Why is Photography SO EXPENSIVE!?
How are you? Hopefully you’re doing well. Feel free to comment on this blog and tell me… it’s a genuine question.
Last week I scratched the surface of some of my top favorite photography misconceptions. This week I want to dive deeper into photography pricing and why it’s “SO EXPENSIVE!” I get a lot of inquiries from people with realistic budgets, but I also get a lot of inquiries from people with extremely low budgets and I can’t help but criiiinge when I see them. I don’t cringe because it insults me, or because I think negatively about low budgets. Listen, I GET IT!!! I just got married last year; I know first hand, what it costs to have a beautiful wedding. We didn’t have parents throwing money at us with budgets to the moon and back. We had parents who wanted to help us in whatever way they could… and the rest was up to us. The rest was a lot! We were trying to buy our first home, plan the wedding of my (I mean our) dreams AND an epic honeymoon. We wanted it all. We had a leg up on the situation because I work in the wedding industry and I had a very real idea of how much things were going to cost. Not everyone has that luxury. Some of our clients are the first in their families to get married in 20+ years and times have CHANGED. So people often have absolutely no clue as to what they are getting into financially when it comes to planning their wedding.
Want to take a guess at which vendor I blew my budget on? According to the online calculators (which I only recommend using as a guide and not the bible of pricing because they often really suck) I basically tripled my budget for this one vendor. Can you guess? Photography. Duh. Which brings me back to why I cringe when people approach me with very low budgets. I cringe because I am afraid for them. I am afraid of what they will get for that budget…. and I try to gently educate them.
Yes, I am biased. However, I believe that your wedding photographer is the single most important vendor to book. This person is in charge of your memories! Think about that for a moment. Let it sink in. If you hire someone because they’re cheap, they’re probably also very inexperienced and your chances of having crappy images or no images at all, increase greatly… and the memories of your day can only live in your mind and will fade quickly with time. Does this mean you should be like me and triple your photography budget? Maybe…. But if that’s not realistic for you then it’s not, and you can still increase your budget without being as crazy as me. How? Sacrifice another vendor that isn’t as important to you. Wow, that sounds really violent… What I mean is – decrease your budget elsewhere.
How do you know what a “good” photography budget is? Well according to Snap Knot, the national average cost of wedding photography is $2,814.00 – but in larger cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Orange County – the average cost is going to be closer to $4,000.00. ON AVERAGE.
So – what are you paying for? If you’re spending upwards of $2800.00 on photography you’re getting (or SHOULD be getting):
- A seasoned professional
- Someone who has done this for 5+ years.
- Someone who has heavily invested in their education and equipment.
- Someone who knows how to organize your timeline and roll with all of the punches and changes and chaos of a wedding day.
- Someone who knows how to organize groups and move you through your day without missing a beat.
- Someone who knows how to direct you, pose you and make you look and feel incredible all day and you don’t have to think about it. You hire this person because you love their style and trust them to create beautiful imagery saving you the hassle and stress of not knowing how to pose or asking for poses that you want. You know and trust that they have it all covered and you just have to show up.
- Safety & Trust
- Back ups of back ups of back ups and redundancy shooting throughout the day.
- Security knowing that your images are being handled with white gloves and are backed up and safe at all times.
- A back up plan in case of emergency! A professional photographer will never leave you high and dry even if there is an extreme emergency preventing them from being at your wedding. They will have a back up in place in case of a last minute disaster. They have connections.
- Professional Business
- Consistent communication! Someone who responds to you efficiently and promptly because this is ALL they do!
- Someone who has invested in their business and their talent. They have proper liability insurance, a legal business, professional contracts that protect you and them.
- You will have the highest quality images delivered to you in a reasonable amount of time (3 months MAX – our max is 2 months).
Photography is expensive when you hire the right person because you have hired someone who has invested in their company in so many ways. They have overhead! As business owners who do it right, we are calculating the cost of running our business and factoring that into our prices.
