Why professional and experienced Photographers charge what they do for wedding day coverage…
This blog post was initiated from a written post by Kat Williams of Rock’n'RollBride blog fame from a few years ago, but still very relevant for brides and grooms planning their wedding today, featuring an article by respected leading UK photographer Julia Boggio from 2010, and rang true with ourselves and some of the fellow wedding photographers in the UK with whom we network with regarding wedding photography.
When we read it originally, and after some scary stories in the media from the last 5 years which have been relayed within the wedding industry and trade sphere, but are not necessarily openly out there to the general public or consumer to observe for themselves – stories where some photographers have left couples high and dry, disappointed, or even without anything to show for their hard earned cash after the wedding day has passed for instance. Couples in booking inexperienced or budget photographers – with little or no experience of weddings let alone anything else photography wise – have suffered poor service, inadequate wedding coverage, shocking photographs or wholly unfinished images and tatty sub standard albums, right down to a few photographers simply not turning up on the day itself.
OMG yes this is just the tip of the iceberg folks and it’s time you, our readers, were made aware, and gain an insight into why professional photographers charge what they do for wedding photography.
You pays your budget money for what may seem like an unbelievable coverage and product package, all combined for a low price, and you will live in hope quite literally. Fact.
Here is the article by Julia Boggio for you to get another leading photographer’s opinion on ‘The Price of Wedding Photography and How Much Should I Expect to Spend?’.
“Let me start out by saying this: everybody deserves to have a photographer at their wedding. For this purpose, it’s great that there are a range of prices, skills and talents out there for them to choose from.
There is no hard and fast rule about what you should budget for your wedding photography. You may have heard of the 10% rule, in which 10% of your wedding budget should be allocated to your wedding photography. In reality, what I find is that people who value photography and have the budget want to spend more on it. Period.
Like any other lifestyle market, there are a variety of brands out there for you to choose from. To put it into the context of brands you are familiar with, there are the equivalents of BHS and Asda to Debenhams and John Lewis to Harrods, Liberty and Harvey Nics.
What I am going to explain to you is what you are paying for as the price increases.
At the low end of the market, the photographers are most likely 1) photography students, 2) weekend warriors, that is, wedding photography is not their full-time occupation and they do photography for a bit of cash on the side, or 3) new wedding photographers who are just starting out. It is also likely that it’s going to be a shoot and deliver package; the photographer will shoot the images and then give you a disc of images. Like I said in the beginning, it is great that there are options available in the low-budget area because everyone deserves to have a wedding photographer. But I’m not going to lie to you: it can be a gamble at this end.
In October last year, a story broke in the news about a couple that was distraught over their wedding photos and video. Out of the 400 images, they liked just 22; the videographer was heard to swear in church when he dropped his camera. People’s backsides were a common feature in the images. When I read this story, I was appalled for the couple. After all, that was it – their one chance at capturing their wedding day in a memorable way, gone. Then I read what they paid for the services: £1,450 for their photography and videography. Well, suffice it to say you’re not getting Annie Leibovitz and Steven Spielberg for that kind of money. Nor should you expect to.
I was a guest at a wedding recently, always a nice change for me. I make it a rule not to shoot friends weddings because I like to enjoy their day as a guest. However, that doesn’t stop me from scoping out the wedding photographer. I had given this friend a load of suggestions about who he should look at, but they went ahead and booked somebody else. I watched the photographer, who was wearing jeans, as he photographed the bride and groom squinting into direct sunlight; tried to photograph the group shot of all the guests with a telephoto lens (imagine holding up a toilet roll tube to your eye and trying to see a group of 100 people through it, and you’ll get the idea); and then before the first dance, he turned to me and whispered, “Help!” as he jumped in to shoot it with his non-professional camera with pop-up flash. The photos, when I saw them, were not inspiring. As I said earlier, people who value photography will pay for it; those who don’t, won’t. This couple could have afforded a better photographer. Heck, they could have afforded me. But photography was not important to them.
I’m making this point because what you choose to spend on your photography is not always down to budget.
I’ve had couples with small budget weddings hire me to do their wedding photography because it was what they wanted to spend their money on. Instead, they held back on flowers and the cake or asked family members to donate their skills and make the bouquets and confections.
What you want to spend your budget on is your choice.
Being a photographer is not just about owning a professional camera; it’s about knowing how to use it. I get so frustrated when people lump all photographers together, as though we all have exactly the same skill set. We don’t.
