Countless times, we have our clients ask why wedding photography is so expensive, and there is little about what goes on before and after we show up to photograph a wedding. This will give you a better perspective on ‘Why Wedding Photographers Charge What They Charge?’.
Long after a multi-day full of exciting wedding events are over, and everyone is back to everyday life, nothing will remain after the events are over except memories in pictures and videos. Imagine, after all that excitement, your images come out, and they are not what you had expected, and remember there are no retakes on weddings.
You may be able to reshoot for an engagement session or portrait session. Still, you won’t be able to have all your friends and family under one roof celebrating your happily-ever-after union.
Even after 30 years, you will be sitting with your kids, showing them your family history through your wedding images. What other things do you think you will still have with you after 30 years? Not many; therefore, if wedding photography means so much, that means it’s worth the investment.
The question is, why is it so expensive?
Weddings are also one of the most important days of your life, where your life will never be the same again, telling the world you are now sharing eternity with the person you love, which is a good thing. And this is where wedding photography is so important, as the day will blur and zoom by. As wedding photographers, we are there to document and capture your day in our very own unique style, our very own way to see the stories that are being unfolded in front of our eyes. The results are beautiful pictures representing precious memories that allow you to revisit the day with your loved one for many years to come.
So the big question is, how much should a wedding photographer cost, and how much should you set aside for wedding photography? The answer is not as easy a magic number, a range, or even a percentage. If you want a quick rough ballpark, wedding photography is about 10% of your total wedding budget. Looking for a wedding photographer in Melbourne? Look no further. Boutique events group has compiled an ultimate list of wedding photo companies to help you choose.
Now, we can analyze this question in more detail. You will quickly find that wedding-related items always seem to cost quite a bit more than the usual price on your wedding journey. Look at flowers, catering, etc. The reasons?
It takes about 3-4 years of rigorous practice and learning to become a good wedding photographer. We spend about 5 hours weekly and back USD7000 per photographer every year to go for mentorships, workshops, and online tutorials to reach that proficiency level. These take hours when we are not paid.
See it this way; as an athlete, you are only paid for 60-90 mins of game time. However, to be able to play or get selected in the team takes years of practice that you will not be paid for.
All the Photographer Has to Do Is Show up and Shoot.
Our job as a photographer for a contract starts from the first client meeting to learning what brides want, to planning engagement shoots, photographing on the day, editing for hours, and designing albums. Probably a 16 hours contract needs about 80-100 hours of work before or after the wedding.
Also, website management, social media management and marketing hours and dollars, and much more, never get accounted for.
Cost of Equipment and Ecosystem
Not all photographers have this cost, but all good photographers who care about their clients would shoot with the best equipment. Roughly per wedding photographer, the cost is about USD20,000-USD25,000 plus investment in studio management software, one employee dedicated to client communication, one employee to edit your images, and designer for your albums and marketing cost.
Cost of running a studio, payrolls, and storing your data on cloud networks and hard drives so we have your data protected, and all the costs of running a business can be around USD30,000 to USD50,000 per year. Most weddings can’t be photographed alone; at least two photographers total in a team, and maybe a lighting assistant is required. This means training a second or associate photographer ready for the wedding and paying them hourly USD100-USD200 is another high cost.
Ending it all with one of the essential parts of being a wedding photographer is being passionate about documenting someone’s special day. Missing out on your family time and events on weekends and working long hours (about 17 hours) with no breaks sometimes for Indian weddings requires determination.
Supply Vs. Demand
While one can argue that many wedding vendors are available to choose from, most vendors can only cater to one wedding per date. This would then create a significant demand for their services and severely restrict the availability (supply) for the vendor for each exclusive date.
As you can imagine, if you don’t care which date you get married on, which vendors to help your day, your wedding costs would reduce dramatically. For example, if you only want images from your day with wedding photography, you have endless options to choose from to suit your budget without worrying about quality, style, etc. But if you fall in love with a class, a photographer’s unique approach, you have just skewed the graph and created a strong demand while reducing the availability by restricting it to a single date. Once you sign a contract, I am sure you want to have the peace of mind to know that you have exclusively locked in a vendor for your wedding day instead of worrying if the vendor would still choose another client if they feel like it.
Wedding Photography Is Not a Service; it Is an Expertise.
So what does this mean? If you hire a plumber, a builder, you pay by the hour; you pay for a service, which you can quantify. But when you look at a creative vendor, an artist, a painter, a photographer, you are paying for their expertise to create art pieces that have an emotional connection with you. The stronger the emotional connection, the more you value and prize the finishing artwork. I guess this is why someone can pay USD50,000 for a screwed-up ball of office paper as they view that as a piece of contemporary, when in fact, that piece of paper would only cost like 10c at the Warehouse Stationery. For many of us who are not well-versed in the world of art, we only see a piece of paper scrunched up that we often see in the office rubbish bin. And yet, many appreciate the artist’s visual creativeness to create something out of the piece of paper.
