The Price of Paint
Yeah, ok. Every photographer who has ever shot a wedding has probably contemplated writing this post. Most of them have written a similar post. They justify the cost of wedding photography by the costs of their equipment, travel, time, education, philosophy, experience, on and on and on. You can google things like “why are wedding photographers so expensive?” and “understanding wedding photography costs,” and get billions of results. Well maybe not billions, currently there's 563,000 in the roster.
So... why am I writing this? Well, I love my clients and want to help them understand what a wedding entails. I also want to help my clients and readers have the most loving, authentic, happy day in the history of weddings. That only happens when they understand the elements of their vendors. Why? Odds are pretty good that something will go wrong. Your flowers may not be the right colors. The venue might suddenly smell of feet and fish from the event the day before. Your cake may be dry. Your wedding party may have or cause drama. Your gown might be lost by the hotel… (yes, it happened. And guess who it happened to? YOURS TRULY. Yup. They found my gown 20 minutes before the ceremony. No one in the family wondered why my hair was falling out, and now I’m paranoid about traveling with valuables.) Something WILL go wrong. Trust me. Things go wrong. Investing in a quality wedding photographer will make sure the most important element: your photos- will be perfect.
10 years down the road, none of the stress and slip-ups will really matter. Why? Because investing in quality photography will preserve the happy memories for you. Your wedding photos are inverse to your memories. It is your photographers job to tell the story of your day so that you can remember the day in it’s best light. It is your job to enjoy the day; and try your very best to not feel as if you are in a proverbial washing machine. Which you won't really be able to help, your wedding day will be a lot to take in. Your wedding photos are the only investment you will ever make on your wedding day that is 100% guaranteed to be priceless for all of time. Future generations will see and love these photographs. You are telling your future grandsons and granddaughters where they came from. Your photos will be absolutely priceless.
Let’s just get one point out of the way. Here in Idaho, you can get legally married for around $80. That includes your certificate, and your officiant- be it judge, minister, bishop, priest, etc. Will your parents be happy about going that route? Probably not. Will the wedding of your dreams happen with that route? Not likely. But it will cover all the necessities of being legally married. So why don’t people go the “cheap” (ie- $80) route more often? They want the experience. The luxury. The tuxes. The gown. The party. The beauty. The memories. To commence bringing together two families to celebrate the creation of a new family in style. To show their sons and daughters in the future the love and family that surrounded their parents on their magical day. It’s about love, tenderness, celebration, family, joy, and artistry. Some people dream about their wedding day in the same way that others dream about and design their dream car.
Expense and luxury? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely. Be mindful that no one purchases a high end item because of the cost of materials. Those designer shoes are probably crafted out of leather and materials that you can go out and purchase for yourself. But if you find the materials yourself, and try to make the same shoes- or even hire a craigslist knockoff hobbyist to create the shoes; will they be the same quality as the product from the designer themselves? Not even close. In fact, after crafting your handmade knock-offs, you may feel quite bitter about the result. They won’t last like the designer shoes. They won’t look like the designer shoes. You may even end up in a battle with the designer over copying the design of the shoes. You’d likely end up spending exponentially more time and money than if you had just bitten the bullet, and paid for the designer shoes in the first place. Why is that? The shoe designer has talent and experience in crafting your shoes. They know where to add reinforced stitching so the shoes don’t fall apart within a few weeks. Their shoes are made to last. They have craftspeople and quality control people in their employ to make sure that what you are receiving is absolutely the highest quality. They will only make a limited run of your particular design of shoe, because they are completely invested in their craft. Not many people will have shoes just like yours. It can take weeks to create just one set. This is not their hobby. This is their livelihood. Everything they have is invested in the shoes they make.
Professional wedding photography is no different. Your pro will have the knowledge, the equipment, the experience, the quality control measures, and the ability to produce the absolute best results for your day. Their livelihood as well as their heart and soul is invested in their artistry. To create their absolute best work, they will have between $10,000 to $35,000 in equipment. In our studio, our cameras, lenses, flashes, etc, runs us about $8,000 each. Just to cover the basics. We show up with between 2-5 of those cameras at every wedding. We also bring auxiliary lights, reflectors, props, backup, and even Midol and a sewing kit in case the wedding party needs it. Your photography fees are priced to reflect these elements and the experience. Does wedding photography still seem expensive? Remember this: no one buys a fine art painting and picks apart the cost of the canvas and the paint. They buy the art to appreciate the art, not the materials.
There is a set “season” for weddings, which is busiest from April-October. Which means there are only a few select weekends that are available to book a great photographer. For every 8 hours worked at a wedding, a professional photographer can expect to work at least 120 hours “behind the scenes.” What happens behind the scenes is what people can easily forget to factor in the overall cost. They see their photographers show up for about 8 hours, collect a check, and leave. Folks assume that the job is done, when in fact the job has just begun. Curating and editing your wedding gallery can be a full 40-hour workweek in itself. For a full wedding, an average photographer walks away with 8,000 images. You read that right. 8,000 images. The photographer will then carefully curate and examine each image to determine if it is correct for editing. Editing is another minimum 40-60 hours. With everything said and done, your photographer could walk away making $3.50 per hour. Yes, even the big-name fancy pros. Why do they keep doing what they do? They LOVE it. They love their clients. They love documenting a day that will be priceless to families. They do it for the love, not the money. They do it for the art, not the price of paint. I do it for the art and the love. So does my team. We are honored to spend your special day with you, and tell your story.