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“Why is wedding photography so expensive? Why should I spend thousands of dollars on someone who is only working for eight hours?” I have been working in the wedding industry for over a decade, and if I had a nickel for every time I heard some variation of this question…well, I would have a lot of nickels. There was even a famous (in the wedding photography industry) Craigslist post last year who described wedding photography prices as ‘whack’ and that wedding photographers “just show up and party and take pictures.”

First of all, I would contend that unless your wedding photographer is highly unprofessional or your close personal friend, they are not truly ‘partying’ at your wedding. If you are paying them, they are working (even if they are a close personal friend). That is not to say we don’t enjoy ourselves. It’s a celebration! Sure, most of us have a good time and it is why we consider ourselves lucky to do this job. But we are not letting ourselves go to fully enjoy the celebration (that’s where the highly unprofessional part comes in). Do you want your photographer getting drunk at your wedding reception? Do you want them dancing the night away instead of taking pictures? No? Didn’t think so. (On a side note, if you can find a photographer who both dances and takes amazing pictures – I highly suggest you hire that person!)

But there is a far less glamorous side to the wedding photography gig. Away from the celebration, behind computer screens, at bridal shows, and meetings, wedding photographers are hard at work running the business side of things. Yes, it is a business…


So you are not just paying for photography on the day of the wedding. You are paying for all of the hours of editing, the meetings, the emails and phone calls with people who do not end up booking, the equipment, the advertising, etc., etc. – the list goes on and on and on…

You might say, “My photographer doesn’t do the editing, they hire someone to do it or they outsource it to another company.” Well, then that increases their expenses! While they may not spend the time doing a task themselves they are paying someone to do it. And if they don’t edit your photos at all….well, you’re not getting your money’s worth are you? The same holds true for all ‘behind the scenes’ tasks. A friend of mine once passed this along to me during a discussion about business:

For my own business, I would say I spend, on average, about 70 hours on each wedding (including the couple’s engagement portrait session). While I do edit my photos, I have streamlined that process so that more time is spent actually serving my clients – getting to know them, meetings, emails, planning, and so on – so that my clients get more for their money. Isn’t that what everyone wants in the end?

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Comments

One of the main reasons I’m getting away from weddings… and they’re super stressful and they’re super emotional. I think I cry at every one… haha

Nicolette Gregory

Very very true indeed! Brides certainly think all that happens is we click the shutter a few hundred times at their wedding, go home, download the photos and put them onto CD for them!

I am going to play devil’s advocate here and question why this is relevant to our client base at all. Why does it matter how much or little we make per hour per wedding assignment? To our paying clients, they don’t care about our lifestyle. We chose our career path. We chose to be wedding photographers. Inherent with this choice is the due diligence to spend the appropriate time and money to providing a service.

Arguments and illustrations such as these tend to irate those who already don’t see value in what we do. This message simply tells them that we think they are too ignorant and stupid to comprehend the difference between price and value. The price is a means to an end. The end is achieving their values place upon memories and marriage.

I would argue that how brides perceive our jobs as, is not important. It doesn’t matter that we are perceived to click a few buttons across a few hours. What matters is that they like what they see and are willing to pay for it.

I would advocate steering away from such arguments because they do little for our cause. Fisting pumping photographers will not change how our customers view our profession. We are all price makers. We define our price. What we need to do rather, is focus on effectively communicating how our services add value to our clients’ lives.

Put it this way, I don’t care why my new AMG Mercedes Benz is so expensive. I only want to know how it will improve my life. Sure the design, fittings, trimmings, functions and options all point to a higher price compared to a budget vehicle, but notice how Mercedes does not advertise this but instead, focuses your attention to how this expensive car will make your life better?

Food for thought.

Absolutely Agree with you, wedding photography is not only clicking photos, there are lots of work behind the scene that the couple not aware of.this is a tedious job and who cares about your gears cost which is thousands of bucks.

My clients are paying for 25 years professional experience. 8 hours or 60 hours in front of a screen or behind your camera don’t even enter into the equation….it takes as long as it takes!

Dan,

I agree with you, to a point. People who don’t see value in photography are probably not going to be swayed by the data. However, it is the ‘service’ that we are providing and I think for some couples out there, they don’t realize that all of their vendors are spending a lot of time ‘outside’ the day of the wedding working for them. That is part of the service that they are receiving. It is part of how photographers are making their life better.

Also, I would suggest reading the third installment in the series – the intangible elements.

Dan,

To go further into it, how are you adding value/making your client’s life better? You are, for example, doing post production work which means editing out the ‘bad shots’ so your clients don’t have to bother with them. Enhancing the photos in Lightroom or Photoshop.

You might be taking the time to visit the venue, talk to the other vendors, etc. so that things run smoothly on the day of the wedding.

These things take time and a smart business person needs to account for that. No fist pumping here. Just trying to ‘lift the veil’ a bit and demystify the process.

[…] involves a significantly greater time commitment from any vendor, if you want it done right. I have outlined in the past how I spend, on average, between 60 and 70 hours working on every weddin…Sure, not every wedding is the same, but the logistics, preparation and planning involved for the […]

[…] involves a significantly greater time commitment from any vendor, if you want it done right. I have outlined in the past how I spend, on average, between 60 and 70 hours working on every weddin…Sure, not every wedding is the same, but the logistics, preparation and planning involved for the […]

Great article and very true!!!!! There’s sooooo much that goes behind the scenes, before & AFTER the wedding day!!!!

Ian, I suggest taking a look at part three of this series where I address the intangible elements that effect pricing.

I think it is a matter of a few things. 1 – Educating couples as to what they are actually paying for and 2. Charging appropriately based on the time you spend and your expenses. I think a lot of young photographers fall into one of two traps. They either charge too little after they have enough experience to be working on their own or they start out thinking they can charge $5000 a wedding having never done one before. I don’t mind the stress or the emotions.

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