Why is wedding photography so expensive?

Published: 25th January 2008
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This is the age-old question that usually gets asked right after the lead-in question of "How much does it cost?" Most couples are shocked at what even decent wedding photography costs. Most think "you're only taking a few pictures - why so expensive?" Sometimes you'll hear "geez, that's like $400 to $500 an hour - I don't even make that kind of money!"

The reality is that most people aren't aware of what actually goes into making great pictures that you'll cherish for the rest of your days. They're not familiar with the processes that most photographers go through - it's much more than just showing up to take the pictures and then handing you a CD or printed proofs. There is actually quite a bit that takes place before, during and after your wedding that contributes to the final result.

Before the Wedding
Most good wedding photographers didn't just wake up one day able to make the kind of beautiful images that you see in their wedding portfolios. Most of them started their careers with education - both formal and informal - on how to make great pictures. Professional photography is definitely an acquired skill. Most photographers spend years learning how to master their camera equipment, lighting scenarios, image composition and different posing situations that work (and ones that don't work). Formal education is often supplemented with internships, on-the-job training and many hours spent making, evaluating and re-making picture after picture.

Having gotten this far in their photography careers, once the photographer decides to take the plunge into wedding photography, a significant additional learning effort must be undertaken to learn and perfect the science and the art of photographing weddings. Many, if not most photographers will start this process by working (usually for free) on anywhere from a few to a dozen or more weddings as a "second shooter" with an experienced wedding photographer. Much like driving an 18-wheeled semi-truck is different than driving your passenger car, making great photos at a wedding is completely different from making great pictures in a studio or for a newspaper or magazine.

Once the photographer has a handful or more weddings under their belt as a second shooter, they will often perform a couple of weddings for free or near-free as a primary shooter. It's critical for the photographer to continue to gain experience in the dynamic wedding environment. This experience is invaluable, as you never truly understand the demands of dynamic event photography until you're "on the hook" to deliver the final product from start-to-finish.

During the Wedding
During the wedding, your photographer (or photographers) will arrive many hours before the ceremony to capture the details - often this includes the bridal party getting ready (hair & makeup, putting on the dress, etc) as well as the groomsmen and groom getting ready. Also, as the ceremony and reception areas are set up the photographer will capture the details of the decorations, table settings, etc. Of course, the photographer(s) will then make photos of the ceremony and reception, as well as any send-off.

After the Wedding
This is the component of the process that is probably the most misunderstood by the average person, as it is the one that they have little-to-no exposure to, generally speaking. On average, your photographer will spend anywhere from two to four hours on the back end - selecting, processing, enhancing and tweaking your images - for every hour that they are in front of you. That means that an average 8 hour wedding will require, at a minimum, a total of 24 to 40 hours of work on the part of the photographer. A "one day" wedding has suddenly turned into almost a full week of work.

Other Considerations - Equipment
Most photographers will need at a minimum of two professional quality camera bodies (usually three or even four including backups), which can cost anywhere from $1500 to $6000 or more. Add to that an array of lenses costing anywhere from a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand dollars each, lighting equipment,

Here's what the average professional photographer's equipment bag might look like:


Item Quantity Cost - Each Cost - Total


Camera Bodies -primary 2 $3000(average) $6000


Camera Bodies - backup 1(+) $1500(average) $1500


Assorted Lenses 4 $800 (average) $3200


Lighting Equipment Kit 1 $2500(average) $2500


Flash(es) 2 $500 $1000


Total $14,200


required software, etc and the costs can be more than $20,000 just in basic equipment to be able to make, edit and process photos. And like most technology, much of the above equipment will be obsolete in 3-5 years due to advances in capabilities and industry trends.


Other Considerations - Location
This is an important one to keep in mind as well. Southern California is a very expensive place to live. Real estate alone is ridiculously expensive. Add to that the very real costs of health insurance, some of the highest fuel costs in the country, general costs of doing business (marketing and advertising, printing, utilities, etc) and you can see that it can get very expensive, very quickly just for someone to make the move into the wedding photography business.

In Closing
The intent of this article is simply to attempt to illustrate that which most couples shopping for a decent wedding photographer never realize - that there is much more than "show up and shoot" on the day of your wedding that went into your photographer's ability to be there and make images that will be cherished for the rest of their lives.


Video Source: Youtube

Comments
shelbylea on August 30, 2011 said:
Photographers arent just there the day of your wedding to shoot your wedding. They are running and operating a business! Just like in any business marketing, research, and customer service is happening all the time. Websites need to be kept updated and bills need to be paid. Some photographers chose to take only one wedding a month, but others take one every weekend which means your wedding probably isnt the only wedding they are working on. Also, they have employees or contactors to pay, such as a second photographer. Not only do they have to pay the second photographer, but extra equipment has to be purchased for the second photographer. I havent met a wedding photographer that did absolutely love what they do. However, they still want to make a profit, so keep all of this in mind when you are looking at those prices!
Emma Morris on September 14, 2011 said:
Your wedding day is often the most important day of your life. It is the one day where everything is about you and you get to marry the one person that means the most to you. Weddings cause many stresses and worries but at the end of the day it is the day in which you are happiest. Wedding photographers capture this happiness, how beautiful everyone looks and the events of the day. Wedding photos are shown for years and years to grandchildren and great grandchildren, they are therefore an extremely important feature. Your wedding photos will keep the memory of that special day with you forever so you will want them to be of the best quality possible. Good quality photos unfortunately cost a lot of money, but they are well worth it.

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