So what are you paying for as the price goes up?
First and foremost, it’s experience. The more experienced a photographer is, the more he or she should cost. A wedding day is fraught with pitfalls and booby traps for the inexperienced. For example, the lighting conditions on a wedding day change from bright (outside) to dark (in the church) in seconds. And then, we’re often told we can’t use flash inside the church. A photographer needs to know how to deal with this.
Experience shows up in other areas, too, like in ability to pose a couple. The majority of you will read that and think, “Posing?! I don’t want to be posed.” And I’m telling you: trust me, you do. Posing is not the opposite of having natural-looking photographs; it just makes you look better and more natural in that natural-looking photograph. Or at least, good posing does. Perhaps posing is the wrong word for it. “Directed” may be a better word. I look at my couples as two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that I have to fit together appealingly in flattering light. This is not easy and it takes years to get truly good at it. In a lot of trendy or young wedding photography today, I can easily see where a photographer has no idea what he or she is doing regarding posing or directing a couple. The bride’s waist isn’t visible or looks thick; arms look huge; men look like they have beer bellies; hands look like talons; faces look chubby because they’re in the wrong light. No, it is not dieting that can fix all this, but good posing.
Some people will have read the above and think that it doesn’t apply to them because they want entirely reportage photography. Well, here is news for you. Good reportage ain’t easy either. I can probably count the number of great reportage wedding photographers on one hand (and they charge appropriately). There is a fine line between snapshots and reportage. In the past ten years or so, reportage is a word that brides seemed to have latched on to. They would come into a meeting with me and say they wanted reportage photography and then look through my portfolio and gush over images that are so not reportage, completely posed, but natural-looking. One of the most famous reportage photographs in the world of a couple kissing outside of a Parisian café by Robert Doisneau was found to be a fake in 1993. In fact, he had hired two actors and set the whole thing up. It came to light when two people claiming to be the subject of the famous photograph tried to sue the photographer and he came clean. Reportage, by definition, is documentary photography (also known as photojournalism). That means the photographer stands back and doesn’t get involved; he or she just photographs the day as it happens. As I said earlier, there is a fine line between snapshots and reportage. This is due to two factors: lighting and expression. A really good pure reportage photographer is going to cost you money.
Another thing that you pay for as prices go up is the ability to see light and knowledge of different lighting techniques. Using purely natural light is great, but what if you’re in a dark church and need flash? If you’re a wedding photographer, flash is your friend. If someone says they are purely a natural light photographer, their skill-set may not be suited to shooting a winter wedding. Winter weddings is a topic that seems to strike fear into the hearts of many wedding photographers. There are entire issues of photography magazines dedicated to the subject. Why? Because they are dark and you have to be confident with light. Ironic, since photography is literally “painting with light.”
I shot a wedding in March at a castle up north. The ceremony started at 5:00. Every photo I took, I had to light. That means I had to bring lots of expensive equipment with me, like flashes and video lights. Because I also run a family portrait studio, I work with that kind of lighting on a regular basis. But many photographers don’t. Experience with lighting increases their value and, therefore, their price. And getting good training and experience is an investment and can be expensive for the photographer, too.
At a recent wedding, one of the guests turned to me and said that I must have the best job in the world because I only had to work one day a week. If I could have mustered the patience, I would have explained to her that each wedding we shoot takes a lot of work. There’s pre-production (planning the wedding, doing pre-wedding shoots, and not to mention booking the wedding in the first place), then there’s the hard work of shooting the wedding (physically and mentally demanding, but the part of the process that takes the least time), and finally post-production (downloading the images, backing them up, sorting through them, Photoshopping them, presenting them to the client, designing an album, getting the album ready for press, etc.). It takes a lot of time and time is money.
And regarding time, more experienced photographers will charge more for their time. It’s like when you go to the hair dresser; you can pay top dollar (or pound) for the senior stylist who has been practicing the art of hair-cutting for a long time or you can save money and get the junior stylist who has had a few lessons in hair-cutting, but more than makes up for the lack of expertise with enthusiasm.
Photoshopping is another skill that holds a lot of value in photography. These days, many brides ask if they will be retouched. Back when I was in advertising, it was rare to find a photographer who was also good at retouching, but today, it’s a necessary skill.
At the low end of the market, it’s probable that wedding coverage and the disc of images you paid £750 for will not be retouched.
