I’m often asked about how much people charge for photography, and then frequently in the context of wedding photography. Honest truth? I don’t really know, but the persistent feeling out there is that wedding photography is really, really expensive. This is, in fact, true – it ain’t cheap to get your wedding photographed – but have you ever thought about why that might be? I decided to find out, and spoke to Randolph Quan, a London-based wedding photograher.
So, without further ado - In Randolph’s own words…
Spring is in full bloom here in the UK, so the hectic summer wedding season is about to arrive. Lately I’ve been getting a lot of couples asking me why wedding photography prices are so expensive. While it may seem like wedding photographers live an amazing life by charging through the roof for a day of work, it’s hardly the case.
It goes without saying that weddings are a costly affair. From the venue to the caterer to the wedding favors, the tab just keeps getting higher, and it often seems that wedding photographers are charging a large chunk of that tab. But have you ever though why wedding photography prices are so high? It’s because of the associated costs of being a wedding photographer.
Being a good photographer is an expensive investment. Sure, you can find cheap wedding photographers out there, but they’re cheap because they’ve possible cut corners on equipment, and insurance. Or they’re just plain stupid (you hired cheap and stupid?) So let’s take a look at what goes into a photographer’s overhead that adds up to the final cost of your wedding photographer.
1. Labour costs. This one is pretty standard across all industries. A photographer’s work doesn’t end when your wedding does. After the 5-10 hours they’ve put in working (on a Saturday, no less) at your nuptials, the photographer spends hours and hours editing your images so you get a wide array of perfect photographs by which to remember your day. Its not uncommon to work a full 3-4 days editing a wedding. Their time is even more valuable when you factor in the limited number of weekends in a year there are for a photographer to work.
2. Staff salaries. If you book a photographer that comes with assistants or second photographers, your cost is going to be higher. In return for getting more images from various places on your day, your photographer is going to have the pay those assistants.
3. Equipment. The pieces of equipment a photographer carries around is not your typical point-and-shoot. High-end lenses and bodies average around £1500 each. Photographers also carry back-up equipment in case their primary equipment fails, which adds to the cost of the wedding photography prices. In case your photographer is living in the Jurassic period and hasn’t switched over to digital (there are a few out there, somewhere), you also have to factor in the cost of film. Good wedding photographers easily can bring over £10,000 worth of equipment to shoot your wedding. Add in the prices of computers and editing programs like photoshop ( you did buy it right?) and costs begin to skyrocket. Luckily, its not always necessary in the UK to own a car so let’s not go there.
4. Insurance. Because cameras and equipment cost so much, photographers are smart to insure them. Just in case your drunk (who your mom insisted on inviting) cousin Jimmy decides he wants to spray champagne all over the wedding photographer’s equipment for a joke.
5. Web site. In this day and age, a photographer has to market himself with a very high-tech, professional Web site, which can cost a lot to design and maintain if the photographer doesn’t have web design skills. Its not unreasonable to spend over £5000 a year on website updates, and online marketing such as the sponsored links on Google.
6. Advertising. In that same vein, photographers also have to spend money on other types of advertising such as ads in the newspaper, business cards and brochures.
7. Photo extras. If you knew how much albums cost you’d have a heart attack. Albums are extraordinarily expensive and are often added into the wedding photography prices. Don’t forget the time it takes to design them as well.
8. Education. The more educated a photographer is, the better techniques and specializations will be used while shooting a wedding. As everything else, that education comes at a cost through instructors, college degrees, extra classes and seminars, etc. Intangibles such as expertise aren’t easy to measure monetarily, although we try!
So while you may be asking, “why does photographer X cost so much more than photographer Y?” the answer might be simple: Photographer X has spent more money developing his or her business into a full-fledged photography service, which ends up costing more money than an inexperienced photographer who moonlights part time on the weekend.
….And those Porsches we drive up to your wedding in just don’t pay for themselves now do they? :-)
Randolph Quan is a London reportage wedding photographer. You can follow Randolph on Twitter and Flickr or contact him via his website if you’d like to get a quote to get him to photograph your wedding.
All images are courtesy of Randolph. This article was originally published in 2009, but was then fully updated and revamped in December 2014