How Important Is Wedding Photography to You?
For many brides, especially those who have chosen us to capture their wedding days, wedding photography is more than just images. It is about the experience, the adventure, and the relationship that they share with us. They love our work and have chosen us for this critical responsibility. They wanted their memories captured in our style, which has deeply resonated with them, their wedding planning, and their visions of their big day. When you share this passion that photography is more than just an image, you will find that you are much pickier about what style and what body of photographic works that you want to consider.
However, for many other brides, an image is an image; the cost is a significant deciding factor. They would see images from a USD500 wedding photographer in the same light as a USD10,000 photographer. If you are one of them (like the people who see the example above as just a piece of paper), your wedding photographer will likely be much lower. At the end of the day, if you are happy with your choice and the chosen photographer’s portfolio, you will be satisfied with the images and the experience involved.
You Are Paying for the Experience, as Well as the Creativity.
Most of us wedding photographers have been to more weddings than our brides and the guests. This equips us with experience of how to help and deal with things on wedding days. I often help the boys with wedding ties, buttonholes, dressing etiquette when it comes to suits, etc. I often help brides with the lacing of wedding dresses or the placement of the veils etc. During the wedding ceremony and wedding reception and speeches, I often work with the MC to ensure things proceed smoothly and offer my advice when asked and requested. I am often involved with finalizing the wedding day timetable, choosing a location for wedding photos.
However, probably the most important thing that I feel I can bring as an experienced wedding photographer is that sense of calmness, that everything will be ok. Often, brides are worried about this and, and timeline is regularly a big talking point. I love having fun on wedding days, and I feel it is essential that my clients have fun with me and everyone involved. This is why I tend to remind my clients about the importance of the day, the joy, the love, the presence of the loved ones, and that fun and happiness are everything and that things will be just fine.
At Boutique Events Group, we have compiled a list of the Best Photographers in Melbourne to help you choose who captures your magical day.
The Photography Equipment
When we talk about wedding photography equipment, it is much more than just the megapixel count and ISO sensitivity and how big the zoom is. It is about the right camera and lens to suit the photographer’s unique artistic vision. If someone brings along ten lens and five cameras, then it’s likely they don’t quite know what they want to achieve in their wedding photography. However, it would be one impressive and kick-ass box of toys, that’s for sure.
Equipment is also about having backup gear, good quality memory cards to minimize the chance of crashing, backup workflow to make sure you have little chances of losing the digital files before the final product delivered to the bride and groom. There are many gears that the public simply does not see that significantly help us create beautiful wedding images that you see all over social media and online.
.. and Time
Where do I begin? Wedding photography involves so much more than the 9 or 10 hours on a typical wedding day. We are talking about initial consults, paperwork for contract and invoices and receipts, scouting of locations, preparing all the gear before the big day, and then, of course, the fun day of love and laughter, and then the copying of cards, backup of files, second backup of files, cloud backup of files, culling, editing, and more editing, preparation of final products for delivery, posting of images on social media, creation of a blog on the website, more backups, and whatever other little tasks required to complete the job. We are talking about days of work for each set of clients. It’s not quite as glamorous as many people think, where the misconception of “Oh wow, you earn USD3k-USD5k a day for a wedding?”. This is so not the case, as you can see. I hope that it is the case.
When a photographer charges USD250 for a one-hour session, they’re not charging USD250 an hour. At the very minimum, professional photographers typically spend at least three times that on a session.
While the client may only see the photographer for an hour, there was likely:
Over an hour of planning the shoot + time travelling to the shoot + half an hour to set up the equipment + the actual hour at the node + time travelling back + about an hour to load and choose the best images + another two hours minimum to edit the photos + an hour to load the pictures online + an hour to order and deliver the prints.
That one-hour session? The photographer probably spent a full eight-hour day on.
That USD250 session, then, becomes roughly USD30 an hour, not including expenses.
How much do you pay your hairdresser? Tax guy? Mechanic? It feels easier to justify those expenses because you can see how much work went into the project firsthand. But, when you hire a professional photographer, you only see a small amount of what it took to produce those final images.
Photography Gear Is Expensive.
Photography equipment is downright expensive. For example, let’s take the typical costs for one of the photography genres that requires the least amount of gear: lifestyle portraits.