Retouching takes time, which means it costs money. Always beware of deals that are too good to be true!
The thing to be careful of with Photoshop is over-Photoshopping. It shouldn’t be used to make a bad photo good. The photo should be good when it’s taken in camera. At a party of photographers recently, a girl came up to me and talked about how she used photo shop effects to turn bad photos into good photos in Photoshop. Adding artistic effects to photographs is fine, as long as the basic photograph is good – well posed, well lit and well composed.
What the package includes is another thing that can drive up price.
Generally, the better the album and the better the album design, the more it should cost. Like photography, good design isn’t easy. The problem is that, like with photography, a lot of people can’t tell the difference between good and bad design. Those who are hot on design will pay more for a higher standard.
When you go into BHS, do you expect the same service that you get at Harrods?
Customer service is another thing you pay for as the price goes up. Customer service includes everything from the way the phone is answered when you call to every contact you have with the photographer’s company leading up to the day you receive your final printed album. While being a small business should be no excuse for bad customer service, it can easily get overlooked when your photographer is stressed because they have 15 weddings waiting to be processed in the month of June because they have taken on too much work. I’m lucky because I have built up a remarkable team of people around me.
Do I even need to mention that photography equipment is expensive?
When I’m at a wedding, I have thousands of pounds worth of equipment with me. And that equipment needs to be insured, too, which again costs money.
Recently, I read about a scam on a wedding photography forum where thieves would turn up at weddings pretending to be guests and make off with the photographer’s equipment. That’s a scary prospect for a photographer, whose entire livelihood rests on that equipment and the images that are in their camera bag.
The wedding industry is made up of small businesses, mostly run by people who made the brave decision to leave comfortable, full-time employment to take on the joys and stresses of working for themselves. For this reason, you have to take into account the costs of running a business and the cost of living. Running a business means you need to pay a lot of bills: rent, gas, electricity, computer equipment, data back up, software, marketing costs like advertising, and travel. The list could go on for paragraphs. And what about the cost of living? Mortgages, food, entertainment (photographers need a life, too), pensions, clothing, etc. And believe it or not, photographers need to train not just in taking better photographs, but also in how to run a solid, successful and profitable business.
And before you start bargaining with your photographer because your budget is tight, realise that a wedding photographer will work hard at your wedding.
I feel like I’ve been through a war at the end of every wedding I shoot. He or she charges what s/he charges because that’s what their experience, artistry and costs demand them to charge.
The recession, the day of the week your wedding is on, the size of your guest list (e.g. “I’m having a small wedding”), and the fact that you chose to spend a large sum on your cake, doesn’t affect how much it costs your photographer to shoot your wedding.
…I think it’s time to sign off now. And I haven’t even touched on the value of a photographer with ideas (not an easy skill in high-pressure situations, like weddings).
But before I leave you, I’ll answer the question that I’m sure is on all your lips: what do you charge, Julia?
For an 8-hour wedding with me and a second photographer, including a pre-wedding shoot in London or at my studio, an album designed by our professional designer, images on a private site, retouching of all the images in the album or images that are ordered from our website, and bespoke thank you cards, we charge £4600 including VAT. And that does not include a disc of images.
This year, I shot 20 weddings. Next year, I’m only planning to shoot ten. My associate photographer who also shoots weddings for us (£2950) will shoot 20 next year (2011).
On a wedding forum this week, I read a post by someone who said they had called up for our packages because they loved our work and she stated our prices. Another poster exclaimed that £4600 was even out of her range. However, looking back through the posts, this same person thought £1500+ was high-end wedding photography. It’s not. High end in the UK is £4000+. And we completely understand that we are out of most people’s budgets.
When I started out, I charged £600 and then £800 for my first two weddings. After that, I went up to £1750 and it’s gone up from there, as the quality of my product, cost of doing business, and experience have increased. One bride who booked me when I was starting out told me last year that she considered herself to be the luckiest bride in the world to have caught me early. Now we’re regarded as one of the top wedding photography companies in the UK and have just won the You and Your Wedding Bride’s Choice award for 2010.
If it’s any consolation, I couldn’t have afforded me when I got married. The good news is there’s a wedding photographer out there for everyone; you just have to find the one that’s right for you and your budget.”
Original post here on Kat’s blog for ref and accreditation.
We’d like to thank both Kat and Julia in being so open and honest in delivering their blogpost and opinion, and in telling it like it is – always good for our prospective clients to see this type of feature and message from other suppliers, so we don’t feel we’re the one’s banging our drum.
