Why do Wedding Photographers Charge so Much?
“Don’t tell them it’s for a wedding, the moment they hear ‘wedding’ they quadruple the prices.” Ever heard this one before? I sure know I have. Hell, I used to actually believe it! But is it true? Well, the short answer is no. And the long answer? Well that’s also no (sorry if I made it seem like it would be yes). So where does the saying come from? A basic misunderstanding in my opinion. When people get quoted $4,000 for a 10 hour day, they resort to simple maths and assume we are making $400/hr. Do I blame them for thinking this way? Hell no! It makes sense…but it’s still not true. If I were earning $400/hr I would not be sitting here writing this article on my $48 desk chair. I would be outsourcing this, or hiring staff. So why do wedding photographers charge so much? This is best answered by a better question…why are cheap photographers so cheap? Let’s have a look.
Lack of Experience
This one is simple. When first starting out in any industry, we generally have to start from the bottom. You cant pick up a camera, with no portfolio and start charging $5,000. So if they are charging a really low amount, chances are they are highly inexperienced. Nothing wrong with this, but be aware of the pitfalls surrounding choosing an inexperienced wedding photographer.
Lack of/Poor Quality Gear
Gear is expensive, damn, it is super expensive! A good photographer will often have well over $20,000 worth of gear in their bag! A lot of that gear they will never use, but is there as a fail safe should something fail on the day. Last thing you want is your ceremony missed because the photographers camera malfunctions. When I first started out, I have about $1500 worth of gear, and no backup camera bodies or lenses. Obviously the photographer is more important than the gear they are using, but high quality gear certainly makes a big impact on the end product.
Lack of understanding about how a wedding works
How does a wedding run smoothly? Well, you could hire an event coordinator (highly advisable), that would help. However, the person who is by your side from the start to end, is your photographer. They are tasked with designing your timeline. They are responsible for helping you stick to it. If they don’t understand this, or don’t have the experience to focus on this whilst also getting the shots they need, your day will fall behind, you will be rushed and stressed, and will likely miss out on some major photos.
This isn’t their real job
So many people these days have a DSLR and call themselves a photographer. It isn’t hard to take a photo of a sunset, start an Insta or facebook, and call yourself a photographer. However, they usually have an actual job. What does this mean? You are not their priority! Their priority is their job. So they may take some time to get back to you, they may be really difficult to deal with. It also means they don’t care as much as a professional photographer. One bad review, one unhappy client and it could be all over for me. So what do I do? I put in 200% into ensuring the best day and best images possible. This is how I feed my family and put a roof over our heads. It means everything to me.
Ok, but honestly, why do you charge what you charge?
I thought you might still ask that, so let’s explain. We now know why cheap photographers are cheap (there are way more reasons, but I won’t bore you), but how do we justify what we charge? I won’t do all the maths otherwise you would probably get bored, but let’s look at the expenses, and time involved.
Before your wedding
So your wedding comes in as an enquiry. We then store this in our CRM and respond. Usually there is a little back and forth, before we finally talk on the phone. I like to take my time on the phone as creating a personal connection is important to me. We then usually have some back and forth organising a time and place to meet up for coffee. Again, at the meeting I like to take my time. I want to get to know you, I want you to walk away either knowing 100% that I am your guy, or 100% that I am not! Finally time comes to book in. A contract is drawn up, invoices are drawn up, all this is stored in our CRM and triggers are set to ensure we don’t miss any steps along the way. I am also going to organise an engagement shoot in here too, as this is the best way to get to know each other and prepare for the wedding. This takes time, but it is essential in getting the images I get on the wedding day. Plus, everyone has a great time, so it is always a good idea. I will then set a reminder for 6 months out to touch base, 3 months out to touch base and set a rough timeline (which I am now creating), 30 days out to ensure nothing has changed and ensure the details I have are correct.
Time taken – 10 hours
Your wedding day
This is easy, people understand this. We are hired for say 10 hours, this probably turns into 11. Why? I would rather be 1 hour early than 1 minute late. So I usually show up 60 minutes early, and just start shooting details or location shots. This day is very stressful, you literally cannot miss one single thing. You have to be ‘on’ for 10 hours straight. Even things like going to the bathroom or having some water needs to be perfectly timed so as to miss nothing.
Time taken – 11 hours + travel (average 2 hours)
After your wedding day
Oh god, here it comes, the busy bit. This is where the real meat of the work is. I will be brief. After the wedding, I get home, I load your images onto my PC which can take a few hours. I then ensure they are backed up on 2 various external hard drives, as well as onto a cloud software I use, in the event of any physical damage. Your images are now safe. I usually spend 2 hours culling. I can do it faster but I find i miss things when I speed through it. So I take my time and ensure I miss nothing. Then the actual editing of the work begins. We don’t just get home from a wedding a download images onto a USB and hand them to you.
Editing itself can take upwards of 20 hours, however, I have someone who edits all my work. This works brilliantly, as they are much better than I am, and much faster. But they come at a cost which I need to pay. Once I get the images back, time to design the wedding album. This can take a few hours. It is then sent to you for approval, and on average, 2 rounds of revisions. We then send off and organise the printing. Once this comes back, we inspect for quality and then send it on to you.
Time taken – 12
Total costs involved in process – $1,050 (on average)
Total hours involved in process – 35
So that means, after expenses, on a $4,000 day, we make $2,950. Now let’s not forget everyone’s favourite friend…Tax! Don’t we love it? We immediately lose 10% to GST, so we are down to $2,550. Then we need to take a conservative 30% tax off, leaving us with $1,785. Dividing this now by 35 hours leaves us with an hourly rate of $51/hr. It’s not even close to $400/hr, but still, it’s not bad right? I haven’t even gone through the general business expenses we have. All of the car related expenses, insurance for the business, our income, as well as public liability. Maintenance of gear and vehicles. Costs associated with accountants and for a lot of us, business coaches/consultants. A lot of us also have to outsource other things, as we simply don’t have the hours to do everything ourselves. After I worked it all out for myself, I actually earn, on average, $29/hr. I earned more at my last 3 jobs, one of which was a cafe.
So why do I do it? Well…I love it. I didn’t love my last jobs, but this is my passion. Creating art and memories for people to remember for the rest of their lives is what I live for. I wouldn’t have it any other way!
So next time someone tells you that wedding photographers charge a lot, just remember, for $29/hr we are taking the responsibility of capturing the greatest, most expensive day of your lives. We do it for the passion and the love. But ultimately, we have to remain sustainable in order to continue being able to do what we love.
What do you think? Do you think what we charge is over kill? Let me know below, or get in touch and let’s chat!