Why does wedding photography cost so much? There are many, many reasons and I will seek to answer them for you in a three part series of blog posts. First up, equipment costs! Or, as I like to call it, “People charge that much to risk bringing their thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment to your event.”
How about that handy infographic? Nice, right? Okay, now to break this down in a little bit more detail:
Some of you may be looking at that $2000 figure and think, “Whoa, wait a second, Casey! I can get an entry level DSLR for $500.” Yes, you can. However, you will note that I said ‘professional quality’ – now, what does that mean exactly? Well, it means a camera that has a sturdier body, a better sensor (less noise, processes images faster, higher resolution, etc.), and has a shutter rated for a high level of use since a professional generally takes a lot more photos than a hobbyist and you don’t want your shutter malfunctioning at an inopportune moment. So, yes, for a ‘professional’ quality camera you can spend between $2000 and $8000 (or if you want to go medium format digital, you can spend over $20,000 – but those are usually not used in wedding photography).
Wedding photographers need fast lenses which means a wide aperture. For those who don’t know, the aperture is what lets light through the lens so that it can be captured by the camera (either on a sensor or film). Here is a visual representation of what various aperture settings look like. The lower the number, the wider the aperture and the more light gets let through:
Most wedding photographers usually want lenses with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or faster since they are dealing with low light conditions and moving people. They want to get as much light as possible. That means more expensive lenses. Standard f/2.8 zoom lenses (24-70mm and 70-200mm) are a hefty chunk of change, weighing in at $700 at the low end to $2000 and more at the high end. And if you want to shoot in VERY low light, you will need some f/1.4 prime lenses (prime lenses have a fixed focal length so they do not zoom in and out) and for those you are looking at $1500 and up per lens. Specialty lenses like super wide angle lenses are also going to run in the $700 – $1500 range.
“Flash! Ah-ha! He saved every one of us!” It’s true, flash can save us, even from ourselves. Most people cringe when they hear the word ‘flash’ in association with photography because they are used to the terrible, flat looking, unflattering flash they normally see. That’s why many couples look for ‘natural light’ photographers for their weddings. However, in the hands of someone who knows how to use a flash, they can create amazing lighting effects, eliminate problematic things like shadows or SUPER bright daylight, and I have photographed weddings in rooms so dark even f/1.4 was not enough to get the job done. Every wedding photographer should have one in their bag, even if they do not intend to use it very often, just in case the need arrives. And they should know how to use it!
It is surprising to see how much the price of memory cards has gone down. I paid the same amount recently for three high speed sixteen gigabyte cards as I did for my first one gigabyte card years ago. And since memory is reasonably cheap, there is no excuse for not having enough. I carry about 96 gigabytes worth of memory when I am shooting a wedding. Why? A variety of reasons, including the rare possibility that a card may malfunction. But most importantly, I don’t want to be limited in the number of pictures I can take. I would rather go back and edit out photos on my computer when I can see them at full size than delete pictures on my camera to make room to shoot more at the event. Also, if I am shooting two events in a short space of time, I don’t want to erase any photos off of a memory card until after I have edited the event on my computer. Better safe than sorry.
Computers and Software
These are generally the unseen items in a wedding photographer’s arsenal because they are ‘behind the scenes’ back at the office, studio, or home. A photographer needs a machine with enough computing power to run programs like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom (or similar image editing software) at a fast speed so they don’t spend hours waiting for their computer to process the images. They also need the software – and it is not cheap! And those are just the starting point.
I know, I did not put batteries in the infographic but they need to be addressed. In essence, they are much like memory cards – not terribly expensive, you can never have too much, and you will really miss them if you need them. I carry two back up batteries for each of my two cameras, and a LOT of high quality rechargeable AA batteries for my flash units (usually at least 8 sets of four batteries, plus the batteries in the flash units). Cost? $50 per camera battery plus $20 per set of 8 rechargeable AAs. A few hundred dollars and well worth it for the peace of mind.
I hope you found that informative. In my next installation in this blog series, I will be addressing the time that goes into running a wedding photography business (as well as other expenses). Do you have any thoughts on this topic? Please leave a comment and let me know!