For example – our company overhead is worked out to be about $500.00 per wedding. That is just the basics; the flat fee’s we have to pay yearly no matter what in order to keep our doors open. That pays for our server, our cloud storage, our CRM, our insurance, our office space, editing subscriptions, website hosting, blog hosting, advertising, collateral (albums, prints, etc that we provide to venues), etc etc. That does NOT include taxes, photographer fees, editing fees. Those fees are all on top of our overhead. It also does not factor in our education (I personally have a BFA in Creative Photography), what we’ve invested in our equipment, our time, our talent, or the countless hours we spend in the office all week long running the business.
So while $2800.00-$4,000.00 may seem like companies are making a killing on each wedding… and to some, those prices seem ridiculous… When you have hired a professional photographer who’s living depends on their photography business alone, you are paying for a top quality business that you can trust.
When you are paying $500-$1500 on average for a full day of wedding photography (8 hours) – you are paying for someone who has not (yet) invested in their business. Maybe they are just starting out – fresh out of school. Maybe they just aren’t very good at what they do but they’ll show up and snap the photos for you. Maybe they’re scamming you completely. How can you know for sure? You can meet them in person and ask them the following questions:
- How long have you been in business?
- Is this all you do?
- How many weddings have you photographed? Or how many do you photograph each year?
- Can I see at least 3 full weddings that you have photographed from start to finish?
- How do you protect my images and make sure nothing gets lost?
- What happens in case of emergency the day of my wedding, if you are unable to attend? How do you make an effort to protect me?
When I first started out, I charged $1,000.00 for my very first wedding. My clients were happy – but they also knew that it was my very first wedding and were ok with that risk. Everyone starts somewhere. You just have to decide: Do you want to risk the memories of the most important day of your life with a beginner? Or do you want someone who knows what they are doing and has invested in their business… someone you can fully trust?
That is up to you. But I hope this blog helps people understand WHY photographers charge what they do.
Check out our adventure with Monica & Phil last month. Their rainy day wedding was perfect.
It can be stressful if the forecast shows rain… but when you hire the right professional photographer – rain on your wedding day offers beautifully unique opportunities for stunning imagery… as long as you keep an open mind and aren’t afraid to get a little wet 🙂
For more information on our services – visit our website and send us a note at http://www.BriannaCaster.com
Hey Brianna, it’s been years since I last saw you in CA but I’ve loved following your blog. I do some photography on the side and I WISH I had the time and money to invest in doing it more permanently. I whole-heartedly agree with your blog in the pricing and why it can be very expensive. A solid photography setup for a wedding shoot can easily reach the 5 figure mark for a single shooter much less for a team of them. Regardless…You produce some amazing photographs and I’m sure your clients are speechless when they receive their finished images.
Hi Brian!! It has been a very long time! Thank you so much for leaving me this comment. I had no idea you read my blog, and that makes me so happy!!! That’s really great that you do photography on the side too, I’d love to see your work. Whether you do it full time or not, it’s important to follow your passion in whatever capacity you can – so congrats on doing that 🙂 Thanks again for commenting and following! Where can I follow you?
I don’t really have a blog to ‘follow’ right now that is strictly for photography. I have a personal wordpress blog that is about anything and everything that I feel like talking about at that time which is https://avekilo.wordpress.com/. I have an introductory photography website at http://www.snappedintimenc.com/. I started it all mostly because I love being behind the camera but also because I’ve HATED how some photographers were blatantly taking advantage of the military units in the outrageous prices they were charging. In the end, I ended up taking care of my Marines as well as a local Army National Guard unit.
I have so much I need to do but I literally have no time for it.
Working full time as a Database Administrator.
Being a father to 4 kids (oldest is 5) and husband.
School full time pursuing my Bachelors of Science (and eventually an MBA)
Attempting to find time to practice my photography without taking time away from the family.
Busy busy! I LOVE your blog though when I can take the time to catch up on our posts. Have you considered a video blog at all or a YouTube channel?
That is awesome. Good for you!! Wow 4 kids ages 5 and under!?!?! That is amazing!
I will definitely check out your links! I have not considered a video blog or YouTube channel… mostly because I can’t stand to see myself on camera or hear my voice, hahahhaa. I prefer to write 😀