The camera lens, at a minimum, costs USD250 for a primary lens without zoom. A 50mm f/1.8 is a good portrait lens—the option compatible with that D7200 is USD220. However, that allows one perspective so that most photographers will have either several prime lenses costing USD250-USD1,000 or two zoom lenses covering a range of perspectives costing over USD2,000 each. The cheaper lenses will need to be replaced often, while the pricier lenses will thankfully outlast those camera bodies.
The camera flash will cost at least USD300 (like the Nikon SB-700), and most professional photographers will have more than one.
The smaller, often overlooked expenses add up too. Memory cards (USD25-USD50), filters (anywhere from USD30 for a Hoya Polarizer photo USD320 for Lee Filters kit), and a camera bag (around USD200) will add a few hundred dollars—and that’s at the very minimum.
Editing photos isn’t cheap either. To keep skin tones from becoming odd colours, professional photographers need a high-end display that will show the image just like it will print out. Most photographers have about USD2,000 in computer equipment (including external hard drives to back up those photos), and like cameras, they have to be replaced every few years. Oh, and factor in the USD10/month subscription to Photoshop and Lightroom.
That’s a lot of dough—but USD4,000 – USD6,000 is also a pretty low estimate. Lifestyle portrait photographers don’t need the speed of, say, professional sports photography cameras that cost USD6,000 just for the body, like the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II.
While it’s easy to think that wedding photography is marked up just because it’s wedding photography, different photography types require other gear (and additional time commitments).
Wedding photographers often invest in more gear so they can shoot in any conditions—can you imagine the photographer packing up because they didn’t have the equipment to shoot a dimly lit church? The lenses that handle the limited lighting of churches and receptions while still offering zoom flexibility are at least USD2,000. Many wedding photographers hire (i.e., pay for) an assistant and a second shooter to ensure all those moments are captured.
Professional photographers that don’t work on-site will be paying for another considerable expense: a studio. The cost of renting or buying a studio space varies based on geographic location—but it’s a safe bet that you can factor in at least a few hundred dollars a month for just area and at least a thousand for lights. That’s not including the backdrop stand, multiple backdrop options (USD50-USD200 each), backdrop floors (USD100+), and of course, props.
It’s not uncommon for professional photographers to spend half their income on studio expenses and keeping their gear up to date, or a quarter for on-site photographers, which brings that USD30 an hour from the USD250 session down to about USD15 or USD20.
Photography Is a Small Business.
Besides the expense of actual photography equipment, professional photographers pay for the identical bills that your hairdresser and tax guy pay.
Self-employed taxes and health insurance + liability and gear insurance (often over USD500 a year) + utilities—including a faster-than-average internet speed for uploading large image files online + marketing expenses.
Oh, and like your tax guy, there are often “seasons” for photography. Wedding photographers are busiest during the warmer months and usually book very few jobs during the winter. The weather also limits outdoor portrait photographers.
The bottom line? The photographer you thought was making USD250/an hour, after expenses, probably makes USD15/hour.
Many photographers work multiple jobs or work in different photography genres to make ends meet, and the ones that don’t are charging well above that USD250 for a one-hour session.
Photography Is More Than Just Pushing a Button.
Sure, you can probably get photos for under that USD250 by walking into a chain studio, often located inside a department store. But here’s the thing—I’ve seen the help wanted ads for these types of businesses, and they say no photography experience necessary. What were they looking for in their applications? Marketing experience.
These USD50 studios don’t hire professional photographers, they hire people with sales experience, and you walk in the door for a USD50 special and walk out spending USD250 in prints and extras with an up-sell.
When you hire a photographer, you hire an artist. Chances are, they’ve spent years perfecting their craft. They’ve invested a lot of money in learning how to take beautiful images. When you walk into their studio, they’re going to put time and effort into helping you relax and smile—not rushing you through a session and then spending twice as much time convincing you to buy the add-ons.
Wedding photography is an art form, and just like any form of art, it is subjective. Of course, your wedding photographers are the artists, the creative person, and the storyteller of your day. Do your research, look at your wedding budget, ask lots of questions, and then go with your instinct. But the most important thing is to make sure you can have lots of fun with your wedding photographer to create everlasting memories. Happy memories will always give rise to good images, simple as that.
I hope the above little guide gives you some insight into why we charge what we charge as professional wedding photographers here in New Zealand. If you have any comments or think we have missed something, please drop a line below. I would love to hear your thoughts. Here at Boutique Events Group, we have compiled an exclusive list of Melbourne Wedding Photographers to help capture your special day.
Yes, wedding photography is expensive but ask yourself what the most important is, and value-added part of your big day. Do you agree it’s essential to preserve these memories for your future generations to witness? If your answer is yes, then I am sure you agree wedding photography is a worthwhile investment.