Things we would like you as a bride and groom to remember, when searching for your own wedding photographer:
Not all photographers are equal.
Beautiful wedding photography doesn’t just happen.
Stunning images don’t just appear.
Images take time and effort on the photographer’s behalf to engineer and set up, working with you the client, so you totally value and respect what they will be bringing to the table for you.
When a photographer asks you for your final running order, it’s for a reason – photographer’s shouldn’t skim over timings or assume enough time will be allowed without reviewing your schedule - often it will be driven by the venue staff, because they have a team of waiting on and wedding resources on shift to pay for, therefore they want the timeline to be short, sharp and swift. Photographer’s should discuss the timelines with you if there is an inadequate period allocated for your photography. Anyone who doesn’t have the confidence to do this with you will wing it on the day, and invariably they will cut corners or miss the great opportunities to create fabulous art.
Wedding and bridal imagery is captured by a time served, creative and often inspired photographer, who also has the technical knowledge because s/he’s invested in him/herself and his/her business, in the equipment s/he uses, and can cope with the challenges a wedding day and certain venues can often bring, who has the right post production and finishing tools for the job in hand, and can deliver the finished quality product in a professional way, by researching and working with other quality suppliers s/he’s taken years to develop and maintain business relationships with.
If cheap is important to you, because of your overall budget, and If you are happy to pay £500 for a photographer then fantastic – but just be aware that for that price, you aren’t going to get Jose Villa/Jasmine Star/Jonas Peterson/Jeff Ascough, Julia Boggio or even award winning AshfordDaly… and our Master Photographer Greg Daly.
We hate to say it, but in this industry, you really do get what you pay for.
Cheap, cheaper, cheapest is not always your best option or choice, and may well leave you upset, feeling emotional in the wrong way, disappointed that the imagery is somewhat lacking, that you’d wished you spent more on your photography after the wedding day has come and gone, and you are now left living with that regret, and not wanting to show people what you paid for as it embarrasses you.
The reasoning behind this post is not in anyway to try and encourage you to spend more than you can afford, or are willing to, on your wedding photography. However we do want to make you stop and think what you are apportioning your budget to, and stop for a moment to ask yourselves, just how important is your wedding photography to you.
After the wedding day, the photographs and your album will be the final memory record you will the left with, for generations to come. They will and should create and invoke the right lasting and lifelong memories for you, something so special that you are immensely proud and excited, that you will want to keep on looking at, feel it, touch it, show it off to everyone.
By the way, Ashford Daly Photography too, like Julia Boggio, has won a major global wedding and bridal award or three over the last few years – MPA Yervant Bridal Award Winner 2010 – story here as a first stop.
Other awards items for Ashford Daly can be found in our NEWS section on the website and of course through our online Magazine right here: http://www.ashforddalyphotography.com/blog/
We have also been nominated and shortlisted for many more quality photographic awards and portfolio accolades too, and our imagery has been featured widely in the national and international media and within magazine publications throughout the UK regularly over the years, and not just for weddings.
Greg and Mary together have over 25 years experience.
They take their photography, business and client commissions very seriously, and set their pricing at realistic levels commensurate with their experience, technical skills, creativity, finishing techniques, and finished products they make available for clients to purchase in each photographic genre they deliver.
Ashford Daly Photography offer a range of wedding day coverage and display options, with the choice of quality finished products within which to show off selected imagery.
Or we can just provide time only as a starter for ten, and then you can create your own wedding collection package afterwards - it is all depending on the wedding day planning, coverage and client requirements. However all enquiries will be quoted for, big or small, grand or very intimate. Just ask. We’re always happy and eager to help.
Our Photography is ART. Art = Investment.
We work with clients who truly appreciate photographic imagery, who recognise and value the investment they want to make for the imagery they know they will obtain for the sake of their memories.
A premier service, for premium clients.
Bespoke quotations are offered for your unique coverage requirements.
If you are planning your own wedding, or know someone who is embarking on this after getting engaged recently, and would like to discuss wedding photography coverage and your potential investment level with us, please contact Ashford Daly Photography on:
Website: http://www.ashforddalyphotography.com/ - where our contact form will guide you through the initial questions we will need answering in order for us to get back to you.
© Copyright Ashford Daly Photography Limited. All rights reserved.
Original article can be found online in the Ashford Daly Magazine here: