Why you should pay for your wedding photography…
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a pretty brutally honest person and a realist so let’s face it, wedding photography isn’t cheap. The average photographer in the United States starting package for wedding photography price ranges from $2500 to $4500 depending on your region or city. This price often includes quality, time, talent and editing. It can often include some type of tangible product. Some people see those numbers and gasp. They never thought of even spending that much money on photography or a friend or family member advised them of a much lower number because they spent $xxx on their photographer in 2003 or 1975. The truth is the wedding photography industry has changed. It has evolved as photography has since it was first invented in the early 1800s by Nicephore Niepce.
Here is my take on why you shouldn’t skimp on the photographer and you should invest your time, money and effort in to picking the right one whether you have a tight budget or not. Skimp somewhere else.
…. These are your memories! At the end of the day your dress gets packed away, the food is thrown in the trash, the decor given to others and what are you left with? The memories you sort of have of the night AND your wedding photos (and the video for you folks out there.) Let’s also face the real fact is that your day goes by with the blink of an eye and memories fade (do I really have to tell you what happens when you age?) but when you look back at photos you have that reminder of how freaking awesome your day was. Many can’t wrap their head around this and they see photography as just another checkmark on their list or just a business transaction when they don’t realize they are hiring the most important aspect (person) of their wedding day (besides the couple and their marriage), the person(s) who are going to provide them with a lifetime of photographs for them, their friends, family and future generations to look back on. A friend of mine said once “People don’t know what good photography is until they see the photos that matter to them.” And it’s true. You don’t know how much your photography or photographer means to you till you see your photos. You see those special moments that your photographer captured for you and how amazing they are. Ones you may or may not remember. People you didn’t get to say hi to or may have passed away shortly after your wedding day. Life is short but your wedding day is one of the highlights of it. Don’t let it go to waste. Hiring someone with a good eye costs a lot but I do think memories in tangible form or not should be worth it.
In the end, you get what you pay for.
On to the less meaningful part and more to the financial part…. of why in the world it costs so much for photography.
The times have changed. We look at our grandparents photos from the early to mid 1900s and some times we only see a handful of shots (if that). Today’s weddings you see hundreds if not thousands because photography has revolutionized. Digital photography means endless captures unlike you had with film. Digital photography also means increase in cost (technology is expensive, man) and even those who shoot with film still because less is produced but the demand is still there. We are constantly maintaining and upgrading our gear to meet expectations and quality.
With that said, cameras no longer cost $100. Professional digital cameras cost $1000s and for your wedding day a photographer wont just have one camera (because what if it breaks?) they’ll have two or three or four PER photographer. We’ll say three, so $2500 x 3 = $7500. Now we add in quality lenses and flashes (because believe it or not, this matters) which will come out to be another $8000-$10,000 or more. Now memory cards $30-$100 EACH (I shoot 4-5 on a wedding day). You are already at $20,000 worth of gear an average professional photographer will carry to your wedding day. Not to mention the other little things like a bag, lens strap, card holder, light stands, strobe units, diffusers and so much more. On top of this gear we have to insure it and carry liability insurance because man if you tripped over that gear, it’d be a bad day for all of us. Then there is maintenance because no one likes a broken camera, lens or spots in their photos from dust on their sensor. Again, this is real, they do get dirty. Then there are the computers and hard drives we edit on, the software we use to edit, maintain, back-up, create albums on, deliver and share your files with. All of these programs revolutionizing themselves and having to update yearly. Then advertising, marketing and more so people like you find people like me. If you wanted me to break down a real total for you it would look like this: $45,000 (without albums, prints and more). Then the big one: TAXES!
Small business. It’s no joke. After all this overhead cost, photographers still need to make a living. Now, I know, I’m a realist too. We’re not updating our gear every single year, we’re adding cameras, lenses, tools and selling things so that number fluctuates and every photographer is different. My personal overhead for 2014 was $68,000. Yeah – HOLY SHIT. That’s how much I spent on gear, product, travel and such in 2014. Then Taxes! That’s a few brand new cars for me yet I’m driving a 2008 Hyundai Elantra with a screwed up bumper still because what I actually was able to pay myself was about $40,000 less than that. Rent and bills don’t come cheap in Chicago.
Bottom line, I think you get my point. Photography isn’t cheap. Your photographer has to make a living while providing you excellent customer service, photos, product and more. [We have little real time for ourselves.] This takes time and money. And while I would love to photograph every single wedding or photo shoot that comes my way at all types of budgets because I want to tell everyones story, I simply just can’t and nor can many other photographers. From the bottom of my heart, don’t skimp on the photography that will document significant moments in your life. Hire someone you trust, has a solid eye and will provide you with exactly the quality you want. No one wants to regret that decision that involved one of the most significant moments in your life.
Here are a few quick tips:
• Save – set-up a savings plan in advance for your wedding day or eat out one day less a week.
• Ask about a payment plan. Making small payments here and there will feel like less since they are spread out over time.
• Cut costs from other wedding costs. Do more DIY, shorten the guest list, have Chipotle cater
• Wedding photography gift registry!!! It’s a thing.
• Get married at a state park (fees are cheap!) or get married in someones backyard
• Or elope. Throw the party later. (think mountain tops, hot air balloons, sun kissed beaches)
• Read this fabulous article by Christina G on wedding photography budgets. It’s real good.
Everything stated in the blog post is my own personal opinion, education and facts collected on my experience on the last 8 years working in the wedding industry. As professional photographers, we are constantly studying the industry and evolving with it. Feel free to google.
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Kalu Ndukwe Kalu
The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.