As a professional photographer I occasionally come across people who are completely surprised by the amount of money I charge for my photography services. Not in a bad way but just – surprised. After all, isn’t my work just about snapping some photos and e-mailing them over? Why should that cost so much? Why would they pay me all that money when they can get their friend who has a good camera to take the photos?
It breaks my heart every time someone tells me that they wished they had used a proper professional wedding photographer instead of a cheap one, as the photos turned out so bad that they don’t even want to look at them ever again. To explain why I can’t compete in price with the friend or relative with a nice camera, or indeed with hobbyist / weekend warriors who are not experienced photographers specialising in their field:
1) This is my speciality, my profession and my business. I have invested years of training, research and practice in order to be knowledgeable, creative, adaptive, technically solid and a dependable photographer. I don’t do this ‘on the side’ while concentrating on something else in my life. I take my work seriously, and it is my highest priority that I deliver what I promise.
2) I use high quality professional cameras and lenses that are very expensive. I’m no camera snob by any means, but in order to take consistently great photos at any wedding all through the day, it is a necessity to have good enough camera gear to be able to photograph beautiful pictures in all situations, including low lighting conditions. At any given wedding I carry camera gear worth of at least £10,000 on me. I don’t only carry backup gear with me on the wedding day, but also backup of backup gear. If one camera or any other piece of equipment should fail for any reason, the day is not lost: I can carry on photographing the rest of the day with my backup gear. Naturally, I need to earn enough from my work to cover for the investment in the necessary equipment.
3) The work doesn’t end when I stop taking photos on the wedding day; that’s when the third part of the work starts. I edit my photos to the standard that you see in my portfolio. I cull photos that aren’t the best (people blink – the damned things – and pull weird faces when you don’t expect them to), I adjust the every photo that makes the final selection to look their best, convert part of the images to black and white (again, not by pressing a button, but to manually optimise them to look their best), upload the photos into an on-line album for the client to view, help the client make their selection of photos, create discs/USB sticks, post things, design albums etc. All this work takes up to three times as long as the shooting on the wedding day itself. Combined with all the preparation work (part 1) that I do prior to the wedding day, it is about a week’s worth of work per wedding.
4) Back to equipment: add another £6,000 for computer hardware and software, on-line hosting etc. to carry out the post processing work outlined above.
5) Relating to points 1 and 4 above, I make backup copies of all wedding photographs – and again, not just backups, but backups of backups. I store the photos in two copies on two separate hard drives, and on top of that I have third copy in a different location so that apart from hard drive failures I’m also covered in case of theft or fire. There was a case in the papers recently where a wedding photographer had a client’s wedding photos stored only on their laptop and the laptop got stolen, which resulted the client losing all their wedding photos! That’s it, all gone, and nothing they can do about it.
Anything can go wrong, whether it is a technical fault with a computer, memory card or other equipment, theft, fire, flood… which is why I have invested in and am prepared for just about any eventuality in order to make sure I don’t lose my clients’ precious wedding photos. Equipment can always be replaced, but a wedding day can not be replicated or re-enacted in order to give the photographer a second chance to get it right, so I make sure I take every precaution possible.
It is up to you whether you think it’s important to hire a reliable and dependable photographer to preserve the memories of your wedding day. To some people it’s not that important (or they think they will get lucky with someone not so experienced and dedicated, which is of course completely possible) – and other people place a big importance to the photography. Everyone is different, and that is only natural. But I hope this has explained why professional wedding photographers ‘are expensive’. If the wedding photographer takes care of all the things mentioned above, plus of course insurances and other aspects that assure a professional service, they can’t compete in price with others who don’t – but what they can compete with are reliability and quality of service.
Author: by Katariina Jarvinen