but I don’t want to be posed”, some photographers like to pose couples throughout the day others such as documentary / photo-journalistic photographers still need to pose you subtly – group photos, that ‘natural’ walk you went on away from guests (the photographer has already planned that), they are posed & planned and the photographer knows how to do this subtly, without the awkward and strained smiles, ill placed hands all mostly done without intervening, creating the ‘natural’ images. This comes with experience, knowledge built up over years, knowing how a couple may act in or re-act to a situation, an experienced photographer will know when to take the photo and most importantly know where to stand anticipating the next move… That moment you thought was so incredible it was the highlight of your day, the photographer caught it and had understood and anticipated that moment. Experience costs money which in itself is worth every penny, that piece of mind knowing that all moments will be beautifully captured, the trust and professionalism is second to none, all of which are upheld by the photographer before your wedding, during each moment of your wedding and after the big day during the album planning and image printing stage.
Part time – There is another difference between wedding photography packages, the photographer maybe heavily subsidising their ‘business’ with a full-time job, and not dependant on the wedding photography income alone, maybe that’s how they want to roll (this will be the case for all / most new photographers), or is there a fundamental reason that they are simply able to undercut the industry by some margin as they have an alternative income… Not that I intend to offend anyone here as seriously how each photographer runs their business is solely up to them and completely their business. When comparing one photographer with another photographer you must have this in mind. You may think that even after reading all this that some photographers charge far more and how come some photographers charge so much less, it’s because of the way they run, do they pay as many overhead bills, perhaps they have a fantastic deal with an album maker, they rely completely on word of mouth and therefore don’t cater for a marketing budget, it depends how much they pay themselves, have they bought their equipment with the business income or is it a once hobbyist camera bought with their full-time job (how I started with it) and now used for weddings on weekends? These are just some of the overhead costs that are taken into account when professional photographers have to consider when estimating their packages.
Do they have the relevant experience in editing images?
Quality of final product – Something you may not expect but lets say the photographer captured a brilliant image – How do they process it? Does the photographer have relevant experience in editing images, ensuring they are all uniform in contrast, exposure and white balance (basic settings), what about that stunning looking image that has something very distracting in the scene, a photographer with a wealth of experience and knowledge in Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom will know how to edit your image perfectly, correcting and removing any distractions, balancing the frame, re-composing the image and so on. Not only does editing take up the most time (more than the wedding day) this costs the business money (of course by paying the photographer). Time = Money right? A photographer that charges much less maybe not so competent using programs such as this and may only take 3 hours to ‘process’ your images. A photographer charging much more will scrutinise, analyse and compare each image, that on times is as much as up to 1200 images (for one photographer), that’s a lot of time in front of the computer screen!
Comparing equipment – Does the photographer you’re comparing have exactly the same or equivalent equipment for the wedding? Often there’s a strong chance that the photographer charging more has twice as much equipment (sometimes up to £15,000) and more, compared with a photographer offering wedding photography packages for those with a smaller budget, the photographer could be using a kit lens and camera costing roughly £700. By investing in a more costly package you will often find that the photographer is well prepared using 2 or more cameras, covering the likelihood that one may fail, break or get damaged. Imagine your photographers camera broke (assuming they carry just the one camera), you now have no way or by any means of capturing more photographs of your wedding, that is a dangerous and a serious gamble – A camera has failed on me before at a wedding, what did I do, panic? No! I used my alternative duplicate camera and the day carried on very smoothly. This goes without saying for memory cards and lenses too, you can never fully expect when something as unforgiving as this can go wrong.
Taking your chances – You might actually find a photographer that has a duplicate camera set up, is professional and then delivers exceptional wedding photography leaving you very satisfied, everyone needs to begin somewhere and the only way to break into the market is by offering your services for much less, by doing this they are acknowledging their little experience in the field and by only covering costs which will be a minor amount for travel, insurance and other small costs. These photographers can sometimes be fantastic and therefore well worth the money, heck they may even be a better photographer than the person selling photography for £2000, again what they lack in is experience, so if you do consider yourself deliberating between a ‘budget’ , ‘mid range’ or ‘top of the range’ package from different photographers, be highly mindful that by hiring a new photographer to the scene, they may miss some shots that you may have outlined in the briefings before.
Duo photographer or two photographers packages are sometimes invaluable due to the amount of photography they can capture
BOGOF – But there are two of them! There has been a sudden rise in couples and duo photographers of what I have noticed, offering wedding photography packages for higher prices but this is then split between the photographers, but you do get almost twice as many images and a ton more natural and candid images of your guests, these packages are sometimes invaluable hence them commanding costs in the dizzy heights of thousands of pounds. They offer the option and ‘insurance’ if you like that while one photographer is busy photographing the couple, the other is photographing the guests or working on a more creative and original angle of the couple. Do you expect to pay £600 for 2 photographers, have all those images and expect them to pay for all the costs, as mentioned earlier?
Whats included – I think this is the last but also another crucial point to be made, what do you get for your money, I mean, how many hours are they with you, is there a pre wedding photo shoot involved, what about an album, is that album made by a machine or crafted by hand, as a hand-made luxurious album are expensive items even before there are images printed costing roughly £200-£600 for an album, it quickly adds up. How many images do you receive, 200? 600? All of them? Or how about – The package only costs £250 yet you don’t receive one image! How does that work? – you then have to pay per image and this is where the photographer can make some of the money back and make a reasonable profit, selling an image between £25 – £105 (size and quality dependant). In reality, I don’t think I have ever come across any two photographers that offer the same package, details, albums, quality of work and editing style, every business is different and so photography business are no exception.
What to look out for in a photographer and their wedding photography package
So this brings me almost to an end… I do like to talk / write a lot. The top things I would highly consider you to question when comparing packages and photographers are these, there are much more options to consider but these are the main questions to ask the photographers to make sure you find the most suitable and professional photographer available.
1 – Ultimately who are they, are they always in demand with exceptional reviews?
2 – Do you like their images and editing style ( you also pay for their editing style )
3 – Does your budget and photographer fit in with the wedding photography package they are offering (consider the 10-20% budget rule)
4 – How many weddings have they photographed?
4 – How many images will you receive?
5 – Do they have insurance and contingency plans if anything went wrong?
7 – What equipment do they have?
8 – Do you get your images including in the price or are there any other costs?
9 – In what format and how will you receive your images (online cloud, USB, CD, Album etc)?
10 – Do you like the photographer and their personality?
I really hope that this helps un-tangle some of the miss conception and un-realistic ideas that some people have about photography, in particular wedding photography. So to summarise no matter what wedding photography package you chose by a photographer, whether they are charging £400 or £4000 they are a businesses and there is often a calculated reason for the cost of their services, there are photographers who have been in the industry from 1 year to 20 years +.
Each photographer is an artist, you can’t get two of the same photographers with the same creative mind or two eyes the same, and be able to successfully compare wedding photography packages from every range, it’s simply not right and what you need, would maybe be ideal with one photography package but may not suit another – Wedding photography is a vital part of your special day, make sure your photographer is well suited to you, and the wedding, it’s a beautiful and special day. Be sure to compare similar packages with similar experience and quality. By hiring a professional photographer you receive great service and ultimately incredible images… Don’t compromise on something that will last as long as your vows will!
Best of luck and don’t forget to smile!
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