Recently, a co-worker, who knows I'm a photographer, came to discuss the cost of wedding photography. Seems his son is getting married, so he was in the market for a good photographer. As he was getting estimates, he was "shocked" to see the ranges of the prices being quoted. "Some are asking for under $1,000, and some want more than $5,000." When we talked about the prices, it was obvious that he (and some of the photographers) didn't understand how to properly calculate the value of a wedding photographer. Let's talk about the easiest measure of value - time. The most visible time is that spent at the ceremony and the reception. Let's call that six hours. How about photographing the bride and groom as they're preparing for the ceremony. That can take a couple of hours. Is the photographer at the rehearsal? Another four. The total now is 12. If the photographer uses a second shooter (I always do), it doubles to 24. But, since most people want lots of photos on this important day, and family and friends have traveled to be at the event, we shoot photos of them and detail shots between the other parts of the event. The last wedding we shot was about 30 hours of work (15 each).
At this point, most customers stop counting your hours, but you aren't done counting time, yet. Post-processing images is even more time-consuming. Have you ever tried to review more than 3,000 photos, so you can narrow it down to a few hundred? Once you have the picks chosen, you need to go into light editing. One little blemish on the bride needs to be fixed on every photo before she ever sees it. Once the couple picks their choices from the several hundred, I put time into making sure the photos are all look their best, retouching anything needed. The post-processing time for our last wedding was 40 hours, making a total of 70 hours. If you use a price spread of $500-$5,000, that works out to a little over $7 an hour at the low end and as high as $71. You'll pay more than $ 71 per hour for your auto mechanic.
But, wait, we haven't delivered a single photo to the client. Most of the packages my friend showed me included an album for the couple and smaller ones for the parents. Since many of the younger generation don't really have much use for paper products these days, we include an option to receive the photos on an Ipad. These products cost hundreds of dollars.
Both Mark and I always use a second shooter when we photograph a wedding. This allows you to photograph the same event from different points of view. Your second shooter can help with lighting and add to the richness and variety of the couple's photos of their special day. Here's the thing, though - you have to pay your second shooter.
If you try to shoot a wedding with a low-end SLR, the flash pops up, and the kit lens that came with it, you will quickly realize that you are about to disappoint the couple with the results of your efforts. Weddings require better and more equipment. These will add to the photographer's expenses; expenses we will want to, eventually, recoup.
I haven't mentioned taxes, business licenses, training, or the intangible of paying for experience and skill. You get the idea. I don't think most people understand all that goes into the price for wedding photography. This lack of knowledge can cause couples to undervalue the work of the photographer they hire. And some new photographers undervalue themselves because of the lure of some extra weekend money. Both sides of this equation run the risk of serious disappointment.
The bottom line is people will pay whatever they decide is proper for wedding photography. Photographers who shoot weddings will charge what they think is a fair price for their efforts. But, both should understand all the components of how that price is calculated.
I don't know which photographer my co-worker will choose, but, hopefully, he will pick someone who can give his son and new daughter-in-law photos that match their memories, at a fair price.